I have been doing a lot, and I mean a lot of drawing in my sketchbooks these days. Along the way I learned a few things and I thought I would save you the time and let you in on some of the discoveries that helped me to become a better sketcher! So here are 5 things I've learned to improve my drawing skills.
- Use a reference photo
The difference in the quality of your drawings will be huge if you start with a reference photo. I was always afraid that by using a reference photo I was copying someone elses' art and that by doing that (not to mention copyright issues) I would never find my own style. But here's the thing, you art will not improve without using a reference photo.
Pick something you want to learn to draw - something specific like faces, or quirky girls or cats and then use either google images or pinterest or magazines and find a whole bunch of reference photos. Use them each time you draw. Select a lot of photos for reference - some may inspire you more than others on different days.
Just to show you the difference it makes, here's my sampling of the difference in the quality of the work when you use a reference photo and when you do not. Which one do you think is based on a reference photo?
Without a reference photo With a reference photo
2. Practice Every Day
Look, if you love it, drawing everyday will not be hard for you. I draw in the morning before leaving for work, I draw at night while watching tv and I draw in my head all the time. You have to love it to keep this up. If you are not loving it - stop doing it - this is supposed to be fun! But if you do stick with it, the difference in your art will be huge. The photo on the left was done in April of this year. The one on the right just last month AND - there was drawing and sketching just about every night in between.
April 2018 August 2018
3. Don't get discouraged and don't be so hard on yourself!
I have days when drawing just comes to me and everything works out beautifully. I have other days when I say - I can't draw - what made me think I could draw? Take it easy - tomorrow is another day and may be a better drawing day. The drawings I really, really dislike - I throw away - I don't want to be using those for future reference and I'm certainly not going to share them (ok so I did below just to make the point!)
4. Don't overthink it
Once you've gotten good at working from the reference photo - let yourself go a little. Pick a night and that night - no reference photos - just draw from your own head. What you learned from drawing using the reference photos will come back to you - you will retain it. Let yourself go as you draw - see where it leads. You can go and peak at the reference if you need to for example, check how the feet are positioned, like I do each time I draw these girls - but just do a quick check and then go back to your own drawings. The letting loose will help you to develop your own style based on what you learned while working with reference photos. You may be amazed at what comes out of your pen ; )
If it isn't coming together you may need to go back to a few nights of working with your reference photos. You also may find that after doing a few nights without reference photos you are going back to your old style. Just take some time just looking at the references in more detail without doing any drawing at all. I'll take about 30 minutes to just "study" pinterest references to remind myself of what I am trying to achieve. I look at the colors, the lines, the shading more closely. Most of the time it's not the technicality of the drawing but the mood or style of the drawing I am trying to get to that I need to remind myself of.
5. Try out different tools
This is a big one and at some point, I will devote an entire post to it, but for now, let me just say this. The quality of the tools you use, that is, the paper, the pens, the brushes - DOES make a difference. I know some artists may disagree with me on this and I know during courses teachers say "use whatever you have" - but I disagree!
The better the quality of tools you use - the easier it will be for you to achieve the look you want. In a longer post on this subject I will actually do videos to show you the difference but for now, suffice to say - you will never get a nice, gradual watercolor wash using photocopy paper and watercolor - you just won't. If you want to draw fine lines in pen and ink - it will be a struggle if you are using a bic pen. If your paint brush is leaving bristles all over the paper and you are constantly picking them off and smearing your work - get a better brush. I think you get my point. ; )
Also I find I work differently with different tools. For example, I use fine point pens (Mach 3 Morning Glory or Maica Gel pens) to make the outline of the girls - when I try it with a pencil - I just don't get the effect I want. The fine point markers are also watersoluble so they help to get the shadows I want on my edges.
It's really so much more fun when your drawings turn out the way you want them too. Try these helpful hints and please let me know if they work for you, and if you have other useful tips to share please leave them in the comments - I would love to hear from you.