I started drawing a lot when I was eight years old. By a lot, I mean for hours every day. I lose track of time while I’m in the zone. I don’t remember drawing much before that. I believe it was when my uncle sat me down and showed me how to draw. Drawing things around the house got boring, so we went to the library for references.
Good artists copy; great artists steal
I copied everything from Jack Kirby to Charles Schulz. The way I learned was by tracing the artwork. I made Xerox copies of pages I liked and traced over them.
Tracing is a great way to learn how to control your lines. It’s also a great way to figure out how the masters do it. A good exercise is to sketch lightly over the artwork and try to figure out their form. The shape is the most important part of an illustration. You can have the most beautiful lines, but if the shape isn’t interesting, the illustration won’t be either.
Don’t just copy from other artists, copy from life as well. Once I got confident with my lines, I began drawing by observation. I try not to look at the paper while doing this—I keep my eyes on the subject. This helped me get better with my hand-eye coordination. The key is to let loose your creativity and draw freely.
Build up the visual library in your head. You can pull from that library whenever you need something to draw.
I’ve only become good by copying. To get great, you’ll have to steal. Bits and pieces from here and there. Take in what is useful, discard what isn’t and make it your own. I’m still searching for my style. It will come eventually. In the meantime…
Practice, practice, practice
There’s no shortcut to success. Don’t try to be better than someone else, try to be better than yourself an hour ago. I stopped drawing when I was in college. I got into something called web design. I switched my major from Illustration to Electronic Media. Sometimes, I do reflect on where my illustration skills would have been if I kept drawing, but I don’t let that discourage me. I see it as a challenge to get better every day.
I started drawing again just a year ago while working on my children’s book. I took some online courses and drew every day—I still have a passion for it. I make myself draw at least for half an hour each night before bed.
Stop reading and go draw!