The "How to Draw" Series, Part One: Inspiration, Materials, and Gradients

Hello, and welcome to my new "How to Draw" series!  I'll be posting a new, totally free, drawing lesson every Friday, and I'm so glad you are here!  I used to teach drawing for several years right after graduating from art school, so it's nice to be back in a comfortable place: getting people motivated and ready to start drawing!

Before we get into anything too technical, I wanted this post to be talk about inspiration in order to get your creative juices flowing.  I want you to be excited and ready to start putting pencil to paper!

There are many ways to get inspired to make artwork, but for me, going online and bookmarking my favorite art pieces done by other artists is a fun way to get inspired.  Even if you don't use their works as references in any way (Please be sure not to copy the work of another artist!), just seeing all that talent online is a great way to get your creative juices flowing, and it will definitely get you to motivated to start making things.  Sometimes the inspiration isn't very direct, for example, sometimes I will see a painted landscape in a beautiful color scheme, then I will become inspired by the colors and use a similar palette in a portrait I am drawing.  Try using Flickr, Pinterest, or Instagram and start "favoriting" away.  If you want to see some of my favorites, my Flickr favorites are here and my Pinterest "Art Obsessions" board is here.

Another great way to get inspired is to go out and see art in your community.  If you don't have a good art gallery in your town, maybe you can meet up with a friend who is creative and inspire each other with good conversation about arts and crafts.  Or, you could go online and look up some galleries and artists whose work speaks to you. 

Something else you can do would be to go for a walk with your camera and take pictures of anything that catches your eye.  When you get home, you can print out those photos and draw what you saw using the photos as reference.  It's also interesting to see what the photos have in common to find out what your eye is naturally drawn to...


I love bookbinding, and I also love to buy pretty leather covered sketchbooks I find at the bookstore...  The only problem with this is that the books I have made myself and those pricey leather sketchbooks become too precious at times.  Since they are such special books, I want the drawings in them to be SO GOOD.  I notice that if I haven't drawn in a while, I get super intimidated by these "precious" books, and instead, I grab a cheap sketchbook instead.  The cheap books are full of cheap paper, and that is way less intimidating than the imported Italian papers in the leather sketchbooks...  So I'm able to let loose and let go in my cheap books and work my way up to using a book that is more special.  So, if you haven't drawn in a while and are feeling a bit intimidated, grab the cheapest sketchbook money can buy, and let's get started!

First things first, let's make a sketching kit...

Here is mine:

It contains:

*mechanical pencils
*ballpoint pens (not your typical sketching tool, but I love drawing + shading with these!)
*Sharpies (both fine and bold)
*good erasers, big and small (the small one is the click eraser)
*a set of black ink pens in different size (I have Microns here.)
*white-out pens (in case I make a mistake with ink or if I want to draw with white...)
*a glue stick (you never know when you will find some inspiration you'd like to paste right into your book)
*scissors (maybe you'll want to cut a window in one of your pages or use them to cut something out that you'd like to paste in)

I keep everything together in my little pink squirrel zippered pencil case that I made for myself by hand.  I have another one just like it in the shop right now here! :)

Experiment: Gradients 

Grab a pencil, and draw a long rectangle, and split up into eight different boxes, like this:

Leave the first box blank, then make the last box as dark as you possibly can by pushing really hard with your pencil and coloring over and over your marks.

Now go to the second box and make marks with your pencil as light as you can.

Now fill in all the middle boxes as best as you can to create a gradient:

You've now learned that your pencil can create at least eight different values!

Next time you draw, think about all of those values you made with your pencil, and try to work them all into your drawing.  You could try this little exercise out with some other drawing materials too, like charcoal or your ballpoint pen...


Keep following the blog -  next Friday, there will be another drawing lesson.  The lessons will become a bit more in depth each time.  These lessons are totally free, but if you enjoy the lessons and plan to follow them, I would really LOVE it if you would follow the blog and/or add a comment below to say hello...  I love reading and responding to comments, and they totally motivate me to keep posting! 

Thanks so much for joining me! 


  1. Anonymous1:02 PM

    Yay! thank you! super excited to play with your lessons! this one starts this weekend. cheers!

  2. Awesome! Have fun and thanks for being here. :)

  3. Dear Tessa,
    I love your story and looking forward to following your drawing lessons :)
    Greetings from Croatia!

  4. Hi Mirjana, Thank you so much for your comment!! I hope you will enjoy the lessons. :)

    Have a great weeend!

  5. I'm from Pakistan.
    I LOVE your drawings, and just started following these lessons.

  6. Oh, thank you so much! I am glad you are here. :)

  7. Anonymous6:58 AM

    thank you soooo much, I'm from Brisbane, Australia and love what you do,,,I'm inspired :)


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