Beginner Artist – Top 5 Mistakes
How To Avoid Them
So you’re a beginner artist and you want to draw. You pick up a new sketchbook and some pencils and you’re ready to go. You’re excited and enthusiastic. You sit down and start drawing and things don’t exactly turn out how you expected.
You try fixing your sketch again and again, but it never comes out right and in fact, it gets worse each time. What’s going on? Why can’t you get it right? Most people give up way too soon. But the fact is, drawing is a learned skill. True, some people have a natural knack for it. But for the majority of folks out there, it’s beyond hard. Why?
- Skipping the Basics. The number one reason is that most people skip the basic foundations of art. Yes, the foundations seem super, SUPER basic and because of that, most people think that 1) they’re boring and 2) that these elements are so simple that they don’t need to pay attention to them.
The foundational elements of art consist of line, shape, color, value, form, texture, and space. These are the basic building blocks for everything else you do artistically. It’s like trying to build a house without a foundation. Sure, it might seem childish to you, but trust me. Your drawing skills will vastly improve once you have a grasp of them. For the complete rundown on the basic elements of art, check out How to Draw: The Very Basics (link for free video course inside!).
- Trying to Draw Without Properly Seeing. I can just hear it now. All the WTF’s going on about this one because of course you can see, right? Okay sure, I’ll give you that. Yes, you can see, beginner artist…but you don’t know how to see. That too, is a learned skill. You see, when an artist looks at a tiger, for example, she doesn’t just see a tiger. Her mind automatically starts breaking that tiger down into a series of basic interlocking shapes. See how that goes back to #1 and why the basics are so important? Once the basic shapes are down and in proper proportion, she will add or subtract from them until she has an accurate representation of the tiger. What most people try to do however, leads me to #3.
- Trying to Draw the Details First. Going back to the tiger example, most people get caught up in the details…in this case, the repetitive pattern of stripes. They assume that by getting all the stripes in that the tiger drawing will just fall into place. Again, you can’t build a house without the foundation. The basic shapes should come first and then the details. Let me put it another way. Let’s just say that wrapping paper is the details and the basic shape is the gift box. Do me a favor and try wrapping the gift box without the gift box… Do you get it now?
- Copying Other Artist’s Work. Let’s say there’s an artist you admire. You use an image of this artist to copy from and recreate the original drawing. That’s all fine and good if you’re limiting doing this to studies. But if that’s the case, then I would strongly recommend also doing studies on the masters, such as Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Caravaggio, etc. in addition to your own work. Using someone else’s work as reference is great for understanding their techniques and approach. But you should use caution. Why? Well, there are no perfect human beings out there, artists or otherwise. So it would be like trying to bake a perfect cake with a cake pan that has a dent in it. Every cake that comes out of the pan will have that flaw. If you’re continually copying from other artists, it is very easy to pick up their mistakes and adopt them as your own. You will have inherited their flaws in addition to the flaws you already had!
- Expecting Perfection from the Get-Go. Be kind to yourself, beginner artist. Nobody was born an expert at anything. Allow yourself the luxury of a huge learning curve. Don’t be shy about taking classes, whether it’s on an actual brick and mortar campus or online (there are plenty of great free classes online!). Expecting perfection is not only unreasonable and totally unfair, but it will lead directly to you giving up without giving yourself half a chance. Enjoy the process. Don’t hate your mistakes, learn from them. Keep everything, even if it seems like it belongs in the trash. If you’re starting today, keep your work. Then compare it to your drawings in a year or three to five down the line. It’s a great way for tracking your progress.
Hopefully this helps all of you who are just starting out. Be patient with yourself. And use sources like YouTube! It’s there and it’s free. If you have any questions you’d like answered, leave me a comment and I’ll do my best to answer.
How to Draw: The Very Basics (blog post)