This week I crossed a pretty big milestone. I've now done over 1000 drawings and paintings.
Every week I take photos of everything I've drawn. I started doing this from the beginning of my learning effort just over 4 months ago. You can see them here.
I'm a huge advocate for self-education. I believe almost anyone can learn to do almost anything as long as they put in the time and effort. I believe that's what holds people back more than something like talent.
It's easy to blame external factors like bad teachers, lack of time, and lack of talent for why you aren't learning. Using those excuses creates a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy. If you aren't getting what you need from the teacher or resource you're using, find a different one. If you don't have the time, make the time. Talent is almost always an insidious myth.
With that mindset, I decided to teach myself to draw. It's something I always wanted to learn but had put it off for various reasons. I decided to document the journey to prove that anyone can do it. There was no way for me to be certain I could draw up front.
I had basically no experience going in. I started with typical fears about lack of talent and time. I just decided to push through and create the time by giving up video games and TV almost completely.
At this point I feel confident enough to say that I have learned to draw. My effort going forward is just me getting better.
With that experience I also feel even more confident saying that anyone can learn to draw or paint. You just have to make the sacrifices and effort necessary to make it happen.
It helps to know some general learning principles to make sure you make meaningful progress. Here are ten that I rely on:
- Do it every day. The strongest habits are daily habits. Also, drawing or painting daily gives you a constant stream of experience to build off.
- Mix things up. Your knowledge and skill is built on mental models that approximate reality. Approaching a subject like drawing from multiples angles gives you a stronger overall understanding. For example, I might do figure drawing, then some perspective drawing, then some doodles.
- Write and talk about it. Your brain is forgetful by design. The more you access your knowledge and the deeper that access is the stronger your knowledge gets. This is part of why I have a blog and YouTube channel about drawing.
- Connect it. Connect your subject to other subjects (e.g. drawing and photography, writing and cinematography). This helps you put your learning in context and lets you explore opportunities.
- Expand your learning. Seek out experts and learn from them. Buy books on the drawing and painting. Watch YouTube videos. Take some courses.
- Reflect on it. Find some time to reflect and think about your drawings. Think about techniques, inspiration, ideas, goals, etc. I generally reflect in my morning shower and when doing less active drawing like doodling.
- Save observations. Again, the brain is very forgetful. I forget what I was doing 5 minutes ago more than I care to admit. If you have an interesting idea, write it down or sketch it out.
- Take breaks and leave work unfinished. Your brain likes to crack a problem. It does a lot of work without you being concious of it. By letting it work on a problem in the background you may find your thoughts are stronger when you come back to your work. If you're struggling with something, don't be afraid to come back to it later.
- Identify and face fears. Your fears tend to come from lack of skill or knowledge. By facing them directly you’re often facing gaps in your development that you might not have been aware of.
- Do reality checks and get feedback. It’s easy to end up off-course. Find ways to check your progress. Ask for feedback. Put your work on the internet and see what people think. Pay for this if you have to because it’s very important.
There is one final thing I realized while reflecting on my recent drawings.
Let your mind wander.
I've noticed that as I draw more and have to worry less about technique I find my mind wandering more and more as I draw. This is a component of my improvement that I didn't expect.
I find myself imagining elements and details in the scenes for my drawings. For example villages on a mountainside or the way a creature might behave. By doing that I feel I'm able to convey more life into the drawing than I otherwise would have.
I hope this inspires you to get started and helps you on your journey.