10 ideas to get you inspired to sketch

You want to sketch more…or just start sketching… but it’s hard to know where to start. I hear you. Here’s 10 things to draw, when you don’t know what to draw.

I know what it’s like. You want to sketch (or you want to sketch more often), but you can’t really think of what to sketch, so it’s just really hard to get started. Or you’re looking at other sketches you see, and you can’t help thinking that you have to sketch like that first time, which holds you back as well.

A big part of just getting going is saying to yourself that whatever you sketch is not going to be perfect. It’s just not. But it can be not perfect and still be satisfying! That awesome sketch by someone else you saw on that Instagram post? That’s sketch No. 10 or 11. You’re never going see sketches No. 1 to No. 9, because they were too crappy to show to the world. But sketches No. 1 to No. 9 had to happen first, to get to that awesome sketch No. 10.

So with that in mind, here we go: 10 ideas for what to draw when you don’t know what to draw.

1. Get your Kandinsky on

Start with a fresh sheet of paper, or a fresh page in your sketchbook. Take your marker or pencil of choice, and let your hand draw some flowy curly lines around the page. Draw some straight lines, too. Then, colour in (or make some parallel line marks) in all the little spaces enclosed by the lines. And behold! You’re an Abstract Expressionist!

You too can be an Abstract Expressionist, like Vasily Kandinsky (painting shown: Composition 8, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Founding Collection, © 2017 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris)

If someone gives you funny looks while you do this on the train, just tell them you’re studying the renowned Russian Abstract Expressionist Vasily Kandinsky, who did this sort of thing all the time (that’s his Composition 8 in the image above, painted in 1923).

2. Find meaning in the scribbles 

This is another idea to help you park your own self-judgement, and to just get going drawing something. Start with your marker in the middle of a fresh blank page, and just do loose scribbles for a minute or two, without taking your marker off the page. It’s better if you don’t even look at what you’re drawing. Make sure you fill the page. Then, look at what you’ve drawn, and see if you can find some meaningful shapes among the scribbles. Is that a face there? Or a rabbit? Whatever you find, make them stand out more by outlining them with your marker. Fun, hey?

Here’s my example. What can you see in the scribbles? I saw a weird horse-like thing, a dude with angel wings, and a ribbon of some sort.

3. Sketch 3D crystal patterns

This is another idea to help you replace self-judgement with a sense of creativity and discovery. Fill the middle of the paper with some randomly-placed dots. Connect the dots in a way that makes lots of triangles and other random 4- or 5-sided shapes. Then, shade some of the shapes in a mid tone, and some other shapes in a darker tone. Before long, you might see a weird crystalline shape emerge, like these 3D crystal phone covers.

4. Sketch a wine bottle 5 times

Alright, let’s move on into sketching actual things. This one’s about giving your hand a chance to practice rendering what you ‘see’ in your head. Draw a wine bottle. It can be as sloppy as you want. Then draw another, and another, and so on. Each time, pay more attention to the quality of the line. Your wine bottle number 5 is better than number 1, isn’t it?

5. Sketch different sorts of pot plants

This is a simple and fun one. Sketch different sorts of plants in pots. They can be simple or complex, beautiful or ugly, regular or hipster… it’s just a chance for you to draw a similar thing over and over, and inject a little bit of creativity or a lot!

6. Look at all the trophies you won!

Time for a motivational one. What’s something you want to be famous for? Sketch a trophy for that thing, with your name on it. What’s something you want to achieve at work? Write that down, add your name, and sketch a trophy around it. Don’t worry, no-one else is going to see these trophies; it’s just a really good idea to visualise your goals to help you make them happen.

7. Try a bit of Zentangling

Zentangles are abstract creative drawings that are made by sketching random creative patterns. They can start with a real-life object, or they can be completely abstract… it’s up to you. Draw a simple object (fairly large on the paper), like a fish, a tree, a figure, headphones…it could be something that’s sitting right next to you, or something you’re thinking about. Then, sketch in a few structural lines inside any of the larger shapes of your drawing, as if it’s made out of a wooden frame. Then, fill each shape with random lines, loops, circles… wherever your hand takes you! Loads of fun.

This page on WikiHow is a nice place to help you learn more about this absorbing way of sketching.

8. Visualise your day as a flow sketch

Take a look at your calendar for today. What sort of day are you going to have? Or what sort of day did you have? Using a fresh page, draw each event as a small picture of some sort, moving from one side of the page to another. You could just sketch symbols (like stars and boxes), or you could sketch simple icon-like pictures (like people in a meeting, or a document, and so on), it’s up to you. Then, connect the pictures together in a way that shows the flow of your day.

9. Sketch skylines

Sketches of skylines are really fun. They can be fairly complex and detailed, but even just light simple silhouettes just look crazy cool. Wherever you’re at — on the bus, at home, at work — look outside at the skyline, and draw it. If you want to enhance it a bit with extra buildings (or UFOs and Godzillas), that’s cool too.

10. Sketch something from your social media stream

Do you spend time thumbing through social media streams of images and updates, like on Instagram, Facebook, and so on? Stop at a particular image you like, and sketch it. Remember, your sketch doesn’t have to be good, just sketch it anyway. Do this a few times, and try not to keep thumbing through looking for an ‘easy’ one, or a ‘cool’ one. Just sketch a few.

This is sketch of a photo of my mate Josh Stinton and his buddies, who have just completed a 190k mountain bike race in the Arctic, to raise money for charity. Amazing!

And there you have it! 10 ideas to get you sketching, and sketching more often. As always, drop me a line if this has been useful for you. I’ve got bags and bags of ideas like this, so if you want 10 more ideas, let me know, too.

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