Over the years, many people have asked me for how long I've been drawing. While it's true that I started drawing as soon as I was able to hold a pencil, I was never that serious about it. In a sense, you can ask yourself if I was any serious on art altogether. Because, in the end, all kids draw. I think most people can remember making drawings in grade school. Because it's something kids do naturally. Depicting the world around them with images. The beautiful thing is that kids have no fear. They just draw whatever they like, and are usually happy with it. It isn't until the age of 10 or 12, that the outside world suddenly expects you to be either good at something, or stop doing it. It's at that age that we become self cautious about drawing. And therefore it's around that age many kids eventually stop drawing.
I came to that age as well. I have to admit... it kicked in a little late on me.
For those that wonder what I'm talking about; those are the 2 years I stopped drawing, as shown in my improvement meme.
Little before that, I too had reached a point on which I didn't see any improvement anymore.
I'd seen countless of amazing artists on the internet by then. I'd seen countless of things I wish I would be able to paint at that time. But I wasn't. I just drew the same thing over and over again, and expected my skills to magically get better. Needless to say; they didn't. And I was frustrated by it. So frustrated that I spend the next two years away from the drawing table, writing 2 whole books. The two years of writing did make me realize something, though. Opposed to drawing, in my writing I was completely fearless. I just wrote, experimented, and twisted things around. At the end of those 2 years... my writing style changed tremendously. I had become much better.
When I picked up drawing again, in 2010, I decided it was time for a different approach. As hard as it was, I decided that I needed to be as fearless in art as I had been with writing.
My skills were initially rusty, and the first drawings looked like crap. And that basically forced me to change my approach. No more how-to-draw manga books, but books on real anatomy. No more trying to figuring out colors on my own, but learning from tutorials and from books that contained actual information about color theory. A lot of books. Because every book or tutorial held a different approach to art. And I took from every method whatever I liked or whatever I found easy to remember.
You know... improvement in itself is a tricky thing. It's often so slow that it goes by unnoticed.
In order to keep track of it, and to keep myself motivated, I started the sketchdump project
. The plan was that collecting sketches with a regular interval, and putting them together, would make me see my own improvement over time. And it did. It wasn't a matter of a few weeks or months, however. The first time I was able to see how far I had gotten, was early 2012. That's a full year later after I started the project, indeed.
I think it was at the end of 2012 that I looked back at old works that I liked and thought: "Hey, I could do that too".
And a year after that, I thought: "But I could do that even better!"
But as your artistic standards tend to grow with your own skill, even now I have plenty of artists that I can't compare to in the sense of skills.
Back in the days, when I looked at time-lapse video's that good artists made, I used to be frustrated over the fact that I saw what they did, but didn't understand it. I always assumed they had some kind of magical talent-thing that allowed them to magically know what brush strokes to make and what colors to use. Because I, myself, couldn't figure that out. When I look at it now, I understand the things that they could "see" (and I couldn't) were a difference in experience. I can remember using a full grid to draw faces, when I just started out. I can now draw faces without complex guidelines, because I've done that so many times the guidelines have basically burned into my memory. I now often think it's fun to try recreating poses from my old sketches, just for the fun of it. To see how much easier it got since the last time I tried it. Because that's basically what experience does. It makes hard things become routine, so your brains gain space for storing new things.
I know out here, there are many artists that are just like I was back then.
Artists that want to get better, but don't know how. Artists that are hopelessly stuck on art. That probably drew the same thing over and over again, and are frustrated that it didn't get better. Or just aren't able to see their own improvement. To them I have 2 words of advice: be fearless and patient. Be fearless enough to try a new approach on art when yours doesn't work out. And be patient enough to know that improvement doesn't come overnight. It's a slow thing.