2018 EDIT: If you’re looking for advice as a beginner artist, do not read this article! This article has outdated information that I no longer believe in. I’ve updated my advice to beginner artists and you can read all about it here. (I’m keeping this article up because I believed this shit at the time I wrote it and I hate when people don’t accept and respect the “wrong” viewpoints of their past selves. It also serves as a milestone for my progress, or something. There’s the ego putting it’s two cents in. 😛 ) -JONRS, 2018
I should have wrote this article months ago. I started studying art in October of 2016. I’m a couple months late :X. I started writing the outline for this article as a timeline of how I progressed with art over the past year. I instantly regretted trying to make an outline. Instead I’m just going to show you where I am.
Also let me make it clear that this article is intended for people who don’t have the means to go to art school or simply don’t want to. This article is for the strugglers that choose to teach themselves art.
If you’re going to art school or have a teacher, don’t read this. If you’re unsure, get a teacher or go to school. It’s a lot safer and you won’t go insane like self-taught people do. 😛
The self taught path is for those of us who have no choice or seek self-mastery.
Pencil Art Progress
So I started my art journey with Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. I did the first exercises in the book and first tried to draw a side profile of one of my Guild Wars 2 characters from memory. Not even close hahahah. The second picture is a self-portrait I did with a mirror. I look like god damn Jabba the Hutt, HAAHHAHAHA!
Then I started doing Fun With a Pencil and I started to draw my crappy little cartoons again just like when I was a kid!
Fast forward 1 year and here I am doing sketches of anatomically incorrect classy bitches!
So I hope I’ve illustrated how good you can get (if you’re extremely undisciplined like me). If you draw everyday you will be light years ahead of me in your first year. 😀
Digital Art Progress
I went from being frustrated with digital drawing and spending hours trying to get the damn lines right… (and just ended up tracing her head).
I sketched the pose from imagination, used a posing doll to make sure I got the perspective somewhat passable, and actually colored the picture. My light and shadow knowledge is still pretty much non-existent but I still tried.
(If you want to see more of the progress you could make, check out my gallery! I’m going to upload most of my sketches and practice drawings over time.)
Decent progress for an undisciplined lazy fucker. If you are even slightly more motivated then me, you will make huge strides within your first year. Here’s the part where I tell you how to do better than I did my first year in art.
If I were to go back in time 1 year and tell myself how to study art correctly, here’s what I would say:
- Study 1 subject for 2 weeks straight – Choose a topic of study and study it for 2 hours a day for 2 weeks. (If you can’t do 2 hours, start small. Just do 15 minutes a day and ratchet it up to 30 the next week and keep adding more time over the weeks.) Topics of study would be like: gesture, anatomy, eyes, hands, perspective, color, light and shadow, hair, etc… (Videos: watch this video by Xia Taptara, he’s a concept artist and this guy knows what he’s talking about.)
- Do gesture drawings in the beginning to get used to drawing the human form and learn the correct proportions of the body – learn the size of the head+torso relative to legs, size of arms, etc. I still suffer with this sometimes. (Video tutorials: Proko and also REIQ have great videos, check out their channels!)
- When drawing the figure, always draw all the features. – I mostly avoided hands and feet when doing gesture/figure drawing and now my hands and feet are pretty shitty. Don’t be dumb like me.
- Draw lots of profiles from reference – You do this to learn how the human face and features look from different angles (I did this but I didn’t do it NEARLY enough as I should have). You have to know how to draw the face and its features from any angle.
- Learn Perspective – I avoided perspective for almost a whole year because it looked scary, it’s actually pretty easy. Again, don’t be me please. (Videos: there are tons of great perspective videos and books out there. ORIANART has the best class I’ve seen about perspective although you have to pay for it. It’s worth the price, he explained perspective to me in a simple way that no one else could. Everyone else over complicates perspective. -_-)
- Learn Light and Shadow basics – You can’t color pictures without understanding how light and shadows work. (Videos: again check youtube as there are tons of videos explaining light and shadow. I personally use ctrlpaint.com, lots of great videos to learn from there.)
TLDR: For your first year focus almost exclusively on figure drawing, faces, and a little bit of hair study wouldn’t hurt either. Once you feel comfortable drawing the human figure then branch out and learn light and shadow then you can move on to color and learn perspective when you want to start making environments for your characters. Don’t even attempt to learn anatomy unless you are very confident in your figure drawing abilities. Learning anatomy at this stage is a waste of time. You will learn more about the human body simply by doing gesture drawings and life drawings.
**** P.S. I forgot to mention this list is for people who’s goal in art is to do amazing figure drawing. For my case, I wanna draw teh animay tiddiez and I wanna draw them asap! If your goal is to be an environmental artist then I would say learn perspective first! Then move onto light and shadow, then learn color when you understand light. Then you can go paint your trees or whatever…
I’m separating these next two as they are infinitely more important than the others…
- Draw doodles and random ideas in a sketchbook EVERY DAY. Just draw everyday. Doesn’t matter what. Just draw something.This is the top tier advice I would give to all beginner artists. Just draw every day for like 10 minutes, 15 minutes, 30 minutes, whatever you can manage. This is NON-NEGOTIABLE.
In fact, you could probably disregard this whole list and just do this one thing and you will still be ahead of me today.
Allow me to give you the sciencey reason for this.
By drawing everyday (even if it’s just doodles or shitty art) you are making a cluster of neurons (devoted to art) in your brain stronger. The only difference between you, the fledgling artist, and a professional is that the professional artist has the equivalent of a god damn AI construct in their brain who’s sole purpose is to create art. The only way to create this Art Construct in your brain is to feed it everyday. It’s like a demon that grows in your brain the more you do art, and everyday you spend on art makes it stronger. If all this sounds like voodoo bullshit to you, go read Mastery by Robert Greene (That book should be required reading for anyone trying to master a skill).
- Draw what you want to draw, even if you don’t know how to draw it correctly.
If you wanna draw anime tiddiez, then draw anime tiddiez. Yes, even if you have no idea how to. It will be horrible and painful, believe me. But realize you will never learn how to do anything in life unless you fail miserably at it at first. Just like when you learned how to ride a bike (do kids still do that these days?) you fell and scraped your knees. When you first start drawing a new subject in art you will fail horribly at it. No one started out as an anime titty master. NO ONE. You are human, and humans are imperfect and riddled with errors. You are not perfect, get rid of this mentality. It all comes down to losing your ego (I’m going to write an article about this).
Okay, welp I think that about does it partner. Hopefully I imparted some wisdom to another artist who’s unsure what path to take when teaching yourself art. And if worst comes to worse at least this article will serve as a milestone so in the future people can see my humble beginnings. 🙂
Good luck fellow wanderer!