Is tracing cheating? Is it OK to use a photo reference for your drawing? Is it good if you use some digital tricks to create the final artwork faster? Beginner artists often get tormented by these thoughts, being stuck between what’s easy and what’s fair. After all, nobody wants to spend hours on creating something, just to hear it’s not “real” art because they cheated!

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Drawing has many faces. On the one hand, we admire realistic representations of the world around us, and on the other we seem to enjoy distortions of it. At least, certain kinds of distortions. What is the difference between your unrealistic drawing and an unrealistic work of art by a professional? Are there some rules of unrealism that one must follow? And how can you learn to create your own professional-looking style?

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In the previous parts of the series we learned how to tame the pencil and mastered hand-eye coordination. I hope I gave you enough time to practice these lessons! Today I’ll present you with a series of exercises that are a continuation of the topic, and for some of you it may just be the start of “true drawing”—creating things instead of redrawing them.

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We all used to draw as kids. It was easy back then, no matter if you used color pencils, a stick, or your finger on a steamy window. But even then you might have noticed that some children drew better than you. Not that you knew what “better” meant—all you knew was the sweetness of praise. Whenever you heard someone else being praised, and your own work ignored, you felt worse and worse. Eventually, you gave up on drawing. Why would you continue if nobody cared?

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You can remember them from your childhood—Bugs Bunny, Donald Duck, Disney’s Robin Hood… All these walking and talking animals that are so human-like that you start treating them like humans. These characters are anthropomorphic: they’re basically animals with their bodies modified to resemble humans both in the way of moving and in their general behavior.

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Do you remember how it felt to paint something as a child? It was a very messy activity, but it was such fun to get creative with all those colors! Well, at least until you started to expect something from your art, for example to picture an object realistically and to get your teacher’s approval. The process of painting then became less important than the end result.

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Most people are creative in one way or another. Even though not all of us become artists or writers, it doesn’t mean we can’t create some stories in our minds. We just usually don’t feel confident enough to share them with others, or even put them to paper just for us to see. We feel they’re silly, not good enough, just a piece of garbage in comparison to what some other people produce.

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Intricate geometric compositions created on a base of a circle, known as mandalas, have a deep spiritual meaning in Hinduism and Buddhism. They represent the whole of the universe, and they can be used as an exercise or for meditation. Recently, the basic idea of drawing a radial pattern has been also adopted by the Western world, as a tool for therapy or simply relaxation.

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When I draw traditionally, the thing I miss the most is the layers. Especially when I want to design a creature from scratch and I’m not sure what I want it to look like yet, experiments end up in a confusing mess of lines. But I discovered a workaround that lets me draw separate elements on separate “layers”, and end up with clean line art. It’s very simple!

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