Two Simple Drawing Projects to Stretch Your Creative Muscles

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Here, in the middle of the January downtime, it is still important to keep those creative juices flowing.

Yet, when it seems like the final three months of the previous year were jam-packed with activities and obligations, you don’t often feel like trying anything too time-consuming, messy, or expensive. This is particularly hard when finding fun things for younger kids to do.

For the past couple of years, two artist trends on social media have proven perfect for this type of creative refuge. They are both relaxing and made to challenge your mind to think outside the box for a little while. One is ideal for younger artists, and the other is great for teens and adults looking for a quick little way to escape their beginning-of-the-year responsibilities.

Of course, both of these are something anyone of any age can try.

For Younger Kids: Number Critters

The year 2023 is hidden in some critters. All images: Lisa Tate

This is simply taking a number and using it as a template or building block for a larger picture, like an animal, flower, or building.

You can start by having kids draw a few simple numbers, or you can give them a set of numbers to start. You can even use a printout of plain numbers like the old ones handed out by teachers.

Now have them look at the numbers and ask them what they might see. A cat? A mouse? A car? A Pokemon? Draw that idea in pencil, using the number as a sort of “skeleton” for the doodle. Then go over it in ink. In some cases, the number will almost disappear into the drawing, and finding out what number is hidden in the final image can be a fun game to share with others.

Draw a number, use your imagination to find the critter or object hidden in it, then draw it so the number itself becomes hidden.

If you want some additional challenges, you can also do these with letters, or go even bigger and build around a whole word. Make it personal by using the numbers in their birthday month or year or age.

Starting with the basics is always the least overwhelming thing for young doodlers and aspiring artists.

The whole idea is discovering the hidden critter around the number that will, in turn, hide the number inside its own drawing.

For Tweens and Older: One Character, Four Ways

One image in four different styles.

I have seen some experienced and professional artists do this one with impressive results, but the idea is simple enough for anyone to try.

Draw a simple character’s portrait lightly in pencil, and using a ruler, split the image evenly with one vertical and one horizontal line. This gives you four equal sections, which in turn gives you four different little “canvases.”

Now comes the challenge. Modify, paint, or ink each section in a completely different style than the others. For example, try:

  • 1920s cartoon style
  • Realism
  • Pointillism
  • Neon
  • Glitch effect
  • Blueprint
  • Manga

Or use anything else you can think up. There are plenty to try.

The final result is a beautifully mismatched look at four different ways to see one character.

Draw a simple character, divide the image into four sections, and give each section a different look.

Another way to try this is to keep the style of the character the same but use different media to finish it. Acrylic, watercolor, crayon, charcoal pencils, or other types of pens can also look cool—with any type of drawing.

This is a good project for someone who wants to work a little on it each day, concentrating on only one style or section. It also depends on how detailed you want to get with it. My example intentionally leaves out a section devoted to “realism” because time is a little tight for me. Yet, I might just go back and try the same character with it, using four completely different styles than the first.

You can also draw an image using four different mediums without changing the style. The result can still be just as fun.

So, keep some paper (even scrap paper), pencils, pens, or markers at the ready if the inspiration strikes this month—or any time of the year—and let’s get ready to doodle!

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