Often times it can be difficult brainstorming ideas for our sketchbooks. We can all agree that the more we draw, the better we’ll get. This is just one of the many reasons that keeping a sketchbook is important. But deciding what to draw in those sketchbooks can sometimes be a challenge.
I decided to do some of the brainstorming for you and create a list of 101 drawing ideas that you can include in your sketchbook or turn in to finished works. The items on this list are meant to challenge you a bit, but can still be completed in a short amount of time – making them perfect subjects.
Table of Contents
- Easy Drawing Ideas
- Drawing from Imagination
- Challenging Drawing Ideas
Remember, we can always use the ideas that we conceive in our sketchbooks and turn them into finished works of art. A sketchbook is great place to practice, but it’s also a great place to plan and find some inspiration.
Easy Drawing Ideas
We’ll begin with the easy subjects. Defining what’s considered easy will be different for everyone. It all depends on how much time and effort you want to put into your work. These items are considered “easy” simply because the shapes used to sketch them are rather simple.
Here’s a list of easy drawing ideas…
- An old pair of shoes – Look no further than your closet to find a weathered pair of shoes – the older the better.
- A stack of books – Find some old books lying around and stack them up. Try to configure them in an interesting way.
- An open book – Now take one of those books and open it. Sketch it from an interesting angle.
- Wine bottles – A classic subject. Look for an interesting label for an additional challenge.
- A wine bottle cork – Does that wine bottle have a cork? Use that too as a separate exercise.
- A stapler – A stapler is made up of simple shapes that are very easy to draw. Once the shapes are in place, then it’s just a matter of adding the details.
- Several eggs on a table – Line up a few white eggs allowing them to overlap. When you look at the eggs, pay close attention to the gradual changes in tone and shade accordingly.
- A hammer – Tools make great subjects for drawings. A hammer is rather simple and should be fairly easy to pull off.
- Game pieces – Pull out a board game and check out the pieces. Some of them may make a nice subject for sketching.
- Sea shells – You may find some inspiration in the form of a sea shell.
- Objects in your pocket – Got stuff in your pocket? Pull it out and sketch it.
- A thumb drive – Like the stapler, a thumb drive is made of simple shapes.
- Children’s toys – Most toys are designed with simple forms, making them an easy subject. Plus, most are brightly colored.
- Fruits – Fruits are great subjects for practice. Any fruit will do – a pear, a banana, or a strawberry. For an added challenge, slice it open.
- An apple – Okay, I know an apple is a fruit but apples are great subjects for exploring different mediums. Try the same apple with colored pencils, pastels, graphite etc. This lesson may help you – how to draw an apple with pastels.
- Vegetables – Just like fruits, vegetables are great for sketching practice as well.
- Candy – When it comes to food, you don’t have to just stick with the stuff that’s good for you. Here’s a lesson that may give you some inspiration – how to draw a piece of candy.
- Items in your refrigerator – Close your eyes and reach in. Use whatever you pull out.
- A pair of socks – Find a pair that’s clean please.
- An old chair – A chair may seem complex, but it’s really just a few simple forms pieced together.
- A doorknob – This is a more of a challenge than you may think. Pay attention to the changes in value.
- A video game controller – Even everyday items like this make great subjects for your sketchbook.
Drawing From Your Imagination
Sometimes you want to practice, but there just isn’t a suitable subject to work from life. That’s when it’s time to look to your imagination for inspiration.
I should point out that the best way to get better at drawing from your imagination is to spend a good amount of time working from observation. When you practice working from observation, you learn how to translate what you see into a work of art.
When you’re working from imagination, you have to rely on what you’ve learned from your observational practice.
Here’s a list of drawing ideas when working from imagination…
- A person from history without a photo reference – Imagine what a person from ancient history would have looked like and sketch your vision.
- A scene from history – Think back to some of the events in the history of the world and envision the scene as if you were there.
- A person peeling off their skin – Make this one as gory as you like or make it funny – let your imagination go where it likes.
- Design a typeface – Design a few letters and try to create a brand new font.
- Simple forms – Imagine a small still life made of cubes, cones, spheres, etc. Think about the light source and keep it consistent. Here’s a lesson that may help you – how to draw basic forms.
- A Cubist portrait – How would Picasso interpret someone that you know?
- Yourself as a cartoon – What would you look like if you were a cartoon?
- A fictional woodland character – Draw a woodland creature that doesn’t actually exist.
Up for a Challenge?
If you want to get better at anything, then you have to challenge yourself. If you spend all your time sketching things that come easy for you, then you won’t see much improvement. We have to tackle some of those subjects that may seem difficult. In many cases, the subjects aren’t quite as difficult as we think they are. But we only discover this if we take on the challenge.
Here’s a list of ideas designed to challenge…
- A glass of water – Reflection and transparency are some of the hardest things to master. Here’s a lesson that will help you out – how to draw a glass of water.
- A pile of unfolded laundry – Folds and values galore. Throw those clothes up in the air and draw them how they land.
- Use with your non-dominant hand – If you’re right-handed, sketch an object with your left hand.
- A scene in a restaurant – Most restaurants are fairly dark so noticing the values will be a challenge. Set up in the corner and start sketching.
- Your hands – There’s a great subject waiting for you at the end of your arm. You always have it with you, so there’s no excuse here. Here’s a lesson that may help you out – how to draw hands.
- Your art supplies – Brushes, paint tubes, etc. are also great subjects for practice.
- A person laying down – You can always sneak up to someone sleeping to pull this one off.
- A person sitting in a chair – Grab a friend to pose for you.
- Different types of trees – Get outside with your sketchbook and find a nice shady spot. Here’s a lesson that may help you out – how to sketch trees.
- A caricature of yourself – This one is a little different from drawing yourself as a cartoon. You’re going to need a mirror.
- The same object with different techniques (hatching, cross hatching, stippling, etc.)
- Your favorite pet – If you haven’t got a pet, then here’s a good reason to get one.
- A copy of your favorite master’s painting – What artists inspire you? Find one of their artworks and make a sketchy copy.
- A crumpled piece of paper – What a great challenge! Look closely for all of the tonal changes. This one is sure to help improve your shading skills.
- A brown paper bag – Think the crumpled piece of paper was a challenge? This one is even tougher!
- An old person’s face – Find an image of an older person that you know. All of those wrinkles should be a challenge, but oh what character and interest!
- An old radio – Only if you can find one.
- An old car – I’m talking really old here. If you see one out in a field – even better. Take photos whenever you come across a subject that may make a great piece of art.
- An old camera – And speaking of photos, why not an old camera? The buttons, ellipses, and text should give you a nice challenge.
- A pair of glasses – Just like the glass of water, there’s plenty of reflection and transparency here.
- A bicycle – The circles, spokes, handle bars etc. make this a classic subject for your sketchbook.
- Anything made out of metal – Metal objects are usually reflective and present their own set of challenging textures.
- Tree bark up close – All of those wonderful textures!
- Ocean waves – Anything in constant motion is going to be a challenge. You might want to work from a photo on this one. Here’s a lesson that may be helpful – how to paint waves.
- A pile of rocks – Look for the basic shapes first and then add the values and textures.
- A cup of pencils – Put at least three pencils in a cup and start sketching.
- A reel mower – Now this is tough one – but first you have to find one. Take your time and try to be as accurate as possible.
- A pine cone – A simple object from nature with all kinds of complexity.
- Your favorite sea creature – What’s your favorite creature that lives in the deep? Here’s a lesson that may help you out – octopus with ink and watercolor.
- An old cabin – Work on your linear perspective skills and draw an old cabin.
- An old factory – If you live in the city, grab your sketchbook and venture out in search of an old factory. Try to capture the years of aging.
- Flowers in a vase – Another classic subject for practice.
- Old farm equipment – Much like the old car idea, old farm equipment is often weathered by the elements and features wonderful textures.
- A sailboat – If seascapes are your thing, then why not include a sailboat. Here’s a lesson that may help you out – how to draw sailboats with mixed media.
- People standing in a line – The human figure is the quickest way to improve your skills. The human figure is perhaps the most complex subject out there.
- A bowl of peanuts – Any repetitive subject will prove to be challenge. Why not start by with a bowl of peanuts?
- A bowl of nails – Peanuts too easy for you? Try drawing nails.
- A bowl of popcorn – Nails too easy for you? How about a bowl of popcorn?
- Bushes or shrubbery – Bring me a shrubbery!
- Your favorite insect – Insects are quite complex. Even the most simple insects are more complex than they seem. Here’s a lesson that may help you – how to draw a beetle.
- A flower up close – Once you’ve drawn a vase full of flowers, pick one out and sketch it from the perspective of a bee. Here’s a lesson on this subject – how to draw a rose.
- An exotic fish – Well, any fish really. Here’s a lesson – fish with pen and ink.
- A feather – Light in weight, but heavy in challenge. Sketch a feather as realistically as possible. Here’s a lesson on this subject – how to draw a feather.
- Any detailed machine – Machines these days have become more sleek in their design. If you want a real challenge, think in terms of an old typewriter. An antique shop is a great place to look for inspiration like this.
- The insides of a watch or clock – Sticking with the detailed machine theme, perhaps you have an old watch you can pop open.
- A skull – When it comes to portraits, you must have a strong understanding of the structure of the head. A great place to start is with a skull. Here’s a timed sketching exercise on this subject – how to sketch a skull in 30 minutes.
- A portrait of someone that is a different race from you – This one is self-explanatory.
- Water coming from the faucet – A moving subject is always a challenge.
- A creek in the woods – Be sure to include the elements that surround it as well like perhaps a grassy bank.
- An object that is moving – This can be anything that moves like a motorcycle, airplane, or car. Try to draw it from observation without the aid of a photo.
- A view from a window – Look outside, there’s lots to see out there.
- A candle in the dark – The key to being successful with this idea is all in the value. Try to create a lot of contrast.
- A set of keys – This subject may see rather easy, but it’s more complex than you think.
- Your hand holding an apple (or other object) – The way we approach hands changes dramatically when we put objects in them.
- Your feet – They’re easier than you think, but if you need a little help, check out this lesson – how to draw feet.
- A close up of grass – Why not try this one with colored pencils or another colored medium.
- An object three times in different lighting – Set up a still life with only one object. Sketch the object three times, changing the direction of the light source each time.
- A pile of jewelry – Make sure that you own it.
- Someone’s hair – Leave the spaghetti for dinner. Hair as a form, not a collection of lines. Here’s a lesson – how to sketch hair.
- A bird in flight – Might want to use a photo for this one. Here’s a little help – how to draw a bird.
- A pile of yarn – Talk about a challenge!
- A stack of dinner plates – This is another idea that may seem easy at first, but once you start dealing with all of the ellipses, the challenge is realized.
- A trompel’oeil image – Trompe l’oeil images are designed to fool the eye in believing that what you see is real and not part of an artwork.
- Hung drapery – Take a sheet and hang it from a door or wall and set up a strong light source. Get lost in all of the folds.
- A water sprinkler – As an added challenge, sketch it with water coming out.
- Water that is reflective – The key here is the elements around the water. They should be reflected in your image.
- A person falling – This one is really better suited under the imagination section, but it’s also a wonderful challenge!
- Just sketch something!
Deciding What to Draw
Hopefully you’re now filled with inspiration and you’re ready to get started. Each of these subjects have been carefully thought out and were chosen for specific ways that they’ll help improve your skills. So you may be wondering, which of these should you tackle first. This will depend on where you are currently in your artistic journey. We’re all at different skill levels.
I may suggest making a game out of your sketching practice. Why not think of these suggestions in terms of a scavenger hunt? Instead of just picking a few, why not tackle them all. Grab a sketchbook with at least 100 pages and draw each idea one by one until you’ve filled it up completely. Then compare your first sketch to your last. You’ll notice a huge difference. You will be get better over time.
More Places to Find Ideas for Drawing
So maybe you’ve scanned the list here and you don’t see anything that appeals to you. Maybe some of the subjects sound too difficult or perhaps you’ve already drawn them before and you don’t want to revisit them. (Revisiting subjects is not always a bad thing. Sometimes, when you revisit a subject for the second time, you find that you’re more successful.)
Want more? Get 99 more drawing ideas from The Sketchbook Medley.
Fortunately, there are other places to look for drawing inspiration other than this list you may have just stumbled upon. Here are a few more places to look for inspiration and activities that may spark your creativity…
Go For A Walk and Get Ideas
When we explore a bit and move our bodies, an interesting thing happens. Sometimes the act of moving around opens our mind up to new ideas. Perhaps it has something to do with blood flow. You may have seen how people pace back and forth while involved in a moment of deep thinking. Moving helps our minds to work. When you’re trying to come up with new inspiration, try moving around a bit.
It also helps to change our environment. It’s great to get outside and take a look around. This also helps to get our creative juices flowing. I often get my best ideas when I’m out on a jog or just walking around the neighborhood.
Going for walk does two things for us. It changes our environment and also gets us moving.
Look At Other Drawings – Get Inspired By Other Artists
Another great place to be inspired is by looking at art produced by other artists. Sometimes it’s hard to imagine what a finished work of art will look like by simply searching for photo references. The “magic” in a finished artwork is often the result of the artistic decisions that are made during the drawing process. By looking at art produced by someone else, we can get inspired. We may begin to envision what our art would look like if we were to emulate their style or use the same medium. Sometimes this is just the extra push that we need to get started.
The internet is a wonderful resource, but looking at art in a physical book or better yet – a gallery or museum is the best option.
Listen to Music Without Lyrics to Get More Ideas
Some people are inspired by other forms of art outside the realm of visual art. Music can be a great source of inspiration and may give you some ideas for your drawings. I’ve found that music that has lyrics is often too literal and is less inspirational. But music without lyrics allows you to paint a scene in your mind and may lead to more than just a quick sketch. You may find that the right music gives you an idea that you can build on and you end up creating a work that is well beyond a simple sketch.