We’ve all heard it before, practice makes perfect, it’s the fastest way to get better. While this is undoubtedly true, what should you be practicing? It’s easy to tell someone to practice, but without a place to start it’s confusing, and it can even hurt your progress if you’re practicing bad habits! Even professionals need to upkeep their skills, and to do that we usually rely on our sketch books. Here are five steps to start and fill your sketchbook so you can get better faster!
Step 1: Find a Place to Draw
We’ve all had that moment with the blank page where we want to draw something amazing, but we don’t want to risk ‘ruining’ a clean page or a great book. My recommendation is to find something to draw on that you decide you don’t care about. I use a sketchbook I bought with a coupon, and because it didn't cost a lot of money, I don't feel as bad filling it with doodles.
Keep it light and remember that sketchbooks are for sketches, not perfect drawings, there's no need to get something expensive. If you can’t get a sketchbook, just keep in mind that the key is to keep your sketches together. This way you can see your progress or go back and try things again to make them work. Any paper and writing utensil will do, just keep them together.
I used to never use sketchbooks, all the drawing below were just done on random pieces of printer paper I kept in a folder.
Step 2: Make Stuff Up
Whether you consider yourself self-taught or not, there are some drawing exercises that are always recommended, these normally include value studies, drawing shapes, etc. While these are good places to start, you can only draw so many cubes before you get bored.
The solution to this is to draw what you want and find different ways to do it. If you like to draw eyes, draw eyes from your memory in different styles with different techniques and see what you like. Practice your values and shape drawing abilities by breaking the elements down. You can even draw random shapes and try to make something out of them!
In the drawing below, I just wanted to work on line weight and inking, and since I love to draw hair, I did my study by drawing a figure with hair that twisted and had more depth. The original sketch was much messier, but unfortunately, I didn't have a picture to share of it.
Step 3: Be an Art Ninja
Despite how bad it can sound, copying or referencing other artists’ styles and even whole drawings can be a useful tool to getting better. Whether you are copying them exactly or trying to do their drawing in your own style, it’s a useful experience that can broaden your horizons.
Just keep in mind that it’s not your work if you are copying, and just like any other project, you need to cite your sources and give credit to the original artists.
The picture below is an example where I drew a picture then attempted to copy other artist's styles. I learned something new on every one, and credited each artist when I posted the piece.
Step 4: Write in your Sketchbook
It’s helpful to have more than just drawing in there. If you make notes to yourself before or after sketching, it can help you to look at what you did well and what you were planning.
Some artists go through their sketchbook before they sketch and write positive notes to themselves for when they get to that page. Remember that practice is a time for you to play around with drawing, and if you're getting stressed out it's time to take a break. Practicing while frustrated can hurt your technique.
I almost always write small notes when I sketch something so I can remember if I tried something new or if I didn't like something specific. It reminds me in the future so I can change my technique and get better
Step 5: Keep your Sketchbook to Yourself.
One of the biggest sources of pressure is that someone else will see your sketches and judge you. If you aren’t confident in your sketches, or just don’t want anyone to see them, then keep your sketchbook to yourself. This way the only person judging your progress is you.
If you’re judging yourself harshly, draw something you know you can draw well to give you the little boost you need. Behind every drawing there is always a less that perfect sketch.
This is an example of a sketch that I did a long time ago that I ended up not liking, but if I didn't share it, no one would even know it existed except for me.
These are all examples of things that I do to get better, and using your sketchbook everyday will really improve your skills!
Just remember to sketch what you want no matter your skill level or how silly it is!
If you have a sketch or drawing that you’re proud of, you can post it on Instagram with #mxfeature so that I can see it! Once a week I’ll pick a random drawing and feature it on my stories.