The Laborious Process of Learning to Draw

Growing up, I had always revered art, specifically sketches and drawings. I couldn’t explain why, but the grace and almost doodle like quality of some of these pieces left me speechless. Art that looks alive, where the person drawn, even if they’re just a sketch, look as though they’re going to speak at any minute, is my biggest love.

I am so far from that level.

Growing up, I tried my best to emulate these artists. I would grab the pencil and set off, thinking I’ll have a masterpiece when I’m done. Instead, I was left with a measly sad doodle of what could barely resemble a person. It’s safe to say I’ve improved since then, but I’m still nowhere near where I want to be.

The art I love is alive. My art is static and dead.

I’m frustrated.

I decide to try again. This time, I’m serious about it. I get a book and everything.

Reading Up

The books help. At first, they give me the sense of moving forward, of learning so much that I find myself drawing for hours on end. The books offer some insight on the fundamentals of proportion and shape. They painstakingly walk me through all the basic shapes that make up everything around. I draw boxes and tubes for days.

Unfortunately, I quickly begin to plateau. I’m tired of drawing cups and bottles. I want to draw all those beautiful characters I’ve seen in my head.

With my newly gained knowledge on the cubes and cylinders of the human body, I try again.

I draw stick figures instead.

Practice makes perfect

I hear it everywhere. Every time I look up beautiful art on Pinterest, I feel my heart sigh with all the skill I am yet to again. I go back to google and beg for a quick and easy solution. I always come back with one rule.

Practice, Practice, and more Practice.

Theoretically, it’s all I really need. In reality, practice makes me hate myself and feel like I’m moving in quicksand. I know things take time, but I’m bored. I want my art to look the way I imagine it. Less pubescent child, more face carrying the weight of the world. I practice anyway.

I google how to practice, what it means to practice. Deliberate practice comes up (which is just a fancy way of saying practicing with a goal in mind). I look up more help. Let me tell you, for being such a vast resource, the internet sometimes has zero answers.

I’ve decided to rise above the limits of the internet. My misery will help someone else.

Here’s what I’ve learned (so far):

  1. Patience is the biggest key. Most times, you will be frustrated. You will want to skip the basics and get to the heavy stuffy only to notice you don’t know how to do heavy. So you go back to the basics.
  2. Learn to love your weakness. I suck at proportions. It doesn’t make sense to me. I look at something, and I can tell that the nose is bigger than the mouth by half. When I draw, I make a massive mouth and a tiny nose. It disappoints me every time. I decide to draw things I am comfortable in. Spoiler alert: I don’t improve. As much as it sucks, stick to your mistakes until you don’t hate them.
  3. It’s going to take a long time. This is something movies and fiction haven’t helped us grasp. We always watch the montage of a person working hard until one day they’re magically amazing. Truth is, when you’re doing it, it’s going to take a fucking long time. Years even. And that seems so daunting.
  4. Draw what you love. Trust me. It’s already hard sitting down and practicing for hours on end. If you try to do it with something you’re bored by, it will feel like torture. Even though I’m not good at it, I draw faces and hands. Every day. Because someday I will be great at them.
  5. Look back as often as you can. Even though it’s slow, your progress is there. Whenever I’m discouraged, I flip back to my first drawing. It’s still relatively the same standards, but the slight differences make me smile.
  6. Take up drawing challenges. They’re not always easy, but they help keep you inspired. Little prompts for you to draw as you please. It frees you from the tiring practice of proportions and shading.
  7. Do it your way. I have a bad habit of thinking people get to dictate how I do things. They don’t. Just because an expert tells you you have to draw boxes to improve, it doesn’t make it true. I’m sure if I religiously follow the teachings of every book, I will get to the level they promise. I also know I never could do that. I’m easily frustrated and bored. That’s okay. It’s okay for you to skip some chapters. To try things your own way. This is for you. No one’s judging you. No one will tell you you’re wrong. Draw how you want to. Just make sure to keep an eye out for learning opportunities and mistakes.

How I Really Feel

I hate it. I hate it because I can feel myself slowly improving. The very slow change taunts me, and it infuriates me because it keeps me from quitting. It doesn’t feel rewarding, but it doesn’t feel like a chore. It’s almost like being Tantalus, with that delicious fruit always within sight but out of reach. But I keep reaching for it anyway.

Hopefully one day, I’ll be able to draw that image I just envisioned. Until then, I’ll hide behind my words and pray the drawing gods have mercy on me.

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