Are You Trying To Improve Your Drawing The Right Way? What Can You Do To Get There Faster & With More Certainty?
Getting better at drawing is a goal many of us strive to do.
The thing is, there are better ways to become better at art than others. Nothing is worse than spending a lot of time practicing only to see a little improvement, and in some cases, no improvement at all.
Many of these advices I gave here are ones you probably heard many times, but I hope I added a new dimension to them, in a way that’s hopefully more practical. I also hope I could help you find a new way to look at drawing.
There are many of the ways to train yourself to draw better in this post. You probably don’t need to apply every single one of them to continue improving your drawing skills. One or two may be all you need to get going. But it’s nice to know about them in case you ever needed them.
Note:- In this post, you may notice I use the human body as an example a lot, since it’s a common thing to draw, and it makes some of my points easier to understand. That doesn’t mean the tips discussed here doesn’t apply to other things, like drawing animals, clothes, or anything you want to draw.
Now let’s get started.
Quickly go to:-
- Focus On One Things At A Time
- Get The Basics Right, And Build A Foundation On Them
- Have The Right Balance Between Theory & Practice
- Draw A Lot
- Beware Of Generic Advice
- Following Advice Is Hard
- Use A Reference, Don’t Draw From Your Head
- Perseverance Is Also Key. Don’t Quit When Your Drawing Is Bad. Keep At It.
- Practicing Can Be Boring
- How About Talent?
- And Finally
- See Also
I made this the first tip on purpose. It’s the tip I wish someone told me back when I used to work hard on improving my own drawing.
One common mistakes in practicing drawing is copying one drawing after another. This is not exactly wrong, as it produces some really good results at first. But it makes it harder to improve on the areas you’re weak at.
Practicing that way is totally fine if you’re drawing for fun, or if you’re just started out, where keeping at it is your main goal.
There are two ways to focus on one things at a time. Drawing involves many aspects, like perspective, proportion, shading, anatomy, composition & more. You need to get better at each of them by focusing on them one by one. That’s why I have a series about proportions by the time of me writing this post, as it’s one of the foundations you need to master in order to become a great artist. The same way, you need to practice the other aspects of art, and become good at them one by one. It’s much easier to get result in each of these aspects that way, and to deal with the frustrations related to each of them on their own. You also get a sense of accomplishment faster every time you achieve results that way.
This is one of the reasons I am started all sorts of series that teach you about drawing in this blog. Here are the series I have so far, where I try to show you the best way to practice each of them:-
The other way of practicing is to practice drawing certain stuff. You can set aside some time to draw hair, or the human hand, or cats, or anything you want to get better at. Just like you do with practicing by doing entire drawings, but with focusing on the part you want to be good at. I spend a lot of time drawing nothing but hands once, as that’s one area that I really sucked at. It helped me draw them better. I think doing it again can make me even better at them. Practicing this way should only comes second after you study the fundamentals one by one.
Speaking of drawing hands. Many artists suck at drawing them mainly because their proportions measuring skills are bad, or their understanding of their anatomy is not good enough to help with that. Their issue could also be related to their ability to draw intricate lines. It could be all of these.
Focusing on one thing at a time goes as far as you want it to go. Just like you can spend the time practicing drawing the hand, you can laser-focus on the palm or individual fingers as well. The same goes for art concepts, you can dedicate some time to study perspective, and then dedicate to focus on two-points perspective, for example.
Once you’re back to drawing full artworks, you will notice the improvement, related to what you learned right way. If you learned perspective, you are one step closer to drawing the human figure in perspective. Studying proportions will help you draw your figures consistently. The more you study, the more elaborate you will be able to understand artworks made by other artists.
I could talk non-stop about all that, and still not being done yet. :)
I know you probably heard this tip tons of times. Enough for it to lose its meaning, but I hope I manage to make this advise make more sense to you.
This advice is related to the previous one (focus on one thing at a time). The point is, rather than practicing the each aspect of drawing randomly, you start from the very bottom, and create a strong foundation that will serve you well in the future.
Many of us start drawing wanting to draw human faces or do subtle shading, which are all lovely aspects of drawing, and we often did just that. We are not to blame, since it makes us feel like we are closer to achieving our goals as artists.
The thing is, doing that without having a strong foundation can impede your progress at times point. So going back to the basics and mastering the foundation is what should be done.
By foundation, I am mostly talking about basic stuff, like proportions perspective. But in many case, going down to the more basics things like drawing circles, square is the way to go. Being able to draw square well is good for measuring vertical & horizontal proportions, for example. If you draw traditionally, then understanding pencil grades is one thing you could take a look at. My point is, do you think an artist who can’t draw a square or a circle would be able to draw more intricate stuff? Maybe, but it can be harder.
This tip may sound obvious, but it’s an area many artists don’t realize. I failed at it miserably for a long time myself, as I focused on the practical side a bit too much.
On one hand, having too much drawing theory may give you a good idea about each aspect of drawing, but you won’t fully understand or even be able to apply that until you did your homework by both practicing & observing what you learned. You may not even know where to start practicing in the first place.
On the other hand, knowing less theory could mean you are drawing without a basic understanding of art concepts. While becoming good at drawing without studying theory is possible, it can take much longer doing things that way. The concepts may not organized in your head, and you may have gaps here & there.
This topic is discussed in generic terms in the following Actualized.org video, many of what Leo says here apply to drawing. The video is a bit long, but it’s worth it:-
Sometimes your issue can be solved by studying something not directly related to what you’re drawing. For example, I mentioned in my Introduction To Proportions post that improving your proportions can help you draw better hands. You wouldn’t know that if you didn’t know the theatrical part about that.
Here’s another example, perspective can also help you drawing the hand, as well as any other part of the human figure from any angle. Studying perspective can probably improve your hands more than if practicing drawing the hand on its own. It will add to the arsenal of drawing skills that you could use to draw almost anything.
So my point is:- Many things about drawing & other forms of art are very intuitive. So intuitive that you can come up with them on your own, but theory makes everything more organized in your mind in a way that helps you get better much faster.
Spend a lot of time drawing. Do it while keeping everything I said above in mind. Sometimes you need to practice a certain concept a lot before it sticks, that particularly goes for the things that requires memorization and understanding, like anatomy. The more you challenge yourself and draw the things or parts you are not good at, the better you could become.
As I mentioned earlier, it’s okay to create full-fledged drawings, as long as you’re sitting aside the time to learn the concepts you ought to do.
It’s very common to ask for advice about drawing, and ends up with some that are too generic or theoretical. I have no doubt about the good intention behind these advises, and that they are genuinely meant to help you. The issue with such advice is that they can leave you confused about what to do with them. In some cases, they don’t give you any direction to follow. You could go around trying to apply the advice, but you’re as clueless as you are about things as you were before you got the advise.
One of these advice is to telling you to “think in 3D”, which is something you got to do to become a good artist. The thing is, thinking in 3D requires doing many other things to get there, including training your eye & muscle memory, studying perspective & some shading. So you are left with a good goal, but without any mean to achieve it.
Seeking advice from multiple people can simple land you with a good advice that’s easy to follow, asking the same person who gave you a generic advice to elaborate can make that much easier too. Just remember, never have it enough with generic lines, keep asking for more.
To continue talking about advice. I am aware I keep telling you a lot of advices in this blog. I always keep on telling you to do this & do that. That some of these stuff are not that easy to follow.
Like, if you like to draw a certain kind of things, or you have a certain style you enjoy drawing, and then I come & told you to study anatomy. Even if you’re convinced that my advice is correct, it can be hard to get yourself to do it. Both from discipline & time management point-of-view.
A good way to hopefully deal with this issue is to do it a little at first, then gradually increase the time you dedicate to your specialized practices. That’s exactly how I got myself to draw everyday long ago.
Remember to keep drawing what you like too. Many times people told me to practice anatomy, I somehow thought it meant I have to stop drawing Anime altogether, and do nothing but anatomy, which was appalling to me to be quite honest. Nothing was wrong with doing both, one to help me improve, and one to have my fun drawing time. ^^
I have fallen into this trap many times, where I simply had a pose in my head, and then I tried to draw it, only to end up with a funny-looking figure. One with many mistakes, and one people noticed how badly-made it was very easily. I was told to use a reference to avoid that issue in the future.
By not using reference, you not only create a drawing that looks wrong, but you never end up learning the right way to draw what you had in mind. The moment you start using one, you will notice an immediate improvement on the quality of your poses. Your drawing will look less stiff. I remember getting very positive comment when I first used a reference on one of my artworks. It encouraged me to do so as much as I can, and sometimes every single time.
Using a reference is also good for other stuff than the human body, like clothes. You can make your clothes designs look better by looking at various designs made by others, either looking for them online or in catalogs, or simply whenever you see clothes in real life, as you may remember some of the good ones you see. Taking pictures whenever possible is a good idea to preserves the clothes that really caught your attention.
Now you may be asking, “but Monia, that way, I won’t be able to draw from imagination if I simply used a help from another source”. I don’t claim I am the best one to talk about this issue, as I am yet able to draw everything that way. But the thing is, learning how to draw properly, and training you muscle memories to draw from imagination are totally different things, and they can be done separately. When you draw a poses you’re not familiar with without a reference, you’re pretty much guessing. It’s totally different if you already know how the pose looks like, or you have built an understanding of the human body enough to be able to draw such poses from your mind. In other words, if your poses suck, then your immediate goal should be to improve that, and using a reference is one great way to go about it. After that, you can learn to draw from imagination to your heart content. ^^
You may think that using a reference makes you a cheater, or worse yet, an art thief. That’s a huge topic on its own. The short answer is no, you’re not necessarily doing a bad thing by using a reference. If you want to know more about that, I discussed this topic in detail in the following post:-
This is another issue I personally faced a lot. I am sure there are times you didn’t use a reference not because of the lack of awareness about its importance, but because of the lack of a suitable reference picture. This can be a tricky issue to solve, but I have found some solutions for it over the years.
One way to solve it is to build a huge collection of pictures, so that you end up with at least most of the poses and stuff you may ever need are under your hand. The more the collection is organized, the better.
If the pose you want to draw is common, then using Google Images will get you a lot of examples for you to use, which will fill some gaps for you there.
Another way to go about this is to only draw stuff you have reference of, this can be limiting, but it has the advantage of never being lost without a reference.
Over the longer term. Building an understanding on how different poses work can make things much easier for you. Practicing various poses, and particularly the tricky ones, will allow you to draw other poses without having any reference, or with a reference that doesn’t look exactly the same as the post you want to draw.
Perseverance Is Also Key. Don’t Quit When Your Drawing Is Bad. Keep At It.
Your journey to become a good artist is unlikely going to be a smooth sail all the way. Even when you apply the tips here, and even when you have help from others. You are going to face one or more roadblock along the way. That’s where perseverance comes into play. And where you have to keep at trying to become better at the areas you lack.
Bear in mind that keeping at it could mean studying the aspect you’re trying to improve at, be it proportions, shading or any other aspect you think you’re not good at. If you worked yourself hard for a while, it’s totally okay to take a rest, as long as you go back to improving yourself soon after.
Practicing right is a key. I have met many people who said they never had the “talent” that I do. The thing is, I don’t think I have a talent myself. I sucked at drawing in the past, and I got better by working on myself, I still have a long way to do, but I hope I am on the right track. I wish the same for you too.
Even the artists who are very good now sucked in the past. It’s sad we never saw their improvement & the amount of hard work they put at it, or else it would have made clear it’s possible to become like that
I wish I had some of my much older drawings. I know they are in a storage closet somewhere in my home, waiting to be discovered. They would have made some good examples of how I was able to improve over time.
There are many times your art skills are actually improving, but you are yet to notice it. That’s mainly because the process that leads to improving requires you to suck at it first, which feels bad. In such case, keeping it at is the way to go, until you actually notice the improvement.
At the end, drawing is a complex skill, it’s not that simple of a skill. It takes quite dedication to learn everything about it once by one. I think it’s equivalent to learning 2 languages, or one hard language, which is another thing that requires perseverance.
Many start drawing for the fun of it, then keep drawing what’s fun for them, you can keep in improving that way until you hit a wall, where it’s much harder to improve. If your goal is still to improve, then it’s totally fine to stay that way.
But if you want to improve, you need to make some time to focus on the parts where you are weak at. That can be boring, but it’s a great way to actually improve.
The good part is, doing the boring work is only hard at the beginning, once you do it once & see improvement, you will want to do it again & again. I mean, who wouldn’t love to see tactile improvement in their skills, and relatively fast too.
This is a topic on its own, one I already wrote a separate post about it, since it’s the only reason some artists are never improving that much. You can refer to my post right here:-
Talent is a topic I have strong opinion about. So I apologize if you disagree with me here, as I believe that anyone can learn drawing if they really want to. Giving that they’re willing to do what’s necessary for that.
I am aware there are factors that makes some things easier to some people than other. Some people have better observation skills, better eye-hand coordination, or just have steady hands, which gives them some sort of edge, and makes them improve faster than you. If we are to call these factors talent, then yes. But this doesn’t change my main point here:- You can learn drawing and be good at it if you want to. In the worst case, you may just need to work more than those so-called talented people. Despite how “inferior” you probably seem to those people, you may have your own advantage you could use, like being better at memorizing patterns, to give an example.
Talent doesn’t exist in the magical way people keep referring to it.
There are many stories of people who worked hard and achieved it, despite appearing to never being able to. One of the many great examples of that is Demosthenes.
Demosthenes was a Greek statesman & orator of ancient Athens, he had a speech impediment. Despite that, he practiced by the seashore, and in an underground room he constructed, and with peddles on his mouth. All to improve his speeches, and he entered history that way.
Giving its importance, I wrote twice about talent in this blog, my opinions in these posts may be slightly different, since I did them long ago, but the point remains the same:-
- Is drawing natural talent or skill learned by practice ・The Myth of talent in art
- A Sweet Word About Talent and how much talent is overrated ~
Giving how drawing multiple skills, and the use of memory, eyes, hand, drawing tools, and many other things. And giving how you’re required to be good at many things in order to draw effectively at times. It’s not a secret that improving your drawing skills can get harder for some artists. Some artists get stuck at the very beginning, while some others see improvement for some time, only to get stuck later on for some reason.
As I mentioned earlier, the tricky thing is, there are times when you don’t realize you’re actually improving. Which is one of the reason I am telling you to “keep at it” here. As Leo from Actualized.org said (not in the same exact words):- Being confused about something if part of the learning process, but it’s also the part that makes us stay away from it at times. Because as humans, we crave certainty.
One good way to understand drawing is the book “Drawing From The Right Side Of The Brain” (reviewed here). That book summarizes a lot of the issue artists face, and the ones that prevent many people from becoming good at drawing.
I hope you found this post useful, I tried my best to include as much of useful advice in it as possible. If there’s anything you would like me to add, tell me & I will see it I can do that. :)
- My Drawing And Digital Art Books
- Getting started with Wacom graphics tablet and Digital Painting With Photoshop: Learn Digital Art & Paintings On Good Fundamentals
- My story with drawing, And how I improved my drawing within 3 years
- My drawing schedule, how I got myself to draw regularly, every single day
- Is Practicing Drawing Supposed To Be Boring? What to do about it?