If you are learning to draw you’ve probably heard many times that the process of learning to draw takes a long time – and that’s true. But are there things we can incorporate into drawing today, even at this very moment, that can help us improve virtually instantly? Mostly yes. Maybe not instantly, but in the few minutes it will take to read this article, yes, absolutely there are!
Just as the title says, without further ado, here are the top five tips you can incorporate into your process right now to greatly boost your art skill:
- Use flip-horizontal
- See the whole picture
- Be present
- Take a break
- Compare and analyze
Let’s talk about each in turn:
Flip-horizontal is one of the most powerful tools immediately available to any artist, and the earlier you find yourself in your art journey the more use you will get out of it.
Flip-horizontal refers to flipping your drawing and looking at a mirror image of it to spot mistakes. It turns out that we are much more able to find mistakes in our artwork if we have access to the original and it’s mirror image. This can easily be done with virtually any painting software, and you could do this in real life by just holding up your drawing to a mirror.
Try it a few times and I think you will be convinced. Flip-horizontal has been instrumental to my improvement in drawing. In fact, It is so important that I wrote a separate blog post about it here.
2. See the Whole Picture
One of the biggest traps for artists is working on the detail in one area of the piece, without comparing it to the whole.
Creating an image is a process requiring thorough oversight of the entire canvas basically at all times. Getting lost in the details makes it difficult to compare the area you are working on to the entire picture. There are two main ways to stop this from happening. (1) We can squint to see the entire image, or (2) we can walk back to create a greater distance between us and what we are working on to see the entire image.
For our purposes in drawing, when we are squinting we’re looking at something with our eyes partially closed in an attempt to see only the general big shapes, or an attempt to filter out and not see small details. When you squint you will notice that your eyelashes come together and create a blur filter that will help you identify the most important visual statements in your image. It is a good way to take a break from drawing a detail and to update your understanding of the whole.
The second main way to see the entire image is even more simple. Simply walk back away from your canvas to a distance where you cannot comfortably see the details you’ve been working on. You will notice at that point that the entire image will reveal itself to you and you will be able to judge its current state without the bias created by working in a small area of the canvas for prolonged periods of time.
It may be difficult and impractical to to take many steps away from your canvas every minute or two. Sometimes, just lifting your head up from the canvas and moving back in your chair, or taking one step back, can do the trick and help you see the entire image in a better way. You can then alternate and try to move yourself further back at longer intervals.
3. Be Present
Creation requires you to be present, regardless of the kind of art you are creating. This is especially true when we draw anatomy, or design characters or need to evaluate perspective, or when we paint difficult to describe surfaces like silk or metal, or really try to draw anything mildly complex.
To get better we want to think ahead, make marks on canvas with intention and be intellectually present for the entire drawing.
Keeping focused is not always easy. Creativity has a tendency to take us on various tangents not always relevant to the project at hand. Try to be mindful of times when you are losing focus and your mind is wandering off. You can also try to set a reminder for yourself on the canvas, like a visual cue to stay focused. Something as simple as writing “stay focused” on the canvas away from your work area but still within your peripheral vision could work and has definitely worked for me.
4. Take a Break
Like with any creative endeavor, stepping away from the canvas and letting some time pass before you see it again, will help identify problem areas. If you are struggling on a section of your drawing, try taking a break for a few minutes, or an hour or even overnight. You can also work on another part of the same drawing while your mind rests from and rethinks the previous challenge. As an added bonus, taking even a short break after drawing for a while, will help you see mistakes you previously could not spot.
5. Compare and Analyze
Compare your work to that of your role models, and analyze first what you are doing well or as well, and second what you can improve.
It’s okay to compare your art to the art of your favorite artists. In fact, if you want to bridge the skill gap between your art and theirs, the comparison is inevitable. However, you should know that chances are that they are much further along on their art journey. As the saying goes, never compare your beginning, to someone else’s middle.
Therefore, if you are at the start, don’t directly compare your work to theirs. Instead, use their work as a source of inspiration, or as a target, and to find ways to improve your own art.