Not something I’d get asked as often as one might think, but I do get asked this nevertheless. Every other artist that maybe skilled, talented, experienced, etc. get asked this all too often from what I see. The best me or any other artist that isn’t a teacher can give you is just advice. Here’s some ideas on how to improve in drawing in general.FIGURE OUT WHY YOU WANNA DRAW
Why do you wanna draw? Do you want to make a living off of it? Do you have a story you wanna create? Do you wanna be apart of the community? Or do you just find it fun?
DRAW FROM YOUR INFLUENCES
What inspires you? What is something you like? Do you like video games, anime, cartoons, comics, food, toys? There are so many things that inspire us to draw and influence us, draw your inspiration from that and make it your fuel on how you draw!
STUDY LIFE DRAWING
This is a common tip, if you wanna get good at drawing whatever you want then learning the construction of real life people, objects, physics, and envorinments is absolutely key. Take life drawing classes, buy anatomy books on figure drawing, look up references and tutorials online, stock pile on pictures of people that can do what you’re trying to do. When you get this down then you can practicially draw however you want and then exaggerate it to no end. Many famous animators and manga artists do this, this is basically a requirement if you wanna improve at a more efficient pace.
REFERENCE ANIME AND MANGA LIKE YOU WOULD REFERENCE DISNEY AND CLASSIC ANIMATION
TOO often is this regarded as a HORRIBLE thing to do, but I’m here to tell you that anyone that says you shouldn’t reference anime or manga is a goddamn idiot. Your professor of however many years he’s been teaching says “Don’t go to Anime as a Guide to drawing, you won’t learn anything” yet says “Reference Disney movies and classic cartoons” doesn’t know what he’s talking about and is being hypocritical at the same time. Anime/Manga is NOT a drawing style but a MEDIUM, any SMART artist/animator will tell you that (Maximo V. Lorenzo is a perfect example). There’s good Anime and there’s bad anime, just like there’s good and bad western and european cartoons. It’s up to you to know what is quality to reference and know if what you’re referencing is informative, some animes might be good at portraying action but lack in anatomy and vise versa, same goes for cartoons and western comics. It’s also good to reference bad Anime/Manga and Comics/Cartoons so you don’t end up with your stuff looking like Kanon or Johnny Test (It’s just my opinion on what’s bad mind you)
The Million Dollar Question: “Should I go art school?”
Speaking from experience and graduating from a horrible HORRIBLE school, I say if you INSIST on going to an art school only go if you’ve done your research on the school of your choice. Art Schools do have benefits to them I won’t lie, but truth be told the negative HEAVILY outweighs the positive in this day and age with more useless art schools that look nice but don’t have the quality info you need. Most of the teachers I’ve met discourage some of the techniques and learning methods because they’re “by the books” folk and teach us using info we could look up on google, AND YOU’RE PAYING PEOPLE FOR THIS?! Plus you also have to factor in the other half of the courses that you’re forced to take that’s basically useless information when you could be spending time working on improving in what you were set out to do in the first place.(And people wonder why I bad mouth my school) If you must take college courses then PLEASE do research and don’t make the same mistake I made by diving into debt and neglecting to look for other schools that have better information. Don’t be fooled by schools that say “THIS FAMOUS ANIMATOR WENT HERE!” because chances are the quality in the classes have dwindled since then. 1 Step forward and 2 steps back and falling down a flight of stairs. Unless you’re loaded then go for whatever school you want, I guess. If you wanna do research, ask people who went to art schools, you’ll get your answers there.
There’s a lot of drawing books that’ll help, go to a bookstore and flip through a few and see if they have any useful information. Books on Anatomy are a great place to start, even artbooks from movies and comic books provide useful info as well. Try reading “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain” that’s a buffet of information. However bypass most of the “How to Draw Manga Books” there’s only a select few where they have people who know what they’re talking about, the rest seem like they’ve watched a couple of episodes of Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball and suddenly think they’re experts, does that make me a Master or something?
LOOK UP DRAWING TUTORIALS ONLINE
There’s a lot more information online than people realize. Many people create and upload their own tutorials on their methods for drawing and even techniques, they have tutorials on just about anything. Some even upload PDF files of books. Lurk and stockpile on these.
WATCH HOW PEOPLE DRAW
Look up drawing videos online, demo reels, watch livestreams, even watch other artists and how they draw (Just don’t loom over their shoulder like a creeper) watch how it’s done, you might learn something from it.
If there’s something you wanna know then just ask. People with the level of experience you’re aspiring to achieve are your best bets, just be sure to ask the right questions. A stupid question would be “WILL YOU TEACH ME HOW TO DRAW?!” you’ll be out right ignored. A better question would be “What’s a good art book that you’d recommend to help with drawing hands better?” Remember, it doesn’t hurt to ask. Keep in mind that people that don’t answer might either be busy or don’t check their messages, so ask more than ONE person.
DON’T BE AFRAID TO MAKE MISTAKES
This is something that prohibits people from improving SO much. Infact, this prohibits people from doing a lot of things in general. It’s a common fact that people are afraid they’ll make mistakes so they give up before they start and if anything that’s incredibly counter productive. Making mistakes is a GOOD thing in life, because you can learn from them. The drawing you do today might not be good, but the next drawing you do will more than likely be better as long as you learn from it. Making mistakes is all apart of life, cause we’ll know what to do and not to do next time. As Ms Frizzle once said, “TAKE CHANCES! MAKE MISTAKES! GET MESSY!” (Yes I quoted a cartoon, so sue me. Magic School Bus was awesome)
This is pretty basic. No matter WHAT you draw or the quality of the drawing, draw something at least once a day. You can either spend the entire day drawing or just doodle something random, either way you’re drawing something and making sure you can still draw without any problems.
CARRY A SKETCHBOOK WITH YOU EVERYWHERE YOU GO
A sketchbook’s purpose is to be portable. It’s not something you just let sit. Back in college I had 8 empty sketchbooks just sitting there collecting dust, it wasn’t until that I took’em everywhere when I was away from my workstation, and now I not only filled them up, but I’m currently filling up more and pocket sketchbooks as well. So instead of bringing your DS, PSP or iPad, grab your sketchbook and draw where ever you go. It’s a lot more soothing and you’ll feel much more productive than you would getting a high score on Angry Birds or catching a legendary Pokemon.
DRAW IN PEN
I know that sounds pretty crazy, but drawing with pen is EXTREMELY productive on improving. Drawing in Pen does mean you don’t have an eraser and are prone to making more mistakes, but if anything that’s a good thing. As I’ve said, making mistakes means you can learn from them. When you draw with pen you’ll force yourself to make less mistakes cause you won’t have the luxury of correcting them, it’s a great mental way of improving.
I’m not saying be a health nut and go work out, just move around once in a while, stretch your limbs, go for a walk, get the blood in your body flowing. It’s very productive to exercise a little so you won’t feel sluggish when you draw and not procrastinate so much, going for a walk also helps you come up with ideas a lot easier instead of sitting trying to think.
This is heavily regarded as taboo by countless people and for good reason. Many people do trace or draw from sight pictures and try to pass them off as their own, many of us have done it when we were younger (don’t try to deny it) and that in itself is a big problem. But did anyone ever stop to think of the benefits of tracing? Tracing’s actually more of a physical technique of drawing as it’ll train the hand in drawing certain things. Many famous animators do this if they have to style match character designs before animating them, some Korean animators even do this before they start working, it’s also a good way to increase the rate of your drawing speed as well. The best way to trace is with a lightbox so you get the full feel than you would tracing digitally, you can usually find them at art stores for about $40 so they’re pretty inexpensive unlike a professional animator’s lightbox. However, any traced work of someone else’s drawing should NEVER be passed off as your own, as far as tracing goes it’s usually strictly for practicing and scrapped warm-ups, just remember that tracing isn’t entirely bad as people claim it is.
DRAW WHAT’S AROUND YOU
The coffee cup on your desk. Your cat. The tree outside your house. Pictures on the internet. Anything you can physically see is a reference and potencial reference for you to draw.
DO NOT HARSHLY CRITIQUE YOURSELF
This is a habit I’m still guilty of but I’m trying so very hard to break. Don’t judge yourself harshly, don’t say you suck at drawing, don’t put yourself down when someone compliments you. While this is a quality that makes you sound like you wanna improve and get better, many people’ll think you have low self-esteem. Just have faith in yourself, you might not be as good as you wanna be, but you’ll get there in time! But don’t become overconfident and think you’re the greatest artist in the world either.
DO NOT LIE TO YOURSELF
You might be wondering what I mean by that, but let me explain. Let’s say you drew anime but people started knocking on your drawings cause that’s what they always see, how would you feel about that? It’d kinda depress you wouldn’t it? Now let’s say you wanted to stand out so you draw entirely different and break your back over doing so and only a select few people go “Ooo, that looks pretty sweet.” now honestly, do you feel better drawing in this new style? Is it comfortable than what you’re used to drawing? Do you still get the same satisfaction drawing this way than you were before? Chances are you’re not. I think it’s a phase everyone goes through like in school, everyone wants to fit in and in the process end up hiding what they really love. For example: I love reading and watching Shonen series and I love wacky cartoons. While many people knocked on them for being predictable and stupid it was at least something I enjoyed. While I admit a majority are pure nonsense, they’re at least entertaining and they leave me with a good feeling, so it’s no mystery as to why that influences the way I draw, it’s the reason I still draw the way I do. Remember, we’re not gonna be able to please everyone, but if you’re not true to yourself then what’s the point?
DRAW WHAT YOU WANT AND HAVE FUN
If you wanna draw anime then draw anime, if you wanna draw fanart then draw fanart, if you wanna put boobs on an anthropomorphic wolf then by God you put boobs on that wolf! Have fun with what you draw! If you’re not having fun then you’re in the wrong place.
DRAW WHAT YOU’RE BAD AT DRAWING
While I say draw what you want, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to broaden your skills. If you have problems drawing something, say backgrounds for instance, the best way to get good at drawing them is to just flat out DO IT. Is it time consuming? Hell yeah it is, but it’s VERY beneficial in the long run.
The best way to tell what you can do to improve on drawing is to seek a second opinion. Go to places to get a portfolio review or ask people who are experienced on what they think and how they can improve. Remember, critique does NOT mean they hate the way you draw, people wanna make sure you’ll get better so don’t go “IT’S MY STYLE!” when they comment on how much the anatomy needs work and give you advice on what you can do to improve it.
DRAW AS MUCH AS YOU CAN
In other words: PRACTICE!
It’s something so MANY people hate to hear, I mean I hated hearing it too, but that’s all it really boils down to. Someone once said “Everyone has about 100,000 bad drawings in them, and the best thing to do is to work on getting them out of you by drawing them.” that man was Chuck Jones.
I hope this helps you out or at least points you in the right direction on pursuing your dream of drawing and drawing well. Keep at it and sooner or later you’ll not only be great at what you do but you’ll enjoy it to the full extent, it’ll be a tough road ahead but never give up.