How To Develop Good Drawing Habits

Having some kind of schedule with a deadline will help push you to develop the good drawing habits you’ll need to be a successful storyboard artist — even if it's an entirely arbitrary schedule and deadline you've created for yourself.

Making art — making storyboards, especially — is not as clear-cut as some other jobs out there.

If you’re making a pizza, you bake at 450 degrees for 20 minutes (roughly).

If you’re playing a football game, that’s four 15-minute quarters.

If you’re working at the local grocery store, your shift is booked for 2 to 10 p.m.

But if you’re storyboarding even a short scene, well, that could take minutes. Or hours. Or days.

Having a schedule with a deadline really helps to roadmap the creative process, and keep track of whether you’re ahead, behind, or right on schedule.

A schedule will help show where you could improve on your utilization of time.

It takes time, sure, but if you stick to it over and over, before you know it, you'll produce work faster and faster without sacrificing even a wee bit of quality.

And then, well, you're that reliable person everyone wants to hire.

When coming up with a schedule, consider getting the day started as early as possible — see if you can beat the sun to rising.

Getting up early is a great way to work distraction-free, before taking on any other commitments, and starting out this way also helps set a pace for the rest of your day and keeps you thinking about art throughout.

Here's what a day toiling away at strengthening your visual storytelling craft might look like:

  1. 1
    You'll get the first few drawings — the bad ones that need to be burned off before the good ones can come out — out of the way early, over breakfast. No really. Fill up a sketchbook page with your morning cup of coffee, your eggs and toast, or whatever's in front of you while your brain remembers what awake is.
  2. 2
    Catch up on news, deal with the dogs, etc. Then, sit back down for some more focused practice. This doesn't have to be something you're struggling with, but hey, it certainly could be. It could also just be something you're looking to build on or trying to approach in a different way.
  3. 3
    If drawing's not your means of making a living, go do whatever you need to do, and skip ahead later to No. 4. And if you do make your living drawing, well, you're hopefully all warmed up now, so it's time to start thinking about whatever's on your doodle-to-do list, and getting down to the business of getting it done. Get comfortable — you are going to be here a while.
  4. 4
    It's been a day. Take a walk, make some dinner, and knock off the stuff that needs knocking off before you can call whatever's left of your evening yours. Now is maybe a good time to spend a couple hours working on something that isn't whatever you spent your day on.
  5. 5
    Pencils down. G'night.

(Do keep in mind that everyone’s mileage is going to vary, but take the above and use it as a guide while giving some thought as to what your own daily drawing schedule might look like.)

After a while of working hard at those drawing fundamentals, eventually, things will start to click for you.

Maybe it'll be anatomy, and the flow of one body part into another on that one figure drawing in the corner of that one sketchbook page will be just… perfect.

Or maybe it'll be perspective and looking at the scene you've laid out, you’ll be able to say with absolute certainty… that's some deep stuff.

Those are milestone moments, for sure, but it's important to remember not to stop there.

Once you can get something right, you have to keep going until you can nail it every time. And then, you'll have to keep going still, because you don't ever want to get rusty.

Example Exercise

When you get up in the morning and you make yourself that customary cup of coffee, draw it while you drink from it.

Turn it, tilt it (careful not to spill it), and use whatever items you have handy that make marks (pencil, pen, marker — if you have a clean brush, you could even use the coffee).

You can do this digitally as well, if that's your preference.

It really doesn't matter what materials you use to do it — it only matters that you do it.

Do it every morning until you're sick of it. Then, do it some more.

If need be, you could probably swap out the coffee cup for something else. It really is less about the object and more about the act.

We're working on habit-building here.

Sometimes, especially during stretches where you feel like everything coming off your pencil is crap (and there will be many of those days — they don't ever actually go away), getting started is the hardest bit.

But by drawing your cup of coffee, you've gotten that first volley of visuals out of the way before you've even shaken off the fog of sleep.

You've studied shape and form, and a half-dozen other things critical to progressing as a visual artist, and you've done it before you're even all the way awake.

You're now warmed up for whatever else the day's doodling might throw at you.

Stick with this for a couple of weeks and see if your work's not at least a little bit stronger for it.

If nothing else, you'll know how to make a great cup of coffee.
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