There are times when making art can be incredibly frustrating. It can feel like you aren’t making any progress…or even like you are going backward.
Sometimes I swear I am getting worse instead of better. It’s like the harder I try, the worse my art seems to get.
Can you relate to any of that? If so, I’m hoping the following tips will help you. They definitely have helped me.
Go Easy On Yourself
The first thing that I would recommend is to go easy on yourself. It’s like there is this unwritten rule that if you want to be an artist, you have to be born with natural talent and that magic should flow out of your fingertips every time you sit down in front of a canvas. In fact, however, that rarely happens.
Most artists have to work really hard to get good at what they do. When you see someone’s paintings online and they take your breath away, you are most likely looking at the culmination of years’ worth of hard work and practice. Although there are exceptions, most artists have to spend a ton of time practicing and refining their skills before they get really good.
What’s funny is that there aren’t many other professions where people are expected to be amazing right out of the gate. Think about it for a minute. Nobody expects people to be born knowing how to perform surgery or how to solve complex mathematical equations. Instead, there is an expectation that things like math, science, etc. require a lot of studying and hard work.
Why doesn’t the same thing apply to art? It makes sense that you would have to spend a lot of time refining your skills and practicing if you really want to get good. Making mistakes along the way or creating pieces that you aren’t proud of is all part of the process. Every time you pick up a paintbrush, you are mastering skills that are going to help get you where you want to go.
The key is to keep trying. Even if it feels like you are getting nowhere, I guarantee that you are making progress. You may even have sudden breakthroughs along the way where it feels like you instantly master a technique or something finally “clicks” that you have really been struggling with. Typically, these “breakthroughs” are actually the result of all of the hard work that you have been doing.
Look At Some Of Your Old Pieces
Make sure that you save all of the art you do. Not only is it a great record of all of the hard work that you have put into the process but it also can be a fantastic way to check your progress.
If it feels like you aren’t getting any better, all that you have to do is take out some art that you made a year or two ago. Compare it to what you are doing now. If you have been practicing diligently, there is a high likelihood that the art you are doing now is far better than the art that you were doing then.
Look for areas of improvement. Chances are, you will see a lot of them when you really start looking.
Start Sketching Every Single Day
If you aren’t already drawing or painting every single day, you definitely should be. Consistent practice is the only way to get better.
Keeping a sketchbook is a fantastic way to build your skills. I would even recommend keeping more than one sketchbook. I have several sketchbooks going at any given time, each of which is for a slightly different purpose.
One of my sketchbooks literally cost less than two dollars. I grabbed it from the section of the store where the crayons, white glue, and other kids’ art supplies are. I use this sketchbook for messy activities like testing out paint colors, practicing making lines, doodling, or just messing around.
The reason why I opted to get a super cheap sketchbook is because I found myself feeling hesitant to make a mess in my more expensive sketchbooks. As silly as it sounds, it was almost like they were too “precious” to mess up. With the cheap sketchbook, however, I can get super messy and don’t have to worry about ruining the sketchbook.
I then have another slightly more expensive sketchbook that I use for doing basic sketches. I try to carry this sketchbook around with me so that I can sketch things that I see when I am out in the world. Typically, the sketches in this sketchbook take me anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes to complete. I try to focus on staying loose and working quickly for these mid-level sketches.
Finally, I have a really nice sketchbook that was quite a bit more expensive than the others. It has heavy-duty paper in it that is capable of taking paint without warping or bleeding through to the other side. This is my “pretty” sketchbook. The things that I sketch and paint in it are more like finished drawings and paintings than like sketches. I try to make the pages flow nicely with one another. It is almost like I am trying to turn the whole sketchbook into a finished piece of art, if that makes sense.
I find having all of these different sketchbooks really beneficial. That way, no matter what type of sketching I am in the mood for, I have a place where I can do it. I also have set aside a specific time each day for sketching. Then, even if I am super busy, I will still make the time to sit down and sketch.
Since I have started doing this, I have really seen a lot of improvement in my art. If you can’t think of things to sketch, try pausing your TV during a show and sketching the image on the screen. You can also walk around your town and look for things to sketch. Even the objects on your desk or around your house can make great items for practicing.
If you haven’t already, you should also check out Minnie Small on YouTube. Her ideas for filling sketchbooks are really awesome:
Get Some Art Books
Another fantastic way to start making more forward progress with your art is to begin buying art books. Some of the first ones that I would recommend are any of the Andrew Loomis books. In particular, I would recommend Creative Illustration, Figure Drawing for All Its Worth, and Drawing the Head and Hands. All of these books are packed with an incredible amount of information that you can use to improve your skills.
Keep in mind, they were written a long time ago, so some of the drawings may look outdated. However, the information that they contain is invaluable when it comes to learning how to draw people, understanding perspective, and coming up with creative layouts and compositions for your drawings and paintings.
I think there are PDFs of all of these books available online. However, I would really recommend buying the actual books. Not only are the books themselves incredibly nice but it is also extremely helpful to be able to see the examples in the books in person instead of in a grainy image from a low-quality scan on your computer screen.
If you are new to drawing, I would also definitely recommend Drawing on the Right Side of Your Brain. This is one of the first art books that I read. It helped me start to see things the way they really are instead of the way that my brain was interpreting them. It is extremely helpful when it comes to being able to draw what you see instead of what you think you see.
There are a ton of other excellent art books out there that are definitely worth checking out. It’s easy to fall into the trap of only looking at information online. However, there is still a lot of value in reading actual books. If you don’t want to buy them, you can most likely find some excellent art books at your local library.
Stop Comparing Yourself To Others
Okay, I know that this is practically impossible to do, but it is so important to stop comparing yourself to other artists.
When you look at someone else’s artwork, you have no idea what their background is. They may have been making art for decades. If you are just starting out and you are comparing your beginning pieces to someone else’s masterwork, it can be incredibly disheartening.
The only type of comparison that you should ever do is to compare your current work to your past work. Even then, you need to be cautious. You may be trying things that are a lot more difficult now than you were when you were first starting out. Because of that, you may not see as much progress in your art as you would like to. As long as you have been making art consistently, however, it is impossible not to get better over time.
Wow, this post has gotten a lot longer than I had planned on it being. I hope you found some of the information helpful. I have some other ideas as well that I will probably share in a future post. For now, though, these are some of the things that have helped me the most any time I am feeling like giving up on art.
It is important to remember that the process of becoming a good artist doesn’t happen overnight. It will happen, however, as long as you are willing to put in the time and effort. The best part is, practicing art doesn’t feel like hard work. Instead, it is a lot of fun! I don’t know about you but I would much rather spend my “study” time doodling in a sketchbook than studying math in a textbook 🙂