Four Basic Tips For Creative Copying (Of Public Domain Photos)

2016 Artwork creative copying article sketch

If you were reading this site a couple of weeks ago, you might have noticed that I made a short series of digitally-edited paintings based on uncopyrighted/ public domain photos from the 1940s and 1950s.

Before I go any further, I should probably point out that not all photos from these decades are uncopyrighted! So, do your research and, if in doubt, err on the side of caution!

Anyway, here are two of my paintings from this series (and the source images for them can be found here and here respectively)

"Vintage Photo Blues" By C. A. Brown

“Vintage Photo Blues” By C. A. Brown

"Vintage Photo Glow" By C. A. Brown

“Vintage Photo Glow” By C. A. Brown

As you may have noticed if you looked at the source images, I’ve made quite a few changes to these pictures in my copies. After all, where would be the fun in just copying these pictures directly?

Although making a perfect replica of an old photo is a great demonstration of artistic skill, there isn’t really a huge amount of creativity involved in it.

So, I thought that I’d give you a few tips about how to make your own creative copies of old things from the public domain.

1) Copy from sight: Although I’ve written about the subject of tracing before, your creative copy will lose a lot of it’s individuality if you just trace the public domain photo or picture that you want to copy. So, be sure to copy the picture from sight alone.

Yes, it can take a bit of practice (and a few mistakes) to learn how to do this well, but the main advantage of copying from sight alone is that your own unique art style will have a chance to appear in the picture. After all, if you’re basically making a new picture from a guide, then your own unique artistic quirks will probably end up in the picture too.

However, if you take the lazy route and just trace a picture, then you’ll just end up with an identical copy which won’t really look very unique.

2) If possible, use black & white photos: One of the advantages of using old black and white photos (check that they’re in the public domain first though) as the source images for your artwork is that you can instantly make your artwork look unique by just adding colour to these pictures.

The advantage of this is that, although the B&W source photo will tell you how light or dark a particular area is, it’s up to you to choose which colours you want to use.

Your colour choices don’t have to be realistic, but having a good understanding of colour theory can come in handy here since you can easily make an old B&W picture look much more dramatic by using a complimentary colour scheme (eg: blue and orange, red and green etc...).

3) Know yourself: I know that this sounds obvious, but you need to have a good understanding of your own aesthetic preferences and sensibilities if you want to make a creative copy of something from the public domain.

In other words, have a good understand of what you think looks cool… and know how to paint or draw it.

For example, I absolutely love brightly-coloured lighting (in gloomy locations). If you look at the two pictures earlier in this article, you’ll see that they both contain this.

I was able to include this in my artwork for the simple reason that I’ve been practicing painting realistic lighting for at least a year or so. As such, I was able to completely change the lighting in both pictures into something that I thought looked more interesting.

4) Attribution: Although there’s no rule about this, it’s good practice to acknowledge any public domain source images you use in your artwork.

If you’re copying something that has been made by an artist or a photographer whose name is known, then adding a simple “After [original artist/ photographer]” to one corner of your picture is a good way to do this.

This shows that your picture is a tribute or a re-imagining, rather than a totally original work (since, although it probably – technically – isn’t plagiarism to copy things from the public domain without acknowledgement, it can look a lot like plagiarism).

I erred on the side of caution in my pictures and added quite a lot of acknowledgments though, mainly since many of the public domain pictures I found were from unknown photographers (eg: photos taken by UK/ US Government workers etc…).


Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Can You Always Learn How To Draw By Copying Things?

2015 Artwork Copying Isn't Always The Best Way to learn sketch

Although I’ve already written about how to copy things by sight alone (eg: without tracing anything) before, I thought that I’d look at whether this is always a good way to learn how to draw or not.

If you haven’t already learnt how to copy from sight, then it’s a skill that’s worth learning for a whole host of reasons that are too long to list here.

There are plenty of ways to learn this skill, such as repeated practice, reading about how to do it (a good book to start with would be “Drawing On The Right Side Of The Brain” by Betty Edwards, which will teach you how to “see” things in a more technical way) and/or following step-by-step drawing guides until you’re able to work out how to copy new things on your own.

But, for the purposes of this article, I’m going to assume that you already know how to do this.

Anyway, I started thinking about whether copying is always a good way to learn after a recent experience that I had. I’d seen a really cool old drawing of a dancing skeleton in a magazine and, when I mentioned this to someone, they suggested that I tried to draw a copy of it. This is what the original drawing looked like ( image from this site):

( Public Domain skeleton image from

( Public Domain skeleton image from

And here’s what my attempt at copying it looked like:

"Skeleton Drawing Copy" By C. A. Brown

“Skeleton Drawing Copy” By C. A. Brown

It was incredibly good fun, and a little bit of a challenge, to make a copy of this picture just from looking at it. But, at the same time, I didn’t really feel like I’d learnt anything new.

Yes, I’d made a cool drawing of a skeleton, but if I had to draw another one from memory, then I probably couldn’t. Or, if I had to draw the skeleton in a different pose, then I’d find this incredibly difficult.

If anything, it was nothing more than a fun drawing practice exercise. It reminded me of the fact that I was reasonably good at copying things from sight, but it didn’t really teach me a huge amount.

Even so, I have to admit that I have learnt quite a bit from copying things in the past – I’ve learnt techniques to make my drawings and paintings look more realistic, I’ve been able to shape my own unique art style by borrowing techniques from other styles and I’ve also learnt how to draw things that I didn’t know how to draw before (just from looking at photos of them).

But, this didn’t happen when I drew the skeleton – and I think that I know why. Being able to draw something that realistic from my imagination alone is still way above my current skill level, even if copying it isn’t.

In order to draw something like that from my own imagination, I’d have had to have studied quite a few pictures of skeletons until I’d essentially built up a “3D model” of a skeleton in my mind. I’d have to know the “mechanics” of a skeleton and what it would look like from a variety of different angles. Without this knowledge, I can only draw unrealistic skeletons and copies of pictures of realistic skeletons.

And, this, I think is why copying isn’t always a good way to learn how to draw. Yes, it can be very useful, but unless you’ve carefully studied and/or copied something enough times to be able to visualise it clearly, then you haven’t truly learnt how to draw something. At best, you might just memorise how to copy something. Usually, this can be good enough – but it can also place limitations on what kind of art you can make.

Although all of this might sound difficult, it really isn’t. I mean, if you’ve been drawing for a while, then you can probably draw all manner of everyday items without even really thinking too much about it.

How did you learn how to do this? Simple, you’ve seen these items so many times in your everyday life that you have a fairly good knowledge of what they look like from different angles, how large they are, what their outlines look like etc….

In other words, this sort of thing only really seems like a challenge when you’re learning how to draw things that you haven’t actually seen that often before.

So, although copying can be a useful learning tool – don’t forget that you also have to study things too.

Anyway, I hope that this

Four Very Basic Tips For Painting Or Drawing Landscapes From Photos (With An Example)

2014 Artwork Landscapes From Photos article Sketch

Well, although I’ve copied quite a few old paintings and practised copying photographs over the past three or four months, I’d never really tried painting landscapes from photographs until a couple of weeks ago when I decided to make a series of watercolour pencil paintings based on some old photos I took of Aberystwyth in 2009 (as well as my memories of this amazing town).

Although I still consider myself an absolutely beginner when it comes to painting landscapes from photos, I’ve learnt a bit from simply practising it repeatedly and from some of the skills I’ve picked up from copying old paintings. So, if you’re completely new to this, then I can provide four basic tips which might come in handy.

For the examples in this article, I will be using a painting from my “Aberystwyth Series” called “Aberystwyth – Gloom Descends” – which is based on this old photo that I took of the Old College and the Pier:

Well, at least a smaller version of the original photo...

Well, at least a smaller version of the original photo…

And here’s the final painting (after some rather hefty digital editing):

"Aberystwyth - Gloom Descends" By C. A. Brown

“Aberystwyth – Gloom Descends” By C. A. Brown

So, let’s get started:

1) Use a ruler: If you’re drawing or painting from a photograph, then a ruler is essential. No, not for drawing perfectly straight lines, but for working out proportions.

Unless the paper or canvas that you’re working on is the exact same size and aspect ratio as your photograph, then you are going to have to scale things down or scale things up so that they will still look vaguely the right size. So, how do you do this?

Simple – firstly, you measure the height and width of your paper or canvas. Then you take a look at your photo and work out roughly how tall, wide or long the key parts of your photo are in terms of fractions (eg: “that building is half the height of the photo”, “The edge of that mountain is one quarter of the width of the photo away from the edge of the photo” etc..)

Once you’ve worked these fractions out, then take a look at the measurements of your paper or canvas and divide them accordingly (use a calculator if you have to – it isn’t cheating). This will give you the approximate height and/or width that the key parts of your painting should be. Here’s an example from my original sketch for my painting:

Obviously, your own sketch will look different to this unfinished sketch. But I hope this gives you a good idea of what to do.

Obviously, your own sketch will look different to this unfinished sketch. But I hope this gives you a good idea of what to do.

2) Outlines: There’s an excellent book called “Drawing On The Right Side Of The Brain” by Betty Edwards which explores this whole subject in much more detail. But, for people new to copying pictures by eye, it can be difficult to work out how to draw everything realistically (eg: so that it looks like it’s 3D).

The thing to remember here is that, although a photo is a picture of a three-dimensional scene – it is actually only a flat two-dimensional image. And so is the paper or canvas you are drawing or painting on.

So, don’t feel daunted about working out how to make your picture look 3D – after all, the photograph itself has done all of this work for you.

All you have to do is to look at the basic outlines of everything in the photograph and – however strange they may look – try to copy them accurately. Remember, these outlines are what a three-dimesional scene looks like when it’s “squashed” into two dimensions.

Likewise, pay careful attention to the exact angle of every line in the flat two-dimensional photograph in front of you. If you need to use a protractor, then use one – but try to copy the angles of these lines as precisely as you can.

Don’t worry, after quite a bit of practice – drawing “three-dimensional” pictures will become almost second nature to you.

Once you’ve copied the outlines and lines, you should end up with something which looks vaguely like this:

The lineart for "Aberystwyth- Gloom Descends".

The lineart for “Aberystwyth- Gloom Descends”.

Well done, you’ve already finished the most difficult part of painting from a photograph.

3) Simplification and accuracy: Remember, if people want a totally accurate depiction of somewhere, then they can look at the original photo.

As an artist, you have a lot more room to be inaccurate. As long as your painting vaguely resembles the photo you’re copying, then you’ve done well. People who know the location shown in the photo will still recognise it and people who don’t will probably still appreciate your painting on it’s own merits.

If you have to change a few things to make your painting better, then change them (eg: in my painting, I had to “squash” the Old College building slightly in order to fit it onto the page). Since your painting doesn’t have to be as accurate as the photo you’re copying, then you need to focus on what works best in artistic terms – even if it isn’t completely accurate.

Likewise, don’t worry about copying every tiny detail of every part of the photo. Just copy the important details and fill in the really small details with simple shapes, squiggles etc… which look vaguely like the details in question.

I’ve written about this in another article but, when it comes to small details, never underestimate the fact that your audience’s imaginations will often “fill in the gaps” as long as the main parts of your picture are clearly recognisable.

4) Know when to use your imagination: Finally, if you’ve got an idea of how to make your painting look cooler or more interesting than the original photo, then follow it.

Part of the art of painting a landscape is knowing when to just copy things and when to add something new.

For example, the photo which “Aberystwyth – Gloom Descends” is based on is a very … .well… grey photo. To me at least, this colour scheme is about as dull as you can get.

Grey... lots of grey...

Grey… lots of grey…

Whilst I liked the gloominess of the original photo, I wanted my painting to stand out a bit more – so I changed the colour scheme very slightly and added some orange and yellow to the sky and made everything slightly brighter.

See what I mean?

See what I mean?

Although it isn’t entirely “accurate”, it makes the painting into something better than just a simple copy of the original photo.

Just remember, if someone wants an exact copy of a photo, then they can use a photocopier or a computer. If someone wants a piece of art based on a photo, then they’re looking for something more than this. So, don’t be afraid to use your imagination.


Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Four Secret Reasons Why It’s A Good Idea To Learn How To Copy Old Paintings

A detail from a copy/parody I made of Francesco Hayez's "Odalisque With Book" [Ok, I've resized and self-censored this image slightly. Since it was WAY too large and I'm not sure if the original image fitted into WordPress's rules about nudity - I mean, it didn't actually show anything, so I'm probably just being paranoid here...]

A detail from a copy/parody I made of Francesco Hayez’s “Odalisque With Book”
[Ok, I’ve resized and self-censored this image slightly. Since it was WAY too large and I’m not sure if the original image fitted into WordPress’s rules about nudity – I mean, it didn’t actually show anything, so I’m probably just being paranoid here…]

It’s a pretty well-known fact that one of the best ways to learn how to draw and/or paint is through lots of copying. Traditionally, students (whether they’re at an art school or, like me, teaching themselves) are told to copy old paintings.

This might all seem a like an old-fashioned and drearily formal way of learning how to draw or paint. But, I’ll let you in on a secret…

There’s much more to copying old paintings than just teaching yourself how to be an artist.

Before I go any further, I should point out that I’m obviously talking about copying pictures the old-fashioned way rather than just tracing them (because, as I’ve mentioned before, the only person you’re cheating when you trace something is yourself).

This also isn’t an article about how to copy things – it takes quite a bit of practice to learn how to do this. Plus, to paraphrase an excellent book called “Drawing On The Right Side Of The Brain” by Betty Edwards, it also requires knowing how to look at things in the right way. Still, if you keep practising, then you will get better at it.

For example, here are two copies I made of Millais’ “The Eve Of St. Agnes” in 2013 and in 2014:

October 2013

October 2013

March 2014

March 2014

So, although I’m not going to tell you how to copy things here, I will give you four lesser-known reasons why you should practice copying old paintings.

1) You can show off: One of the great things about copying old paintings is that, at the end of it, you have something which looks very much like a famous old painting. And, best of all, you’ve painted or drawn it.

Since people are quite likely to recognise a more famous older painting than they are to recognise one of your original paintings or drawings, then you can impress people a lot more easily with a fairly average copy of an old painting than you can with a fairly average original drawing or painting.

Not only that, copying old paintings also makes you look surprisingly cultured too. It makes it look like you have a wide knowledge of art history and are a “serious” artist. Yes, you can just search for old paintings on Google or Wikipedia (preferably Wikipedia, since each image on there contains a listing of it’s copyright status too) and just copy anything that looks interesting enough – but you don’t need to tell anyone else that…..

2) You can change things: The coolest thing about copying old paintings is that you don’t have to be accurate if you don’t want to. If you’ve been practising drawing or painting for a while, then you can use these skills to make your copy into something which you think looks cooler or more interesting than the original.

For example, here’s a fairly cartoonish copy of the Mona Lisa I made in January which has a much darker and more gothic background than the original painting did:

"Mona At Sunset" By C. A. Brown

“Mona At Sunset” By C. A. Brown

Not only that, you can also make parodies of the original painting, you can make “modern” versions of it etc.. The possibilities are endless.

3) If you can copy them, you can copy anything: Painting from life or using reference photos can sometimes seem quite intimidating to inexperienced artists. After all, real life is an incredibly complex and detailed thing (in visual terms) and even the idea of copying this can sometimes seem almost impossible.

One of the great things about old paintings is that so many of them are almost photo-realistic. But, at the same time, they’re slightly simpler than the average photograph and they’re often staged/composed in a very dramatic way – with the most important parts of the painting in the foreground.

As such, they’re slightly easier to copy than photographs or real life and, more importantly, they’re a lot easier to simplify too.

Knowing how to simplify complex images (whilst still keeping the “essence” of the original image) is one of the most useful skills that any artist can learn. Once you know how to simplify things properly, then you can copy pretty much anything that you want to relatively easily.

4) You can flog them if you want to: As long as you don’t try to pass your copy off as an original (since this would be illegal forgery and/or fraud), then it’s perfectly legal and acceptable to sell your copies if you want to. In fact, some people even make a living from doing just this alone.

After all, old paintings aren’t covered by copyright (as long as the original painter died at least 70-100 years ago) -so you don’t have to pay any royalties or get permission from anyone.

As a general rule, if you’re going to sell a copy you’ve made – then you need to acknowledge the original painter. Although the original painter is dead, an acknowledgement makes it clear to everyone who sees your painting that it is a copy and not an original. So, at the very least, no-one can accuse you of art forgery.

The usual way to do this is just to add a small note to a corner of your copy which says “After [original artist]”. Even if you don’t plan on selling your copies, then it’s usually good manners to do this anyway.

Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Tracing IS Cheating! (And Here’s Why)

This little sketch is a parody (in both the widely-used and technical sense of the word) of the SIIA's  "Don't Copy That Floppy" video from the 1990s.

This little sketch is a parody (in both the widely-used and technical sense of the word) of the SIIA’s “Don’t Copy That Floppy” video from the 1990s.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not exactly averse to some forms of artistic “cheating”. But, a week or two ago, I was watching an old Youtube video by an absolutely excellent drawing teacher called Shoo Rayner and he started to talk about tracing.

He was quite emphatic that tracing isn’t cheating and he provided some fairly interesting arguments to back up his ideas (and he has another, more interesting video about tracing here). It’s worth watching these videos just to hear his views on the subject and to make up your own mind. Even so, I have to disagree very strongly about this whole subject.

I believe that tracing is one of the worst ways that an artist can cheat herself or himself when they are learning how to draw.

“Cheating” your audience in order to impress them (eg: by creating the illusion of a complex background with just a few lines, digitally editing your art, using watercolour pencils instead of actual watercolours etc…) is perfectly acceptable in most circumstances, but you should never ever cheat yourself.

You can never become even fairly competent at drawing if you cheat yourself and skip over some of the basic skills that every artist should learn. Simply tracing something bypasses all sorts of useful skills which you should really practice and learn as much as you can.

Yes, tracing will show you the basic actions which you need to perform in order to draw something. Yes, you will have a very precise copy of another picture at the end of it. If you’ve very lucky, you might even pick up a few drawing techniques by simple repetition and copying.

Tracing isn’t a completely useless way to practice, but there are much better ways to learn how to draw through copying.

I am, of course, talking about copying things the really old-fashioned way. I’m talking about looking at a picture and copying it by eye, without using tracing paper. Yes, this is a lot more difficult than just tracing something – but, well, tracing wouldn’t be cheating if it was difficult, would it?

Yes, copying things by eye takes a lot more practice to get right (and, for heaven’s sake, don’t get discouraged by your early attempts at it). But, once you’ve eventually learnt how to do this, you’ll be able to draw anything. You’ll be able to draw still life pictures, you’ll be able to look at several reference images and draw something new from them.

Although I’ve never really had any formal art classes (apart from three years of pre-GCSE art lessons in secondary school), this is probably why art schools teach life drawing rather than tracing.

Not only that, copying things by eye forces you to actually think about what you are drawing. It forces you to pay careful attention to the proportions, the shading, the detail and the shapes in the picture you are trying to copy. Not only will you be copying a picture, you will be studying it and learning from it.

In addition to this, copying more complex images (like photographs and old paintings) by eye also makes you focus on the most important elements of the original picture. It forces you to simplify the original picture as much as you can, without losing the essence of what it looks like. If you are in any way interested in drawing comics, cartoons, caricatures etc… then this is probably the most important skill you can learn.

Yes, your copies will never look exactly the same as the original picture either, but this is a good thing. It allows your own art style and individuality to shine through. It allows you to learn more about your own artistic style and preferences. You won’t get any of this if you simply trace another picture.

Best of all, although your picture will still be a copy – it will be your copy. Your unique interpretation of the original picture. To put it another way, it is like the difference between a band covering a song in their own musical style and a band simply miming and lip-synching to a recording of the original song.

Of course, it goes without saying that if you plan to sell (or possibly even just publish) anything you’ve copied, then make sure that it’s either a copy of something that has gone out of copyright and/or it fits into whatever “fair use”/”fair dealing” laws you have in your country. And, yes, current copyright rules are unfair as hell and need serious reform – but that’s a subject for another article.

To give you an example of what I mean by copies being your own interpretation of a picture, here is Henri De Toulouse-Lautrec’s “The Laundress” (taken from here):

"The Laundress" By Henri De Toulouse-Lautrec

“The Laundress” By Henri De Toulouse-Lautrec

Now, here is my copy of it:

"After Lautrec" By C. A. Brown

“After Lautrec” By C. A. Brown

As you can see, the two pictures look slightly different from each other. Yes, they are both versions of the same picture, but my “cover version” of Lautrec’s painting is in a slightly different style to the original. I’d never have been able to do this if I’d just traced Lautrec’s picture.

So, although tracing might be an easier way to learn how to draw things, it really isn’t the best way to learn.

Yes, copying things the really old-fashioned way is a lot more difficult and you’ll probably fail quite a few times before you get it right. But you will learn about ten times more from every one of those failures than you could learn from a hundred “successful” traced copies of something.

Tracing is cheating. And the only person that you are really cheating is yourself.


Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Today’s Art (27th October 2013)

Since I wasn’t feeling particularly imaginative today, I decided to try to copy a couple of interesting old (and, most importantly, out of copyright) 19th century paintings I found on Wikipedia.

These paintings are “Melisande” by Marianne Stokes and (an old favourite of mine) “The Eve Of St. Agnes” by John Everett Millias.

Whilst my copy of “Melisande” turned out fairly well, my copy of “The Eve Of St. Agnes” didn’t really turn out anywhere near as well as I hoped it would. One of my major problems with these two drawings was that I didn’t really have the range of colours available that the original painters did.

These two drawings are released under a CC-BY licence.

"Melisande (copy)" By C.A.Brown (after Marianne Stokes)

“Melisande (copy)” By C.A.Brown (after Marianne Stokes)

"The Eve Of St. Agnes (copy)"  By C. A. Brown (After John Everett Millias)

“The Eve Of St. Agnes (copy)” By C. A. Brown (After John Everett Millias)

How To Draw Something You’ve Never Drawn Before

2013 Artwork How to draw sketch

Since a few things in my “How To Draw” series are things which I’ve never tried to draw before, I thought that it could be useful for people who are new to drawing to write an article about this whole process.

Whilst it’s a skill that I’ve probably always had to some degree or another, I’ve only even got vaguely good at working out how to draw things within the past three or four years.

And, yes, with enough practice and understanding, working out how to draw things can become an almost intuitive skill. In fact, with enough practice, drawing in general can become a fairly intuitive skill.

1) Copying: This is one of the easiest, and oldest, ways to learn how to draw new things. Just look at a photo of what you want to draw and try to copy what you see. If you’ve new to drawing, your copy probably won’t look anywhere near as good as the original.

Yes, you can trace things, but this requires a lot less skill and it’s generally a lot more satisfying to try to copy things the old-fashioned way by just looking at them and drawing what you see.

Plus, if you copy things by sight, then you’ll probably add your own artistic touches to them after a while too (this is something you can’t really do if you trace things).

Whilst this stuff is probably fairly obvious, I found a really interesting book a few weeks ago called “Drawing On The Right Side Of The Brain” by Betty Edwards which explores some of the psychology behind learning to draw and also teaches you how to “see” things in an artistic way. I already intuitively knew quite a lot of this stuff before I found this book but, if you’re new to drawing, then it might be worth finding a copy of it in your nearest library or buying a copy of it.

If you’re still uncertain about how to copy things, the next three tips on this list are techniques which will help you.

2) Two dimensions: Notice how I only mentioned copying from photographs in the previous point on this list? This goes against the more classical idea that people should actually observe things in real life when they’re learning how to draw them (eg: life drawing etc…), but I personally think that it’s best to learn how to draw things from photographs and static images.

The reason for this is fairly simple – things in real life are three-dimensional, whereas everything printed on a photograph or a computer screen is a two-dimensional flat image. Yes, a photo might look 3D, but (in physical terms) it’s as two-dimensional as the flat surface of the paper it is printed on or the computer screen it is displayed on.

Now, if you’re drawing something, then your drawing will be two-dimensional. It’ll be a single layer of ink and/or graphite on a flat piece of paper. So, if you want to learn how to create the illusion of depth and three-dimensional objects, then it makes a lot more sense to copy another 2D image (eg: a photo) which has already done this.

After a while, you’ll have probably learnt enough to know how to draw things that you see around you, without needing to refer to two-dimensional photos or pictures. But, if you’re just starting out, then it’s worth sticking to copying photographs for a while.

3) Simplify: If you’re copying a photograph, then the sheer level of detail might seem pretty intimidating at first. Real life is extremely intricate and detailed (just look closely at anything around you and you’ll probably see what I mean) and trying to copy all of this detail can be overwhelming.

However, one of the most important skills which any artist has to learn is how to simplify things. This skill is almost intuitive when you’ve picked it up, but it can be kind of difficult to describe, so bear with me…

There are a number of ways to simplify things, but it can be useful to start by drawing an outline of the thing you’re copying and then focus on drawing the most important and recognisable parts of it.

When it comes to the more intricate details of something, it can be useful to either give a general impression of them (eg: squiggly lines to represent grass on a field rather than drawing each individual blade of grass) or to only show a couple of smaller details rather than trying to copy everything exactly and “perfectly”.

A good way of learning how to simplify things if you’re new to drawing is to look at a lot of drawings by other people. Be sure to focus on stylised drawings rather than “realistic” drawings. Anyway, once you’ve looked closely at quite a few other drawings and thought about how the artist simplified things, then you’ll probably start to get a sense of how to do this yourself.

4) Add 3D effects: Although you’ll hopefully work out some of these techniques yourself, there are a few basic techniques for making things look 3D (eg: shadows, perspective, 3D shapes etc…) which are very easy to learn. I wrote a more detailed article about this subject a while back, which can be found here.

5) Practice: As I’ve mentioned a couple of times before, working out how to draw things is a skill which takes practice to learn. It isn’t something that you’ll probably pick up instantly. But, don’t be discouraged. Once you’ve learnt the basics of it, it’ll quickly become an almost intuitive skill. But in order to get to this stage, you have to practice as regularly as possible.

But, if you really want to learn how to draw, then you’ll probably enjoy all of this practice and have a lot of fun with it. And, yes, practice should be fun.

If practicing your drawing feels dull or feels like a chore, then either try to draw something which you feel looks cooler/more interesting than whatever you were trying to draw or just take a break until you feel enthusiastic again.


Anyway, I hope that this article was useful 🙂