The difference between learning how to draw and learning how to learn: From my experience, these two concepts occur separately.
So chances are, reader, you are either an artist, someone who is studying art for a career, doing art as a hobby, admire art, or any combination of the four. Or perhaps you are one of the many ambitious, brave souls out there who set up a deviantart account, found some references and favorites, and are just beginning the process of learning how to draw.
Perhaps you are like me, and one day, whether that was today, yesterday, or several years ago, you became just too sick and tired of entire storylines and scenery rushing into your head and disappearing into the void.
Learning to draw is what many people, including myself, end up doing in the beginning.
I've always been a strange case, because throughout my life I teeter from completely hyperfocusing to drifting in and out of attention.
In the moments when I was hyperfocusing, I could draw things far, far above my level.
For example, my first drawing in a sketchbook was on a sick day. I watched a music video with incredible visuals, and suddenly I became inspired to draw one of the scenes in it.
Without any prior experience with facial anatomy or skeletons, I drew this.
If you look closely, you can see the pieces of tape holding the page onto my sketchbook, because eventually it became so worn out that it got ripped out. As well, the graphite has smudged a lot over the years, but this was the one that started it all.
After that day, I'd tried drawing other visuals from that music video.
I finished a couple, and it helped enhance my already pretty steady hand for shading.
That was learning how to draw.
In fact, the first dozen or so things that I posted on deviantart were drawn under similar conditions.
However, when I didn't invest a lot of focus into my drawing, they were sloppy and had the kind of sub-par quality you'd expect from someone just beginning to draw.
And this pattern persisted for about 2 years afterwards.
Now, fast forward to my university years.
I always have 2 books designated for drawing. One contains paper that's specialized for drawing. That's where I draw things I'm certain that I'd post on DA later. The other is a $2 notebook I got from Staples, because I can carry it in my backpack without worrying about it getting damaged, and I use it as practice paper.
The difference in quality between the two notebooks (often, comparing hyperfocusing vs non-hyperfocusing) is honestly staggering, and stayed that way throughout those 2 years.
For example, consider the fact that I made the drawing on the left about 2 years AFTER I made the drawing on the right.
These two drawings were made by someone who had learned how to draw to some degree.
So instead, it illustrates a bigger problem.
Even though I knew how to mimic design and shading, I didn't have the slightest clue on any of the anatomy of the female form.
I had learned how to draw, but I hadn't learned how to learn about drawing.
The first encapsulates the "how", while the second encapsulates the "why".
So in the last year and a half or so, I've been focusing much more on learning how to learn about drawing.
The results are evident in my hands progress reports. It has been about 2 months and I've improved exponentially.
Learning how to learn has a couple requirements. One of them is the need to balance between mastering and stepping out of your comfort zone. I personally think this is one of the most common and tempting mistakes to make as an artist. We all want to develop a style, draw amazing things like our favorite artist. Sometimes, our desire to get there makes us try to run to that goal a little too quickly. We leave a trail of knowledge gaps along the way, and they make every step forward that much more resistant. So then we get comfy with drawing a particular body type or a specific facial expression. As nice as that is, if you want to do something with art like I want to do (and that's the secret I've kept buried in pages for the past few months), you can't rely on that one specialization.
Looking at my hands progress reports, I'd say focusing on a particular body part or concept will definitely help you become an expert on it. That is, as long as you can stand to make good poses and bad poses.
By mid-May, I had gotten pretty comfortable with the palm facing up position. So then I tried to flip the hand and try to draw the knuckles facing up position instead.
As you can tell from the End of May (Well, Most of it) Progress Report
, I definitely had a lot of work to do before my hands looked realistic from this angle.
But I didn't let that discourage me, and well, you can see for yourself that the progress is becoming evident with every passing day.
Now, let's fast forward to my experiences today.
I just finished an extremely stressful exam, and for the first time in months, I had a solid couple of hours completely to myself.
I decided that I wanted to spend some of it drawing Mettaton ex and Undyne.
But every time I tried to get a pose down, I thought it looked terrible. The torso was too big, the shoulders were too broad or too narrow.
I ended up ripping out a couple pages because I just became so frustrated, despite my practice notebook only down to ten or so pages of free space.
So I took a deep breath, and I analyzed the situation.
I realized that my biggest problem wasn't that I just suddenly lost all my ability to draw figures after over a year of invested practice. I simply needed to refresh myself with a couple references before I tried drawing from imagination.
So in the same day, I went from drawing this:
to drawing this:
(References provided by SenshiStock
), which in my opinion, are pretty good considering the leap in quality.
And what you see in this is someone who's making sure that they're learning how to learn. I'm weighing my strengths, my limitations, and tackling a strategy that will allow me to influence both.
So I guess the moral is that.... As an artist, whether you just started drawing, have been drawing for years, or are only considering it after reading this post, the most important thing to remember is always try to strike a balance between comfort and discovery.
Set yourself checkpoints (which should NOT be confused with expectations!).
If there's something you know you suck at, like hands or eyes, then the only way you'll stop sucking at it is to practice.
You can increase how much you gain from practicing by looking at some tutorials, applying the strategies of different artists into your practice.
It's a long process that requires a lot of patience, but in the end, you'll be so glad that you decided to keep with it.
Viewers, if you have any advice to add, please feel free to do so in the form of a comment.
Or, if you know a new artist out there who seems to be struggling, perhaps show them this journal.
I'd love to give them whatever advice I can.