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Art is a process.

Like that of the scientific method and philosophical alchemy, art can be refined and improved through process. From observation, to experiment, to reflection and conclusion, art is improved by the steps we make towards change, not solidification and stagnation. Much of the advice out there for drawing is simply “practice” or “avoid distractions”. This advice is good, but there is more to creation than just throwing yourself mindlessly into a task and avoiding bad habits along the way. Good habits and knowledge will help to excel your learning process faster, and from that, improve faster and more effectively.



Look at it

As an artist, observation is key. The skill we develop is not just seeing, but interpreting what we see, remembering what we have seen and recording it in the form of visual art. This is a skill that, aside from blindness or vision degradation, you will be able to improve during your entire life. The way of seeing from an artist's eye never goes away. It can only improve.

When seeing, it is important to make note of what you are observing from a creative and technical standpoint. Am I looking at an interesting fabric texture to store away in my mind for later? Does this landscape have beautiful, flowing lines I could use in a comic? Should I note the way the sunlight hits these clouds and the hues they produce, and where? These are all important mental notes to make when seeing, as anything, from micro to macro can be seen and studied.

Take a picture

Is it interesting? Worth keeping and sharing? Record it on camera to save for later, if memory will not serve. (always remember to follow copyright rules, and respect people's privacy!) The photos don't have to be very good. I, personally will always take photos of my hands to draw. I find it nearly impossible otherwise. Photos can be used to record what memory can't, from fine detail, to exact colour. Building a steady collection of resources will give you something to go back to when you need help, or just inspiration to get past art block.

Touch it

If possible, get grabby. Go to the fabric store. Touch everything they will let you. Touch wood. Touch stone. Touch plastic. Touch sharp metal. Touch rough things. Touch soft things. Remember them. Look at them. See their components. See what makes them what they are. Physically handling things gives you a stronger memory of them, and a better capacity to render things in 3D when you understand the proportions and mass of an object.

Play with it

Beyond touching that object, Lift it. Hold it. Swing it a bit. Find the centre of gravity. Learn what it is. What it's made of. What is the historical purpose of the object? Learn who invented it and why. Learn how that animal evolved. Learn where that style of architecture originated, and imagine how it might change or evolve in the future. Will it become defunct? Could it be used for something else? If you took it apart, what would you have?

Turn it over

If you are observing a landscape, or other large image, take a photo and turn that upside down. Working away from the brain's natural recognition of symbols is a significant way to improve. When we change what we are looking at from the recognizable to the unrecognizable, we stop seeing symbols (eye, nose, hair) and are able to see the abstract. We simply see light, dark, shape and colour. These are much more easy to reproduce with accuracy, without interference from our minds telling us, “No, no, a nose must look like THIS!”

Manicure it

Take your art supplies. Clean them. Clear up your workspace. Empty the garbage, go put the dishes away. Remove the used scrap paper, wipe the table clean. Brush or air-spray the dirt from your keyboard. Clean your mouse. The underside, too. Clean your tablet and stylus. Wash and condition your brushes. Clean your palate. Sharpen your pencils. Clean your eraser and your blending tools. Change your pen nib and clean the used ones. Organise your copics. Make note of any dead or missing colours. Replenish your paper supplies. The cheap stuff and the expensive stuff.

Maintain your space as you work and you will feel a level of stress lift from you. You will find your working more efficient and practical with a little bit of care and tidying.

Compare it

take two or more reference or inspiration pictures. Place them next to each other. Observe. What do you like about each? What don't you like? How is the use of space in one? Are they using the same perspective? Does one stand out as superior in your mind? If so, why? Does the other have merits that the first does not?

Keep in mind that there is no perfect reference, or perfect inspiration. Some match what you imagine your drawing to be more than others, but one single reference need not be used for a drawing. Multiple images of multiple angles and lighting give more visual information when Seeing, and will again expand your artistic database. Observing more than what needs to be drawn will help to pull your drawings off of the page and keep them from looking flat and lifeless. To add life into a drawing, observe and report... life!

Also, make a mental note when comparing your artistic database to itself: is every image similar? Do you see overlap everywhere? Is it time to expand beyond what you currently hold now? Growth cannot exist without experimentation and exploration. When you see repetition in the art you love and the art you produce, it is time to try something new.

Ask questions

Look at your past work. Look at your present work. What have you improved on? What have you not-so improved on? What have you avoided working on for fear or frustration? (The skill of drawing hands won't magically manifest itself!) Ask why you made the colour choices you did. Has your knowledge improved since then? Does the piece convey to you the emotion or message you intended?

BE TRUTHFUL!

Ask yourself how you would change the piece if you started from the beginning. Ask what you would add if you kept working on it a bit more. Turn it upside down and ask what it looks like now. Ask why you feel it is one of you better / average / worst pieces. Ask how you feel right now when looking at it. Ask why you made the choices you did in what order. Ask how you are different from the art that inspires you. Ask how you are similar.

Be curious, be provocative with your art. Provoke a response within yourself to the questions of observation.

Draw in a different setting

If possible, pack up your supplies and move somewhere else to draw. Go outside in natural light. Switch from incandescent bulbs to halogen, or from halogen to incandescent. If you are able to move your working light source, move it.

You may notice that you tend to favour a certain light source direction or certain colour schemes in your drawings depending on what your actual lighting situation is like. Change it up and see what changes. Do you favour warm tones because you use an incandescent bulb? Do you compensate under the blue light of halogen? Is the lamp in front of you causing a heavy hand shadow? What if you moved it behind you, or rotated your table towards a window? Drawing outside can also help with observation under natural light. And fresh air never hurts.

Flip it

You've rotated and flipped your reference to observe it, now flip your drawing. This can be used for both technical and creative improvement. It is not just necessary for accurate realistic reproduction. By flipping it, would you add an element to the composition? Is the placement on the page proper? Is the lighting direction what you really want?

Art never needs to be stagnant as a process. It can be a dynamic learning tool for your memory and senses. This can be applied to the process of drawing as well. You can apply all of your senses and knowledge to drawing, not just determination and practice.

Leave it for another day

If you become too frustrated, leave it. Rest your eyes. Do something else. Once you have observed, asked questions, flipped to check for symbol-based errors, and exhausted the process of observation, application and criticism, leave it. Let your mind not dwell on things that frustrate you. Determination is admirable, but exhaustion is unproductive. Do not procrastinate on those things that you find difficult, but instead allow yourself to work to the point that you cannot keep improving, then stop, rest, and return. You may have a new perspective or find a new method in the time between drawing as when you are currently creating. During your resting time, you may want to go Seeing, and try to find some answers.

Ask for help

Once you have asked these questions of yourself and your own work and your own personal process, invite the observation and opinion of others willing to give critique. This step can be scary and uncertain, because you have no control over what feedback you will receive. All you can do is attempt to have your art seen by those who are willing and able to provide effective feedback. Friends and fans may not be your best source for improvement, but neither will be those who choose mockery. Criticism that is too soft and gushing, or pointlessly rude should be given little attention, while focus should be placed on ideas and suggestions that you may not have thought of yourself. Gracefully accept comments and criticism, but know that they are only the opinions of others. What you create is ultimately up to you and you alone.

Measure it

Pick up a ruler. Measure a piece of your reference. Note the size of the reference image. Adjust the measurement to the scale of your drawing. Now measure the same piece of your drawing. Do they match up? Is that arm the same length as your reference? Are those trees the same distance apart?

If you are exaggerating and stylizing your drawing, is your character uniform from different angles?

Crop it

(If digital, simply use the proper function) take a few pieces of black or white paper. Systematically cover up parts of your drawing. Find a composition within the composition. Just the eye? Perhaps an abstract array of colour. Maybe a more dynamic way to display the character without too much empty space. Add more detail while the image is cropped. Or don't add detail, and look for various different crops within the image. This is part of the process of Seeing, and helps the brain remove clutter and only focus on what is necessary. You may find that you need far less visual information in an image than you are currently providing.

Journal it

Last but not least, record your process, not just the finished product. Record those questions you have, those feelings and intuitions, those little tips you have learned, the feedback from others and the little things you want to remember. Art is a process, not just a product, and the process can be just as rewarding as anything that is produced. Your journal need not be public, it only needs to help remind you of where you came from and where you are going.


I wish everyone the best of luck on your artistic journey!
(This is my first news article, I hope I have submitted it correctly)
Add a Comment:
 
:iconablipintime:
ABlipinTime Featured By Owner Jul 18, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
:clap:
I would also add that, if you have a digital image to analyze, use the color selector tool (Gimp has one, Photoshop should... idk). It reveals the TRUE color of points in an image and gives you a better idea of how to reconstruct it.
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:iconreddwin:
reddwin Featured By Owner Jul 9, 2015  New Deviant Professional Digital Artist
honestly the only surefire way to get better at art is to actively draw, draw and draw some more. doing these things passively help a bit but not in the long run.
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:iconablipintime:
ABlipinTime Featured By Owner Jul 18, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Oh, they help, but the title of this article is "Get Better At Drawing (Without Drawing Anything)".
Just drawing does not help you improve. I've seen tons of artists who have lots of drawings, and all of them are rather sloppy (to put it politely) because they kept drawing the same way every time. No improvement. To draw better, you need to have experience with the world. You need to see what it looks like so you can mimic it. You already have some experience, which is why you can think of things like humans in the first place. Making more careful observation adds details to your mental picture.
And yes, I saw your gallery. You're quite talented at coloring.
That aside, you've probably done alot of this stuff without realizing it.

I myself don't have time to practice (such is life), so I use similar techniques as in the article, and I experiment with the ideas I get on a very small scale. It doesn't result in a full work to show people, but I learn alot.
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:iconxifpeoplelistenedx:
xIfPeopleListenedx Featured By Owner Jul 9, 2015  Hobbyist Filmographer
what i know about getting better:
practicing some stuff
using different programs
(damuro sucks)
maybe looking up online
start making some amvs :D
nonstop draw

what helped for me, using paint.net (its free)
looking up anime wolf eyes and sht liek dat.
thats all i can say i guess
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:iconprince-pyro:
Prince-Pyro Featured By Owner May 20, 2015
This was definitely an awesome read. The thing is, as much as I am aware of how most of things can help you improve when considered and practiced consistently, I think I speak for many people when I say as artists, we don't always THINK about these sorts of things when we create. We get so into the routine of how we prefer to draw, our autopilot turns on and we draw in an almost involuntary way. As humans, we are creatures of habit, after all.

I think if we all stopped to think about what it is we are doing or really, what we are about to and/or want to do, a lot more of us would improve significantly and faster in our artistic adventures.

You, miss, deserve a medal for putting these extremely insightful anecdotes together and posting them. Great inspiration! Thank you! :clap:
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:iconzikschive:
Zikschive Featured By Owner Aug 21, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
I'll have to admit some of these didn't help, but most did. Thanks so much for this!!
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:iconpantherflint:
PantherFlint Featured By Owner Aug 11, 2014  Student General Artist
Hmmm... not to nit pick or anything, but all of this seems like a no brainer/not helpful. I either do these things or these things do not work for me at all. I guess it's just because I"m pissed off about being in a... 'rut' or whatever.
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:iconfroheworks:
froheworks Featured By Owner Jun 20, 2014  Student General Artist
Thank you for the advice! This made me realize a lot of things about my drawing habits.
Reply
:iconstarklyice:
StarklyIce Featured By Owner Mar 19, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
This is incredibly helpful and inspiring! Also, not to mention, much richer than most of the inspirational texts that I come across. Thank you!!
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:iconskyflamelitmoon23:
SkyFlameLitMoon23 Featured By Owner Sep 22, 2012  Student
You are really inspiring! After reading this, I really feel like picking up a pencil and try drawing different things ^.^~
Reply
:iconaceofkeys72:
AceOfKeys72 Featured By Owner Aug 29, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
its very detailed with a lot of useful tips and tricks. i definitely will find this useful ;)
Reply
:iconwoggie1:
woggie1 Featured By Owner Jul 18, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Excellent suggestions. I can see my own approach to my process has been a little too high-pressure, which absolutely kills the Creative. No wonder I'm having trouble drawing. :)
Reply
:iconsapphirerhythm:
SapphireRhythm Featured By Owner Mar 8, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
...crap thats what I did before I even saw this!!
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:iconven516:
ven516 Featured By Owner Feb 27, 2012  Student Artist
All of this has crossed my mind but still I feel like I'm growing at a slow rate skill wise kind of a downer when on this site seeing so many people who are awesome at the craft and me not really all that far along still kinda feels good to see others work at the same time
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:iconvanessa-maria:
Vanessa-Maria Featured By Owner Jul 31, 2011  Hobbyist General Artist
I shall remember this, darling <3
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:icongisapizzatto:
GisaPizzatto Featured By Owner Jul 8, 2011  Professional Traditional Artist
Featured!!!! [link]
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:iconrubydragoncat:
RubyDragonCat Featured By Owner Jul 3, 2011  Hobbyist General Artist
I'm faving this, it's helpful.
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:icongoldchild:
Goldchild Featured By Owner Jul 3, 2011  Hobbyist General Artist
There are some tips I haven't tried yet, very useful article.:heart:
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:iconlady-of-the-shield:
Lady-of-the-Shield Featured By Owner Jun 30, 2011  Student Writer
I can't remember if I faved this or not...
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:iconrobynrose:
RobynRose Featured By Owner Jun 30, 2011
It should notify you in the upper corner next to the heart if you already have... I think... >_>
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:iconlady-of-the-shield:
Lady-of-the-Shield Featured By Owner Jun 30, 2011  Student Writer
yeah.. I found that out right after I clicked "Send."

Anyway thanks again for posting this!
Reply
:iconmarigoldp:
MarigoldP Featured By Owner Jun 30, 2011
Good tips, though I kinda took some of it the wrong way Dx
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:iconitsnotfilia:
ItsNotFilia Featured By Owner Jun 30, 2011  Hobbyist General Artist
I abuse the 'Leave it for another day' thing. Suffice to say, it's what's killing my very progress. :saddummy:
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:icondvn225:
dvn225 Featured By Owner Jun 30, 2011  Student Traditional Artist
Procrastinators unite!
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:iconitsnotfilia:
ItsNotFilia Featured By Owner Jul 1, 2011  Hobbyist General Artist
... tomorrow. :dummy:
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:icondvn225:
dvn225 Featured By Owner Jul 3, 2011  Student Traditional Artist
:la:
Reply
:icontyrackwolfii:
TyrackWolfII Featured By Owner Jun 29, 2011  Student Traditional Artist
I love touching the tings I wanna draw. For some reason, I think I can get more information about something by touching it than reading or having someone describe it. Just like if I'm drawing a facial expression; I contort my face into the look I want, feeling my muscles move until I draw it just right. XD
Reply
:iconhail-the-oblivious:
hail-the-oblivious Featured By Owner Dec 19, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
"I love touching the tings I wanna draw"
that sounds so wrong :dummy:
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:icontyrackwolfii:
TyrackWolfII Featured By Owner Dec 19, 2012  Student Traditional Artist
... Well now it does. XD
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:iconsachi-pon:
Sachi-pon Featured By Owner Jun 29, 2011  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
this is very, VERY well written!! a wealth of information!!
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:iconxtremeoverdrive:
XtremeOverdrive Featured By Owner Jun 29, 2011
this is a great article. Helped me heaps wth the rotate theory :)
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:iconartlmntl:
artlmntl Featured By Owner Jun 28, 2011
Ironically, I see no drawings in your gallery.
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:iconrobynrose:
RobynRose Featured By Owner Jun 28, 2011
That's because the account I used to post the article is dedicated to stock and resources. :)
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:iconartlmntl:
artlmntl Featured By Owner Jun 28, 2011
So where are your drawings?
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:iconrobynrose:
RobynRose Featured By Owner Jun 28, 2011
Why do you ask?
Reply
:iconartlmntl:
artlmntl Featured By Owner Jun 28, 2011
If you're going to talk about drawing, you need some drawings to back it up. It's your credibility. These are the kind of tips and hints offered in undergrad drawing classes. None of it is bad, none of it is new. Some of it is necessarily incomplete. All of it is opinion. Without seeing your drawings, one has no sense that you actually do any of these things, and it's impossible to gauge their effect on your work.
Reply
:iconrobynrose:
RobynRose Featured By Owner Jun 28, 2011
I see your point, but I must disagree on the focus of the article. This article isn't about me, or my art. It's about you.

It makes no difference whether I have "good art" or "bad art". (which is subjective, anyway) That doesn't affect you. Myself having "good art" doesn't affect how anyone else interprets, uses, or are affected by these suggestions.(In fact, even if I have art that you necessarily deem to be "good", I may actually be using different techniques and telling you complete lies to subvert the DA Population! There is no way to prove that I use the techniques I suggest, or if they are effective, just by viewing the art I post as a user.)

Which, by the way, is really all they are: suggestions.

Even if they were some sort of golden rule for guaranteed art improvement, certain learners may not make great use of them. They may find other, better uses of technique, or more refined versions of the suggestions I give here, and disregard mine as unimportant. Which is perfectly ok.

In think the point here is for artists to decide, "Hey, I've never thought of this before. Is this worth trying?" (Also, we need to keep in mind that many of the users on this site have never been professionally taught, and so may not have the background that other artists take for granted. Some are simply young or new to art. These things may not be new to you, but they could be new to a highschooler.)

Now, if you do find the suggestions interesting and worth trying, try them. See if your art improves. If it does, congratulations! You've found a new tool for your toolbox. If it doesn't, well, you can keep trying or leave it. No big loss for experimenting.

If you don't find these techniques new or interesting or useful, no big deal, do what's best for you.

The quality of my own art is unimportant here. I'm not trying to prove anything. I give you no guarantee that any any of these suggestions will work for you or anyone else.

My only hope is that I have been able to help a few people see outside the box a bit. If it hasn't helped you, sorry, there's not much else I can do as a resource provider.
Reply
:iconartlmntl:
artlmntl Featured By Owner Jun 28, 2011
If you put out an article about posing for photos in your underwear, one goes to your gallery and immediately sees you've got lots of experience with this. So that gives you authority to talk about it, at least as a personal experience. Drawing? The page is blank. It's not whether your work is good or bad. It's whether you've struggled with the issues of drawing and put your own advice into practice. Your proof is in your drawings and your ability to speak coherently about your experience doing those things. Perhaps you kept a journal for a year and you found good came from it. You could show a page or two and say why you think the experience was good. Perhaps you touched wood and got a sliver. I doubt that will help you draw wood better, but you would at least have some experience with it. Then, you could show your drawing of wood and say the sliver hurt. That's what's missing here.
Reply
:iconpseudoerotichandbag:
pseudoerotichandbag Featured By Owner Jun 29, 2011
On the flipside, who gave you the authority to decree what is acceptable and what is rubbish? Do you only have that authority when nobody can challenge you on that? I think you missed the point of this article - it wasn't about Kxhara's experiences, it's about creating your own and applying it to your artwork.

If it really bothered you so much why not write your own article with all the content that's "missing" and move on?
Reply
(2 Replies)
:iconrobynrose:
RobynRose Featured By Owner Jun 28, 2011
"Gallery as proof" is not a valid argument. I have explained the fallacies of that logic above.
Reply
(1 Reply)
:iconrobynrose:
RobynRose Featured By Owner Jun 28, 2011
Alternatively, if you still need some sort of "proof", why not share this article with an artist you look up to and ask them if these tips are any good? I'm sure someone with an expert opinion and more experience than I could give you a good third-party review or some advice on which suggestions they would reccomend, and which they think you may want to avoid.
Reply
:iconslightly-spartan:
Slightly-Spartan Featured By Owner Aug 2, 2011  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
You are brilliant! You're article is brilliant and so is your ability to fend of trolls :) I salute you!
Reply
:iconartlmntl:
artlmntl Featured By Owner Jun 28, 2011
:lol: Devolving into silliness.
Reply
(1 Reply)
:iconbronzeathlete:
BronzeAthlete Featured By Owner Jun 28, 2011  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Sounds like and elabortaed version of practic practice practice
Reply
:iconprettydragoon:
prettydragoon Featured By Owner Jun 28, 2011
I'm already awesome at not drawing. The rest of your advice sounds like hard work.
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:icona-grand:
A-Grand Featured By Owner Jun 28, 2011
draw non stop that is
Reply
:iconsuperbrownman:
SuperBrownMan Featured By Owner Jun 28, 2011
agreed. practice makes permanent.
Reply
:iconladychristina:
LadyChristina Featured By Owner Jun 28, 2011  Professional Traditional Artist
A really great article, one of the best I ever read, and containing all the advice I was someone had given ME 5-6- years ago. WONDERFUL!
Reply
:iconluke-bassett:
Luke-Bassett Featured By Owner Jun 28, 2011  Student Photographer
Very good article despite me laughing for a good five minuets at "touch wood"
Reply
:iconcasey342:
casey342 Featured By Owner Jun 28, 2011  Student Artist
i was skimming and somewhat reading the article; i didn't realize that :lol:
Reply
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