It’s almost (short of about two weeks) been six years now since I made the active decision to learn to draw and design. However, if you knew a little bit more about my life you might have objections to that statement.
Illustrations made 3 and 4 months after the decision of actively trying to learn - at this point in time I saw drastic changes from week to week and month to month.
People I grew up with will know that I was the kid who always drew on the margins of my notes in class. That I spent lots of my free time drawing on my own designs and characters for all my little projects I never ended up completing (I enjoyed the design phase little bit too much). That kid, I can imagine them saying, didn’t start to draw at age 22.
But that was the moment when I really started to set goals for myself and my drawings, and that was the time from when I started to see myself improve in leaps and bounds. So what did I do differently in my treatment of drawing from that point on? Well, a few things really, but the one I wanted to share today is that I started to ask simple questions:
When I was a teenager, getting better at drawing was important to me. My constant question was “How do I improve?” but I never found a satisfying answer and I didn’t improve much at drawing at all. At the same time I was doing quite well in school on almost every other subject. The questions I was asking for those subjects were very different. They were things like “What happens to the graph if I change this constant in the function?” (math) or “How can I do my homework differently to remember more vocabulary with less effort?” (languages).
Some drawings from my life: from single digit age to age of 20 there wasn't all that much improvement...
In contrast “How do I improve?” is anything but a simple question. There’s just too much to answer. A simple question is a question that is specific enough to be easily answered, just like the ones I asked for everything else I studied at school. At age 22, I tossed the question of “how do I improve?” aside and replaced it with a long, never-ending series of simple questions (“if I do line weight like this, will it still read well in perspective or will it look too vague?”, “can I use this same principle of linear perspective to also do this part of the plotting faster?”, “how can I adapt this workflow to work with this kind of design instead?”).
I still can’t answer the question “How do I improve?” and I still get asked about it a lot, from students, stream viewers and draw-friends. Maybe it’s a very good question, but it sure isn’t a simple one and that is the point of this advice. If you are able to ask and answer lot of small questions every day, you will start to see huge changes appear in your work over time. If you try to find the answer to it all in one big, vague goal or question you might never even find half an answer.
Thank you for reading, I hope you found it interesting. Please follow more of my sketches, work and thoughts on Instagram and twitter: