If you’re an artist – if you draw or paint regularly – you will probably at some point have asked yourself the question of how to get better.
The simple answer is, of course: Practice!
While it’s true, it’s somewhat of an oversimplification.
If you want to make the most of your time, if you want to get better fast, you need to ask yourself what the most efficient way to practice drawing and painting is.
Because after all:
Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.
Table of Contents
The Two Ways To Practice To Improve Your Art
What I’m alluding to isn’t the specific things you should study while practicing your art – like anatomy, perspective, lighting, etc.
You can read about those things in detail in my guide on how to draw ANYTHING here.
What I’m talking about is two general approaches to practicing:
As you’ll see, both of these methods have merit and none is inherently better than the other.
Let’s look at both in detail:
1. Dedicated Practice
Practice is when you devote a specific amount of time to the sole purpose of getting better at drawing.
Dedicated practice is when you use that time to learn how to draw or paint one specific thing in particular.
So let’s say you want to learn how to draw heads.
Dedicated practice would mean that you sit down and just draw heads (and heads and heads…) for a while – and nothing else. The extent of your dedication is measured by how many heads you draw.
You can dive deeper though.
If you’re trying to draw heads, you will obviously need to be able to draw its features: The eyes, the nose, the lips, the ears… That means you would sit down and draw lots of those elements in different perspectives, too.
For example, here are two pages like that I did last year when I was trying to do just that: learn how to draw faces.
If you take this approach to the extreme, you can do something like Todd McFarlane describes in the video below (starts at 1:24):
Todd McFarlane is the creator of Spawn if you didn’t know that already. He’s a super talented comic artist and an all-around great guy.
In his early days, he was basically SUPER dedicated and learned to draw the human body piece by piece. He sat down and only drew forearms for a week. The next week he would draw upper arms etc.
It’s a tedious process, but it obviously paid off in spades for him in the end.
2. Finishing Projects
The other way to practice your art is to finish personal projects.
That means, instead of doing page after page of committed disciplined practice drawings, you draw or paint complete and detailed pictures.
Big projects that take a lot of hours and grit to finish.
While doing this takes away precious time you could use for dedicated practice, finishing projects teaches you lots of things, too.
In the end, that’s what you probably want to do as an artist anyway:
Draw and paint beautiful pictures! If you plan, execute and finish big projects, you are basically learning by doing – doing what you want to be able to do in the end anyway.
Conclusion – How You Should Practice Drawing And Painting
You probably guessed it: Like I already said at the beginning: Neither of both approaches is better.
Both of them have merit.
And while it may seem that based on the pros and cons I listed I prefer the second approach, I still understand that regular dedicated practice is necessary, if you want to be the best artist you can be.
If you just draw finished pictures, you will learn a lot, but you probably won’t get better as quickly as you could.
If you just practice deliberately though, you will probably get bored quickly and end up not having anything to show for it apart from some random practice pages. No finished pictures whatsoever.
The solution is to do both: Paint your finished pictures, but every now and then allot some time to dedicated practice.
That way you will get the best of both worlds: You will get better quickly, but you will have fun doing it and also create some (hopefully) stunning pieces of work to put out in the world.