Looking for ways to improve your work and take your art game to the next level? It sounds like a long daunting task and while practice (obviously) makes perfect that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways you can immediately improve.
I’m not saying you are going to become Monet or Picasso over night, that simply isn’t possible. What I can help you do is take small steps to acquire more knowledge, gain more skill, and put it all into practice.
- Learn a new technique – or at least try something new
This sounds like a big task, but it can be as complicated or simple as you like. Learning a new way to do something or trying out a new material is a fantastic way to practice your skills, bring in more creativity, and allowing your skill set to grow. Just as we grow and mature our art takes that journey with us. Your style, tastes, and abilities will change. Help yourself grow by exploring something new.
For example, if you normally don’t shade your work you could take a few minutes to do some shading exercises. Take a ball (or whatever object you like, balls are just one of the easiest and clearest ways to practice this), place a light source (a table lamp) somewhere that the light is shining on the ball and draw what you see. You can move the light source around and do a study. You can use other objects, multiple objects, multiple light sources, etc.
You could try out a new way of shading, say cross hatching or stippling, again this can be something that takes more effort to learn (like drawing realistically or learning how to print make) or it can be something simpler like learning a new way to shade.
It can even be something as simple as trying out a new material. Say you normally draw in pencil, try some water colours or markers instead. You’ll be surprised how much you can learn, pick up, and grow by doing this even if just every now and then.
- Draw from life
One thing you will hear from pretty much every art teacher on the planet is to draw from life. Drawing from life (instead of your imagination or even from pictures) allows you to truly see what is happening with the figure you are drawing. This is especially true for figure drawing (drawing people). The difference between drawing from your imagination and drawing from something sitting right in front of you can be astounding. Our brains often think they know what something looks like and to be fair they generally do. What our brains don’t recall are specific and important details. Details that you often don’t notice you are noticing. When I went to art school we had at least one figure drawing class a semester. I cannot tell you how much my abilities improved even in the first couple weeks of these classes. Most of us don’t have access to naked models to draw from (and no, they don’t HAVE to be naked) so, you can improvise. Using your family or friends, people watching on transit or at a park can be a great way to get in some practice drawing from life. For objects or nature that is obviously a little easier. In fact, I challenge you to draw something that is sitting in front of you right now. Take 5 minutes and doodle what you see. The more you do it the more adept you will become. It takes practice, but you can start right now! Every little bit you do makes your brain work towards it.
You could put this theory to work: pick an object. Draw it once a day for a week. The more you draw it the better you will get and the more details you will notice. Drawing from life allows you to pick out and examine things you may not have seen from memory or in picture. You also get a more realistic proportion.
As a bonus if you ARE interested in drawing from models check out your local art schools, they often hold drawing nights that are available to the public for a fee.
- Make time
Even if you take five minutes; if you have time to read blogs, you have time to draw. You can doodle quickly on public transit, getting a coffee, during lunch break, whenever. Practice makes perfect and you don’t improve if you don’t do. A sketchbook is the perfect place to do this, you can even keep a small one with a pencil in your bag or purse. I keep a couple right on my desk and I usually have one stashed in either my diaper bag or in my purse depending on what I am lugging around. I never use to be a big sketch book person, even in art school I just didn’t understand them. Now that I’ve taken the leap I am wondering how I waited so long. I obviously owned them and used them before, but I only ever really used them to work out an idea for a finished piece. Now I use them for everything. I practice, do studies, take art classes or tutorials online, create my own work, draw from life, doodle, use watercolours, etc. I live in my sketch books now. It was one of the best things I have ever done to hone in on my skills and grow as an artist.
- Critique your most recent work
What do you like about it, what do you not? What is working, what could be done better? What elements and principles of design are being used and are they effectively done?
This doesn’t take long, you probably even have a picture of something you’ve created recently on your phone. Take a minute to look at it, evaluate it the best you can and find where you can improve.
I don’t particularly suggest asking a friend with no art background to help you do this (if you were thinking of getting another opinion). People without an understanding of art fundamentals and the elements and principles of design or who have never been to a more formal critique will likely give you answers along the lines of “I like it, it looks good”, “I don’t like it, it’s just not my style”. While valid observations to the person observing their likes and dislikes it is much too generalized and open to be productive for you to grow as an artist.
- Draw it again challenge
This one is a lot of fun to do! Find something you created a while ago, I would say at least a year ago, if not longer, and redo it. You can see where you’ve grown, what has changed about your style, where you still need to improve, and you may even end up with something you like much better. I like to do this at least once a year, but it is a great place for you to start right now.
- Prompt challenge
Pick a prompt and go with it. The prompt can be a word, a lyric, poem, sentence, whatever you like. The prompt is a tool that allows you to flex your creative muscle. Finding a way to incorporate something you may not have normally and giving you a project to work on. This is one of my favourite ways to either get out of a slump, do something for fun, or practice illustrating. A wonderful tool for those of you looking to illustrate things for other people. Need a prompt to get started? Try the word: Shadow (if you use it, I would love to see what you come up with, I will link my social accounts below this post!) If you like Teddy’s Shadow you can watch the creation of it here.
7. Brush up on basic design practices (elements and principles of design, a refresher is always helpful and can even provide inspiration)
Go back to your high school art days (or if you’re in high school, perhaps look back at your notes). Either way channel your beginner, learning self and brush up on the basics. Knowing and understanding the fundamentals like the elements and principles of design, colour theory, etc. will aid in your journey. I like to go back every few years and just go over some old notes again or even find a short course or video online explaining these things. I always find I have forgotten something or at the very least coming out of that I look at things in a new light. There is a reason you learn this stuff before you get in to doing bigger projects in school and it never hurts to brush up.
Have any tips for upping your art game right now? Let me know how you do it in the comments below.
Be sure to share your work with me:
Until next time, my creative friends!