improving your art

Updated: Jun 16, 2020

Let's talk about art improvement! I've had my Instagram account for just over 2 years now(oh wow it's been that long wtf), which means I've been drawing portraits for around 3 years. In those three years, my art has come a long way! (If you don't believe me, scroll down on my Instagram feed. My very first post is still there, and I don't ever plan on deleting it).


Since I first created my account, I've received a LOT of questions from people, asking me how I improved so fast. So, instead of forcing you guys to tap through my extremely long 'tips' Instagram highlight, here's a relatively organized list of all my advice!


1) practice often. I mean every single day, okay? If you don't draw how do you expect to improve? Along the same vein, be consistent. Don't be one of those artists who draw like a madman for one week and go MIA for a month immediately afterwards. That 'break time' seriously damages your skills. Treat your art skills as a muscle. A few weeks without exercise is a few weeks where that muscle is weakening. Forgetting everything it ever learned.


2) do your research. Always look for outside inspiration and more knowledge. The more you learn, the faster you grow) Nobody can draw and draw and do nothing else. That's the number one way to burn yourself out. So naturally, I took breaks! The catch? My breaks involved watching art Youtube that taught me how to draw better. You can check out my other blog post "Youtube recommendations" for some awesome artists I binge(d).


(interjection: practice and research is THE dynamic duo to improvement. Seriously! I would NEVER be where I am without sticking with either of those things.)


3) use the right tools. I'm hesitant to add this one in because I don't want to make it sound like art supplies are a necessity for good art. They're not. That said, it can be extremely frustrating to use a tool that isn't the best for drawing, and have your results affected by that. So if you have the resources, invest in some decent tools!


4) ask for feedback. Sometimes it takes another eye to see the flaws. I don't like to admit this but I have a lot of pride. I'm also super sensitive (big shocker, I know) so I can hardly take constructive criticism without beating myself up about it. The way I got over this issue was simply changing my mindset. I legitimately had pep talks with myself, and repeatedly reminded my brain that constructive criticism was not an attempt to make me feel bad, and that just because someone had some constructive criticism did not mean the entire piece as a whole was bad.


(interjection: if you want to be in an art group chat where we offer constructive criticism and just support each other in general, click on the 'art fam' story highlight on my Instagram! I'm happy to add you! Or just DM me.)


5) use reference photos (or draw from life) Even if you have a very unrealistic style, using reference photos is super important! If you struggle with making something look like what it is(I.e. making a drawn bottle of ketchup look like a bottle of ketchup), it's probably because you've stylized an aspect of that object that is a key part of its likeness. Does that make sense? In order to get a good grasp on a subject, you need to know what makes it that object.


As for life drawing...I never draw from life, just because I think it's pretty hard to find a good reference and I can't image how creeped out my subjects would be if they ever caught me in the act. But I really do want to try it out someday! I'll let you all know if any major revelations come from it.


So, those were the simple, 'action-based' tips I had for you. But, I do want to acknowledge the fact that a lot of you probably already do all of these things. And yet, you feel like you aren't improving. We have all been there. Sometimes, improvement is invisible. You don't feel it, you don't see it, and sometimes it actually feels like you're forgetting what you've learned and you're actually slipping backwards! (Trust me, it happens, I've been there.)


In times like that, you need to remind yourself about the 'gap'.

Here's a handy graph made by Shattered Earth on Deviantart/Tumblr that explains this perfectly.

When you're in 'the green zone', you can see yourself improving. Your mind perceives it! When you're in the pink zone, it feels like you're getting worse, but what is actually happening is that your skill to criticize yourself is increasing. Of course, we all have those one or two pieces that are just genuinely worse than what we know we can create. But don't let those few pieces bring you down! Think of them as a warm up, so that now you are free to create even better art.


I also want you all to keep in mind that not everybody improves at the same pace, or in the same way. Some people have a natural knack for picking stuff up quicker. That doesn't mean they're any better of an artist! It often ends up that people like that also forget what they've learned quicker (I am one of them). It's the infamous tortoise and the hare story. Keep at what you do!


The awesome thing about art, too, is that none of us are fully in competition with each other, because NOBODY's art is the same! No matter how fast this Instagram artist is on the rise, they can NEVER replicate your style.


Improvement doesn't always show. Sometimes, you're learning extremely valuable knowledge but it doesn't cause a drastic difference in the quality of your art. That makes sense. For example, I might do an extensive study of the bone structure of the human body, but my next portrait doesn't apply that knowledge at all. That's okay! The actual improvement is still there!


In the end, improvement is about putting in the work. Putting in the work to learn, practice, and be both hard and easy on yourself. If you put in the work, you'll see results! It might take a while, but that's ok!


In fact, if you're reading this blog post, you're already off to a great start.


I think that's all I've got...anyone have any tips I didn't cover? Feel free to leave them down in the comments, or message me on Insta!


I hope you all are staying happy and healthy.

Much love,

Elissa


Sources of Inspiration:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0BjMVbPvWIY

https://shattered-earth.tumblr.com/post/115812382503/updated-my-art-cycle-image-thingy-to-make-it-a



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