The secret of drawing? Practise every day, says Mike Willdridge

Mike Alice 2 sketchOur good friend and inspiring Watermill painting tutor Mike Willdridge emphasises the great importance of drawing. He says: “I suspect that if you were to ask any ‘artist’ (painter, sculptor, photographer, printmaker, designer an so on) this question: “What do you consider to be the single most important skill for an artist?” The answer is likely to be “the skill of drawing”.

Mike adds: “Certainly, that’s how I feel. It is not, however, the value I place on a ‘good drawing’ or the ability to draw well that puts drawing at the top of my list. It is, rather, because I value drawing as an excellent way to help an artist to see.

“Let me explain further. The National Gallery in London has a statistic that on average visitors look at any one of their thousands of paintings for just seven seconds; and five seconds of that time is spent looking and reading the artist’s name. In other words, we are all able to look but maybe we don’t always see. I believe that the simple act of drawing (especially from the real world) allows the artist to take time to look at any subject for long enough to be able to see. Therefore, the importance that I place on drawing as a skill is more about its value as a tool to help a person to see and is not necessarily about the quality of the drawing itself.

“For anyone wanting to develop their drawing skills, I am offering this simple tip: Draw every day.

“If you were learning to play a musical instrument, wouldn’t it be that your teacher would say just the same … practice everyday? Really, it’s no different with drawing.

“I would advise that you get yourself a little sketchbook, hard backed if possible, a soft pencil and a pen – a biro or one of those permanent black ink drawing pens. Of course, there’s lots more you could carry around but, to start with opt for something that’ll fit in your bag or pocket.

Mike sketchbook

Here are some eagles I sketched in pencil at a farm in Germany on holiday with my children.”

Mike Eagles pencil

Now three things to consider to get yourself started:

1. CARRY YOUR SKETCHBOOK EVERYWHERE. The secret is to get your sketchbook out when you have a few moments to spare such as at a cafe, waiting in an airport, on the metro/train, in a park at lunchtime, at a concert  or wherever. It needn’t take long; ten or fifteen minutes would be fine. If you don’t have your sketchbook, draw on anything such as the back of an envelope but be sure to stick the drawing into your sketchbook later.

Here’s a sketch of a woman on her laptop, drawn in a station waiting room.”Mike woman laptop sketch

2. KEEP IT SIMPLE. “Draw anything; you’ll soon realise there’s a wealth of subject matter around you, especially in the ordinary. The cup and saucer on your cafe table, the person reading a newspaper opposite you in the airport or on the train, the little shed in the park, someone in the audience/on stage at a concert or meeting and so on. Here’s a simple sketch of a man playing a flute.”

Mike flute player sketch

3. DON’T WORRY IF IT DOESN’T SEEM TO BE GOING WELL. “The real value is in doing it, not what it looks like. Really, don’t worry about ‘mistakes’  or what other people may think. Here are some heads, drawn at The Louvre. Museums and galleries are excellent places in which to draw.”

Mike museum heads

CONCLUSION. “Everyone can learn to draw, especially if they do it just for themselves. Think of your sketchbook as a visual diary. In addition to drawing in it, why not stick in other visual evidence of where you were, such as tickets, postcards, food wrappers etc. Anything, but use it regularly.”

LASTLY. “Think about it. We all learn to do things by doing them. We learnt to read by constantly reading, we learnt to drive by driving and we learnt to cook by cooking. It’s the same for drawing. Do it everyday, keep it simple and don’t worry if you ‘make mistakes’. To sign off today, here’s Alice, a friend’s daughter, drawn in our Living Room. Alice was fully occupied with her own drawing.”


Come and occupy yourself with drawing — and much else beside — on Mike’s sun-filled, fun-filled, inspiring painting week at The Watermill.

Mike new head and shoulders FINALMike Willdridge will be with us this year from Saturday 27 August to Saturday 3 September 2016. He will concentrate on watercolour and drawing, but is also happy also to teach in gouache and acrylics.

Mike especially values drawing as a way of recording/responding to everyday events and makes constant use of a sketchbook. He’ll encourage you to do the same and to take a sketchbook on location, building up a journal of memories of your time at the watermill and in the unspoilt countryside of Lunigiana.

 *** Why not bring your non-painting partner as well? There’s a generous £200 discount for him/her if they share a room with you — and there’s plenty for them to do. Have a look at our Partner’s Activities suggestions by clicking here. 

Painting by Mike Willdridge, a tutor at The Watermill at Posara painting holidays/vacations, Tuscany Italy.

Mike Willdridge’s wonderful watercolour of Flavio’s bridge and millstream gushing towards the river.



  1. Very true. I started watercolour painting 2 years ago, but I am persistent in trying to get it right, doing it over and over. I have always admired people who could draw well. I will take this opportunity to work on my drawing rather than transferring difficult scenes.

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