Introduction: Improving Your Drawing Skills in 365 Days

About: (Educational) Designer, Researcher, and Developer

I don't believe practice makes perfect. It can however help you develop a certain skill. In 2017, I made the decision to make a drawing a day for the entire year, resulting in a collection of 365 drawings. Aside from increasing my overall skill-level, I also found a much easier grip on perspectives and, what I value most, discovering my own style.

This instructable is about considerations and recommendations for comparable challenges, joined in with my own experiences and reflections.

The most important thing to taking on a challenge or project like this, is setting your own rules, and not being scared to break them. They are the outlines to what you are doing, but they should not become something that drags you down or demotivates you from going on. The outlines I set for myself - both initially and how they changed during the project - are included in this instructable, together with other kinds of advice I would like to share.

Step 1: Preparing

Before getting started, the first thing I would recommend is being prepared. When you decide to bring a daily activity into your routine, save yourself a last-minute hassle of getting materials. While you can take different approaches (and with that different materials or media), these are the things I'd recommend in the scope of drawing.

- a sketchbook of which you know how many pages it contains

You don't need to immediately have the year worth of sketch books laying around. Knowing how many pages you have however, means you know how many drawings you can make in it, and with that how many days it should take you to fill it. Mine had 93 pages, meaning I'd need to have a new one about a quarter of the year in.

- your preferred drawing medium

Likely things you'll already have laying around - pencils, fine liners, an eraser. I also used aquarel paint several times, and a few pieces were done with coloured markers.

Step 2: Setting the Outlines

The outlines - your own set of rules. The most important thing about these outlines is to always feel free to change them. It can get time-consuming, you might miss out on a day somewhere, or maybe you just really don't have the motivation sometimes. The last thing you want your rules to do is restrict you from breaking them. You're doing this project for yourself, after all.

Outlines can however help you have an overview of what you are doing. See it as the drawing added to this step. The general outlines show the shape, but there's close to no details filled in. The outlines are the shape of your project, and the details are rules you shouldn't worry about changing.

The most important point I started off with for myself was to make a drawing every day. Let me tell you, I didn't.

During the year, I started falling behind, catching up some days to make up for previous ones. Rather than clinging on to the self-set obligation of making a drawing every day, I allowed myself to take it as 365 drawings in 365 days. The best way to spread it out is to draw every day, but it makes the approach to not having time or motivation on occasion easier. To keep track of where I should be and where I was, I had plenty of google searches to which number day of the year it was. My own progress I tracked by posting on social media. I'll talk a bit more about this in the inspiration and motivation step.

Step 3: Limitations Versus Restrictions

One thing to consider when thinking about what exactly you want to take on in your challenge, is how broad you want to make it. Ideally, there is a proper balance between limiting yourself and restricting yourself.

When I started, I made three drawings in the same theme in a row. I figured that it would make it easier to think of what to draw, since there'd be an overall theme for three days in a row. It was also a way of motivating myself through social media, as described in the next step.

After a few weeks however, it started holding me back. I was losing my interest in certain themes before finishing them, and wanted to draw whatever I felt like drawing that day. At that point, an outline I had set to limit myself turned into a restriction holding me back. Instead of keeping it on as a set rule, I let it go - and when I felt like doing a theme for a few days I could still do so. The first image shows my first 9 posts, in themes of 3. The second overview is from later on, where the middle row is a theme I felt like including.

Other things to consider in the area of limitations versus restrictions can include style, material, and size.

Step 4: Inspiration and Motivation

When trying to create something new every day, it can be difficult to come up with concepts, or to even choose what to do. Sources that I would recommend:

- Redditgetsdrawn

- song lyrics

- prompt generators (there's quite a few out there, I linked one)

- 100 sketchbook prompts

- life drawing - literally taking whatever you see as your inspiration

- life drawing strangers - a bit challenging but so much fun

Next to this, there is also the aspect of motivation, which I think links together pretty strongly with inspiration. One strategy for me to motivate myself to keep going was to share my drawings on a separate instagram account (linked here). It is an overview of what you have done so far, and it helps you keep track of where you are number-wise.

The risk of doing so is spending too much time on posts. This isn't necessarily a bad thing - it is nice to have interactions about your posts. It can however lead to trying to perfect something, when you are learning and developing a skill instead. This is something I learned during the year. After a while, I found myself okay with just taking a quick picture of what I drew and posting it, irregardless of whatever quality of lighting I had when taking the picture.

Step 5: When to Do This

Theoretically, you could start this challenge whenever you want. If you feel inspired, I would definitely recommend doing so - or at least starting with the preparations. But, it can be really nice to have a clear starting point. This can also help you carry on with the daily routine, as you give it a clear beginning.

The first suggestion is what I did myself - starting the first of January. Let's also call it the only New Year's resolution I've ever lived up to ;) It gives you a clear start, and makes it easy to keep track of the number of days - your number of drawings simply corresponding to it. A secondary reason for me to take this moment was the Christmas break from university. It made it easier for me to get a soft start into this challenge, without immediately feeling like I might fall behind. This did however lead to more extensive drawings in the first week, which I had to tune down later on.

The second suggestion is to line your first month up with Inktober. Inktober is a challenge created by Jake Parker in 2009. The concept is to create 31 drawings in 31 days, during the month of October. The official challenge consists of inked pieces, but again - set your own rules. As mentioned before, prompt lists can be a good source of inspiration. During Inktober, there is an official prompt list, with prompts to take as freely or strictly as you want. It is also nice to see what others are creating, often based on those same prompts. This is where social media is useful as well.

I took on the Inktober challenge in 2016, before committing to a full year of drawings a few months later.

Step 6: Why?

And, to end with, why would you want to do this?

I took it on as a general challenge to myself, to both increase my skill-level and comfort when sketching out things. Rather than getting stuck on trying to make something look as perfect as I could, it was about getting the drawings done.

You can take it in a lot of different ways. A general challenge is a great way to improve confidence and skill-level when drawing. But, what makes it relevant (or, at least in my opinion) is the possibility to cater a challenge like this to your own needs and interests. Maybe you are interested in calligraphy and decide to write a phrase every day. Or, perhaps you are into comic art, drawing a next frame every time. To me, if you have an interest in improving an art skill, and want to invest time in it, it is worth it.

It can definitely be time consuming, but much of that is how time consuming you allow it to be - as discussed in limitations versus restrictions as well. One thing to take into account is that it does create a daily moment to work on, which even when it isn't long can come over as a time investment.

And, wel, I did partially do it to create that flip-through video ;)

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