I'll tell you a little secret: I hate the concept of New Year's resolutions. It seems like we are pretty much forced by society to come up with some goal that we already know from the start that we aren't going to keep. It's just accepted that people don't stick to New Year's resolutions! However, I love the idea of setting goals for yourself and striving to improve. With that in mind, this year I actually made a resolution for myself. Rather than choose some abstract goal like "get better at art", I am going with something that I can keep track of: Draw every day in 2018. No matter what. Even if I'm sick or traveling.
Drawing every day is heavily suggested by many, many successful artists as one of the best ways to improve your art game, so it's a bit embarrassing that it has taken me this long to force myself to do it. Obviously drawing with intent, meaning drawing things that you know will help you improve, is better than just drawing willy-nilly, but anything is better than nothing. While I definitely want to do more studies, especially of human and animal anatomy, I don't want to make these my specific goals because I know I won't stick to it. I know, however, that I will do some studies throughout the year, so just drawing every day will increase my chances of doing them! I've already done one study, so I'd say I'm off to a good start!
Like I mentioned initially, being able to keep track of my goal is one of the main reasons I decided to make my resolution "draw every day." To do this, I got out a fresh sketchbook and put a calendar in the front of it. If you are familiar with bullet journals, that is sort of what I took my inspiration from. I want to make my "resolution" sketchbook something I look at every day, so I also marked special days on this calendar, like birthdays and conventions. I'm already pretty obsessed with keeping track of my upcoming events, so adding the calendar should really help make this sketchbook important to me. In addition, I am marking off each day on the calendar when I do my sketch for the day. This way if I don't draw on a day, I have a constant visual reminder of my shame. It should keep me pretty accountable!
Other things you might note on my front page are "ideas" and "monthly starts." "Ideas" is pretty self-explanatory: I just wanted to have some space to write down drawing ideas. Most of what I have written down currently are popular monthly drawing challenges, but I could include anything that pops in my mind in the future! The "monthly starts" section is just where I will put the page number for the first sketch of each month. (Did I mention I numbered all of the pages in my sketchbook?) I like to be organized, but I didn't want my sketchbook to be too rigid, so i figured this was the best solution to allow me freedom to use as many pages per month as I wanted, but to also satisfy my need for organization!
I may or may not share the sketches publicly in the future. I don't want to feel any sort of pressure as to what I draw, or the end quality of the drawings, so I don't want to make that promise! I suggest that if you make a similar resolution (and don't feel like you can't since it is a few weeks into the year! No time like the present!), don't feel obligated to share your sketches. I've noticed that trying to share something on social media every day is a resolution in itself! But if this will help you feel more accountable to draw every day, then do it! What works for me might not work for you; we're all different in how we stick to our goals. Have you made an art-related resolution this year?
It's that time again! Here is my summary of art for 2017!
Read more to see the highlights of my year's progress in art!
Just like last year, I was unable to complete Inktober. This year I made it all the way to day 18 though! That's 5 more days than last year! I'll take pride in that I suppose! I am a bit disappointed in myself, but I also know how Fangcon knocked it out of me. I had planned on using some of the inks from my Fangcon badges for those days, and then starting back with actual Inktober pieces after the con. But I was so wiped, and so excited about getting started on my take home commissions that I just couldn't focus on Inktober pieces. Oh well!
Rather than beat myself up about it, I think I should focus on the positives that 18 days of Inktober gave me! In just that small number of drawings, I felt like my ability to digitally ink improved rapidly. Beforehand, inking digitally took me AGES. While I always loved how it looked in the end, it was so tedious and time consuming that it was my least favorite part of doing a piece. I was always so focused on trying to get my lines absolutely perfect, as if I was using vectors to do them. But Inktober made me realize that I'm not a computer, I'm not doing vectors, so why am I trying to emulate one? I have always love the idea of the hand of the artist and the little touches that only traditional media can bring to a piece of art, so it made absolutely no sense for me to continue trying to be so perfect with digital. Inktober gave me an opportunity to live a little and try out some new techniques that I hadn't been able to do before. It breathed a new life into my art, or at least my opinions of it.
After Inktober, I have no longer been dreading the inking stage. My process has sped up considerably, and since I am no longer concerned with looking like vectors, I feel like my art has more movement and life in it than before. The hand of the artist has returned!
Want to see my journey? You can see all of my completed Inktober pieces in this blog posts:
I am hoping that what I learned from Inktober will pass on to other aspects of my art: mainly my coloring and my fears of trying new things. I know I have already begun speeding up my coloring process, but I hope that the this whole "hand of the artist" trend will continue to grow. I have always wanted my digital work to look more like my traditional media pieces, but I unfortunately allowed myself to stagnate once I figured out one method of drawing digitally. I never really realized how stagnant I had become until I did a digital Inktober this year! I am incredibly pleased with my decision to do it digitally and with the new knowledge, personal reflection, and growth I have been able to accomplish in such a short time. Even though I "failed" at completing Inktober, I still feel like I won.
Did you manage to complete the Inktober challenge? Or did you still come out a winner by learning something new during the experience?
It's been a long journey, but it's been so worth it! I stumbled upon this "Improvement Meme" over on Deviant Art and thought it might be a fun thing to whip up. I've put my filled-out meme under the cut because it is so big!
Many artists get so focused on their current abilities (Does this look good? This composition is terrible but I can't seem to get it right. My art sucks!) that they never pause to look back at how far they have come. I believe that if we do take time to look back, we won't be so hatefully critical of our current work. Of course, it is always important to be critical of your work, that's how you improve, but we all know how artists can take it to harmful levels of self-deprecation. In this improvement meme, I reflected on who I was at each age, how my interests and perceived flaws affected my art, and what kind of strides I was taking to improve. Not everything is covered due to the small space the meme provides, but this does show an overview. One major thing I left out was how strongly my colorblindness made me limit myself to greyscale at a young age. I didn't (and to some extent still don't) feel comfortable working in color because I had the mindset that it had to be "correct", and since I obviously couldn't see colors very well compared to most people, my colors wouldn't be correct. Although I didn't really learn color theory until much later, only working in greyscale at a young age turned out to be a blessing in disguise when I started my art degree. Thanks to my fears, I had already overcome what many artists struggle with: making the shadows actually dark. And, even more thankfully, my many years of practicing shading gave me a wonderful basis for using colors properly and even experimenting with them (even if I still couldn't see them!)
Like always, let this be a reminder that everyone can improve, and practice is the key to drastic improvement. Just look at the difference between the years before and after I started my art degree (2011). The only thing different between 2010 and 2012 is that I was forced to draw every day! If only I had been motivated enough to do that myself before my professors made me!
The full meme under the cut! (beware, it's HUGE)
I want to take a moment to discuss something that I often hear people say. So often in fact, that I very nearly read it daily on art forums and chats. "I don't have talent." or "I wish I had talent like you." Well, I'll let you in on a little secret: talent is a lie. Yes, I said it. There is no such thing as talent. No one woke up one day, decided "I'm going to be an artist!" and painted their masterpiece. Not Picasso, not Michelangelo. Not a single one of the great artists in history.
You could argue about right- versus left-brained people, and say that you're just more in tune with the left hemisphere of your brain, but a quick Google search brings up numerous reports about the myth of right- versus left-brain. While the two hemispheres do have unique properties, they share information so much that we as a species use both equally. (here's a link to just one article from Psychology Today). You can even see how silly your argument sounds when you look at a famous artist/inventor: Leonardo da Vinci. Are you going to argue that the Renaissance Man himself was predisposed to be better at art because he was more right-brained? But what about all of the mathematics that went into his inventions? He was talented because he worked hard to be talented. Take a look at that study of the bones in the arm. That is called a "study" for a reason, and da Vinci did hundreds of them. These studies are the key to his talent.
A New Definition of Talent
You're probably sitting there thinking I'm crazy. Of course da Vinci was amazing! He was a genius! And while you're absolutely right, there is something else going on that makes artists so talented. I'll even argue that this should be the new definition of "talent," or at least how you should perceive talent. Instead of some intangible, magically innate ability, talent is your drive to practice. In athletics, it's what keeps you running those laps even though it feels like a thousand degrees outside, it's the belief behind the weird motivation posters you see at gyms and on the Facebook pages of your health fanatic friends. In art, it's the same thing. Instead of just driving your body to it's limits, you're also pushing your brain's creative muscle. It's the desire to draw every day, no matter what. Your talent burns inside of you and forces you to get that image out on the paper or that shape into the clay. Even if you don't have this crazy inner burning to draw, being able to motivate yourself to improve every day is still your talent speaking to you. All you have to do is put in the time. Just like working out strengthens your body, practicing your art will strengthen your talent. And just like in athletics, the exercises you will do while you're learning, and even when you are at a professional level, will be relatively boring. And even though you will fail often, if you stick with it, you will have people telling you "I wish I had talent like you."
You need to listen your internal desire to improve and shut out any negative thoughts. Yes, your art will look like a child's when you first start, but just like a child, your creative ability will grow if you correctly foster it. Talent is practice.
If Practicing is the Key, How Often Should You Draw?
In college, my professors all gave their students sketchbooks. Just the standard, run-of-the-mill, black hardcover sketchbook. The exact same kind you can find at your local craft store. I actually love them so much that I still use the same kind today. (in fact, the first draft of this blog post was written in one!). Our professors instructed us to fill up our sketchbooks by the end of the semester, or at least come very close to it. If we do some math (groan! I know, I know...), we can figure out how many pages per day we would need to fill to get an A in the class. An average semester lasts about fifteen weeks, or 105 days, and the current sketchbook I'm using has roughly 100 pages, we can easily determine that we should do at least a sketch a day for each class. But, as my professors liked to repeatedly tell their students, filling up the sketchbook was a bare minimum!
Let's take a look at another number I only recently heard, this one from a much more pop-culture source. You'll probably laugh, but the cool thing about art is that you are always learning, and knowledge doesn't always come from sources you expect. This tip comes from animator Ross O'Donovan (aka RubberNinja) on an episode of Game Grumps. (for those of you left scratching your head, Game Grumps is a comedy gaming channel on YouTube). In an episode featuring Ross drawing Pokemon, he mentioned that he kept reading how artists should strive to fill up a sketchbook a month. Thankfully, Ross does the math for us this time, continuing on to say how a sketchbook a month comes out to be about only four sketches a day. While this number is a lot more than each of my professors required, it's still very reasonable. Keep in mind, these are sketches and practice, not fully rendered pieces!
My personal routine is to try to finish a rather large piece a week and then at least a sketch a day. I work on commissions most of the day during the week, then in the evenings doodle whatever silly thing I want. I'm usually sketching for fun while my other half and I watch whatever TV series we're hooked on that week. Even though completing a large art piece a week might not be feasible, you still need to push yourself to try. I highly suggest drawing while doing other things like watching TV! It definitely helps make some boring studies fun.
Other artists will suggest a doing certain number of hours of drawing a day, or doing even more sketches than Ross's four, but the question of how often you should draw really boils down to "as much as possible". The more you draw, the faster your talents will progress. Aim for that sketchbook a month. Make art your priority. I know it seems like a lot of work, and that's because art IS hard work. You have to practice everyday; you have to push yourself. But just like that silly workout motivational poster above, all that hard work is worth it. know it seems like this blog turned into a rant about practice, but that's because I don't believe in any innate talent. Hard work, dedication, and your drive to improve are what make you talented. You are talented. You just need to put in the effort to unlock it!