12 amazingly talented Drawing Artists to get Inspired by (2024)

Every skilled artist has (and needs) their heroes, because a bit of awe and jealousy can go a long way in motivating us to improve our own art.

How can you know what you want to achieve if you don’t know what’s possible? In order to find your own style in the arts it’s helpful to know what styles exist, what techniques are out there and find out what you like.

This list contains some of the most inspirational artists I have ever come across, and their work is an endless source of ideas and motivation. I have found you some of the best and most interesting names in drawing, from classical to contemporary.

You’ll find artists from different parts of the world, different cultures, using different styles, subjects, tools. Yet their skill and dedication never fail to amaze.

Looking at art is never a waste of time. Even if you don’t like a certain piece, collection, style or choice of subject, ask yourself why. What is it you dislike, what would you do differently? There is something in every piece of art you can take away for your own.

1 Leonardo da Vinci (1452 - 1519)

I wouldn’t dream of making a list like this without including the most famous, and possibly the most talented artist that ever lived.

Born in Italy as the illegitimate son of a lawyer Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci was a genius and polymath.

He had a variety of different interests, including drawing, painting, sculpture, engineering, mathematics and the sciences, and he seemed to excel at any one of them. It's safe to say that whatever the man touched turned to gold.

I have been to an exhibition of his drawings just the other day and it was absolutely astonishing to see such a huge number of sketches. One wonders how he had the time for all these intricate studies with so many other things on his to-do list.

It was however precisely because of his many interests that he was easily side-tracked and had a reputation for rarely finishing what he started, especially long-term art commissions like sculptures or paintings.

Considering the quality of his work when he did finish it people were inclined to forgive him though.

2 Ch'ng Kiah Kiean (born 1974)

Kiah Kiean, or KK, as he is known in urban sketching circles, is one of my absolute favourites for his quirky, energetic drawing style. He works mostly with ink, graphite and watercolour and his sketches are just plain fun to look at.

I had the great privilege of interviewing him for an article about his work recently.

KK grew up in George Town, Penang, and has a degree in in architecture. That might be the reason he used to sketch mainly buildings (he now also includes still lifey, animals and botanical subjects) and why he is so incredibly good at bringing their spirit out onto paper.

He worked as a graphic designer for a decade and only recently became a full-time artist, so he’s the perfect example of what you can achieve with dedication and perseverance, even if you have little time to practice.

Most importantly, he also shares his skill and knowledge, on his website and by travelling the world to lead sketchwalks.

3 Vincent van Gogh (1853 - 1890)

Dutch Post-Impressionist Vincent van Gogh is mainly known for his tragically beautiful paintings, so it may come as a surprise to you that he has also produced a vast variety of equally fascinating drawings.

Van Gogh grew up as the child of a protestant pastor and worked as a missionary himself for a little while, before deciding that the arts were his true calling.

He was an extremely passionate artist and incredibly dedicated, considering that his works were only truly recognised after his death at the age of 37.

While his drawings lack the strong colour of his more famous works, such as The Starry Night, they make up for it with an amazing array of texture and liveliness. And just like his paintings, when you look at them for too long they seem to start moving on their own.

4 Jason Gathorne-Hardy (born 1968)

John Jason Gathorne-Hardy was born in Malaysia as the eldest son of an Earl but grew up on is family's estate in Suffolk, UK. Initially he trained as a zoologist but soon discovered his passion for drawing, painting and wood carving.

He is still very active and interested in conservation, farming and landscaping and is co-author of "An Artist in the Garden: A Year in the Walled Garden at Great Glemham House".

I discovered his drawings a few months ago and I'm so glad I stumbled upon them. His style is so vibrant and always fits the subject, which is mainly animals and farm-scenes, perfectly.

He uses a lot of scribbles to bring his sheep and cows and birds to live and it’s impressive to see the number of different effects he manages to create with variations of a few simple strokes.

5 Julie Mehretu (born 1970)

One would not want to be accused of overlooking our talented friends across the sea, so, in case you have not heard of her, let me introduce you to American contemporary artist Julie Mehretu.

Julie has won many awards and was awarded the US Department of State Medal of Arts in 2015, so I'm not the only one who is fascinated by her style.

Her often huge works are an alluring mix of technical drawing, painting and illustration, incorporating many layers of architectural sketches and geometrical shapes. This makes them neither entirely abstract nor realistic, but definitely super interesting.

6 Jean-Louis Sauvat (born 1947)

Jean-Louis Sauvat is a contemporary French drawing artist, painter, illustrator and sculptor. He descends from a long line of artists, which would explain his enormous talent. But the quality of his work definitely comes from his relationship to his subject matter.

Famous widely for the most magnificent drawings of horses he is a passionate rider himself and has sat in the saddle every day for decades. This definitely shows in his artwork.

His lines are masterfully executed and never sterile, the colours subtle but still super interesting.

He does not just ‘draw horses’, he brings them to life and manages to capture their spirit and energy in his drawings to a point that you can almost hear them galloping.

7 Il Lee (born 1952)

The enticing ballpoint-pen drawings of Korean-born artist Il Lee are proof that art does not need fancy materials and that technique will always matter more than what you draw with. Or, indeed, what you draw.

Lee studied painting in Seoul, South Korea, but later moved to the US, where he still lives today.

His work is mostly abstract and maybe does not seem like much at first glance. But the longer you look at his super crisp and intricately textured drawings the more you'll fall in love with them.

Incidentally, his drawing technique is also a fantastic warm-up for any artist, so next time you plan an elaborate sketching session, why not first create one or two ballpoint-pen drawings to warm up that wrist and shoulder of yours.

8 Rembrandt (1606-1669)

Here we have yet another artist who is mainly famous for his paintings, but whose skilful drawings deserve just as much praise, if not more.

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn was born in the Netherlands as the son of a wealthy miller. He briefly attended University but changed his path and became an apprentice painter instead.

He loved Dutch art and did not, as was common during his time, travel to Italy to study Italian art. Instead he followed his own path yet again and developed into the master artist we know and love.

His sketches, sometimes done with graphite, sometimes with ink, are immensely elegant and beautiful. I often prefer the sketches of master artists of old, because I find they are a lot less restrained than their paintings.

Rough sketchbook work did not need to follow the artistic rules of the time in quite the same way, so they show more of the artist's personality and way of seeing the world.

9 Ian Murphy (born 1963)

Quite a bit heavier and more prominent than some of the other drawings in this article are the works of English artist Ian Murphy.

He grew up in an industrial town in the North of England and this experience has very clearly influenced his art and linework. He has a particularly good eye for details and may sketch just a little fraction of a window or an entire street.

His grasp on perspective is exemplary and I particularly love the way his sketches are difficult to pin down. His linework is both intricate and bold and his colours, while mostly grey or earthy, are at the same time modest and strong.

Especially the works from his travels in China are absolutely gorgeous. There's just something about East-Asian architecture that brings out the best in every artist that spends some time with it.

10 Manabu Ikeda (born 1973)

While some artists prefer to sketch quickly and leave a lot to the imagination the stunning drawings of Japanese artist Manabu Ikeda are the exact opposite. They are the imagination.

It can take him over a year to finish just one of his large-scale pen and ink drawings. Imagine that. The amount of detail he creates is absolutely exquisite, as is the skill and patience it takes to produce this kind of art.

His subjects differ, some are inspired by his childhood, others by current events, such as the 2011 Tōhoku tsunami (see image above).

With the amount of intricate detail and the size of his works I bet just one of them could be the only drawing you'll look at for a year and you'd still always discover something new.

11 E. H. Shepard (1879-1976)

E. H. Shepard, that's Ernest Howard, is one of the most famous illustrators in history. He is mostly known for creating the drawings for the Winnie the Pooh books by A. A. Milne.

His works are simple and happy and just so incredibly charming, exactly what you'd expect from your favourite childhood illustrator. He worked out his drawings in pencil first, before immortalising them in ink.

A lovely fact, in case you were not aware, is that his daughter also became an artist and went on to illustrate the Mary Poppins books. He must have been so proud.

12 Hiroyuki Doi (born 1946)

Japanese artist Hiroyuki Doi used to be a chef, but the sudden death of his brother many years ago made him turn to the arts for solace. That's not surprising, considering that drawing and painting are great forms of therapy.

Now he uses his art to not only deal with grief but to show “the transmigration of the soul, the cosmos, the coexistence of living creatures, human cells, human dialog and peace”.

Did you enjoy this article or feel like you have anything else to add? Feel free to leave me a comment below!
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12 amazingly talented Drawing Artists to get Inspired by (2024)

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