Six Swift Ways To Become An Artist (If You’re Not An Artist)

I drew this in MS Paint with a mouse (right-handed, no less!) just to show you that simple art can be drawn with very little practice/experience.

I drew this in MS Paint with a mouse (right-handed, no less!) just to show you that simple art can be drawn with very little practice/experience.

So, you aren’t an artist? Come on, admit it, the most that you’ve ever drawn is a stick figure and the only painting you’ve ever done is painting the bathroom walls magnolia.

But, let me guess, you need art – or rather you need to make some art, because you can’t find what you’re looking for on the internet (or can’t get permission to use it).

Well, you’re in luck – here are six swift tips which will turn you from an absolute beginner into something vaguely resembling an artist in the space of an hour or two at most.

Yes, you should still practice regularly if you want to become a better artist and this guide won’t teach you how to paint the Mona Lisa or anything like that. But, if you need to make a fairly simple drawing or cartoon fairly quickly, then you’ve come to the right place 🙂

So, let’s get started.

1) Perspective: Yes, this word sounds complicated and intimidating to new artists, but all “perspective” really means is knowing how to draw a scene that looks like it has some depth.

Yes, it took me a while to learn how to use perspective properly. But, it’s actually very simple. There are two simple ways of doing this and it makes sense to use both of them, although you can get away with just using the first one if you have to.

The first way is to take your page and measure it’s height and width. Divide the height by two and then draw a pencil line across your page at this height. If you don’t have a ruler, then just guess. It doesn’t have to be perfect. You should end up with something that looks like this:

A simple horizon line, which is half the height of the page.

A simple horizon line, which is half the height of the page.

This line is the “horizon” in your drawing and it will help you to make everything look like it is the right distance away from the front of the picture. The bottom edge of every building, person, object etc… in your drawing should be below this line. Things in the far distance (eg: mountains, buildings etc…) should be above the line, but the bottom edges of them should be touching the line.

If you want something to be closer to the front of the picture, then make it bigger and make sure that the bottom edge of whatever you’re drawing is closer to the bottom of the page. If you want to draw something further away from the front of the picture, then it should be smaller and the bottom edge of it should be closer to the horizon line. It’s that simple.

Notice how the bottom edge of each triangle is at a different height.

Notice how the bottom edge of each triangle is at a different height.

The second way is to work out how to draw things in perspective is to take your ruler and to draw two diagonal lines across your page in pencil. Go from corner to corner, to make sure that both lines meet exactly in the middle of the page. You should end up with something like this:

These are basic perspective lines. Be sure to draw them using pencil rather than pen.

These are basic perspective lines. Be sure to draw them using pencil rather than pen.

After you’ve drawn this, then draw a horizon line if you want to. In fact, it’s easier to draw the horizon line after you’ve done this, since you just have to make sure that it lines up with the middle of the “X” you’ve just drawn.

So, what was the point of drawing a giant “X”? Simple. In order to make your picture look even more 3D, just make sure that every flat edge in your picture is at the same angle as the line of the “X” that is closest to it. Like this:

The edges that are the same angle as the perspective lines are shown in red.

The edges that are the same angle as the perspective lines are shown in red.

Remember again, things that are in the distance are usually smaller.

(If you’re interested in learning more about perspective, then check out my article about drawing simple 3D backgrounds).

2) Simple Backgrounds: The fact is that people don’t usually pay as much attention to the background as they do to the rest of your picture. As such, you can get away with making your backgrounds ridiculously simple.

As long as they look vaguely like the thing you’re trying to draw, then your audience’s imaginations will fill in the gaps afterwards. For example, you can draw mountains in about three seconds, just by drawing two identical wavy lines.

I've made the second line red, so you can tell them apart. But, yes, you can draw mountains with just two lines.

I’ve made the second line red, so you can tell them apart. But, yes, you can draw mountains with just two lines.

Likewise, houses, towns and cities in the far distance can easily be represented by just a few simple shapes:

You can also use a slightly pointier version of the "house" shape to represent trees too.

You can also use a slightly pointier version of the “house” shape to represent trees too.

There are plenty of ways to do this, but you’d be surprised how often you can get away with just using simple shapes or a few simple lines to represent things in the distant background. If you need more help with this, then check out this article I wrote a while ago.

3) Things behind other things: If you’re totally new to this, then always remember to sketch everything in pencil first and remember to draw your foreground (eg: everything close to the front of the picture) before you start drawing the background. Don’t worry, it’s surprisingly easy to work out how to draw things that are behind other things.

Once you’ve sketched the foreground in pencil, just go over your pencil lines with pen and then start drawing the objects in the background in pencil on top of your foreground. Then just take an eraser and erase every part of your background which overlaps with something in the foreground.

When you’ve done this, you should be left with a sketch which shows you which parts of the objects behind someone or something that you need to draw and which parts you shouldn’t draw.

4) People: People are one of the most difficult things for any artist to draw and it can take years of practice to learn how to draw them in anything resembling a realistic way. But, if you need to draw some people quickly, then there are several quick tricks that you can use.

If your people are in the very far distance, then you can get away with drawing very small stick figures. Just remember, the arms shouldn’t point outwards and the legs shouldn’t point in opposite directions. So, use a rectangle, rather than a line when drawing their body:

The right and wrong ways to draw people simply.

The right and wrong ways to draw people simply.

If you’re drawing people standing closer to the front of your drawing, then things can get a lot more complicated (since they have to be a lot more detailed).

You can either use a slightly larger and more detailed version of the “rectangle” stick figure I showed you earlier (you can also add simple 2D clothes and a face to it, if you sketch the stick figure in pencil first) to make a quick cartoon character or you can look online for more detailed tutorials about how to draw people. But, this takes longer to learn – so, if you’re in a hurry, then stick with “rectangle” stick figures.

5) Faces: Simple cartoon faces are ridiculously easy to draw when you know how. Yes, you can just draw the classic “smiley face” 🙂 or “sad face” 😦 if you want to.

But, if you want to make your cartoon characters look a little bit more detailed or you don’t want to look like a complete beginner, then there are a few other simple ways to draw faces.

These are usually fairly easy to work out for yourself, but if you’re in a hurry, then just copy one of the basic cartoon faces in this picture:

Some basic, easy to draw cartoon faces.

Some basic, easy to draw cartoon faces.

6) If you need to draw anything else: If you need to know how to draw anything more than simple scenery and people, then there are loads of free tutorials all over the internet that you can use (just search on Google or Youtube).

But, if you need to find simple drawing tutorials very quickly, then it’s probably worth checking out Shoo Rayner’s “Draw Stuff Real Easy” Youtube channel.

If you’ve got a bit more time on your hands and you want to learn how to draw a whole variety of eccentric, random and strange things. Then be sure to browse through my old “How To Draw” guides on this websites (the first few of them are animated too 🙂 )

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂 And good luck 🙂

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