Why daily sketching doesn’t work

Woodsman_COLORYou know how important it is to draw every day, if you want to improve as an artist. But more importantly, you need to keep a forward momentum and draw the hard stuff.

A lot of artists share daily sketches on Twitter and Facebook. While that’s a perfectly valid thing to do, I see one common problem with most of these sketches – they are all very good! The problem here is that the artist has sat down with a blank piece of paper and drew whatever he felt like, whatever image he had in his mind.

Let’s imagine you were to do the same. Wonder what image would pop up?

I’ll take a wild guess: Character shot.

Whether it’s a macho superhero, a funny animal or a sexy robot, the problem with that image is exactly that it came from inside your head. And let’s face it: not much new comes from inside your head.

I used to only draw muscular guys with swords and dragons. While I did get slightly better at drawing guys with swords and dragons, this daily exercise didn’t help me get better at drawing. Not by a long shot.

What DID make me better, was being forced to draw stuff I didn’t already know how to draw, the “boring” stuff like flowers in a vase, and the hard stuff, like a street full of houses and cars and trees and people .

Unless you push yourself and draw from life, study and copy from photo reference and other artwork, you’ll only be maintaining your drawing muscle, not improving it. When it’s really hard and frustrating – THAT’S when you’re on your way to getting better.

Imagination is overrated. You need input to produce output – even original, fresh and innovative output!

Sketching daily only works if you push yourself to draw the stuff you can’t.

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11 Responses to “Why daily sketching doesn’t work”

  1. Mateusz March 13, 2015 at 3:41 pm #

    That’s so much true. After 20 years of break from drawing, I started doing it again a year ago and I’m so much into it since then. For most of the time I was focused on drawing urban locations, but recently decided to go with drawing people. I’m drawing a lot lately, mostly “people in motion” at cafe’s, in the park etc. and I can see a difference already.
    Great blog Palle! Found it by accident couple of weeks ago and been following it eversince. World is so small. I’ve been studying at DTU in Lyngby for 2,5 years and also in one of your blogs you mentioned you went somewhere into a deep sh.. hole in relation to a windmill industry… My colleague, with whom I was studying a DTU is working there, but I don’t think he was at the time when you went there. Anyway. Keep it up and all the best!

    • Palle Schmidt March 14, 2015 at 2:36 pm #

      Thanks Mateusz!

      I’m not too sure I know what windmill thing you’re talking about, but I’ve worked for the wind industry on a few occasions, recently at Bella Center here in Denmark last week. Maybe that’s what you’re thinking about.

      Thanks again, glad to hear you’ve picked up the pen again!

      • Mateusz March 14, 2015 at 3:01 pm #

        sorry, I meant one of your podcasts (not blogs). On one of your first podcasts you mentioned you were somewhere far to the north as far as I remember in related to a presentation for a company in the energy/windmill sector if I remember correctly.

        • Palle Schmidt March 14, 2015 at 4:45 pm #

          Riight, I vaguely remember that. I sometimes get hired to do speed drawing at corporate events, I’m not affiliated with the wind industry although I sympathize with the idea of cleaner energy.

          • Mateusz March 15, 2015 at 8:45 pm #

            Ok. Thanks.
            Anyway, quick question – I know it probably depends… (as do most things in life), but if you had to recommend for a beginner in creating comics (writing and drawing), what type/length of a comic would you recommend to start with? Here (http://litreactor.com/columns/dont-write-comics-how-to-write-comics-part-1) I found a number of “types” of comics and was wondering for an absolute starter, with no connections to other artists, producers etc. what do you think should be the first thing to go with, which would:
            1. give you a good idea what comic creations is really about and how demanding it is?
            2. allow for the end result to be noticed and used for verification with readers, other artists (like e.g. you) or producers?

          • Palle Schmidt March 16, 2015 at 10:03 am #

            Hey Mateusz,

            I would recommend getting started with something really, really short to build your skills and your confidence. 1-10 page stories, with a beginning, middle and end. If you want to be noticed, you need to produce good work, consistently. As for what type of story, focus on telling the stories that YOU want to draw rather than try to please an obscure audience. Your work will be so much better if you’re passionate about it, so follow your own interests!

            I did a podcast episode that goes a little deeper into how I would go about it if I was starting out today. You can listen to that here: https://comicsforbeginners.com/8-steps-comics-success/

            Hope this is helpful.

            Thanks again!

  2. Mateusz March 16, 2015 at 12:14 pm #

    Hey Palle,

    it is. Thank you! I am thinking of course about something I like and am passionate about. I don’t want to go into a topic/genre that I don’t dig only because it’s mainstream or sth 🙂
    I will listen to the podcast you mentioned and will get back here if I still have any doubt 🙂


  3. Bobby Kemp April 1, 2015 at 12:26 pm #

    This article is interesting because I never thought about this particular subject matter of drawing the hard stuff. Maybe you do a list of “difficult things to draw” challenge for a video, article, or podcast to help artists get into the groove. That’s sure to help motivate and inspire people, especially myself. I think it also can help people learn to use reference images rather than just drawing completely from memory alone. (though that’s not always a bad thing in some case.) Just an idea I’m sharing with you 🙂 thanks for this article. I’ll be sure to apply this lesson.:-)

    • Palle Schmidt April 1, 2015 at 9:41 pm #

      Good idea, Bobby! Although the “hard stuff” is different for each person. For me it’s cars and horses! I guess whatever you feel like NOT drawing is exactly what you SHOULD be drawing!

  4. Russell Greene June 1, 2015 at 10:49 pm #

    Hi Palle,
    I found your site the other day and joined. I’m not a professional artist, much less a comic artist, but I do love drawing and maybe one day I’ll attempt a comic. There is one quote that has stuck with me after I read it on some obscure site some years ago that seems appropriate. “Practice does NOT make perfect. PERFECT PRACTICE makes perfect.” Vince Lombardi (American) Football coach. You can practice half-assed all day long and the best you will get is half-assed results, but you can only get better if you aspire and work to be better. It really has made a difference of how my drawings have improved over the years, although it works equally well for anything that needs practice to improve upon.

    Thanks for your tutes. I’ve learned quite a lot in a short time. BTW, did you study in the USA? Your English(American accent) is impeccable. Your command of the language is better than half the people that live around me.


    • Palle Schmidt June 3, 2015 at 11:07 am #

      Thanks for the kind words, Russ!

      No, I haven’t studied in the US, but I’ve been over there a lot, especially these past few years. I studied (British) English at the university some 20 years ago. I think I picked up that accent mainly through movies and television 🙂

      Thanks for sharing your insights!


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