Feel free to borrow any of these project ideas; they are among some of my own most enjoyable studio experiences. I posted my drawings with some student examples.
Supplies I favor are and not limited to: Crayola Squeakies (tiny, finger-size portable markers), my watercolor palette with years of accumulated paint (watercolor and gouache), Caran D’Ache water soluble crayons and colored pencils, Tombow markers (a brush tip on one end and smaller marker on the other), and Black Magic ink. My favorite sketch pads include Strathmore Drawing (cost-effective, good quality paper) and Acquabee (more expensive high quality paper).
I work intuitively, so sketching allows drawings to evolve slowly or record something I see, imagine, or work from. I work with process and experiment. Perceived “errors” or areas I feel appear weak, misplaced, or drawn inaccurately are integral to my work. There are many gifts in those misplaced marks!
A suggested way to keep watercolor materials handy and ready for travel: place colors from tubes onto an enamel palette (about ten dollars), and leave them to cure and dry for twenty-four hours. When you use the paints, you do not have to clean the palette, which wastes paint. Leave the paints on the surface, add to them as needed, and cover with a wash cloth, place in a ziplock or plastic bag, wrapping cleaned brushes, so you are always ready to go. My favorite acrylic paints are Sennlier Abstract brand, and Princeton Round Brushes. For Pastels, I like Rembrandt, Schmincke, or Sennlier brands. The quality of pastels really matters. I like Canson Me-Teintes papers which have some tooth and lovely selection of colors to use a a ground to build upon. I am a huge fan of Strathmore Newsprint rough surface. has a white cover with a rainbow on it and 100 pages.
I cut old drawings that were incomplete or unsatisfactory into small signatures and stitched with a coptic stitch. Here is my portable studio-sketchbook:
Draw from images anywhere. Draw things you don’t know how to draw.
Play with objects, photographs, sketches, and or drawings you find around you. Combine to create a new composition.
Doodle on any kind of surface! You don’t need art supplies to make art.
Combine random images spontaneously on a page.
Draw 25 Things from memory. Turn the page as you add objects so they appear to float on the page. You can then select ten to refine and use in an illustration. You could pair two that seem incongruous and create a spot illustration or develop one for a logo.
Try sketching several versions before selecting one to work with for a final design, logo, or image. Don’t be lazy!
Try a colored or prepared ground to draw your twenty-five things on.
Draw clothing or costumes in your sketchbook at the museum or an exhibit and then collage and color in later.
Draw a silhouette of a costumed figure and pair with another you trace: exaggerate.
Make a drawing and make a drawing on tracing paper or trace something else.
Then pair those.
Develop a series of colorful pages by making random marks with color wet and dry media. Let the pages dry in between. Prepare simple pages you can revisit; you might want to have several going at the same time. This prevents overworking an already wet surface.
Do this and draw objects from life or images and or from reference materials such as photographs or drawings, magazine tear sheets or diagrams. Draw loosely and in color.
Try drawing, collaging and folding your pages into connected pages.
Nine Portraits in different media: work with media you might find in your medicine cabinet, the hardware store, your pantry, or at the dump. From pop tarts to nail polish, tin foil to sand or tea.
Draw from toys and blend the images in an interesting narrative with a surreal aesthetic in black and white outline and contrast.
Draw ordinary tools, domestic objects, or random things on grid paper.
Use wire to create a three dimensional version of your drawing. Then photograph and notice the interesting shadows and drawing qualities the shadows make.
Draw from toys life-size or dos able, then draw the cross-contour.
Draw domestic objects.
Draw from toys and place then in an interesting or opposing context such as this animal skull.
Draw your favorite shoe life size.
Draw shoes with ink on brown paper and draw them life size or double.
Draw a group of shoes.
Draw a pile of shoes.
Draw insects of other animals in black on colored ground and compose on a page.
Draw the silhouette of a shoe or even trace the contour of a shoe or boot. Then use cut papers or cut out images, colors, and textures from magazines to embellish.
Design shoe silhouette or even trace a real one; apply images, patterns, or textures.
Copy a drawing of a vintage shoe from a found drawing and then redesign, decorate, color in etc.
Compose parts of shoes to utilize and consider the edges of the surface and make a dynamic design that could become a poster, advertisement, etc. Try a treated ground before drawing simple outline drawings. You could also collage or use pattern on the show forms. You could also use color or pattern on the negative space areas.
Combine a head and torn pieces from magazines or found images, photographs, or drawings to create a figure with clothes.
Create an alphabet so the letters are characters. Doodle and practice. Place the characters in a pattern.
Use letter or number stencils, design your own and cut. Draw the letters or numbers on a sheet and overlap. Then use various shades of grey and black and white to witness what happens when they overlap. Develop an interesting graphic image. You could combine collage element, watercolored areas with pencil, marker, crayon, and more.
Prepare a stencil to cut from and make a three-dimensional standing letter with two pieces of contrasting paper or board. You will need to score and cut and glue.
Draw an object from observation or memory using different techniques in isolation to practice and to bring them together in an interesting composition.
Use different techniques to develop some images of a specific theme. You could use stencils, draw the object or image, and combine.
Draw simple geometric forms (without a ruler) in black and white to create a pattern or design that shows contrast, movement, scale shifts, composition, and different kinds of marks such as dots, lines, caves, circles, loosely drawn squares, triangles etc.
Try this in full color with markers and colored pencil.
Combine a black pattern drawing on a prepared sheet.
Use these various techniques and add a drawing of an object or objects to create a new kind of still life.
Use an image you tear in half and paint two portraits from. Then collage on a patterned background in color. Bring images you draw in different methods with different media and combine them to make a larger piece.
Draw from an image you find, a photograph or drawing and duplicate the image drawing it twice. See what kind of pairing you come up with. Change something about the strategy so each figure is different and suggests two personalities.
Draw opposite types in a scenario in any medium and make a series.
Use two drawings from two different artists and draw them on one page. Consider the way the artist uses wet or dry media, and the aesthetic or look and feel of each strategy. See how the two figures you draw can interact and establish a mood or suggest an emotional narrative through the body language, poses, arrangement, proximity of figures, and the technique.
Draw an emotional state of mind, and keep redrawing until you achieve the likeness you seek.
Gather some organic materials from outside to sketch from, trace, use as a print plate and more. Combine your techniques into a final work that considers composition, color, scale, line quality, shape, pattern, texture, and movement.
Use a water soluble crayon and rub color on a leaf to achieve this effect. Press onto the paper and draw, color, add to, overlap, etc. Trace or draw leaves with a delicate watercolor surface, then print over when it dries to combine these two effects.
Trace leaf or branch forms, or trace your own drawings to redesign.
Blend these various techniques, mix various media and create an interesting variety in your final sketches. Recompose these into a final project, a series of images, or paintings.
You might want to try combining techniques and ideas to form an illustration or series of images that tell a story.
Works several pages with black wet and dry media on white paper. Then, cut a five inch square. Cut a three-inch square from that to use as a template and viewfinder. Locate the most dynamic or interesting areas of your mark pages and create a grid of three-inch squares you cut and glue onto another sheet.
Find two black and white images and then cut into stripes. Alternate one stripe from one image, and the next from the other to achieve this interesting illusion.
Draw three simple household objects and overlap them. You could trace or draw them. Avoid any of the interior lines and then fill in the negative shapes with black.Find a simple image you would like to use that could create a dynamic black and white image where the positive negative shapes will be activated. Sometimes the imagery could be used to develop ideas for a logo, poster design, book, CD, or DVD jacket, illustration or other.
Select a theme such as toys, clothing, food, sports activities, etc. Then make a series of small book pages you can draw and paint onto. Create your ‘signature” pages and then assemble the booklet or accordion book. The one below is an inventory of a wardrobe as a theme.
Use the color scheme from one artist and a personal theme to create a series of images. Adapt the cake theme from an artist like Wayne Thiebaud and the simultaneous contrast color scheme from Edward Hopper.
Use a theme that interests you such as marine biology, medical science, engineering, or architecture, fashion or costume to direct your project using color, mark making, and techniques. Cut images and glue to a painted or prepared surface.
Carve objects from regular unscented soap with a simple facto blade, damp sponge, or other simple tools.