A common question that many artists may get is: “How can I improve on my art?” “What can I do to get better?” “What demon do I need to sell my soul to, to draw like you?”
This question comes to us in many forms, but ultimately our response is the same:
Yes, the dreadful “P” word. How dare I ask you to sit still, hunched over your sketchbooks like a gargoyle, scribbling away into the morning with no obvious signs of improvement. Replacing your precious hours on social media and ignoring the memes only to let your life dwindle away like the led on your pencil. All just to draw the same eyeball for the 4,367th time.
Well… what do you think artists do?
Today I write to you to inform you about this great alternative to sacrificing your soul for artistic skills.
Practicing: “To perform (an activity) or exercise (a skill) repeatedly or regularly in order to improve or maintain one’s proficiency.” -The Dictionary
It’s pretty self-explanatory. Practice every day as much as you can. Repeat, fail and learn. Repeat.
Let’s start with the first step: “Failure”
As much as no one would like to admit it; “failure” (the thing we’re taught to avoid) is essential.
Here’s the basic break down.
You will fail → You will know why you failed → you will practice what you failed in and slowly grow.
You will fail → You don’t know why → you will ask someone “hey does this look right” → They will point out why it looks wrong (if they’re a good someone) → you will practice what you failed in and slowly grow.
It will be hard to set aside contempt for those who point out your failures. You might get criticism you didn’t ask for. I don’t really have any advice for this feeling. Just swallow your pride if your passion is more important to you. Or do what I do. Be angry and rant how rude that person was. Then when you are alone, think about what they said and reluctantly try to be better at what they say you’re bad at.
Moving on. LEARNING.
Congratulations! You’re bad at something. Time to learn why.
For art, the easiest way to learn is… DO IT AGAIN. Did you try to draw a hand and now it looks like a potato with Cheetos shoved into it? GREAT! It should be easy to see what you did wrong.
Here are the steps:
Look at your art → Look at your reference (if you have one) → repeat till you see the errors of your ways.
Didn’t have a reference?
Get a reference. Take a picture of your hand, find a reference online or borrow a friend.
References are essential to learning things in art. If you try to learn from memory you’re going to have a harder time. Go ahead and give it a shot. Try to draw something, like a building or a vehicle. Without a reference.
Then get a reference and draw what you see in the reference.
See? See the details your mind didn’t have. All the information you missed.
Unless you have a photographic memory, you should have had something like this:
Our minds are not built to take in all information around us. We forget details because they’re not important.
When I try to imagine the last place I visited many things are just a blur of color because I didn’t have time to take a mental note of EVERYTHING. I don’t remember the patterns on the floor. I don’t remember what the walls even looked like. I sure as hell don’t remember the faces of strangers around me.
If I wanted to draw from memory, I could probably draw the layout of the room. And the general areas of where things could of been located. But the details on the chairs and writings on flyers on the wall? Not a chance. If I want to be precise in the detailing of people/places/things. I would require a camera to capture a reference with. Or a lot of exposure to the thing I want to draw.
This applies to any field. When you learn math, you’ll mess up and they will tell you the answer. Then you can compare with the answer and move closer to solving it on your own. We’re mimicking. Watch how someone else does it. Mimic until you get there.
Except in this case we’re mimicking life.
Then we repeat.
Now we should talk about how to effectively practice.
Step one: Ask yourself, what is your motivation. Why are you drawing?
Once you know the true answer, it should help you push yourself to keep drawing.
Step two: Set up a good environment to practice.
When you practice you are essentially studying, so you should treat it as such. The checklist below will sound like a classic classroom setting.
-Limit your distractions. Put away your phone, close your youtube and Netflix tabs, eliminate anything that takes your attention away easily.
-Find a place you won’t be disturbed. Other people are equally a distraction. If you ever have been in an art class you will recall that people were quiet. And no one was ever allowed to barge in on a class. (at least for me)
-Music or fidget devices. Might seem strange to introduce this. But if you ever find yourself getting restless sitting in silence. These could help keep your brain become active in a small enough way that it won’t pull you from the main objective.
-Breaks. There are two reasons to take breaks. First of all, you will need to rest your hand so it doesn’t tire out. The other is that people do get bored just sitting around for hours on end. Take breaks as needed.
-Remain stubborn and push through. It’s common for people to get things set up to study, but when they sit down they can’t seem to get started. Then they just stare blankly at that paper wondering where to begin. Wondering what they did in life to get them here in the first place… Or they might start, then stop and have a hard time continuing. Be stubborn and keep moving.
Now that you know the setting to sit in, let us talk about supplies.
It’s common for artists to be asked, “ What kind of pencil/pen/brush do you use.” And I’m going to be honest with you.
Going out to buy what they use, isn’t going to turn you into a wizard.
Artist’s grow their skill and as they do, they discover the tools that fit their preferences best. Line artists will get ink and quills, watercolor artists will get brushes and paints along with the special paper. Some people stick to purely charcoal. It goes on. But if you are just now starting out. A simple paper and pencil will be enough. Trust me, a lot of your first drawings will be thrown away in the future.
However, let’s say you do want to get yourself that special pen and ink. Because it makes you feel more confident in yourself if you have good tools.
Then, by all means, treat yourself.
Lastly, where should you start?
If you are a beginner, I suggest you start with drawing and shading simple shapes. Along with learning pencil control and the color wheel. It’s all very basic.
If you already started, then I suggest you start to work on things you know you’re bad at.
Thanks for reading my first terrible blog post. Bye.