At kid can doodle, we believe EVERYONE can draw. But each person’s confidence with drawing varies, so we’ve been thinking about how to encourage and support those doodlers who desire more guidance. We knew we didn’t want an outcome-oriented “How to Draw ___” with specific steps for copying each subject. Instead, we wanted to create a doodle approach that could be applied to drawing anything, would build confidence and observational skills, and is a bit silly and imaginative at the same time. It’s a tall order — which might be the reason it took four years to put this together — we hope you like it.
Welcome to kid can doodle class. This is your first doodle lesson. Click on this link to download a worksheet for this lesson, or grab a piece of paper and follow along below. Please NOTE: When downloading from our site, you agree to these terms. Happy doodling!
Start with a scribble.
Always begin drawing with a quick warm-up exercise. This one is super simple. Start scribbling. Try make your squiggles look like . . .
a tornado or cyclone
This is conscious scribbling. Spend only a second or two on each scribble but think about how you can make them resemble some thing and how you can vary each one. Warming up before you draw helps you loosen up.
Doodle Exercise : Blind Contour
Blind contour drawing is a technique in which you draw the outline of a subject without looking at your page or pencil. Focus only on the object that you are drawing.
For this exercise, doodle your non-drawing hand. So if you’re left-handed, draw your right hand, and vice versa. Remember to look at the object you are drawing, and not your actual drawing. This will take practice as you will want to look at your paper. No peeking! Resist the temptation!
Rotate your hand into another position and draw it again. Repeat.
Doodle TIP : Pretend you are tracing your doodle subject with your pencil; follow the outline of your hand model with your eyes while allowing your drawing hand to follow with the pencil on the paper.
Here’s my show of hands. It’s ok if they overlap, too.
If you trust in this method, you will improve your observational skills, which will help you become better at drawing. The purpose of this exercise is not to make a life-like drawing, but to teach yourself to see and focus. It will help you improve your hand-and-eye coordination skills.
Share your doodles with us! Don’t forget to tag them with #kidcandoodle or #startwithascribble
If you liked this lesson, please sign up for our new doodle club on ko-fi. Let us know what you think in the comments below. For more doodle fun, download Doodle Bugs.
It might be tricky to borrow a penguin (for drawing reference), but you might find one at a nearby zoo. Or if you’re lucky enough to visit Phillip Island in Australia, you can see small fairy penguins return to their habitats at the end of the day in the “Penguin Parade.”
You could find the penguin documentary, March of the Penguins, and draw the flightless birds while watching, or by pausing the video.
Penguin doodling begins with simple shapes: circles.
Then connect the circles.
Add oval-shaped wings.
Color in your penguin.
If you don’t have white paint, make sure you leave white dots for the eyes by NOT coloring them in.
Shading can be tricky, but remember: shadows are cast away from the light, and that side of the object/subject will be slightly darker than the side nearer to the light.
Have you been inspired by autumn? I have! It’s hard not to be, when I see all the gorgeous golds, reds, or oranges brightening the trees, and now carpeting the ground. I’ve been thinking of different ways to draw with leaves. Leaves make great subjects for doodle studies, because they are
come in different colors and shapes
simple & complex — good for all ages and abilities
they’re a perfect excuse to go on a scavenger hunt
Go for a walk in your backyard or nearby park. Try to find leaves in as many different shapes and sizes as possible. If there aren’t many varieties in your area, look for variations within the same tree. See if you can find at least 10 different kinds.
Doodling with Leaves : 5 Ways to Draw
1. Contour Color Layering
You will need different colored-pencils or pens. Start with the simplest leaf shapes and advance each time to a more complicated one. Look at the edges — are they smooth or jaggedy? Are they curved or pointy? Are they symmetrical?
Doodle each leaf shape as an outline in a different color. Layer one shape over another shape like this, until you have a nice composition:
Alternatively, younger doodlers can trace the leaves to compose your design.
2. Mapping the Leaves
This drawing requires a bit more patience and observation of the lines on the leaf. Lightly sketch the outline of the leaf (or use a light colored-pencil as I did). Then, notice the lines running through the leaves, called veins. When you start drawing the veins, they start to resemble roads or rivers on a map. Do the lines go up or down from the petiole to the tip of the leaf?
If you’re an advanced doodler, you can spend more time and add more detail and shading. Try drawing several shapes, too, until you fill a page with doodled leaves.
3. Leaf Rubbings
Choose a leaf, a blank page, and several colored-pencils. Turn the leaf over to the (back)side where the veins protrude more from the surface, and place on a flat surface or table with this side facing up. Put your piece of paper on top, covering the leaf. Take a sharpened pencil, and, using the side (not point) of the lead, rub or color the page, revealing the lines of the leaf. It’s magic — I love seeing the leaf appear as you color. Move or turn the page slightly, and rub again with another color. Repeat a few times, layering the texture and colors:
Variation: Paint the surface of the leaf, and then press the painted side onto a sheet of paper, transferring the color. You may need to experiment with the amount of paint needed to get an impression, without making it too goopy.
4. Fill in the Blanks
This might be a good exercise after you’ve done number 1 or 2, and you’ve had the chance to study the leaves a bit. Find a damaged leaf, or one that has missing parts. Draw the leaf, carefully filling in the blanks.
Choose a leaf and affix it to a blank page. Add a doodle, using the leaf as your inspiration. This is one of our favorite techniques here on kid can doodle: see how Moomooi, Claudi Kessels, and Christoph Niemann doodle with nature. Here’s a couple of examples of what I did:
Hope you inspired to try a few leaf studies of your own! Hurry, before they all fall off the trees!
Above is a video of me drawing pelicans in Wynnum, near the bay in Brisbane, Australia. Birds are probably one of the easiest things to draw, with the most charming results. They’re basically made up of 7 parts or shapes:
the head; draw a circle
body; add a larger oval
wing(s); draw oval(s) with curved, tapered ends
tail wing; make a narrow oval or rectangle
legs & feet; stick lines indicate legs + feet; note the 4 toes/digits, 3 facing front, and 1 back
beak, draw a triangle
eye(s), add dot(s)
Some birds, such as pelicans or swans, have a long neck as well.
This is one of my favorite birds to draw: the barn owl.
Bridget Marzo is the author of Tiz and Ott’s Big Draw published by Tate Publishing. We were lucky to have Bridget as our first guest for Drawn Out, our illustrated interview. Below, Bridget shares how to draw her two clever and creative characters, Tiz the cat and Ott the donkey, from the book:
In this series, Awesome Artists, we talk to our favorite artists to find out their techniques, learn how they do things, and get their tips for creating. We spoke to Kirsten Ulve, when we were drawing selfies, to get pointers on sketching people. Now that we’re focusing on nature, I’ve asked Allison Langton, an illustrator who’s a master with watercolor and drawing plants and flowers, to share her tricks for mixing colors and working with this wet medium.
I had the pleasure of working with Allison when we worked on the design/illustration of a gardening book called Grow a Little Fruit Tree by Ann Ralph for Storey Publishing. She is as nice as she is talented — thanks for sharing your work with us Allison!
Meet Awesome Artist Allison Langton
Above is a bearded iris illustration that Allison did for Australian House & Garden magazine. Below she gives us a peek into her process.
KCD: Watercolor is a medium that is easy to learn, yet hard to master. It’s quick drying, yet takes time to fine-tune the painting. What makes watercolor ideal for illustrating nature?
AL: I think the translucency and blending qualities of watercolor make it the perfect medium for illustrating nature. The ability to build up color over multiple layers or bleed colors together to create new and unexpected combinations is ideal for capturing the constantly moving, changing and growing characteristics of nature.
As you can see here, Allison is sketching irises and exploring ways to capture this flower. It’s important to sketch and work out things such as how many flowers to show, angles, perspective, composition, before going to a final drawing. It’s good to realize that not every drawing is a “masterpiece,” and that sometimes it’s ok to try it several times.
KCD: I find that when I draw nature, I get overwhelmed by the details. For instance, a tree is made up of many leaves, and I find myself defining each one. How do you figure out what details to leave out and what is necessary to give your work realism?
AL: I struggle with this! It’s such a big challenge for artists but I think it becomes easier with practice.
The great thing about watercolor is that you start painting light to dark, so you can lay down a light wash or suggestion of trees and branches then go back in with some leaf detail but only where you want the eye to focus — much like in landscape painting where the foreground is usually much more detailed than the background to draw the viewers eye into the landscape.
See how Allison starts the drawing with a light pencil sketch that she uses as a guide for her painting?
KCD: The other thing I find hard to do is mixing the colors, so I don’t end up with one big green blob for trees, leaves, and grass. Or blending a blue color for sky that doesn’t seem like you just squeezed it out of the tube. Do you have a trick for this? How do you vary the palette to keep it true, and interesting?
AL: Mixing colors takes time to master. I’m still learning. Nature is full of different greens. Yellow greens, blue greens, dark olive greens, silvery grey greens. You can create a whole palette of greens by mixing your tube green with a little yellow to get a lime green or a little blue for a teal green or even with some red for a darker olive green.
A good mixing tip so colors don’t look like they’ve come straight from the tube is to ‘dirty them’ by adding a little bit of color from the opposite side of the color wheel. For greens, this means adding a little red. Just a little. I will add a little crimson to some hookers green or sap green to create more of a realistic olive green when I’m painting leaves. For blue, this means adding just a touch of orange, for yellows add a touch of violet.
Often when trying to make colors darker, we add black to it, but have you noticed that this also makes the color “dead,” or less vibrant? Try adding a complementary color instead (the color opposite on the color wheel), a technique that Allison refers to above as making it “dirty.”
Sometimes your painting will be more harmonious if you limit your color palette. A great example of this would be the artist Anders Zorn (1860-1920) a Swedish painter, who was famous for using only ochre (yellow), vermilion (red), white and black in his paintings. He used oil paints but the color theory is still the same. This video is a great example of just how many colors you can get by mixing two colors plus white and black.
Always practice mixing your own colors, it’s such a handy skill. And you won’t have to buy as many tubes!
Allison has her reference photos close by as she’s working on her final draft of the drawing.
KCD: What do you find most challenging about drawing nature?
AL: Capturing the spontaneity of nature is tough. I tend to be very tight and controlled when painting which can often lead to an overworked lifeless illustration. I have to remember to loosen up a bit, work more on blending colors on the paper rather than my palette. It’s a constant work in progress…
Allison works under the name Big Print Little in Melbourne, Australia. Thanks for sharing your work with us Allison!
Have you tried watercolors or watercolor pencils? They’re fun to experiment with. You can add color to drawings very quickly by doing big washes of color; the water flows and is not easily controlled, but it gives a lovely variation to the color. With the pencils, you can draw first and then add water to change the drawing into a painting, making it a bit less mess. What do you like about watercolors?