September 30, 2014

How to Practice Drawing

A while back, I thought I’d put down some practical ideas about how to practice to get better as an artist. It’s become one of my most popular articles, but since that time I’ve spent some more time workshopping my own process for self-improvement, and I’ve refined my approach to getting better at drawing

There are two ways that you can approach learning to draw. The first is the objectives-based approach. Most education is structured this way. You proceed through a series of lessons, take a test and get a diploma that certifies that your education is complete. Once done you hang your diploma on the wall like a hunting trophy. With the objectives-based approach, education is something you obtain.

Now let’s get pissed.

The second approach is the practice-based approach. I also like to call it the “monastic” approach because, in contrast to the objectives-based approach, learning is a way of life. Instead of entering a university temporarily, you are entering a monastery for life – you take vows to focus daily on your personal progression, and never stop. Your focus isn’t about getting somewhere, it’s about integrating learning as a way of life.

If you need more convincing, I’d recommend Stephen Pressfield’s The War of Art.

It ain’t pretty, but it’s a living.

I can post tutorials, lessons and theory about how to draw, but real progress starts when you commit to a daily practice.

With that in mind, this is my recommendation for a simple, effective approach to growing daily as an artist:

1. Practice on a consistent schedule. You could practice once a week, or every day, but whatever you do, stay consistent and committed. Choose a time of day where you feel energetic and focused, and always practice at that time.

2. Warm Up. This can be anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes. A warm up should involve practicing simple lines, and basic 2 and 3-dimensional shapes. Focus on control and fluidity.

3. Study. This is where you drill a specific skill. Your studies should be based on life, or the work of another artist. Push outside of you comfort zone. If you’re not a little bit frustrated, you’re not doing it right. 15-30 minutes.

4. Application. Apply the skill to a subject of your own choosing.  This is where you use the newly learned skill in your own imaginative and novel way. This is your opportunity to play and experiment. 15-30 minutes.

It’s a template that can be used for studying any subject while constantly drilling the fundamentals. I’ll elaborate on each point in the future, but for now, set a schedule and start practicing.

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Comments

  1. Christopher Phoenix says:

    Hi, Brandon- thanks for sharing these excellent posts on how to get better at drawing!! I just stumbled onto your blog and you’ve already helped me a lot…

    For quite a while now, I have decided that there really isn’t anything I want more than to learn to draw, but I often became frustrated because it wasn’t clear to me how to structure my study or what to draw. A goal-based curriculum structure sounded good to me, but I am not in the situation to attend an art school. I just wasn’t quite sure how to proceed (and I don’t think I was alone or “how to get better at drawing” would not be such a popular topic at blogs and websites across the artistic net).

    The monastic approach to drawing is the perfect solution. If I want to draw, committing to consistent practice is vital. And the warmup-study-application format appeals to me a lot- before I generally did some studies, maybe some warmup beforehand, but never tried applying the skills I had just practiced to my own subject. And I didn’t have any consistent schedule, so I yeah… I would have made a pretty bad monk. ;-) So I’ve gotta try this!

    Favorite quote: “If you’re not a little bit frustrated, you’re not doing it right.” Great advice- sometimes beginning artists can get so frustrated with bad drawings that they forget that not only is it inevitable that they will make mistakes, but if they aren’t, they aren’t pushing themselves hard enough.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Warming up is the first phase of your art practice. [...]

  2. [...] get better as an artist you need to establish a practice, and do it right. The core of this practice is the Study [...]

  3. […] been following this blog at all, you might know that one of the recurring themes here is practice and process over goals and […]

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