The 'how', 'what' and 'why' of drawing practice.

  • SVS OG

    @MichaelaH â™Ĩ Yes!! Doing more is definitely better. Your idea of breaking a larger project down into different themes is actually very clever. It's given me ideas to make my practice more interesting. Thank you!

  • @ShannonBiondi So, there is a lot of good in your plan. I would say don't wait until Sept. 5 minutes at a time can make a difference. If you only draw when you have two hours I think it will be difficult to establish a lifetime practice.
    The other is, I would suggest you be willing to revisit your plan every few months. There are many, many paths. I also would say that even in your early stages you can try to create a finished piece, maybe only once a month, and compare to some of your dream artists to see where you are getting closer and where you need focus. Depending on how you execute learning you will face different limitations on finished pieces and if you aren't trying to execute finished pieces you will have blinders on as to what those are. Finished pieces are also benchmarks and the "Exams" of your practice.
    As always, your mileage may vary. Good luck and look forward to seeing your progress.

  • SVS OG

    @ThisKateCreates Hi Kate!! That's actually a really good point about finished pieces. Hadn't thought of that. I'm going to add doing one finished piece a month to my schedule. Thanks!

    Re starting now, I totally agree and I am already studying. But I'm doing some SVS classes at the moment and establishing the habit/routine of sketching every day. It's going really well and I've almost filled a sketchbook in the last month. I'm drawing on average around an hour a day at the moment.

    My plan is to do a few more classes over the summer and then I'll launch into this schedule in September. 🙂

    As for routinely re-evaluating the drawing schedule, yes yes yesssssss! 😃 I had written it a few months ago, reopened it today and changed sooooo much of it before posting. After drawing daily for a month, I realised so many of my goals were way too high, etc. So I know you're dead right with that one.

    Thanks for the encouragement 🙂

  • Thank you for posting this schedule, @ShannonBiondi !! I think it will be a really helpful tool for me to utilize.

    I think illustration/art should be treated as any big undertaking or project. If you aren't meeting certain milestones, it's helpful to see where you might be getting hung-up or not progressing as you had hoped/planned. Also, if you plan on going forward professionally, I would imagine it is good practice to get use to meeting different deadlines.

    For me, I try to have two dedicated days to just solely focus on tutorials/reading books. The rest is practice, practice, practice. I have also fallen victim to investing to much time in watching and not "doing."

  • SVS OG

    @djly Hiya! I'm glad you found it useful.

    I know art is all about creativity and this schedule might feel very regimented to some but like you said, it's important to approach getting good at drawing like any other large task and plan it! 🙂 Especially if your goal is to do it professionally.

    Here's to us both achieving those milestones! And well done on spotting that you were watching lots of tutorials and not drawing enough. I think it's a very common trap and almost everyone I've spoken too has said they had a period where they fell into it!

  • @ShannonBiondi Hi Shannon, this is a great thread, and the PDF you've put together is so well thought out and structured. I am one to plan my study time to that extent as well, so this approach is definitely right up my alley. Similar to what you've described, having structure gives me confidence that I'm on the right path. I apologise in advance for my long reply. :smiling_face_with_open_mouth_cold_sweat:

    In the past, I often had the same pitfalls already described in this thread:

    • Too many tutorials, and little to no action,
    • Planning thoroughly, and then being daunted by my own timetable,
    • Going too long doing studies exclusively without producing any original work to show for it.

    I've countered those by setting these guidelines for myself. They're working for me so far!:


    • work on original ideas (I could be at any stage of the illustration. It could just be thumbnailing, even.)


    • 1 finished illustration
    • 1 master study
    • at least 4 hours of SVS class work
    • at least 4 hours of iterative drawing for a single subject (e.g. heads/hands/feet/features, etc.)
    • watch/read tutorials either while on commute, or while I'm also creating simultaneously.

    The study time is hard to fit in if I have commissions that I'm working on at the same time - which I currently do - and it leaves me with less time to hang out with friends, sadly. That's the path I've picked, however, and my friends have only ever been supportive.

    Other notes:

    • I use the Pomodoro technique as well, @MichaelaH, and I love it, haha. I use this for when I'm telling myself I'm too tired to work on something for the day.
    • I need to end each night leaving something half-finished that I'm excited about continuing work on the next day. It takes away the discomfort of waking up in the morning and thinking "ARGH, new project, blank canvas!" It is so much easier for me to keep my momentum this way.
    • I regularly journal about what's working about my practice methods and what could be improved upon.
    • Two sketchbooks: one for copies/studies, and one for everything else: my doodles, my journal entries, etc.
    • I keep myself accountable to someone other than myself.

    Man, sorry for the long post. I love this stuff. XD

  • SVS OG

    @animatosoor No apology needed! I loved your long post and seeing what you do to keep yourself on track! 😃

    I had never heard of the Pomodoro technique but now that I've googled it, I realise it's something I've been doing too! My goal is to draw a minimum of 2hrs each day but because I work, I find it hard to get a full 2hr block, so I split it up into 15min, 20min, 30min or if I'm lucky 1hr chunks...

    You seem to have a great schedule thought out. Having read your and Kate's comments, I realise I should probably include more finished pieces or personal projects - even if it's juts one or two a month to start with. How long does your master study take you? And how do you chose what subject to pick for your iterative drawings? Is it influenced by your finished illustration?

    Also, I really like the idea of going to bed having started something. I used to do that with writing when I was younger and it really does help...just never thought of applying it to drawing.

    Re not having as much time to hang out with friends, it's a tough sacrifice to make but like Will, Jake and Lee always say, these things are necessary if you want to get good at anything you're learning. It makes sense that the spare time you spent with friends, or watching Netflix are going to be the hours that will now need to be used for drawing practice. Because presumably, everything else that you one does during the day cannot be done away with, like work, groceries, cleaning...whatever those things might be!! 🙂 Fair play for making the sacrifice. And well done to your friends for being so supportive 🙂 🙂

  • @ShannonBiondi I'm glad you liked the post, hehe.

    When I used to work at a full-time job (non-art related), I had to do the same thing as you and chunk my time. I oftentimes did only 15- 30 minutes of drawing on long work days when I had to go to the office early and leave for home late.

    I wholeheartedly agree with @ThisKateCreates's thoughts on finished work. I've framed it in my mind as "studies = my training, and finished work = my playing field." The playing field is where I will apply the techniques and new information I've learnt during my studies. It's where I "perform." My emphasis on it in my own journey might be very strong (as evidenced in my other thread, lol) because of my own anxieties. That's always a possibility, and I realise that a different thing altogether might apply to you or somebody else who doesn't have that particular anxiety when it comes to their art. Yours might just need to be one a month, as you said, and it might be perfect for you!

    It's awesome that you mentioned that about your writing habit; I remember reading once that a famous writer had that exact habit, and he put it forth as a great way to stay in the habit of creating day after day.

    For master studies: I would typically take about 5 hours for a master study, and it might be longer if it's a complex image that challenges lots of my weaknesses. Typically I would only choose an image for my master study after deciding on a single problem I want to tackle. If I have trouble painting a child's head, and like how Bouguereau has done it, I would do a master study of that. After that, the next time I have to paint a child's head that I've drawn on my own, I might try and paint it as if he would have himself. My focus for some other study might just be the colours/light in that scene, without any concern for the actual drawing or painting technique.

    For iterative drawings: I would choose the subject matter in the same way. I would opt to draw the skull in profile only over and over again if I have found that I have been struggling with profile views. After that I might draw different male heads in profile view.

    How do you currently go about them?

    And I agree, supportive friends and family are a boon to many of us. ðŸŒŧ

  • SVS OG

    @animatosoor Yeah 😞 I soooooo wish I had more time to draw. BUT! I'm going to be taking all of August off and maybe some of September so that's going to be amaaaazing! I plan on locking myself up in a room and doing nothing but drawing ðŸĪŠ Haha!

    Hmm...well at the moment I'm doing David Hohn's Heads and Hands class so most of my iterative practice has been either single features of the face from different angles or the face in its entirety from different angles. I tend to do that type of practice while I'm in work and save things I can do digitally, like master studies, for the evening when I'm at home on the sofa. 5rs is good! Well done! I've only done 2 master studies but they were very simple ones and I didn't really have a purpose, other than finding them pretty. Lol. Not an ideal, sole criteria.

    I have this idea (which I think is a total misconception) that master studies have to be of famous paintings for some reason. I'm wrong there, right? I think the word 'master' misleads me! Could I do master studies of artists who work in a more comic book style? Like for example, could I do master studies of Juanjo Guarnido, who created the characters of Blacksad?

    Thanks for all the helpful advice!

  • @ShannonBiondi All that time you're going to get for drawing sounds amazing! ☚

    As for choosing master studies that were pretty, I did that a lot when I was younger too. XD Having a specific problem in mind before choosing a painting to study would be very helpful.

    Master studies really, really do not have to be of famous paintings. I thought in a similar way back in the day. Will Terry has mentioned how important it is to choose children's book illustrators who are doing well and whose style you like, and copying those images for the purpose of learning. Lee mentions the same in his Dream Portfolio class, and Jake mentioned once that he used to copy Mike Mignola (I hope I remembered that fact correctly). I would say you absolutely have the right idea if you're thinking of studying work by the Blacksad creator. 🙂

    I hope this helps!

  • SVS OG

    @animatosoor Awesome! Thank you so much!! You've helped me a lot 🙂

  • Very interesting and thanks for sharing Shannon! I am glad itt is working for you.
    For me, a 3-year plan is very very intimidating. And I tend to react strongly against tasks and goals, even self-imposed - probably because my professional life is already filled with so many tasks and deadlines. And I know that the absence of planning and objectives does not help me to get better in my art. Does anybody feel that? How did you find the solution? Many thanks!

  • @ShannonBiondi Your spreadsheet is amazing-and very detailed.

    I made something quite a bit less detailed last November, casting my plans for 2019. Like you, I based this on Jake's recommendation for "what to do BEFORE going to art school"-plotting out the foundation, etc. It was really helpful to me in a recent podcast where he said, when asked "how long might this take"-that "4 years" was the estimate. That put this in perspective for me. Marathon, not sprint.

    i do check in and review the plan/make adjustments. And I'm in the 2nd half of this year, and have only done 50% of the "fundamental classes"--I should course-correct. But I've taken on 2 new classes, with a bit of hope and a tinge of regret as they are not related to fundamentals. (One on stories for comics/graphic novels; the other on inking--both get me closer to the mountain of my goal of 6 sequential images telling some kind of story by the end of the year).

    Acknowledged-many of my loved ones can't read my handwriting-so hopefully you can get the ghist of the plan!

    Susan Mountain 2019.jpg Susan Mountain 2019.jpg

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    @Julia Hi Julia! I started off hating 'do to' lists, or task lists/schedules just like you. When I was growing up, my mother was obsessed with lists and ticking things off them so it made me hate them because I always felt like I had a mountain of things to do.

    I think the problem with my mother's lists was that it never felt there was an end to them. Once one thing was ticked off, another was added. Maybe that's how you feel if you have tasks and schedules in work too?

    I initially solved it by making my lists reasonable and giving them a sense of finality. So when it was done, it was done. I also encouraged myself with a reward at the end of a set goal (like if I stuck to my schedule for a week, I'd go to the cinema, or order a pizza...whatever small thing you like and don't get to do much). After a while, I started seeing the schedule as something positive and now I don't need any external motivation to stick to it.

    I also started prioritising my drawing schedule over other things. And I keep it completely separate, both physically and in my mind, to my other work/life 'to do' list because I find that one stressful!!!!!

    Also, maybe not writing it down will help you. Having a more flexible schedule in your mind could be less daunting?

    Hope some of this helps!!!

  • SVS OG

    @Susan-Marks Hi Susan! Ooooo...I love your timeline at the bottom. That's a really great way of visualising your progress!!!! Also had no trouble reading your writing.

    You're doing really well with the fundamentals classes! And I think we've learned a lot from the Heads and Hands class. Not only about drawing heads and hands but also about light and value...

    Glad we both have a similar schedule going 😃

  • @ShannonBiondi and @Susan-Marks these are great examples of plans to help those who are easily distracted/diverted from an intended goal!

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