How Drawing can be as easy for you as Writing: The A, B, Cs.

April 20, 2012 in Beginners, Lvl 0

–Leonardo Da Vinci <=CLICK TO TWEET

There truly is no reason to be embarrassed about your drawing skills, especially since you’ve been drawing all this time and never knew it.

In this post, you’ll learn to become confident and control what you put down on a page.

Imagine you’re at the dinner table and you pick up a napkin, take out a pen, and begin to doodle. Your dinner companions take a look at what you’re doing and are actually impressed:

“That’s cool, I can’t even draw a straight line!”

By the time you’re done with this lesson, you’ll be able to produce some pretty cool drawings and your friends will never even realize you’re practicing.

Won’t that be something? Are you ready to begin?

Let’s get to it.

Drawing is like Writing

Handwriting is basically drawing symbols on a page.

The art of calligraphy really makes this statement even more obvious.

You’ve been practicing writing for so many years that it’s become second nature. You put the symbols (a.k.a letters) on the page in order to create words, which are themselves symbols.

The truth is, just as words can be broken down into the letters that make them up, drawings can be broken down into the “letters” or symbols that create them.

The symbols just happen to be much more elaborate which can make them look complicated, but all drawings can be broken down into much more basic components.

The simple A, B, Cs of Drawing

All good drawing is made up of three kinds of lines:

  • Straights
  • “C” curves
  • “S” curves


You know how to do everyone one of these lines. You’ve been doing them for years without really noticing.

When you write a date with dashes or slashes, you’re drawing little straight lines. You even do it when you write a check after you hand write a dollar amount and put a straight line at the end.

Anytime you write a “C” you’re drawing a “C” curve.

The same goes with “S”s and “S” curves. The only real difference is the length or size of these lines.

The trick to drawing is simply deciding what line you’re going to use and where.

When drawing a cartoon, when drawing from life, when drawing ANYTHING, before you put down any kind of stroke, consciously decide which line you’re going to put down.

This is counter intuitive at first, but the point is to make you aware of it so that you can get used to it. Once you do this enough times, it will become second nature, just like when you write words.

An Example of How Lines are Used

Animated cartoons are some of the best ways to see these types of lines applied.

In the 90s, there were a few popular superhero cartoons that used what is now called the “Bruce Timm style”. This style is one of the best styles to see the lines I’ve just mentioned applied.

Here’s a sample of what the style was like and how the lines can be seen:

Because cartoons have to simplified so much, they lend themselves to the study of lines.

Your Exercise

Here’s an exercise you can do anywhere that will help you gain confidence and help you get the right hand-eye coordination.

Draw a box or a rectangle (really the shape doesn’t matter), then simply draw straight lines inside the shape, in any direction you want. Do as many as you want.

Something like this:

Looks like an abstract piece of modern art doesn’t it?

If you get tired of doing these, you can start doing it with the “C” curves:

Or the “S” curves:

Hey, you can even use all three lines in combination:

Darken in some of the shapes:

Or even add color:

Do these exercises until you feel comfortable doing them and believe you can move on to the next thing.  This will be different for everyone.  You are the best judge of your progress.

The point is to have fun while you get comfortable putting lines on paper and making them do what YOU want them to do. In the end, you even end up with some cool drawings. Drawings you can show off to your friends. It’s a win, win.

The beauty of this exercise is that you can do it anywhere. During a boring meeting, at lunch, while you watch TV, when you’re on the phone, during a boring class, while you’re driving…well maybe not then but still, it’s versatile.

There really isn’t an excuse. It’s easy and fun, so try it out.


Q: My lines looks all shaky and ugly. Your lines look nice. What am I doing wrong?

A: It’s an problem of speed and confidence.  When you write, do you have shaky lines? No, they just look like letters.  It’s because you’re confident in your execution. The same goes with drawing. When you were little and learning to write, you letter looked just as shaky.  The more you do it, the more comfortable you’ll get and the faster you will allow yourself to draw the lines.

It’s like doing pushups. At first you can only do so many, but the more you do it, the more you could do, and the better you are at doing them.

Pro tip

Pay very close attention to this exercise. It may very well be the key to unlocking the secrets of composition, in a more advanced level of drawing.


I can’t help you if you don’t ask.

Are you having trouble with anything written about lines?  Let me know.

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Is there something you’ve always wanted to know about drawing? Ask.

I’ll give you my best answer and, who know,  probably write a post about it.

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