Lately, I’ve received requests for an art post on drawing tips. Now, when someone asks me something along those lines (or occasionally asks me to teach them how to draw), I lowkey mentally freak out. Due to the fact I’ve never attended art school or anything similar, I can’t help but think, ‘If I’ve never learnt how to draw, how could I ever help anyone else learn??”.
above: art from 2018 (yes, i used to draw in colour). which characters/people do you recognize?
I’m a self-teaching aspiring realism artist, and I have been for two years now (I will never say ‘self-taught’ because I think art is a subject with so many ENDLESS possibilities that we can take from it, we never stop learning). I started to gain a serious interest in drawing during June 2018. But, honestly, two years is a reasonably short time and I know I’m still only a few feet away from the starting line on my drawing journey. However, since I have been asked for drawing tips a few times now, I finally considered writing a post on what I have learnt over these past couple years. But, again, I have no idea how it’s possible to actually teach someone art, so please note that this post ISN’T here to teach you how to draw. This post is simply recording a small collection of notes and pointers that I’ve made to myself on my own personal experience and I can’t promise that they’ll help everyone the same. Also, this is probably more relatable to beginners like myself – just so you know. So, here we go, here’s five tips that have been helpful to me:
#1 Your art-style/medium is not the first thing that you need to work on. This was the first thing I had to learn – I’d always heard other artists say that you must find a consistent art-style first, but when you’re fresh to drawing that’s the perfect time to experiment! Honestly, when I began drawing, my style was completely different to what it is now. I felt so limited drawing in the one style when I could’ve been trying out other styles and finding out what I was actually most comfortable with. I’m now happy to say I’ve dabbled in about nine or more different mediums. Consistent style is not the first thing you should be concerned about when you begin (although it can definitely be a handy thing later on).
above: my eye drawing studies during 2018-2020
#2 Study details. At the very, very beginning of my art journey, I was often ready to just rush into more experienced drawings without practicing over details first. So, what I’m trying to say, is that when I began drawing I found out that the greatest way to improve on sketching faces (I started learning to draw through fanart and often drew a lot of celebrities’ faces) was firstly by practicing getting good at sketching the details on a page alone – like the eyes, nose, mouth and so on. For instance, I practiced simply creating eye drawings for so long and I now find that drawing eyes in portraits has become so much easier for me. Meanwhile, I failed to practice sketching noses as much, and I still struggle to recreate them in the portraits I draw. I think just homing in on the smaller (yet important) details is really so helpful. But this can apply to anything else asides from faces – for instance, if you’re drawing a cherry tree, I recommend working on sketching cherries and leaves first, before drawing the tree as a whole.
#3 Sizing is key to improvement. Really, getting the sizing right in a picture is a big factor in making it look realistic, but it’s definitely one of the hardest things to do when it comes to drawing and it takes a ton of patience. Although I’ve noticed a lot of artists drawing from their phone/laptop, if you’re using a drawing reference, I highly recommend that you print out your references on a sheet of paper the same size that your sketch will be, if you can. This has always helped me SO much to improve my sizing. I’m not saying you shouldn’t draw from a reference off your phone though, but I think printing them out is a load easier for beginners. It’s come to the point where drawing from Pinterest off a phone screen has become easier for me, but I still print out my references as much as possible. Once I started focusing on sizing and putting more effort into getting it correct, I did see some notable improvement in my art.
#4 Although tricky, working on the shading is also important. I see shading as that thing in drawing that just makes it all come together. But in order to do that, it must be done well, which is difficult. Now, for beginners in pencil drawing, I’d always recommend to them that they try sketching in greyscale before they try out colour. If you’re using greyscale, then all you’re shading with is just the one colour. But with colour art, you’re having to shade with several pencils which is harder by quite a bit, especially if you’re not using more advanced artist’s pencils. But, as I said earlier, it’s up to YOU what art style that you choose. I’m just recommending this if you’re wanting to get a little more familiar with shading before trying out colours. It’s not necessary, it’s just what personally helped me.
A really good shading exercise to do though, is simply just shading a sheet of paper. It does help make shading so much easier after some practice… if you have the patience to do so. 😂
above: three drawings of the same person from the SAME reference, drawn in 2018 within the space of a couple weeks. they’re definitely not my best works, but i’m pretty proud of the improvement you can see here.
#5 Don’t be afraid of failure in art, because it doesn’t exist. Let me say this again: art has ENDLESS possibilities. I don’t believe in “bad art”. Art is art; there is no good or bad way on how to draw. There is no right or wrong way how to draw. Of course, to be super honest, there will be that art which you create and really won’t like, but this doesn’t mean it’s bad art. There will be the art that turns out completely different from what we wanted, which most of us will readily label as “mistakes”. But, do not be afraid of that! Listen, this is my last tip for today, but it’s my favourite on the list. Don’t be afraid to give drawing a shot, because when those “mistakes” come, they’ll be the greatest pointers you’ll ever receive; they’ll show you why they didn’t turn out the way you wanted and they’ll help you learn and improve on it. They’ll only help you get better. There is no such thing as failure when it comes to art, my friend.
Of course, then there’s the classic “practice makes perfect”, which makes me groan in frustration whenever I hear it, but it’s unfortunately true. I know, I know; practice takes a lot of patience and work, but you can do it! And, I promise you, if you can keep it up, all that time used on practice and patience will be worth it. It’ll be so worth it.
above: recent art from winter 2020
Well, that was a long post, eh? But, we’ve reached the end and I had a blast putting it together. Please note though, I am by far neither a professional nor an expert on this topic. Once again, these are tips from my own personal experience.
I hope you enjoyed this! Why not comment below and share your favourite drawing tips too?
“you’ll see purpose start to surface” ~Sarah xx