When I first started sketching daily, I had high hopes of the level that my art would reach a few years later. It’s now been over three and half years and in many ways, the improvement has been rather slow. But, I realize now, I didn’t actually have a goal in mind. I just showed up sketching stuff. This was quite fun and took all of the pressure off me, but now I’m thinking about where I’d like to go next. As it turns out, learning to draw and paint was the easy part! Learning how I’d like to take my sketching to the next level is the real challenge. This month, I’ve been playing around with stylizing things a bit more and adding less detail, with varying degrees of success. I want to be a touch more illustrative with my sketches, and learn new techniques, but I also want to write books as well! It turns out, there’s just not that many hours in the day and even fewer when your dreams are still just your side hobby and not a full time endeavor. There’s only so much I can do in just one hour a day that includes both sketching and writing. But, that never stops me! And it’s amazing what one can accomplish in just a little bit of dedicated time each day. So, I happily recommend it to everyone!
Earlier this month, I drew three giraffes on one page, a challenging thing indeed. And I was rather pleased with the outcome. Then I went back to my archives and realized this was the 9th time that I’ve sketched a giraffe. Since I change things up daily this is a bit of a record. And because I only have around 40 minutes a day for my sketching, this means I’ve still only spent 6 hours of dedicated time studying and sketching giraffes. But, for me, that’s huge! If I tried to spend that much time drawing them in a single day, I’d never do it. In short, I somehow managed to trick myself into investing more study in this one animal and can now draw one from memory. There are no shortcuts when it comes to practice. It just takes time. My dog Phineas is another one of my favorite repeat subjects and so I was able to sneak him into one of my sketches during the holidays with just a few lines and color. What I’ve learned is that I’m far more comfortable at stylizing and simplifying something when I’ve studied it really well. Both to understand the most important lines, but mostly to get all of that detail out of my system first!
Every person is very different. The thing that makes us the same is that we’re always most comfortable with the things we do most often. And no matter what, the good news is, it just takes lots and lots of practice. That’s wonderful news because it means that anything is possible if we just invest the time to get there. Though I don’t have much time each day, that time adds up and I always learn a little something new in the process. It’s all a matter of baby steps and though I would love to be able to do what the “big kids” can do, I’m just not quite there yet. Sure, I have my own style and charm, but the actual skills are hard won by doing at least a little something each day. I encourage everyone out there to sneak that extra little bit of time in every single day to DO whatever it is you’d like to get better at doing. If nothing else in this journey, I’m proven beyond a doubt that it’s totally possible to make something every day. Unlike me, you don’t have to actually post it, but I personally find that’s a fabulous part of the process. It’s like when I was a kid and I eagerly showed my mother what I made that day, excited to try again the next day, while learning how to grow.
About the Doodlewash
Da Vinci Paint Co.: Aureolin, Vermilion, Opus (Vivid Pink), Leaf Green, Cobalt Turquoise, and Indigo. (my “Vintage” Trio!). Lamy Al-Star Safari Fountain Pen with sepia ink in an A5 Hahnemühle Watercolour Book. Want to purchase a print of this doodlewash? Send me a note with a link to this post, and I’ll add it to my shop!
Creator of Doodlewash®, founder of World Watercolor Month (July), World Watercolor Group™, and host of the Sketching Stuff Podcast. Sharing daily watercolor illustrations and stories while proudly featuring talented artists from all over the world! If you’d like to be a guest artist on Doodlewash.com, contact me!