Go ahead: break some artistic rules and experiment with some abstract drawing techniques! Abstract drawing is a great way to improve your artistic skills by experimenting with forms and shapes in creative ways.
Not sure where to start? Here, we’ll offer a brief education on abstract art, and 8 easy ways to try out abstract drawing.
What is abstract art?
For many, the phrase “abstract art” instantly brings up visions of weird or modern compositions. Well, this is actually the right idea!
Abstract art — whether it painting, drawing or multimedia — is a type of art that doesn’t depend on real-life visual references. Rather, it uses forms, colors and lines in ways that can capture a feeling or emotion rather than creating a literal likeness. As a result, what classifies as abstract can really be quite varied in the visual sense.
8 abstract drawing techniques
Ready to get started on your own abstract drawing creations? Try some of these fun tricks to create abstract drawings (and have fun doing it).
1. Just doodle!
Doodling can act as a warm-up for creating an abstract drawing, or it can yield an abstract drawing in and of itself. Basically, doodling is just giving yourself permission to draw whatever the heck you want, with no rules.
If you want, you can set a timer, or just have a drawing session that lasts for as long it feels good. Maybe you’ll end up with a tangle of lines, or a collection of hearts and stars, or just random shapes. Just letting yourself doodle will often result in fun, abstract forms!
2. Use your non-dominant hand to draw
Want a shortcut to create abstract art fast? Switch the hand in which you hold your drawing medium. If you’re a righty, hold your pencil or pen with your left hand.Chances are, whether or not you’re using a reference image, the lines will be wobbly and uncertain. This can actually be a good thing! Familiar forms will be rendered abstract pretty much instantly.
3. Try contour drawing or blind contour drawing
If you’ve never tried contour drawing, it’s a great way to dip your toes into the world of abstract drawing. When you create a contour drawing, you don’t let your drawing medium leave the paper, but rather, draw one long, continuous line. It breaks down the subject matter into wiry little lines, and can create interesting compositions.
To really take it to the next level, you can even continue looking at the subject you’re drawing without looking at the paper! This is called blind contour drawing.
4. Lose yourself in a zentangle
Zentangles can be a fantastic method of creating abstract art that is intricate and interesting to look at, yet highly meditative to create. To make a zentangle, you’ll start by drawing a simple form or forms, and then filling them in with intricate patterns or drawing marks. What you end up with may have some recognizable elements or outlines, but will become abstract by virtue of the intricate lines.
5. Create layered drawings
In this method, you’ll gain a perspective shift — literally — when you shift your work surface every few minutes! Begin working on a drawing of any subject of your choosing, and then shift the paper (a quarter turn or upside down) and re-start drawing the same subject, or a different one, right on top of the first drawing. After a few turns of the surface, you’ll have some seriously abstract art!
6. Add the element of collage
Adding the element of collage can help you think creatively about drawing and composition.
Here’s one way I like to do it: I’ll cut out a piece of paper (it could be a magazine image or a beautifully patterned paper) and then tape or glue it to drawing paper. From there, I try to make an image out of it. A triangular cutout might become a dress for a character, or an engagement ring from a jewelry catalog might become a princess crown. Or, you can be more abstract and simply create patterns coming from the shape or shapes.
7. Just add water
For an easy way to make an image more abstract, try adding water! First, create a simple drawing using a pen that is not waterproof. Then, using a watercolor brush (don’t use your absolute best one, as it may get ink on it), apply some water to the image. The image will smear and take on watercolor-like qualities that can be really interesting. There’s also an element of magic to this technique, because you won’t know how it will end up!
8. Mask your image
When painting with watercolor, you can use masking fluid to block out portions of your painting surface and leave them white. With drawing, you can use removable tape or carefully placed pieces of paper to block out portions of the paper. Draw on top of them, and then remove when you’re done; you’ll find white spots of negative space that add an interesting abstract element to any drawing.