Tips for Drawing: Change What You Want

The bad news: It’s the oldest advice in the world of art because it’s simply the truest of all. You have to practice if you want to get better at drawing. There’s just no way around it. Now for the good news: I’ve discovered secrets to practicing that transforms it into something less unbearable and frustrating!


First a short story: I struggled to practice drawing for about 10 years. And it was because of one singular reason: I wasn’t any good at it. Have you ever noticed how things you aren’t good at are some of the least fun things to do? That’s because we want to succeed. When we have to practice something we’re terrible at, we’re essentially willingly walking into failure. And we KNOW it. (Failure isn’t always a bad thing, though. Read more about failure here.) So what’s the solution? For me, for a long time, it was “don’t try.” I wasn’t good at drawing, it wasn’t fun to practice BECAUSE I wasn’t good at it, so I didn’t practice. And hence, I continued to not be good at it in a never ending cycle of wishing I was better at drawing. Well, it wasn’t NEVER ending…

Fast forward ten years (my where has the time gone?). Somewhere along the way I changed what I wanted. Instead of wanting “To be good at drawing” I wanted “To be better at drawing.” That might not seem like a big difference, but it’s actually huge.

Secret to Practicing: Change what you want.

By changing, in your own mind, from wanting to be GOOD to just wanting to be BETTER, you essentially set yourself up for success. By drawing, you automatically get better with every sketch. Which means, after I made the change, by practicing I was achieving my goal from Day One. I didn’t look at a sketch after I was finished and think “Oh, this isn’t any good, I failed,” I thought “This is better than some of the earlier pages in this sketchbook; I’m achieving my goal!” What a difference that makes. So right now, before you do anything else, change your goal. From now on you don’t want to be “good,” you want to be better. Go ahead and say it out loud to yourself. Make the change and see the difference it makes.


Good will come. Better will come quicker. Set yourself up for success.

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Keith Cambell
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Keith Cambell

Inspiring words. I was never very good at drawing but I always wanted to learn. Wish it didn’t take so long to get good!

Dreama
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I literally learned about a lot of this over the years, but never the less, I still thought this article was very useful. Excellent work!

Darth Furby
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Love this post. I look at it as taking baby steps, conquering problems, however small, one at a time. Eventually it adds up to one BIG step forward. I’m still very critical of my work(after all, we have to correctly identify issues in order to solve them), but keeping it to small, winnable baby steps has been one of the most important changes that I’ve ever made, and not just in drawing.

Raminson
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Raminson

Excellent words, thank you for these encouraging advices
These are can be very helpful tips to change our life and
very useful to bearing against life’s bad surprises

Angel
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Very good post, super helpful. Thanks!

Madison
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Madison

That’s a real good way to look at it. Getting better instead of just magicley being better.

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[…] See that one at the bottom that says “feel the form of the cheek when you draw it?” That image/sentence can change your life. It won’t happen overnight, but if you look at it every day once you “get” it everything will change. Suddenly you’re not drawing outlines of things. You’re sculpting with pencil. You’re FEELING the roundness of the cheek, through your hand, down the pencil, and around the paper. And honestly it will come with practice, but you have to try to feel it. Eventually you get there; it’s a process. (You can read more about this… Read more »

Kathleen Davis
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Kathleen Davis

How much time does it take before I’m able to be viewed as a pro?

Aaliyah
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Aaliyah

Never thought about it that way! Sweet article.

maypie
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maypie

such a simple change such a major difference. thanks for this article, it was a huge help.

Amelia Phon
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Amelia Phon

I need to take this advice ASAP. I always have regrets and probably should try to just improve slow and steady.

Ron
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Ron

What advice can you give for matching the proportions by eye that you can see on a model sheet or those that you can imagine from personality principles you’ve committed to memory (Preston Blair’s comes to mind)?

Can you suggest specific drawing exercises that will improve the ability to draw more accurately by eye alone without measuring? (Measuring is a pointless exercise for the majority of poses that contain some foreshortening.)