Ways to improve your drawing skills

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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

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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.

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Click here to look at some of my other recent artworks!

 

Here are some things you can try to keep practising:

 

Sketchbooks

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!


 

Use references

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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

life drawing image

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

drawing upside down image

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.

 

Conclusion

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! Feel free to ask me a question or leave a comment below.

 

 

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18 Responses

  1. These are amazing tips!
    Although I wouldn’t consider myself an artist I tend to doodle at work. It isn’t anything special, but it does help pass time.
    At least I now have ideas of being more creative, thanks to you. I want to look into getting a good sketchbook. What would you recommend that you could pack around in your pocket maybe?
    Thanks for all your help and I really enjoyed your article!
    Timm

    1. Hi Timm! Thankyou! Doodling can be a form of relaxation too! Glad to hear that you are trying to be more creative.ย 

      Personally I like the Moleskine sketchbooks, the pages are light cream in colour and i really like the feel of the sketchbook. However it may be abit pricey. I also like Ryman sketchbooks. They are cheaper than moleskine. I think the smallest size they have is A5.

      Hope this helps!

  2. Hello MaryLi,

    I have long admired those able to draw well and I can confirm that I am not a very patient person and have often become very frustrated with my own inability to draw properly.

    Do you have any suggestions for books that one can purchase to help with this skill? There are many books available but it would be great to hear a suggestion from someone who has experience with this subject.

    Thanks so much for assistance.

    Rich

    1. Hi Rich, Unfortunately I don’t have any books around me to recommend. But if you’re interested in online courses, you may want to try this one out on Udemy. Hope it helps ๐Ÿ™‚ 

  3. What makes this article stand out, to beginner artists like myself, is the fact that you’ve opted to include examples of your own art journey – a very brave thing to do, but very effective at the same time! 

    Being able to see how a better artist than oneself went from basic facial features to the excellent examples you show now is very inspiring. Do you normally concentrate on facial drawings?

  4. Hello Mary Li and thank you for this insightful and helpful article on how to improve our drawing skills!

    Unfortunately, in my country (Jordan), we don’t tend to give arts in general any significance whether at school or as a profession, which is the main reason we don’t unleash or discover our potential in such fields.

    I tried a few years ago to learn drawing through attending a beginners course and I loved it. But the problem is that I didn’t practise after the course had ended and I almost forgot the basics I learned. I should’ve committed myself to some kind of challenge like the ones you mentioned here. And I encourage anyone reading this to do so!

    But now, in order to remember the basic skills, I need to attend a good training but my schedule is almost filled and I don’t have many options in my town anyway. Is there a solid training course that I can attend online and save the time and effort on myself? I hope you mention a good recommendation.

    Thank you in advance!

    Amjad 

    1. Thankyou for the comment! I usually watch youTube videos, watch Udemy courses and pledge to artists that I like on Patreon to learn how their artwork process. Right now there’s a black friday sale on Udemy and I’d recommend this course for learning the basics. Once you’re more advanced, I’d suggest having a look at Schoolism. Hope you’ll like them ๐Ÿ™‚ 

  5. Great article messaging that it’s possible to learn to draw. How I wish, I could do it. If I draw together with my 4 old one, it’s sometimes hard to tell, who drew what? Seriously, although I’m a creative person and heavily into music and singing, drawing is something I would really love to do better, but didn’t make any improvement over the years. As I keep praying that everyone can learn to sing, I assume it also must be true for drawing. Thanks for the useful tips!   

    1. Thanks for the comment! I really enjoy singing but I’m not very good at it. I hope you’ll try out the tips and improve overtime ๐Ÿ™‚ 

  6. If I will define myself, I would be one of those listed as “frustrated artist” ๐Ÿ™‚ 

    It is inspiring to read those words:  “Not every artist is talented,” “. . . with proper guidance and determination, anyone can become good at drawing, with or without talent.” and “Practice does not make perfect, practice makes permanent.”

    I will always remember your words.  It brings fire to my spirit to try and try until I achieve my goal to be an “artist on my own.”  

    Thanks for sharing your experience and for being straightforward.  

    Wishing you all the best!

  7. Always love your work Mary. I always come back to see what great article you’ve created. My dad is a great artist and he has taught me most of the things I know, however, there are a lot I still need to learn. I have never thought about drawing things from real life, but it makes sense how much practice you can gain from doing it, and of course the more practice you put in the better you get! I’ll be implementing this step into my training asap. Thanks a lot

  8. Hi Mary Li, I found your article about ways to improve drawing skills very interesting. You know, I`m the one of those people who for the whole life think that they just don`t have a talent for drawing ๐Ÿ˜‰ and I really didn`t know there are such ways to improve it. Probably I`ll need this when I`ll have children and I`ll need to draw something with or for them. Anyway, you showed us very nice tips to improve drawing, thanks for sharing with us!

  9. Thanks for these excellent pieces of advice! I appreciate the way you stress daily working on drawing and not losing contact with it for too long a period. This wise advice could be used in many areas of endeavor, including drawing. With regards to “practice makes permanent,” I’d never heard that expression before, but it makes perfect sense to me, We have to be careful not to internalize bad habits and make them commonplace. In general, I find the suggested practices you share as regards drawing naturally applicable to life in general, and can resonate with the non-artist as well as the individual deeply immersed in artistic pursuits. Great post!

    Thanks again,

    Norman

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