This question came up to me when I was watching drawing / sketching tutorials on youtube. Let's say you have to draw a cat, they would start with the legs and then complete the rest of the drawing, whereas I would start with the face... or in case of a bike, they would start with the wheels and I would start with something else. At the end my drawing turns out not that good.

So is there a specific way of drawing or is it the starting point that makes the drawing better or, say, more "balanced"?

3 Answers 3


The starting point is important, but there isn't a single right answer. What will work best for a given person depends on how they visualize things, and the skills they have developed. Your result turning out "not that good" is likely due mostly to not yet having developed sketching skills comparable to the artists in the videos. It takes a lot of practice to become good, and to develop a process that works well for you. You may even find that as you develop your skill, a different starting point works best. Experiment.

A common starting point is the environment or background in which the subject will exist (at least something crude for placement and scale of the subject).

It's useful to start the subject (either before or after roughing in the environment), by crudely sketching the outline or major parts of the subject. This gives you a basic shape and scale to refine, and against which to develop the detail.

Some skilled artists start with an "anchor feature", a dominating feature that they build around. This works best with a lot of experience, where you've developed intuition on scale and how the rest of the subject relates to that feature.

The most important element of the "starting point" is that it involves starting; putting pencil to paper and moving it to create some initial structure. It doesn't make much difference how bad those initial marks are. They provide a basis for comparison against what you're looking at or visualizing in your mind. It's easy to see where those initial marks are wrong or off, they provide something you can adjust. The eraser is at least as important a tool as the pencil (not to delete everything because you aren't satisfied with it, but to make corrections and iterations to move from the starting point to your objective). Once you get something on paper, where to go from there becomes a lot easier.


In my drawings, the starting point is determined by the largest area(s) that roughly capture(s) the basic shape and orientation of the subject. I often represent this largest area using basic flat geometrical shapes (circle, triangle, square, rectangle, &c.) that I refine more and more - initially using straight lines - into the silhouette of the subject.

To clarify: drawing a portrait I would try to capture the general form of the head at a certain angle and rotation (often in the simple frontal view); drawing a bike, it would be determined by the two circular/elliptical shapes of the wheels - determinants not only for the shape but for the perspective as well - while estimating the proper relative size of the space in-between the wheels.
In the case of a cat, or any visually amorphous subject (the cat can sit, hang, walk, lie curled up, &c.), trying to find that basic geometrical shape that encompasses the subject is usually a little harder. What I do at times is to try to imagine a flat transparent panel around the size of the subject between the subject and me, and perpendicular to my gaze, on which I then 'project' the subject - basically flattening it virtually. (I hope that's clear, as it often helps me, but it could be a strange idiosyncrasy). Foregoing the limited possibilities of basic geometric shapes, I often start sketching these amorphous subjects in a polygonized way, quickly combining straight lines at broadly defining angles.

Once these outlines or silhouettes are done, it's important to capture the volume of the subject in a similar way, to get a quick idea of the 3-dimensional orientation of the subject. This can be done in a similar way, at times simply by turning the basic flat geometrical shapes into their 3-dimensional counterparts, but often by blocking in this silhouette (using rectangular shapes that interconnect) or giving it a kind of voluminous sense by adding oriented facets or even simply lines that insinuate perspective.

It's also often wise to already at this stage get an idea of the complete composition by roughly sketching in the tonal values of the whole piece.

I'll always leave room around these basic shapes, not only to be able to accommodate details that protrude the(se) basic shape(s), but also for a generally better looking composition (adding background features or values to situate, scale, and 'embed' or 'ground' the subject).

Of course, this only works if you know what you want to draw (and what object(s) you want to emphasize) in advance.


There usually isn't a right, or wrong way of drawing per say, but getting a rough idea of where you want to put it on a piece of paper(For instance if you want to draw a full human body, or a bike) Getting a rough sketch or idea of where everything goes, makes it less of a slip up for accidentally cutting off the head and legs, because there wasn't enough room. Once someone has gained muscle memory in the hand, they are able to accurately guess where all the parts would go, without sketching it out. That takes a lot of practice.

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