How Drawing can be as easy for you as Writing Part 2: Shapes are like Words.

August 21, 2012 in Beginners, Lvl 0

“I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way – things I had no words for.” — Georgia O’Keeffe

Confidence is a huge factor in the quality of your work. A lack of confidence will show your drawings. Confidence comes with practice, and at this point drawing stops being scary, intimidating or embarrassing. You simply do it.

Let me tell you a little secret about drawing: you’ll never be perfect at drawing.  You will simply be more practiced.  <= CLICK TO TWEET

Those around you who are “less practiced” will see your work and think how perfect it is, but you’ll know that it took practice to get there–and you’ll need more of it to get even better.

Hopefully you’re feeling a lot more confident about your work after the last exercise. But I think it’s time to step it up a bit. It’s time to for your drawings to become much more impressive.

The following lesson will increase your confidence when you draw. It will also serve as a slight introduction to design, which is the next lesson after this one.

Shapes are like Words

As all writing is made out of words, so all drawings are made out of shapes. Usually the shapes are modified versions of three basic shapes:

  • Squares
  • Circles
  • Triangles

These shapes are as fundamental as the three basic lines I wrote about in the lesson 1.

Though more advanced drawing techniques try to create an illusion of volume and form, that’s all it is, an illusion.  As artists, we work with flat, two dimensional shapes.

No matter what level of drawing skill you have, you’ll be drawing some sort of modified version of these shapes. It’s best to get used to drawing them now.

These shapes are also useful because of what they symbolize culturally. Depending on the culture, they tend to trigger certain subconscious feelings. Knowing what they are helps the you choose what shapes to use in  a drawing in order to get certain subconscious emotional reaction to your work.

Here’s a very quick run down of  SOME  of their meaning in the western world. This is by no means an exhaustive list:

  • Squares symbolize – Stability, honesty, order, rationality, formality, earthbound, dullness. conformity, peacefulness, solidity, security, equality.
  • Circles symbolize – The world, feminine, protection, endurance, softness, eternity, perfection, community, integrity, safety, connection, energy, power, comfort, sensuality, love, God.
  • Triangles symbolize – Stability AND instability, action, aggression, law, science, religion, The Trinity, masculinity, direction, danger, dynamism, conflict, strength, motion.

An Example of How these Shapes Used

Examples of these basic shapes can be seen in all graphic design around you. A lot of good art can be done with these basic shapes alone. It’s not about how simple the shapes are but how creative you can be with them.

The power symbol is simply a circle with a gap and line going in it.

A target is just a bunch of circles.

Simple circle with line going through it can say quite a lot.

You see these in kinds of devices.  The pause button is a square with to rectangles (modified squares).

And the rewind button is just a square with two triangles.

Caution symbol is a triangle with an upside down triangle, and a circle.  Notice it’s a triangle and what triangles sometimes represent.

Here’s  a more “complicated” icon. An arrow. It’s a square with a triangle next to it only the connecting lines are erased.


Your First Exercise – Draw Patterns

You can either do this exercise first of the second exercise first. It doesn’t matter. Do which ever seems most fun.

One fun way to practice drawing these shapes is, to not just simply draw them, but come up with fun patterns with them.

At first, you may not know what patterns to do. That’s okay. You can go on the internet and google up some ideas.

But don’t worry, I’ve already done that for you. Here’s me copying some patterns I found. Feel free to copy them. Once you’ve done that, you may try to find some yourself. Better yet, come up with some unique patterns yourself.  Who know, maybe you can come up with one that might be sell-able.

Pattern making is an art onto itself.

The idea here is to have fun while practicing.

Okay, so let’s begin with some squares (and rectangles). Let’s start with a plain old checker board:

Easy Drawings

Easy Drawings


Just like the exercise in Part 1, you can practice drawing these patterns anywhere, as long as you have something to draw on and something to draw with.

Your Second Exercise – Create Symbols

Just like patterns, symbols are everywhere. In road signs, on cars, at church, on clothes, on superheroes,…EVERYWHERE.

A fun thing to do is to look around for symbols that are made up of the basic shapes we’re learning about and copy them.

Better yet, take the three shapes and create your own. Once you copy enough, the ideas kinda start coming on their own.

Just mess around and have fun.

Here’s some example I did. Feel free to copy them or modify them to come up with something new:

These exercises are totally mobile. You can do them anywhere anytime, just for fun.

Who knows, you might come up with a great company logo messing around with these shapes.

Remember, doing these exercises is simply an excuse to practice drawing. The more you do that better, faster and more confident you get.


Q:  My drawings are just not working. Nothing I draw looks like what I’m copying. Nothing I draw looks like what is in my head! What’s wrong with me?

A:  Let me tell you a secret. You’ll never be perfect at drawing these shapes. You’ll simply get better as you do them.

I don’t know of any artist that is perfectly happy with any drawing he does. Our drawings never meet our more ambitious expectations. Now that you are becoming a draftsman, you will need to find that place of peace inside yourself that allows you to fail with joy.

It’s okay to NOT draw perfect, enjoy the process. THAT is your reward. Eventually, your drawings will start to behave and you will begin getting what you want on the page more often than not. For now, relax, draw and have fun.

Pro Tip

If you find yourself starting to get bored with these exercises, start drawing pictures with these three shapes. Draw faces on them, create environments, modify them to get the look you want,…stuff like that.

These shapes and their more advanced “siblings”, as they are or modified, are the foundation of pretty much every drawing you see.



I can’t help you if you don’t ask.

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

What’s your burning drawing questions?

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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