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Ask the Art Professor: What Is the Best Way to Practice My Drawing Skills? - Buzzweep

Ask the Art Professor: What Is the Best Way to Practice My Drawing Skills?

By clara@claralieu.com (Clara Lieu)

“What is the best way to practice my drawing skills in traditional media? I draw with colored pencils and I also paint with acrylic paints and I am sort of okay at it, but I really want to become better.”

Drawing is a highly complex beast which involves so many different elements at the various skill levels. Rather than get into all of those details, I’m going to boil it down to four fundamental directives that will help improve your drawing skills across all skill levels and media.

1) Draw from direct observation.
This sounds so simple, and yet I’m appalled at how many artists don’t work from direct observation when they are looking to improve their drawing skills. Photographs may be convenient and easier to work from, but they’re a cheap shortcut that will lead to the development of all sorts of bad habits. The amount of information that a photograph has pales in comparison to seeing a subject in real life.This is not to say that one should never ever in their lifetime work from a photograph; I work from photographs all the time now. However, I’m able to do this because I’ve developed skills based on many, many years of working from direct observation.

When you work from life, you experience your subject matter in way that a photograph could never allow you to: you can touch your subject, smell it, walk around it, and see the subject within the context of its environment. This overall sensory experience is vital towards your understanding of your subject matter and will translate into your drawing. Drawing is as much about learning how to see as it is about the marks that you put on the page. Experiencing your subject in real life will teach you how to hone your skills in observation. The skills that you will gain from working from direct observation will tremendously inform and support your ability to work from all sorts of other references.

2) Practice daily.
Drawing is very similar to athletics. If you were an athlete, you would have a rigid schedule of training set up that you would adhere to. Drawing is the same way: it requires serious focus, rigorous training, and intense physical stamina. Every time you sit down to draw, it’s an opportunity to sharpen your eye, and become more proficient in coordinating your mind and eye with the physical movements of your arm and hand. Many people get impatient with drawing and expect results right away. You have to be committed, and be able to recognize that improvement is a slow and gradual process. One would never expect to be an Olympic-level skier after one week of training, the same way you can’t expect to be a master of drawing after working for a few days.

3) Practice gesture drawing.
If you can do strong gesture drawings, you’ve already won half the battle. Gesture drawings are the core of any drawing, they capture the essence of what a drawing is trying to say in …read more

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