Hey there, fellow artists! If you’ve ever felt like you’re stuck in your art journey, I can totally relate and sympathize with you. For an embarrassingly long time, I felt that my drawing skills had plateaued at the same level despite practicing consistently.
But fear not, I’ve spent the last year really evaluating what I was doing wrong, and based on the advice of some artists, productivity gurus, and my own intuition, I made a few changes that I believe have helped me make definite progress.
In this post, I want to share with you the seven biggest reasons why I feel I wasn’t progressing as a beginner artist and the adjustments I made to my drawing routine that helped me to level up my skills quickly.
1. You’re spreading yourself too thin.
Do you ever feel like you’re juggling too many artistic endeavors at once? I certainly did. I started my drawing journey a few years back with tons of motivation, but I wanted to learn everything all at once – traditional, digital, portraits, landscapes, character design, you name it. Predictably, my motivation dwindled quickly, and I ended up quitting for almost five years.
When I got back into drawing last year, I made a conscious decision to focus solely on portrait drawing using graphite pencils until I got reasonably good at it, and it has worked out really well for me. So, if you’re like me and find it challenging to manage multiple tasks and projects simultaneously, here are some steps you can take to simplify your art journey and make quick progress:
- Pick one medium and become an expert at it before exploring new ones. Start with what you’re comfortable with, whether that’s drawing on your iPad or painting watercolors in your sketchbook.
- Choose a specific area of interest to focus on in your drawings and gradually introduce new themes or subjects. If you’re just starting out, go for what excites you the most, whether that’s drawing portraits, urban sketching, botanical illustrations, or characters, and aim to excel in that.
- Try to learn one micro-skill within your chosen area of interest and medium at a time. For example, if you want to improve at drawing pencil portraits, take your time to learn the different things that will help you accomplish that goal one by one such as learning the head proportions, the Loomis Method, expressions, anatomy, value studies, hatching techniques, exploring different art styles, and various ways to blend pencils.
2. You are unable to practice drawing without distractions.
Learning, practicing, and exploring drawing as a way to express yourself requires an incredibly intensive sustained mental effort. People like me who find it hard to switch gears between different tasks can find learning drawing especially hard in short bursts of time.
In my art journey so far, I’ve come to realize that not all drawing practice is created equal. Those 15-minute drawing sessions squeezed in between work and daily distractions didn’t do much for me. I find that I consistently make the most progress when I immerse myself in drawing for an hour or two, free from interruptions.
I understand that it’s not always easy to block out a significant chunk of time for uninterrupted drawing due to various constraints. But if improving your drawing skills is a goal you want to prioritize, it might take a bit of sacrifice to make quality time.
For me, this meant swapping out Netflix, social media scrolling, and video games for an hour or two of uninterrupted drawing right before bed, and looking back, it was the best trade I ever made.
3. You’ve gotten too comfortable drawing the same things, the same way, all the time.
Full disclosure; I love comfort zone sketching where I can just draw pretty people just for the fun of it.
After all, we’re learning to draw because it’s enjoyable, right? However, the problem arises when we play it too safe and don’t challenge ourselves to step out of our comfort zones, which is crucial for artistic growth.
What I like to do is alternate between comfort zone sketching (which I feel is also necessary so we don’t burn out) with drawing sessions in which I make it a point to learn something new about drawing.
So, if you’re also guilty of going about your drawing practice the same way too often, I suggest embracing the fear of trying something new in your art every week and I’m sure in a few months if not weeks you will notice how it elevates your art to a new level.
4. You don’t show your artwork.
If, like me, you have been drawing most of your life in utter secrecy and barely show your artwork to others, this might be holding your progress as an artist.
Sharing your joy of creating something that you love with others definitely gives you a motivational boost that keeps you going through your art journey, and believe me when I say you need every bit of it to keep going on this long road.
Sharing my finished drawings and works in progress on social media and art forums for advice helped to speed up my improvement because it helped me to identify the mistakes and shortcomings in my art process that would have taken me ages to figure out on my own.
Overall I think the online art community is fantastic in terms of encouraging and guiding people who want to learn art. So even if you don’t think you’re able to draw something that’s worth sharing, it’s still crucial to share your drawings from time to time to receive feedback and direction from more experienced artists and that will hopefully give you the confidence and direction that you need to improve.
5. You don’t teach what you’ve learned about drawing
There’s scientific proof that teaching what you learn enhances your own learning.
So a great way to improve your drawing skills is to teach whatever little you think you know and learn about drawing every day to others. If all that sounds too scary, remember you don’t need to create an elaborate course on Skillshare to do so, a simple Instagram reel showing your micro lessons is enough to get into the habit of teaching as you learn.
In fact, one of the reasons I created this website was to share what I learned about drawing with people like you, and in the process, I hope to become a better artist myself.
If you’re interested, there’s a fantastic book called “Show Your Work” by Austin Kleon that I recently stumbled upon, which discusses how sharing your work and what you learn about your craft with others can truly transform your creative life.
6. You haven’t figured out a learning system that works for you.
Most of us are learning drawing as a hobby. Even many of those who want to make a career out of art like me don’t plan to go to an art school which I think would be the perfect environment to learn and get better at drawing in a structured way.
If any of you have attended an art school or plan to in the future, I would love to hear about your experiences and thoughts regarding whether attending an art school is the best way to learn drawing in the comments below.
So for those of us who are self-learning drawing without an art school, it is basically up to us to figure out a system that equips us with the necessary knowledge and resources to learn about arts and develop a support network consisting of like-minded people who are on the same level as you as well as those you can look up to for advice, inspiration, and knowledge.
If you’re new to drawing and in the process of figuring these things out, here are some ideas for finding the help you need to become a better artist:
- Explore and follow artists you admire on different social media platforms like Instagram, YouTube, Artstation, Pinterest, and Patreon to get fresh ideas, and inspiration, and to study their techniques.
- Connect with artists who are at a similar point in their art journey as you who are active on different social media platforms and try to learn, share, grieve, and cheer each other on.
- Aim to read at least one art book every month.
- Join a local club, artist meetup, or an online art forum dedicated to learning about drawing, and make an effort to connect with your fellow artists.
- Find a good art coach or mentor you can seek advice from, who can critique your artwork, and guide you towards learning things that you may not know are necessary for improvement.
7. You just need to stick around for a bit while longer.
Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, visible improvement in your drawing might seem elusive because the hard fact is that getting better at drawing simply takes time.
Many beginners give up drawing because of the mistaken belief that they can’t draw well because they lack talent. I myself gave up drawing a few years ago because I had lost hope that I’d ever create something I could be proud of in the face of an ocean of fabulous artists that I discovered each day.
It was only after I got back to drawing last year and committed to practicing it consistently for a year that I became convinced that drawing is a learnable skill despite having zero talent as long as you give it time to blossom.
If what I said in this post somewhat resonates with you, my parting advice is simple:
- Persist with patience and humility. Some things in life can’t be rushed, and creating great art is one of them.
- Instead of focusing solely on the outcome of your work, try to find joy in the art process and I’m sure you’ll surpass your own expectations as an artist soon.
- Remember that becoming a better artist is a lifelong marathon, and no matter how skilled you become, there will always be artists who are better than you.
- Don’t feel compelled to compare yourself to other artists and instead try to seek inspiration from good drawings that you see every day and use it to keep pushing your own boundaries.
Happy drawing! 🎨