Well, since I’m currently in the process of upgrading my artistic skills, I thought I’d offer you a few short pieces of advice which might be useful if you’re either new to drawing or, like me, are looking to upgrade your artistic talents.
This will be more of a motivational article to point you in the right direction, rather than any particular advice about drawing techniques. But if you want to know how to draw various random things – then check out my “How To Draw” series.
I should also point out that this article is aimed at self-taught artists like myself or people who want to teach themselves. There’s nothing wrong with going to art classes or hiring a teacher if you feel that this would be a better way for you to learn how to draw.
1) Don’t stop learning: I mean it. The fact is that, this happens to everyone at some time or another. You think that you’ve learnt enough, you think that you’re doing fairly well. So, you stop learning. However, after a while, your work will inevitably start to reach a plateau and you’ll probably begin to wonder where the original “spark” of inspiration you had has got to. At it’s worst, when you haven’t been learning for quite a while, drawing might even start to feel more like a chore than the magical and fascinating activity that it should be.
The trick to avoiding this is simple, don’t stop learning. Keep practicing new techniques, keep reading instruction books/websites, keep watching tutorials etc…
2) Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery: If you see a drawing or an illustration which you really like or admire, then a good (and extremely old) learning technique is to try to draw your own copy of it. Don’t trace it (this is cheating and you might not learn that much from it), just get a blank piece of paper, put the original drawing in front of you and try to draw a copy of it. It’s that simple.
Of course, this is a skill which takes a bit of practice to get right. But, if you’re a beginner, it can often be good to draw a simplified copy of whatever you’re copying (eg: leave out things like shading, smaller details etc…) so that you can just learn the essential parts of what you’re drawing. Plus, if you’re new to drawing, this might help you get past “artist’s block” as well as giving you some extra practice too. Once you’ve had a bit of practice, you could also try to copy a few photographs too.
After you’ve copied a few things, try drawing an original drawing which uses some of the same techniques which were used in the drawings you copied. You’d be surprised at how much of an effective learning technique this is when it comes to drawings.
3) Do your research: Yes, you can work some things out on your own, but it can be a lot easier to read some books about how to draw too. The book which I would reccommend the most is one called “Drawing On The Right Side Of The Brain” by Betty Edwards. Although, from what I’ve read so far, this book contains only contains some basic advice about drawing techniques (including an absolutely excellent section on how to draw people in profile), the main part of this book involves teaching you how to “see” the world in the way that artists do.
I seem to have picked up this skill intuitively over the past few years (and I had a few “Well…obviously!” moments when I was reading this book), but if you’re new to drawing, then this is a skill which is worth learning.
It’s fairly hard to describe, but it involves looking at things in purely visual terms (eg: drawing what your eyes actually see rather than what your mind says that you’re seeing). The book explains it a lot better than I probably have done. Still, even for basic drawing advice, “Drawing On The Right Side Of The Brain” is worth buying, borrowing or finding in the library.
There are plenty of other books about drawing too and some are better than others. I haven’t read that many of them (probably only about three or four in total), but it’s worth looking at a few of them if you get the chance. Not to mention that there are loads of free drawing tutorials, references, videos etc… on the internet too.
Yes, some of the perspective/technique-based stuff might be a bit dull at first, but it’s important to learn at least the basics of it if you want to become a good artist.
4) Mess around, experiment and have fun: This isn’t really a piece of advice, but a way of testing whether or not you’re really interested in learning how to draw. Basically, if you’re constantly trying new things, if you start a drawing exercise and end up changing a lot of things just for the hell of it it, if you keep having ideas like “wouldn’t it be cool if I did this…” and if you genuinely enjoy and look forward to drawing things, then this is a very good sign that you’re still interested in learning how to draw.
However, if practicing your drawing feels like a chore or it feels like maths homework probably did when you were at school, then this is probably a sign that you either need to take a break from drawing for a while or practice something which is more fun.
Remember, you’re the one who decided that you wanted to learn how to draw. Unless, for some bizarre reason, someone is forcing you to learn how to draw, then there is no compulsion in it. If it isn’t working out for you, then leave it until you feel more enthusiastic again.
5) You don’t need fancy equipment: Yes, if you’re a professional, then you should probably have a drawing board, a vast array of different pencils, calligraphy pens, fancy erasers etc…. But, you can still draw extremely good drawings with ballpoint pens, inking pens, HB pencils (although I usually use an old 4H pencil I bought about three years ago) and ordinary colouring pencils which you can buy in any stationary shop (although some are better than others).
I’m hardly a professional artist, but most of my drawings are drawn with my old 4H pencil, a generic A4 or A5 sketch pad, a rollerball pen and/or an inking pen and a vast assortment of random colouring pencils. Although I usually digitally edit my drawings after I’ve scanned them, my drawing equipment is probably relatively basic.
Despite what some drawing guides might say, at the end of the day, all you really need is an ordinary pencil, an eraser, some paper and maybe a black pen. Seriously, it’s the ultimate form of low-budget creativity.
6) Practice and upload: Yes, I’ve mentioned this before. But practice is the most important way to learn how to draw. And, yes, you will have to practice a lot. Preferably every day.
Don’t expect to produce absolutely perfect drawings when you start drawing, but don’t let this put you off. Just be proud of the good drawings you produce (and put them to one side) and see the crappier drawings as part of the learning process. Even professional artists had to start somewhere.
One good technique to make sure that you keep practicing is to scan or photograph your drawings and upload them regularly to somewhere like DeviantART (and here’s a shameless plug for my DeviantART gallery – you can usually see my drawings on it for a while before they’re uploaded on here). There’s something satisfying about putting your drawings online and it’s worth it just for the first time that someone “favourites” or “likes” one of your drawings.
Don’t let the fear of negative opinions or comments put you off from uploading your art. If people don’t like your drawing, then they most likely won’t bother looking at it (although even good drawings can occasionally get low numbers of views too). And, if someone is pathetic enough to leave a totally negative troll comment (eg: “this drawing is terrible!” etc…) below your drawing, then either just ignore it, report it, hide the comment or write a (polite) reply.
However, if someone is offering you genuine constructive criticism, even if it’s well-hidden (eg: “the shading in your drawing is completely wrong”, “all your characters look virtually identical”, “there’s nothing happening in this drawing” etc…) then don’t get offended by it.
Instead, thank them for the advice and try to think about why they might have said that. Chances are, this will probably be the next area you should focus on practicing. But, if you think that they’re totally wrong, then thank them for the advice and politely decline to follow it (but explain why).
Plus, I’ll let you in on a secret which will make you feel amazing. After you’ve been practicing for at least a few months – go back and look at the first drawing which you truly felt proud of. Now compare it to the most recent drawing you’ve made which you really felt proud of. The first one will probably look fairly crappy by comparison.
See! In just a few months of regular practice, you’re already a lot better at drawing! Keep up the good work 🙂
Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂 Good luck 🙂