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28 Drawing Ideas for Creative Art Students

Need some drawing ideas?  Get ready for the most creative list of drawing prompts imaginable!

We’ve all been there.  You’d like to make some art but you’re having trouble finding the right subject matter.  Maybe you’re an art student and you need to draw something for art class tomorrow.  -Yikes!  Looks like you had better come up with something original to draw fast…

This gigantic catalog of ingenious drawing ideas is sure to jog your memory and spur your own creativity.  This list of clever things to draw is an ongoing project that I will add to periodically.  So be sure to bookmark this page and visit from time to time!

While this is a list (sort of) each item on the list contains a full paragraph of ideas from which you can generate your own drawing ideas!

Still Life

What’s in The Refrigerator?

Your refrigerator contains a boat-load of goodies not only for eating, but for drawing as well! The most obvious food items are the fruits and vegetables that one might find in a traditional still life.  Beyond a “traditional” still life you can work with other food and drink items that you find in your refrigerator. How about lining up juice containers?   An arrangement of condiments would surely make an interesting composition. Anybody for dessert?

Thiebaud Cakes Painting

Check the Pantry

Besides having a ton of great items to include in your artwork, the pantry typically contains long lasting items – items that are nonperishable and withstand long poses if your still life drawing is to take days or weeks to complete. Because many of your pantry items come in packages and cans, you’ll find many boxes and cylindrical forms to draw.  This is a good thing. You want to get familiar with basic forms when you are first learning to draw.

Garage

If you have a garage I bet there are some tools in there. Wrenches, hammers, screwdrivers…ahh what superb items for composing a new drawing. If you have any wood workers or mechanics in your family you have hit the still life jackpot. I’ve practically made a career out of painting tools alone. I prefer my tools old, beat, and rusty but you don’t have to be as picky as me!

"Barn Auger" • Oil Painting by John Morfis

Linen Closet

Did you know you can create an endless number of drawings out of a single towel? Depending on how you position the fabric and lighting you’ve got yourself a ton of options. What would a towel look like draped over a chair? How about pinned to a wall or hanging from a hook? …and that’s just a single towel we’re talking about. Surely there are other items that you can draw as well. How about a bed sheet? Some bed sheets have great patterns that can really add unity and rhythm to your artwork’s composition.

Art Supplies

Sometimes the idea you’re looking for is right under your nose! Why not use your drawing and painting supplies as subject matter for your next drawing? Brushes in a coffee can. Pencils scattered about your sketchbook. My, my, my, the possibilities are endless. Just be careful not to include tools you’re going to actually need to complete your artwork!

Athletic Equipment

Baseballs, soccer balls, softball mitts, ice skates, bats, bat bags, golf clubs, swimming goggle, jerseys, pads, helmets, cleats, etc. All of these items and more can make awesome subject matter for your next drawing. Especially if these items are meaningful to you. You might consider creating a sport-themed still life. For instance you could arrange a few baseballs and a mitt on a table top and use your baseball jersey for the backdrop or fabric for underneath the items. Just make sure you don’t need the sports items for a game anytime soon!

Books

Books are great for absorbing information but they are equally great for making geometric still life arrangements. Pick books that are thick and brick-like and you’ll be able to stack them and build interesting arrangements. Then it’s just a matter of drawing your newly created still life! Because books are basically all box-like forms you’ll want to brush up on your perspective drawing skills.

Circuits

Circuit Boards

Before I throw away any electronic devices I have the habit of taking them apart and saving some of the interesting guts of the devices. I have amassed a whole collection of really interesting circuit boards that I loan out to my own drawing students. There are so many amazing little parts to circuit boards. Once you start looking closely you’ll feel like you’re drawing a microscopic city of the future! Just don’t get hung up on every single detail or you’ll drive yourself crazy. Get your hands on some old electronic parts and start drawing today!

Stools & Chairs

Sometimes a good drawing idea is right beneath you! When put in strong lighting stools and chairs cast some really interesting looking shadows. Try arranging a stool or two in a dark room under a single bright light. Let the cast shadows become an equally important part of your drawing’s composition and you just might impressed at how simple subject matter can make beautiful artwork when composed well!  Check out this inspiring interview with Vincent Desiderio, he does some work with chairs and staircases.

Zooming In

When looking for still life ideas don’t always look to objects that would fill your paper with their actual size. Sometimes taking a really close look at tiny objects presents a unique composition to your views. Can you imagine a drawing that is close up view of a tiny piece of jewelry? How about the inside of an old watch? Just because something is small in real life doesn’t mean you can’t create a beautiful, giant work of art from it!

Utensils

Some of those drawers you have in your kitchen have dozens of great items just begging to be drawn. From spoons and ladles to egg beaters and spatulas, you could spend years composing original drawings of different arrangements of all the interesting utensils and hand held appliances you find in your kitchen.

Portraits / Figure Drawing

From self portraits to full figure drawings, there is an endless assortment to how you can draw people.

Mirror Position (look up | look down)

So you want to draw yourself? You don’t have to look straight into a mirror. Try repositioning your mirror from a higher altitude and angle it down so that you need to look up into the mirror. This will create an interesting vantage point for the viewers of your artwork. It will still be a self-portrait but will incorporate the floor of your work space and possibly the top of your head and maybe even your drawing setup as well! Just be careful to secure the mirror so that it’s glass doesn’t fall on your and break. Broken mirrors can cut you.

You can also position a mirror beneath you and draw yourself by looking down into the mirror. This will result in a drawing that makes it look as if the view is looking up at you. When doing this all your facial features become condensed and your nostril’s take on much more significance in the drawing. Try it and see!

Hands

You could spend a lifetime studying and drawing just a single pair of hands. Hands carry as much emotion and history as the expression on one’s face. Imagine a drawing of an 80 year old mechanic’s hands as compared to a 16 years old student. Oh the possibilities! You can even set up a mirror to view your own hands from someone else’s perspective.  What’s an original hand drawing you can compose right now?

Feet

Our feet carry our bodies from place to place. They are very important and often overlooked by artists. Why not give them the credit they deserve by honoring them threw an amazing pencil or charcoal drawing! Like hands, there’s a huge range of them that can all give a different look and feel to your artwork. How can you compose your next drawing using a single foot? How about 5 or six feet together in a single drawing?

Monochromatic Portrait

How are you feeling today? Have you ever drawn a portrait in a single color? Why not try to convey the emotional state of the person you are drawing not only through their facial expressions and body position, but through your palette as well? Does the color blue suit the mood of the person you are trying to draw? How about red? Grab some colored pencils and get to it!

Sleeping Beauties

It can be difficult to get people to model for us when we want to draw them. People are usually self conscience and refuse to be our drawing models. Other people just can’t sit still or have to be annoyingly checking their cell phone constantly. This makes your job as the artist incredibly difficult to complete your rendering. Sometimes people fall asleep in more accessible places such as a couch and if you are quiet and have your sketching supplies ready you may be able to pounce on the opportunity. The best part is the person sleeping will never even know you are drawing them! WARNING: you might want to avoid sneaking into people’s bedrooms and drawing them because that may just freak them out.

Body Close Ups

Who ever said that drawing people means a formal head and shoulders sort of drawing? There’s an awful lot of interesting features on the human body. Why not zoom in and focus on just these features. Can you imagine sketching a close up of your eye? How about a drawing of just teeth? (My wife, who is a dental hygienist would be so proud!) Could you draw a bunch of ear studies all on a single piece of paper?

Emotions

How can you convey a person’s emotions or mood through your artwork? Consider a person’s facial expressions when drawing them. Also, how do background elements or positioning affect the mood of the person and artwork? Would certain colors convey the mood best? Don’t always draw people as objects. Try to get inside their heads and convey your interpretations on paper. A portrait is not only about the physical aspects of human anatomy. How else can you represent a person on paper without necessarily drawing the person at all? …Now that’s something to think about 🙂

Hair Styles

Besides the obvious range of colors that get from different people’s hair, there is an endless variety of hair styles that you can use to create interesting looking drawings. From braids, and short wavy hair to pig tails and mohawks.   Hair takes on a form all of its own. Speaking of form, resist the temptation to use a bunch of lines to draw hair. Hair is so much more than that. Draw hair as if you are sculpting clay. It has form and volume and should be drawn as such. How cool would it be to look at a serious of drawings of just various hair styles?

Lighting

The next time you need some drawing ideas the answer may very well be staring you in the face! With your face alone you could compose endless drawings simply by controlling the lighting. A self-portait with light coming from below looks dramatically different than a self-portrait drawn from a normal light source positioned above your face. Turn out the lights in you room and work from a single light source such as a lamp with the lampshade removed. Try drawing your own face with some unique and interesting points of illumination.

Landscape Ideas

Although this section is titled “landscape” that doesn’t mean that you have to draw only trees and fields of grass! Keep an open mind when looking for drawing inspiration. There’s a ton of great subject matter to create from including natural and man-made items outdoors and interiors as well.

Look Up

When most artists draw a landscape they look out into the open and create a vista. They accomplish this by looking straight ahead and drawing the vast land before them. What would your composition look like if you looked up instead?  It’s like a whole new artistic interpretation isn’t it?  You can represent some interesting vantage points on paper by looking up at a tree or building instead. The next time you are drawing outdoors try sketching some tall objects by looking up at them. You might be surprised at how interesting your drawing becomes.

Look Down

Thiebaud's Intersection

Like looking up looking down can also reveal a landscape from a different point of view. I’ve always enjoyed street scenes draw from a higher altitude so that the viewer is looking down upon the subject matter. This kind of perspective inherently carries a narrative with it. Why was the artist looking down at the scenery? What floor are they on and why are they looking out the window? You see. It doesn’t take much to arrive at a unique looking landscape drawing.

Sand Dunes

When we go to the beach to draw most people immediately think of the water. Before you draw the water take a look at the fantastic structure that the sand dunes create. The light illuminating the dunes so that one side is lighter than the other can give you fabulous information for creating really nice drawings.

Parking Lots

What can see like an otherwise boring setting can sometimes erupt into a wonder work of art containing rhythm and variety all in one easy to find setting. Parking lots are typically made up of a grid-like structure so you’ll want to brush up on your perspective skills. Once your parking lot structure is drawn out you can focus on the fantastic variety that each vehicle’s color and form has to offer. Everything lines up and creates this perfect rhythm as a viewer’s eye moves from vehicle to vehicle. There’s often an overlooked sense of harmony that can be seen in even the simplest parking lots.

Street Scenes

Just because you are drawing outside doesn’t mean you need to draw trees at all. Street scenes can make an amazing composition. Whether urban or suburban try giving streets and their surroundings your artistic attention. Crossroads, signs, buildings all make for interesting drawings.

Streams

DaVinci water study

You don’t need a humungous river or ocean in order to capture an interesting drawing of water. Unless you are bound by a 100% urban setting you can more than likely find some small streams to inspire your next sketch. Depending on your line of sight and the time of day you’ll get all kinds of interesting reflections that contrast with the swirling movement of the stream’s natural motion.

Ponds

Monet's Water Lilies
Water Lilies • Claude Monet • 1919

If Monet: Overview from the Metropolitan Museum of Art spent his later career painting ponds surely you could explore a pond or two yourself. Because ponds are small bodies of water with no tide or much motion they tend to support plant and animal life on their surface. Grab your sketch book and go find yourself some Lilli pads in a nearby pond.

Industrial Buildings

Without risking injury to yourself you may be able to draw some old, broken down industrial buildings. I’m yet to see a town that doesn’t have some old mills or a vacant industrial complex nearby. Caution though; venturing inside may acquaint you will some homeless individuals whom really seem to enjoy their “off the grid” lifestyle. Typically drawing from the outside will bring more peace of mind. Either way, some of the worn architecture and darkness portrayed by old industrial building can make for some really interesting drawings.

Giovanni Battista Piranesi • "The Pier With a Lamp"
Giovanni Battista Piranesi • “The Pier With a Lamp”

Shopping Centers

Places of commerce are always a good subject for your next landscape drawing. Whether drawing an interior scene like a shopping mall or and outdoor scene such as a quaint outdoor market, centers of commerce have a ton of variety. You find everything from boxes to signs and window reflections to keep you busy for hours. How about a local farmers market?


Have some drawing suggestions of you’re own?  …use the comment form below to add some!

3 Comments

  1. Mikaella B says:

    Hi! I’m trying to learn to do portraits, but the thing is is that I can draw all the facial features good, but when it comes to the shape of the face, I can never get it right.

    1. John Morfis says:

      Break the face down into simple geometric shapes to start. Try not to draw any curves and focus on the size relationships between things and the angles they make.

  2. Giuroiu Anton says:

    This is one of the most epic posts in here John, thank you so much for sharing these ! This website is a creativity pool for enthusiasts, really love it !

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