Drawing Warm-Ups

May 7, 2015 - 5 minutes read

I think warming up before drawing is important. Since some people had been asking me about some of my recommended drawing methods, this is probably a good place to start.

A lot of times in a drawing class you may see people doing quick 30 second to 1 minute sketches in order to do drawing warm-ups. This is great, but if you’re doing the same technique over and over it can become tired and boring. Being someone that’s been going to figure drawing fairly regularly every week for almost ten years now, I can tell you that if that tiredness hasn’t hit you yet, then it probably will soon. Here are a couple of techniques I use to mix things up a bit and warm-up before drawing.

Blind contour drawing

If you don’t know what blind contour drawing is, it’s a fairly simple concept to grasp. Take whatever it is you’re using to draw, put it down on your paper, and do not look at it again, and do not lift it off of the paper for the entire duration of the drawing. While not looking at your drawing even once (that’s the blind part), try to draw the contour and general lines of whatever you’re looking at. It could be an object, a full figure, or a portrait like below.

You’ll notice that these rarely look like what you’re drawing. That’s because you have to train your eye and your hand to work in tandem and cooperate with each other. Right now, and most likely forever, one of either your hand or your eye will tend to get ahead of the other. This technique helps you to improve that hand eye coordination, be more confident in your line making (stop feathering your lines!), and usually makes a pretty entertaining drawing while you’re at it.

The foreign tool

Another great method to loosen up is to use a tool you aren’t accustomed to using. My recommendation is the broader and messier the marks it makes, the better.

This technique helps you be less precious about everything you draw. If you’re using a giant dry-brush with half dried ink on it (like in my examples below), then you’re going to have trouble getting every little detail just perfect. That’s a good thing. When you’re doing 1-5 minute sketches to warm up, you shouldn’t be taking every little detail to heart. That is a time to get your wrist loosened up and your eye studying whatever it is you’re drawing or getting ready to draw under closer scrutiny. This is also meant to get you out of your comfort zone. Sketching is when you should be trying new things and honing your skills. If you just do the same thing over and over again, with the same tools, how are you improving? All you’re doing is distilling, and probably becoming stale because of it. Try something new.

This exercise often helps me look at tones better. Since my drawing tool is too chunky/broken/wide to make a precise mark, I end up examining the tones more and trying to block in the shadows more than the contours. A great exercise to alternate with your blind contour drawings so that you’re getting the best of both worlds.

What kind of techniques do you use to warm up?

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