Three Tips to Better Drawing

1. Relax. Challenge yourself and strive for perfection, but don’t fret over learning how to draw. Anxiety in drawing is common among artists and is brought on by fear of failure. Overcome this fear by doing everything you can to make your drawings accurate. I’ve drawn professionally for 30 years and have done thousands of renderings, yet I still make mistakes—some of which are real blunders. It goes with the territory.

2. Be patient with yourself. One of my favorite quotations is attributed to Michelangelo, who, when asked about the source of his genius, replied: “Genius is patience.” It takes time to develop your skill. When you look at the drawings of Michelangelo, Raphael and da Vinci, keep in mind that you’re only seeing the work they did after they’d had years of experience. So don’t give up just because your first efforts aren’t masterpieces. Instead, judge your work in terms of its continuing improvement, rather than its current shortcomings. And don’t try to do too much too soon. Tackle one new challenge at a time. It’s also helpful to advance in a logical progressive sequence, with each step building upon the others. The skill sequence I follow in my fundamentals classes and workshops is: 1 contour lines (the lines on your drawing surface that represent the outer edges of your subject); 2 negative shapes; 3 proportion and placement; 4 shading; and 5 color.

3. Take small steps. It’s best to limit the scope of your drawings at first and then take on more extensive drawings as your skills improve. Rather than trying to draw an entire human figure, draw just a small part of it, such as the head, a hand, a knee or a foot. Then, as you gain experience, broaden your range until you can draw the entire figure. It’s better to draw something small and succeed at it—and be encouraged to continue—than it is to draw something too big, fail at it and be too disheartened to continue.

Cheryl Criss is a signature member of the American Watercolor Society and of Watercolor West. The San Diego artist’s works have been exhibited around the country, and she’s won a variety of awards, including the Edgar Whitney Award from AWS in both 2000 and 1998, and the Top 100 in Arts for the Parks. Her art is also included in private collections throughout the United States and Mexico, and she’s represented by Nedra Matteucci Fine Art in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

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