Do you spend a lot of time drawing only to feel you aren't getting anywhere? Why does it seem your artistic friend improves faster than you? Are other people only telling you to keep drawing and that you will eventually learn making art?
If so, then this post is just for you.
What do you need to do in order to learn making art
First things first. It's true that if you just keep drawing a lot, you will eventually learn doing it. However, that's just partially true. It's also important to evaluate how much efforts are you putting on learning to make art. Maybe that friend of yours actually has a sound strategy.
I had been drawing a lot in my childhood but it wasn't until 2009 that my friend told me how bad I was. I didn't see much of improvements in my works at the time, so I figured there was definitely some truth in his words. I started building a strategy that would allow me to learn at least some key concepts to achieve my desired goals and fair enough, after some experimenting and fine tuning, it has worked decently. In this post, I'm going to go trough some key points that you should consider if you feel stalling.
Learn to know yourself, even the darkest things you would rather not know
Are you sure what kind of person you really are? What do you know about yourself? Do you know why you prefer certain things over others? Do you know why you don't like doing something? Do you know why you are afraid of doing or unwilling to do something? Are you impatient? Do you think you already got the basics and therefore you don't find it worth practicing anymore?
The first thing you should be doing is to ask questions from yourself. Try to find out what kind of tendencies and desires you have, especially the darkest ones you would rather not know. Knowing what kind of monster lies within you is important in order to keep it at bay or even take advantage of it in certain situations.
There are myriad of potential tendencies and desires, but for example, do you rush you drawings to get them uploaded so that you will get quick satisfaction from potential comments, new watchers, favorites and views? Do you want to draw hentai to satiate your own needs? Are you trying to capitalize on something that's highly popular? It's okay, but you have to be aware that these things might contribute to your lack of improvements. It's easy to get allured by short term satisfaction at the expense of long term gains.
Jordan B. Peterson does a good job explaining the Jungian shadow and about the devils inside yourself. Here is a short example of just that: Jordan Peterson - How To Develop Your Dark Side
. Although it doesn't have anything to do with art itself, knowing yourself also allows you to tackle with subjects like art as well. In other words, you will become better armed to take on various challenges.
Become your worst critic and embrace all the critique you get
It's often difficult to get critique, yet alone meaningful and constructive critique. Let's face it, the majority of those who would really have something to say (like great artists) tend not to comment on works that would need exactly that. Not voluntarily or for free at least. If you really want critique, it's worthwhile to consider becoming your own critic. While you may not know how you should fix your works, you can learn telling the difference between a good and bad drawing so that you can at least orientate yourself roughly towards the right path.
"Be merciless to yourself
" is an inside joke at my workplace. I personally have been doing exactly that though. I have followed this principle: "getting critique feels bad, but I will embrace it as my friend so that I can work on my abilities in such way that I don't need to feel bad about myself ever again". I honestly don't like being critiqued, but I decided to push that part of me aside for the greater good. I'm like "bring it on, slap my cheek with all you got!". A friend of mine (the one who said how bad I was that is) said I'm a mental masochist, but embracing the things you don't want to hear may in fact be just the thing you should do.
Also bear in mind that lack of attention is also a form of critique (if it's not just about lack of visibility). To put that bluntly, that could mean "your works aren't worth my time". I have seen people who are absolutely confident about their abilities and yet they complain for not being as popular as their friend while also saying he or she isn't even that great of an artist. Maybe their niche just isn't that interesting despite their skillful execution. Maybe their execution isn't really that good either. Just maybe. Anyway, their resentment won't garner them any extra points. You should try considering whether you need to change yourself rather than blame others for not being everything you could be.
By learning what kind of person I'm and what kind of things I would want to see in art, I've acted as if that applies to others as well (and that's not limited to just boobs and booties mind you). Many of my thoughts aren't very pleasant, but my approach has gotten me this far. I have tried to write about this before, but I figured articulating my thought process won't do me any favors ^^'.
Identify your inadequacies and work on them, or face the consequences
You are free to choose what you want to pursue. If you don't want to learn doing something, for one reason or another, keep in mind that it may deny some opportunities from you. I for example don't like painting at all, so I haven't put any effort in learning it. Therefore I'm not able to jump into painting style coloring unless I'm willing to start from the very bottom. And I know I don't. I don't see that as a problem though, for I've always been more inclined to inked drawings anyway.
However, if you don't want to see the effort of (tedious) practicing, you likely won't reach your goals any time soon.
Keep in mind that drawing something like human figures requires mastery of many different skills and subjects and then make them work together. I have a tutorial about this called "Learning Order to Human Figure Drawing.
It's an idealistic approach to the topic, but it will give you an idea what to expect. Human figure drawing involves some difficult such as perspective. If you ignore perspective, that will definitely prevent you from drawing certain kinds of drawings, and the little you can do may not be especially interesting for others to look at.
Repetition and drawing frequently is pretty much the only way to train your hand. Even if you don't want to, be prepared to spend some time on drawing "perfect" lines, arcs, squares, circles etc. Perfection itself isn't the end goal, but if you can't discipline yourself to practice, you will keep asking how to learn drawing at forums over and over again. Is that really what you want?
If there are things you don't want to draw, like drawing a canvas full of just circles over and over again, do that just like 5-10 minutes and then reward yourself by drawing something you want to draw. Challenge yourself and if things don't go your way, allow yourself to fail, proceed to something else and try again some other time. Not only will you draw more this way, you will also be working on some important albeit not so fun things almost without knowing.
Don't settle with mediocrity
It's "easy" to draw a face from the side, but often times that's not quite as interesting as drawing it slightly off-angle. Similarly a front view can be a powerful view in certain situations, but it has to be justified. Regular 3/4th view can work in pretty much in any situation, but using the exact same viewing angle will look boring after a while.
I often see people drawing guns with meticulous detail, but they are often side views. That's something I just can't bear to do myself, even if drawing one in perspective is so much more difficult. I still take such challenges because I want to be able to draw things in interesting manner. I'm not willing to settle with mediocrity and I will rather fail to draw a challenging drawing instead of drawing easy works.
You however need to mind your skill level and adjust the challenges according to it. Typical tutorials tend to show you how to draw a front and side view, but remember that it's merely to make you familiar with the human body. Once you get more experienced and you want to upload your works, make sure to make them as interesting as possible. Think it this way: what kind of drawings you are willing to look at over and over again? Would you choose to look at drawings that you find interesting or drawings that are boring, even if the subject itself is relevant to your interests?
Deviantart is full of mediocre anime/manga inspired drawings (which is fine, people are free to upload what they want). Do you want to blend into the masses or would you rather be recognized as a top tier artist? Or maybe just above average? You don't have to, but you absolutely could. Anyway, the choice is yours to make.
Be infinitely curious to bypass your autonomous filtering
Why an object farther away looks smaller than one in close proximity? How many fingers do you have? Does your character have two left hands? Where is the ground? When a train goes past you, where does it go?
If you want to become an artist, you have to learn seeing the world as it is, not the way you think it is. You see, there is a lot of discarded information your brain doesn't even bother processing. You don't need to know how water looks in drawings if you just know how to satiate your thirst. Therefore, don't be so sure that you know anything at all how things really look like. You probably know how a car or a castle looks, but that's just an symbolic representation in your mind. Try drawing one and you see you know nothing really. Or rather, you both know and don't know.
The reason we are told to draw from life is just about this and you fail just because you keep drawing what you think you see, not what you really see. And well, you will keep failing for some time even if you drew what you see, but that's just your technical inadequacies. When you draw from life or any reference, you need to take everything in account at first. You should focus on learning to see the key points of reference and you should check how they are related to multiple other reference points. So maybe a part you drew looks fine on it's own, but the rest of the subject aren't scaled properly. Maybe some parts aren't proportionally correct in relation to some other parts.
Be aware that learning to see properly takes time and you have to keep applying your incomplete understanding to eventually reach a point where you start to see things in right way. Learning just basics won't help you to see the connection with the complex subjects and complex subjects are too hard to draw unless you are good with basics, so you sort of need to burn the candle from both ends until the puzzle pieces start to make sense.
Make hypothesis how to reach your goals, analyse your works and adjust your strategies constantly.
This is something you should be paying a lot of attention on and I couldn't possibly stress this enough. Even if you were doing this already, you should be pondering if there is still something you could do better. Be always ready to change yourself.
You can keep drawing mindlessly for years without improving much at all. You absolutely have to analyse what the heck you are actually doing all the time. You have to revisit your old works and analyse them to see them in different light. What were the merits? What is worth improving on? What didn't work quite so well? What was absolutely horrible about them? What kind of tendencies still had an effect on your actions and choices? What kind of aspects about yourself may have influenced your actions and choices that you haven't been aware of, or you have denied to work on either knowingly or subconsciously?
After doing some introspection, make a hypothesis what you should try doing in order to reach your goals, put them in action and see what happens. After few drawings, do you see any change at all? If not, make adjustments to your strategy. Try to asses things that you may not have taken in account before. Consider what kind of skills you would actually need to achieve your goals. Note that some subjects may require an approach that seems absolutely counter-intuitive on the first glance. For example, your goal is to become an artist, but what do you know about what constitutes being an artist? What if your conception of an artist is leading you astray?
The more you do this, the better your guesses will become. Once you understand some key concepts, you can make fairly decent assumptions where to focus on next. For example, maybe it's for the best to focus on basic 3D forms before tackling too much with shading, because if you are adequate with 3D forms, it's just matter of applying that understanding on shading. I did this, in fact, I have based my understanding completely on 3D forms.
Learn when to give up so that you can rise from the ashes like a phoenix.
Learning to know yourself is important but it can also be mentally taxing and painful road. If you aren't careful, you will encounter such dark, distressing or even frightening things that you would rather quit and stay inside your cozy comfort zone. My original strategy took me to places that still haunt me, which is why I'm including this topic here.
I don't regret visiting the dark corners in my mind, even though it caused some unnecessary anxiety. Remember that when you are planning your strategy, at some points you may have to admit that the path you have chosen doesn't quite work or it leads to a dead end. If you had all your eggs on the same basket for years, that revelation will hurt a lot. However, keep in mind that was just one path from multiple potential paths you may not have even considered. Even if you reach a bottomless pit, there could be other paths that allows you to circumvent it, or maybe some other directions will actually serve your goals much better.
When you reach a point where you are about to break, learn to give up and take few or even several steps backwards. Even if it may haunt you for a while (or even years as it was with me), it's better to sacrifice just part of yourself rather than actually die on it. The mental block I encountered felt infinite at first, but after years of introspecting and working on other frontiers made me understand it wasn't quite as big of a dragon as I originally thought.
This became quite a long post, so I think this will do for now.
Nsio of the Hermit Mystics