You Can Draw in 30 Days – Learning How to Draw, Part 1

Somewhere along the way, I subconsciously decided I couldn’t draw.

Recently, I decided that was a stupid decision. People aren’t born knowing how to draw. They learn! And if they can learn, so can I!

To begin my quest this month, I picked up Mark Kistler’s book, You Can Draw in 30 Days. Here’s what happened. (Click here to see the full-resolution image gallery.)


Pretest drawing the house, airplane, and donut from memory, then onto my first lesson: the sphere.


Lesson 2, and messing up lesson 3.


Lesson 3


Lessons 4 & 5


Lessons 6 & 7


Lessons 8 & 9


Lessons 10 & 11


Lessons 12 & 13. This was my first exciting moment. I kept looking back and forth between my first day’s house and these, and it made me smile.


Lessons 14 & 15


Lessons 16 & 17. That top one is supposed to be a wave. It’s okay if you don’t see it.


Lessons 18 & 19


Lessons 20 & 21. This tree was my next exciting moment. I actually drew a tree!


Lessons 22 & 23

Draw in 30 Days - 24

Lesson 24. All the straight edge reference lines needed for this 2-point perspective technique drove me into the reassuring arms of my computer. Learning to draw on a computer breaks all the rules of learning how to draw, but I didn’t care. I loved it.

Draw in 30 Days - 24_01

See what I mean about all the straight edge reference lines? The 2-point perspective method made easy in Adobe Illustrator.

Draw in 30 Days - 25

Lesson 25

Draw in 30 Days - 26

Lesson 26

Draw in 30 Days - 27

Lesson 27

Draw in 30 Days - 27_01

Just look at all those cool reference lines.

Draw in 30 Days - 28

Lesson 28. Yes! I actually drew this! It’s pretty easy with Photoshop. You’ve just have to be humorously patient and extremely skilled with the undo button. P.S. You don’t have to look at her hair.

Draw in 30 Days - 28_01

Leonardo da Vinci’s Angel of the Madonna of the Rocks is the starting point. Just pop that on into Photoshop.

Draw in 30 Days - 28_02

Trace the profile of the face, and the outline for the key features.

Draw in 30 Days - 28_03

Use shading to give the face three-dimensional shape. In the previous lessons you learn to use shading to give shape. Here’s where you put it all together. This is where the patience and undo button skills come in.

Draw in 30 Days - 29

Lesson 29

Draw in 30 Days - 29_01

My starting point was to trace this eye, then further sculpt it with shading and other details. I know tracing is cheating, but I don’t care. I could either fight for an hour trying to get the right shape, or I could trace it. So sue me.

Draw in 30 Days - 30

Lesson 30. Yes, I traced the outline of the shape. Tracing is great for beginners. That’s what I keep telling myself.


Not bad, right?

To be fair, my first day’s practice of drawing the house, airplane, and donut was from memory, while everything else was drawn from reference, which helps a lot. But still, all things considered, there is happy improvement over the 30 lessons.

My big epiphany from these lessons.

My big “aha” was to realize that no matter how complex the object, it was just a combination of simple shapes – shapes that I had learned how to draw. This seems obvious in retrospect – complex shapes can be broken down into simpler shapes – but for some reason I didn’t see it before. Realizing this was immensely empowering, if only as a psychological trick to get the confidence to try. Before, I wouldn’t even try.

What would I do differently?

If I were to do this over, I would skip the pencil and paper and jump right to my Bamboo Tablet with Illustrator and Photoshop. The pencil and paper depressed me. I had to force myself through the lessons. Part of this was because I’m a gear junkie and wanted to use nice art supplies, but was too cheap to buy any. The other part of this was because I knew I would have to learn it all over again on my computer. I wouldn’t be illustrating books with a pencil and paper,I would be using my computer, after all. When I finally decided to break tradition and start working on my computer, that’s when I really started to have fun.

Just the beginning.

I’m excited to learn more. (Looking back over at my drawings, I’m thinking I should probably learn to draw hair next).

This is the first drawing post of many in my quest to learn how to draw. I’ll be scouring the web to find great drawing resources, and I’ll share them in our behind-the-scenes updates so you can follow along. If you’re interested in learning to draw as well, consider signing up for the email list to get our behind-the-scenes updates by email.

4 Responses to You Can Draw in 30 Days – Learning How to Draw, Part 1

  1. Rich Knitter (@richknitter) October 14, 2013 at 12:15 pm #

    Wow. I was trying to figure out that guy’s drawing style and then I remembered! Commander Mark. You just brought back childhood memories. I learned how to draw from this guy’s TV program back in the 80s. If you can find his DVDs, you and your kids would love it.

    • Spencer Hanson October 14, 2013 at 12:17 pm #

      No way! You’ve got quite a memory there. I didn’t know he had a show. I’ll check it out. Thanks!

  2. Ibach August 26, 2015 at 11:58 pm #

    Nice bro, I am going to try that book!


  1. Illustration Project, Fat Fred - Brothers Whim - November 8, 2013

    […] I like to learn by doing. So, after going through Mark Kistler’s 30 day drawing course, I decided a full-blown illustration project was the best way to continue my […]

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