10 Ways to Improve Your Drawing

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A few very kind friends have recently complemented me on my art efforts. While I struggle to take complements (work in progress), I am extremely grateful for the encouragement. While I’m still pretty green at art, I can see I’m getting a little better each day, which comes back to one of the top things that I repeat to my kids all the time: it’s all about practice.

So here are my top ten tips to draw better:

  1. Draw every day: Ghirlandaio wasn’t kidding. I use Pixelovely.com every day for at least a 30-minute class format, plus I work on a quick (from a photo) portrait for 30-60 minutes. I’m aiming for 2 hours every day. I’m training the kids to sort out their own breakfast, and reducing my social life so I can skip showering. [For more on working from home, see here.]
  2. Copy from the greats: The Old Masters and basically any artist you have ever loved did this. I invested in a couple Dover art books of artists’ drawings and am working my way through them.
  3. Draw from life: I loved doing this when I lived in Budapest, and later in London for work trips (if you’re in London, join this network and go to every DeathDrawing event). As well as practising looking, it’s encouraging meeting and drawing with other artists of all experience and skill levels. Right now, this is a little tough in a city with no regular life drawing classes, but I’m still looking – and up for starting one.
  4. Draw with charcoal: I’m so pencil/ line focused, and drawing with different media really takes me out of my comfort zone. Initially, I *hate* it but this is a good thing. I have learned so much more about drawing, looking and getting over myself.
  5. Take a class: A teacher brings focus and direction, no matter how focused and directed you already think you are. I’ve been learning from the amazing Leah Kohlenberg at the Roaming Studio (on Skype, in pyjamas), and recently also started learning from John Silver at Kuona Trust, and Jonathan Hardesty also online. And of course, there are free lessons all over the internet. YouTube is overflowing with great instructional videos, as well as other artists’ own websites.
    6. Fill a sketchbook: I carry a sketchbook pretty much everywhere and now feel a flash of irritation when my bag is too small for one. My clutch bags are getting bigger and bigger. There are UrbanSketchers groups everywhere. Except Nairobi. But I sketch at my kids’ school events, in waiting rooms, at the airport, in cafes. Wherever.
    7. Go big to small: I’m very left-brain, detail oriented. I suspect a lot of us are. I am working through Betty Edwards’ Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, which is great. But the big thing I am getting out of this is to draw big and draw simple. Is it a dark, triangle shape? Draw that. Not ‘the side of the nose’. All that detail and those words just get in the way.
    8. Look at art: This is a perfect excuse to spend half an hour on Pinterest. What other excuse do you need? I also find this gives me ideas of things I want to try, directions I want to go in. It also expands my ideas on ‘art’, and deepens my understanding of what I’m learning every day.
    9. See the light (and the dark): That line I’m drawing around that object doesn’t really exist. It’s all about where the light and dark meet. Since I’m trying to create the illusion of a 3D object on a 2D piece of paper/ canvas, it helps to understand values.
    10. Measure, measure, measure: While I’m not going for hyper-realism, I want objects to resemble their ‘real’ selves. Measuring helps. I use the grid method for pieces I want to be more accurate, and am practising my eye with the Bargue course (Van Gogh completed the entire set of plates).

So there you have it, folks. It’s really about 1 tip (draw) spread out into 10 so I could fill a blog post.

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