Around six years ago, I quit drawing, only to start drawing again almost five years later. And while I haven’t drawn every day since returning to art, I have been able to draw consistently at least a few times every week for almost a year now, which is way more than what I have drawn in my entire life.
So in this post, I share some tips that have helped me draw more regularly this year while avoiding creative burnout. I hope these tips help at least some of you become more productive in your art journeys as well.
How to draw more regularly
Drawing more often requires artists to take small steps that help them to:
- Make art a priority.
- Take the pressure off from drawing.
- Make drawing obvious, attractive, easy, and immediately satisfying.
- Balance learning something new with making comfort zone art.
- Find art interests, tribes, artists, and projects to get inspired.
Tip 1 Make drawing a priority in your life.
Alright, this sounds a bit cliche and obvious. Still, my decision at the start of this year to make drawing a constant in my life going forward forced me to re-assess my priorities and allowed me to identify things that I needed to sacrifice, at least for the time being, to make time for drawing.
And I get it. With the demands of everyday life, it’s often easier to excuse ourselves from drawing regularly, especially when you’re just doing art as a hobby. It is often difficult to see how an hour or two can be squeezed into the 24-hours time loop just for art when we barely seem to get enough sleep.
But what I have learned from my long absence from art and the subsequent art unblock is that there is always time to do the things you consider worth doing as long as you’re willing to sacrifice less the essential things from your life.
For me, drawing consistently again meant I needed to resist my temptations to:
- binge-watch every noteworthy Netflix show,
- scroll aimlessly through my Instagram and Facebook feeds, and
- play my favorite video games,
at least for a while.
If you want to draw more consistently but can’t seem to find much time because of your commitments, you might consider tracking how you spend every minute of your time each day, just for a week. Chances are that, like me, you might be surprised to find how many hours slip into nothingness every day, which could easily be used to cultivate your interest in drawing instead.
Tip 2 Take the pressure away from creating art.
One thing that prevents many of us from drawing more often is the unnecessary pressure of drawing Instagram-worthy art all the time, which can quickly lead to burnout.
Here are some steps that have helped me in making drawing less stressful.
- Stop worrying so much about making good drawings all the time, and learn to enjoy drawing as a personal activity that you’re doing for your own sake.
- Don’t feel compelled to share every sketch you make on social media.
- Only buy cheap sketchbooks or loose sheets of paper to draw on if you have the tendency to become over-protective of your favorite sketchbooks (like me).
- Learn to draw more loosely and allow yourself to do quick sketches, experiments, and make mistakes without worrying that each drawing needs to be perfect.
- Give yourself a break if you don’t feel like drawing on a particular day. Forcing yourself to draw every day can be counterproductive at times.
Tip 3 Make drawing more obvious, attractive, easy, and immediately satisfying.
Last year I got to read Atomic Habits by James Clear, and it really helped improve my understanding of how habits are formed. The book basically got me thinking about the good habits I wish to incorporate into my life and obviously, making art was something I was longing to return to for quite a while.
According to the book, these four laws increase the likelihood of forming any habit:
1. Make it obvious
I try to place my sketchbook and drawing pencils in the most obvious spot that I couldn’t miss. Even when I’m working on my website, everything I need to draw is placed right in front of me on the desk, so I’m constantly reminded to squeeze in some time for drawing throughout the day when I need some break from writing.
2. Make it attractive
Listening to my favorite songs while I’m sketching makes the whole experience much more enjoyable, even if I don’t end up with a good drawing by the end of a particular drawing session.
3. Make it easy
To improve the chances of doing something, we need to minimize the friction between us and the habit. I remember spending a good part of an hour sometimes just to find the ‘perfect drawing reference’ on Pinterest before I could lay the first pencil mark on the paper.
Ever since I identified this as a roadblock in my pursuit to draw regularly, I started saving drawing references on my phone and iPad, and doing so has made it a lot easier for me to just start drawing, which over time is helping me become more consistent at it.
4. Make it immediately satisfying
So the basic idea is to do something enjoyable immediately after you act on a good habit, so that our brain starts associating the performance of a good habit with a reward.
On the rare day that I make a really good drawing, just the feeling of creating something I’m proud of and sharing it with my art buddies is the best reward at the end of a drawing session. On other days, though, I’m happy to settle for just a warm cup of cappuccino that my co-working space thankfully offers for free.
For any of you interested in learning more about the art of forming good habits and breaking bad ones, here’s a perfect summary of the Atomic Habit presented by Ali Abdaal.
Tip 4 Loop between learning something new and making comfort zone art.
What I have realized after almost a year of drawing consistently after struggling with about five years of art drought is that to make art consistently in the long run we need to balance the need to learn new skills that are necessary to help us grow as artists and drawing things within our comfort zone that we find exciting and enjoyable.
Obviously, everyone wants to improve their art skills. But the problem with trying to learn new art skills all the time is that it can cause you to burnout fairly quickly because of the level of effort that is required to learn something new and also the fact that it takes a bit of a learning curve to become good at something you’re learning for the first time.
Conversely, the drawback of creating art only within our comfort zone is that we’ll never develop as artists.
What I like to do after spending a day or two learning a new drawing skill is to follow it up with a passage of comfort zone art (which is drawing portraits) until I have the energy and the urge to learn something new. So far, this strategy seems to work for me, and I’m sure at least some variation of this would help most artists in their art journeys in the long run.
Tip 5 Find art interests, tribes, artists, and projects that inspire you.
One of the problems that I encountered as a beginner artist that learns mostly from Youtube and art books is the lack of direction for my art journey despite the enormous amount of information available.
What I have found helpful in giving myself a direction for my art journey is to find inspiration from the following:
- A subject that I love to draw the most and want to focus on.
- A community of artists that I love to interact with.
- Artists that I look up to and want to learn from.
- Passion art projects.
I hope you find these tips helpful in becoming a more consistent artist.
Here’s a somewhat awkward video I recorded earlier this year but never got to post on Youtube until recently. Please consider subscribing to my channel and liking my videos to support my art journey!