I’m sure you will agree with me: when you hear the word “practice,” it is often met with a groan.
You hear it A LOT.
Every time you ask an experienced artist the question, “How can I get better at drawing?” it’s evitable the answer they will give.
Want to get better at drawing faces? Want to be able to draw your favorite anime character? Looking to master figure drawing?
Yep, you guessed it. Practice.
And there is a reason for that. It’s true. The more you practice something, the better you get at it.
The act of rehearsing a skill again and again, for improvement or mastery is at the core of developing yourself as an artist.
But, what is the best way to practice drawing?
Below I share the three different types of drawing practices you can take on to skyrocket your artistic skills.
You will also find seven simple to follow, highly effective drawing exercises that will boost your rate of learning.
- Innate Practice: The Steady Sharpening Of Your Artistic Sword
- Inspired Practice: Harness Your Creative Passion
- Deliberate Practice: Go From Good To Great, Fast!
- The 7 Simple Drawing Exercises Of Highly Effective Artists
- How To Use These Practices
- Practice Pitfalls: A Warning To Beginners (And Veterans Too)
- Wrapping Things Up
Innate Practice: The Steady Sharpening Of Your Artistic Sword
Innate Practice is the practice you inherently get when you consistently draw.
Whether you are actively trying to improve or not, the act of consistent and repeated action over time will improve your ability to draw.
(Cudos goes to Draw With Jazza for coming up the term ‘Innate Practice’)
It is the type of practice people recommend when they say you should take up a daily sketching habit.
Whether you like it or not, if you commit to a daily drawing practice you are going to see an improvement.
This type of practice is less about actively expanding your skillset and more about volume. It is creating, often at a skill level you are familiar with, at volume.
Drawing on a consistent basis doesn’t have to be a huge commitment! Get a small portable sketchbook or portable drawing tablet to carry around with you.
- Are you sitting on the train? Sketch what you see.
- Do you have a lunch break? Go somewhere quiet and draw whatever comes to mind.
- Are you watching TV and an ad comes on? Do a quick sketch of a character.
It doesn’t need to be the next Rembrandt. The act of drawing, whatever it may be, will take you one step closer to mastery.
Inspired Practice: Harness Your Creative Passion
Ever learned something new and had the compulsion just to draw?
Just finished watching an awesome anime, and are blasted with thousands of new ideas screaming to be captured on your sketch pad?
Inspired practice is when you act on that burning passion to create, try new things, and capture your ideas.
Often this can be an intense drawing session where you completely lose yourself in the process, and come out completely exhausted, with a real sense of achievement. Inspired practice often comes in rapid bursts of learning through observation and enthusiasm.
It can be incredibly addictive too!
However, it comes with a catch. It isn’t easy to maintain.It might be the easiest way to motivate and improve yourself. However, it can be incredibly fickle, difficult to conjure and very hard to keep.
And it can leave you exhausted.
If innate practice is a marathon – steady progress over a long period of time – then inspired practice is the sprint. Trying to go over a million miles an hour over a long period of time will often burn you out.
But, it is still a powerful tool in your creative arsenal.
Before you try and inspire yourself to draw, it is essential to understand one thing: Inspiration is affected by your surroundings and emotions.
We have all experienced difficult times, or gone through depressive periods. It can make inspired practice seem so far away, and unreachable.
The key to this is addressing yourself first before you address your artwork or craft. Otherwise, you will be fighting an uphill battle (which can often make progress slower).
Also, your surroundings will greatly help in improving your drawing.
Make sure you have a clean and tidy workspace, ideally dedicated to your creativity.
A clean space motivates you and inspires you to do great things. Cleanliness also removes any obstacles to expressing your creativity.
So, How Can You Get Inspired To Draw?
Inspired practice can be cultivated through new experiences and information. I am often inspired when I look at movie concept art or play a game that excites me. I will look at art styles I love, and just soak it all in.
Make sure in those moments you have a sketchbook or a good drawing tablet handy to capture that inspiration. Moments like these can be created to feed your projects, ideas, and artwork.
Another way to inspire yourself is to learn a new tool or technique that allows you to do something more efficiently on a computer or paper. Sometimes, you just can’t help but grab the closest piece of paper and try out the new tricks you have just learned.
And finally, get out of the house and go somewhere inspiring. Getting out into nature, or go to a museum or art show. By stepping out of your regular routine, and actively seeking these experiences, you can cultivate rapid bursts of inspired learning.
Ultimately, when surrounded by things that inspire you, and are in the emotional state where you are fearless, you can carry out those creative intentions and skyrocket your ability to draw in a short burst of time.
That is the power of inspired practice.
Deliberate Practice: Go From Good To Great, Fast!
Deliberate practice is a particular type of practice that is purposeful and systematic.
While innate practice might include mindless repetitions, and inspired practice comes in intense spurts, deliberate practice requires focused attention.
It is conducted with the specific goal of improving your ability and performance. It is the type of training where you assign tasks and exercises to do.
It is when you consciously choose to improve.
And it isn’t always fun.
Often you might find yourself gritting your teeth, tempted to scrunch up a piece of paper as you draw the same thing for the 100th time but just can’t seem to get it right. But it is also one of the most powerful and constructive forms of practice.
It can have the same rapid development that inspirational practice has, however, without the need for inspiration. It is more mechanical and intentional.
So, where do you start?
If you want to get better at drawing, here are three steps you can take to find out where to start:
- Choose what you want to practice. What are the core skills you need to practice? What have you been struggling with? What do you look at and avoid? You will likely have more than one. Write them all down and pick one.
- Choose a way to practice those skills in isolation from everything else. Focus on each skill separately, one at a time. Break it down if need be. Is learning to draw the human head overwhelming? Break it down and practice noses, mouths, ears, and eyes in separate sessions.
- Make an appointment with yourself. Put aside time for you to regularly practice these skills uninterrupted.
Once you know what you want to improve, and have set a time aside to practice, what do you do then? Here are seven deliberate practices you can take on.
The 7 Simple Drawing Exercises Of Highly Effective Artists
It’s easy for someone to say, “just practice,” but how can you practice?
Here are seven drawing practice exercises you can take up to deliberately improve your skills.
1. Repeat An Image Over And Over
This activity involves choosing a single image or object and drawing it many times over with an ever-decreasing time limit.
- Step 1: Find a picture and draw it on a piece of paper. Time how long it takes.
- Step 2: Draw the same image again. However, see if you can draw it quicker.
- Step 3: Continue to replicate the image as best you can and continue to reduce the time limit.
After doing this at least 20 times, you will notice something interesting…
Look at the first image you draw and then the last image you drew. You will notice you are looser and more relaxed. By this stage, you will be more efficient at being aware of the most relevant forms, details, lines, and silhouettes of the image.
This exercise helps you understand an image or object as a whole because you are rapidly interpreting it.
Below is an excellent example of this exercise in practice. When drawing the eye, don’t just practice drawing it once. Draw it, again and again, aiming to get quicker and more efficient.
Yes, you will likely need to refer to any tutorial you are following, however, this method will develop your speed, which moves you towards mastery.
By the time you have done this exercise, you will have drawn the object repeatedly and will be confident you can do it again.
2. Draw From Direct Observation
The ability to produce a 2D representation of a 3D object is an essential skill of any artists.
And it isn’t easy.
The task of replicating what you see in a 3D space and producing it on a 2D piece of paper as a representation of 3D space uses a part of our brain that needs to be exercised repeatedly.
Nobody is good at life drawing at first. It is not something people do naturally. As artists, it is something we need to learn and practice.
Ever heard the saying “Draw what you see, not what you know”? This is what we are training our brain to do.
By practicing drawing from life, you train your mind to understand 3D space and form to eventually be able to replicate and manipulate objects without the objects even being present.
Now, by this stage, you might be thinking, “Aaaaah drawing fruit and cups is soooo boring.”
It doesn’t have to be. Ultimately, you get to choose what you draw.
- Pick interesting items to draw. What looks cool or has an interesting texture?
- Set up your lighting so you get interesting shadows and forms. A simple desk lamp beside your collection of objects can make a massive difference.
- Go to a life drawing class and socialize. (All the introverts just collectively groaned)
Wondering where to start? Check out this video on how to sketch from life.
WARNING: Resist the temptation to draw from a photo.
There is no doubt that working from a photo reference is convenient and easy, BUT it can also lead to the development of bad habits.
You want to master the ability to translate 3D space to 2D space. A photograph is already in 2D.
When you work from real life, you experience you subject matter in a way a photo would never allow. You can touch it, walk around it, smell it and see the object within the context of its environment.
For the purpose of this exercise, stick to drawing objects from real life.
3. Tutorial Marathon
Do you have some how-to art books or videos that you have been itching to try?
A solid tutorial marathon is a perfect way to tackle a new drawing skill. Spend a dedicated amount of time to learn from great creative resources.
The key here is to keep your choice of tutorials to a narrow selection of themes. If you tackle everything from anatomy, to drawing spaceships, or perspective, in one sitting, then your brain will not be able to process it all.
Pick one subject. If you spend several hours consistently and methodically apply yourself to master one particular aspect of art, by the end of that session will have taken very clear steps and learned the finer aspects of that topic.
As a result, you will experience a definite feeling of progress.
Can’t find any tutorials to try? Check out our favorite drawing tutorials.
My personal favorite is New Masters Academy.
4. Deconstruct And Simplify Structure
Deconstruction is when you take a complex image or object and break it down into simple shapes and geometry.
To practice deconstruction, find an image, object, person or animal and break it down into its basic shapes and forms. Many things can be broken down and represented as a collection of cubes, spheres, cylinders and other basic shapes.
It makes drawing so much easier. Breaking down complex shapes into simpler shapes will teach your brain to understand how form and space work. If you can deconstruct something, you can reconstruct it (which is the next exercise)
In the below video, Proko talks about structure, and how it can apply to animals and people.
In the previous exercise, you practiced breaking down an object into basic shapes.
Construction is taking the simple representation of a complicated object, such as the human form or an animal, and filling in the blanks.
When you look at a fantastic piece by your favorite artist, all you see is the finished product. It is easy to look at something like that and convince yourself you can’t do that.
However, most artists start with the basic shapes and framework, before refining and polishing everything to produce the final outcome.
You have likely seen the human form broken down into basic shapes. It is easier to manipulate these shapes to create the pose you want, and then add the details, such as muscle structure, later.
Deconstruction is about finding the simple shapes that make up a complicated form. Construction is about using that understanding to reconstruct the same object in any way you wish.
Jazza from Draw With Jazza, shares his method of deconstructing and constructing the human form.
Once you have started to gain a firm understanding of the structure and form of an object, you can start to experiment with it.
Play with variations of a forms shape and structure.
- What if you change the shape of the face? Create a face that is square, and another that is long.
- What if you played with the proportions of the figure? Give them long arms and shorter legs.
- Make certain features bigger and others smaller.
This can be a lot of fun, and a laugh. What’s more, is it can help you develop your own unique style.
The key here is trial and error. Experimenting is a journey of discovery. You are going to try something, and it will look horrible. Don’t worry too much about it, start your next experiment and see what it looks like.
If you have practiced using the previous exercises, you will have the speed to quickly create these “experiments” and consistent play with new ideas easily.
7. Tackle Your Flaws
Don’t avoid the scary things. Attack them head on.
Ever sat down and started drawing a character, and when it came to drawing the hands you feel the urge to just skip it for now, or just put a simple shape as a placeholder?
It is common to be fearful and avoid doing things we are not good at. However, this attitude can be damning in the long run.
For a long time, I avoided drawing feet, hands and mechanical devices.
I love figure drawing, but when it came to hands and feet my characters looked like they had bricks for hands, or were victims of a mafia hit.
And I didn’t draw anything such as cars or bionics for years!
Ultimately, it made me less capable as an artist and hindered my progress.
I ended up setting aside a month to tackle each of these different aspects I was avoiding. I found easy to follow tutorials and books and set aside time (and a lot of coffee) to tackle each of these aspects.
Now it wasn’t a walk in the park. The first couple of days my wife would hear an audible groan every time I sat down to try drawing. I felt like an absolute newb. But after I started to get into the flow of things, it became enjoyable as I began to see improvement.
You don’t have to set aside a whole month, however, I do recommend spending a dedicated amount of time (such as an entire weekend) tackling your weaknesses.
Find easy to follow drawing tutorials or books around what you want to approve. It is a very constructive and productive way to develop your skills.
How To Use These Practices
Don’t Just Do One Type Of Practice
All of these practices have their benefits, but honestly, sticking to just one can make you feel drained and uninspired.
Sticking to innate practice can be a lot of fun, however, doing things without a goal can get draining and uninspiring. Over time you will lose your passion and won’t see any practice.
Practicing when you are inspired is exciting, but you can quickly burn out. It can come in bursts, and often inspiration is not enough to see you through an entire project.
Deliberate practice is an awesome way to learn and measurably grow as an artist. It can also be the most draining and disheartening form of practice if that is all you do.All of these types of drawing practices are important. No one is better than the other.
The easiest way to practice is to take on something that uses all three types of practice.
Pick A Project That Is Done Over A Period Of Time
It can be a series of drawings or character designs. Maybe you want to try produce a comic strip, manga or animated short. The purpose is to choose something that requires some form of repetition.
Choose Something That Inspires You
Have you recently learned how to use a new tool or technique you have been itching to put into practice? Is it on a topic that excites you? If drawing dragons or cyberpunk characters from the future inspire you, then that’s what you should make your project about.
Make sure the project challenges you in some way. Does it require a skill that you haven’t used before? Or is the standard of achievement required a little higher? Is the project bigger than what you usually do?
If you choose something that you make for yourself which also that challenges you and inspires you, make sure you complete it all the way from the beginning to the end. When you look back, you can see the progress you’ve made.
Practice Pitfalls: A Warning To Beginners (And Veterans Too)
How well you improve with practice will depend on some factors such as how often you practice and the type of feedback that is available.
Seek Out Feedback
If you do not receive feedback, either from an instructor or from self-correction, practice can be ineffective, or detrimental to your learning. Bad habits can start to creep in.
To combat this, undertake a paid course where an experienced instructor can provide corrections, or post your work up online for the specific purpose of receiving constructive feedback.
If you do not practice enough, you can often forget what was learned. Consistency will reinforce what you have learned, so be sure to create a habit.
It is better to spend 1 hour each day drawing than to spend 7 hours drawing in one huge chunk on the weekend.
Don’t Compare Yourself To Others
Everyone is at a different level, and some people just naturally improve on a particular activity quicker than others. Keep in mind, for every great picture you see of other artists; there are 1000 failures that you don’t get to see.
The only person you have to be better than is your past self.
Stick To It
The key to success is the ability not to give up. Often you will feel impatient with your drawing. Don’t expect results straight away. Improvement is a slow and gradual process. You can’t be an Olympic level gymnast with a week of training, so don’t expect to be a master at drawing after a few days.
For most artists, it can take years of rigorous practice and commitment to achieve a level of mastery.
Practice is a process. Stick with it and enjoy the process.
Wrapping Things Up
Drawing can be a great experience. The act of picking up a pencil and practicing is you willing to confront yourself and improve.
Congratulations, you have already won. The fruits of your victory will come in time.
By taking on these different ways of practicing, and taking on the exercises, you will see your abilities improve in leaps and bounds.
Pay attention to what works for you and what doesn’t, then relax (don’t judge yourself) and try again.
Be patient and be proud that you have the courage to practice.
So, how do you practice? What have you found helps you refine and improve? Let us know in the comment section below.