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5 Tips for Making Drawing Easier

Six years ago, I rage-quit art for five long years because I thought drawing was too hard. And while the occasional glitch in the universe appears to cause some people to learn and master drawing so effortlessly, I think I am speaking for the majority here when I say drawing is not easy, at least for the first few years.

So in this post, I share five tips I have learned over the first year of getting back to drawing that is helping me draw more easily as a beginner.

Tip 1 Leverage the power of focus in building your drawing skills.

It is very tempting for beginner artists like myself to experiment with all kinds of drawing tools and subjects without spending enough time practicing with either one and hoping to find the optimum setup for launching your art journey.

The first time I started drawing, I was obsessed with collecting different kinds of sketchbooks, drawing pencils, charcoal sticks, color pencils, watercolors, and even digital drawing pads while learning the basics of portraiture, landscapes, and character design all at once to ‘speed up’ my art journey. As you might have guessed, I spread myself too thin and quit drawing after only a few months because I wasn’t seeing any progress in my drawing skills.

Fast forward five years, when I got back to drawing last year, I made it a point to stick with only portrait drawing using the most basic drawing tools, at least for the first few months, and gradually explore more tools and drawing subjects over my art journey. This strategy has worked for me because I have focused entirely on practicing drawing skills within a single drawing topic.

If you get easily distracted and suffer from the shiny object syndrome like me, I suggest you decide on an area of focus for your initial drawings, like portraits, botany, or landscapes, and restrict yourself to the essential tools until drawing with them becomes easier.

Tip 2 Get over the temptation of drawing a reference to a T.

One of the biggest frustration I encountered while learning to draw was trying to draw something precisely like the reference, as though the whole point of drawing was to imitate what you observe.

After talking to many self-taught hobby artists in the art community, I realized this is a problem many beginner artists struggle with. Beginners want to draw realistic drawings, but their skills don’t match their expectations resulting in disappointment.

While I am a strong advocate of observational drawing and practicing from references whenever you can, I think accepting that your drawing doesn’t have to look exactly like a reference and that you are free to improvise and interpret it loosely without needing to ‘correct’ every mistake you make can be very liberating and make the process of drawing a lot more easier and fun.

Tip 3 Learn to see and deconstruct complex 3D forms in spheres, boxes, and cylinders.

Drawing a complex organic shape such as the human body is intimidating for beginners because of their inability to interpret it into a basic structure consisting of familiar forms such as boxes, cylinders, and spheres.

From my experience, no matter how good your observational skills in getting the organic contour of the object right or how brilliant your pencil shading techniques are, unless you can visualize and draw an object into its basic 3D shapes, drawing something well will always be an uphill battle.

One exercise for beginner artists that I recommend to improve their constructive drawing skills is to take up the draw-a-box challenge. Although it gets repetitive and boring sometimes, the time you put into it will make drawing much easier for you in the long run.

Tip 4 Make it easier to pick up drawing again and again.

You have probably heard of this a hundred times before, and I will repeat this. Nothing will make it easier to draw well, like putting in your 10 thousand hours of honest work into it. But practicing consistently takes enormous determination, especially as a beginner when you cannot draw as well as you would like.

Here are examples of things I try to do inspired by the book Atomic Habits by James Clear to instill the habit of drawing more regularly and make the experience of creating and learning art more rewarding, tolerable, and effortless:

  • To minimize the time needed to start drawing, I try to save up some fresh drawing references at the end of each day, so I always have something to draw the next day without needing to look up Pinterest every time I sit for a session of sketching.
  • I reward myself with a cup of my favorite tea at the end of a drawing session to create a positive feedback loop and trick my brain into believing I did something good even if I didn’t like what I drew on a particular day.
  • To make my art supplies more easily accessible, I keep separate sets of drawing tools for my home and office so I don’t have to carry them along on my bike commute.

When I read the Atomic Habits last year, I was skeptical of how small changes like these could help you to form good habits, but after one year of drawing consistently, I am surprised how a shift in the focus from setting goals to systems and routines can positively impact your life. If you guys struggle to form good habits like me, I recommend reading Atomic Habits by James Clear.

Tip 5 Find good art mentors.

Study of a drawing by Loish

While learning to draw on your own can be a rewarding experience, finding a good art teacher you can learn from can drastically reduce the time required to get better at drawing and guide you through the challenging phases of learning this craft.

We are so lucky to live in a time when many talented artists are so generous in sharing their knowledge on platforms like Youtube and Patreon.

I have learned so much from the helpful tutorials, tips, and process videos by Loish on her Patreon page. She talks about her struggles as an artist and how she navigates through them in a way that a lot of other artists can relate to. Listening to her advice, such as on how to draw more loosely, has helped me become more comfortable with drawing and avoid perfectionism.

Honestly, it’s the best $5 I have invested in my art education, and I think she is the Bob Ross that we all need today. To clarify, this post isn’t sponsored by her in any way (I’m just a big fan of her), and you should definitely check out her Patreon page if you’re interested.