5 tips to improve your art

Do you ever look at work by your favourite artists and wonder: how are they so good? Well cheer up, the answer isn’t magic!

I remember being at a point in my art career where I felt stagnant. It didn’t seem like I was getting any better. So when I saw some of my favourite artists post pictures of their art ten years ago and their art now, I couldn’t help but wonder how in the world did they get so good! After some research, I found out that a lot of their tips weren’t too different from what I’d already been doing.

1. Draw from reference

It’s very important to use references to improve, no matter what type of art you’re making (unless you’re doing abstract, which is a different ball game). References help you know what your subject is supposed to look like, so that you can afterwards change what you want to change. There’s nothing wrong with having your own style, but make sure you’re intentional with what you do. Don’t draw a disproportionate hand simply because you never bothered learning how to draw a proportionate hand. If your hand looks somewhat inhuman, make sure it’s intentional and not accidental.

Small wooden mannequin
My wooden mannequin

2. Copy (or steal) from other artists

Yes, you read that right! Don’t worry, there’s no art police that will come after you if you follow this tip. Many artists have the conscious or unconscious burden of producing something completely original. Well guess what? Even the greatest artists out there are ever 100% original. They all get inspired by something or someone. This tip is one of the biggest ways I was able to improve, because by copying art I indirectly studied the techniques used to produce that piece, which helped me learn how to implement them in my own work. Now, I’m not saying to reproduce someone’s work and credit it as your own. That will get you in trouble.

3. Learn consciously

Wait, can you even learn unconsciously? Yes, you can, by following tip #2. In tip #3, I encourage you to really be intentional with your learning. Watch tutorials, study art books, take classes, etc. Put yourself in the literal position of a student learning from a teacher. You can definitely pick up some tricks by copying someone’s work, but it won’t beat that person literally telling you how they created an effect or what helped them achieve their end result. In today’s day and age, there are tons of resources – both free and paying – to help you improve your art. So get learning!

Art book from Saturday AM
Art book by ©Saturday AM

4. Experiment

Don’t be afraid to try new things. If you’ve mastered drawing eyes and want to keep doing just that because it’s what you’re comfortable with, you won’t grow much. Even if you decided to make eyes your niche and that’s what you will specialize in, there is still a lot you can do when it comes to colours, brush strokes, realism and so on. Try to draw something with really rough strokes, or just in black and white, or from a particular angle. Some might come out really bad, and that’s OK. But others might end up being your next masterpiece (or somewhere close to it).

5. Repeat

Ever heard of “Practice makes perfect?” It’s because it’s true. All of the world’s top artists didn’t get where they are without a ridiculous amount of practice. Just like with any skill, the more you do it, the better you get at it. Try to consecrate time every day, or at least every other day, to making art. It isn’t always easy, especially with the busy lives we lead, but it’s what makes the difference between good artists and exceptional artists.