Whenever I suggest to people that they would find embroidery a lot more interesting and rewarding if they did their own artwork, they usually say peevishly “Oh, it's all right for you. You know how to draw. I could never do anything like that.” And just the other day I ran across a blog of a designer who stated categorically that she "couldn't draw" even though she was involved in all kinds of visual arts.
I always get a bit annoyed by that attitude. If you've never learned to play the violin, and I handed you one for the first time, would you really expect to lift it to your chin and play the Beethoven Violin Concerto straightaway? No, you'd know that it takes a lot of time and practice to be a good musician. And much the same thing is true of drawing or design or any of the visual arts. If you're like most people your first efforts at drawing are probably not going to be very good. If you want to be good at it you have to practice it – and drawing has one advantage over music in that people's first efforts at drawing are usually much better than their first attempts at playing the violin!
So how do you start? Everybody has their own way, but there are a couple of things that I've recommended to people in the past. First, I have to go back on everything I've said about the importance of being original, and suggest that copying something can be a good start. For example a simple design like a Victorian or Art Nouveau tile makes a good subject for a beginner, and there are hundreds around on the Internet. These made good starting material for drawings (with pencil rather than a pen because it gives the chance to change anything that doesn't work).
If someone wants a more structured approach, I usually recommend the book “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain” (https://www.amazon.com/New-Drawing-Right-Side-Brain/dp/0874774195/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1249212619&sr=8-1). There's a bit of psychobabble in it which I could do without, but it gives a very clear idea of what it's like to draw and how to go about it, and it can give people a lot of confidence if that's what they need
Warning - I'm about to be opinionated. Ever since I've been interested in machine embroidery I've been puzzling over one thing, and that is why do so many people spend so much time just digitising bad clip art and nothing else? Go through embroidery websites on the Internet and you see endless versions of awful clip-art stuff - cutesy teddy bears, fake naïve designs, lacklustre florals and badly drawn cartoon "art". Often you see different digitisations of the same mediocre designs on different websites. The people who present these designs are usually experienced digitisers and embroiderers, people with considerable technical competence – but why do they waste it on the terrible clip-art images they use? Of course it's a lot easier to use someone else's artwork simply because it come ready-made, and maybe some sellers would say that people want these designs. But I wonder how many of these designs actually sell. And to say that everybody wants this kind of stuff just isn't true. I know from my experience selling designs that many people are looking for things that are a step beyond teddy bears and Sunbonnet Sue. Maybe some digitisers feel that they're not “arty” enough to produce their own designs, but honestly, all it takes is a bit of imagination and practice