If you’re a fine artist or simply an artistic person, you’ve probably asked can you learn to draw like a professional? Maybe you’ve even given a few portraits and some animal sketches a true effort. But they didn’t come close to meeting your expectations or maybe they did but either way you just don’t know how to get better.
You’ve heard that doing it over and over again will help but you just shrug that off thinking that’s not a concrete enough answer for you and go back to focus on the other hundreds of things stressing you out in life at that moment.
Take a moment to think about your attitude
If you ask young children to sketch something, they proudly pull out a pencil and sketch you some premium stick figures with a big smile on their face. You probably did the same when you a were kid. So what changed? You can do a much better job now than you could do then? And chances are you can do a better job than most people out there. So what is the issue?
The issue is that you don’t think you’re good enough. There’s problems with your sketches and you don’t know how to fix them. You think you’re automatically supposed to be a professional illustrator or you shouldn’t be one. This is the furthest thing from the truth. The best sketch artists on the planet right at this second did not get there by magically starting to sketch masterpieces the second they became adults. They got there by working on specific things, perfecting specific techniques, solidifying their styles.
When people ask you about your drawing skills, you internally dread the idea of ever sketching anything for them. What if they were actually watching you do it? You shudder at the thought and wonder how those street artists do it but secretly envy them for their skills. Well here’s how they do it…
The top 8 hidden secrets of the street artist
- Practice timing yourself until you can sketch a portrait within 10 minutes (this will give you a goal to work towards and won’t just feel like aimlessly practicing)
- Suck it up, get up early, set up your station and JUST DO IT
- Squint and feel out the silhouette of your subject based on the darkest areas in your new line of vision
- Start squinting, and open more and more as you quickly sketch out the rest of your subject – by the end your eyes should be wide open to capture fine details
- The faster you get stuff down on the paper the better so be confident and basically let the pencil run itself
- START SOFT & END HARD: start with very soft, very light pencil strokes and finish off with harder, darker lines for detail
- Get yourself into the professional mindset because you ARE an artist
- Offer a money back guarantee until you feel confident with your final product
So can you learn to draw like a professional illustrator? Yes you can!
You can learn how to sketch like a pro, guaranteed. And in order to do so you’ll need 3 things:
- Materials that you can get here if you don’t already own them
- Two hours of free time twice a week for a total of 4 hours a week
- A strategy
The first two items in the list above are usually fairly easy to procure. It’s the third part that’s the challenge. On your first 2 hour day, you need to sit down, get rid of all distractions and focus. Look at old sketches or just quickly sketch something new and compare it to a sketch that you admire. What are the differences?
You are going to write down 3 main concrete differences. For example these could be poor proportions, inaccurate detailing, poor shading, harsh outlines, etc. Pay very very close detail. This isn’t meant to criticize your work or to discourage you. This is the stuff that you’re going to fix by thinking smart and setting goals and timelines for completion.
Take one of your goals and set a deadline on your calendar in two weeks for its completion. In the next eight hours that you have before the deadline, in all of your sketching sessions, you’re going to work on that one aspect. And the way you’re going to work on it is you’re going to sketch a magnified section of an existing sketch that exemplifies the skill you are trying to fix. This is the most important part so take as much time as you need. If you have leftover time then replicate sketch the entire piece focusing on the skill you are trying to fix. Repeat for your other two goals.
Once you’ve achieved your goals, start a series of subject sketches
Choose one subject at a time that you’re doing to sketch out repeatedly in many different ways. This can be a particular person, an object like an interesting vase, or a tree or your dog but not people, vases, trees, or dogs in general. Choose one specific subject and vary things like angles, poses and lighting.
Give yourself a month to complete one series using your 4 hour weekly slots and then move on to the next series. You should vary as much as you can between subjects. It’s good to start easier such as with a vase and then gradually work with a human subject.
Learn to draw what you see with your mind not your eye
This is a trick that not many artists know about. Most people will tell you that you should draw exactly what you see if you want to get a good realistic sketch. The better you are at drawing what you see, the better you’ll get. This is true in a way but there’s a more effective method of getting results and it’s drawing with your mind.
Trying to just replicate what you’re seeing in 3-D onto a 2-D piece of paper is not easy. You are translating dimensions. What do you think is better at doing that? Your eyes – aka the part of your brain that processes vision – or using your entire imaginative brain? You guess it, its the latter. So when you’re sketching, don’t just try to sketch what you’re seeing, sketch what you’re mind thinks you’re seeing. This is counterintuitive because the less you actively think, the better this will work. Shade where you think and feel there SHOULD be shading, not necessarily where you clearly SEE “shading.” Your eyes can deceive you but your mind won’t.
Make use of your resources once you get some momentum
I recommend working on your own, at least to start with, from your passion towards your goals. This is all you really need to excel and become a better sketch artist. If you like learning from others or that you want to get much better faster, then there’s great material you can turn to.
Start with free resources such as YouTube videos, articles, books you can borrow, etc if you think you need some ideas, you need help with one small aspect or you want to learn about (not necessarily how to do) ultra-specialized techniques. If you looking for full on tutorials, there are plenty of excellent books and online courses.
Always look for great reviews before you purchase something and in this case you are looking for STEP-BY-STEP instructions. There are plenty of courses that claim they are step-by-step but really aren’t because they have large jumps in the later stage of their exemplary sketches. You don’t want this. You want easy to follow right up until the end of the course like this one.
Once you are proud of your sketching, experiment!
You’ll want to keep pushing and experimenting with more types of pencils, new styles, new mediums, etc. The next step would definitely be to incorporate various types of pencils. Here’s a great packet of standard selection. Some artists actually prefer not to do this and believe you should be able to get all of your gradients by varying your pressure on the paper. Some like using different types but only using one per sketch so some sketches turn out lighter overall and some darker, which adds some variety to collections. Street sketch artists for example may offer different styles of sketches you can choose from to purchase, one being done with a 4B and the other with a 4H for instance. I think you should try just to see what you prefer and then make your own judgement.
You’ll want to try ink sketching, digital sketching and coloured pencil sketching. There’s a different technique to each of these so don’t expect to pick them up immediately but now that you’ve solidified your pencil sketching, you’ve got a huge advantage and you’ll be much more adept at picking up related techniques.
Great artists never get comfortable. Keep trying new things, keep having fun, keep experimenting. Your work will never get tiring, you will never get tired of your work and its actually healthier for you that way!
If you want to cut down your learning time significantly – check out our recent review on this home portrait sketching course!
Please feel free to leave a comment below or contact us if you have any questions or opinions about learning to sketch!