My daily improvement attempts

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This topic contains 22 replies, has 6 voices, and was last updated by Kim 5 years ago.

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    Hi Line of Action,

    For years and years and years and years, I've wanted to improve my art skills so that I could have semi-decent skills with art, particularly drawing. It's been the hobby I most wanted to improve with. Recently I decided to make a big push for improving my ability so I started doing daily gesture sketches. I'm using the site which tracks your progress and you can get a digital certificate after certain numbers of hours spent drawing, with incentive to draw every day. So that's what I'm doing.

    However it was only a few days in when an old permanent injury started to surface, it's from a couple of years ago when I worked from dawn to dusk every day for three months to get a lot of work done on the computer. My right pointer finger did so much mouse clicking that I sustained a repetitive strain injury and I need to use other fingers or the other hand for the mouse. I didn't realise until more recently that this also means sustained drawing is not something I can do without risking further injury to that finger (it already started to feel stiff when I ignored pain to draw and I had to stop drawing that way). So this leaves me with the options of NOT using my right pointer while drawing, which is possible but awkward to use, or train myself to draw with my left hand.

    I've drawn every day for two weeks now, with almost 10 hours total according to my profile. Only some of it has been with left hand but I think I'll continue like this. I can hardly express the frustration I feel with not being able to draw in the comfortable way I'm used to, but hopefully with lots of practice, I can actually build that left hand control I need. That and using pointer, index and thumb of my right hand, which produces better results but the awkward posture can bring muscle pain of its own. So today while I rest that, I'm using my left hand.

    I'm so keen to become decent at drawing and although there's this frustrating barrier, maybe I can overcome it. At any rate, I thought I might begin posting my drawings here! Mainly gesture drawings at the moment, although I am trying to go through the figure drawing courses by Vilppu and Proko. But without good left hand control, I won't be able to produce anything that doesn't look terrible.

    So here's today's attempts: all 1-minute gestures. I know how bad they are, but hopefully my line control will improve with time.

    And according to, I've drawn 518 gesture sketches so far.

    If anyone has suggestions for me to try, I'd love to hear! And I think I'll try to post my attempts each day. Thanks!

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    For comparison, here is how I go with gesture drawing with my right hand. After two weeks of doing this every day I still feel like I don't "get it", despite watching video after video about gesture drawing, Proko Vilppu and so on. But I want to keep up the practice and improve as much as I can!

    Sorry about the images being so massive! I just take a picture with my phone and upload to imgur.


    I had a go at drawing a dove from the "birds" section. I haven't really tried drawing a "full" picture entirely with left hand before (even though this would hardly be considered more than a "sketch"). I spent an hour on it, mostly aiming to just build up control with my left hand. It's frustrating when my mind wants to put a line down in a certain way and my hand goes in WAY off course so I end up with something way different than where I wanted my pencil to go. Hopefully I can improve on this in time with more practice!


    The lines on the left hand set of gestures are very lively. Yeah they’re rough, but you have good observation going on. You’re willing to restate lines and you’re trying out abstraction that isn’t just circles and roundness. So you’re doing a bunch of right things even though it’s very hard and it might even feel unpleasant to be drawing with your other hand.

    You’re also hitting about the same level of detail in both sets. So your left hand and right hand are at about the same skill level for short gestures. That’s actually a good thing, because with even a bit of consistency in your left hand practice you will see big improvement.

    I got nothing when it comes to RSI. I’m a lefty naturally, but like most lefties I’ve got some ambi ability and I’ve been pretty proactive about preventing rsi. Because as you are seeing, we only get one of most body parts and they’re really not user replaceable or serviceable. Which sucks.

    If you’re not using class mode to practice definitely try it. I find it’s a lot easier to find motivation for practice when I can see that the warm up 30s and 1m poses are doing their job.

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    Thanks so much @Torrilin! I'm amazed to hear you think even the left hand lines are lively! Here I was thinking I hadn't got anywhere at all! I know I have a long way to go though, I want to keep up the effort every day.

    Regarding level of detail, I don't quite know how to approach extra detail. I feel like I don't quite understand what else to put in there. Perhaps sone lines indicating the roundness of forms, etc?

    I'll give class mode a try, maybe that will help me improve a bit. But even after watching a fair few gesture drawing videos I'm still not quite sure what landmarks I'm looking for. I also really want to improve my left hand co-ordination. Maybe with plenty of practice it might even end up being better to draw with than my right hand? Haha. Thanks for your feedback!


    Hi Birdie!

    Have you perchance tried our on-site interactive tutorial about gesture drawing? :) It tries very hard to give you an impression of what "landmarks" to aim for at different time lengths of gesture:

    It sounds like your main goal here is to gain enough control over your hand that it more routinely does what you are asking of it. This is a very good goal, and also enough of a goal. It is okay if the pictures you make don't look like much for awhile. That said, they do look better than you think. Keep up with this consistent practice! Try not to let frustration burn you out! You are steadily improving and will continue to do so!

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    Hi Kim,

    I will definitely have to check out the on-site gesture drawing tutorial! I know that the mind needs to be trained to "see" and that's most of what gesture drawing is about, and the hardest thing to learn. Despite doing so many gesture drawings so far, I still feel like I am stuck doing kind of contour drawings, though I'm trying to change that.

    Thanks for the encouraging words! Hopefully I'll improve with time and effort! Thanks! :)


    If I were to push for more details in 1m and these were my results, I’d push for getting in hands and feet. They don’t need to be good, just try to get them in. I was literally judging warm ups by counting did I hit all visible hands and feet for a while. Still do often!

    Right now you are trailing legs off to a point, and often including a round paw for hands. This is very abstract, but it’s not the best abstraction because feet aren’t pointy needles and hands usually aren’t round. Both body parts tend to be bony with a lot of small muscles, and many poses in the figures set include complicated hand and foot gestures. Figuring out how to convey that idea in more than simple shape will eventually pay off.

    Several artists I admire use a curve or two to show the gesture of the fingers or toes, then maybe a couple lines to form a “block” for the body of the hand/foot. I usually wind up with a scribbled rectangle in 1 minute gestures. Scribbled because the goal isn’t a perfect rectangle or square but to get the gist of the gesture lines so if i go back and push a drawing from memory there’s a reminder of what i meant. It doesn’t have to look good to anyone, just cue you in to where you go next.

    There’s probably other good ways to push yourself to find the gesture lines of smaller muscles, I just don’t know them.

    And I specifically went for hands and feet myself because it’s an easy way to make a sketch look more finished. Things that have hidden hands and feet, or where they’re abstracted in a weird way get very strong reactions from people who don’t do art, and the reaction isn’t a positive one. And so much human interaction needs hands and feet... it’s really hard to draw a sword fight or a dance or a kiss with no hands and no feet.

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    Hi Torrilin,

    Thanks for the feedback! I just did a class session since Kim suggested it, and I uploaded the pages in my sketchbook.

    I became a subscriber so I can give back in return for what I will be able to learn from this website! And I can upload to the sketchbook section. It seems friendly here. :)

    I tried adding those hands and feet lines as you suggested, Torrilin. I'm not exactly sure how I should draw them yet but I had a go.

    Haha, I know that my drawings still have a long way to go. I posted in the critique area and saw a picture from an "absolute beginner" who seems way ahead of me! I will keep going, though. Since I intend on making a daily thing of this, I cross my fingers and hope that I'll be able to see improvement over time!


    Oh wow, already improvement in terms of learning value for these sketches!! Way to go!!

    Also, thank you so much for becoming a subscriber to give back to LoA


    Thanks Kim! I will keep trying to improve by using class mode regularly! Hourly with feedback on those efforts, I can refine my ability! Thanks!


    Here's my attempts from today! 1-hour class mode. I'm still disappointed with my lack of pencil control. I think I'm picking up some stuff with form, but the shapes and proportions are pretty off the rails and it's made worse by the fact that I want my pencil to go a certain way, but it goes in the wrong direction when I put it on the paper. It's a little discouraging to see the vast gulf between my drawings and the reference pictures. But I will keep trying!


    Yeah it’s really not easy to go from one hand to the other.

    Don’t stress out about exact likeness. Yeah, it’s a way to judge observation skills. But it’s just a way, and there’s many other ways to judge observation. If you like the hands and feet idea, I wasn’t joking about literally counting them. Or just look through each time category and pick one drawing that you like best. The “grading” part of your practice should be a happy thing right afterwards. You want to find a reason to keep going and do the next practice session.

    You can be more critical when you are going back and looking at a finished sketchbook or something where you have more time in. There’s a lot of changes you might choose to make when you have finished this sketchbook. But they’ll come from looking at a lot of drawings and from finding bigger patterns.

    Also, since you’re switching hands, the main concern is building the fine and gross motor control skills you need. That physically takes time, you are actually growing new nerves and new nerve linkages. If I’m remembering right that’s a 1 to 3 month project. A second big concern is to build habits so you take good care of this hand. It can take a year to grow tendons to support new muscles. And in most rsi tendons are the issue.


    Thanks Torrilin! Since I'm pretty new to left hand drawing, I think I do need to be patient, see how I am after 3 months of drawing with my left hand every day. Maybe I can focus on specific things to improve, but that can be difficult when there are *so many* things that need improving! Perhaps one thing at a time, like making a specific shaped curve consistent.

    I don't know if tendons are the issue with my right hand but I'll see my doctor to try and get the diagnosis process started. Perhaps there is some way to improve my hand but I think I won't have much luck with it in the near future. So left hand it is.


    Hi Birdie,

    I have a friend who is in a similar situation to you. He completely lost the use of his dominant hand after 20 years as an artist due to the sudden onset of arthritis and has had to completely retrain with his other hand. I thought it might give you some encouragement to know that after just a few months of hard practice, he is already back to being much better than me! He realised that although he had lost the muscle memory and strength of his dominant hand, he had not lost any of the knowledge and theory that he had built up over the years. It is easy to forget that this knowledge was such a large contributor to his skill. Perhaps more so than the muscle memory!

    Anyway, I just wanted to tell you about that, so that you don't get discouraged by the setback. Your gesture drawings are very fluid and dynamic. You obviously have a good grasp of composition and proportion so I think you should have no trouble getting back up to speed. The lines in these left-handed gestures are a little jittery, but that should resolve itself once you have built up sufficient strength and control in your wrist.

    You are doing great!


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