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How to be More Creative in Drawing (5 Tips)

It always amazes me how some artists can summon their creativity to draw things in a way that captures our imagination and inspires beginner artists like myself to get better at drawing.

While I’m relatively okay at observational drawing, I seem to utterly lack the ability to draw creatively, which is a vital skill for landing my dream job as a concept artist in the entertainment industry.

Despite having some cool ideas for drawings inside my head, I never seem to be able to bring those ideas to life on paper. This is why I have been recently trying to understand what it takes to draw creatively and work on those skills to develop a decent art portfolio that ultimately helps me find work as a concept artist.

So in this post, I share five tips I have learned so far that are helping me draw more creatively.

Tip 1 Train your creativity muscles based on your stage of the art journey.

Creativity is like a muscle you have to train and exercise in order for it to grow. Depending on where you are in your art journey, you can take steps to practice drawing more creatively.

To figure out what skills I need to focus on most, I find it helpful to divide the art journey into three broad stages.

Stage 1: Observation

This is where most beginner artists start. The main concern of artists in this stage is being able to draw what they see in a reference, and their drawings at this stage can understandably lack creativity and feel rather generic.

The best thing you can do in this stage of your art journey is to work on your art fundamentals. Specifically, the ability to observe, construct, and visualize the things you are drawing into their basic shapes is an important skill to learn in the early stages of the art journey.

No matter how brilliant your ideas are, they’ll look only as good as you can draw them, which ultimately depends significantly on how much you know about and practice your art fundamentals.

I think I am somewhere between Stage 1 and Stage 2 of my art journey.

Stage 2: Improvisation

As artists improve their observational drawing, they start improvising their drawing references by studying different art styles, techniques, and compositions. Artists in this stage still rely heavily on their references and cannot draw convincingly based on their ideas.

The key at this stage is to make an effort to add something of your own when drawing from references instead of just copying what you see.

Stage 3: Ideation

This is where artists flex their creative muscles and can draw what’s in their minds. Although artists in this stage still use references, they are no longer a slave to them and can turn their ideas and concepts into works of art by utilizing the visual library and knowledge they have accumulated by drawing thousands of times.

Artists aspiring to achieve this level of creativity, like me, can significantly benefit from practicing drawing based on a particular theme, challenge, or prompts by other artists and communities, such as Inktober, Artstation Challenge, and Character Design Challenge.

Tip 2 Steal like an artist.

One thing I have realized by studying the creative process of other artists is that no artwork is entirely original. Finding your creative voice often requires allowing the artwork from other artists to influence your drawings.

Although it may seem counterintuitive to copy other artists for the sake of finding your creative style of drawing, I believe that in the early stages of your art journey, it can be beneficial to imitate other artists that you like to understand their process for creating artworks that inspire you. I believe that as long as you don’t restrict yourself to very few artists for inspiration, your creative voice will eventually emerge over time.

Even professional artists who are great at drawing their ideas and concepts frequently use drawings by other artists as a reference for their own artworks. One way of drawing more creatively and efficiently is to find better references from other artists that have worked on something similar to what you’re going for in a particular drawing, such as a pose, color palette, or art style.

Tip 3 Feed your curiosity.

I draw most creatively when I’m exposing myself to new experiences, ideas, and interests that are not directly related to art. Doing this helps improve my overall problem-solving skills and reduce my stress levels which can be a significant roadblock to creativity.

Here are some activities that I feel are great for stimulating creative thinking:

  • Reading a novel forces your mind to conjure images entirely based on your imagination.
  • Watching movies, traveling, and exercising outdoors can help calm your mind and build your visual vocabulary.
  • Learning something new, like a musical instrument or a new language, can help build new neurological networks in your brain and inspire you to new ways of thinking.
  • Exploring sculpting as a way to draw in three dimensions.

Tip 4 Embrace limitations.

As a beginner artist, I assumed that drawing more creatively requires constantly learning new drawing techniques, trying new art mediums, and drawing more often, etc. As I progress in my art journey, I realize that embracing certain limitations can inspire us to think and draw more creatively.

As a beginner, I wanted to learn everything simultaneously, including portraits, figure drawing, landscapes, character design, watercolor, ink, and digital illustration. And because I was spreading myself too thin, I couldn’t take my drawing skills to the next level.

Since getting back to drawing earlier this year, I have focused exclusively on getting better at drawing portraits using only essential drawing tools. Doing this has felt quite liberating, and I seem to be on my way to finding my artistic voice.

Here are some limiters you can try to help you draw more creatively:

  • Set artificial deadlines for your drawings and art projects. Game jams are a great example of how setting artificial deadlines can trigger our brains to think more creatively to solve problems.
  • Pick one drawing medium and subject and get good at it before moving on to learning something new.
  • If you’re new to drawing with colors, try exploring its possibilities by drawing with only three colors (Trois Crayons) and gradually adding more colors to your palette.
  • Don’t allow yourself to use an eraser when doing warm-up sketches.

Tip 5 Learn to draw like a child.

Admittedly, I am guilty of being too precious of my drawings, and this habit of mine seems to slow down my creative thinking process when I’m drawing.

Drawing more creatively requires us to allow ourselves to create a mess and not fear bad drawings. And if you’re a perfectionist like me, this can be easier said than done.

Here are some things I have found helpful in overcoming my fear of bad drawings and taking more creative risks:

  • I prefer drawing on loose sheets of paper instead of sketchbooks, so I don’t have to show my ‘perfect-looking’ sketches to everyone. If I don’t like a drawing, I discard it and move on to the next drawing without worrying that my sketchbook is ruined.
  • Knowing that you don’t have to share your every drawing on Instagram and being content in drawing something for yourself.
  • Suppressing your inner critic about a drawing you’re working on by listening to music. Listening to different kinds of music also evokes different emotions in my drawings, so I like to experiment with my sketching playlist from time to time.