Most pieces of artwork start with an outline drawing whether you are going to do a watercolor painting, portrait, pet portrait, landscape or seascape or any innovated art piece. Outline drawings are used as an effective tool to start simple sketching, cartooning, can be used for the beginning stages of a detailed realistic drawing for a fine art piece. There are several ways to start an outline drawing, you can free hand the drawing or use a grid if you are confident to free hand.

Whether you are free handing a drawing or using a grid you have to see the whole picture of what you want to draw. The best way to see the whole picture is to visualize what you want to draw. With visualization you start to train your eyes to see what is really there, not just what you think is there. You see, feel and understand the whole package of what you are drawing.

The question you have to ask yourself is do you want a flat one-dimensional drawing or would you rather have a drawing that portrays curves, texture, and feeling with character?

Take a piece of paper and trace your hand like you did when you were young. You are seeing a hand, right? Is that hand flat and is it just one-dimensional? Does that traced hand show the years of wear and tear, the wrinkles or is it a young hand that has just started out experiencing life? With out lines, shadows, highlights and details there is no story to that drawing so your drawing is lacking the pull and the energy to keep someone’s interest. When you draw you need to tell a story, you need to pull the observer into the drawing. If the observer is looking at the hand you sketched, that observer needs to feel the pain or the softness of that hand, is it a farmer’s hand that has tilled the soil and is weathered from the years in the sun? With just a simple drawing you can show the entire story that goes with the hand you are drawing.

If the sketch of that hand is done with a graphite pencil, the observer is not going to see the coloring of the hand and whether the hand is tanned from the sun. But they can see the wrinkling, scars and calluses that you have portrayed and the observer will visualize that the hand is tanned and callused. You can show the highlights and the shadows making the hand look rounded and curved.

As you look at your own hand, move your fingers, look how the skin wrinkles, where are the deep creases, where do the shadows start and end. How are the muscles and the bone structure formed?

Here is an easy exercise to help you start seeing like an artist sees before doing a drawing. Let your hand rest comfortably on your leg, table or counter in a well-lit area. Sit and focus on your relaxed hand thinking what is the first step to drawing my hand. What do I see? How many lines can you see on your thumb, how do they curve, bend, now look at the rest of your hand and count the lines. Look for the shadows and highlights. Do you see more lines than you ever anticipated or are the smoother than you thought? When you think of drawing your hand you may have not envisioned the hundreds of small lines, the hard edges and the soft edges that make up the form of our hand. Look and see the object not the hand that you are so familiar with, look for the story that your hand tells. Now that you are seeing the lines, shapes and structure, you stopped thinking about your hand and started seeing the lines.

Another exercise is to look at a piece of fabric that is lying on a table or on the back of your couch. That fabric has curves, folds, bends and contours. It is not a flat object just lying there. When you go to draw that piece of fabric, you need to sculpture it to the lay of the land, the form of the object up against, the shadows and the highlights that make it look realistic. Try taking a photo of the fabric, and then use a grid to redraw the fabric using a graphite pencil; you will be amazed how realistic your drawing will become.

Learn to see the makeup of the piece you want to draw, visualize the object, get your head inside the object and now put the lines that you visualize down on paper. You will be amazed at what you are drawing.

Author's Bio: 

Jan is a fine art watercolorist and specialized in Pet Portraits. Her studio is located in Catawba Island, Ohio. Jan’s work can be seen at and