Drawing for Newbies

(Advice for the newbie artist)

| Main | Attitudes and Self-esteem | Tracing, Grids & more... | Accept the Fact | Too Old to Learn? | Snobs & Cretins | The Importance of an Art Education? | Dare to be shameless


Not only should a newbie artist work on practicing their drawing skills, and learn about what kind of paper and pencils to use. They also need to be clued in about some less tangible things about learning to be an artist.


So, you are a newbie artist! Bravo! This means you have the courage to "stick your neck out" and learn a new, challenging skill. So, pat yourself on the back, and be proud of yourself. (And remember this feeling of pride when you are having an "off" day! You will have off days—we all do!)

When you stick your neck out, you open a little bit of yourself up to other people. This can be a little daunting at first, but you can do it. Just remember—you are not doing this for other people, you are doing this for yourself. So, while it's still OK to care what other people think, remember that you must always please yourself first.

Nothing worth having...

Nothing worth having is going to be dropped on your lap. And this applies to art, as it does with anything else. If drawing was such a breeze, everyone would do it! This doesn't mean that art and drawing are miserable, mind-numbingly difficult tasks—they aren't. Art is a fulfilling and fun activity, especially when you get off on the right foot, and get some proper instruction (the drawing newbie book recommendations will help with that). But, learning to draw does require practice, and following certain instructions. And, it requires that you keep trying after you fail (and you will fail sometimes!). If you want to learn how to draw, you have to accept that you will have to put in some hard work and practice. No one is exempt from practice and struggle, including you!

The myth of talent

First off, I can't keep repeating it enough—don't worry about "talent." The concept of "talent" is waaay overrated. What will get you through is dedication, and practice. So, don't buy into this elusive, mysterious "talent" myth. I'm not saying that talent isn't a significant thing. But art still requires practice, and work. Many a "mediocre" talent has become an accomplished artist, because they didn't give up! (Take me, for example—in pottery class, I had no talent for throwing on the potter's wheel. I was the worst in the class—truly pathetic. But I wouldn't give up, got better, and now my pottery has been displayed in some art galleries and shops. Boy, I sure fooled 'em all, didn't I? Those galleries and shops thought I had "talent"!)

Are you too old?

If you are older when you start to learn, maybe you'll feel insecure because "everyone younger than me is so much better." Hogwash. Don't worry about it. You can't go back in time, all you can do is start where you are now. Dig in and learn. You'll find that with some dedication and drive, you'll progress at a decent pace. And remember—your dedication and drive are far more important than "talent." If you keep practicing, you WILL develop an artistic skill that you can be proud of!

Besides, do you think you are the first person ever of your age to start to learn how to draw? It's been done before, trust me. Don't concern yourself about what anyone else is doing, just learn for yourself.

Don't get ahead of yourself

When you decide to get into art, don't think too far ahead. Don't be thinking about making money, or getting art awards right away. You have to LEARN how to be an artist first, before you can start thinking about that stuff. So, don't be in such a rush. Don't be cutting corners, and deciding that you "don't have time" to learn certain aspects of art and drawing. Learn how to do it right. It'll pay off in the end. When you start to get more serious about your artwork, you'll do so with a firm artistic foundation.


Oh dear, it's something that plagues us all. But try to purge as many competitive thoughts from your mind as you can. They will only distract you, and keep you from your goal— which is to be the best artist you can be.

Don't get me wrong—I understand that we are all competitive creatures. It's impossible for most of us to be completely oblivious to what our peers are doing. But so often, it is useless to compare ourselves to other people. Each person comes from a different background, and has different strengths. Some artists have a stronger sense of color, or line, or design. Some people draw animals better, or machines better, or whatever. See? It's all too complex! So stop comparing yourself to anyone else!

When you do feel competitive thoughts about someone else, squelch them as much as you can. If possible, go over to your "rival" and compliment them. (I've forced myself to do this many times. I ended up making a lot of new friends! Sometimes, your "rivals" are really nice people.) Even when your "rivals" are not so nice, make sure that you take the high road. DON'T let what they do concern you. Just focus on developing your own talents. That's all that counts.

Criticism—how to take it

One of the toughest things to get used to is criticism. But if you create artwork, and other people see it, you will get criticism and feedback. And some of it is SO painful to hear. It's especially tough when you are still a drawing newbie, and you are not sure if this whole art thing is for you or not. But, please—tough it out. Getting criticism doesn't mean that you are a bad artist—it is just part of the process. Even the most brilliant artists get negative feedback once in a while. A lot of it can be very useful and helpful. You must be able to accept and listen to criticism. (But if you want to cry into your pillow later, that's fine. I give you permission!)

If you get some criticism that you find discouraging, please don't act upset or "shoot the messenger." Don't let it get you down. You need to hear this stuff, even when you dread hearing it. It will help you become a better artist. You don't want to be oblivious to your weaknesses or flaws, do you? You don't want people shaking their heads behind your back, and lamenting, "...if only she'd believe that she needs to make the noses smaller." The only way you'll learn about this stuff is to LISTEN to feedback! This is something that all artists must endure. We must hear feedback, unless we intend to keep our drawings hidden away forever, sight unseen.

However, don't think that you need to be endlessly inviting criticism. You can't absorb all of it at once. If someone is constantly showering you with negative feedback (and don't have a lot of positive things to say) then perhaps you should ask them to tone it down a bit. Criticism is usually a necessary thing, but there is a limit!

Also remember, that not all criticism is helpful. Some of it is given a little too eagerly, and isn't productive. And, remember that many of our "critics" have never really "stuck their necks out" themselves. They are always the critics, never the recipients of criticism. They don't know how difficult and painful it can be to hear. It's always easier to pick someone else's efforts apart, especially if a person is in the safe position of not being vulnerable to such criticism themselves. So, keep that in mind—that at least you have stuck your neck out and tried. You should always be proud of that. (I elaborate more on these type of critics—who are far too eager to be discouraging—in my "Dare to be shameless" essay.)

Take a break once in a while

When you are practicing and drawing, make sure that you take a break once in a while. When you find that you are coming up against a brick wall, just put down your pencil or paintbrush, and give it a breather. You'll find that when you return to your artwork, you'll be refreshed, and may be able to quickly solve the problem that was previously plaguing you. Learn to recognize the times when you just need to TAKE A BREAK.

Also, don't overwork your artwork. Learn that there is a point when you are DONE with the work. Don't keep picking and picking and picking at it. Sure, it's good to wait a few days, look at your drawing with "fresh" eyes and correct a few errors, but there's a limit. Learn to let it go after a certain point. If you don't, you may end up ruining some very good artwork with endless fussing and reworking.

From my blog, some other helpful tidbits for newbies:

Beta testing the "eBook" idea: This article is available on two different popular "eBook" formats! These are "beta" versions so the formatting is kind of funky, but give 'em a try anyway!

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