Creative exercises for every month

Drawing Skills 3: Scribbling with an Agenda

During these exercises you will learn how to create marks that lead to figurative drawing. These are short exercises that only take a little of your time. If you haven't already, we suggest that you complete Drawing skills 1 and Drawing skills 2 before attempting these exercises.

We will be running this course at regular intervals on Facebook. Share your work with our group and receive feedback from Bob and the team. Join our private Facebook Group.  All skill levels are welcome! This is a FREE/Pay what you feel course, donations can be made here.

Exercise 1

Although there is an element of conflict in the relationship between control and creativity, the direction of a work of art still broadly reflects the intentions of the artist.  This segment is about one aspect of holding the two rivals together with some level of productive, figurative harmony. Now look at this drawing by Gian Antonio Pellegrini….

First of all, look carefully at the crowd scenes in the drawing.  

Pellegrini, Gian Antonio. 1645. The body of Aarius brought before Alexander. Pen and sepia ink. Reproduced in Pignatti, Perisio. 1981. Master Drawings: Cave Art to Picasso. Guild publishing London.

Although there are hardly any drawings of individual people, or indeed any points at which the eye can separate out a space occupied by an individual, the sense of a collection of people is strong.  

Q. How did Pellegrini make marks that carry this meaning, and with such strong emotion too? 
A. There is a sense of space, and a distinct foreground and background.

Q. How does this happen? 
A.There is a greater sense of form to some groups of figures, achieved by the use of tone. This adds weight and volume making their presence more forceful and compelling. 
Notice the use of light and dark. Close figures are darker and distant figures are left lighter and less distinct as if fading into the distance. If you look carefully you can easily see at least four levels of distance in this drawing.


  • Copy this image, trying to follow the free flowing lines.
  • Your drawing needs to be small to avoid focusing on detail, 10 cm (8inchs) in length is a good size.
  • Try using a fine brush and thin paint (burnt umber or paynes grey or black) to make scribble marks of the same kind. You can do this by adding water to acrylic or turpentine to oil paint, you want a watercolour consistency.
  • Try not to think head, body, legs in a logical order with the head at the top. You don’t need to be drawing whole people. You want the feel of people’s bodies.
  • It’s important to use tone, subtle changes from light to dark, to create a sense of form.
  • Keep referring to this image to stay on track.

Exercise 2

 Now sketch your own scene with a people feel to it.

  • Do at least 2 sketches using the same technique as the first exercise.
  • Keep referring to the first exercise to keep yourself on track.
  • Use the same materials as the first exercise; a fine brush and thin paint or ink, charcoal, a soft pencil etc.
  • Try not to think head, body, legs in a logical order with the head at the top. You don’t need to be drawing whole people.
  • You want the feel of people’s bodies.
  • It’s important to use tone, subtle changes from light to dark, to create a sense of form.
  • If you would like feedback, please post when you've done a drawing. If doing more than one, please put them in the same post. We look forward to seeing your sketches.

Exercise 3

The interesting thing about form is that there are surprising and unexpected and inexplicable things that change a drawing and give it body, form and strength.

Here is a simple exercise to practice form. Form is drawing around the object to give it weight and volume.


1. Draw two parallel lines in your sketchbook.

2. To give the drawing body you now need to draw curved lines between the 2 lines, see the example below. The two lines have become a cylinder.

3. Repeat this exercise next to the cylinder you've just drawn except create the curved lines in the opposite direction. The opening to the cylinder should be at the bottom for the second drawing.

4. Look carefully at your drawing, can you see there is a three dimensional aspect to your drawing. Look at the space between the 2 cylinders and their relationship between themselves and the viewer. Line following form creates body in your drawing.

5. Draw a circle by tracing around a round object such as a lid or cup.

6. Now create a sphere with this circle by drawing lines that follow its form.

7. Although this a specific exercise, when you're using these marks in your drawing they need to remain exploratory. They allow you to find form in your drawing.

 Exercise 4

1. Copy the image below of the two women into your sketchpad. Use pencil or pen.

2. Pay close attention to the direction and curvature of the line, especially around the arm and shoulder of the female figure in front.

3. Once you have drawn the image, you are now going to complete the drawing, sketching the head and face in. Try not to draw any details such as the ears, nose, mouth and eyes, just focus on the form and the curvature of the line (as you did for the cylinder and sphere).

4. See the next image below to get started on the head. The vertical line from the top of the head to the chin indicates the direction the head is facing.

5. Please post your drawing.

 Exercise 5

Look at this section of a sheet of studies by Paolo Veronese, specifically the bottom right hand corner, what do you see here? Describe what you see and what makes you say that. No drawing required.

Exercise 6

With the last exercise in mind you are now going to show what you see by redrawing the figures in the bottom right hand corner and use form to illustrate what you see. As with the cylinders the way that you use the lines will determine the form, its perspective and its angle. Use as few lines as possible.