It's been exactly three years since I first picked up a pencil and paint brush and attempted to sketch and paint. I'm mindful to celebrate my growth and my failures, and I'm thrilled to say that sketching and painting gives me even more joy than when I first began.
Because of this recent anniversary, I thought it fitting to share the top 5 sketching lessons that I have learned. I hope this encourages you to try your hand at new things (including sketching!) but I also hope it helps you avoid my mistakes.
Below is some of my best advice, things I have learned the hard way through much trial and error. May you be much wiser and learn faster than me!
1. Don't try too many new things at once.
I’m listing this as number uno because I make this mistake more than any of the others. As a lover of the creative process and its intended tools, I find it all too easy to get caught up in trying new techniques and supplies. However, I’m learning to tamper my enthusiasm with common sense.
Trying too many new things at once, whether it’s colors or papers or various watercolor techniques or sketching kits, is bound to muddy the process. It’s hard (impossible?) to judge whether or not something will work for you when you’re trying out five other new things at the same time.
Also, it's easy to get caught up in shiny new toys and workshop opportunities and forget why you are doing this to begin with... it's not to sort through 5000 paints but to actually paint.
Determine to keep K.I.S.S. as your #1 rule.
Making slow and steady decisions, building your skills and art supply stash slowly, will help you to be a much better artist in the end.
*In our house, we detest the word 'stupid' so our KISS rule stands for "Keep It Simple, Silly." Feel free to use it for yourself, because muddling the creative process with too much information or stuff really is just plain silly.
2. Get out of your comfort zone, but leave the door open.
Society loves to preach to us, "Get out of your comfort zone!" So I often feel a self-imposed pressure to always be challenging myself and improving. The problem is that when I focus solely on movement and improvement, I quickly lose the joy of the process and rapidly head toward burn out.
Sometimes appreciating where you are and resting in the moment is far more beneficial than forcing yourself outside of your comfort zone, so feel free to stick with what you know. Don’t fall victim to the fallacy that you constantly have to do new stuff or try new things or always be moving forward.
This is your personal journey, so the pressure is off.
If you want to wander outside of your comfort zone, you’ll be welcome. If you don’t like the results and want to quickly return, no one should judge you for sticking with what works.
3. Life is too short for crappy supplies.
Please excuse my crass language, but I can't think of a better way to put it. In art supplies, quality counts. A lot! Lousy tools will constantly hamper your efforts and ability to improve.
Unfortunately, investing a lot of money into a sketchbook or a certain brand of watercolors doesn't guarantee its success in your hand. I'm all for being frugal and using what you've got, but there are times that the best place for a sketchbook is in the recycling bin. I've learned that if I don't enjoy using a particular product or brand, trudging through it to "use it up" or "get my money's worth" does nothing more than dampen my enthusiasm and creativity.
I'm not going to force myself to eat foods that I dislike, so why would I force myself to use an art tool that I don't like?
So stick with paints that you really love and put the rest of those tubes on eBay. Buy brushes and papers that are a joy to use. If something isn't working for you, don't waste another minute on it. It will end up costing you far more in the long run than you'll ever spend on a replacement.
4. Your stuff looks better than you think... to most folks.
I’ve met so many wanna-be sketchers and artists that are shrouded in fear—fear of showing and sharing their process and sketches, and many who are fearful of even putting pencil to paper.
If you have a desire to do this, you will succeed, at least as long as you're willing to put pencil and paint to paper. Sketching and painting is a skill born from desire and practice. Nothing more.
I'm living proof that anyone who wants to draw & paint can do it.
In regards to sharing your work, I’ve found that 99.9% of the artist community is highly encouraging and tends to see the good in any creative process. (After all, you're reading my blog!) Sure, you’ll run into the occasional heckler, but many times that type of person is negative about a lot of thing in life that have nothing to do with you.
Which brings me to my last point…
5. Learn to let it go.
Sometimes (oftentimes!) paint just won’t flow the right direction. Your mushroom will look like a cinnamon bun and your flower like a dinner plate. You’ll drop your sketchbook in the creek (true story) or your pen will spring a leak while sketching in the Botanic Garden (again, true story.)
In other words, you're going to make mistakes. Loads of them. But somehow, in all of the muddles and mess, if you release the pressure to perform and simply… perform, you’ll be just fine.
In fact, you'll be more than fine. You'll forget about the end result and discover that there's joy in the process. So be willing to mess up lots of paper and let those paints freely flow. Don't hold back and try not to worry when it doesn't look just as you planned.
In art, we call these events "happy accidents."
Try to find a little bit of good in everything you do, and if someone doesn't like what you're doing, just assume that they're having a bad day and move on. You won't have time to dwell on it anyway because you're too busy being an artist!
3rd Anniversary + 1000 Followers Giveaway! [CLOSED]
Not only am I celebrating my 3rd sketching anniversary, but I'm excited to have reached another small milestone. Scratchmade Journal now has more than 1000 followers on Facebook! To show my appreciation for your amazing support, I've partnered with my favorite local art store, Cheap Joe's Art Stuff, to put together a great little giveaway.
The prize pack includes:
- A large size American Journey Nomad travel tin
- Five pans filled with gorgeous American Journey watercolors
- Extra empty pans to fill with your favorite colors
- Magnetic adhesive strips to attach pans securely in the tin
- A 4x6 Kilimanjaro watercolor block in bright white
- Miller's Pseudo Sable round #4 brush
- A Cheap Joe's pencil, white eraser, portable sharpener & more!
How to Enter: This giveaway is open to legal residents of the U.S. age 18+ with a valid U.S. shipping address. Enter only once from January 18-21, 2018, using the Rafflecopter entry below. Just follow the prompts for each entry. (Complete giveaway rules & policies are located here.)
Facebook Bonus! If you follow SJ on Facebook, feel free to pick up an extra bonus entry. This is not a requirement to enter or win.
How to know if you've won: A winner will be randomly chosen and notified via entry email within 24 hours after the giveaway ends. Winner must respond within 48 hours or another winner will be chosen.
Best of luck to you & happy painting!