A friend recently mentioned to me that she had been working on her drawing skills and asked if I had any tips or suggestions of places to learn from, so I thought I’d share a more detailed answer here in case you were also wondering about this.
Before I start, though, I’d say the one thing that has helped me to build up my own drawing skills is simply to draw as often as possible. For the past few months I’ve been drawing every single day, so without regular practice your skills will, at best, stay at whatever level they’re currently at.
Find a Routine that Works for You
So the first thing to do is to build the habit. Create a routine that works for you, whether that’s drawing every single day, drawing 5 days a week with weekends off or some other regular practice.
A book that’s really helpful for this is Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life, which is an in-depth guide to exercising your creative skills regularly and dealing with the fear of the blank page.
On a similar theme, Mason Currey’s Daily Rituals book details the creative habits and routines of dozens of well-known artists, musicians and writers. It includes snippets of wisdom such as Ernest Hemingway’s explanation that writers should simply ‘write until you come to a place where you still have your juice and know what will happen next and you stop and try to live through until the next day when you hit it again.’
Books to Guide You
I’ve mentioned this countless times but the one book that I credit with getting me back into drawing regularly without too much fear or self-criticism is Danny Gregory’s The Creative License: Giving Yourself Permission to be the Artist You Truly Are. It’s a really fun book to work through, with a few drawing exercise to get your going, and Danny emphasises the importance of enjoying the process, rather than being overly critical about the outcome, and using drawing as a way of being in the moment.
If you feel like a fraud when it comes to making art because you didn’t go to art school then an excellent place to start is France Belleville Van Stone’s book Sketch!: The Non-Artist’s Guide to Inspiration, Technique, and Drawing Daily Life. France is an amazing (self-taught) artist who creates beautiful sketches every day in whatever snippet of time is available to her. She uses pen and paper, and also works digitally on her iPad, and her book goes into a lot of detail about how to sketch when time is short, and the pros and cons of working digitally or on paper.
Books for Inspiration
If one problem you have when you sit down to draw is figuring out what to actually draw then I’d recommend Drawing Your Life: Learn to See, Record, and Appreciate Life’s Small Joys by Michael Nobbs. Michael encourages you to look at the world around you with fresh eyes and to create art from the ordinary and everyday. And the book has plenty of spaces where you can create that art right in the book itself – you don’t even need a separate sketchbook!
Of course another book that is about making art regularly from what might appear to be mundane surroundings is Danny Gregory’s Everyday Matters, which is essentially a selection of beautiful pages from his own illustrated journal.
If the books I’ve mentioned aren’t enough and you feel like you need more of a nudge, then online classes are worth exploring. Creative Bug has lots of daily drawing classes with a short video prompt and demo for each day of the month. My favourite was the first one, which ran in January and was taught by Lisa Congdon. Lisa also has a number of other straightforward drawing classes on Creative Bug, as do lots of other artists and art journalers.
If you’d like to join a class and find a creative community of like-minded people at the same time then Sketchbook Skool might be the place for you. I’ve taken almost all their classes since they first started with their Beginning kourse, which is where I’d recommend starting. Each klass usually runs for 6 weeks and each week is taught by a different artist. My favourite Sketchbook Skool klasses are Seeing, Stretching and Expressing.
There are lots of other books and courses out there but I hope you find my suggestions helpful for pushing your drawing skills in a new direction. Be wary of researching all these books and courses as a way of procrastinating, though. Use them, learn from them and keep on drawing no matter what. And let me know if you have any other questions about drawing and creativity that I might be able to answer. I’d be happy to help if I can.