Learning outside of SVS Learn [Beginner]

  • Hello everybody!

    As outstanding as SVS courses are, there are not that many of them for absolute beginners. They are very informative and really make it possible to take the first steps on the journey of becoming an illustrator or learning how to draw, but I believe some of us end up in a situation when they need more practice or information on how to guide ourselves to say goodbye to the level of a total beginner one day.

    So, I ask you, SVS community! Do you know how one can improve or have any ideas on how to practice? Is trying to copy drawings from the internet enough? Or is it maybe even wrong, as you may build up bad habits or overlook the process of coming up with composition and structure or something that you do not even know about yet? 🤔

    It can be something that either you have done yourself and are confident about or something you have heard about and want to confront with other artists.

    So, if you have any tips on how to or how to not practice and learn on the beginner to an intermediate level apart from following the SVS curriculum and assignments, please share! 😁

  • @Kiddo Buy Betty Edwards 'drawing on the right side of the brain' then switch your computer off, and go through it from cover to cover, doing all the exercises, to the letter. This will teach you what drawing is all about. Trent Kaniuga (youtube) also has a great gumroad store, 'easy art lessons' sells for literally a couple of dollars, and that will level you up pretty quick. But whichever tuition path you choose, you HAVE to do the exercises, you cannot simply watch people draw to learn art.

    Neither of these will teach you about colour or painting, but there are some decent classes on here that talk about that, and Marco Bucci has some unparalleled videos on youtube, hes a master of colour. The interview with him (paints a picture of a monster in a cave) tells you pretty much all you need to know about value and colour in 45 mins.
    Its slow prohress whichever way you go, but give it the time it deserves and in a couple of years you wont recognise yourself!
    Good luck mate.

  • SVS Team SVS Instructor Pro SVS OG

    Hey there,

    The real trick to learning is to follow some sort of logical progression of training. Starting with step 1 is important and then the next step should be slightly more difficult than that. I can say "how not to practice" is to just randomly try different things without understanding how it relates to the end goal. No one assignment is the way to becoming a good artist. But the right assignment for where you are and what you need next is what is crucial. Is it a master copy? Maybe. Is it a dedicated perspective exercise? possibly. That is why it's hard to get good by doing assignments at random. The right assignment at the right time can literally save you YEARS of frustration.

    That's why we are setting the curriculum in the order that we are. We have seen so many students try and fail due to a lack of any sensible order of how and when to try different things. I'd love to ask why not give our curriculum a shot? It will save you a lot of time and effort vs trying to go it by yourself.

    However you go about it, we wish you the best of luck. : )


  • @gavpartridge Thanks for the suggestions, I'll surely check out the youtube videos you mentioned and take a look at the books! Also, thanks for the last part, it gave me some hope.

    @Lee-White I've never thought about this like that, thank you for your valuable advice. When it comes to the curriculum, I am currently trying that and I love it, but what I meant in the original post was finding something supplementary to that. Although it is very logically structured, sometimes I do not feel good enough to progress as quickly as it suggests.

    I do not mean to say that the pace is too fast - the steps and the levels seem to be arranged perfectly. What I want to say is that I feel I need more practice when it comes to some concepts (i.e. perspective) before I move on to the next ones. With this post, I aimed to find a way to do that apart from doing the same assignments over and over again until I master them. Let me emphasize - they are not too easy nor too difficult (I mean, maybe a bit too difficult, but as you said, that's exactly the point!). I am just afraid that, although at one point I might be able to carry out the assignments well, it still may not necessarily mean I fully got the concept behind then.

    Also, thanks to the curriculum I have learned how to find drawing much more fun and I just wanted to know how to draw on my own and make the most of it learning-wise.

    Thank you both!

  • SVS Team SVS Instructor Pro SVS OG

    @Kiddo We will be offering crits for the individual classes very soon. That way you can get feedback when taking one of our classes to see where you are and what you need to do next. : )

  • @Kiddo I understand your frustration with not knowing if you are ready to take the next step or not. The thing that has been helping me with that is going out and 'doing'. For me 'doing' is the 'practice'. Evaluating what I have done and comparing it to other work lets me see where I need improvement and more practice.

    Here are a couple of things I have been doing to make sure I am 'practicing':

    1. The SVS monthly contest. This is great for a couple of reasons. First, you have to work and get it done on a deadline, so it gets finished. Second, you can compare where you arrived at in the end to others. This gives me ideas about where I can improve next month!

    2. SCBWI monthly contest. I like this one as well for the deadline. Unfortunately, there is no feedback on this one so it is not quite as helpful as the SVS one.

    3. Long term personal project. I have 2 book dummies I am working on. Doing all the things that go into this definitely shows me where I am successful and where I can improve.

    I have never been a person who practices or exercises for their own sake. I want a destination when I bike! Then I can go a long distance and keep it up. Get your practice by doing that thing you want to do... but remember to go back and critically evaluate the result otherwise the learning will be much slower.

  • Here are some general practices I try to follow when learning art:

    1. Listen/read the information as presented by the instructor.

    2. Do any exercises or assignments from that instructor/book!!! A lot of people skip this, and it's arguably the most important part.

    3. Observe the concept in real life and in other artwork. Sometimes I will draw it or do a master study and sometimes I will just try to recognize it in what I'm looking at. Am I learning about cylinders? I will try to recognize cylinder shapes in the world around me and see what's happening visually. That cup over there, what does the top ellipse look like? What does the ellipse look like when I tilt the cup toward or away from me? What does it look like if I'm sitting down, vs standing up? Let me quickly sketch the cup from two different view points, using the perspective method in the course I'm taking.

    4. Seek out another source on the same subject. This isn't always necessary, but is sometimes helpful for concepts you are particularly struggling with. If it's a paid course, many times I will buy a complementary book or just look up some quick youtube tutorial videos. I don't necessarily devote the same amount of time and attention to the complementary source as I do to my primary source, but it helps to have the info displayed in a slightly different manner.

    5. Try to teach or explain to someone else some part of what you're learning. My husband is subjected to quick 1-2 minute mini lessons all the time when I explain to him something I'm learning. He doesn't necessarily learn or remember anything, but it helps me solidify knowledge or recognize things I'm still not understanding."

    6. Ask for critique.

    7. Do your own finished piece based off of what you're learning. It can be a line drawing, a shaded drawing, a painting. It can be simple or complex. It can be just a character, or an object. It can be a spot illustration, or a whole scene. You get to decide what's most applicable. It can be after each lesson, or after the whole course or book. Many times this kind of thing is already built into a course. Even if you feel the piece looks bad in the end, I think it's really important to be applying all the concepts you're learning into a piece of your own making.

    8. Take breaks in order for your mind to absorb and process information. Have one or two days off from learning.

    9. Move on after you've given a subject solid effort and expect to learn more about it in the future. Subjects and courses tend to complement each other, and you will often solidify information about the last subject you were learning in the new subject you are taking. Sometimes something won't quite click right now, but will make more sense a few months down the road.

    10. Let go of perfectionism. This may not apply to your personality, but it applies to many. Of course you want to put in good effort, try your best, and make awesome art. Or course you want to develop the very best methods and habits. But sometimes you won't quite understand something after you've a finished a course. Your drawings will look ugly. You'll pick up some bad habits. It's just a part of the process. You can understand that concept in the future. Your work will slowly get better. You can recognize and change bad habits as you learn more. Keep moving forward and don't let perfectionism stop you.

  • Thank you both, that's exactly what I needed!

    @theprairiefox I have a question about the long term project - do you pay attention to the plot, or do you just come up with a really simple one that serves as a foundation for drawing practice?

    @TessaW the perfectionism part spoke to me very much. I somehow cannot accept when, despite doing my best, the results are horrible. Hearing that it's a part of the process will surely make it easier, as I tend to get discouraged by a lack of immediate results and the idea that it's a bad omen is difficult to escape from. I guess that's what modern culture has done to my generation.

    Thanks for your advice, it will surely help a lot!

  • @Kiddo for me, I have wanted to be both an author and illustrator.

    So, I took a couple of months and did a lot of learning on the writing side. And for the month of November I wrote a story nugget every day (a basic plot idea and brainstorming). That left me coming out of November with 30+ story ideas and using those I decided which was best. I cleaned up two of the ideas, revised, rewrote, etc. until I had a couple of decent manuscripts.

    Another thing you can do, if you don't want to write, is to take a public domain fairy tale and create a book dummy using one of those.

    Here is a helpful link to start from Fairy Tales

    Good luck!

  • Hey : )
    I think the others already said everything important. However I learned the very basics of drawing with this website: https://drawabox.com/ 🙂 It teaches you to move objects in 3D space on paper and I think this is the most important part when it comes to learning how to draw.
    I don't know what your level is right now, so maybe it is way too basic, but I loved this website!
    For painting I really like the Zac Retz Tutorials, also the one from SVS.
    And in the end: yeah, projects are where you probably learn the most, because you can't just stay in your comfort zone but really learn where your weaknesses are and you have to overcome them in order to finish the project.
    I hope that helped a little bit!

  • I wanted to boost something that @Juli said. I learned to draw & paint in a very haphazard way, and eventually it began to show in my work. When I was struggling with fundamentals, I turned to DrawABox and it helped me IMMENSELY. Especially with thinking about plants analytically & working with organic shapes that have weight. I greatly enjoyed the assignments on DrawABox, since it starts with mark-making and continues on from there. The DrawABox community also introduced me to other resources that look promising for when I've finished brushing up on my drawing fundamentals (Ctrl+Paint).

    If you suffer from perfectionism, and disappointment that your work isn't clicking in some way... it can be a wonderful thing to have hands-on instructor feedback every week. You can improve in leaps and bounds with directed feedback than you can from self-directed study. I took a few courses from CGMA, and really enjoyed the experience. CGMA Master Academy is NOT for the faint of heart, but it has a really great foundations program and it is welcoming of all skill levels. It's also expensive. $600-$800 dollars per class, and the schedule for any individual class is very compressed--8 week long courses, with weekly homework turn-ins. I took Dynamic Sketching I and II there, and found myself doing 20-30 hours of homework every week. It was an amazing experience, and I highly recommend checking it out if you have the time & money to do so.

    For me, personally, SVSLearn so far has been the right mix of self-directed study & take-it-at-my-own pace instruction, so I'll also second the recommendation to check out the curriculum classes here.

    Good luck!!