Bailin Studio


Drawing Foundamentals

How To Start and Complete a Drawing

Return to Basic Drawing


Having a method that organizes the technical steps in creating a drawing is important. The beginning steps, from doodles to to working with thumbnails, are summarized below. I describe in detail how to apply the drawing sequence method with examples after you log in.

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Karen Martin • A Celebration of Art From Decades Past

The Drawing Method

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Doodling is to drawing as practicing scales is to music - the purpose of which is to create muscle memory so the artist can concentrate on meaning and expression.


The Five Fundamental Doodles

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There are five doodles that are concealed within drawing practice. It is precisely because these five doodles are concealed within an already complex and mystifying process of creating something out of nothing that they have a preternatural affect on the art. Whether the artist is aware of the doodle within the gesture is unimportant; that there are fundamental doodles that can be found and exploited is important. Practice these doodles and you’ll be able to draw anything.

Thumbnails are the blueprints to the drawing practice. You can’t build a house without considering the purpose for which the house is being constructed, the land it is built on, the placement of the dwelling on the property, or how the layout of the house provides smooth movement throughout the space. How can you start a drawing without knowing how you are going to organize it?

student thumbnails and drawing

Thumbnails are ideas working through the hands. They are the equivalent of visual short-hand. They determine compositional focus and viewpoint and allow you to work through visual ideas and experimentation. Thumbnails allow you to discover what interests you in a setting so that you aren’t bored when you translate thumbnail to finished drawing. They are indispensable and must be part of your artistic workflow.

Working with Thumbnails:

  1. Create a minimum of four thumbnails
  2. Select one that works compositionally and thematically but that above all is interesting to you.
  3. Transfer the thumbnail directly onto the drawing without looking at the model (i.e., use the thumbnail as your model using the same bounding box proportion and placement of objects).
  4. Once transferred, use sighting to lock in the internal proportions.

The artist spends hours working on a drawing. It can be dull, solitary and unrewarding work. The process leads to periods of creative emptiness and anxiety as well as moments of high expectation and excitement. But no one else is interested in this abreaction except for that which is produced from it. The take away is simple: make what you create meaningful and take responsibility for it.

Studio Rules:

  • Don’t Make Wallpaper
  • Don’t Contemplate Your Navel
  • Erase frequently
  • Practice Your Doodles
  • Use Thumbnails