This first picture is my progress from October of last year to September of this year. The picture on the left is a digital picture I did last October and the one on the right is a picture I did this past September. Pretty marked difference, I hate to admit.
A year ago (on the pic to the left), I didn’t understand how to render light and shadow at all. I still don’t understand completely, but my skill has come much much farther. I still don’t like the widowmaker picture on the right, but I think I did a good job (for my current skills 😛 ) on her torso. I still have A LOT of work to do on my rendering skills, but I can say at least a year later I actually HAVE a little bit of rendering skill now, whereas a year ago I didn’t even know what rendering was.
So yeah, as much as I hate to admit (because I’m still not satisfied with my skills so far) I have come a god damn long way from 2017.
This second picture is my progress from almost 2 years ago to where I’m at today. The picture on the left is the first colored digital picture I ever did. And oh man lol, it looks fucking HORRENDOUS! I remember at the time I thought it looked okay, hah. I pretty much copied a reference of some blonde chick and drew widowmaker’s features over it.
The picture on the right is a profile I did recently of some demon girl. In comparison I did it completely from imagination, and I actually like the way it came out. I still gotta work on my faces more as the perspective still looks off to me, but it’s a hell of a lot better than 2 years ago.
Anyways, that’s enough about my progress. Let’s talk about you.
You want to know how to learn how to draw?
When I first started my art journey I thought I would be able to write articles about how to help people pursue the dream of art. Like a god damn fool, I thought I would be able to quantify what art is and reduce it to a formula that anyone could learn. And in a lot of ways you can learn art this way, in a cookie cutter formula that anyone could pick up. The time investment alone would kill off most people though, and if you learned art in a structured way like this, your art would be soulless. Your art would be made up of the combined knowledge of tons of artists and not your own personal knowledge.
There’s still so much I haven’t seen and now I hesitate to give any kind of advice.
If you’re me from two years ago and want to learn how to draw…
First figure out what kind of person you are.
Are you a hobby artist? If so, take your time man. Enjoy the journey, don’t worry about learning the “correct” way to learn art. Go where your whim takes you.
Do you want to work in the Art industry like concept art, game design, etc?
Uh, well I don’t know if you’ve been keeping up with job trends but the whole “working a job” situation in the world is dying out very fast. You prolly have another 10 years (20 if you’re lucky) of working a job in any industry left. Solo artists who start their own business are making way more money than industry artists ever will (just look up Sakimichan and all the other top patreon creators). But hey if your dream is to work in the Art industry, by all means go for it.
Just know that in the future no artist will be employees for large companies in the future. All artists working in the Art industry will be contractors, solo business owners, or working in small game/media companies.
Do you want to learn art so you can be rich and famous?
Oh man, go learn about business or go be a life-style vlogger. There are WAY better ways to become rich and famous than art. The time investment is too damn high.
It would prolly take you about 4 years to get really good at art to where you could be making decent money, and by decent I mean a modest living, definitely not yacht money. In comparison in 4 years you could start several online businesses and could be making 6 figures a year in about 2-4 years pretty easily.
And if you want fame you could easily become a little famous in about 2 years if you make several videos on youtube every week. Money and fame are not hard to come by these days. Our technology has made these things pretty easy to get. Look elsewhere in some other field.
Don’t get the wrong idea, I’m not trying to discourage you, I’m trying to save you.
That should get rid of most people.
That just leaves you and me. We’re a little fuckin crazy eh? We want to make art because we don’t have any other choice. We feel compelled to create art, and if we didn’t create art we feel like we would die. The ideas just come to us, they compel us to make them real. We don’t really have a choice in the matter.
So how the hell do you study art in the first place?
Here’s the holy grail of learning art right here, 2 years of knowledge I give you in two little paragraphs.
Here you go past self, now you don’t have to struggle like I did. (But I know you will. 😛 )
Draw what you want to draw and that’s about it. As long as you’re having fun or losing yourself in your art, then keep drawing those things. Pay attention to what grips you, draw those things.
Don’t watch tutorials too much. Figure things out on your own as much as you can. Only watch tutorials when you absolutely don’t know how to do something in art.
Draw what you like to draw and be careful what you let people “teach” you about art. In 4-6 years you should be a pretty damn good artist.
Just keep going and don’t look back. And whatever you do, don’t stop drawing. Draw until you drop dead. Draw until your personal art dreams come true. If you can make even a few of your art dreams come true, that’s a good life, you could die happy. 🙂
If you’re someone who needs explicit instructions then here’s a step by step guide:
1. Draw the things you like to draw, basically for the rest of your life (you will augment this first step with the following ones). Get a sketchbook and draw the things you like to draw in it everyday (or draw digitally with a tablet, it doesn’t matter. Just draw the things you like everyday!). Try and draw things from imagination as much as you can, but don’t be afraid to use reference if you don’t know how to draw something.
One last disclaimer: if the rest of these steps are boring to you or you dislike doing them, DO NOT DO THEM. The most important thing you can do when learning art is to draw the things you like to draw. That’s pretty much the golden rule of art: draw what you like. If studying is boring for you, then don’t study. Simple as that. Inevitably, you will want to study when you don’t know how to draw a specific thing and you will search for a way to draw that thing you don’t know how to draw. In this way your studying is self-directed. You will only study the things you need and/or want to study.
2. Find a few artists you really like and start tracing their pictures for 1-3 months. (Tracing means you trace over the lines of a picture you like. So get a piece of paper and put it over the drawing and trace the lines with a pencil. Or do this digitally by lowering the opacity of the original picture and tracing over it on a new layer above.) Try and do at least 1 tracing every day, ideally do about 3+ a day. However many you can do without burning out or going crazy, don’t force yourself. The reason you start tracing in the beginning is to cement in your mind what a proper drawing looks like. You’re trying to get correct proportions, anatomy, etc into your muscle memory so that way you will intuitively know what a correct drawing looks like. Eventually you will know how a head, body, eyes, etc should look when you draw them. (Remember to keep doing step 1 always!)
3. Start copying pictures from the artists you like for 6-12 months. (Copying means you put a piece of paper side by side to the picture you want to draw and draw it on the blank page without tracing. If you need a guide for how to copy check out Doxy’s tutorial on Copying or read the first few chapters of Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.) Again, try and do at least 1 copy every day, ideally about 3+ a day. Same as #2, don’t burn yourself out. I would also recommend continuing to do 1 trace every day, so that makes 1 trace and 1 or more copies every day (by this point you should be able to knock out a tracing pretty quickly). The reason you are copying is the same as #2, you are trying to embed the knowledge of how a human body, head, tree, etc is supposed to look, into your subconscious/muscle memory. That’s all a master artist is, they’ve drawn things so much that their brain subconsciously simulates how a certain object is supposed to look. (Also, remember to keep doing step 1. Draw the things you like every day! Do at least 1 sketch a day of something you like to draw.)
I am of the opinion that tracing and copying pictures of artists you like for a year or two will get you more knowledge about art fundamentals than directed study. You will learn more by tracing and copying your first year or two than you ever would by taking an art class.
I can say at least for myself, from my personal experience of the last 2 years, I would have learned more by tracing and copying artists than all the classes I took these past 2 years. Maybe things would be different for you if you took classes, I can’t say. I’m just trying to save you some time, but ultimately it’s up to you to figure out your path in art. (Alongside drawing personal sketches of course, don’t forget this!)
4. Beyond this, the rest is up to you. You have to figure out your own learning style that works best for you. Some people can go to art school and learn very well, others do better with just a mentor, and still some can learn very well on their own just watching videos or reading books. Figure out what style of learning is best for you. Do not let people sway you from your interests in art, ESPECIALLY if they’re your teachers! Don’t watch too many videos, read too many books, or take too much advice because you will get information overload = analysis paralysis, then you have too much info and don’t know which advice is the best for you. (Regardless of which path you choose, remember to keep drawing the things you like everyday!)
If you want to understand how I came to these crazy ideas: Read “Mastery” by Robert Greene, listen to Sycra’s podcast, and read “The Art Spirit” by Robert Henri. Those 2 books and Sycra’s podcast have been a huge influence on me and helped me figure out what the hell I’m supposed to do in art.
I’ll leave you with a rant so I can really hammer it in your head what you need to remember.
Draw what you like to draw every day!
Never stop drawing your personal likes. Cling to your personal likes and interests in Art like your life depends on it. Because in fact, your soul does depend on it. If you like drawing lolis, then draw lolis. Become the fucking LOLI MASTER. Don’t draw “x” just because society tells you you have to draw “x”. Tell society to fuck off.
Your interests in art are your fucking soul man, don’t you DARE give that up for anybody and especially not because society tells you you shouldn’t draw something. Most of society doesn’t even draw, don’t listen to those artless fucks. Don’t stop drawing what you love to draw until death. Tell them if they want you to stop drawing the things you love to draw so much, they’re gonna have to kill you.
That’s it, good luck on your journey fellow Art wanderer. I’ll see you in 6 months or so when I learn everything I wrote in this article is bullshit! 😛
-JONRS, October 7, 2018