You may not know, but I’ve been keeping a specific sketchbook for doing studies and following tutorials.  My thinking is that when I use that sketchbook, I already am approaching that drawing from a perspective of ‘time to improve’.  Alternatively, I’m also using a different sketchbook with the intention of pushing my imagination and trying out ideas.  But more on that another time.

I’ve really enjoyed it so far.  As an artist, it can be hard to find the motivation to create when you put pressure on yourself.  That normally, for me anyway, is the feeling of wanting to be creative or good enough.  More specifically, the fear of not being creative or good enough.

By following tutorials and doing studies of both pictures and other people’s drawings, it’s like erasing two metaphorical birds with one pencil.  If you focus on the intentional recreation of something, you can immediately disregard the pressure of creativity, if you want, which can help with motivation.  (Some people use references as studies for developing their own style, but I’m talking about faithful, look-a-like studies here.)  At the same time, you will be fueling the growth of your drawing skills.

[As an interjection real quick, I plan on writing a “Five Ways to Improve your Art” blog, or something along those lines.  Basically a blog with links to resources and different tips I’ve found that can help you continue to build your skills and artistry.  Stay tuned!]

I like to jump around between things I know I need to get better at, like dynamic poses and clothing folds, and things that are fun and still good to learn, like miscellaneous objects and animals.

Reference Horse Study

For example, I felt really inspired to draw some horses.  It was tempting to go and sketch what I think horses look like, but instead I chose to practice how they actually look.  Both options would be fun, but I’m really trying to make an effort to get better.  I find that there are a lot of great resources created by other artists when it comes to anatomy.  You do have to be careful, sometimes, to make sure they’re a reliable resource.

I used a tutorial sheet by Smirtouille on DeviantArt for my horses above, and I definitely want to revisit it in the future.  Learning how to draw doesn’t happen overnight, but doing studies definitely helps me feel like I’m moving forward.

Do you often do studies?  Or do you keep specific notebooks for different types of drawings?  Let me know below!

I ended up doing something different today.  I recently bought a Faber-Castell Pitt artist pen in black, and have been longing to use it.  While browsing Google searches for ink art, to find some inspiration, I stumbled upon the work of Charles Dana Gibson.

Specializing in inked images of figures, particularly women, he is widely regarded as a master of pen and ink.  If you search his name in Google images you can see why.  His characters feel alive and real.

As I learned at the Library of Congress website, his design of women in the 1890’s became known as the ‘Gibson Girl’.  In fact, it became a cultural icon that set fashion and beauty standards for many years.

The particular illustration I studied is simply known as Head of a Girl, and dates to somewhere between 1893 and 1914.  I followed his example of doing a loose graphite underdrawing and then inking.

Head of a Girl Inking Study

To be honest, I didn’t do much of a sketch first.  As you can see, I have been using an “Inktober Practice Apple” sticky note to warm up and play around with techniques. I did a little thumbnail there, a sketch of the basic face on the right, and went in with my Pitt pen.

The end result is okay.  Gibson’s girl looks alluring in her blasé expression, while mine just looks bored.  But the important thing is that I learned a lot from this study.  It was a fun experience to give structure to the face with simple diagonal lines, and an updo through carefully placed yet loose swoops.

I did get overconfident and less careful by the time I reached the neck, which is why it is, well, a bit tree-trunk-ish.  I tried to fix it, but gave up since it just seemed to make it worse.  Anyways, I look forward to studying more of Gibson’s work to improve my own inking.