Drawing how you feel

How To Express Emotions In Your Drawing

Every artist has there own “thing” they work on. That aspect of their art that eludes them. 

It changes from time to time depending upon what season of their art journey they are in. 

With this particular piece, I was working on expressing emotion in my drawing. It is something I have been struggling with.

To get the emotions not only in the lines of the facial features, but in the overall feel of the piece.

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Emotion by MarilynO @TrembelingArt

I wasn’t concerned with the technical aspects of the drawing. That will come with time and practice.

Being able to get the feelings across to the viewer, I think, takes more than skill, although skill does play a big part.

It also takes the ability to let that feeling or energy flow through the pencil or brush onto the surface to express emotions in your drawing. It is hard to describe accurately.

In a black and white drawing you don’t have the option to use dramatic pops of color to enhance the emotions.

You can only use shadow, darks and lights, to make the emotions heavy or light.

This is where your knowledge of value, shadow and depth is useful. For more information on value, see my post What Is Ment By Value In A Piece Of Art.

You might also be interested in reading about highlighting and shading in this post.

Emotion Through Art

Drawing on your own experiences when creating a piece can help you express feelings in your drawing. Our work often follows whatever mood we are in while working on it.

Drawing a happy, lighthearted scene while thinking of a very bad time in your life will confuse the viewer. Your strong negative emotions will come across in your drawing.

That is not to say you have to always feel the emotions of your subject. Just be aware of the fact the emotions can transfer to your work.

This is true for painting, drawing, writing or any form of art. Art is truly an expression of our inner turmoil or pleasure.

Dilapidated by TrembelingArt

Adding a Backstory

Adding a backstory to your piece can add to the viewers emotional experience.

Drawing an old abandoned house can evoke emotions in and of itself. Adding a battered and worn child’s toy, abandoned on the front step, can ramp up the emotions of the piece.

It is no longer a drawing of a dilapidated building, but a home that once had life.

It leaves the viewer wondering what happened to the family and maybe feeling a little nostalgic for their own childhood.

Emotions in figure drawing can be shown in more than just facial expression. Body language is also important.

The posture of the subject can convey pain, sadness, dejection, joy or almost any emotion.

The face can be completely hidden and yet you can show how the person is feeling in that moment simply by how the figure is presented.

You can draw someone with there shoulders hunched and hands hidden in there face and it will show sadness or despair. 

Angry Boy Graphite on Bristol Paper
by MarilynO @TrembelingArt

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The surroundings can also contribute to the overall emotional feel of a piece. A figure drawn with arms upraised, surrounded by broken glass would convey despair or frustration.

The same figure surrounded by sunshine and a field of flowers could convey joy and happiness.  The drawing has to be contextual in order to have the overall feel you are going for.

Drawing Your Feelings On Paper

Some artists, myself included, use words to map out the overall feel of the piece they want to draw. You can try writing down several words that relate to the emotion you want the drawing to show.

Try starting with a idea or emotion and adding related words in a spoke like configuration, radiating out from the central word.

You can come back to this “wheel of emotion” as you work on your piece to help keep you on track and explore all the possible angles of this feeling.

I like to write poetry, so I often have several poems that I can use as inspiration. I write when I’m in the mood and later paint or draw my poem.

Words can evoke strong images and feelings and enable you to express emotions in our drawings. Use these images as a basis for your artwork.

Creating a piece of art can be more than just painting or drawing a pretty piece intended for sale.

Art can be a way to express your feelings, deal with strong emotions and help you to de-stress. 

We are never fully satisfied with our work and are definitely our own worst critics.

As with all things in life, we get closer to our idea of perfection with practice.

The more you draw, the more you learn how to put life into the piece and how to express emotions in your drawing.

I hope you continue to draw every day and I know you and I both will get better with practice.

For more drawing tips see my posts on improving your drawing and choosing the right paper.

Thanks for reading.


How to Draw or Paint Your Feelings

I often find myself feeling more at ease expressing my feelings through art, whether that be through drawings or paintings.

With words, I often feel burdened into choosing the right ones and hoping that others won’t misunderstand my intentions.

However with art, I am able to let go of that burden, not by bypassing it all-together – but instead, facing it.

Art is open to interpretation by everyone and that’s okay.

It is a universal language and there is always going to be beauty in art, no matter what.

Art is how we can all relay our inner feelings, even if we don’t completely understand them – and that is what makes it so beautiful.

I hope that this blog post may help you discover and experiment with how you can relay your own feelings through art, whether that be through drawing, painting, or more.

It is a great way to discover what your own feelings are trying to tell you, and who knows, your art may be able to touch the lives of many people in the future.

1. Don’t Push Away Your Feelings

It’s okay to feel whatever emotion you are feeling right now.

Sometimes our feelings can make us uncomfortable, even unbearable, but that is something we all go through at different times of our life.

Your feelings are there for a reason – and I believe that no matter what kind of feelings they are, they are like an internal compass pointing us to some unknown place we can’t predict yet.

So don’t push away your feelings.

Be aware of what you are feeling and just let them speak through the art your create.

Sometimes just letting them having a voice in some way helps immensely – so give it a try.

2. Let Go of Any Expectations of Yourself

In order to draw or paint your feelings, it’s best to let go of expectations from your art.

Your art doesn’t have to be perfect.

Sometimes what we see in our mind’s eye is different from what we can physically draw or paint – And that is okay!

The purpose of this blog post is to simply draw or paint your feelings!

There is no wrong way of doing this.

Healing is not Linear by Elisha Goldstein on Twitter

3. Choose an Art Style

Art Style Types:

  • Abstract
  • Realism
  • Surrealism
  • Cartoon
  • Minimalism

You can paint or draw using multiple art styles or a single one – the choice is up to you.

Create art according to the style that feels right to you.

Sometimes, there are days when you may not know what exactly to draw or paint. During these days, it may be best to create more abstract artwork.

Other days, you may know exactly what you want to draw.

It all depends – so do whatever feels right at heart.

Let Love Grow Drawing by Alijt Emmens on Tumblr

Even scribbles are beautiful! Below is a painting by Cy Twombly from Artsy.

4. Make Art!

Make art! And make art regularly!

There is always a way to make art, whether that be just through using pencil or paper, or if you purchase some affordable painting supplies.

Experiment with different mediums (pencil, charcoal, pastels, watercolor, acrylic paint, gouache, oil paint, etc) and just have fun exploring art.

Fill your empty page or canvas with color.

Make scribbles.

Make shapes.

Write words.

A painting by Bonnie Gray on Instagram

You can also try creating a collage like below:

A poem and collage from Caitlin Abigail

Things to Draw or Paint Your Feelings

If you need some prompts of what to draw, here are a few things in this world that may evoke feelings or certain associations or memories for you.

  • Rainbows
  • Sky
  • Ocean
  • Paths
  • Faces
  • Butterflies
  • Mountains
  • Hands
  • Flowers
  • Stars
  • Fire
  • Trees
  • Pets
  • Light
  • Shadows
  • Leaves
  • Landscapes
  • Clouds
  • Houses
  • Heart
  • Draw / Paint your favorite quote

If you would like more ideas on things to paint (as well as examples), check out my many blog posts for drawing and painting ideas:

55 Cool and Easy Things to Draw
31 Easy Watercolor Art Ideas
30 Easy Canvas Painting Ideas
35 Whimsical Drawing Ideas

Thank you so much for taking your time to visit this blog post. I hope you found it helpful!

People feel emotions in so many different and unique ways – and express them in just as diverse ways as they are felt.

It’s okay to not be able to find the words to express your emotions. Emotions are a completely different language – and how can it all be relayed through a couple words?

I hope that having the outlet of expressing yourself through art may ease your heart and let you freely express yourself a little more.

Sending you much love and have an awesome day!

Share the Love!

Tired - draw flowers, angry

  • Art
  • Needlework
  • Cancel
Specific answers to the question "What to do?" from an art therapist. Explains a lot in spontaneous actions, by the way

1. Tired - draw flowers,
2. Angry - draw lines,
3. It hurts - sculpt,
4. Boring - fill a piece of paper with different colors,
5. Sad - draw a rainbow ,
6. Scary - weave macrame or make applications from fabrics,
7. If you feel anxiety - make a winding doll,
8. If you are indignant - tear the paper into small pieces,
9. If you feel anxious - fold origami,
10. You want to relax - draw patterns,
11. It is important to remember - draw labyrinths,
12. Feel displeasure - make a copy of the picture,
13. Feel despair - draw roads;
14. Need to understand something - draw mandalas,
15. Need to quickly recover strength - draw landscapes,
16. If you want to understand your feelings - draw a self-portrait,
17. It is important to remember the state - draw color spots,
18. If you need to systematize thoughts - draw honeycombs or squares,
19. If you want to understand yourself and your desires - make a collage,
20. It is important to concentrate on thoughts - draw with dots,
21. To find the optimal way out of the situation - draw waves and circles,
22. You feel that you are "stuck" and you need to move on - draw spirals,
23. If you want to concentrate on the goal - draw nets and targets.

Victoria Nazarevich
Denis Khlomov



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    Decipher your "random drawing" - Centralized city library system, Tyumen

    For Readers → Youth → Librarian's advice → Know yourself → Decipher your "random drawing"

    Dear friend!

    A new school year has begun! Congratulations! Hooray!
    Remember how often in class you start drawing on the margins of school (favorite) notebooks. Check yourself!
    Take a sheet of paper and make a random drawing!
    And then decipher your "random drawing."

    If you draw random lines
    You feel that you are in an awkward position. Every determined bold line is an attack you hesitate to make. If at the end you circle your drawing, it means that the problem is over.

    If you draw squares, triangles, rhombuses and other geometric shapes
    You have clear goals and beliefs, you almost never hide your opinion. Usually you are focused. Try to look at things easier.

    If you draw hearts
    You are filled with feelings. You want to kiss the whole world.

    If you draw faces or little men
    Faces or little men are a sign of helplessness or a desire to avoid any duty. Usually they draw little men at the moment when they should say a decisive “no”, but you cannot bring yourself to say this word.

    If you draw spirals, circles, wavy lines
    Other people's problems don't bother you much or don't interest you at all. If you notice that you are starting to draw spirals, keep in mind: now you need to take special care of yourself so as not to flare up and insult your interlocutor.

    If you draw chains or linked rings
    Such a drawing reflects the desire to participate in something. You feel that you are out of events. Try to understand why you are "out of the game" and somehow fix the situation.

    If you draw patterns
    A pattern tells you that you are bored. You crave change, dream of new experiences and sensations.

    If you draw crosses
    Crosses and crosses are quite common. They express guilt. Something weighs on you: either you reproach yourself, or the interlocutor reproaches you.

    If you draw flowers, the sun
    Your heart is sad. You most of all dream of friendship and tenderness, and the words that are spinning on your tongue are involuntarily transferred to paper: “Pay attention to me!”. If your hand begins to display flowers or the sun, hurry up to make good friends.

    If you draw a chessboard
    A chessboard indicates that you are in an unpleasant or at least
    difficult situation.

    Learn more