And so you are inspired.
You pick up a pencil and sit down to draw your new masterpiece!
A couple of minutes later you are frustrated and confused, and the piece of paper (where your masterpiece was supposed to be) flies to the garbage! Or get’s ripped to pieces!! Or is being burned down!!!
Well, that’s normal, don’t worry.
Most artists at the beginning of their art path draw amazing stuff when looking at a reference, but draw like a 3-years-old child when trying to draw from imagination.
But then they build something called a “visual library” and practice drawing in a different way.
Let me explain.
How To Get Better At Drawing From Imagination – A 3 Step Process
The first step is pretty obvious it seems – learn.
But what exactly do you learn?
- Simple shapes;
You also need to learn them in this exact order! Think about it, you can’t color something without first learning shading (or the drawing will look flat) and you can’t shade before you have the basic shapes in place!
So once you learn the basics of drawing, you can begin learning some specific objects.
Here are a couple of practices you could implement:
2. Practice With Intent
Practicing is a very broad term.
You can practice drawing by copying (not tracing) photographs. Will it make you a better artist? Yes! You will be beter at copying from photos 😉
But if you want to be better at drawing from imagination, you have to practice with that intent in mind.
In a nutshell, you need to practice drawing one subject a lot and from different angles in order to then draw it perfectly from your head!
Here is how you can get started, and yes, I made up the names to these exercises:
a) Month by Month
In this practice, you dedicate 1 month of your drawing practices to 1 specific subject.
For example, dedicate 1 month to just drawing human bodies!
You might get one of the books I mention in the “14 Best Figure Drawing Books for Beginners“, visit one of the sites “Best 9 Free Pose Reference Sites To Practice Figure Drawing Online” and learn from masters of the field.
And as you are equiped with awesome books, tutorials and resources that you need – you will just be mastering your skill of drawing human bodies! After that one month, a drawing of a human from your head will look WAY BETTER than it used to!
The next month you will pick a different topic.
For example, you decide that the coolest thing would be to draw dragons for the entire month!
And so you pick up a book or two on how to draw dragons (and I have just the list for that at “How To Draw A Dragon 7 Awesome Books“), watch some awesome movies that have dragons in them, and learn from other artists (and of course, I have an article for that as well, “How To Draw A Dragon – Tips From 5 Artists“).
You will repeat this process every following month, and be a true expert at drawing these particular subjects 🙂
Side Note: I created a little planner PDF for you to print out or use digitally for the “Month By Month” practice. I like using it, so I thought you might too! You can download it for free from the opt-in!
b) 360 Training
This one could be quite complicated in the beginning, but you will get the hang of the process in no time! And the results are so well worth the effort!
For this practice, you will need to find a reference image of a subject you would like to draw.
However, you are not just going to copy the photograph. You will imagine it at a different angle!
Let’s say you have a portrait of a girl looking at you straight on, well you want to look at the photograph but draw her in a side profile!
Give it a shot 😉
Or if you prefer working from life, then take a look at something, and then draw it from a different angle!
This exercise helps you think of subjects as 3D things, and with practice, you will be able to draw anything from any angle!
c) Short Memory Practice
This one is like a game!
You will give yourself a certain amount of time to look at an object, and then you will turn around and draw it from your head!
Let me give you a few examples:
- Set up some objects on a table. Take a few minutes to look at them and memorize everything you can. Now, leave the room or turn around and try to draw them how you remember. No peeking! When you are done, compare your drawing to what the objects really look like and try again! Repeat the process until you are satisfied.
- Go to a coffee shop, take a look at the person sitting across the room. Even if they catch you staring and think you as a crazy person, don’t stop! You have a job to do. Then try to draw them without looking again. After, compare your drawing to the person and repeat until you are happy with the outcome. The downside to this practice is that you might not have a chance to practice a second time with the same person, or even compare the drawing in the first place.
d) Blobs and Shapes
This one is the easiest one to start practicing right away, but you probably won’t see a fast improvement comparing to the other 3 practices.
For this exercise you will start of by just doodling some blobs and random shapes on your piece of paper or canvas, and then imagine what it could potentially be.
I also like making one shape and copying it a couple of times while trying to come up with different possibilities of what that shape might represent.
Here is a cool video I found on YouTube to give you an idea of how this exercise can be done 🙂
Give it a shot!
And that’s my dear friends how you develop a so-called “visual library”.
By looking at different objects and drawing them, you will be able to recall them from the visual library you have built-up in your brain. And when drawing from imagination – those objects will pop-up in your head and your drawings will turn out much better than they were at the beginning of your journey.
This process takes time, and there are no overnight shortcuts.
3. Learn Some More
Drawing from your head is a skill that you will be developing over your whole life.
As you can probably tell, the practices I mentioned require you to focus on one thing at a time, and even though I think it’s the best way to truly learn, it will also take quite a while!
So, this is a process you need to repeat over time LEARN->PRACTICE->LEARN->PRACTICE->…
The best way to learn after you’ve already had the basic practice is to learn from other artists who practice drawing from imagination and whose skills are better than yours (for now).
On that note, I would like to share with you some resources I find useful:
- Read any of the books (and they have many!) on “Sketching From The Imagination” by 3dTotal Publishing. They cover topics such as sketching from the imagination characters, fantasy, dark arts, Sci-Fi and more! Truly amazing books with a lot of insights, tips and beautiful drawings.
What I have given you today is a system that can help you to get better at drawing from imagination if you put in the work.
There are no shortcuts, you simply need to learn and practice.
Developing a skill takes time either way, but you can speed things up a little if you have a plan and a clear goal in mind.
Good luck with drawing from imagination!