When I restarted my drawing journey, after a prolonged break, the first thing I decided, was that I was going to treat this as if I was an absolute newbie, and find some beginner drawing lessons. Fortunately there are plenty to choose from, as drawing is a very sought after skill. But this also poses a challenge in deciding which one(s) are worth my time and money. If you’re anything like me, maybe you can find some inspiration here, as I’ve tried out quite a few of them, and I will try my best to pass on that information, so you can decide for yourself which one(s) are right for you.
The Search for Good Courses
The biggest challenge, really, is that there is SO much information out there today, and literally thousands of courses to choose from. So where does one begin? I started out looking around on the internet, googling and reading and looking. Just trying to find something that appealed to me aesthetically. I figured that the more pleasing to the eye my drawing attempts would be, the more I would enjoy the journey. And then I started reading reviews of the courses I came upon. First off there are obviously reviews on the specific pages where the courses are offered (Amazon for instance) but I also looked outside of those pages and did searches like: “[specific drawing course] review” and to see what other people had experienced. This was a pretty good exercise, and I came up with a good list of courses that I found interesting.
Style and Ambition
There are so many different drawing styles and just different ways of approaching drawing in general. And these are obviously reflected in the drawing courses that are offered out there. This was actually one of the things that presented a bit of a challenge for me, in my search. I have a pretty clear notion of what I like to draw and look at, which is very much in the cartoon/adventure/street art type genre, with an absolute edge to it. And not so much in the very realistic end of the scale. This obviously means that the cartoonish/adventurous/streetart-ish style is what I’d like to do myself. On the other hand I know that any sort of complete drawing “education” (if you will) involves a good portion of realistic drawing, like still lifes, portrait drawing etc. this was also confirmed to me by looking into many of the beginner drawing courses that I came upon.
Now the problem with that (for me) is that I am not very drawn to this way of drawing (pun intended). If I look around at different works, there are these enormously talented artists that can do hyper realistic portraits, that look almost like photographs. And while I am -of course- impressed by the amount of skill that goes into doing something like that, it just doesn’t move me very much. On the other hand I can look at the drawings of someone like Tim Burton, for instance. His works are actually quite simplistic to the point of almost being childish in their expression, but they just have this fantastic charisma to them, which I for one, find very appealing.
Top Left: Photo of James Mylne using a Bic Cristal ballpoint pen to create a photo-realistic drawing of Steve McQueen.
Top Right: My own rendition of Jack Skellington, one of Tim Burtons most iconic characters. It’s obvious that my drawing skills pale in comparison, but the style of Burtons character is just so much more appealing to me.
Below: Me drawing Jack Skellington
So the dilemma is: do I jump straight into the fun stuff, and start doing cartoon characters and adventure landscapes, or do I pay my dues, struggling through portraits of fruit bowls and apples to hone my basic skills. The truth, uncomfortable as it may be, is that I will probably never be able to do the fun stuff to my own satisfaction, if I completely skip the more mundane stuff. After all, there’s probably a reason why pretty much every single drawing course out there starts with some variation of drawing circles, boxes and cones and a bit further down the line, still lifes.
Having Fun With it
One thing I know for sure, is that if I want to be successful at honing my skills, I need to be consistent with it. And the best way to be consistent with it, is to find a way to experience at least some degree of fun, and -preferably- success. Obviously there is a certain degree of discipline that needs to be in place as well, but personally I have a family, a job, school, and a music career to attend to at the same time, so drawing should be a source of joy to me, and not a chore.
This brings me back to the point that I’ve hit upon previously, that finding good beginner drawing lessons will just make my drawing journey so much more enjoyable. Also, the easy beginner drawings that I’ve written about in a previous post is a good way of finding joy and a sense of achievement.
Committing to One Course (Or Not)
So as I’ve mentioned a few times, one of the biggest challenges (though a bit of a luxury problem) is that the sheer volume of courses out there is enormous. So one might start out on a course, work with that for a while, find a different one, and think “Hey… This looks good!” and start out on working with that, and so on… I know I have definitely been guilty of that in the past (not only when it comes to drawing!).
I would say, that ideally this should be avoided. Any good beginner drawing course, will have a structure to it. One that the author have put some thought into. And there’ll be a certain progression to the lessons, that develops your skills as you move through them. However,… I am not one for dogmatic thought in general, and if I happen to come upon a different course, or lesson, or just a motif, that I want to try my hands at… I’ll do it! This doesn’t mean that I’ll completely abandon the course I’m working with, it just means I’m taking a small detour…. Once again, this ties into the point that I’ve struck so many times, that it’s important to have fun with the process.
It’s Your Journey – Make it So
There are many, many beginner drawing courses out there, and I think that honestly most of them are pretty good! If you do a minimum of research before spending your hard-earned cash, I don’t think you’ll go completely astray. I do think it’s a good idea to find a course and stick with it for the duration, but I also don’t think that you should refrain from experimenting outside of it, and jump between styles and approaches a bit. It’s YOUR drawing journey, so make sure you’re having fun with it. Do your own research, make your own experiences, try out a bunch of different things, just make sure you keep drawing, challenge yourself, and have fun with it!
So here are some of the Beginner Drawing Courses, that I’ve worked with :
Mark Kistler: “You Can Draw in 30 Days – The Fun Easy Way to Learn to Draw in One Month or Less” – Definitely a favourite! Simple and intuitive, with a good amount of basic skill work, and wide palette of areas as you work through the book. Mark also has well over 30 years of teaching experience, and it shows! (Sidenote: The picture at the top of this post, is one that I drew about a week into his course, heavily inspired by one of the lessons).
Andrew Loomis: “Fun With A Pencil: How Everybody Can Easily Learn to Draw” – Another great place to start. More centered around the human figure, and in a definite cartoonish style. Also touches upon perspective and dimensions towards the end.
Scott Robertson and Thomas Bertling: “How to Draw: drawing and sketching objects and environments from your imagination” – This one is a bit more serious. Very detailed and thorough lessons on perspective, and the shape and anatomy of lines. For artists, architects and designers. Approachable for beginners and more advanced. Very high quality teaching, and comes with links to video tutorials.