Broken Ankles = Better Drawing for Beginners

Drawing is a great way to communicate ideas. Smart ideas. Creative ideas. Even bad ideas. Drawing bad ideas is a great way to quickly realize how bad they are. lts

“I can’t draw,” you say. Nonsense. Anyone – and that includes you – can draw to communicate ideas. Those doodles in your notebook communicate just how bored you were at yesterday’s meeting.

A couple of years ago I broke my ankle in a bumper car accident at a fly-by-night beachside carnival. While that in and of itself could make a great story, this is not about the accident. This is about how a broken ankle taught me how to draw better.

One of my physical therapy exercises involved drawing the alphabet in the air with my big toe. Serious. Google it. Soon that ankle was the strongest, most well toned part of my body. Also, should I ever lose my arms I can write with my big toe. Bonus.

Take a look at your hand. What do you see? Palm lines? Dry skin? Look deeper. Underneath, your hand is a marvelous assembly of tiny bones, tendons and fine muscles. Muscles? Yes, check ‘em out.

Forget abs and glutes; pick up a pencil and do a few reps with these puppies. Have you ever had an idea in your mind that you just couldn’t get out on paper? Do some sketching therapy to tone your fine motor skills.

Exercise 1: Drawing Shapes

Supplies: mechanical pencil, grid paper

  1. At the top of the page, write your full name in capital letters so that each letter fills a square
  2. Now draw a row of rectangles, each 2 squares by 3 squares
  3. Below that row, draw a row of rectangles 3x5
  4. Draw a row of circles 3x3 and, below that, a row of circles 5x5

Pin this to your refrigerator. Add a gold star. Repeat this exercise daily for a week. Up for an extra challenge? Add a row of equilateral triangles, 3x3 and then try 5x5.

Exercise 2: Drawing Groceries

Supplies: pencil or pen, blank unlined paper

Let’s start by drawing eggs. Anybody can draw an egg. As proof, I refer you to some of your failed attempts at Exercise 1, step 4. But can you draw something that says buy a dozen extra large, free-range eggs? Give it a try. Some tips:

  • Keep the drawing small. This is a “thumbnail sketch”, which is bigger than your thumbnail but smaller than your whole thumb height.
  • Don’t stress yourself. If you can’t draw eggs without words, draw carrots or bananas instead.
  • Don’t try to be an artist. You are drawing to communicate, not drawing to impress. If you’re shading in the egg for 3D effect you’re doing it wrong.
  • Draw a different item from your grocery list every day for two weeks. For an extra challenge, draw two or three different items.

Exercise 3: Drawing to Win

Supplies needed: Pictionary

Invite friends over to play. The broad range of subjects in Pictionary will help you take your drawing communication skills to the next level. Play, repeat as often as necessary until you win a game. When you win, do a happy dance. YouTube this dance and send it to me as proof you have successfully completed your sketching therapy.

Keep yourself in shape by doing a couple of reps a week. No need to carb load. The next time you find yourself bored just doodle diagrams illustrating the causes of your boredom. And when that next flash of inspiration hits, sketch it out, pin it to the fridge, and add a gold star. You’ve earned it.