Whether you’re completely new to art-making or just want to refresh some basic skills, our new Art Bootcamp course can help you find (and stay on!) your creative path. We’ve compiled this list of hard-won advice from our course instructors—all professional artists with years of experience in their fields—to get you inspired.
It’s essential to recognize that your judgement of your own progress is far from accurate. I guarantee you are doing better than you think you are because again, your perspective is distorted by the dream you have of where you want to get to. And because you feel like an impostor who’s pretending to be an Artist but can’t draw a stick figure. So stop obsessing on on how far you have yet to travel and check out the ground you’ve already covered. Spend less time on self-criticism and more on your next drawing.
Knowing where your ‘sweet spot’ is can be very helpful to get into a creative habit. You’ll be able to plan ‘art time’ in the best possible way.
Find sketch groups near you, if you’d like company and encouragement. You could go to a community centre in your town, to see if there are any classes. Or check out the many creativity groups on Facebook or meetup.com. And of course, you can join an online community like Sketchbook Skool. You can make use of the fabulous group of people in the community, or if you’re enjoying just drawing and learning by yourself, take a course at your own pace and on your own time.
My sketchbooks are really for getting the thoughts out of my head, about characters, about colors. My sketchbook is for playing. In the moment of creativity, there’s no judgment. There’s only you, and the things that you have in front of you. Go!
It is hard to overcome the idea of someone looking over your shoulder as you are making drawing decisions – as they may turn out good or bad. But I have tried to be unapologetic about it. I draw, I make mistakes, I draw too small, too big, too slowly, but I draw. So I am not entirely past it, but so be it. I can’t let the possibility of messing up or disappointing a possible “audience” stop me!
Oftentimes, I go through a phase where I just think: “this is not going to work out.” And I always think: “I’m gonna stop.” But you’ve just gotta have faith and know that you know inside it’s gonna work. And it’s fine! I learn from every single image I produce.
I try to give people the perspective of, “pick something that’s important, and do it.” Now, I take my trusty timer and I set it for 20 minutes. Sometimes I only do it once. And I just encourage other people to get a timer. Because whether you’re busy or not, you can carve out 20 minutes. Even if it feels uncomfortable. And it always feels better when you do that. One 20-minute session is usually not enough! It’s an easy habit to build.
I think I consciously started meditating as a practice more than 12 years ago, but my drawing aspect started way before that. And I was introduced to meditation as a child, so I think it has happened in conjunction. Drawing is meditation as a practice because it immediately calms me down. It changes the thought processes in my head, my entire personality changes. Because, for me, I’ve realized it’s become a form of release. Sometimes I may not know what the page is going to be – I may just stare at a blank piece of paper and start doodling, and just the process of that immediately calms me down – it brings peace.
Rules do indeed set me free as long as they are MY rules. I like to get into a groove. I give myself interesting perimeters and assignments so I don’t find myself staring at a blank sketchbook page wondering what to draw. The phrase “Paralyzed by Possibilities” rings true to me. Too many options are not always a good thing for me. That’s where my so-called rules set me free because I’ve narrowed down the possibilities.
I think a good tip is not to start at the beginning. In my book Mut zum Skizzenbuch, I have a chapter written about this. Almost everyone has the fear of the blank sheet, no matter how long you’ve been making art. I think it is easier to start in the middle.
When you’re just starting out, it’s easier to depict something about the same size as your page. Then you won’t have to think about enlarging or reducing it as you draw. Remember, it’s only a page in your journal; not every page will be a masterpiece.
Turn the page when you’re finished with your drawing, and plan on doing another page tomorrow.
The trick for me is to keep going, especially on those days when I don’t want to get out of bed, or when painting or drawing something is the last thing I want to do. As long as I am physically doing art, something will happen. Change for an artist is a slow process. Day in and day out, it’s hard for me to see if I am getting any better or evolving or if I’m in some sort of zone. But when I look back at a year’s work, I see that I did progress and evolve.