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!

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Brystal Cauthen
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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… Read more »

India
Guest

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… Read more »

Steve
Guest

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.

Bryan
Guest

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.

Susana Desmito
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Susana Desmito

This place is so valueable for me. Thanks!

luckyChan
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luckyChan

perfect advice for a bad day. I had one all week last week.

Dennis Tiffany
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Dennis Tiffany

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… Read more »

Uriella
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Uriella

Found this through some random other blog post and boy dog I’m glad I did. Needed it, This week has been a terror!

James Stone
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James Stone

very much needed this boost tnx.

Owen
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Owen

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!

cindrillz
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cindrillz

I need to remember this like every other day lol

Jen
Guest

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… Read more »

Jamie
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Jamie

I’d highly recommend doing that walk thing daily, regardless of your performance. It should help prevent the bad days from happening so frequently.

ashwin
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ashwin

wow thank you for this advice i’ve had this problem for like month…

Vala
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Vala

It is nice to know everyone has those days! ^.^

darkelfin317
Guest

I needed to hear this today. Been going through an animation slump. Time to get out of it! Thanks for the encouragement.

skylar
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skylar

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

Ferdinand Engländer
Admin

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!

cozarr
Guest
cozarr

Thanks for sharing, I really needed to hear this exact thing today. I will go for a walk! 😀

trackback

I have bad days too often but now that I think about it I actually have not had that many recently so I hope I don’t jinx myself!! But to anybody who is stills struggling with this keep going it will get easier like this article says!

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Sara R.

THANK YOU. I supremely needed to read this right this very second. Been feeling like giving up and getting what my dad calls a real job. Can not tell you how much this helped.

Dale Macknowed
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Dale Macknowed

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… Read more »

Sravya
Guest

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.