Drawing: It’s easy to DRAW things!

Here’s a SIMPLE drawing lesson strategy,

That will turn you into a profound artist overnight!

Select and draw simple basic shapes to begin with. Then move on to more complex shapes later, after you have learnt how to capture the basic shapes of objects:

Drawing and painting with simplicity

A5 watercolour: Simple painting of houses.

Oh, you say you can’t even draw, now!

That’s rubbish! Drawing isn’t hard. Anyone can draw and paint. If they stopped and observed things more carefully, before trying to copy what they decided to draw or paint.

Okay then. How?

  1. Do you remember when you learnt to write your ABC in grade one? How long did it take you to write your name or a sentence?
  2. Do you remember how long it took to write a simple sum at school and add it up?

Really it wasn’t long to learn the basics, was it! But perfecting your writing skills took a little bit longer didn’t it? So it is with art. To become a good artist means spending enough time practicing your new acquired skill.

So what are the basic drawing skills then?

First, recognizing basic shapes around you:

  • Look more closely, see cars and bicycles have round wheels.
  • Houses and buildings are made up of squares, rectangles and triangle shapes.
  • Fir trees and ice-cream cones have cone shapes.
  • Drinking glasses have up-side-down cone shapes, with oval eclipse bases and top-opening.
  • And body-parts of people basically consist of oval, round and triangle/wedge shapes.
Draw with simplicity

See the simple basic shapes in things.

Drawing simple shapes gives you confidence!

The next stage, is to link the ‘dots”

Have you ever filled in those exercises in the children’s section of magazines? Where you need to draw a line (with a pencil) from one number to another, until an object is recognizable? Well, that’s how you draw objects.

Simplifying your drawings:

  1. Your object may look somewhat complex at first, but once you have observed its basic outline and simple shapes within it, it doesn’t look so complex after all.
  2. Start drawing your object, with those simple basic shapes and leave out the detail. When doing this for the first time, try doing only bold objects at first, like balls, apples and fir trees.
  3. Don’t hold your pencil tightly and be finicky, in the effort to perfect or neaten your lines. Lightly draw those shapes softly and loosely. Don’t put pressure on your pencil.
  4. Let your pencil flow ‘lazily’ around and over the basic shapes as you draw around, joining and linking the shapes, until the object’s outline is recognizable.
  5. Don’t worry about defining details yet. Reiterated lines are okay for the time being. The reiterated lines allow you later to select which lines really want, to embody the shape or not. It also gives the object an animated appearance.
  6. At this point, your soft synopsis allows you to judge its possible position in the composition. What’s so great about this way of working lightly; is that the light synopsis sketch can be eased-out or adjusted, before perfecting the shape or its proper position.
  7. The human form is more complex. When it has been broken down to basic shapes, it looks may look somewhat like a robot at first. But once you have linked and rounded off the body parts, it starts to look more realistic.

Drawing results and conclusion:

  • Been more observant is important. Judging what you look at, by shape and tonal, contrast helps to define what is important and what’s unnecessary.
  • The Chinese recognized this principle of painting simple shapes many centuries ago. They also understood the symbolic outlines of their brushstrokes said it all.
  • Like toilet and road icon signs, symbolic shapes are far more quickly recognized by people when they look at your paintings. That’s why modern artists realize that bold shapes have more impact in their paintings.
  • Having started with soft simple outlines, reduces your composing time and also makes it easier to capture quickly moving objects.
  • It also proves that outer outlines are symbolically recognizable. And if outlines are symbolic that means internal details aren’t so important. The internal section only needs a few details added, if really necessary, to create mood or if the object is the main point of interest.
  • So learning to draw like this, with this guileless `ABC’ method; proves you can draw even the simplest of objects, if you really want to.

Last retort on drawing:

Being an artist doesn’t happen by accident! If you practice often enough, you will become a good artist, in spite of what you think at the present moment!

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How to Capture & Draw Shapes

Note from the page: QUESTIONS & ANSWERS:

Where Ada Fagan invited those who had any questions about art and painting, that they could leave their questions in the comments block below or if they required privacy they could email her at: info@adafagan.co.za

Draw things

A5 watercolour: Autumn time.

Today’s Question deals with: HOW TO DRAW SHAPES

How do you start drawing-in the shapes of things, when composing paintings? I can’t get my objects to look right. My attempts are pathetic. For example nothing looks natural. My trees look stiff like Egyptian fans and my cars look squashed with high roofs!

You’re not the first to have this problem.

Many art students start out like that, until they see things as simple basic shapes.

When you start out composing a composition you don’t copy every detail you see. You may see the big picture, but to capture and place things on your canvas, you first have to look and select the bare facts.

Ask yourself the question:

  • What stands out?
  • What’s important to you?
  • What are the most exciting objects?

Instead of seeing objects as intricate complex things, rather look at things as simple shapes and with basic skeleton structure. General outlines speak volumes! So don’t worry about the fine details at this stage.

What type of shapes should you be looking out for?

Round, oval and ovoid, cube, square and rectangle, cone and dome shaped, pyramid and triangle, tube and cylinder, half-moon shapes, etc.

For example:

  • Bubbles and apples are generally round. Teapots and jugs have round bellies.
  • Houses and buildings generally have block shapes with square or rectangle shapes.
  • People seen in the distance, don’t have to show everything, not even feet. As long as there is a dot for a head and a suggested triangle for a woman’s skirt.
  • The structure of humans (close-up) is made up of ovals, triangles and wedges for feet.
  • Glasses and cups have ellipse ovals. Just because a glass stands on a flat table doesn’t mean you draw the base straight across, it has a curved bottom contour.
  • The outline of trees can be fan or top-shaped (like the shape of a child’s toy top) or ball-shaped. Fir trees have cone and triangle shapes.
  • The wheels of cars, trucks and bicycles are round, and the inner frame of the bicycle is a triangle.
  • The shape of leaves is club, spade and heart shaped.

Note: Basic forms create reasoning. When people see basic shapes in a painting, it makes it easier to ‘read’ your painting.

Lines also give structure to things in your composition:

  • Hills and distant mountains have undulating wavy contour lines.
  • Cars these days are not so square looking. They have more flowing contour lines.
  • Rivers, streams, roads and pathways have diminishing S and Z perspective contour lines.
  • Foliage of trees have upper canopy or umbrella shaped contour lines.
  • The growth pattern of tree trunks and the more obvious branches are the skeleton or structural lines of the tree. The flow, direction and angle of these lines clarify the characteristics of the tree.

Note: Not only the shape, but the bones of the object, makes it easy to translate the object onto your canvas.

 For tree example:

If you look at a tree more carefully you will notice that the trunk is leaning, even if it’s only a little, at an angle. And the main obvious branches have a pattern or flow of growth.

And the outer overall shape of the tree’s foliage differs according to its species. Whether it has leaves or not, the overall shape has an outer canopy shape, which can be an umbrella shape, round or oval shape, or as grouped rounded outlines.

Then look at the possible composition and decide where to place the bones of the tree structure. If it’s on the left side, you can have the lean of the tree leaning inwards to direct the eye into the scene. And if on the right-hand side of your canvas, have it pointing inwards, to redirect the eye into the scene or pointing towards the main point of interest.

As to winter trees that have no leaves, you don’t have to put in every twig, if your overall structure and canopy shape describes the type of tree you are trying to convey.

Always remember trees also have branches in the front and at the back. And don’t draw straight neat branches, vary the length and description.

Note:  If everything is neat and tidy, it doesn’t look natural.  Loosen up your strokes to give your drawing and painting a freedom of expression.

For car example:

First consider the size of the car compared with the immediate objects, buildings, trees or people.

Make a synopsis of your vehicle on a piece of paper:

Consider the perspective of the car: Is it directly facing you? Somewhat like a block shape, the back will be small than the front. Or turned three-quarter away from you? The front corner facing you will be bigger perspectively. To get it into perspective, run diminishing lineal lines down its sides and over its top.

  • The body is a ‘rectangle’ shape with smooth flowing lines.
  • The wheels will be partly covered with mudguards.
  • The shape and angles of the windows will depend on the model of the car.

Once you have made the synopsis, cut it out and place it on your painting. Does it fit perspectively and comfortably in your painting? If not, make another one, this time the right size. Repeat if necessary to get the right size.

Note: And of cause the colour of your vehicle is important. If the colour of the object is analogous to its surrounding colours, it will settle comfortably into place.


If you draw your objects in a simple uncomplicated way, it makes it easier to compose your composition. Without the complexity of finer details, it makes it easier to visualize the enormity of your composition.

If you use light colours draw in your synopsis shapes, you can easily shift their position if necessary, if you are not happy with your first placement decision. The replacement or shift, must of cause be made at the while composing you composition, That is, before you start piling on thick paint, defining the shapes and adding finer details.

Each object that is placed in your composition must sit comfortably with its nearest neighbour. The tangent space or links between objects is important, in their relation to each other. That is, there should be easy flowing lines or transitions between and through them, so that the object of your painting is easily ‘read’.

Now for practice:

Start by looking around you, at the things you’ve always taken for granted.

  • How can you simplify what you are looking at?
  • What are the basic shapes and linear directive lines?
  • What is the basic skeleton structure?
  • Which way do the lines lean? How do they flow?
  • And then consider how to simply the drawing-in of your composition’s format.
  • Where would you put the biggest or boldest shape?

Last word:

If the foundation of your composition is good and strong, the rest of the painting will fall into place and it will be a pleasure painting it.

And you know what I’m going to say?

Great artists weren’t made overnight. The more you practice observing shapes and practice your drawing skills, the more they will improve.

So draw as often as you can, the things you see around you. Make it a game, something fun to do, like doodling while waiting for something to happen.

If you too have a question to ask:

Feel free to put it in the comments block below, or email it to me at: info@adafagan.co.za