Hate your drawings? Read on.

A question from a new artist: When I was young I used to draw all the time. Now , thanks to Sketchbook Skool and all the amazing work in our Facebook group, I really want to start drawing again — but fear is holding me back. I’m afraid I’ll never be able to draw decently, even with practise. So I just don’t start. I’ve signed up for multiple Sketchbook Skool classes but never finished more than a few lessons because I see how bad my drawings are and feel very disappointed. People told me to just start and not care about the results, however that doesn’t seem to be working. I still hate the few drawings I made and don’t want to look at them. I hope that you don’t mind me asking for some advice on how to deal with this. I really want to be able to enjoy drawing again. — Suzanne

Suzanne, I hear you. I make so many awful drawings. I have for twenty years now. It’s most disheartening after I have stopped drawing for a period and decide to start again. I buy a fresh sketchbook, turn to the first page, and make something so ugly I just want to put it away and give up altogether.

Here’s what I do instead.

I get some scrap paper and a big fat marker and I just draw something with big and fat lines. I do that a bunch of times. Something about those big fat lines loosens me up. My drawing feels bolder and more confident and has a personality to it that I find appealing. The drawings that disappoint me are overly ambitious, they have crabbed and shaggy lines. I am hesitant and unsure of myself and it shows in the drawing. But somehow drawing with the big fat marker or a crayon gives me faith in what I’m doing and I believe once again that I can get to a better place.

These big fat drawings are just fun and have style and look like something appealing. I keep doing this for a few days and then I start to add a bit more detail with a slightly smaller pen to one of these big fatties. This helps me transition to drawing with more control and assurance.

It’s tempting, when you get back into drawing to put a lot of stock in every drawing you make and to come back to them again and again for proof of ones ability. They actually contain no evidence of that at ll. If you look at early Van Gogh drawings you see how ugly and crude they are. But when he pushed past those overworked disasters and kept going, he got looser and more confident and eventually became the master we revere. That took him a few painful years.

I know that “keep practicing” is not what you want to hear. Instead I suggest you keep playing. Play with fat lines. Play on scrap paper. Throw away ten drawings a day. Literally toss them in the bin. Commit to playing for a month and then see how you feel about drawing.

We call it “drawing” not “having drawn.” So enjoy the process and worry less about the results.

If you’d like to see the suggestions others made for Suzanne, here’s the post in the Sketchbook Skool group on Facebook.

17 thoughts on “Hate your drawings? Read on.”

  1. Such great advise! Scrap paper isn’t precious like a pricey sketchbook and is a wonderful way to get un -stuck and loosen up. Long live the trashcan!

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  2. It’s good to find you on your blog this a.m. Danny! And this one is particularly helpful to me. I have copied it out and plan to both follow your advice and keep it where I can refer back every time I make a disappointing drawing!
    Thanks so much for being here.
    Dee

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great idea. Thick lines are really helpful I find. I’d also say the best thing for me is to do lots and lots of blind contour drawing – literally not allowing myself to look at the paper AT ALL while I’m drawing, because obviously the result is going to be completely bonkers, so I can just laugh at it – but in fact I’m learning eye/hand co-ordination all the time without realising and without being able to see it. After loads and loads of that, I start allowing myself to look just now and again at the paper, and then a little bit more. It’s relaxing and sort of like freewheeling on a bicycle – you’re not going to win any races but you sure are learning how to balance. And it feels good!

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  4. I love the blind or semi-blind contour approach! This is exactly what I do, sometimes even to warm up. I generally like the outcome because there is no expectation. It helps me focus and slow down as well. I have a bunch of little blind contours in a Sketchbook. I always splash a bit of watercolor on them when I am done to complete it!

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  5. Seriously though youre my savior!!! Just reading this brilliant sort of idea is just what i need to be foing! EVERY painting ive done the past 5 years ive had just a handful of bad watercolor sketches that’s only because the ammount of intense focus is crazy,im wicked tight with my strokes like not one restated line. It kills the loose feeling im looking for. It kill the liveliness as well! I want to paint bold brushstrokes with gusto! That wont come if im not progressing, if im mot progressing im not learning or should I say failing enough!!! I do actually pick apart what went wrong and to solve the problem so it doesnt happen again! I gotta get totally comfortable with the materials and techniques. Its all about the fundamentals. One last thing sorry about the rant its just i don’t personally know a single artistic person to tell war stories or bounce thoughts and revelations like this one for me. So its actually cool hopefully you don’t think im crazy i needed to hear me say those affirming realizations so thanks for thank you for facilitating them bye….jayson R.

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  6. Great post, thanks for sharing! I love the idea of using a big fat marker, will try that as soon as possible. Thanks so much! So true: we say ‘drawing’, not ‘having drawn’!

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  7. I like your tip about drawing just for the fun of it. I`m not a skilled drawer or rather doodler but I love it anyway. Instead of deciding what to draw before I start drawing, I close my eyes, make som random lines and when I open my eyes again I use my imagination to see if I can find a figure or maybe a pattern i the clutter of lines.

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  8. I would love to spend more time exploring urban and other drawing. I will keep the contacts so if I get less busy I can re-up…on top of which I have a sweet long time girlfriend who adores this group.

    Right now I have too many things going on, I am having to be brutal about getting rid of my email lists. Please take me off all your lists. I am grateful to have spent some time together. I have a major show coming up in June that I need to get done.

    Respectfully ~ Nancy Trump September 22, 2018

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