What to Draw for Practice

Do you still have your bowl of fruit?

That bowl of fruit that every bloody artist that has ever lived has had to draw? I have mine somewhere, tucked away inside a plastic wallet labelled ‘Secondary School Stuff’. God that was a boring day. Perhaps not as boring as the day I had to imitate Georgia O’Keeffe, but close.

But hey – that’s practising isn’t it?

Properly I mean. Doodling cartoon characters on lined paper with a blue biro isn’t properly practising is it? That’s just messing about.

It’s such rubbish.

We’re taught to draw inside such a limited spectrum that it’s a wonder anyone still wants to do it at all. We’re forced out of developing our own styles and into imitating someone else’s.

But it is a double edged sword. Whilst I was drawing that bowl of fruit, what I probably wanted to be drawing was Sonic the Hedgehog, or maybe a character from Dragon Ball Z.

sonic vs super sonic

Sonic vs Super-Sonic by Alexander Singleton (Age 9)

But giving me free reign to while away my art lessons doing that would have been just as pointless. Although I would be drawing what I wanted, I’d still have been imitating someone else’s style at the expense of developing my own.

Now don’t get me wrong – I’m all for drawing from life, and studying other artists work, there is tonne we can learn just from looking into another artists process. But it has to be within the context of your own style, otherwise it’s worthless.

It’s just messing about.

It may well be that this phase of imitation is something that we all have to go through on our path to finding our own style, but the danger lies in not realising when that phase is done. When it’s time to start making changes and working in your own way.

So what should you choose to draw when you practice then?

Whatever you want. Draw what excites you. Draw what you’re interested in. Draw whatever your mind desperately wants to get onto paper. Your best work will always be of the subject you are most personally invested in. The important part is drawing in your style.

I love computer games, so when I practice illustration techniques I invariably draw characters from games. Yes I look at concept art, but only for reference. I make sure the drawing itself is always in my style.

Once you get this concept into your head it becomes an immensely enjoyable process. You’re given all these elements that have to be in the illustration, but how exactly you put them all there is entirely up to you. It’s a challenge every time, and a fun one too.

Cloud Strife

Cloud Strife by Alexander Singleton (Age 29)

The time may come where I fancy drawing a bowl of fruit again. Maybe that idea will excite me, and I will be thoroughly invested in it (although I do give you permission to shoot me if that’s ever actually the case). But that’s not important. The subject is never important. So long as it’s in your style.


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