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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
Email: [email protected] / Phone: +44 7429 011000

We all get the urge to draw from time to time, but often are short on ideas on just what to draw. This article provides a selection of drawing ideas to suit all tastes and competency levels.

Introduction to Drawing Ideas

Inspiration is a key element to any artist's success but it is a feeling that is hard to foster or control. Often, a few pictures of historical artworks, or potential subjects, could be enough just to spark one's mind into life. We have therefore listed twenty or so different subjects below, with simple drawings that anyone could use as inspiration for their own work.

Many of these drawing ideas can be categorised into key themes, such as nature, people, household objects, transport, animals and insects. Within just these sections, there is an almost infinite selection of ideas and inspiration to work from, and all would have been covered by artists in the past. The work of others can help as a starting point to give you some clue as to how to depict these different items, as well as making sure that your work is fairly accurate.

List of Drawing and Painting Ideas

Whilst there is a broad range of drawing inspiration topics below, you can go even further and experiment with different mediums, tools and artistic styles, in order to make each artwork exclusive to your own tastes and talents. Many will start with easy drawings before moving on to painting techniques in order to add color, texture and bring in other technical challenges. Drawing, though, remains a fundamental skill which provides the base to most artistic success, even in other mediums.

We have collated a number of images from rawpixel which is a great resource for copyright-free images, many of which are sourced from other public domain sources. These can be used to trace different outlines, as a starting point, or perhaps simply study them for ideas for your own work. Practice and observation remain the best techniques for improving your drawing skills in the longterm.

Bumblebee Insect Vintage Illustration Drawing Easy Idea

This delightful drawing captures a simple bumblebee, and one can use this as a basis for their own work, be it simple or more complex. Bees remain popular today, and efforts are being made to protect their numbers, which have been continuing to decline in a number of different regions around the world. By reducing its image to black and white, and tackling the bee from this top-down view, we can cut down the insect into its components parts, and then work from there.

The details on its legs show the fragility of this creature, where as more child-like depictions of bees will tend to focus on its main body and present it as a fun insect, sometimes adding human features to make it more charming in our eyes. Children's books have made use of bees many times, whilst others reflect on its connection to honey, and its important role within the ecosystem. Certainly, bees could be an inspiring idea for your next drawing.

Bumblebee Insect Vintage Illustration Drawing Easy Idea Bumblebee Insect Vintage Illustration Drawing Easy Idea (image courtesy of Rawpixel as copyright-free)

American Vintage Car Drawing

Manmade items may not initially attract artists, but something like a vintage car has much artistic merit in its design. You might also practice drawing an antique car, and then use that within an historic environment later on, adding fashion and architecture of the time alongside. Manmade elements tend to have straight lines and therefore accuracy is important, but for children drawing cars, it is more about enjoying what they are doing and just inserting the key parts of the car.

For those interested in cars, there are many different makes and models to pick from for inspiration. You might choose one by region, or perhaps the same model of a car that you once had. Old Beetles are popular due to their iconic curves, and vintage designs tend to be considered the most charming. Alternatively, you can design one from scratch, and potentially plan a car of the future.

American Vintage Car Drawing American Vintage Car Drawing (image courtesy of Rawpixel as copyright-free)

Spaceship Rocket Simple Drawing Ideas

Rockets and spaceships can provide inspiration for many artists, particularly with younger audiences. There is also the opportunity to bring movement and energy into a drawing, such as with explosive take-offs, as featured by the likes of Roy Lichtenstein in the Pop Art movement. In a similar manner to other manmade items, lines will be straight, with curves carefully manufactured, and there will not be the variation found in nature. Colors can be added at a later date for the design of the rocket, such as numbering and lettering, and explosions can be added in a cartoon-like manner.

Finally, even the youngest of children can make use of rockets in a simplistic manner, without worrying too much about detail. Some will also construct their own spaceships from spare packaging found around the house, possibly drawing elements on top in enjoyable, creative projects.

Spaceship Rocket Simple Drawing Ideas Spaceship Rocket Simple Drawing Ideas (image courtesy of Rawpixel as copyright-free)

Cat Drawing Idea

Our pets can often provide inspiration for art, and animals make great ideas for drawing or painting. Here below we find a cat drawing which could be used as inspiration, in varying levels of detail. Children can simply map out the key elements of a car, whilst more accomplished artists can delve into their patterned fur, or cover the entire body accurately. Cats remain one of the most popular animals because we have many of them in our own homes, but other types to consider include fish, butterflies and lions.

Once you have decided to draw a cat, you can look to find ideas on the composition itself. You will find cats sleeping, playing, eating, etc, and each of these ideas will present different artistic challenges to you. You can then go off and work from your own mind, in order to keep everything unique to yourself, though ideas such as these are a great way of just finding the initial spark of inspiration in your brain.

Cat Drawing Idea Cat Drawing Idea (image courtesy of Rawpixel as copyright-free)

How to Draw Simple Dinosaur

In a similar manner to pets, dinosaur drawings are also very popular with children and beginner sketchers, and we have listed one below that might inspire you to make one of your own. Ideas around dinosaurs can vary, with the item below being relatively simple as a side profile in one tone. Other artists may prefer to use a cartoon-like approach, when human features and behavior can be added to what was a highly dangerous creature. There are also very different types of dinosaurs to cover, and you might consider adding their natural habitat alongside in order to add interest and also educate us about their lives.

How to Draw Simple Dinosaur How to Draw Simple Dinosaur (image courtesy of Rawpixel as copyright-free)

Butterfly Detailed Sketch

Butterflies can be simple and easy to draw, for those looking for beginner level art. For those with more experience, you might use the image below for inspiration, with a detailed pattern across its wings. Many find these insects to be enchanting, and so are a great idea to work from for your art. Their palettes of color can vary considerably from one species to the next, and so you can pick whichever look best suits your own taste. They can also be incorporated into larger scenes, such as within a garden setting, alongside plants and other features.

Butterfly Detailed Sketch Butterfly Detailed Sketch (image courtesy of Rawpixel as copyright-free)

American-style Fridge Freezer Sketch Idea for Beginners

How about ideas that can be found within your own home? A sketch of a fridge freezer can even be charming, despite just being a madmade kitchen appliance. The image below shows an example of this and features a classically styled design which looks vintage in a way, where as a truly modern design may not provide much inspiration. Others might cover kettles, and really anything that you fancy could be used.

American-style Fridge Freezer Sketch Idea for Beginners American-style Fridge Freezer Sketch Idea for Beginners (image courtesy of Rawpixel as copyright-free)

Fish Sketch in Black and White

As a further idea, how about drawing a fish? One can include a little or a lot of detail, just as we wish, and for beginners is should be relatively easy to put together just a simple outline with an eye. Children will be familiar with fish too, and drawing them can help to expand their knowledge of the natural world, which is an important stage in understanding the world around them, and the dangers that lie within it.

Fish Sketch in Black and White Fish Sketch in Black and White (image courtesy of Rawpixel as copyright-free)

Rabbit Drawing Idea

Rabbit and hares are popular pets and for this reason regularly feature within art. We include an image of a rabbit drawing below as an idea for your own work. As with other animals, you can vary the style of your drawings to include cartoon-like imagery or switch to the scientific style of the 18th and 19th centuries, where detail and accuracy was most important. You might also choose to draw your own rabbit or other pet, if you have one.

Rabbit Drawing Idea Rabbit Drawing Idea (image courtesy of Rawpixel as copyright-free)

Squirrel eating Nut Simple Easy Sketch Idea

Squirrels are another drawing idea and many consider them somewhat charming creatures who move at speed and can often be friendly and fairly tame. Their bushy tails are amusing poses can be incorporated into art, and they also come in different tones which you can pick from depending on the species. Many artists will choose subjects that they are fond of, and this can help drive inspiration, hence why so many focus on topics from nature rather than household products, for example. Those looking for something more original might try to capture a squirrel in movement, which will bring challenges but also make the finished work a little more interesting, where a freedom of sketch lines can help to create this idea of movement and activity.

Squirrel eating Nut Simple Easy Sketch Idea Squirrel eating Nut Simple Easy Sketch Idea (image courtesy of Rawpixel as copyright-free)

Idea for Easy Drawing of Bird

Birds are delightful choices for drawing, and we include an idea below which might provide some inspiration. Birds are so familiar today that even the minimalist approach taken below, with just a simple outline of the creature, can be enough to help us identify the form itself. Doves have symbolic meaning, relating to peace, and the image below focuses on a dove in flight, whilst other birds have more aesthetic values. There is also a great range of birds to make use of, from the large and strong birds of prey, to delicate, pretty alternatives who interact with small insects. You might also choose to use them as smaller elements within a landscape scene, such as flying across the sky in the distance.

Idea for Easy Drawing of Bird Idea for Easy Drawing of Bird (image courtesy of Rawpixel as copyright-free)

Ideas for Drawing Dogs

Dogs are amongst our closest friends, and you will see from the example below as to the importance of color in finishing of a drawing. Many will think of drawing their own pets, and so dog drawings or paintings is not an unusual idea. The example below also leaves the initial pencil marks as visible, which allows us to understand how the drawing was built up in layers. Dogs can also be very charming, and in this sketch we find the dog looking upwards in a cute manner, presumably towards its owner, perhaps in the hope of its favorite biscuit. The work is loosely done, with lines performed in a relaxed manner that gives a delightful style to the final piece. The level of detail is considerable, and it would have taken several hours to complete.

Ideas for Drawing Dogs Ideas for Drawing Dogs (image courtesy of Rawpixel as copyright-free)

Ornate Antique Clock Drawing Idea

Clocks may not be an obvious idea for your art, but images such as those below will show how an antique clock could be particularly charming. Detail can be covered to any level you like, such as a simple outline, to the precise accuracy used in the sketch shown here. Cultures have different styles, as well as periods within that, and so there is much to choose from. Clocks can also be interesting to children, as they both make sounds, but also can help them to learn how to tell the time, as well as counting. Again, clocks are an unusual idea, but worth considering if you are short of inspiration.

Ornate Antique Clock Drawing Idea Ornate Antique Clock Drawing Idea (image courtesy of Rawpixel as copyright-free)

Detailed Sketch of Elephant

Elephants, in a similar manner to other wild animals, give an atmosphere of strength and authority. Their long trunks also make them unique creatures, along with the thick, rough contours of their body. Their inclusion in zoos has helped the world to become more familiar with these animals, which are only native to a few regions of the world. Elephants remain amongst the most popular of animals and something to behold when viewed up close, particularly within the natural habitat.

Detailed Sketch of Elephant Detailed Sketch of Elephant (image courtesy of Rawpixel as copyright-free)

Idea for Simple Drawing of Tree

Another idea for drawing could be trees, which come in all shapes and sizes, and have been covered by artists for many centuries. Alongside flowers, they are they most loved types of plants by artists, and can be used in a multitude of ways. They can appear strong and healthy, as part of a bright and colorful landscape, or they can be featured as dull and lifeless, representing decay and despair. Friedrich, a German Romanticist is remembered for his emotional tree art, as part of a respected oeuvre. They can also reflect different regions of the world, depending on the type of tree used, such as a strong oak, or a tall, thin cypress tree.

Idea for Simple Drawing of Tree Idea for Simple Drawing of Tree (image courtesy of Rawpixel as copyright-free)

Lion Ideas

Lions are a popular idea for artists, particularly those interested more generally in animal art. Their anatomies symbolise strength and confidence, as they are generally the strongest wild animal in their own habitat. The way in which they have been depicted by artists has improved over the centuries, particularly in regions where they are not native, with the arrival of zoos and safari parks which have allowed us to get a better understanding of these beautiful creatures - see the work of Albrecht Durer for an example of lion art in around the time of the Northern Renaissance. Alongside lions, tigers and cheetahs offer a similar vibe for artists, and may represent another enticing opportunity for your work.

Lion Ideas Lion Ideas (image courtesy of Rawpixel as copyright-free)

Skull Illustration Idea

Skulls are a popular drawing idea for many, with this item holding symbolic values and providing something impactful. Dutch artists from previous centuries had used them to represent death, whilst today they are frequently used in musical art, such as album covers. Portrait artists would also benefit from understanding bone structure in this manner, which can help when capturing the undulations of the face, and skeletons more generally have featured in a wide variety of art across many different cultures. Skulls are likely to be an idea that you had not thought of previously, yet the subject has featured many times within the realms of art history.

Skull Illustration Idea Skull Illustration Idea (image courtesy of Rawpixel as copyright-free)

Flying Hawk Vintage Drawing

Birds are majestic creatures and birds of prey can bring the symbolic meaning of strength and authority to your work. They are deemed to be larger than all other birds, and essentially control the skies. Additionally, they are beautiful creatures who offer much to an artist, as shown in the Hawk, captured below. Drawing birds in flight is an excellent idea for learning technique, but would be harder than pictured a perched bird. Movement is an important skill to master, but should only be taken on once the artist has reached a certain level of success. Other possible ideas include eagles, pigeons, doves and also any species which are native to your own region.

Flying Hawk Vintage Drawing Flying Hawk Vintage Drawing (image courtesy of Rawpixel as copyright-free)

Elegant Woman Figurative Drawing Idea in Art Deco Fashion

Elegant women can be great ideas for drawing. They display beauty within this own image, but also in the fashion that they wear. In the example below we find a classically dressed young woman who despite the strong winds is still able to apear graceful and charming. One could easily trace elements of this scene, perhaps even swapping some of the clothing out for our own preferences. There is an early-20th century style to her clothing, perhaps connecting it to the Art Deco era, and during this time black and white imagery was also popular in European art, such as with the likes of Aubrey Beardsley.

In order to add a sense of fun and movement, the impact of wind is suggesting by the direction of her skirt, as well as the trees bending in the distance. She smiles at us, revealing a sense of humor, whilst the artist manages to achieve much despite only using black and white tones. The female body has inspired artists for centuries, and is often perceived as more aesthetically pleasing and suitable to figurative art than the male alternative, generally speaking.

Elegant Woman Figurative Drawing Idea in Art Deco Fashion Elegant Woman Figurative Drawing Idea in Art Deco Fashion (image courtesy of Rawpixel as copyright-free)

Vintage Santa Claus Christmas Drawing Idea

The idea of drawing Santa Claus might seem like a strange choice, but for those celebrating Christmas, it can be a great way of theming your home for the upcoming festivities. Naturally, Christmas-themes have appeared within art for centuries, and vintage art tends to portray Santa as a much loved grandfather, just as found in the image below. Sketching this artwork is also good for general portraiture, and typically he will be pictured with plump cheeks and a large, bushy beard. Of course, the hat is key and other additions related to Christmas can be added alongside a Santa drawing, such as the Holly featured here.

It is important to remember that Christmas is a time of fun and celebration, even for those who are not connected to its religious meaning. Children in particular enjoy this period of the year and perhaps might be inspired by the idea of sketching Santa, or perhaps other content related to Christmas. Bold tones of red can be used on his clothing to help identify this iconic figure, though originally he was painted in green.

Vintage Santa Claus Christmas Drawing Idea Vintage Santa Claus Christmas Drawing Idea (image courtesy of Rawpixel as copyright-free)

Drawing Ideas from the Everyday: A Journey of Discovery

For those who are struggling to find ideas for their work, often you just need to look a little closer, literally. The interaction of different elements can bring an infinite array of ideas to your work, such as sunshine across a moving river, or a selection of unrelated items together on a wooden table. Another example might be a simple ball of wall, relatively uninteresting by itself, but to find a kitten playing with it, and unrolling it across a patterned carpet suddenly brings all sorts of interest to the work. If you wander around your own home, you might find an aged book, an antique clock, or something unplanned growing in your garden - these may not be immediately obvious ideas, but a careful observation of your surroundings may uncover all manner of items.

Nature's Canvas: Drawing Inspiration from the Great Outdoors

There is little in life that offers as much variety as nature itself. The changing seasons occupied the attention of the Impressionists for many decades, and many ideas can come from the changing conditions of winter, spring, summer and autumn. You can then gain ideas from the variety of plants, from trees, to cactus plants and wildflowers. Every region of the world has its own natural habitat, and animals and insects within that. Beyond that, even for highly abstract artists, one can enjoy a wide palette across these many creatures and species, with butterflies being a great example of that.

Another idea might be to focus on something personal - such as a destination that relates to a memorable holiday, or event such as a wedding. This should make your work unique and highly cherished. Another idea might be to work from one of your own photographs, and this could be done anywhere. Another final idea might be to focus on a brand new technique, such as calligraphy, which can really inspire and excite when you use brand new tools, and work in a historical manner.

Creative Challenges Unleashed: Overcoming Artist's Block

When you are short of ideas, and not sure what to draw, certain exercises can really help to spark those creative juices. Breaking routine is perhaps the most effective and easiest to do, where the brain is suddenly taken into an alternative environment. Creative people will often move away from their computers or devices, grab some fresh air within a more natural setting, and suddenly their creative ideas can return almost immediately. Noise can also infringe on the mind, and a trip to a contryside retreat might help, with authors regularly using such environments to work on their next publication.

Trying out new tools and techniques can also help to re-invigorate the mind, so perhaps grabbing some coloring pencils, or trying out the Japanese methods of pen and ink might be what you need. Others try time-related challenges, or working alongside others to help each other. Finally, altering your usual palette of colors might bring new ideas into your mind, such as perhaps a black and white only piece.

Still Life Wonders: Exploring Objects and Their Stories

Creativity comes from completing the drawing, but can also come from preparing it too. Arranging a number of objects for a still life artwork can force your mind into its creative mode, as there are so many different items that you might pick, and an infinite number of combinations in which to put them. Some will use different materials for different effects, such as sunshine reflecting through a glass vase with flowers adding additional color. A creative mind can take the most mundane of ideas and make it interesting, though it is a gift that not all of us possess. For those without that talent, the outdoors may be an easier source of ideas and inspiration.

Faces and Emotions: The Art of Captivating Portraits

The human face can also bring variety and inspiration to your work, as each and everyone is unique. As your skills of portraiture improve, you will become better at observing variety and detail, going beyond the basic fundamentals to spotting all manner of subtle differences that many others might not notice. When you combine these natural differences with curated elements, such as hair style, makeup and facial growth, there is so much to observe and consider from one face to the next, that this genre may be enough to keep you busy for months, if not years. There are also variations in angle, color and lighting which can be gleaned from photography to provide a near endless series of opportunities.

Drawing Inspiration Conclusion: Your Unique Artistic Journey

When looking for new ideas, the key is to look as widely as possible at the options out there - consider different tools and techniques, and also seek ideas for alternative art forms, such as painting and photography. Then, consider different themes, such as nature, still life and portraiture, and soon you should find some great ideas on what to draw. Historical art from the master sketchers is another good place to start, though their abilities may be far evolved from your own at this point - they may still provide a good starting point.