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The Three Types of Practice

The biggest thing any new artist will hear, or anyone else trying to improve their craft, is  “you need to practice.” Practice isn’t just plugging away and drawing anything. It should have direction and focus, otherwise, you will lose sight of the end goal and procrastinate. Or worse yet, draw and draw and see little improvement for a lot of work! In my opinion, there are three types of practice: inspirational, intentional, and reflective.

INSPIRATIONAL PRACTICE
Inspirational practice is the easiest of the three. This is where you look at other people’s art, read books, watch movies, or do anything that gives you an idea for a project. Draw inspiration from everyday life. Look at other people’s sketchbooks, read magazines, check out Art Station or other online galleries, look at comic books, manga, anything to give you ideas! Take the time to research styles and artists. Inspirational practice can take place anytime, anywhere.

INTENTIONAL PRACTICE
The second form of practice is intentional practice. What I mean by this is that instead of just drawing anything, have a plan, an intention. Specifically target areas that you need to work on. For example, I find drawing the male figure infinitely easier than drawing women. Why? It’s difficult for me to make women look muscular but not manly. When I practice, I women1would draw a preliminary sketch and then look at it. Next, I would examine the areas I need to work on. DON’T CLOBBER YOURSELF! Use constructive criticism when critiquing your work to keep it helpful and positive. Negativity will only make you want to quit.

If you look at the sketches to the right you’ll notice I need to work on my construction and my proportions. Now that I know what to draw, I can do it with direction and purpose. I can draw women’s bodies and concentrate on construction and anatomy. I now have a direction for practicing.

During practice time, I’ll draw just the construction of the form: spheres, cubes, cylinders. I can practice using comparative measurement to check my proportions. I also know that I need to work on my anatomy. Since I have trouble drawing women’s hips I know to practice anatomy specifically concentrating on the torso, legs, and hips. Once I feel comfortable with those elements, I can move on to other elements like arms, hands, foreshortening, etc. My point is, I have a specific intention when I practice. I’m not drawing endlessly with no focus.

REFLECTIVE PRACTICE
The last type of practice is an important one and often times overlooked, or done hastily, and that is reflective practice. That is, after you draw critique your work. Don’t rip it to shreds. Instead, be realistic and practical. Use constructive words to describe your art. For example, don’t say, “My women suck!” That doesn’t help you to improve: too negative and not specific. I like the stance of each character (in the sketches above) and I think that my figures are looking more fluid and less stiff. I do, however, need to get better at basic construction, specifically proportion and foreshortening the arms and legs. Being reflective helps you to pinpoint what you need to improve and not get discouraged. Remember to be constructive in your criticism; stay accurate and objective.

Look at older art you drew and compare it to your newer stuff to see your progression. Look at other people’s art that you admire and compare it to yours: What’s alike? What’s different? How can you adjust your drawing? Always remember to really look at your art after you create it and reflect on the process as well as the end result.

GOOD LUCK!


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How to STOP Procrastination!

Are you one of those people that wants to learn how to draw but it just seems like there is soooooo much to learn that you can’t do it all? Guess what, you can’t! Not all at once at any rate! That would be too much to ask anyone. Think about exercising, when someone starts to lift weights with chest presses you don’t put 500 pounds on the barbell their first time on the bench! You’ll kill ’em! You gotta build up that strength and eventually you have it. The same is true of drawing and practice, if you try to do too much you will feel overwhelmed and be more likely to quit and not even start – procrastination. Start with a small goal and work from there. I’m having trouble drawing comic book hero heads and faces. My style is chibi so it’s really quite a turn from drawing big over-sized heads to that of correct proportional heads. Regardless, I need to get it done for my comic book I’m writing.

DO YOUR RESEARCH
I’ve started with reading a book about drawing the head by master illustrator Andrew Loomis. It’s called
Drawing the Head and Hands. You can find it in any library for free or if you feel like paying get it on Half Price Books. It’s an invaluable resource for proportions and has practical, usable advice.

loomis1After reading the book, I need to practice. Let’s all be realistic, instead of expecting a perfect drawing within two seconds, I need to set realistic goals and expectations. I’ve decided to draw the head at least three times this week for a minimum of 30 minutes each day. That is a small start that I can handle and I should still see results because its enough drawing time. Of course, if I choose to draw longer than 30 minutes, I may! Sometimes, though, it’s quality and not necessarily quantity of practice time that one strives towards. A good artist knows the difference.

My point is that often times people procrastinate because they simply just don’t know where to start. Quality or quantity, if you don’t know where to start, you won’t!

HOW AND WHEN TO PRACTICE
Choose an area you need to work on and create a schedule. That should help with the procrastination because you have a narrowed target, its a much smaller more reachable goal. For myself, I need to draw men’s heads. Specifically, I want to make them more masculine and draw more consistent with realistic proportions. I commit to drawing at least three days in a seven day week, and I will see results. If I feel the need to practice more, I can change my time to 60 minutes or add another 30 minute day. Flexibility is what helps people stay on a schedule. Don’t overdo it! Start small. Add those weights to the barbell, little by little.

Once I’m good at one target I can choose another one – female heads. I’m choosing small, manageable pieces instead of the whole. Once I have my pieces the way I want them, then the whole will come together by itself.

Does that sound “The Zen of Art” -ish enough?

 

practicing3


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Why Draw from Life?

A lot of people ask me how to get better at drawing and the answer is always the same, keep drawing! The only problem is that people don’t know exactly what TO draw. I look around my house and find everyday objects as my subject. This helps with a very useful and much needed skill if anyone is going to improve their craft. Drawing from life helps to train your eyes to see in three dimensions but create that same optical illusion on a two-dimensional surface: paper. Truthfully, when you are recreating the physical world on to your paper, you are creating the illusion of depth because the image doesn’t really recede into space, it’s a flat piece of paper. Or you create the illusion of light with values because we all know there is no light inside the image. This is the trick to drawing believable forms in your art.

As you draw from life, look closely at the lines, textures, values, and shapes that create the image. You may need to draw it a few times before you get a sketch that you are happy with, so don’t get discouraged! Drawing from life is NOT as easy as people may think. Many people work from photographs which have already flattened the image for them. It’s a good habit to draw from life and not just from photographs.

In this video, I make a quick sketch from a houseplant. This may seem silly or simple but it actually helps with looking at the shapes that make up the plant and . Go find a houseplant, some paper, a pencil, and an eraser and get started! Walk around the plant, look at it from above, place it on a shelf and draw it from below. There are a variety of ways to draw plants which will help hone your sketching and drawing skills.

 


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Look for More Tutorials

This past weekend was a three-day-weekend for my school district so, of course, I took advantage of the time. I was writing and editing tutorials and  I was ready to re-shoot some video and I noticed my cord to charge my camera was chewed! Yes, my dog ate the cord. Can you believe that excuse? But it’s true! ARGH! So I’m on top of that emergency and will be looking for a replacement cord.

As for downloads, my nine-to-five requires my utmost attention and, incidentally, it pays the bills. It’s also where I do a lot of my research FOR my tutorial downloads! I get a lot of good data to use and then revise my videos. Anyway, I’m working on a program to help people focus their efforts when practicing. Yes, it’s a download that aids in the structuring of drawing practice which isn’t as easy as it sounds. How many times have heard you just need to practice but then no one tells you exactly how or what TO practice? It can be frustrating.

Never more! Vanquish Studio is adding more tutorials soon on everything from sketching to inking to foreshortening! Here is the new trailer for my YouTube channel. I post the videos there and then stream them on to my website. Hey, it saves space for other media I put on my site.

STAY TUNED!