I made this a few years ago for a CG Cookie article, and it's no longer available on that platform, so I figured I'd post it here.
If you’re reading this, I’m assuming you are someone who draws, or is interested in drawing. For people like us, it’s not hard to want to draw... And there are great reasons to draw; to build skill and have fun. ...But sometimes it can be a little hard to get down to actually doing it. Here are five tips that I’ve found that have helped me get more drawing done during the day.
#1. Get Comfortable
One of the easiest things I’ve started doing is making my drawing experience as comfortable as possible. For me, that means drawing in bed, with a hot mug of tea
to drink, and my headphones on, listening to music. Maybe you have a favourite chair you like to draw in, or a pencil that just works for you. Whatever your preference is, I find it’s much easier to draw when comfortable. Infact, if I put on headphones and am in bed, my fingers tend to get an itching for activity and it’s hard NOT to draw!
#2. Don’t Come With Expectations
I think one of the biggest issues people have that stop them from drawing, is an expectation to make a ‘good’ drawing. What ‘good’ means is different for everyone,
but I feel this idea of trying to make a good drawing is crippling and unhelpful. It’s much better to proceed from a state of non-judgment. Instead of making a ‘good’ drawing, something you might not be able to do, just focus on making a drawing, or finishing a sketchbook page or two. Giving yourself goals you can accomplish is a positive reinforcement and will help you become more motivated to draw again. I remember times when I used to have big ideas in my head of drawings I wanted to do. I’d come to the paper with a lot of excitement and expectations. Then I’d start drawing, and before I knew it, what was on the page was nothing like what was in my head. The more I’d try to fix things, the worse the drawing seemed to get. Finally I’d just give up, and be so discouraged I wouldn’t pick up the pencil for days, weeks, or even months! Drawing is something that helps you improve a lot so long as you are doing it a lot. Anything that takes away from that, like expectations for results that you may not achieve, should be avoided. Throw away ideas like a ‘good’ drawing, and just get drawing!
#3. Draw, Rinse and Repeat
When I was starting out drawing, with the intention of studying ( for instance studying the anatomy of the forearm ), what I would do was to do a drawing in one pose, then another in another pose and so on. This did help me learn, but it didn’t help me nearly so much as when I started to not just do one drawing of one pose, but many. What happens when you draw the same thing over and over again, is similar to when you learn to memorize something by repeating it over and over again in your mind. The repetition solidifies the knowledge into your head and it becomes a part of your muscle memory. I’ve found a good number to draw the same thing is 20. It may sound boring at first, to do 20 drawings of the same thing, but I’ve found it’s anything but boring. This is because, since you’re working on something you’ve already worked on, you end up finding minute variations you can try out. You can experiment with making the same pose, but with lines placed a bit differently, perhaps incorporate line width ( where you vary the thickness of a line to make something appear closer or further back in space ), or try altering the shapes or the process you use to do the drawing. Not to mention, because you are drawing the same thing so many times, you get faster, and this speed doesn’t just help for this pose, but for any other pose that uses similar muscle movements. It can sound daunting to do 20 poses though, and sometimes it IS daunting, but I’ve found a trick that’s helped make things easier for me. Let’s say I wanted to draw 20 heads. Instead of drawing one head, and then another, and then another, and another, etc.... I start by quickly drawing 20 head shapes on the page. This means the heads have to be small enough to fit on one page. Because they are smaller than they would be if I just did one head at a time, it means I have less work to do to get a drawing done. It also gives me a visual target to hit, and I can see my progress as I go. It would be easier to quit drawing head fifteen if I was drawing the heads one at a time, than it would be if I had fourteen heads finished and saw six blank heads just waiting to be drawn. I can’t stress highly enough how much this approach has helped me, so if you aren’t doing this already, I really encourage you to give it a try and see if it helps you too.
#4. Find a Partner
I’ve found it’s really motivating to share the drawings I do with a friend. We both are drawing to improve. There’s no judgement cast, and it’s not important that we impress each other with our works. It’s more important that we’re both consistent and checking in with each other. Sometimes we offer each other critiques, when we see something that could be improved on, but this is secondary to the feeling of not being alone in this. Having a partner really boosts my desire to work hard, especially when I see my partner making progress or doing more pages than I did. Competitive competition can be a good thing as long as you both share the same goals. It’s not about knocking the other person down, it’s about both of you building each other up. It may take a while to find someone you can draw with, but once you do, I think it can be a great benefit. You may even find a group of people, and that might help push you even harder. It’s also nice to be able to share any difficulties you are having, with someone who understands what you’re going through. Getting better at drawing is a long journey, and it’s a lot more fun when you’re sharing it.
#5. Draw Everyday and Don’t Make Excuses!
They say it takes 21 days to form a habit ( actually it takes on average 66 days ), and this means that it’s important that you’re not missing days when you could be drawing. I’ve found for myself, allowing myself a day of not drawing can quickly spiral into two days, then three, then a week, a month... It’s just way too easy to fall off the wagon. For the reason, I’ve made it a habit to draw every single day, and I’ve
been doing this for the past 11 years now. Not one day missed. Not one. How do you ensure that you won’t miss a day? Well, the easiest way is to make sure the task is as manageable as possible. I said I’ve been drawing everyday for the past 11 years... A single drawing is all it takes to ensure that I don’t miss a day. A single drawing. Not a ‘good’ drawing. Not a page of drawings. Not a successful study. Just a drawing. I’ve kept a sketchbook journal that I’ve used for these daily drawings. I write the date, and then I do a drawing. I usually do these before I go to bed, and they help me to visually put down how that day was for me. There have been good days and bad days. There have been days when I didn’t have much energy to draw, or the desire. On those days, I’ll draw for a short time. The shortest drawing I did must’ve taken a
couple of seconds, I had lost someone important to me, and just couldn’t draw anything beyond an ‘X’. It took longer to write the date than it did to do the ‘X’ drawing... But it was still a drawing, and it still represented what that day was for me. After doing these daily drawings for so many years, they no longer register to me as ‘time spent drawing’, and so I have an additional sketchbook that I use now for daily studies and other drawings. I find that making goals you can easily achieve and then doing them everyday really helps you to make drawing something that is natural and an inseparable part of your life.
In closing, I just want to remind you that drawing is supposed to be fun. All these steps are designed to help you draw more, but try not to forget why you’re drawing in the first place. If it helps give you incentive to keep drawing I should let you know that for me, the more I’ve drawn over the years, and the more I’ve been able to draw, the more I like it. It’s easier to get the ideas in my head onto the page, and that makes it a lot of fun to do. Drawing is also so beneficial to any other type of art making, be it painting, or sculpture or animation. So to sum it up, drawing is fun, it’s super helpful, and you should be doing it!
I hope these tips helped, and thanks for reading! ;)