Everyone needs a hobby. For some of us creating vibrant illustrations is the hobby of choice. It’s a great creative outlet and a way to put your vivid ideas on paper. It’s a relaxing pastime that can help relieve stress and could lead to creative opportunities down the road. That said, it can be a very personal and sometimes intimidating form of expression. You may feel your work isn’t good enough or that you are simply too old to start.
I want to tell you that this simply isn’t the case. There has never been a better time to start drawing! The internet is full of resources to use to improve your skills and a variety of means to share your work. I’d like to share some of my own thoughts on the matter. I’ve only started drawing recently but I’ve found it to be an excellent creative outlet and a great means to relax.
I’m not claiming to be great at art. I have a significant amount of growth ahead of me and plenty of my peers — many much younger — are far more skilled than I am at this point. That said, I’m enjoying what I’m doing and finding a lot of rewards in creating new art.
So, let’s start with some more difficult points:
– You may never be a rock star artist. If you are dreaming of being a big celebrity artist, that dream may never come to fruition. That does not make your work any less valuable.
– Your skill may never match your vision. You may find yourself with a great idea in your head but never quite be able to get that vision to manifest.
So with that out of the way, here are some tips on improving your skills!
Practice Every Day
The first point is to practice every day. You’ve probably heard this one already but it is very much true. The more you practice, the better you get. Draw something — anything — every single day. Take even 20 minutes to produce a sketch you like. Cramming a week’s worth of practice into a single day won’t help.
There are plenty of artists that show their annual progress and it’s always interesting to see how much an artist can grow by practicing every day. If you are older constant everyday practice can help make up for some lost time.
Here’s an example of a character I drew in June 2016 and again just last week:
Draw from life. Find models to use as reference material. Study hands and feet regularly. Learn about perspective. There are plenty of resources online that can help you study and there are a number of websites that can provide you with various images to draw from as practice. The more you practice drawing from life, the better your art will be. The more you study, the more you’ll learn.
One such website I’ve used presents you with reference figures. You can change how long the figure will be shown – from a few seconds if you want to practice just quickly capturing movement or the essence of a figure or much longer if you want to spend time drawing the figure in full.
Don’t be afraid to try different styles, tools or mediums. Experiment with different techniques. Find a variety of artists you like and try to replicate their style. In the end, you may find something that is a blend of different influences but at the end of the day entirely your own.
I’ve read Penny-Arcade for years and I can think of no finer example of both practice and experimentation yielding incredible results. Gabe has constantly experimented with his style — his lines, his means of coloring and shading — and with each series of experiments his overall style and skill has improved by leaps and bounds.
Draw What You Find Difficult
Hate drawing hands and feet? Draw them! Not a fan of perspective? Find out how to do it and draw it. Foreshortening a struggle? Try some dynamic action poses. The more you work on the weaknesses the more quickly you’ll be able to overcome them.
Learn From Your Peers and Share Your Art
Nothing is more valuable than growing a network of peers and it has never been easier than it is today to connect with others. Twitter, Deviant Art, Tumblr and various forums and websites have made it incredibly easy to find other artists and share with them. Art streams broadcast via YouTube, Discord and Twitch makes it easier to see how other artists work. Watch speed paints and catch tutorials and learn from what others have done. If you have made connections with other artists, don’t be afraid to ask for tips and feedback on your work.
Don’t Downplay the Impact of Your Work (More Cake!)
It can be very easy to compare your work with others and feel inadequate. You may look at other works and think “Why bother? There’s so much better art out there.” While it is easier to take on those feelings as a creator, as a consumer it’s more often the case that “more is better”. A wonderful analogy would be cake. Sure, your cake may not be frosted as well as someone else’s but to the person eating the cake they may simply be happy to have another piece.
You’d be surprised how much people love more fan art of their favorite franchises.
Have a project
The easiest way to draw every day is to have a reason to do so. Do a daily art challenge. Start a project (maybe a comic strip?). Do commissions. Having something you have to do can keep you focused and keep you to a schedule. Without a goal in mind, it can be easy for other things to take over your drawing time.
Cut back on time wasters
And that brings me to my last point. Cut back on your time wasters. While it is important to find time to relax it can be very easy to allow TV, video games and web browsing (as examples) to consume all of your free time. Find out what activities are really time wasters for you and cut back on them or cut them out entirely.
At the end of the day, draw! Create! DO! You’ll never know how good you can get unless you start. You may never be the next up and coming DC or Marvel artist, but you may find things you love doing and fans who love your work.
And if you don’t think your skills are good enough you may be surprised at how far you can come with practice.