Tips and tricks to improve quickly your drawing skills...
How to draw
… while playing !
How to draw ? You like drawing, but feel your work is missing something ? You feel like you are no longer improving? Every time you pick up a pencil, you undergo a five-year-old-like drawing feeling?
Do not panic, this post is made for you !
No need to lie, there is obviously a genetic ground, and I notice it every day when teaching arts, at the social center of my city. Predispositions are to be felt from early childhood. Some children seem to be born with a pencil between their fingers. Aged 7, some are already able to draw the titanic from imagination with the precision of an architect, when others, aged 10 struggle to make a circle with a reference….
I often draw parallels with sports or music, but, if many people do not like the term “gift”, I believe that we should not be afraid of calling a spade a spade, there are indeed innate skills which people own… or not! (Also read my article “Hop, hop, hop, I’m launching my blog”, on this subject)
Does it mean that if we don’t got it, there is no point in insisting, this would be nonsens ! Just as a gift would be useless (or wasted!) if not practiced, regular work will allow a quick obvious progress. I will give you some (very effective) tips to achieve this.
Not to do:
Tip 1: Do not cheat !
How tempting! Wether you do not have time, fear disappointment or, worst of all, you do not even know where to start, the reason is pointless. It’s there, right there, your little princess’ pack of tracing sheets, the sun-drenched windowpane. whatever! And anyway, this is only helping to trace the outlines, a little assistance, nothing more!
Mistake! Not only is cheating visible (yes, yes! it is, believe me!) but in addition, if you feel you are sparing time, cheating is only leading to the contrary, as your eye will never get the opportunity to exercize. This will significantly slow down your drawing abilities. Yes, it’s through mistakes that people grow, and each correction you impulse will have a positive impact on the next one, and all the following ones!
You can, at the very beginning, or when you need to scale, draw a grid that will help you get the proportions right, which helps for a nice transition to tip #2!
Tip 2: Do not draw the grid too tight
Okay, you’ve cracked, you’re not sure enough of yourself to jump straight into a complex drawing. I forgive you ! But, believe me, more is worse. Not only will you waste a lot of time drawing a super-tight grid, but in addition, will you encounter great difficulty in camouflaging (the lines it will leave and the furrows it will dig into the paper will definitely show through).
1. The first piece of advise I would give you is to choose a hard pencil (H, even 2H or even 4H) and not to press the tip too much on the surface of the sheet.
2. My second advice :limit yourself to a few squares. Divide your sheet into 4 (length and width), and that’s all! This will allow your eye to learn how to find its way, more, this will strengthen its ability to fill in the gaps.
Tip 3: Do not stop too early !
This is the main mistake I see with my students.
You have already spent 2 hours on your drawing, and it seems finished to you? Anyway, you no longer see what’s wrong, or how to fix it. It’s not perfect, but to be honest, you’re still happy with the result!
It’s nice ! After all, that’s what matters, right? This satisfaction when you’re (finally) done? Yes, but…
What if I told you that satisfaction is not enough? What I propose is happiness ! the feeling of accomplishment that any artist deserves. Be happy, astonish yourself, surprise yourself so much that reiterate would be your sole and only desire! Aiming this, are some helping tools:
1. Have you ever thought about comparing the value of your darkest shadows with your source of inspiration? In 95% of amateur work cases, the blacks are grey, or even light- grey, which greatly impoverishes the contrasts!
2. Have you thought about checking all your lights are in place? Believe it or not, 90% of begginning artists don’t even think to identify where the light comes from, at the start of the process!
3. Have you thought about checking the shadows on your objects (own shadows)?
4. Have you thought about their cast shadows (shadows that objects transfer to the floor or walls)?
NB: Finally, the time spent on a drawing is only an indicator, it all depends on the level of realism you are aiming at. Personally, I spend about ten hours on a graphite portrait, I’m not even talking about color portraits, where I often need to double that.
To do :
Tip 4: Train yourself everyday!
We cannot repeat it enough, but your brain is like a muscle. Repetition is the key to success!
Even if you don’t feel like it, try to force yourself to draw everyday.
Better to exercise 5 minutes a day than 3 hours every 6 months!
Tip 5 : don't be afraid to do the same thing 10 times!
Again, let me draw a parallel with sport and music. Do you do abs to build your belly? Maybe strength training to build your biceps, or running to reinforce your heart? Scales for your fingers to gain in agility and flexibility? The list is long to prove the benefits of repetition and training on development and learning,
Making the same drawing over and over again may seem counterproductive at first, but it’s actually one of the secrets that lead to rapid progress. Even alone, we learn from our mistakes. Always doing and redoing the same drawing allows us to anchor successes and correct mistakes, but also to train our eyes to always see more than the previous times.
My advice: Make the same drawing 10 times in a row within one month, and compare the 1st and the last one. Your progress will encourage you to continue.
Tip 6 : Step out of your comfort zone
You love abstract art, you’ve got used to it, and you know what works and what doesn’t. Why switch to subjects that you like less, such as portraiture or landscapes, when this is not your favorite field?
If you read this article, it’s because you know that your room for improvement is vast, and that you want to progress, so, believe me, there is no better way than getting out of your comfort zone! Start with simple subjects, so as not to disgust yourself, and experiment! Learning to make leaves, mountains, water, will require you to try many things that won’t work, and the persistence to find those which will. You will discover by trying several approaches, how to make textures, flat tints, which tools to use for which situation, etc… Getting out of your comfort zone can be scary, but the only risk you run is to miss a drawing that will make you grow!
Tip 7: Stay humble
It may seem contradictory, but getting out of your comfort zone does not necessarily mean tackling a subject that is too complex.
So, yes, to progress, you will have to tackle challenging subjects, but it’s all about keeping your feet on the ground, at the risk of getting sick of yourself and pushing yourself to procrastinate. Start with simple subjects, even if they seem to you, at first, above your abilities, but do not launch yourself immediately into a copy of The Mona Lisa
Tip 8: Study your subject instead of jumping in headlong
This is an error that I frequently encounter with my students. Whether you draw from imagination, on the spot, or from a photo, think before you start. Here are some essential questions, to help you ask yourself before putting down your pencil or brush:
1. Where does the light come from?
Very important not to generate inconsistencies, you can choose to accentuate it, give it a warmer, colder hue, etc… but the most important thing is that it remains consistent.
2. Is the light source multiple?
Yes, this is the most common trap. In addition to natural sunlight, there may also be mone than one sources of artificial light. Again, knowing how to identify them will allow you to stay coherent and render your subject as well as possible, especially if you draw from imagination.
3. How many values will I return (see my article on values)?
THe respect of values is one of the fundamental keys to a successful drawing. Besides whites and blacks (if you draw in pencil,) how many values of gray do you want to represent? (the more values you have, the more photorealistic your drawing will be).
4. Is the brightest light white?
Here again, a trap into which all amateurs fall. No, the white of the eyes is not white. The shadows that fall on the white of the eye allow it to return its 3D. Rendering these light shadows is what will give it a rounded visual effect. The contrast between the darker value of the iris and the white of the eye will give the viewer the impression that it is white. Besides, if I hadn’t told you, would you have noticed that it isn’t? Finally, only light can be white
5. Are all the items I see useful? How to simplify my scene?
A word that I often use with my students: simplify! It is very important to know in advance if you are going to keep all the elements of your scene. In reality, if you are an amateur photographer, you will have already noticed that there is always something that disturbs the reading of a scene. Electric cables, wires, people at the wrong place at the wrong time, vehicle parked in the street, etc… In order not to disturb the reading, I strongly recommand you to think about what is absolutely essential. Everything else must be removed.
To summup, I often hear that it takes more than 10,000 hours of work to become an expert in a field. This is not a legend. When you purchase an artist artwork, not only are you buying a painting on which he/she has spent a few hours, but you are also investing in a compendium of a lifetime of experience. These few tips are not magic and will not allow you to become the Leonardo da Vinci of modern times in a few days, but they will definitely help you progress fast enough for you to be proud of what you draw.
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