Semi-tight line drawing of a Lotus Exige

I can’t believe how much I’ve been slacking in terms of drawing cars this year. Here we are in the last quarter, and the total combined amount of time that I’ve spent with pen to paper (er, Wacom art pen to drawing tablet) is not anywhere near where I had hoped it would be. That’s not to say that my entire life has been a giant slack-fest – as a matter of fact, I’m busier than ever with other projects which is unfortunately cutting into the time I have available to draw cars.

I’ve decided to make an effort to draw a lot more. Art is an important part of life (I believe it’s an awesome creative outlet), so I’m taking charge of the time I have available and making time to draw and sketch cars. If that means drawing while stuck in a business meeting, so be it. Frankly, I’m pretty darn sick and tired of other people preventing me from doing what I want to do. Now that I’ve got that off my chest…

Anyway, here’s a sketch of a Lotus Exige that I’ve been working on for a while now. It’s a rather simple line drawing actually, so I’m a bit ashamed to mention that it has been a long-term project. In all actuality though, what I mean by that is working on it in 5-minute increments (whenever I have the time).

I was planning on doing a really tight rendering of it just as I did with the Fiat 500 illustration, but I’m tired of looking at this thing and I actually sort of like the simplicity of the line drawing style. I think I’ll leave it just like this and move onto the next one…

More car and truck sketches created on my iPad

It’s been a while since my last update, but I’m still drawing cars every now and then – but certainly not as much as I’d like. Most of the time it’s because I’m so busy that I’m not anywhere near a computer, but other times it’s because I’m at my computer but too busy doing other things! There don’t seem to be enough hours in the day to draw all the cars that I’d like, so finding any amount of spare time to sneak in a sketch or two is a challenge.

I posted a while back about how my iPad is a great way to sketch and draw wherever I happen to be, and I still think that is the case. I take that iPad with me to meetings (and during travel), and combined with the Sketchbook Pro app and a Wacom art pen, it’s a pretty good solution for getting my art and design fix whenever it may strike.

The car and truck sketches above are two that I recently created on the iPad. Well, “recently” is a loose term, mostly because I started both of these back in January of this year and just tinkered with them both since then whenever I had a few minutes here in there in meetings (or wherever). I wanted to put some more detail into both, but I’ve just now decided to call them “done” and move on to the next drawing.

Because they were drawn on the iPad, they are pretty basic and crude. It’s difficult to get a lot of detail into these with a fat-nibbed stylus, so I was basically playing with basic shape and form more than anything else. But most importantly, it’s good practice.

2015 C7 Corvette Z06 Drawing and Rendering

They say that the more you draw, the better you will get. I’ve always been a believer in this, and it’s been frustrating to admit that my skills as an automotive artist have actually decreased over the past year due to the fact that I’ve hardly been drawing. I mean, take a look at the quick truck sketch I uploaded in my last post. Blech – I don’t even know why I posted that! Well…I’m very happy to report that I believe I’ve finally busted through my slump and found an awesome new rendering style that I actually like.

Before starting this C7 Z06 drawing, I took a good look at the work of many other automotive artists and illustrators – and it dawned on me that I was drawn (no pun intended) more towards the illustrator types who did the tight vector-style renderings.

The guy who runs is a good example of that. BUT – I’ve never had the patience to create illustrations with that amount of detail so I knew that a style such as that wasn’t the best fit for me. I then realized that I don’t have to replicate anyone, and I’m better off finding and developing my own style. And that’s exactly what I’ve done with this Corvette.

yellow c7 z06 rendering

Hey – I don’t always draw in grayscale! Here’s the Z06 in bright yellow.

This style is semi-tight, but not over the top. I like looseness and spontaneity in my car drawings, so that’s why I purposefully left the pencil lines from the original sketch show through, and I wasn’t overly concerned about making all the details perfect. My goal is to capture the essence of the car, and then move on to the next one. Like I said above – I don’t have the patience and attention span to create photo-qualtiy renderings and illustrations.

inked line drawing of the c7 corvette z06

This is how this project started – I did a loose sketch in SketchBook Pro, and then inked it in Adobe Illustrator

So this will be my style going forward, and I’m anxious to try it with some other cars.

Loose sketch of a truck

I remember back when I was a child, and I could crank out 5 car sketches a day without a problem. I’ve got boxes full of my old car drawings from when I was a young teen, and I’m amazed how many I did back then. I was a total machine! Sadly, I just don’t have that kind of time anymore – as a matter of fact, this truck sketch took me nearly a week to do from start to finish. Technically, I only spent 1 hour on it, but it was one of those “10 minutes here, 10 minutes there” kind of things. Someday I hope to have the kind of time I used to have when I was a child so I can just sit and draw cars all day. Someday…

Anyway, this is a slightly different style for me. I’m not sure if I like it, but I do like the contrast.

Trying to use my iPad to draw cars


One of my reasons for getting an iPad was so that I could draw cars whenever I am away from my main computer (which is often). I’ll admit that I haven’t been drawing as much as I’d like, but I’m glad to report that drawing on the iPad is every bit as convenient as I hoped it would be. We’ll, to be honest, it’s not that perfect, primarily because the screen isn’t pressure-sensitive. That means most of the cars I’ve been drawing have been lacking the beautiful thick and thin lines I try to achieve when drawing with my Wacom tablet on my home computer. But hey – for a truly portable drawing solution, I’m liking this a lot. And it really is a mobile experience – I drew this car entirely on the iPad with the Sketchbook Pro app, a cheap stylus I got from Best Buy, and I am now writing this post from the free WordPress app. Technology is an amazing thing!

This sub-compact car drawing is a bit crude, but I expect that my iPad drawing technique will improve over time.

Loose drawing of a white two-door coupe

Drawing white cars isn’t easy. It usually helps to use a dark background so that the white really pops off the page, because otherwise, it would just look like a plain pencil sketch without color! Anyway, this was just a really quick design study without much attention given to the little details. I’ve got to admit that it’s more fun that way – I like to work fast and never spend too long on one drawing.

10-minute car sketch

There’s not always enough time in the day to draw cars as much as I’d like, so I need to use the time that I have. Even a spare 10 minutes between meetings or on a conference call is a perfect time to load up SketchBook Pro and draw something really quick.  It’s messy, but better than nothing!

The importance of drawing cars every day

Ack. It’s been a week or so since I’ve last drawn a car, so today I decided to sit down and sketch out another one. As you can see from the image above, it didn’t go very well. I just don’t like the way that this rendering turned out at all – mostly because I think the design is too bulky and partly because the rendering style is completely overdone.  But it is what it is, and I’m satisfied for at least   doing it and keeping my hands in practice.

Learning how to draw cars takes time and dedication. Just as I outlined in my last post about practicing  to draw circles and ovals every day, the only way to become a better car designer and illustrator is to do it over and over (and over) again. Consistent practice is 100% effective – I remember some classmates in my freshmen year of design school who couldn’t draw a good looking cube let alone a halfway-decent car, but through an obscene amount of practice and dedication, they all received full-time job offers from the major auto manufactures four years later upon graduation.

The illustration above just goes to show you that not every car you draw will be a success. Even though I’m not totally happy with it, I consider it valuable because of the energy and vigor it gives me to roll up my sleeves and try again tomorrow. I’m not necessarily feeling the pressure to create an award winning piece of automotive art, but the satisfaction I get from keeping up with my sketch-a-day mentality makes me feel like I’m accomplishing something.

The most important skill for drawing cars

More than anything else (IMHO), drawing cars requires a huge amount of skill and loads of artistic talent. Not only do you need to have an aesthetic understanding of shape and form, you also need technical understanding of perspective and how light reflects off organic surfaces. Cars are complex objects, and it’s plainly obvious if they aren’t drawn correctly.

For anyone who is just learning how to draw cars, I have one piece of advice: learn to draw freehand circles and ovals! I can’t count the number of times that I’ve cringed with disappointment when looking at an otherwise really great car sketch that is ruined by lopsided wheels that don’t match the perspective of the car. I’ve done that plenty of times when I was just staring to learn how to draw cars, and it may be one of the most difficult skills to master.

In order to be proficient at this, you should be drawing ovals and circles whenever possible. No excuses – you can find a lot of time to do this if you try, especially with all of the quality drawing and sketching apps that are available for mobile phones and tablets these days. Do it in a meeting, while in class, or on the train – it’s a quiet and simple task that you can literally do anywhere.

You should also vary it a bit. It’s ok to practice drawing little circles on your phone, but make sure you also spend an equal amount of time doing large versions on huge pieces of paper with a thick marker. If it’s too difficult to do at first, start out by tracing the wheels (freehand of course) from pictures of cars you find in magazines. If you do this enough, you will get sick and tired of it. But I guarantee that it’s a skill you’ll use and benefit from every time you draw a car for the rest of your life.

The wheels are the foundation of any good automotive sketch. They set the stance of the car and provide the basis for the mood of the drawing. And besides – you’ll gain a lot more respect for your work for higher accuracy and realism.

Sell your car sketches and renderings as royalty-free stock

I’m going to let you in on a little secret. If you are a talented automotive artist or designer who wants some easy extra cash every month, do yourself a favor and sell some of your work as royalty free stock. All of the major online stock photo agencies are busting at the seams with pictures of nature, babies, and food and it’s really hard to break any ground in those areas. But I personally see a pretty big hole when it comes to quality car drawings and sketches available for sale on these sites, and I’m willing to bet that the first few automotive artists who take full advantage of this are going to strike it big.

I’ve had a look at some of the largest stock photo agencies to see what their car drawing and automotive design section looks like, and I’m amazed at how poor the quality is. See for yourself (then create an account and start selling your renderings and sketches)!

Their automotive art and design gallery is severely lacking. I counted just a handful of mediocre quality car drawings and sketches, and all of them had a decent number of sales. This site is a gold mine waiting to be tapped.

Their automotive selection is a little better than dreamstime, but it consists mostly of 3d models and poorly drawn vector illustrations. Shutterstock is a huge (huge) player in the stock photo world, and quality automotive design and art will be bought very quickly.

Stockfresh isn’t as large of an agency as dreamstime and shutterstock, but they are a new site on the rise who offers a very generous commission payouts. Since their entire library is smaller than the others, quality car sketches and drawings should stand out very well here.

If I were a younger man with a lot of time to devote to drawing cars for the primary purpose of selling them as royalty-free stock, I’d jump all over this. But I’ve got too many other projects (along with a great wife) that I’d rather spend my time with, so I feel good by offering up this information here to help others.

Go earn some money with your car drawing talent!