A long time ago I decided that I would like to come up with a collection of art exercises and then do an example of each of them to share with folks here on Dragonbones.

So I started collecting a list. Random ideas when in the shower or on long drives, things I heard on podcasts, or suggestions from friends. The list itself got kinda long, and I had done very few of them myself.

In a recent tweet, was looking for suggestions on exercises and I thought “I really should send them my list! It was then that I realized I didn’t have my list of exercises anywhere that I could easily share. This post is to remedy that problem. When I’ve done an example of an exercise, I’ll link it to that entry here in the master list so you can get more information on that exercise in a unique post.

Please feel free to contribute your own ideas in the comments below! I’d love to get some fresh, new ideas going!

Here’s the list in no particular order:

  1. Friend’s Facial Expressions: Ask a friend to make a series of facial expressions and photograph them, or ask them to take a collection of selfies. No fewer than 10 different expressions. Spend 30 seconds drawing each of them. Then try taking 3 minutes drawing each of them. Look at the differences between the first and last image.
  2. Simplified Stipple: Create some stipple art, but try to use as few points as you can while still making the subject matter clear.
  3. Strange Surfaces: Draw on a strange surface – old newspapers, concrete, or a strip of cloth. Thrift store books can make great sketchbooks.
  4. Emotional Objects: Draw some THING that makes you feel some strong emotion. Your cat’s padded foot. The driver seat of your car. Your wedding ring. You get the idea.
  5. Four Seasons: Draw whatever you can see out your window. Now, from your imagination, draw that same scene I the other three seasons.
  6. Building a Still Life: Assemble a still life then draw it. Keep in mind that (in this instance) the assembly of the still life is the most important element.
  7. Work in Reverse: Trace a complicated image and then break it down into a simplified form, basic shapes, and finally into basic gesture lines.
  8. Expressive Features: Try to express moods/attitudes with just one feature. (ie – how do you show anger with the mouth? What does joy look like with one hand?)
  9. ASL Alphabet: Draw the ASL alphabet. Great exercise for drawing hands!
  10. Mastering Musculature: Trace the musculature of images found via a web image search.
  11. View Finder: Create a viewfinder from common objects (cardboard, paper, etc)
  12. View Finder 2: Create an oddly shaped viewfinder.
  13. Cryptid Cartographer: Create a map of a place that doesn’t exist.
  14. I Get By with a Little Help from My: Draw your friend.
  15. Mad Mixing: Using a photo editing program, mix and match components of your friends’ faces. Draw the results.
  16. Mad Scientist: Using a photo editing program, mix and match 2 or more animals to create an entirely new animal. Draw the results.
  17. Scribble Hunt: Fill a page with scribbles and fill it completely. Then, go back and trace over ONLY the existing scribbles to create a drawing.
  18. Most Sincere Flattery: Draw a scene from your favorite poem, book, tv show, or movie.
  19. Two Day Notebook: Take one word notes on things then draw something based on those notes tomorrow.
  20. Draw the Weather: Draw the weather.
  21. Make Your Own: Create a wash to use in a drawing from something unusual. An example: back when I smoked, I used ashes from my cigarettes and some water to ‘paint’ with a charcoal wash.
  22. Watch the Hands: Draw a page of hands.
  23. Do It by the Letters: Draw a page of thumbnails – using the alphabet as compositional guides.
  24. Do It by the Numbers: Draw a page of thumbnails – using the numbers 0-9 as compositional guides.
  25. Mastering Musculature 2: Take photos of people, then draw the musculature over top of the photo. (Much like Mastering Musculature, but with your own photo references.)
  26. Texture Hunt: Go on a texture hunt with your phone / camera. Set a significant minimum number of textures – ie 50 – to challenge yourself.
  27. Assisted Art: Draw with a partner for a timed period. After the time’s up, trade images and work for a similar amount of time. Then switch back and continue.
  28. Famous Scenes: Draw a scene from a popular movie but don’t draw the characters face – see how many folks can recognize it.
  29. Exploded Body Parts: Draw the anatomy of a part of the body in an exploded view like engineering diagrams.
  30. Contour Drawing: Do a contour drawing.