Tips For Drawing: Bad Days Happen
We conclude the recent five-week look at Tips for Drawing with what may be the most important of them all. No matter how good you become at this skill, or how much you grow to love drawing, there will be days when your hand and your brain just don’t seem to want to work together. It’s going to happen, so how do you deal with it?
It is inevitable…
Some days you will do bad drawings.
Some days you will not find it fun.
Some days you will think “This is horrible, I’ve gotten WORSE, I thought I was improving but I must not be, I hate this, why do I suck so much?”
Some days you will want to quit.
I honestly believe in my heart that even the greatest artists of all time had these days. The trick is: WE NEVER SEE IT. We only see the masterpieces they’ve created, and not the pile of cassavas they stabbed through with a brush in frustration, or sacks of crumpled animation paper that have long been buried at the dump. We forget, and it’s very easy to do, that everyone has bad days. Then when WE have a bad day, it is “because we’re no good at this.”
You’re going to have bad drawing days. I hate it. You’ll hate it. It will happen. And I wish I had the world’s best advice to give you when one of those days happen. I’m still looking for it. (If you have it, please by all means leave it in the comments below or email me right away!) What I can do is tell you how I personally deal with them. Maybe some of these tricks will help you too.
Occasionally I’ll push through. I’ll keep drawing and try to get past whatever it is that isn’t working. I’ll try a different technique, or I’ll think about it differently. I’ll use nothing but curvy lines that go all through the figure, or maybe just straight lines. I’ll try to build the drawing using only 3D simple shapes. I’ll do 15 gesture drawings of the exact same pose. Anything to change it up. Sometimes it works, and a lot of times it’s just a bad day for the team of my drawing hand and brain.
I’ll be the first to admit, some days I give up. I concede defeat and move on to something else. At the end of those days I usually feel bad about quitting, but it happens. The most important thing is to never let that quitting become a habit. Habits are either very useful or very dangerous. When you work to build a good habit (practicing drawing daily for 20 minutes each afternoon) the power of habits push you to greater heights. When you let a bad habit take over, it can be devastating, and you can end up finding years gone by wasted away. Don’t let quitting during a bad drawing day become a habit. If you do it once on a particularly bad day, fine. Some days that’s what you’ll need to move forward. Just keep it in check.
Some bad days I’ll take a walk. If a drawing isn’t going well, I’ll leave it behind and stroll through the house (if it’s cold) or down the block (if the sun’s out). When I come back, usually sitting down with a deep, deep breath, things start to look less dreary. Give that a shot if nothing else seems to be working.
The Best News Ever
Here’s the good part, though. Some days you’ll have GREAT days. Some days you’ll do the BEST drawing you’ve maybe ever done, and things will feel oh so right. Remember those days, because do you know what they mean? They mean that those masterpieces, however infrequent, ARE inside you. You have that ability in you, even on the bad days that come around. You CAN do this, and you can be great.
So what tricks do YOU use on a bad drawing/animating day? Let’s all share some tips in the comments below and maybe we’ll all learn a little something!
Walt Stanchfield said you have 100 bad drawings in you so you may as well get them out of the way so you can get to the good stuff. I love that. Don Hahn says creativity is rocket fuel and bad drawings are speed bumps. All roads have them. They can either slow you down or they can launch you, you’ve just got to pick a speed. I find all of these little anecdotes when I feel my talent leaked out of my ears the night before. You can see in these ridiculously talented men that even they had those days. Then I watch a Disney classic (Fantasia) and channel the 9 Old Men right back into my fingers. Even Walt Disney had his failure with a roughly sketched rabbit… and then a Mouse was born. 🙂
Indeed! Though I must admit, I’ve long since passed 100 drawings and I’m still finding plenty of bad ones coming along. 🙂
Maybe once I hit 10,000…
Awww these last two drawing tip posts are so close to my heart. Everything is useful, a good or bad mark, it tells you which direction to go next time! I always talked about this in the life Drawing classes I used to run during University.
If you’re worried about wasting paper, buy the cheapest, scribble on it, make it messy, then it doesn’t matter! Oh, and never screw it up and throw it away. If it’s a bas drawing (to you), in a few month you’ll see how much you have progressed. It’s a great ego boost for your future self.
Also, those good days, stay vivid in your mind/. You look back at the good stuff and most likely remember exactly where you were or what you were doing. The bad ones get forgotten and piled into the same time slot, you may not even remember when it was. But both are important lessons to keep on going 🙂 draw draw draw!
I’ve posted these drawing tips on my board, take a look, I’m just collecting as much stuff as possible!
Ha ha, what a dangerous link! You’ve collected so many amazing resources there that I feel like I might spend the next three weeks just browsing through them all and never get any work done! 😀
Thanks for sharing it.
Bobby Chiu has a neat philosophy about frustrations like these. He says these frustrations are a test of fate, and that when things are really difficult, and you are truly trying your hardest you are most likely on the verge of a breakthrough. Fate is just testing you to see if you will stick with it and break through the next obstacle. I’ve used this philosophy a couple times and it seems to work. It takes a little practice to train your mind to this, but I really like it.
The 11 Second Club Blog has some great quotes regarding this subject, so check them out too! http://blog.11secondclub.com/2012/02/bad-days-happen.html?spref=tw
The Walt Stanchfield one is my favorite. That guy was a genius.
I hate the bad days lol. Good perspective though!
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone through those bad days. This was really good to read because it made me feel normal, lol. Thanks. For me I ride my bike for a while if I’m not doing well at my work. It clears my head.
This place is so valueable for me. Thanks!
perfect advice for a bad day. I had one all week last week.
Hey Mr. Riki
I just had a bad day and I need some encouragement. Seriously.
First let me tell you that my drawings are almost exhausting to complete. I’m a hyper-realistic artist. I draw with graphic pencils and strive for perfection. I take a photograph and endeavor to make it the most dramatic drawing ever seen. I’m not full of myself, but when I draw something I feel it. And every line evidences a commitment that, for me, is incredibly satisfying. I enjoy making people’s jaws drop. But more importantly, my acute attention to detail is almost fanatical. If a drawing doesn’t evoke emotion, I feel I’ve failed. I don’t draw for other people, however; I draw for the challenge of defining and illustrating the inexplicable, making something normal into hyper-normal. Like HDR photography, but in black and white (or blue, in the case of my occasional exploration into the Bic pen medium). It’s what I love in art.
That said, I’ll explain what happened just now. I was drawing a child. Wide, innocent eyes, sparkle, dramatic. And since I hadn’t drawn in years (honestly, the yearning comes and goes because reality intrudes, and it’s always so difficult to get back into it when you’ve been out of it for awhile), I was very proud that I’d managed to do as well a job as I did. I’d bought some brand new Derwent graphite pencils and was enthusiastic. Then, while brushing away something absently off the forehead of my portrait, what it was smeared. Badly. I think it was a bug I’d inadvertently squashed. There is no saving this drawing. There’s a dark and baldly obvious mark right in the middle of the head. I tried erasing it, and it became dark. Darker than the rest if the drawing should be. I thought of drawing around it and trying to get it to blend with the surrounding drawing, but the drawing would become too dark to make the match.
I’m frustrated, almost tearfully. Is there any saving this drawing? I’m stubborn, I’m going to begin an unrelated drawing, but please tell me if there is any saving this portrait.
Thank you so much.
Dennis Michael Tiffany
You can text me too if you like. 760-313-3950.
Again, thank you.
Well congrats first of all on being patient enough to draw hyper-realistically. Most people, especially these days, just can’t sit still long enough to do it!
I can only imagine how difficult it is when you sink a ton of time and effort into a drawing only to have something like you described happen. I don’t think I’ve ever put quite that level of detail into a drawing, but I do understand completely the feeling, albeit on a less-time-consumed scale. I (and I think every artist) have had those moments where something you work extremely hard on goes awry and all that work is essentially in the trash. Here are my thoughts on those moments.
First, I think it’s important to let yourself be disappointed. You DID work hard, and it didn’t turn out the way you expected. It’s normal and good to allow that moment of discouragement, because it proves what we’re doing is worthwhile. The key, I think, is what happens next.
What I’m learning more and more every day is how to let go of my stranglehold on a drawing I’ve done. When I watch expert artists do tutorials, they create these fantastic drawings (and seem to do so with little effort) only to scribble all over them with arrows and notes to show people the points they’re trying to make. At those times I think “Ah! They ruined a perfectly good drawing that I wish I had the skill to do!” To them, though, it isn’t ruined. It’s just that the “end result” is no longer the focus. And I think that’s something that separates the greatest artists from the good ones.
One of my animation instructors had similar tendencies that you do. She told the story once of earlier in her learning process when a teacher she had picked up a stack of her drawings (that she’d worked extremely hard on) and flipped through them with no care towards the paper. The drawings became wrinkled and “ruined” in her eyes. But to the teacher, the important thing was not each individual drawing but what they looked like in sequence when they moved. She began at that point to understand that while each piece stands on its own, it’s part of a larger entity.
The drawing you just did was not wasted. It was another step towards an even more fantastic piece that’s still within your fingers. Consider that perhaps you don’t need to “save” this drawing to have it propel the bigger picture forward. It is one more step along the path. You (hopefully) learned several things while doing it, one of which might be to check for bugs before brushing off a drawing, or even that you might want to purchase a draftsman’s brush which specifically stops things like that from happening.
Each drawings is important, but they are also part of a bigger “drawing” that represents your collective works. None of us can run without walking first, and before we walk we crawl. Each step we take builds strength in our muscles that lets us reach new heights. This drawing is just one more step. And consider how much better your next piece will be just because of this experience! At the very least it’s unlikely that you’ll make this bug mistake twice. And if you do, that’s alright too. These things happen, and it’s just another way to keep our pride in check that no matter how hard we try, we AREN’T perfect, and that’s okay. We can still do great things even without perfection.
When you fall off the horse, you have to get back on. So sit for a moment, learn what you can from this experience, and put fire and enthusiasm into your next piece right away. As you said, the longer you go in between, the tougher it becomes. Keep going.
Found this through some random other blog post and boy dog I’m glad I did. Needed it, This week has been a terror!
very much needed this boost tnx.
When I first saw this title Tips For Drawing: Bad Days Happen on google I just whent and bookmared it. Simply wanna say that this is very beneficial, Thanks for taking your time to write this. We all get the bad days somedays!
I need to remember this like every other day lol
Today I had one of those days that my hand wouldn’t cooperate and I felt like I was moving backwards instead of forwards. I don’t have days like this a lot, but when I do they usually hit me hard. I also seem to carry a weird shame for the rest of the day and until I produce a good drawing again (which probably..hopefully will be tomorrow) I can’t seem to shake the feeling. Usually. Instead, today, I stumbled upon this. Seriously, just remembering that every artist has these days and that it is just a part of the process has made me feel so much better.
Thanks for your words. Seriously, they helped 🙂
Glad it helped, Jen! Just keep at it, and don’t worry. Sometimes it helps me to loosen up and stop thinking so much, I don’t know about you. Just draw with reckless abandon and don’t try to get things too perfect and often you’ll find it ends up being better than you could have planned! 🙂
I’d highly recommend doing that walk thing daily, regardless of your performance. It should help prevent the bad days from happening so frequently.
wow thank you for this advice i’ve had this problem for like month…
It is nice to know everyone has those days! ^.^
I needed to hear this today. Been going through an animation slump. Time to get out of it! Thanks for the encouragement.
I’ve been drawing in a new sketchbook for a whole week, and I have about 11 pages filled up and they’re looking like crap
Depending on your expectations you might need years of practice until you are fully content (and even professionals tend to not like their drawings because they always set the bar higher).
Try to be less harsh to yourself and celebrate little improvments and successes. Analyze one aspect that you like about good drawings and work it into yours. Be patient and persistent, it’s worth it!
Thanks for sharing, I really needed to hear this exact thing today. I will go for a walk! 😀
I really like this post. I’m having a bad drawing day today and just wanted to find some other people who have had the same issue as me right now and see what they had to say.
This is all great stuff and love the comments. It does get frustrating and the mind likes to go off and think ” I cant” or this sucks. But I find just taking a step back and maybe taking the night off and coming back to it tomorrow helps.
I’ve been drawing all my life and have had many times like this where I feel ” Maybe I cant do this” but then have days where I’m like ” I really can do this !” 🙂
Thank you very much for the write up, love this 🙂
Well, on bad drawing days you gotta take a break and relax, your mind is tired of all that perfect art, let yourself free, don’t draw just scribble all over your paper.
Best remedy to enjoy art when having bad drawing days is to either listen to your favourite melodies and let your hand play on your paper (don’t look at the paper while doing it, close your eyes if you can) or just sleep and give your mind and body some rest.