How to Improve Your Drawing Skills through Incremental Growth

This week we started a new semester at Barcelona Academy of Art. For some students, it is overwhelming to enter this environment. We tend to compare ourselves to others and some of us feel out of place. We can fear that we might never be good enough. If you’ve had this experience, you are not alone.

Giving Up on Art

I’ve lived through long periods of intense frustration and hopelessness. I’ve given up and quit art on at least three occasions during the last 10 years. This just seems to be part of the journey for some people. Somehow I’ve stuck with it, and I’ve come to appreciate that the challenges have sweetened the triumphs.

Here are three images of the same idea. They are from 2004, 2006, and 2008. I admit that this is not the fastest learning curve, but it’s real growth!

I believe that with practice, growth is inevitable. The trick is to make it about incremental growth. One step at a time. Enjoying the journey.

You are invited to test this statement. If you doubt your ability to learn, make it an experiment. Commit to three months of regular practice and see what happens. Feel free to leave a comment below to commit. I offer my “virtual handshake”! 🙂

How to get Un-Stuck in the Learning Process

What you can do if you feel stuck or filled with self-doubt:

  1. Get Writing Materials
    Find a piece of paper and a pen.
  2. Write
    Click here to set a timer for 5 minutes and write a description of your current situation. How do you feel? What is frustrating?
  3. Gather
    When the time is up, click here to set a new timer for 10 minutes. Spend this time collecting as much of your past work as possible in one room.
    If you create mostly digitally, either print your images or collect them in a folder on your desktop.
  4. Arrange
    Organize your work chronologically, from the oldest to the most recent.
  5. Take it in
    Let your eyes glide over all these images. Allow the uniqueness of this evolution to wake your curiosity.
  6. Make a list!
    Write down any improvements you notice as you look through these works.
    If you can’t find any, pull out work from further back in time. I promise you will see some growth!
  7. Celebrate!
    Realize that you have come a long way from where you started. This means you are able to learn and improve. Take a moment to feel gratitude for everything you’ve learned. Feel gratitude for the opportunities for learning that life is presenting to you now.
    How do you feel now? Write down a new statement underneath what you wrote at the beginning of the exercise.

Ready? Do it now!

8 thoughts on “How to Improve Your Drawing Skills through Incremental Growth”

  1. caroline riedel
     ·  Reply

    Hi my dear Dorian – It’s Caroline (about to make my 3/4 century mark). So I am surely one of your oldest “victims”. But still up and kicking! Kicking to learn New/More.
    A couple of horse portraits down the line……..finally Christmas has retreated from our winter lives and the path to getting back to creativity has again opened!
    In keeping with this week’s topic, I will just explain: A book (the second in a duo) will be coming out these next weeks. I did the illustrations ca. 2 years ago and they lay in the drawer so long hoping for a publisher to want to print the damn thing. My author needed a few more “marginals” and 2 of the pictures had to be renovated……….There it became very clear that my abilities had slipped backwards as well as changed! Good or bad? At any rate, it has now twice been my experience that drawing well is like being an athlete. You have to either stay in shape or get back in shape, quickly. Perhaps it is my age? Who can answer that?
    What does sometimes help is looking into the works of others, either in books or on the compi (or museum).
    This will be my next job as well as painting using some of the many impressions I was able to gather this last while……..
    Hope you Saida are well, had a good jump into the new year and that we might see each other, even if only on compi. “Have app-smartphone”, can enjoy pictures!
    Love and always enjoy your Friday mails!!!
    Hugs, Caroline

    • Dorian
       ·  Reply

      Hola Caroline,
      Nice to hear from you. Yes, we can definitely get rusty, but we can always bring it back. And if not the grace and speed, then the love and depth of understanding.
      Best wishes,

  2. Dominique
     ·  Reply

    Hi Dorian

    First thank you and congratulations for your output.
    Your weeklies are greatly appreciated and make me learn something everytime, push myself further, challenge myself.
    I’m a compatriot (born and raised in Lausanne) and I’m really proud that we now have a Roger Federer of contemporary figurative art !
    Your work is splendid and your philosophy behind your art, indeed your whole spirit, helps many of us dig deeper into what we want to do, how and what we want to express through our art. And thank you for being open and venturing to share even your moments of doubt. We are all not alone, we are all of one creative spirit.
    I’m mostly into portrait and landscape via plein air painting and facilitate Live Models in Montreal.

    I take a good look once or twice a year when I weed my stacks of drawings and paintings.
    I do 3 piles: keepers, average, garbage.
    I photograph (already have photographed because i’m usually excited when something is a success, aren’t we all…) I photograph the average and keepers.
    And I compare with my piles from previous years, making notes of improvements, different directions and media I have experimented. What techniques do I want to pick up again ? What should I work on more, where to go and explore ….
    And of course I make a bondfire (actually recycle) of the trashy drawings. Although some people say save even the bad drawings, I prefer to destroy them because I get great satisfaction in seeing my old ways disappear, making room for improved techniques and means of expression. Before I could just draw, today I may be able to actually say something through my drawing.
    I also like to keep only good examples in sight, because humans have a way of looking at mistakes until our mind convinces us that after all it’s not so bad, and then we lose focus of what needs correcton/improvement.

    Sorry if this post is a bit long, but I wanted to contribute with enthousiasm and clarity …….

    • Dorian
       ·  Reply

      Thank you for sharing Dominique! I like the “three piles” method 🙂
      I agree, sometimes “un-creating” something is extremely satisfying and possibly cathartic.

      All the best,

  3. Ava Jarvis
     ·  Reply

    Incremental growth is so, so true. I’ve been working consistently on improving for the past several months—although I’d improve much faster if I wasn’t so sick all the time that I can at most manage four to six hours of art a week, if that.

    Still, I’ve improved.

    Inspired by your post, I decided to post a couple collages of my gradual improvement from the past year.

    Hope people enjoy it. ^_^

    • Dorian
       ·  Reply

      High fives Ava!!

  4. Arjun Khode
     ·  Reply

    Hi Dorian. Thank you for your lessons, first of all. I took both your ‘accuracy’ and ‘light guide’ courses. It was a pleasant surprise to learn that you have a relationship with Barcelona Academy of Arts. I have been wanting to go there for a while. I have been drawing full time for a year now and just yesterday I looked at some of my drawings from 2016. I was feeling so bad thinking, “Did I really used to draw that bad?”, but you were successful in changing my mind. I must have improved a lot if I can clearly see flaws I didn’t see before. I am not perfect right now either, but I have a really strong drive to improve this year.

    • Dorian
       ·  Reply

      Thank you for sharing, Arjun!
      Come visit us! 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.