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7 Tips To Instantly Become A Better Artist

Journal Entry: Sun Jun 10, 2012, 2:06 PM
Practice, practice, practice.  Gah.

Attend life drawing classes over the summer.  Blegh.

Take a sketchbook with you everywhere you go, and fill up ten of those bad boys at the coffee shop.  Pfft.

Let's be honest here.  We all want to become better artists, like, right frickin' now.  We don't even want to have to suffer through hour-long tutorials of some pompous snooty hack bloviating over the intricate methods of drawing eyes on YouTube.  We want progress, we want improvement, and we want it on our desk in ten minutes ago!

Fine, fine, I hear ya'.  While these aren't going to make an instant Leonardo da Vinci out of you, these might get you up to...ehh...Basquiat caliber.  Sure, I've made tutorials, but those are more about setting up Photoshop for the sake of coloring an image, and not so much building yourself artistically.  Those are more technical lessons.  Artistically, the learning process takes time, it comes mostly from within, but fortunately there are some things that'll make the laborious process much easier in the long run.

Seven things you can do RIGHT NOW to become a better artist:

1: Clean your work space.

Before you begin on any artistic project, take a few minutes (or hours if it has been a while) to clean up your workspace.  Dedicating some time to cleaning before working brings many benefits.  Psychologically, it gets your mind warmed up and ready to engage the task of drawing.  There are a lot of similarities between cleaning and working on a canvas; lots of arm motions, methodical approaches to the task, and a particular thoroughness to detail.  It will also warm up your arms ahead of time.

With a clean workspace, you will also be able to work better.  No trudging through stuff to locate your desired sketchbook.  No dust and particulates getting in your nose or your electronics.  And no digging through an amassing pile of clutter to find an empty space to put your beer down.

Which brings me to number two.

2: Put your beer down.

Under no circumstance should you attempt to do artwork under the slightest inebriation.  Unless you happen to be Salvador Dali, your artwork will not look better by beating up your mental capacities.  Think you're an exception to such a rule?  Tell me, do you have an awesome moustache like Dali, too?  Of course not, you'd be lying if you believed you even came close to the unparalleled epic of Salvador Dali's incredible moustache.

Impossible.  Cannot be done.  Your attempts to mimic such incredible facial trichology will only end in blood-soaked tears of regret.  Do you want to wallow away the evening in blood-soaked tears of regret?  Then put the dang beer down on your newly cleaned desktop and see just how much better you do!

Go instead with a moderate (moderate!) cup of coffee or green tea.  Having at least something to nurse while working is a good way to keep focus and comfort.  Abstain from caffeinated sodas and energy drinks, they'll just make you hyper and easily sidetracked.

3: Livestream

Very good chance if you're reading this, you're a digital artist.  When working digitally, it's really difficult to work sometimes just knowing that the big glorious icon is sitting just underneath for Chrome or Opera or Firefox (or Internet Explorer if you're really that behind the times).
Curb the temptation, and willingly put a handful of your Internet pals right over your shoulder to watch your every move.  They're going to be there on their time*, invited by your hand, to see you draw and nothing else.  So don't let them down.  They're your friends, after all.  Don't let down your friends.

*English majors: I saw you squeak in jovial admiration there. Thank you.

Just go to the Livestream website (or JustinTV or whatever), download the broadcaster software, and go for it.  That way, you'll have some people giving you encouragement while you work.  You'll have company so you don't feel like you wasted your evening without the IRL friends you keep convincing yourself you actually have.  And best of all, you'll get swift justice if you lose focus and get sidetracked by that freaky-deaky Internet porn you don't want us to know you enjoy.

4: Use References and Mimic

Let's make it clear; I don't mean tracing. Wouldn't you believe I actually saw an anatomy book that suggested tracing as a valid means of learning?  Pfft, what a jerk.

By using references and mimicing the styles of others, I mean finding a way to give your unique artwork a direction based upon what you see elsewhere.  We all envision ourselves as the perfect artist who doesn't need no stinkin' anatomy books or photographs to draw the whimsical worlds in our heads.  But that's just silly.  Even the top tier artists use references and aspire to the greatness of our artistic predecessors.  It's what makes them so good.  They don't guess how grass would act in an environment; they grab photos of it and line them up to soak in and research its behavior.  The way light shines off of bricks, stucco, marble, iron, steel, and other materials?  Never guess, always have something handy to see just how it looks.

5: Delete Black and White From Your Color Swatches

Quick challenge.  Draw a picture, but when you get to shading it, use only the primary colors.  Try it.  Use only red, blue, and yellow.  See how the colors all blend together, create this nice harmony among one another, and look more vibrant when they collide together?  Abstaining from using black and white while shading will guarantee a much more lively color palette right off the bat, and if you get really good at working with those colors, you'll really stand apart from the others.

6: Take Breaks and Manage Your Time

Take breaks.  Frequently.  Every couple hours, give yourself a twenty minute break, preferably away from the computer screen and television.  You need to rest those eyes, let them recover.  Something like doing another chore such as folding laundry can keep those muscles warmed up but clear the head nicely.  Make yourself a sandwich.  Clean your desk space if you haven't yet.  Grab your mp3 player and take a walk around the block.

Try not to be one of those "I painted for sixteen hours straight" kinds of guys.  The amount of time you spend on an image isn't nearly as impressive as the actual look of the image in the end. The only people who care how long you spent on an image are directors and producers, and to them, bragging about a single background taking you seventy-plus hours is anything but something worth bragging about.

Just get it done, and don't kill yourself in the process.  If you aren't getting a lot of enjoyment out of your work, you're probably not managing your time right, or worse, not going to pursue art much further.

7: Do Something Else From Time To Time

Make music.  Write literature.  Read a book.  Hike.  Never forget to take an afternoon for yourself and follow other endeavors.  Art can be quite overwhelming at times, but by not making it the sole aspect of your life, it won't be able to overwhelm you.  Taking on an extracurricular activity can be fun, and leave you refreshed and eager to jump back into that artistic project you were on.  Well...granted that extracurricular activity isn't trying to match Salvador Dali's moustache.

Blood-soaked tears, dude.  That's as far as you'll get.

Add a Comment:
TrippyMarshmallow Featured By Owner Feb 13, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I loved this tutorial 100%.
It was hilarious and actually motivated me! Time to get to work cleaning my desk!
biggesttailsfan Featured By Owner Feb 4, 2015  Hobbyist Writer
Lol, that was pretty funny XD Not quite what I expected, but a good read nonetheless. 

Too bad I'm more of a traditional "artist". 

Also, so, seems like I need to work on number 2 more. Not that I drink, but I don't  have a good moustache :<
ArmswieldTheHero Featured By Owner Dec 4, 2014  Student General Artist
The persistence of time is by far my favorite work of art.
Vilatile Featured By Owner Oct 26, 2014  Student
buuuh, I wanted Dalí's moustache :c
CrypticMachine Featured By Owner Oct 11, 2014  Student General Artist
I love this.Very helpful. ;3
kuzco890 Featured By Owner Aug 7, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
love this article :)  No. 6 is what i struggle most with...(sigh)
Simpleneli Featured By Owner Mar 20, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Thanks for the tip :D
mysieblondie Featured By Owner Mar 14, 2014

Good advice ------> "Practice, practice, practice."

"Attend life drawing classes over the summer." Although this isn't something available to everyone it is a good idea if it's something that's convenient in your area.

"Take a sketchbook with you everywhere you go, and fill up ten of those bad boys at the coffee shop."  <----- yup yup

"1: Clean your work space." Sure why not clean your work space? While your at it clean your bathroom and do the dishes cause having a clean living area and work space is always a good idea.

"2: Put your beer down." One of the dumbest things I ever heard. If your an alcoholic by all means don't fall off the wagon, but letting go of your inhibitions via beer... weed.. whatever definitely won't hurt your art. (provided you don't go get yourself in a car accident??) 

"3: Livestream" if you have the internet and time :)

"4: Use References and Mimic"
    For the record as long as you don't allow yourself to depend on it, but only use it for studies, tracing does have it's place in art.
    For example: do a speed study and draw quickly a face using photo reference. Then trace the outline of the face and finish shading the study. Then draw quickly again (as you did the first time). And voila you're able to observe more accurately the proportions because you weren't too high minded to trace.

   As far as the rest of this one... it falls under observe observe observe... practice practice practice... take a notebook wherever you go...

"5: Delete Black and White From Your Color Swatches" <---- Don't listen to this, although it might be a fun practice and all practice makes you a better artist, there's nothing magical about this exercise over any other one. (I personally am a fan of studies in black and white, in the old days a master's apprentice had to earn the right to paint in color because black and white is fundamentally first.)

"6: Take Breaks and Manage Your Time"  Anyone who needs this advice is far enough along to know you dumb the rest of these tips are.

"7: Do Something Else From Time To Time" Last but not least... I agree. Don't get too lost in your art, spend time cleaning or helping out friends and family, it totally refreshes your artistic mind.

P.S. I'm sorry if I seem contrary but if we could be "BETTER ARTISTS RIGHT FRIKIN NOW!!" then everyone would be an artist, but art is a journey and no one is ever going to arrive at the point of satisfaction.
  However if you draw everyday and find practices that help you and that you like, perhaps art instruction books, draw from life, or just whatever works for you...? if you keep at it, then there will come a point where you do like your own art and it will feel good enough to share and show to others. Just keep swimming. :)

skyblue000 Featured By Owner Feb 15, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Best tips ever! :iconwooowplz: Lol, seriously though I'm really gonna start doing some of these tips, 'cause they seem like really good suggestions~ ^-^ (especially the 'cleaning up my workspace' one- I haven't cleaned that up in a bajillion years so time to get started! //shot ) :iconimhappyplz: Also the 'only using primary colors to shade' one looks like something I should do (cause I really need to get the hang of coloring :iconuhuhuhuplz:) Haha, but thank you so much for sharing this; I'll be using the tips very soon!~~ :D
Star-Swirl Featured By Owner Jan 28, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Perfect! I have to start using these, esp. because I haven't posted ANYTHING on dA in fear it isn't good enough!
Curls4life Featured By Owner Aug 2, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
This is so Epic... :D
I really like the tip with the primary colours, i'll try that sometime. Thanks for the tips!!
KagomeSempai Featured By Owner Jul 14, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
I think this is wonderful!! Thanks!! ~
BoomBuzz Featured By Owner Jun 27, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist

People bother me, especially with art. People tell you not to trace and I thoroughly disagree. As long as you aren't posting the traced work online then there shouldn't be a problem.

With tracing I learn how to draw smoother lines, how to do horizontal lines, how to draw bodies. You know, stuff like that.

References have never helped me, my lines are either too straight, too big or just don't look right.
ThE-PrOpH3T Featured By Owner Jul 13, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
You'll start relying on tracing. References help you with drawing so that you don't need to look at anything in the future, references are meant to be drawn in your own style and helps you develop it. Tracing does none of this, and limits your ability and creativity. It's a bad habit.
DJSlit Featured By Owner Sep 8, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
The trick is to use an animation software like flash or something, get a puppet of whatever you're drawing and manipulate it untill you like where it is and then base it off of that
ThE-PrOpH3T Featured By Owner Sep 8, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Though that may be a trick, it is difficult and can consume a lot of time.
DJSlit Featured By Owner Sep 9, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
it only takes a lot of time if you want it to, the more experienced you get the less you have to position anything
ThE-PrOpH3T Featured By Owner Sep 9, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Hun', 3d formatting takes a while to learn. It's easier just to practice drawing.
DJSlit Featured By Owner Sep 9, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
no it dosent, ya pick it up in a couple hours
Vexcel Featured By Owner Jul 28, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
I agree.
jeenxd Featured By Owner Jun 26, 2013
This is nice...thanks for the tips!
YouObviouslyLoveTavi Featured By Owner Jun 5, 2013   Artist
RustiiAqua Featured By Owner May 26, 2013  Student General Artist
Hey... Thank you...even though I'm mainly a traditional artist and only really use the computer for manipulation, editing and finalizing, I believe I can apply these tips to everything I do ^_^ from painting to drawing, 3D, Marquetry and son on... I sort of do a lot ^_^

If you like u can check out my page---> [link] it doesn't have everything that I have done but there is a lot ^_^
Kirasel Featured By Owner Apr 26, 2013
we all agree u are awesome.
foureyedbabe Featured By Owner Apr 24, 2013
You are totally awesome!!!!
vest Featured By Owner Apr 24, 2013
Thanks! :lol:
foureyedbabe Featured By Owner Jul 12, 2013
FinalHearts10 Featured By Owner Mar 30, 2013
whoever worte this deserves a medal, dude you're just pure awesome
Indicaa Featured By Owner Mar 29, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
These tips are the best I've found on the internet. What you wrote is actually true... Thank you for the tips!
dancinpencil Featured By Owner Mar 10, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
more inspiration than I get out of a tutorial on youtube. THanks!
xCanesGalacticax Featured By Owner Feb 18, 2013   General Artist
I just read this and I love it (especially the bit about Dali and inebriation). I've been looking for tips on better managing my time as an artist because now that I am a mother who also has a husband who is always deployed (oh, joy), I find it really hard to squeeze in time for anything that isn't chore or child related.

So this was amusing as well as informative, while being fairly down to earth.
Rainbow-Crash1212 Featured By Owner Jan 9, 2013  Professional Artist
I really need to apply some of these. im an awful artist.
Macabeak Featured By Owner Dec 21, 2012   Digital Artist
Aaaaand saved.
Jasminee2 Featured By Owner Dec 2, 2012
Thanks man
LC85 Featured By Owner Sep 22, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
*imitating Mordecai & Rigby's "HmmHmmHmm..HHmHmm!* as I agree with this*

YES. A lot of that I've been doing all my life and the stuff I hadn't it's good to know about :dance:


Jellybean-Cat Featured By Owner Sep 7, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Helpful. Thanks for writing this awesome journal.
Elfnir Featured By Owner Sep 3, 2012
Well, this'll help, at least...
menoux Featured By Owner Aug 5, 2012  Hobbyist Artist
Dali's moustache.
I must touch it.:iconpapplz:
ToddNTheShiningSword Featured By Owner Jul 31, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
References and mimic. YES! :D Anyone who wanted to know how I got better fast, that was it right there. And avoiding coffee and beer.
ninja-me Featured By Owner Jul 23, 2012  Hobbyist Artist
Inspiring thanks
and thanks for mentioning the cleaning stuff...
i always forget that :lol:
Starlit-Sorceress Featured By Owner Jul 22, 2012  Professional Artisan Crafter
I never do this for commissions, but when I'm working on a new design, I find a few sips of wine helps lower my inhibitions into my expressive, freeform style.

Obviously someone who's sober makes better art than someone who's falling over drunk, but I think everyone has a middle ground.

(It also depends on the medium, I guess.)
SparrowSong Featured By Owner Jul 22, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Delete Black and White From Your Color Swatches = Stop Using Dodge and Burn.

They are the same things! Stop doing it! You will learn so much more with your brown shadows, your indigo ones, your yellow lights!
Jugganaut-Cubano Featured By Owner Jul 8, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
U make a lot of valid points and 86% of that stuff has worked 4 me in the past. But the part about the Energy Drinks and high amounts of Caffeine in Ur system distracting U... .. That hasn't been true 4 me, before the due date of a big project when u know U still got about 5 hours of work left and u don't have the time 2 take breaks, that Shit helps man believe me.
vest Featured By Owner Jul 8, 2012
Oh man I've been there too. Late night, duedate is the next morning, those are just the worst. And I wouldn't have been able to survive those without those sugary high-caffeine beverages.

Yet while they were essential to helping me get something done, I reflect back upon them with a certain regret that I could have done better. They were great for keeping me awake enough through that last terrible stretch. But they did no favors to the actual quality of the work, unfortunately. Rushed work, no matter how caffeinated you are, always looks rushed.
artistafrustrado Featured By Owner Jul 8, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
i really want a mustache like that OwO

so i will learn how to fake it XD
henya66 Featured By Owner Jul 7, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Humor = FTW
And Thanks for that Man, we needed that. =)
Rubinery Featured By Owner Jun 25, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I love your humor :D your art as well !!! and thank you for the tipps, they are VERY useful :3 !!
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