Draw Every Day!

“How did you get so good at drawing?”

I get asked this question a lot. The answer is simple. I draw ALL the time. Sure there’s some latent talent that I tapped into, but let’s face it – EVERYONE can learn how to draw. It’s imagining WHAT to draw that is the difficult part. I’ll use a scientific rationale to explain:

The physical act of drawing is merely rendering what you see before you by using the muscles in your arm to translate the positions of shapes and spaces you see visually into a representation on paper. In layman’s terms – you use hand-eye co-ordination to draw stuff. There’s very little magic to it – it’s all about kinesiology.

So how do you go about getting better at hand-eye co-ordination? The exact same way athletes and people other professions that require the use of skilled movements. Consistent practice and repetition. Think about this – Michael Jordan used to shoot hundreds of basketballs outside of regular practice – from different angles,  free throws, in-motion, blind, etc. He was building muscle memory, and that is why he was the man to go to on the court when the game was on the line and a shot had to be made. His body was honed to making shots due to the huge number of repetitions, the variety of situations and the consistent actions he performed after practice.

Drawing follows some of these same principles. The only way to get better at it is by physically picking up your pencil, pen or stylus and trying out some basic, repetitive drawing drills. One of the easiest ways of developing that muscle memory is through the use of the daily sketch session. It doesn’t have to be long – simply take 5 minutes and draw the first thing that comes to your mind – and if nothing comes to mind, draw what you see in front of you. Remember, the subject of the drawing isn’t important. You’re simply drawing to increase your skill.

When I have a hard time thinking of a subject to draw, I’ll grab 4-5 random items that are nearby, arrange them in front of me and start to sketch. After doing this every day for weeks on end, it has become a healthy routine. These sessions are my starting point for the day, and the sketches usually end up on any scrap of paper floating around my desk, and once there’s a number of them I’ll collect them like clippings and save them in a sketchbook for later use. Sometimes, the random sketches turn into a solid idea for something bigger later on.

Many of you are thinking – “I don’t have time to sit and draw…” – stop lying to yourself.

You always have time. You just don’t know where to find it yet. Here’s a tip: The best time to sketch randomly will occur at a random time – like when you are just sitting around waiting for something to happen during your every day routine. THAT is when you bust out the sketchpad and doodle. It sounds silly, but it totally works. Eventually, these bursts of spontaneous sketching will creep into your daily life and you’ll have created a set time when you can draw daily.

Here’s an example:
When I get into the office, I’m usually the first one in. I disarm the alarm, bring in the newspaper, hang up my jacket and start up my computer and make some coffee. The idle minutes while I’m waiting for my machines to start up and do their thing are the best time to start sketching.  Jason Barton of Almost Sketches calls this the ‘boot sketch’, a sketch drawn while waiting for his computer to fire up. You don’t have to do this while you’re waiting for the computer – others do their daily drawing work during their lunch breaks (here’s a great example – Derek Benson’s Lunch bag art where he draws on a lunch bag each day for his kids!) or before bed, or any time where you have 5 minutes sitting idle (I’m sure there’s someone out there who doodles while hanging out in the bathroom!).

Don’t forget to keep all your sketches and scribbles, doodles and drawings as clippings in a folder for later. Or start your own blog and post them online! Eventually you’ll have a huge library of hidden gems you can rifle through later. Don’t think that scribbles and sketches aren’t worthy of keeping. Use them as a creative outlet and inspiration for bigger things.

Here are some sites you should check out, where the artists draw and post a sketch every day!
Dude a Day – atomictoy’s blog about drawing a dude every single day, running from Halloween ’08 to ’09
The Daily Figure – this blog is run by Kyle T. Webster, and he does a gestural drawing and figure studies every day
Chris Houghton’s Dailies – this blog captures Chris Houghton’s daily work, which often gets rendered fully
The Daily Monster – this blog is run by Stefan Bucher and he posts a new monster drawing every day
Alter Eebo – This blog contains 900+ daily abstract sketches done by artist Alter Eebo over 33 months

Check out the Sketch a Day blogs and try it for yourself. Its a lot easier than you think!

Andrés ‘ Drezz ‘ Rodriguez is the new guy here at Webcomic Alliance and is the author of the modern noir Online Graphic Novel entitled El Cuervo.  In his spare time he works as a stunt man on MTV’s Jackass and as a punching bag for UFC Fighter Georges St. Pierre.  If you have any suggestions for upcoming tutorials, feel free to connect with him on Google+ or you can follow him on Twitter at @ElCuervoComic

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Posted in Drawing, Featured News, Helpful Hints and tagged , , .

12 Comments

  1. Great article Drezz. I’ve got in the habit of keeping a drawing pad next to my desk and when I’m watching the status bar on an install or waiting on hold for a technician I feel those voids with sketches. I’ve even found myself now longing for these moments. I have several small note pads that lay around the phone at the house, and usually after supper, while I’m waiting on the kids to “finally” eat their food I sketch away.

  2. I can agree with everything you’ve said. The more I continue working on my comic series, the easier it gets, and the faster I become.

    When I take breaks, I notice how hard it is to get back into the swing of things. It’s harder to think of new strip ideas and the artwork doesn’t always come out the way it looked “in my head”.

    Practice makes perfect is real and regularity generates ease. Great post, Drezz!

  3. The doodle that started LeyLines occurred while on hold with customer support while at work. Never underestimate the amount of time available to draw!

    Developing muscle memory is one of the reasons I want to find a live-drawing class that works into my schedule. I know I need to improve my habits when it comes to the human figure.

  4. When I was a kid my mom used to buy newsprint by the ream – it was huge and cheap and I would draw, and draw, and draw. But I still don’t think everyone can be an artist by practice. It’s mostly inborn talent, don’t you think?

  5. It’s the most important nugget of information any artist needs to know. More so than anatomy or even perspective! Sometimes I forget that and play too many video games… Gotta start sketching now!

  6. Agree with this 100%! I take something to draw on and with almost everywhere I go. It’s amazing where you can find time to squeeze in some doodles. When I started college I would do my drawing 101 homework on the trains because it was an hour that I had where I could just sit and draw.

    Also, waiting for appointments or for other people to finish getting ready is a great time to doodle something. Even if it’s just quick gesture drawings of poses.

  7. I’m a chronic doodler, I’ve even been ‘talked to’ at work about drawing on the job. Scratch paper and 5 minutes is your friend. I glue my doodles and sketches into a sketchbook that has become quite a monstrous thing.

    One of my current projects is called Brain Teaser Comics:

    http://brainteaser.thecomicseries.com/

    All of the comics there are either doodles/sketches I just scanned and colored or I digitally inked directly over the original doodle for size reasons and then colored that. The captions are always done after the images are done for kind of an improv art meets creative writing exercise.

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