How to take my drawing skills up a notch or three?
November 2, 2016 6:05 AM   Subscribe

I've been drawing for most of my life. I'm competent, but not good. How do I get good?

I studied architecture and hence had formal training in drawing, mostly buildings and landscapes, but also some figure work. I know about perspective, I have a decent line, etc. I'm not awful, I 'can draw' by most people's standards, but I'm not great at it either.
I'm mostly looking for success stories, if you started learning or improved your drawing skills at a late stage in life, how did you do it?
I'm 45 years old, if that makes a difference.
posted by signal to Media & Arts (12 answers total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
 
What are you looking to get better at? Practice drawing that. For example, Lucy Bellwood's 100 Hands.
posted by jillithd at 6:17 AM on November 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


Our situations are almost exactly similar, and I'm starting the program outlined in Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. I've just been gathering up materials for it and haven't actually started yet so I don't have any results to report.

I can do serviceable freehand sketches of buildings, especially 2D drawings without perspective, and other stuff like that meant more to communicate information to colleagues and clients, and of course constructed drawings, but I'm not good at drawing real stuff that I can see as I'd like to be, and Drawing on the Right Side at least seems to try to address that issue. In addition to going through the course in the book, I'll be carrying a sketchbook around and trying to do a 5 minute sketch of any space I'm in, but, no results on that to report yet either.
posted by LionIndex at 6:21 AM on November 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


In addition to Lucy above, I follow a lot of other indie comics artists on Twitter. I'd highly recommend following Chris Schweizer as he does some amazing illustration work, including building models and some very technical stuff like sailing ships! He regularly posts good tidbits about how to draw and practice and lots of great images, too.

Another indie comics artist craftsman is Alec Longstreth. He is so excited about his craft, always trying to learn new things and is very generous with his knowledge. I subscribe to his Isle of Elsi Patreon which has a lot of great back posts directly about his process. (I enjoy his Phase Seven zine, too!)
posted by jillithd at 6:26 AM on November 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


I teach art at the university level and I have a number of non-traditional students including non-degree-seeking adults who just want to take specific courses to improve their artistic skills. At a larger state university I previously taught at, there were also some specific adult education courses just for this purpose as well, though we'd also get non-traditional students in the normal ones there too.
posted by vegartanipla at 6:55 AM on November 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


If you have time to take a class, then that would be a good idea. A good teacher is really invaluable. They can help you make progress much more quickly than you can make on your own. This is mostly because a good teacher can figure out what you don't know and what your weaknesses are much more quickly than you can, and so they can help point you in the right direction. The first step in teaching yourself something new is usually figuring out what you don't know, and that's often rather hard.
posted by colfax at 7:23 AM on November 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


I've spent most of my adult life around artists, from students to pros. As far as I can tell, the single best thing that you can do to improve your skills is to draw every day, with or without instruction or feedback (although those things do help, and speed up the timeline on getting better). Get in the habit of working in a sketchbook every day, if you can, even if it's only for 15 minutes. If you put in the time, you'll see results quite quickly. It's never too late!
posted by merriment at 8:49 AM on November 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


Join a critique group or find a mentor. It's the best way to break yourself of laziness and bad habits. When I started digital painting I found an artist whose work I liked and sent him an email. I wasn't expecting much, but he very kindly worked with me for a couple of years until he declared that I'd surpassed him and he had no more to teach me.
posted by xyzzy at 11:01 AM on November 2, 2016


Seconding what merriment said.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 4:18 PM on November 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


For practice material, following an account like Sketch Dailies on Twitter and following the prompts can be super helpful for broadening the subject matter you attempt to draw. Doing something like Doodle or Die can also be good.
posted by limeonaire at 8:39 PM on November 2, 2016


I accidentally got good at drawing by doing it on public transit on the way to work every day in pen. The schedule got me almost two hours drawing time every day, and using a pen taught me deliberate mark making.
If you can find a studio or school that hosts figure drawing once a week, do that! Figure drawing is like going to the gym for artists.
posted by velebita at 7:07 AM on November 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


Seconding the suggestion for figure drawing/life drawing. Ideally with some good instruction, at least at first. Naked people are fantastically complicated to draw, but in a good figure drawing class you'll be encouraged to draw them as lines, as blocks, as blobs, as outlines, as scribbles, as shadows, as gestures, as weighted masses, as muscle sets, as a skeleton frame, etc. You'll draw them in 30 seconds, you'll draw them in 3 hours. Apart from maybe gaining some knowledge about anatomy, it's really mainly about learning to trick your mind to see one thing (in this case a model) in many different ways.
posted by Kabanos at 1:33 PM on November 3, 2016


The Center for Cartoon Studies just announced their new free One-Week Cartooning Workout (via email).
posted by jillithd at 8:44 AM on November 4, 2016


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