When you’re learning to draw, you hit a point where you’re discouraged by your progress. That discouragement can lead to frustration and the end of your drawing career. Your circumstances are unique but we share this common emotion with our art. The pros who work at Disney or Netflix are no different. They had the same feelings and went through the same struggle, albeit in their own unique ways.
I stopped drawing over two years ago and over the past few months I’ve been finding my way back to drawing again. If you’re like me, your desire to be an artist is too strong to ignore forever. You want back in.
This time needs to be different. If you’re going to stick with drawing and reach the heights you aspire to, you need a better plan. One that will take you to a professional level and beyond.
If the biggest reason you stopped is discouragement over your progress in learning to draw, that’s the first thing we have to fix. The reason why your progress feels slow is due to the way you practice.
When I was first learning how to draw, I did a lot of studies. I went to figure drawing workshops multiple times a week, had art lessons almost every day, and I went home and studied even more. I did this for years. What I didn’t do a lot of was practice those studies from imagination. This led to a huge gap in my ability to draw from observation and my ability to design something from my own mind.
You can get so comfortable with studies as you start getting better that it becomes all you do. When you try to create something of your own it’s difficult and messy, so you begin to avoid it.
You should be studying at least half the time from memory.That doesn’t mean reference is bad, you can always bring it in later. You have to allow your brain to practice retrieving the information you studied or you’ll never be able to use it properly in your own work.
Drawing is like riding a bike. You never quite forget the movements but you lose some of the finesse. You’ll get that back with time, but you need to be kind and patient to yourself as you start.
Start with the things you used to draw proudly! For me, it was figure drawing. I practiced the figure (specifically portraits) more than anything else. That information is ingrained deep into my memory and makes me confident in my ability to draw.
You don’t want to start with a difficult subject right as you start drawing again. Gain your confidence back first and remind yourself to enjoy the process. Choose something you're familiar with and spark the love you felt the first time you were learning to draw.
Accountability can be an important tool when you learn to draw again. Finding other people who you can connect with and may be going through a similar situation will boost your morale.
Discord has proven to be an ample community for artists. There’s an endless amount of artistic communities to find friendly voices that will cheer you on as you start drawing again.
While I look for a suitable discord for myself, I’ve been posting drawings on communities like TikTok and Reddit. At the end of the day, you may be drawing for yourself but the community support is a nice boost that can help you push onward when learning to draw starts to get hard.
It’s not enough to jump back into drawing and hope you make it. You already stopped once. You need to prove to yourself the journey is possible so you don’t doubt yourself again.
Miles Johnston is the kind of proof you go to when you’re unsure if the art journey is possible. There should be no doubt in your mind that you’re capable of that same progress.
When I was younger, my Mom and Dad would take me shopping for supplies just as the school year was about to begin. I would roam up and down the aisle, picking up cool comic book binders, new pencil and pens, and sleek new paper. Sometimes there was even a new lunchbox or backpack thrown into the mix. I don’t know if this is why buying new things gives me a little spark of joy, but I’m certain it’s why I like shopping for art supplies.
With most artists being digital nowadays, our art supplies are a little different. First you need good software. If you try to learn to draw in Microsoft Paint with a mouse, you’re going to destroy your computer in a blind rage. Photoshop is the standard but its popularity has begun to wane with other incredible options like Procreate and Clip Studio Paint. You’ll also need a drawing tablet. The software for the tablets and pens is literally the same, just choose the one that feels best to you.
You can also play around with traditional tools. Tomorrow, after I’ve finished editing this article, I’ll be heading to downtown LA to visit Kinokuniya in Little Tokyo. I’m certain I’ll find some supplies that will spark that same joy I had as a kid.
As a beginner it can be hard to share your work. TikTok might change your mind. I’ve recently started sharing my work and the community’s response has been heartwarming.
Sharing will make you happier about the drawings you’re creating. It will stop you from talking down on yourself because you’ll find others who enjoy your work. If someone likes your drawing and you hate it, you’re telling them that what they like is garbage. You can know that your drawings need improvement and find the good parts about what you made without dumping on it or yourself.
Ambition as an artist can be a double-edged sword. You push yourself forward with big dreams but you can also do too much too fast. If you overreach as you start drawing again and try to draw for hours you’ll only end up frustrating yourself. Don’t come out of the gate too fast when you start to draw again. Start small.
You can start drawing again without making the mistakes you made the first time. You’re going to fail on your journey a lot, but this time you know it’s part of the process. Learn to draw again and this time make it stick.