How to Find Your Next Subject

How to Find Your Next Subject

Let’s take a look at what some might call the most important aspect of drawing: How to find your next subject.

This might seem like an odd topic, but it isn’t really. Sooner or later, every artist finds themselves drawing a blank when it comes to choosing something to draw. If you haven’t reached that point yet, you will. So what are your options when it happens to you?

Most of us have favorite subjects. Horses and landscapes are mine. But every once in a while, I want to draw something different.

You’re probably the same way.

Or maybe you’ve never settled on a favorite subject, but enjoy drawing all sorts of things.

In either case, you might finish one drawing and find yourself undecided about your next subject. What should you do? Where should you look?

Here are just a few ideas.

How to Find Your Next Subject

Look at the Big Picture

Keep an eye on the big picture. Landscapes are great for this. They’re so wide and varied. They change from day to day and sometimes hour to hour.

But they’re not the only place where you should look at the big picture. If you like to draw cats, for example, stop looking at individual cats and consider the pride. This is especially helpful for portrait artists. Focusing on a group of cats instead of individual cats gives you a totally different perspective on your subject.

Find Your Next Subject inside the Big Picture

Also be aware that your subject may be a very small part of the big picture.

Remember the cat example from the previous paragraphs? Zooming in can be as helpful as zooming out.

Rather than considering a traditional cat portrait like this, why not draw just part of the cat? Maybe just the eye, or nose, or an interesting part of the fur coloring.

That up-close-and-personal perspective may present your subject in a brand new way.

What’s on Your Desk (or Easel)?

Still stuck? Take a look around your desk, easel, studio, or work space. What’s lying around waiting to be used?

Once when I was stuck for something to draw, I looked around my work space and found a stone I’d collected at some point. I drew that stone and published a short tutorial about it.

I’ve also sketched my pencil sharpener, my computer mouse, and parts of plants.

Review Your Photo Collection

I take a lot of pictures because I enjoy photography as much as drawing. So when I find myself wondering what to draw next, I sometimes go back to those collections of photos to see what might catch my attention.

You don’t take pictures? Now is the time to start. You don’t need expensive camera equipment to start. If you have a smart phone, use it!

Figure out a filing system for the photos (I file by subject) so you can easily find images, and you’re golden!

Look for the Ordinary

One day, I had a cup of coffee sitting on the table between me and the sunlight coming through a small window. Steam rose from the coffee and looked so artistic, I took some photos. There might be something there to use for a drawing. I hope so. The thought of a drawing like that is rather exciting.

So don’t automatically rule the ordinary. There are artists who build their life’s work around stunning drawings of ordinary things. Why not you?

How to Find Your Next Subject

Final Tips to Help You Find Your Next Subject

When searching for something to draw, I’ve identified two keys to keep in mind.

Don’t rule anything out at a glance.

Look for the thing that attracts your glance repeatedly.

What makes a subject interesting as a drawing or sketch has as much to do with how you see it and choose to draw it as with it’s innate qualities.

So take a look around and see what’s available.

Then take a little time to sketch it. You might be surprised at the results!


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