Simply sitting down and banging out a few gesture drawings every day is a great way to stay in drawing shape, but it will rarely propel you to a new level of artistic achievement. If your goal is to simply “get better,” your progress is likely to be slow and demoralizing.
Studies show that people who get to be top in their field, from artists to computer programmers to Olympians, nearly all engage in focused practice on a regular basis. This means that every time they practice, they have a goal in mind. They don’t say to themselves “Be a better gymnast,” they think instead, “Add an inch to my long jump.” That’s a concrete goal that can be worked toward, and whether or not they are making progress is obvious.
Practice that has a clearly defined goal helps your brain to notice the specific information that you need to help you get to that goal. Without it, your brain will quickly be overwhelmed by the sheer number of possibilities to learn about in any situation. It also helps you stay engaged, motivated and feeling accomplished by giving you a yardstick to measure your progress.
Homework To Assign Yourself
Step 1: Identify what you’d like to be better at, and be specific.
“I want to be a better artist” is far too vague. Pick a specific goal such as “I want to draw better faces.”
Step 2: Try to break this goal down into smaller goals. List them. Notice if one might interfere with the other goals if it isn’t tamed first. Choose the most foundational goal.
My goal to improve my faces has a number of smaller problems I’d like to address:
- The accurate placement of features in a face regardless of angle
- More lifelike, engaging, beautiful eyes that people fall in love with
- Easily changing the expression of a face while remaining recognizable as the same person.
Clearly, #1 will be important for accomplishing both 2 and 3, so I will start with 1.
Step 3: Commit to practicing that aspect of drawing 100 times. Each practice should take a minimum of 5 minutes.
If you set aside 15 minutes of practice time every day, you can get through 3 five minute drawings. At that rate, it will take only 33 and a half days to complete this project.
Keep your brain engaged in thinking about what you want to improve the entire time. Use reference images and really study (while drawing! Keep that pencil moving!) the body part or anatomy you’re focusing on.
You will see dramatic improvement in your area of choice.
Step 4: Start again with a new goal!