For some reason, people tend to think that all artists are prolific. They believe that morning, noon and night, artists of all stripes are so immersed in the work of creation that we hardly take time to breathe or eat.

I did say 'we'. Writing is also an art and we writers experience the dislocating feeling of not knowing what we want to write about next. Or where we want to go with what we're writing now.

Have you ever experienced the 'lost' feeling, sitting with your sketchpad (or drawing app) open but not knowing what you feel like drawing? For writers, that feeling of dread when facing a blank page and flashing cursor must be on par with that.

Drawing might be a tad easier than writing, especially when it comes to recreating something visual. After all, writers draw pictures with words; painters, sketchers and graphic artists draw pictures, full stop.

Still, for all the art-worthy visions around us, from one artist to another, it's easy to understand that, sometimes, ideas for what to work on are thin on the ground.

Hence, these few ideas to draw popular figures and iconic subjects that, nevertheless, take a bit of skill to render.

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How to Draw a Baby

Human babies are arguably the least complex of all babies - and of all humans to draw. Unlike baby deer, human babies don't have any patterned spots to configure and draw in. And unlike baby birds, human babies don't (necessarily) embody a certain endearing ugliness.

We hesitate to use that word because, to most, all babies are beautiful, even if they're all wrinkly and scrunched up. People who think that aren't batty; that response to howling, demanding scraps of humanity is a legitimate psychological phenomenon.

You can learn more about it in our in-depth article on drawing babies.

Exuberant toddlers are quite a challenge to draw.
Drawing a baby or toddler in all their exuberant glee can be quite a challenge. Photo credit: quinn.anya on Visualhunt

Whether you're drawn to babies and love everything about them, or you're looking for new and challenging subject material to sketch, new humans are worthy of your skill.

The essence of drawing babies is capturing their fragility and innocence, and conveying it with every pencil or stylus stroke. The fat little cheeks and the roundness of their belly, an impotent fist waving around as the child wails, the look of dazed confusion in their unfocused eyes...

These are all aspects of drawing an infant that, if you can capture and convey them, will grab your drawings' viewers and hold them in thrall.

An evolutionary step up for babies, toddlerhood, can be equally challenging to render.

For this type of baby drawing, you have to be able to capture the gleeful energy that propels toddlers through their day. The look of discovery as they realise they too can run, jump and climb. And then, in total contrast to the energy machine they are when awake, you might consider drawing a sleeping toddler.

The pencil strokes that result in the likeness of a baby are not that hard to master. The challenge lies in capturing and rendering the awe and wonder of babies' first few years.

What a great subject to hone your interpretive drawing skills on!

Drawing Kissing

From a quick buss on the cheek to the steamy, passionate lip-lock, the act of kissing is a source of perpetual artistic inspiration. Some of the greatest artists of all time have given us epic kisses to gaze upon.

When art enthusiasts gaze upon The Kiss, any of a series of tableaux painted by the likes of Klimt and Munch - all of which have the same name, their minds fill in the passion that must have resulted from that embrace.

By the way, the English word 'embrace', meaning 'to take into one's arms and hold close' comes from the French word 'embrasser' - to kiss.

My personal favourite Kiss is the 1859 work by Italian painter Francesco Hayez, one of the leading artists of the Romantic movement. The woman's startlingly blue dress against what is essentially a monochrome background - albeit with subtle highlights is so eye-catching that you hardly notice you can't really see the kiss itself.

The passion is clear but the kiss is just a suggestion
In Hayez's painting The Kiss, the act is more suggested than real. Source: Wikipedia Credit: Francesco Hayez

The subjects' kiss is more implied than revealed in graphic detail. In fact, unless you look at it in extreme closeup, you can barely tell that the subjects are merely brushing lips. It's not the passionate kiss the rest of the painting wants to make you believe it is.

So how can you create the illusion of a passionate kiss without the technical skill to render such an encounter?

  • decide on your perspective: profile, 45 degrees or, as in the Hayez painting, one subject's back to the viewers
  • decide which subject's face will be more visible
  • decide which type of kiss you want to draw: friendly/close-mouthed, or passionate - mouth slightly open, eyes closed and arms around each other
    • you may also decide for one subject to hold the other's head or face
  • draw the 'visible' face's outline first: nose, mouth and chin
  • where the nose bridges to the forehead, sketch in the eye and eyebrows

That's a fairly good start to one of your kiss-party invitees. Next, with sweeping strokes, you'll draw the other subject - but, remember: that face will be more suggested than complete because their nose will be tucked behind the main subjects.

How will you finish your kiss drawing? Find out how we finished ours...

Kawaii Drawing

If you're an anime fan or swept away on the Hallyu Wave, you are familiar with kawaii. Kawaii, originally an aspect of Japanese culture, is now a worldwide phenomenon.

Hallyu or, more familiarly, the Korean Wave is the appreciation (fandom?) of all cultural elements from South Korea: the boy bands and girl bands, the films and K-pop - South Korean music... even that thumb-and-index-finger heart gesture is Hallyu.

For its part, kawaii is the Japanese culture of cuteness that has given the world enduring mascots like Totoro and Pikachu, borderline outrageous fashion statements that incorporate long, wildly-coloured hair and super-short skirts, and food that looks too adorable to eat.

The secret to drawing kawaii is not so much a matter of artistic prowess as it is remembering to incorporate kawaii elements into your sketches. Those elements include innocence, weakness/helplessness, fragility and a need for protection.

How are you supposed to translate the concept of innocence into a sketch?

To draw kawaii effectively, you have to know which physical attributes provoke those feelings or convey those qualities. Big, shiny eyes and waiflike figures, for instance. Or fat bellies and plush fur, if you wanted to draw kawaii animals.

Kawaii figures tend to be simple. Hello Kitty is a perfect example of simple cuteness; the most lavish, intricate aspect of that figure is its bow, usually placed in front of its right ear.

Sanrio, the company that designed and produces Hello Kitty products is solely focused on kawaii culture. Even their logo is kawaii-stylized. How's that for proof that kawaii is in Japan to stay?

You might wonder how a culture so focused on technology and innovation could embroil itself in so much cuteness, to the point that kawaii touches practically every part of Japanese life.

For that - and to be a kawaii artist, you have to know about the origins of kawaii.

If you enjoy kawaii, you might enjoy flying on this plane
So integral is kawaii to Japanese culture that it is always on display, even on planes. Photo credit: kirainet on Visualhunt.com

How to Draw Groot

Going from Hello Kitty to Groot seems like a mighty big leap, doesn't it? Still, there is a thread connecting these two characters. For one, they're both much older than they get credit for, although Groot is about 13 years older than Kitty. They've both starred in their own comics series and enjoyed movie fame.

And they're both popular with adults as well as children.

However, whereas Kitty is a staple of the kawaii culture, Groot only recently found his place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

He started out as an extraterrestrial with evil designs on the human race, only later discovering his 'good' side. And, seriously, you would not have liked or wanted to draw Groot in his original incarnation. But now, Groot's cool and drawing him is all the rage.

That might be, in part, because he's not terribly difficult to sketch. The thing to remember is proportion; Groot's arms and hands are pretty long. Also, he doesn't have feet; those appendages look more like 70s-style bell-bottom trousers.

The best way to draw Groot is to start as you would any other humanoid figure: three shapes joined by a vertical line. The top, vertical oval outlines his head, a larger shape, more like a rectangle with rounded corners will be his torso and a quasi-heart shape marks his pelvis.

After that, it's simply a matter of pencilling in his arms and legs - remembering his odd proportions, and then filling him in.

You should pay special attention to his head. Unlike other figures with fairly standard-shaped heads, Groot's crown is meant to look like a dead, hollowed-out tree trunk with irregular points jutting upward.

Texturing Groot is probably the biggest challenge. Unlike regular tree bark, often suggested by dark lines squiggling randomly on the brown bark, Groot has a pattern to his outer layer.

Discover how to draw Groot's unique pattern, as well as Baby Groot in our companion article.

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