Over the years streaming my drawing on the internet there’s been a number of questions I’ve gotten repeatedly from aspiring viewers in regards to advice for beginners. This is something that I actually feel very strongly about, and in this post I will talk about what I think are some of the biggest and most common hurdles I see, and what I think are the best ways to deal with them. Hopefully this post will serve as a small compendium of advice, and possibly be of help to any new artists out there. :>
#1 Compare yourself to yourself
This is by far the biggest problem I see most artists get frustrated with, not just on a beginner level but also well past that. They compare themselves to their idols and get frustrated when hours, weeks, and months of practice later they still don’t seem to be anywhere near their level of skill.
Experienced artists know how incredibly complex the craft is and that you can’t possibly expect to learn so much in such a small amount of time, but as a new person you just don’t know how much you don’t know, and use the goal post as your only point of reference, and begin to stress when it doesn’t seem to be getting any closer. It’s certainly important to always be looking ahead, but if you look too far ahead it can turn into an exercise in frustration.
The best way to deal with this problem I’ve found is to try to use your past work as reference. In every new piece, instead of trying to draw like your idol, try instead to one-up yourself in some small way. The way you drew hands last time, try to figure out how to draw them a little better this time. Try to figure out how to do lines a little cleaner. Try and do a pose that’s more ambitious than what you’ve done before. Explore and then revisit things and try to do them better, even if only by a tiny bit. Soon enough, all of these little increments will pile up and you will start seeing noticeable improvement in your work, and be way less frustrated.
To do this effectively it’s important to save all your work. Instead of being a source of shame, it will become a source of motivation. You’ll be able to see all the problems you couldn’t before, and that will help fuel you to keep going.
If there’s any advice you take from this post, I hope it’s this.
#2 Don’t rely on motivation
I get asked a lot how do I find the motivation to draw every day. People figure I must have an endless well of motivation, or that I have some sort of secret trick to be able to be this consistent. The answer is I don’t rely on motivation. Instead, I made it a habit.
Motivation is a fickle thing. It comes and goes on whims, and there’s not enough of it to sustain a proper work regimen. The much better approach is to form a habit. Art (or whatever it is you want to get better at) needs to become a part of your life. Not your whole life, you don’t need to quit your job or even spend like 5 hours on it a day, just a little is fine. What’s important is that it’s consistent. You decide that in this part of your day you’re going to do something and you do it. It doesn’t matter if you don’t feel like it, it doesn’t matter if you’re tired, you force yourself to get started. And after you get started it becomes a lot easier to keep going. They say sometimes the first step is the hardest and it’s totally the case here.
After a while of this you’ll notice that getting started becomes easier and easier. This is just what you do now. It stops being scary and anxiety producing.
And that’s essentially it. You can make this easier on yourself by eliminating common distractions like your phone, by having your tools always nearby, and employing techniques like the pomodoro method, but the big thing is forming that habit.
#3 Draw what you want to draw
When you’re new and starting to get to grips with drawing, the best thing you can do is to just increase your volume of work. You’re not yet equipped to make use of constructive feedback, and the biggest improvements will come from just drawing more. So it’s with some frustration that I often see beginners say that they’re still trying to perfect how to draw boxes and abstract shapes before they start trying to draw the thing they want to draw. Or that they’re focusing on drawing realistic faces before they draw anime faces.
There’s this weird stigma that anime styles are lesser than realistic styles, and that diving straight into them will make you learn bad fundamentals and then you won’t be able to become a “good” artist. I feel like this is a bad mentality to have, and a quick way to kill your motivation before you’ve even gotten started. Not only will you get less gratification from trying to draw a thing you don’t care about, at a time when you’re still only driven by motivation, you’ll just be delaying learning the specifics of the thing you do care about, the thing that made you want to draw in the first place.
Certainly there’s things to be gained from going outside your wheelhouse, but I think you’ll have a much more enjoyable journey if you focus on what motivates you. I didn’t learn a whole lot in high school art classes, but one thing I was always very appreciative of was that my teacher always encouraged me to draw in whatever style I wanted to draw, and I think because of that I’ve never had a serious slump, and I’ve been able to get where I am today.
#4 Study what you want to draw
There’s no fixed strategy that every artist must take to become good. Drawing something well depends largely on how well you know that specific thing. If you’re like me and the thing you feel most strongly about drawing is beautiful girls, then you should be studying beautiful girls. Forget trying to draw men or animals or anything that’s not beautiful girls. Instead turn your focus to finding the most beautiful girls (to your aesthetic sense), and study them. Check out forums about sexy pinup photos, check pinup magazines, fashion magazines, check gravure, et cetera. Do the equivalent for the things you want to draw.
In the same way that the best way to learn a language is to immerse yourself in it, you should do the same with your art. Whenever you come across a picture you like, save it. If it’s a specific shot in a video, take a screenshot (I really like ShareX for this.) Gather as much reference as you can and look at it with a critical eye, and then slowly try to use what you’ve learned to improve your drawings. You can even use it for formal study sessions, like for figure drawing and such. By doing this you will learn a certain intuition about the thing you’re drawing. A sense of what looks right or wrong. There’s a lot of problems with anatomy that I see in other artists that I managed to avoid because of this, and I owe it to the ungodly amount of reference I’ve collected and studied over the years.
#5 Don’t worry about style
A lot of beginners have this misconception that the secret to being good is having a unique style. They stress over stylizations and attempt to make a frankenstein out of what they see, figuring this is what will change things and finally make their art look pro, before they’ve developed fundamental skills. In reality this is not what style is about.
Style is simply a collection of a person’s preferences in stylization. If you try to draw a given thing in many different ways – for example, noses, or ears, or hair – you’ll find yourself naturally more attracted to some of those methods than others. Maybe this way of drawing hair looks nice, but it’s too cumbersome or takes too long. Maybe that way feels better, but you have trouble with conveying volume. As you keep experimenting and improving, you’ll most likely narrow down into a single method that you like best. The one that gives you the biggest reward per time invested. And this will happen for every little thing you draw.
And this goes even broader too, like in what type of art you want to do in the first place. For example, I know animation isn’t for me because I’ve dabbled in animation enough to figure that out. I’ve made some short animations and even took an animator application test for a videogame once, and I found that I got very little relative enjoyment out of the result. I learned that I much prefer one single illustration that’s super polished and beautiful, as opposed to a short animation where each individual frame isn’t as beautiful. Or like a webcomic where you have to split your time coloring many different frames. In shading, I found that I prefer soft and meticulous as opposed to rough and textured. And so on and so forth. It’s important that you experiment will all kinds of things to find out what you like, and then your style will naturally materialize over time.
And that’s it for this post. It’s my first proper advice/tutorial post, and I worry it’s a little wordy, but hopefully it’s not too bad. :p
Let me know if you’ve found it interesting or useful or if there’s other topics you’d like me to discuss. ❤