The proper way to practice + Sketchbooks

Hello and welcome back! Today’s post is something I had already started talking about in one of my oldest post (Practice vs Study) but never felt too accomplished about it. Don’t get me wrong, I do believe that studying is better than simply “practicing, but then the point would be, what do we think practice is.

After listening to some professional artists on youtube and hearing many times from them how important it is to draw every single day, or to fill in a sketchbook every month or so, the desire to do both things began to grow on me. But I faced a problem: what is the point on drawing every day on a sketchbook the things that I already know how to draw? Some may think this is kind of a silly question because it is not rare to see people filling in pages with, what I like to call, creative drawings; which can also be said as drawings that come from the imagination of one itself and not from references images.

But then again, what is the point on doing what I already know? If I know it, I know it. You could say, then, to draw the things you do not know how to draw, with creative drawings? How so? You cannot draw something you do not know how to draw if you cannot see it from somewhere else than your imagination. Finally, we are reaching the point I am interested in, good.

The solution to this is very simple: first, draw what you do not know how to draw. This also include the things you aren’t good at, you still haven’t drawn more than a few times or the things you still don’t feel confident at. Second, do it from references, and not any kind of references. REAL references. It does not matter which style you wish to draw in, if you want to be real good at drawing you must learn from reality. And that is it, there is nothing more awful than seeing a drawing in an unrealistic style such as anime or cartoons and notice that the anatomy is off or that the person clearly does not know how things are in real life. Life is the biggest and best book to learn from.

Back to using references. Use them wisely. If you are planning to cope a bunch of lines and planes then do not do it. You are wasting your time. On the other hand, if you are planning to analyze the object you are drawing, learn and understand its volume, its proportions, its anatomy, then, you are good to go. Why do I say this? Because the only way for you to be able to say, “I know how to draw this” or “I have learned how to draw this” is by memorizing and understanding the object, knowing why the line goes this way and not that way, knowing how the lights and shadows are related to the volume of the object, to its form.

A good way to test if you are properly studying a photo is to check how much time do you look at the paper drawing what you have just seen of the image. A mistake is to be drawing while looking at the object instead of the paper. This is so because when you are drawing while looking at the paper you are forced to make the proportions yourself and be very aware to where you put the lines, but if you are just looking to the reference and very little to the paper and what you are drawing in there then you are just transferring measurements and lines to a paper.

There is a question that many people seem to ask themselves and it is “how do I fill in a sketchbook”, draw each day from references that you are closely looking and studying while drawing them. It can be a hassle, yes, but I promise you it will make you improve. Even within a week or two. Sketchbooks are not supposed to look pretty and perfect. I believe they are more supposed to look dirty and ugly so that my painted illustrations look wonderful. When seeing your own sketchbooks, you should think things like “Dude, this one was so hard to draw” or “This one turned out so bad, but then I redid it, and it was so much better” and even “I still remember how much I suffered while doing this sketchbook, always feeling like drawing wasn’t for me but I’m glad I did not give up”.

I guess for me, practice is when you do something repeatedly and always looking up to something better than what you can do. Never letting yourself practice vaguely, like it is something effortless, and without references. How do think artists were able to develop the idea of perspective? Or the idea of depth? Looking at the reality, not the artworks of their favorite artist. Which they also did, but to learn from their techniques, compositions and use of color but never to not how the light affects color, how the structure of an object works, how to put things in perspective. Those things must be learnt from reality.

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Of course, you can and should also do some creative drawings (sketches that won’t end up as a full illustration) here and there to see your improvement more clearly. Like doing an exam, you won’t know how much you really know until you have to use it without help.

I am not sure how clear and understandable is all of this but I hope I encouraged someone to go and draw every day on their sketchbooks and using references as study, real study. Remember, never let yourself be someone that simply copies what he is seeing instead of learning from what he sees. Thank you for reading me today, hope you enjoyed it and see you next week. Have a nice day. ♥

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