Some people think that the best way to improve your drawing technique is to just keep drawing as much as possible until one day you wake up and your selling out exhibitions and everyone wants to buy your art.
Unfortunately, it’s not quite that simple!
Of course, drawing as much as possible will help you progress as an artist, but it is not the be all and end all of learning how to draw well.
During an art tutorial, drawing instructors will ensure that certain habits become ingrained in the student artist to make it easy for them to develop their hand-eye coordination. However, not everyone has the time or money to have a full professional drawing lesson every day.
So how can the aspiring artist improve their craft outside of drawing classes?
Drawing is a passion, and like any passion, there is not always a specific hour that we choose to engage in the activity. An artist is basically free to draw whenever they like.
But how can you improve your technique without a drawing teacher ready to offer advice and critique on-tap?
Here are a few tips to assist you in your journey to artistic superstardom (or to make sure your circles start appearing as round).
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Sharpen Your Visual Memory and Improve Your Ability to Draw
Drawing regularly allows you to stop making mistakes of the past. Although before you can draw, you need to be able to mentally visualise what it is you want to create on paper.
Before photography came into the world in the 1850s, art was the sole preserver of reality. To capture a scene in time, you needed to take out your brushes and locate something to paint on, before copying what you saw. A selfie could take months to complete!
Even today, drawing is often utilised to illustrate what can’t be photographed. Court trials, where court artists make sketches in chalk and watercolour to document closed sessions, are a good example of this.
To draw well, you need to be a keen observer and have an analytical eye that is trained to memorize the visual world around you.
There are a number of things you can do to practice your drawing skills.
Copy, copy, copy.
Create a collection of paintings, photos or illustrations - and get in the habit of copying them, observing the smallest details. Copying also helps you gather inspiration for your own future pieces. The simple first step means always try to have a pencil or coloured pencils on hand.
Sketch from life
But also try and practise reproducing a real-life situation on a blank page. Drawing inevitably means passing from three dimensions to two dimensions.
This requires some mental acrobatics on the part of your brain so it can understand how to give the impression of three dimensions on a flat surface.
Use perspective, light and shadows to create the scene you imagine.
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When sketching from life, the scene you are recreating often lasts no more than a few minutes at most.
Therefore it is important to memorise the core details of the scene which you will try and put into your work. If memory fails, make something up, but try and latch on to the real-life details that make the scene worth sketching in the first place.
Building Your Concentration and Patience
Time and patience are two key ingredients when it comes to an artistic recipe for success.
Even if you have a natural talent for charcoal, watercolour, graphite or oil painting, you will always need to be working on your technique.
Learning to draw straight lines, using perspective well, experimenting with contrast, knowing your tools and what they can do…
These abilities require time and effort.
If you think a one-week intensive drawing course will show you everything you need to learn, start thinking about drawing as a lifetime skill and habit to be constantly worked on.
- If you find yourself, like many beginners, feeling frustrated and can’t concentrate on your drawings for very long at a time, try breaking your drawing up into smaller sessions. As you improve, try to lengthen the time you spend drawing to stay in the flow of the activity.
- Give yourself a goal for each session. Don’t try and paint an entire canvas in one sitting. You will discover that better results can be achieved by breaking your art into stages. Each objective you reach should motivate you further. This is also one of the best, simple ways to improve concentration, as you can dedicate yourself wholly to the particular section of the piece you are working on.
- Avoid distractions – turn off your phone and computer, put earplugs in, whatever you need to do to feel like it is just you and the work in the room.
Draw When You Can
At work, at school, on the bus, with your kids, on your lunch break – draw!
The simple act of drawing will not always improve your core technique, it will give you the chance to make little errors, and see where you can improve.
The more you practice, the better. You will learn to understand and have faith in your drawing materials. This makes it easier to choose the right pencil for the right idea.
Take yourself out to the park or to a forest and have fun filling a sketchbook, inspired by your surroundings. Get out and visit an exotic country, and be sure to bring your drawing supplies.
Observe, analyse, and re-create everything around you.
Drawing takes time and patience to learn. You may even consider copying the same painting dozens of times, in every artistic form you can imagine (chalk, gouache, watercolour, graphite, sanguine, pastel, pencil, coloured pencils and ink…)
Take it easy on yourself, your drawings don’t need to be perfect from the get-go! Draw, critique and start over again – that’s what great artists do.
Broaden Your Artistic Horizons
All drawing techniques are worth learning for their own reasons.
The artists worst enemy is not surpassing themselves.
Even beginners should develop realistic goals to release their potential as an artist.
An easy way to do this is to locate an artist that can develop a course that shows you how to use different supplies to improve your technique.
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You might enjoy doing watercolour or using colour pencils, but consider switching styles every so often just to improve your skillset.
Little by little, you will gain new ways of using your paper’s grains or blending your materials:
- Learning new painting skills strengthens your understanding of colour.
- Brushes can liven up a piece that you might want to imitate in pencil
- Pen and ink users cross-hatching techniques that might give interesting results in acrylics
- Monochrome pencils (graphite, charcoal, chalk) are an excellent way to work on using light and shadow.
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Getting access to new materials and supplies can sometimes be tricky.
So why not ask your fellow artists from your drawing lessons? Why not pool your resources together in a materials exchange?
Everyone brings their own art supplies to an exchange session and shares them with the rest of the party.
Have lively, experimental drawing sessions trying out charcoal, watercolour, pen and ink, chalk, graphite, gouache, tempera, coloured pencils, pastels, Copic markers… Or why not combine all those mediums in a mixed media mishmash.
Not only is it a fun, free way for you to explore new supplies for your drawings, but it's also an easy way for you to develop a full range of skills you can use as an artist.
You will be able to create more and more with just a canvas or a piece of paper.
Visit Museums and Art Galleries
Even if your drawings lessons are in rural Australia, there is sure to be some sort of museum or art gallery near you!
Take advantage and go visit – learn from the masters or from local artists.
Your art teacher will be more than thrilled. These excursions will help you track down inspiration and improve on your technique.
Some of these smaller galleries even offer free tutorials.
Some people believe you can learn to draw by just sitting down to watch a video tutorial online.
While beginners may find this useful, there are so many aspects that you miss out on without a teacher there to take you through each step and watch where you may need some guidance.
If you are realistic about wanting to improve with the pencil or brush, locate a free art tutorial in a gallery where you will get human to human tips and interaction.
Follow the tips you receive in your tutorial, and soon your hands will naturally have the ability to create realistic drawings or oil paintings according to your own free will.
When you are painting or choose to create a sketch, and you work in this fun, almost easy manner, all your drawings lessons and extra tutorials will feel worth it.
A lot of wonderful paintings are in private collections, but some have escaped this fate and are now housed in the world’s most amazing museums, giving you an incredible window on art if you should be so lucky as to visit.
Many museums in Australia are free and are usually accessible via public transportation.
Looking at art is an easy step for an artist to develop their critical eye.
Whether you choose a guided tour or not, don’t just cruise past every piece in the building.
Take time to stand in front of a piece and look at the details, especially as a lot of paintings are quite big.
Take advantage of touring exhibits to broaden your artistic horizons and see something new at your local gallery.
You'll see it's fun, often free and fully immersive, rather than watching a video about art online.
It's a simple thing to do for any artist, especially beginners, to visit a museum and see the best art on offer in your area.
You will develop so many ideas that you can create in your future drawings.
As you take a journey through the different exhibitions, you will discover different artistic periods.
Over time, different artistic styles have emerged. Artists took inspiration from their predecessors, then gave it their own personal touch.
This created artistic currents such as:
- Constable’s Romanticism
- The Dada movement with Duchamp
- Dewhurst’s Impressionism
- the Cubism of William Roberts or
- Matisse and Fauvism.
There are so many radically different styles that one of them is sure to take your interest.
Styles used by these masters often vary greatly depending on the pieces.
Oil painting is a technique often associated with art museums, but you will find other techniques there as well, such as gouache or acrylic.
Many have study groups where you can study the artists use of layering and highlights, the way they play with light, and their composition and use of negative space.
What Are These Paintings Trying to Say?
Every painting has a narrative that rests behind the picture initial beauty. Love, violence, oppression, family, solitude… If you are feeling uninspired, a visit to the museum will be sure to change that.
Make sure you visit some special exhibitions and artist’s workshops to take advantage of the amazing artistic opportunities out there.
You can watch art films, take out an art book from the library, or locate some friends with similar interests to talk about as well as practice art.
Showing Your Art Off to the World
A great way to progress your art is to show your art off to friends, peers, critics and art lovers all over.
Take your drawings out of their pouches and show them to your friends and family to get their thoughts.
Usually, they will be honest and won’t hesitate to tell you what’s working and where you can improve.
The critique will improve your drawing fast.
t’s important to be able to differentiate negative criticism from constructive criticism.
You want to feel good about your art, but also improve.
If someone is bringing you down to much about your work, thank them for the feedback and then forget about it.
Listen to those who want to help you improve and can give you specific areas where you have fallen short, but also areas where you are on the right track.
You can always ask participants in your drawing class to give you some advice on your work.
Just like your materials exchange sessions, you can organize a feedback workshop online or in-person where everyone can offer constructive feedback for each other, to help improve the collective group.
Your peers from class will have more experience to draw on when offering feedback than your friends or family.
If your feeling bold, you can also organise your own exhibition.
Whether that is something you can see yourself doing soon, you will usually have an end-of-year exhibition if you are part of a regular class.
Be ready to listen for feedback as this is one of the best times where you can learn how to improve your drawings outside a tutorial.
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