Begin to draw and paint

Begin to draw and paint - measuring proportions.
Begin to draw and paint.

The students on this beginner’s course were really looking forward to the weekend, hoping it would answer all their questions and fill in the missing gaps in their knowledge.  They were looking to this course as the springboard to be able to continue their drawing and painting with renewed confidence, secure in the knowledge that they had received a solid grounding in all the important aspects of how to draw and paint, knowing that they were free to email me any future questions they may have.

There was a lot to get through during the 2 days of this Begin to draw and paint weekend course and we got off to a good start after a quick round of introductions and a warming tea and biscuits.  But what did the students think about the course?

What did the students think?

Here is a flavour of what the students said about the Begin to draw and paint course.

“I learnt about the basics of shading, 2-point perspective and use of guidelines [for measuring], priming [canvases], watercolours & acrylics, types of brushes, papers, canvas, and paper sizes.” – Nan D

“Excellent basis for starting or improving drawing in perspective, proportion, scale and shading. Also types of paper, pencils, etc to use.” – Colette F

The experience

Day 1
It’s the fundamental approach to drawing that is so difficult to learn from books, YouTube videos or DVD’s, which is why this course focuses a lot on;

  • Pencil and graphite shading
  • Understanding and using tones/shades/values
  • 2 point perspective
  • Measuring techniques to draw accurately
  • Proportions and how to use guidelines to improve your drawing
  • Making complicated objects easy to draw with the right approach

I talked and demonstrated a lot about pencils and graphite during Saturday morning, answering all the students’ questions as we went along.  My demonstrations alternated with a lot of note taking and practical exercises and drawing projects. In the morning we covered topics such as what pencils you really need to get started with drawing, explanations about all the different rubbers and erasers you can get and how they work, how to shade and blend pencil and graphite correctly and achieve different effects in your drawing.

After a much needed break for lunch we continued with a talk and demonstration about 2 point perspective. 

A lot of students just starting out feel a bit daunted by this, but I explain it carefully and simply, telling you only what you need to know to be able to draw well and leaving out all the unnecessary technical stuff (after all we are learning to be artists, not architects!)  After taking notes and drawing diagrams for you to refer back to after the course we spent quite some

time on a still life project to practice putting the theory to the test.  Students were really impressed with their results and found that a little technical knowledge can make a huge difference to their drawing.

Getting proportions wrong is probably one of the most frustrating things when starting to draw, so we spent the rest of the afternoon explaining how to use the pencil and thumb technique for measuring proportions and angles.  I also showed students why using guidelines are probably one of the most important ways to help you draw more accurately.  I feel this is so important I spend quite a lot of time making sure students use the techniques correctly with lots of one to one help on offer.  Once this drawing project was completed students could see a definite improvement from their earlier drawings that were done without using guidelines and pencil and thumb measuring! 

The day ends with an optional guided tour through the art shop (H Blyth and Co) in the Northern Quarter which is a great way to get to learn about the vast array of materials, equipment, brands, gels and other potions on offer – ask as many questions as you wish – so next time you visit an art shop you will feel a lot more confident in finding your way around and not be confused by the vast choice of brushes, or acrylic mediums on offer.

See the course photos on the Gallery page of my website.

Day 2

Sunday morning began by explaining how to draw an ellipse.  This is really important when drawing cups, vases and bowls (or motorbikes, cycles and cars).  After carefully explaining the theory we did a practical still life drawing exercise that used all the recently learnt skills of perspective, measuring, guidelines, and shading to make an accurate drawing.

Up to this stage of the weekend I had kept all the still life objects fairly simple – now was time for a challenge, so I presented everyone with a complicated still life object – most people’s response was, “I can’t draw that!”.  However, after explaining and demonstrating the correct approach to drawing, and using all the techniques learnt so far on the course, everyone managed to complete a superb drawing – showing that with the correct approach, no panicking, and progressing step by step through a clear process it is possible to draw things you thought impossible!

Everyone earned lunch and a well rewarded break after concentrating so hard and achieving so much with the brilliant drawings they did. 

After lunch we took a journey into paper and canvases and I explained about different types of papers and canvases and what they’re used for.  Basically I tried to cover as much about what you need and what you don’t need for watercolour and acrylic painting as time would allow. 

One of the most confusing things for beginners is to understand why we need to use gels and mediums when painting in acrylics.  I offered lots of advice and through demonstrations showed students what the different gels and mediums achieve – and why you probably only need to use 4 or 5 (and happily ignore the other 100 or so available in the shops!).  I also explained the differences between the different brands on offer – the professional brands, the good student quality brands and those best to avoid.

By the end of the day, after an intense but very enjoyable afternoon, everyone had run out of questions to ask and I had run out of time.  I could have continued for another day or so with even more tips and tricks of the trade!

Key learning

The key learning that I wanted students to leave with at the end of this 2-day course, was a solid understanding to all the basic techniques; skills and information they need to be able to go home and continue with confidence knowing the right way to approach drawing; knowing what papers, canvases, paints and brushes they really need; having seen for themselves what works and what doesn’t; when it’s OK to take short cuts and when it pays to do things properly; and the difference between student and artist quality materials and equipment. 

My aim for the course was for students to be able to continue with confidence, knowledge and skills, and save money along the way by not buying things they really don’t need.

Materials and techniques

We used a variety of materials over this course which included, pencil, graphite, and watercolour paints.  I demonstrated even more materials including, charcoal, chalk and oil pastels, acrylic paints, soluble graphite, watercolour pencils, and drawing inks.



It was very exciting to see students have all their questions answered and be able to give them the information they had been struggling to find answers to for ages.  There were many moments on the course when students exclaimed, “I didn’t know that!” or “Ahh… so that’s how it works!”.  But that’s exactly why I decided to offer this Begin to draw and paint course for beginners.

To find out full details about this course click here to go to the course page on my website.  There are 7 other weekend courses that are part of the Be more Creative series which you can find out about by clicking here – Creative Sketchbooks, Cityscapes + Collage, Paint with textures,  Re-interpreting still life, Abstract art, Experimental drawing, and Colour theory.