People draw for different reasons, whether it’s for work, for relaxation, a hobby etc, drawing better is always a goal that artists try to achieve. A lot of people blame their lack of drawing skills on a lack of talent. Not every artist is talented. I believe that with proper guidance and determination, anyone can become good at drawing, with or without talent.
In this post, I will talk about some things you can do to improve your general drawing skills.
Practice + patience
Every artist starts off as a beginner. It is only through years of practice and learning that they were able to improve and create stunning artworks. A lot of people may give up after a few months because they feel like they are not improving and that they are not talented. Getting better at drawing is a very long process, it needs constant practise, perseverance, passion and lots and lots of patience.
Here are some of my portrait drawings throughout my learning years. As you can see, it took me years to get to where I am now and I am still pretty far from my goals. Note the portrait above the ‘now’ is done in Photoshop.
Click here to look at some of my other recent artworks!
Here are some things you can try to keep practising:
Keep a sketchbook and aim to fill all the pages up. It doesn’t have to be nice and detailed drawings in there. You can draw quick sketches, random doodles. The point is to draw whenever you can and not lose touch with drawing for too long. This will help you start a habit of drawing every day or almost every day.
I have many sketchbooks filled with doodles, sketches, and sometimes detailed work. I kept them in a box and every now and then I would look through my old sketchbooks and see my improvements throughout the years. It is an encouraging feeling and motivates me to persevere and keep learning and improving.
Join an art challenge
There are many art challenges out there. The famous one among artists is a monthly challenge where you have to draw something of a certain theme every day for a month. Some examples are:
- Inktober: draw a drawing with only ink/lines every day in October
- Mermay: draw a mermaid every day in May
- Junicorn: draw a unicorn every day in June
There are many other different challenges, just a simple google search and you can find them.
Doing monthly challenges and posting on social media for other artists who are also doing the challenge to see can give you the motivation to draw every day and admire each others’ artwork. You may even find some art friends! And if you don’t like the themes you’ve found, you can always come up with your own!
Practice does not make perfect, practice makes permanent. If you keep practising drawing your subjects wrong, you will have a hard time improving. This is where references come in. With proper references and constant practice, you will be able to improve at a much faster speed.
When you are trying to learn how to draw something, you should first gather some references of the object. The references can be the object at different angles, under different lightings etc. These will allow you to study the object in detail. For example, the objects proportions, transparency, surface texture, how it reflects light, how it changes at different positions etc. When you have a good understanding of the object you are trying to draw, you will understand why you are drawing what you are drawing, why did you draw that line the way you drew it. This will also horn your observation skills.
As you practice more and increase your understanding of the object, you will be able to draw it from imagination too.
Drawing from life
Cameras work differently from human eyes. Photographs may flatten out certain shapes, forms and perspective out.
Drawing from life gives you a better sense of dimensionality. It also lets you see the true colour of objects as colours on photographs may have been manipulated and inaccurate.
If you are not sure where to start, you can start by drawing things around you. Water bottle, pencils, bookshelves, dining table, curtains, anything! Start from simple objects with simple shapes, then on to more complex objects.
You can also try attending some life drawing sessions near you. The popular ones are where you are given a nude/ half nude model. The first half of the sessions you will be given quick poses, varying from a few seconds to a few minutes. This is to let you warm up and since you won’t have time to do a detailed drawing, the aim is to quickly get the main gesture of the pose down. Then, you will be given longer poses varying from 30minutes to an hour or more to work on where you will be able to take your time and work on the details.
Drawing from life can also improve your observation skills.
Draw upside down
Yes, I definitely mean hanging yourself upside down from a ceiling and try to draw like that. (No please don’t do that)
This may seem like an odd one if this is the first time you are seeing this. When we are trying to draw something precisely, like drawing from a photo or a portrait, it is easy to start drawing what we think we see and not what we actually see. We may have some bad drawing habits that sneak in while we are drawing. For example, people who are used to drawing anime characters with huge eyes and unrealistic face and body proportions may have a difficult time adapting to the actual human proportions of the face and body. I am one of them, I used to draw a lot of anime faces and when I started learning portraiture, my biggest problem was drawing the eyes too big. It took me a while to adjust to the human face proportions and sometimes I still let my bad habits take over.
Turing your drawing surface and references upside down or sideways forces us to draw what we see. It gives us a fresh look at our drawing and in a way stops our bad habits from sipping in. When we draw what we see, we look at the shapes, lines, negative spaces etc rather than an eye or a nose. This way our drawings can be more accurate.
These are just some way to improve your general drawing skills. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this post and try out these tips. Let me know if they worked for you!
You may also be interested in:
- Colour properties – The basic terms
- Colour wheel basics
- RGB verses CMYK – Colour theory
- Light and shadows – Basic terms
- Fundamentals of art