Creating Art Through Steps

Have you ever bought or read a drawing book and spent time to try and figure out the different steps to get to a finished drawing? As a kid I used to buy the books, get confused with the 28 step process and just copy the finished illustration. It taught me to draw, but didn’t teach me how to create. The problem with just copying the final picture is that it’s hard to create from scratch without a picture of what you are drawing. This is problematic for an artist because if they don’t know how to start an illustration they are not actually creating it, but copying it.

When I started teaching for myself I had to simplify the process so that the students could understand it. Since every book had different processes for starting I had to create one that would be consistent. One book would show 4 steps and another book would show 27 steps and everything in between. I decided to get it down to three, SHAPE, DETAIL, and SHADOW.

Now when I look at other processes in a book I can relate them to the three stages that I created and I have found it easier to teach people 3 steps rather than 27. How does 3 steps help you create a drawing? The steps help you create rather than copy because it allows you to get the idea out first and then worry about the details. When copying a drawing you can learn to draw because you are trying to get as close to the finished picture as possible, but it doesn’t help you to create the idea. When you start the steps you create your idea first and then use reference for the details. It changes the mindset of the artist and allows the creative side to come out first.

Here is how the stages work to develop a drawing

In the shape stage we are just getting our idea onto paper with basic shapes.

Shape Stage

Detail Stage

Detail Stage – In the detail stage we now use reference material to make the objects look like they should.

Shadow and Colour Stage

In the shadow stage we are now refining our drawing and adding shadow and light to give it a three dimensional approach.

Here is a short video of how it is all put together.

If you or someone in your family is learning to draw try using this three step process to create the art. Create the idea, add details, and finish with light and shadow. I gave been teaching that for many years and it has helped many people learn to draw. Good luck.

About the Artist

Bruce Outridge is an artist, cartoonist, and caricature artist from Burlington Ontario Canada. Although most of his work is cartooning he enjoys sketching on location especially when he travels to the Caribbean. To learn more about Bruce and his art visit