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  • Writer's pictureMaking To Make Happy

Deja Vu Drawing: 20 Ways to Draw One Object Differently

Updated: May 9

Have you ever looked at something so familiar, yet seen it in a completely new light? That's the essence of Deja Vu Drawing!  This is a creative exercise that challenges you to draw the same object in 20 unique ways. Some of the ways limit you, and force you to puzzle your way through, while others broaden the playing field and let you go a little wild.  It’s not just about creating multiples of the same image; it's about expanding your thinking and realising that you have a lot more already inside you than you thought.

Why Deja Vu Drawing?

Experimentation and play are vital parts of nurturing an artistic practise. Deja Vu Drawing offers a way of being a little silly whilst also developing your core art skills. By approaching a familiar object from 20 different angles, you’ll:

👁️ Sharpen your observation skills by truly looking at the details of form, light, and shadow.

🆓 Break free from artistic habits by challenging yourself to use unfamiliar tools and techniques.

🎨 Discover new creative possibilities as you and your chosen object start bonding in ways you never imagined!

👏 Boost your confidence as each successfully completed drawing becomes a mini-victory.

a photo of a hand drawing

The Object:

For this exercise, choose an object. It can be anything, but if possible choose something which is smaller than the paper you’ll be drawing on.  You can keep it super simple (with a piece of fruit, a mug, or a book) or choose something a bit more “you” (such as your bunch of keys, your favourite plushie or shoe). Try not to choose something which is veeeery intricate to draw though - because after a while, if it takes too long you won’t want to keep repeating the process!

Position it on a piece of white paper somewhere with good light, and leave it there.  Don’t move it around in-between tasks if possible, because you want a consistent view.

The key is to focus on capturing its essence through different approaches.  Leave your self-judgements at the door and let’s make a start…

The Materials:

You can be experimental with this in general, but here are a few things which are good staples to have, and will cover you for all of the prompts:

🟡 Pencil / Eraser

🟡 Biro / Ball-point Pens

🟡 Felt-tip/Marker Pens

🟡 Charcoal stick

🟡 Supporting stuff: Sticky tape / Ruler / Sandpaper / A small stool / A timer

a close up photo of the tips of coloured pencils

The 20 Challenges:

There is no time limit on this exercise, in that you could do one each day or one a week, it’s up to you.  You may wish to set a time-limit on the individual tasks themselves - ie. perhaps only spending 30 minutes on each one - as this will help to keep you from feeling like these drawings need to be “finished”.  They can be as rough and ready as you like, and if you are finding a particular task super tricky or boring, you can absolutely choose to move right along!

Classic Techniques, New Twists:

  1. Dominant Hand: A traditional approach to warm up - sketch your object using your dominant hand.  Simple pimple.

  2. Non-Dominant Hand: Step outside your comfort zone now and sketch the object with your other hand.  Feels a bit off, doesn’t it?…unless you’re ambidextrous, in which case, you can be a bit smug about this one.

  3. No Hands!: Can you draw with your mouth or feet?  (If you’ve never tried this before you might find it easier using a colouring pen, as it’s tricky to apply pressure as a newbie to it.)

  4. Single Digit Sketch: How much detail can you capture with just one finger?  It’s a challenge but you are up to it!

  5. No Blinking!: Ok, stare at your object for 5 minutes.  I know, it’ll seem like a really long time to be looking at it, but try not to get distracted.  This is your memorising time.  Once your timer goes off, turn away from your object and draw it without looking at it.  Let’s see what gaps your mind will fill in here.

Exploring Mediums:

  1. Draw with Charcoal: Charcoal brings a whole different vibe to drawing - it’s softer, it’s messier and it helps you to start feeling out the 3D-ness of your object.

  2. Pen Power: Ballpoint pens are next! They are pretty much in every home and are a brilliant art supply.  See how differently this drawing comes out from, say, the charcoal or pencil.

  3. Double Trouble: Tape two pens or pencils together (it’s fun if they are different colours) and draw your object.  Trippy.

  4. Chair in the Air: Can you use a chair as a giant drawing tool?  Now, I’m not suggesting you try and lift your sofa or computer chair - don’t do yourself an injury here.  If you have a light stool, or a dining room chair which is liftable, turn it upside down and tape a pen or pencil to one of the legs - so it’s tip sticks out from the foot.  Now turn it back around, put your paper on the floor and try to draw your object with this bizarre chair-pen you’ve just created.  It’s pretty tricky.  You may wonder “whhhhyyyy?” multiple times.  But doing something this seemingly pointless breaks you out of your comfort zone, allows you to be playful and proves to yourself that you CAN.

  5. Eraser Art: Draw your object with a soft pencil at your hardest pressure.  Now take an eraser and rub the whole thing out!  What is left behind?  A ghost of what once was?

Playing with Perspective:

  1. No Lines: Capture the object using only value - just lightness and darkness.  Interesting, no?

  2. Straight Laced: Use only straight lines (horizontal, vertical and diagonal) to create the form of your object.  If you’ve chosen a very curvy object, this will be more of a challenge, but you’ll think around the problem for sure!

  3. Measure Up: Grab a ruler and add precision to your drawing.  Measure how tall it is, how wide - see how accurate you can be.  (If your object is bigger than your paper you may need to dust off your maths and scale it down.)

  4. Size Matters: Now you know exactly how big your object is, draw the object at double or half its actual size.

Deep Dives and Experimentation:

  1. Focus on the Details: Draw a box on your page 5cm x 5cm.  Inside it, zoom in and draw a small, intricate part of your object.

  2. Textural Delight: Place your paper on top of a sheet of sandpaper (or some kind of rougher surface). Can you still control your lines?  Does it matter if you can’t?

  3. The Longest Pencil: Hold your pencil at its very end (as far as you can from the nib) and try to draw. You’ll find yourself exploring loose and gestural marks.

  4. Speed It Up: Challenge yourself with a one-minute timed drawing.  Ready, set…Go!

  5. Crinkled Canvas: Grab your paper and SCRUNCH it!  Now unfurl it and draw on your crumpled paper for a distorted yet interesting perspective.

  6. Memory Lane: After 12 hours have passed without seeing your object, draw it from memory without looking at it or the original drawing.  How does this attempt compare with the first memory drawing you made?

🥳 Bonus After-Party:

Hurrah, you made it to the end!  If you are now looking at all of your drawings and never wanting to look at your object again for at least a month, here’s a bonus challenge which can be quite cathartic:

Ripping Good Show!: Tear up your drawings!! Collage them back together to create a new artwork, or simply throw the pieces in the air like you just don’t care.


Remember, there are no mistakes in Deja Vu Drawing!   This is not about perfection or feeling satisfied with every attempt you make.  Embrace the unexpected results and enjoy the process of rediscovering a familiar object.

Grab your favourite drawing tool (or unconventional tool!), and let's see your object in 20 whole new ways!

Let me know which challenges you enjoyed (or disliked!) the most! ☺️ Tag me on Instagram @gemmathepen to share some of your experiments with me - I’d love to see them!

Thanks for reading,

Keep making happy!

Gemma 💛


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