If you want to try the Path of the Megachallenge, little pencilhopper, here are some, erm, “rules” that can be helpful:
Rule 1: All these rules are suggestions!
This is not a do or die method! It’s just to help me (and whomever wants to try it) on the way! Feel free to skip topics, mix them, change the order of lists or styles, move to a different list if you feel you’ve done too much of the same and then come back, switch male and female topics, or whatever. Exercise your freedom!
Rule 2: Push yourself!
Try to do one challenge a day, and try to follow the list to some extent. Otherwise you may end up just drawing those challenges you are comfortable with (and then you’ll be learning very little). Even if out of order, try to finish one set before moving to the next. It is difficult, but soon you’ll find it is fun to try drawing something difficult, and figuring it out!
Rule 3: Don’t judge your drawings! Draw-and-forget, keep moving forward.
This is perhaps the most important rule.
I took a drawing class recently. After working for about an hour, our teacher ordered us to rip our first drawings to pieces and throw them to the garbage!
At the moment I thought it was cruel, but there is great wisdom to this approach: I was already judging, by our first warm-up exercise, my own worth as an artist! And doing quite poorly. Instead, this draw-and-discard approach was liberating! It made you realize that each drawing, good or bad, is a step towards greater skill, and that mistakes are as useful to learning as hitting the nail on the head. This is as important with the pencil sketches as with the most advanced techniques.
On a more personal note, this is why I decided to post my own middling works. There’s so much incredibly cool art on the internet, that beginners such as me can (and do) easily get discouraged. By posting my own beginning steps (unimpressive to anyone else, but to me, filled with that surprise that comes when a drawing turns out better than your previous ones), other middling amateurs will find encouragement and keep learning!
Rule 4: Test your own resources first, use references later
I’m not sure if this is a good rule; I’m kind of testing it out.
My approach is to try to discover things on my own first. See how much I can draw from memory, then look for a real model (e.g. my own pose in the mirror, an actual car or cat or policeman), then look for online pictures and references, and then, as a fourth step, for tutorials and online tips & tricks. I think one learns better this way. Tutorials can be excellent for completing the work, solving that problem that drives you crazy, but can be very limiting if you start there – you’d be copying someone else’s style.
Something I learned already from this rule, by the way, is how little I do actually observe! I don’t even know what a rock singer wears!
But then you learn this little trick, though: close your eyes, and concentrate on trying to remember those details. You’ve seen those things; perhaps you are not paying attention to your own memories! Following this rule will train you to observe and remember.
Rule 5: Whenever possible, copy from real
One thing that my teacher (from rule #3) insisted on was to learn by copying from real, 3-D objects, as opposed to from pictures (even from pictures of those same 3-D objects). His argument was that when we draw we are flattening the object; if we copy from a picture we are flattening even more something already flattened—shadows of shadows, as Plato would have it. I don’t know exactly why, but this shows in my drawings: the lines don’t go the same way; my drawings from “reference” pictures look wrong.
Of course this may become a bit problematic when you’re trying to draw, say, a leaping werewolf; but my guess is that the preliminary, non-fantasy subjects can help you develop enough of an eye to compensate later, when drawing from one’s imagination. (And also, remember rule #1.)
Rule 6: References are good shortcuts
And by “references” I mean anything that you can observe and copy from, even tutorials and tips. What, this contradicts my two previous rules??? Gall dang, yes! I think there’s a point where you find you can’t quite make much more progress on your own, and that’s the time to launch Pinterest or your favorite source, and see how others do it.
When? You’ll know. Let your hunger guide you to the right food. Don’t stuff yourself up with charts and tutorials and references for which you have yet no use (or that may spoil your appetite for the real thing).
Rule 7: Carry a pencil in your pocket
I keep a regular 2B, with a pen cap held in place with a rubber band so it doesn’t lose its point. Primitive, yeah, but when a lecture gets boring, or the waiting gets long, it’s a much better option than wasting time on my phone! There’ll always be something I can sketch (but in case I only get the back of a dozen heads, I also bring with me the current list I’m working on).
I think I’ll start looking for a pocket-sized notebook too, one with a sleeve for a pencil, for when I can’t carry around a regular-sized one.
Rule 8: Share!
Add notes to your drawings – what you liked, what you discovered – and tag them accordingly for others to find and get inspired!
More on sharing in my next post…