On the subject of artistic growth my mind wandered back to a post I discovered a long time ago. Titled “More Drawing Advice than Anyone Wanted,” artist Kelly Turnbull, pseudoname Coelasquid, sits her readers down for a long talk about what it takes to improve your drawing skills. Her words really resonated with me the first time I read them, and they still do today.
Her main points in the article are:
- Draw from Life
- Structure is Key
- Figure Things Out for Yourself
- Reference Other Artists
- All Art is Self Taught
- Constantly Challenge Yourself
- Don’t Hate on Successful People
- Don’t Hate on Newbies
- Don’t Hate on Yourself
These are the main points of the article, but you can’t just read these titles and “get it.” What’s important is the content between the titles. I’m going to pick some quotes from the reading that I really think are gems, but you can’t get the whole message without reading its entirety yourself. So go check it out.
P.S. While you’re over there, check out her hilarious web comic Manly Guys Doing Manly Things. It’s a treat for video game lovers.
Learning to draw is a little like learning to speak a language, the younger you get into it, the easier a time you’ll have with it and the less you’ll remember the uphill struggle it took to get where you are… It is true that getting the basics down will save you years of mediocrity, but frankly, learning to draw is hard. If it feels like a chore and if you aren’t getting any kind of instant gratification out of it, you’ll probably give up before you get anywhere. Like language, you don’t jump right int the thick of it off the get go. Start simple, imitate, immerse yourself, and keep at it to grow.
If you never try to figure out what you could be doing better and expand your repertoire, you will continue to make the same mistakes for as long as you draw.
The short of it is, things will ALWAYS look wrong if you learn to draw them from copying the way other artists have chosen to stylize them rather than understanding how they work for yourself. This really seems to be a hangup that kids who learn to draw exclusively from copying anime or comic books have to get over. You need to think of a character as a three dimensional object sitting in space and figure out how to best represent that, don’t treat them like a composite of two dimensional symbols.
We are all the sum of our parts, every one of us is influenced by everything we ever see, hear, say, or do. What we bring to the table is our interpretation of all of those happenings, which we try to present in the most appealing or interesting way possible to the best of our abilities. Studying the ground other artists have already broken is nothing but a tool to help us figure out how to look at something from a new perspective, and there’s no reason to shy away from it.
It’s easy to become comfortable drawing one thing and put all of your effort into polishing that off, while neglecting everything else… If you don’t try to draw something, you’ll never learn how to draw it.
Few and far between are the fledgling artists who can’t improve without some practice and constructive criticism. You don’t have to sugar coat your suggestions and handle them with the kiddie gloves, but telling someone they suck and they should stop drawing is just being a dick.
There is nothing more annoying to listen to than an artist waxing on about how much they suck and how they’ll never get anywhere…Yeah, I get it, all artists are invariably disappointed in themselves. Everyone sees nothing but the mistakes when they look at their own art, everyone is always measuring themselves up against other people and thinking they come up short and wishing they had done better…But honestly, if most people spent a fraction of the time identifying their specific issues and working on them that they do crying on the internet about how bad they are at their hobby, wow, they’d be published professionals by now…If you feel self conscious accepting a lot of kind words about something you made, don’t just brush it off with “bleh, I suck”, say something like “Thanks! I really wish I had spent a little more time on *insert problem area here*, though”. That way you show them that you appreciated the compliment, you identified your specific issue with the drawing that you can work to improve next time, and you didn’t turn the situation into a self-pity circle jerk.
Art is dynamic, it’s exciting because there is always new ground to break. There is no ultimate conclusion, It’s like evolution. There is always the opportunity for your abilities to grow and change.