Maybe the last time you drew anything dates back to the last century.
Maybe the only thing you can draw—and not very confidently—is a stick figure.
Maybe you see drawing as something only kids and artists do.
Maybe you used to love to draw in school but stopped because someone criticized your work.
Maybe today you automatically doodle while on the phone or on the train. You don’t consider it drawing at all, but it’s something you gravitate toward doing without even realizing it.
Either way, drawing can be a wonderful tool in inspiring us to be more curious, to feel a sense of calm and even to feel better.
Draw & Be Happy: Art Exercises to Bring You Joy, written by Tim. A. Shaw and illustrated by Nuria Bellver and Raquel Fanjul, is filled with inventive, interesting and simple activities for anyone who’d like to try drawing (no experience required). I had a hard time narrowing down the best exercises to share with you. But here are seven you might like.
- Draw your friend’s face in 10 seconds. First take some time to study their face. “The aim is to capture every feature in the quickest, most efficient way possible. Without any breaks in your line, follow the shapes, shadows, lines and contours that make that person look different to any other.”
- Draw circles. Your circles might overlap, touch or stand alone. Experiment with speeding up your motions, and then slowing them down. Use your whole arm. Then use just your hand. Then use only your thumb and forefinger to create circles of different sizes.
- Draw any object. But before you do, think about the colors of that object, noticing how they interact with the space and surrounding colors. Observe how you respond to each color, too. “You may realize that what you initially saw as a white, or red, or black object, is actually a collection of intricate color networks that form fascinating compositions in themselves.”
- Draw something dull or forgettable—a white wall, tiles in a corridor, a cardboard box. “[R]einterpret it on paper as if you are an explorer in uncharted territory. Record every dimple or lump as if it were a valley or mountain in a newly discovered landscape.” After all, even floor tiles can be fascinating. They “are a jungle of synthetic fibers that hook and intertwine to create the appearance of a smooth and solid surface.”
- Dedicate a notebook to recording the shapes of tea and coffee stains that you come across every day. “Each residual shape tells a micro-story and is evidence of an action and even an individual’s personality.”
- Draw the light. “Everywhere you look there are incredible artworks being created by light reflecting, refracting, and diffracting. Watch out for this enchanting light show.” For instance, you might position your piece of paper so the light and shadows sit on the surface, and trace them. You might notice the shadows have different levels of darkness, and portray this on paper by changing up how much pressure you apply when coloring in the shadows.
- Draw teeny, tiny details. “Examine the small indentations on the surface of a desk, the marks and scratches on a wall, or the angles and reflected light on the nib of your pen.”
Drawing can be relaxing, even meditative. It can help us reconnect to our imaginations, and bring us joy. It’s another way that we can express ourselves. It’s another way we can play—and play is one of the most powerful, significant things we can do.