How to Practice Drawing: Phase 1 -- Warm Up


Warming up is the first phase of your art practice.

This phase is simple but it's extremely important. On the surface it's about loosening yourself up, which is part of it, but in truth it's also a drill in it's own right - a drill that's so important and fundamental that it will improve every other skill you work on.

This is why it's the first thing you do every day.

Warming up with simple shapes improves your stroke control, which will in turn make your work more fluid and energetic and will make your workflow much more efficient.

It also drills construction. You'll find that the better you get with construction, the more you will internalize it. Eventually it will permeate everything you draw - naturally giving your drawings a feeling of weight, form and dimension.

Lastly, it gets you in the right mind-set before you begin the Study Phase. You'll be primed to think in terms of stroke control and construction as you continue your study.

Here's what you'll want to focus on in the warm up:

Straight Lines and Ellipses

Keeping your hand controlled but relaxed, draw straight lines. It can help to draw two points first and then quickly "ghost" between them, moving the pencil above the paper to practice the stroke. Slowly bring your pencil closer to the paper until you set down the stroke. Once you've done some point to point lines, try some freehand lines. Check your lines with a ruler.


Once you've done some straight lines, try some free-hand ellipses. You can start with a full circle and slowly squash it with every subsequent ellipse. You may want to use an ellipse template, or create some ellipses in illustrator and print them out to use as reference. Draw a line through the major and minor axis (the line that divides the ellipse on it's longest side and shortest side, respectively). Your ellipses should be symmetrical on both sides.


Perspective Grids

Practice drawing perspective grids freehand. Start with a horizon line. Mark a vanishing point and draw lines radiating out from it.

Three dimensional Shapes

Build simple three dimensional shapes out of lines and ellipses. You can lay them on to the perspective grid or they can be free floating.


Complex curves

Draw several points and connect them with freehand curves. Weave curved lines through the ellipses you've drawn.

Cover Your Bases

You can do a little of each of these in your warm up, or spend time with just one, but you'll want to make sure that you cover each of these areas regularly. 5 to 10 minutes a day, should be plenty of time to get the job done.

WARNING: You will draw crap.  That's okay. Just make note of where you can improve, but don't stress out about it.

Once you've done the warm-up it's time to move on to the Study Phase.

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