When I was a child, I used to create my own unique stories and pictures using my imagination. I didn’t really worry about what others thought of my drawings- I just drew them because I enjoyed the process so much.
As I got older, I started to care more about what people thought about my drawings, so I started trying harder and being critical of my own work and trying to impress them.
I spent hours per day trying to learn how to improve my drawings, but I think I must have stopped using my imagination somewhere along the way, for the most part.
I did not visualize a concept and try to put it on paper. I just copied what I saw and drew that alone.
I learned to see what I was looking at and how to copy it on paper, but many of my drawings lacked a certain spark of creativity and individuality.
However, every once in a while, I would get this burst of energy and imagination… and all these beautiful images and scenes would just suddenly pop into my mind. Eagerly, I would get my pencils and paper out and would feel a sense of excitement as I drew. It was those moments that I felt the most like I was truly expressing myself with my artwork, and I felt the happiest with what I was able to produce.
In 2016, I began drawing a series of whimsical animals, which eventually turned into a series of books with poems written by my friend, Elena Caudle.
I absolutely loved drawing these animals in their cute scenes, and I felt like they were a true expression of myself.
I would go to sleep at night and have images and scenes just pouring into my head, and I would sometimes write my ideas down because there were so many and I just wanted to get them down before I forgot them.
Some of the ones I loved the most as I drew were:
Montague the Magician,
Shayla the Warthog.
and Oscar and Charlene.
So how do I create images like these?
Well, the most important thing that I can think of, to begin with, is visualization.
Visualization is basically seeing clearly (in your mind) the entire composition of what you want to draw before you draw it.
To visualize, you need to have a clear concept in your mind of what you’d like to put on paper. That is the first and most important step. Without a clear image in your mind of what you’re wanting to convey, it will not be able to become what you imagine.
The best time for these ideas to come into our minds is when we are relaxed and not busy. For me, it has always been when I’m in the shower or when I’m laying in the bed, almost asleep, that all of my creative juices start flowing.
Once you have an idea visualized in your mind, the next step is to draw a simple sketch of your idea. This can be a very simple sketch and does not have to be anything impressive. It is only meant to be a reminder of how you want your drawing to be arranged.
Once you have the arrangement figured out, it is time to find reference images to pull ideas and details from.
For my whimsical animal drawings, I try to find an animal face that I really like and will alter the face a bit to make it look happy, and then will use leg and body references to imagine how they might look if they were standing up, or sitting down, etc.
If I want to dress them in clothes, I will look for reference photos of clothes as well, to use as guidance on what they would look like in the actual drawing.
If there is a field in the background, I don’t try to only imagine the field and draw it – I look at various field images and find one that is suitable, and I use it as a reference to help me decide on the shading, etc.
Any other elements I will use reference photos for as well. So there is a lot of planning and research involved in drawings like this, but it’s worth it!
Some drawings take more planning and others take less…it all depends on the particular idea you have.
And sometimes ideas just come to you out of nowhere. When one comes to your mind, it’s a good idea to write it down so you don’t forget it later on.
This is exactly what I did last week when I took this picture of our puppy, Griz (Well, his name is Griz half the time anyway…it could also be Puggles, depending on which of my children you ask):
When I first took this picture, I was looking at it and thinking about how cute it was, but then I realized that I could imagine him jumping in the air in this pose.
I mean, he looks so happy but he also looks like he’s jumping if you look at it right.
So I have decided to use this photograph as a way to show some techniques you can use to create your own imaginative drawing on your own!
I am going to use the tracing method and show you how that is done because I think that would be the easiest way for you to transfer the image if you cannot yet freehand.
If you have a reference photo that you’ll be working from on your computer, here is a way I’ve found to make it really easy even if you don’t have the picture printed yet.
First, open your laptop or go to your computer. Have a pencil and a piece of tracing paper ready.
Open your photograph (If you would like to enlarge your picture, it’s easy- just type “Ctrl +”. If you want to make it smaller, type “Ctrl -“).
Once you have it sized the way you’d like, you can take your sheet of tracing paper, and start tracing your image with a pencil.
Here is the way my picture looks after being traced:
Just FYI, I have also traced a little part of a headboard to a bed in the background.
I want you to notice that I have been very careful not to make very dark, solid lines. In fact, when I trace, I make uncertain, sketchy lines intentionally because it helps the picture look natural later, in my opinion.
Next, I have taken the tracing paper and placed it on a piece of graphite paper. The shiny side of the graphite paper is facing down, and I have a piece of Bristol smooth paper underneath that. Now I am ready to trace my image onto the paper below.
Now, at this point, it’s VERY important to stress NOT to use too much pressure on your pencil when you trace the outline. A little pressure is fine, but don’t bear down, because you’ll end up with something like this:
And believe me, this is HARD (nearly impossible) to erase.
You don’t have to press as lightly as I do, but this is usually what mine would look like traced (sorry for the poor lighting in this one):
Once I have this much drawn, I take my pencil and make all the parts that are too light more visible by drawing them in more clearly:
And this is one reason I love working with a laptop nearby, because you can enlarge the photo to see better details. The more details you can see, the better your finished drawing will turn out.
The next thing I do is find all the darkest areas in the picture, and shade them in. Notice that inside the ears, inside the nostrils, and inside the mouth are the darkest, along with around the forelegs…and there are other parts shaded but they are not nearly as dark as the others I mentioned. I used less pressure on my pencil to shade them in.
Once I have all of my darkest spots filled in, I use my blending stump and blend it all in.
Once all of this blending is complete, I use the eraser on my mechanical pencil (which is terrific because of the almost razor edge it has) and start “drawing” wispy hairs where I see the need (constantly referring to my reference photo for directional lines).
The next thing I do is get my kneaded eraser out. But today, one of my children was playing with the kneaded eraser and lost it, so I decided to use some of the Blu Tack that my husband, James, bought for me at the store the other day (he purchased it at Lowes, but it’s available at Amazon.com too). It works just as well as kneaded eraser, if not better in some ways! So if you happen to have some in your house that is being used to hang a poster up on your wall, it’ll work!
I use the putty to lift highlights in a soft way over all of the lighter parts of the puppy.
Then I go over some of the places where I see fur and use my mechanical pencil to draw them in. The reason I use mechanical is because I love the consistency and fineness of the lines. It is terrific for drawing in animal fur and hair. Always pay attention to the direction of the fur while you’re drawing it.
Please avoid using too much pressure with your pencil. I try to create soft, wispy lines by placing my pencil at a certain point, and then making it quickly flick up towards another point while lifting off the paper at the end.
Please try to avoid the mistake of making fur like this on the ear below…this is very easy to do if you’re a beginner, but try to practice making soft, wispy lines and you’ll be so happy that you did.
Next, I continue finding places where the fur needs to be, and place some strands of fur in the places I feel they need to be. I am careful not to add too many hairs since you don’t actually need to draw every single one- you just need to create a few to have made the IMPRESSION that all the fur is there.
Now, watch this technique I use to create light and dark fur. First, I have the area blended so that it’s gray. Then, I use the mechanical pencil eraser to draw white lines inside the area. I have already drawn some on the outside edge as well.
Now, I go back over the exact same spot, and I draw more lines with the pencil lead, so that there are now dark hairs in between the white. I keep going back and forth between eraser and pencil until it looks like I want. And sometimes I’ll blend it and do it again.
Now I continue drawing fur lines over the body:
Then smoothing them:
Then, once the dog is close to being finished, I start working on the background. I had found a reference photo for the headboard of a bed earlier and had traced it. Now I just use a ruler to draw the outline of a wall and ceiling line, to create the illusion that the puppy is inside a room. You can probably find plenty of images of rooms online to get an idea of where the lines should be if you were to do something like this.
I cross hatch to shade in the larger areas. And I decided not to shade the whole wall but to let the corners and top of the ceiling be shaded more, to allow the fur to be more apparent when it’s done. It makes the wall look like maybe it’s a lighter color, which is fine.
Using plenty of elbow grease, I use a Kleenex tissue paper and using circular motions, blend till the pencil is smooth. I also add a subtle line to the trim to make it look like there is a shadow.
Then I work on the bed details, adding some pillows so that it’s obvious it is a bed, and adding some shading to where the footboard will be.
After adding a little shading (I decided to keep the bed really simple to keep the focus on the dog) I decide to return to the puppy…
I decided that since the puppy is falling at this point, some furs that have the ends wisping upward would help with the illusion of falling. It’s subtle but it’s there.
So at this point I call it done. Not so much that I couldn’t add many more details if I wanted to but because I think it looks fine at this point and I like it!
Also, I just created something unique and something I can call my own. That makes me feel better than anything. It also makes me glad to see my younger kids excitement when they say, “Wow, you just drew our puppy! He looks so happy!”
So what do you think? Has this tutorial helped you in any way? I would love to think that it has helped you learn something about the techniques that I use. If you have any questions or comments, please don’t hesistate to post them below. Also feel free to send me any of your artwork, especially if you’ve used anything I’ve taught in this tutorial!
Have a wonderful week!