I'm discovering more and more that learning complex skills like drawing on your own with no teacher takes a lot of discipline and has millions of potential pitfalls...
There is no such thing as too much practice besides overexertion. I do not understand the concept of mental overexertion. My mind never feels drained and I have never become physically ill from mental overexertion. I've been through hell and back so it's definitely not that I've just never had to work that hard mentally. I guess within the year I will find out if I'm really an exception to this rule, because I am drawing like hell.
Anyhow, I discovered that when you have a teacher you simply do as you're told until you get good. As long as you trust and believe in your teacher, you succeed.
Self teaching is a lot more complex. Modern school systems weren't developed overnight you know, they've worked on this for god knows how long. Self teaching is an actual skill. The same way as teaching well is a skill. And there's a lot more to this than most of us realize...
I have come to learn quite a bit about this skill over the years, but especially these past few months.
The less you know something, the harder it is to get yourself to try to do it, and no matter how much you know about something, unless you have experienced doing it with your hands, successfully putting what you know into practice, you will continue to struggle getting started.
This last part in particular is what makes drawing difficult. You can easily read all the best books in the world about drawing b, understand and fully memorize all of them, but then sit down in front of a paper and the best things that you can draw are stick figures and... Blobby looking things....
Drawing is not a logical skill like say programming or driving.. It's a conceptual skill, drawing and other visual art forms (like say sculpting) are skills where no matter how much of the logic, science or techniques you know, you will only get good by practicing it to the point where you don't have to think about it anymore. The point where you just feel it, you even start to see the lines before ypu draw them (like a mirage) this started happening to me the other day for the first time (unfortunately these mirages aren't always correct though, but drawing isn't about correctness, imperfections make things look more real!!) These are the kinds of things you obtain after practicing drawing enough, it's like a new sense, a feeling, not knowledge, although you certainly need that to, the knowledge fades into the background, the things you know become like second nature to you after you practice enough and for most skills, this would be secondary, logic is sufficient for most tasks, but for drawing, knowing things by heart is vital, it's primary. It's not enough to know, you need to know SO well that you don't even have to think it. This is doubly trye for drawing from imagination.
I know this one amazing mangaka called boichi (check sun-ken rock. Look at the crazy insane absurd level of detail, never seen anything like this in a manga, and are you kidding with the anatomy knowledge? Not only does he draw every muscle, but on faces you can basically see the bones under the skin if you know to look for them! It's nuts!) And like a certain artist /rant (
) he doesn't seem to even realize his own greatness. I remember a part where he said he adored the author of trigun (who sure enough is amazing too) and how he could never make something as amazing as the trigun manga, and there I sit dumbfounded because I think sun-ken rock is much better than trigun
I loved both but Sun-Ken rock is a top 5 for me, trigun is like top 20 although I admit trigun was slightly more creative, but sun-ken rock was more grounded...
Eh hem... Moving on, I noticed something about this amazing mangaka. For basically every single background and most (if not all!) Poses/characters he used reference.
Even if he knows human anatomt from skin to bone like the back of his hand, and could definitely draw at least the characters from imagination, he's willing to work this crazy hard for every frame! He goes as far as to travel to rome and rent a fucking hotel suite just to gather reference material (I thought I was active taking 500+ pics in Lijiang... This guy took 2000+ pics in rome
) this is some extreme level of professionalism, guy is passionate asf!
But my point here is that some people truly struggle to draw things without reference, this is nothing to be embarrassed about, in fact take pride in using reference for all your work. It's the professional thing to do.
Then there are these others
(me!) Who really just want to draw from imagination and not bother with some pain in the ass reference gathering, we don't like to copy as much as we like to create from nothing. Get off your fucking high horse and use reference like everyone else!! They couldn't get good without reference and neither can you!!
Drawing well, regardless of medium is a matter of convincing the viewers eyes that they're looking at something that could exist in 3 dimensions, regardless of how well their mind knows it's fake. To achieve this, no matter the style you want to draw in, you have to ground yourself in drawing reality first and then work your way down from there. You can't do it the other way around because you'll always be missing something and every viewer (yourself included) will see it.
The biggest pitfall of self teaching art is to go straight for style “anime style is easier„ is a beautiful lie, it's only a half truth because they skip telling you that to be capable of drawing anime style, every Japanese animator had to learn to draw realistic first. It's only easy AFTER you learn the harder way.
The better you are at drawing realistically the more easily and faster you can draw stylized drawings. Your quality is higher, your speed is higher, everything goes more smoothly if you are good at drawing realistically first.
In other words, the only way to get those “easy„ styles right is to learn the most difficult one first. No style.
The biggest pitfall I see people falling into when trying to self-teach art is ignoring these things even if I knew this pretty much from day 1, I managed to fall into it for a while.
Practicing in a style as opposed to without one is seductive in more ways than one. It fools you it's an easier way to practice... See for example my practice with faces and skulls. Sure I got good with skulls and ok with faces (stylized anyways) but there's something missing isn't there?
My yellow skull looks deceptively good. But there are two major issues. The big one is that I could only draw skulls from a completely flat, dead-on view. This took two weeks of practice, and while there was great progress every day, I wasn't getting better at drawing.
I was getting better at drawing skulls from a completely flat front view, specifically that, and only that, I tried to draw a face afterwards and it looked like something worse than a 6 year old's drawing, true nightmare fuel “that's weird, knowing the skull should at least give me some level of anatomy right?„ that's right, but I didn't learn the skull I learned the rough shape of a skull from a front view... Not the same thing. I studied the skull the other day, I don't know the first thing about it! Everytime I look at a skull I see things I never knew about them, things I never drew. Things I thought were decorations or damage which were actually part of the anatomy pop up everywhere!
I drew a couple of skulls with a regular pen and I think they look much better than any of my fully rendered skulls, they have more imperfections which somehow makes them look better. I started studying the anatomy of the skull, know the skull better, so I can draw it better. Still not good enough.
I repeated all the same mistakes with faces too this time I think for a month
I essentially fooled myself into thinking I was getting better, I wasn't learning anything, I was hardly even using reference.
That's the lie you tell yourself when practicing this way (it looks better so surely I must be better)
But the harsh reality is that to get good this way, you have to repeat this process for your subject from every possible angle which could take a month each, 1 year to learn to draw just one thing from any angle... No thanks, I don't wanna be good when I am 80, I wanna be good yesterday
So that's just not gonna work out. Then I ended up just practicing the conventional way and voila, I am improving at drawing in general instead of getting good at drawing one super specific thing from a super specific angle
but progress is slower and more difficult to achieve
But when it comes, you really see it. And more importantly, feel it.
However, where self-teaching becomes a skill, besides pinpointing your best route that is, is learning to understand yourself better.
There are always going to be times where you reach a wall, sometimes you lack the power to break through that wall, progress is halted and you no longer feel like drawing, because you want to get better, but if you keep doing what you were doing you are stuck. To move on you need to switch things up and practice something different until you gain the power to break through the wall, then you can come back and crush it when you feel it's time.
These moments are EXTREMELY dangerous, because at this point you risk stopping entirely for a huge period of time. Like has happened to me many times. It's essentially art block, you want to get better but don't know what direction to take because you can't keep improving by doing the same exact thing over and over. These are the do or die moments and adapting to these situations is key to successful self teaching because you cannot discipline yourself the same as a teacher can. You have to feel like doing it or you will stop sooner or later. You can't force yourself forever.
For this reason alone you are the worst teacher you could have. Self discipline feels to me like it's a myth (maybe I am just incompatible with it, I can't be forced into doing something (by me or anyone else) and be happy at the same time, can you? I have the willpower to force myself to do things, but it only works short term, long term, if it fails even one day, you lose it all... It's overrated). Habit and hobbies/feeling like it and just doing it are not myth but you cannot discipline yourself into building a habit as easily as someone else can. All it takes is one stray thought and you can kiss your so called discipline goodbye, the trick I found around this is to literally brainwash yourself to think of the thing as fun, not as work. If it's just for fun uwith no pressure you will feel like doing it more often.
I successfully did this with art. Somehow
So to summarize:
*Self-Teaching is a skill (and can only be learned through practice)
*Self-teaching is the worst way to learn (due to the requirement of self-discipline involved, being disciplined is s lot more effective than disciplining yourself)
*The only exception to the previous rule is for skills which you have obsession tier levels of interest in or just really enjoy practicing.
*For Self-teaching it's vital to find the best path to learn (and sometimes, this is the conventional way, with art, after 3 years or so, I believe this is the case with art, save yourself the trouble of looking elsewhere.)
*The most important subskill of Self-teaching is to adapt to situations where your progress is stunted (i.e. You stop improving) by finding new things or ways to practice on-the-fly when you reach these roadblocks.
*Self-teaching of complex skills has millions of potential pitfalls, there are millions of wrong ways to learn things, but only a handful of right/good ways. Don't underestimate conventional wisdoms, they are often right. When in doubt follow convention. Doing it like everyone else is at least a secure way to learn a skill even if it may not be fastest.
* Self-teaching art is brutally hard because it is a conceptual/feeling skill and not a logic skill, you need to train your mind to see the entire world differently, and draw so much that you start having hallucinations of lines before you've drawn them! It requires so many changes to how a regular person's mind works that Self-teaching it feels impossible when you first start (really) trying.
* If you want to learn to draw well, ground yourself by learning to draw realistically first and then stylize afterwards, this is vital to getting good at drawing (but not vital if you just need something mediocre, you know like the guys over at cyanide & happiness, it's not pretty, but it works fine to deliver the narrative, the art is a tool to deliver the story, like letters in a book. The joke is the main course, if this is what you want, go ahead and aim for it from the start, but at least learn 1 point perspective so you can do simple backgrounds.)
* USE REFERENCE!!! (For everything! Even if you don't like it. To draw without reference is earned, not learned. You will never get good if you don't practice with reference, this is guaranteed. This even extends to other skills, when I study new aspects of programming, I need example code, then I rewrite it (don't just read it over, no, I rewrite the whole thing) possibly several times over until I feel I have fully grasped and understood all it's concepts, it's the same thing (just a million times easier))
That's all I have to say for now. I've hit a brick wall with figure drawing, and I have two good choices. Study anatomy or study the application of perspective to figure drawing (aka foreshorteninh) I crucially need both. It's a hard choice, I haven't drawn for 2 days! Because going on with what I was already doing feels pointless, I know I won't improve unless I change how I'm doing it, how I think while I'm doing it, that's what made me feel like writing this.
It was sucking my motivation away, I want to draw to improve, but if I do it the same as before, I won't improve. The thought is essentially traumatic! Gets you thinking shit like “so far to go...„ and “maybe I am just not cut out for this„ (we've already been over this, I am not cut out for this but I also don't give a fuck!! I will do this no matter how hard! Still it comes up damn it!) And even “maybe I will never get good„.
This goes on until I find a solution and get drawing, I found a solution but look at ya boy procrastinating once again
allright it's 2am, time to draw 2 or 3 little shits and go to sleep!
PS: formatting is shit and emoticons are scarce cus I'm doing this on a god damn phone! I think I got thumb cancer from doing this