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You cannot expect to improve overnight

This is not something that I'm saying to discourage anyone from their art. If anything, I'm trying to motivate you.

In just this board alone, there are 100 pages. 100 pages with 20 threads each. That's 2000 instances of people coming to this board looking for help. Okay, some of those 2000 posts are tutorials, or bits of advice, but most of them are people asking for red lines, or help with lighting and shadows, or in some other way looking to improve their drawing.

Most of them, we never see again. A few people will stick around and post a second or third thread before they disappear. Occasionally, someone will come in here, asking for advice, only to get angry and start shouting and throwing insults at those who try to help them.

None of these behaviours will help you improve; not one jot, not one iota, not at all.

There is no magical short cut that will take your art from a basic sketch to a technically perfect painting over night. You can download every art programme you can find, spend a small fortune on Prismacolor and Tria markers, get the best Wacom Cintiq tablet, but if your quality was poor before you bought those items, it will still be poor after you bought them.

Yes, I am an incredible brand loyalist when it comes to a lot of things. Both my computers and all (with one exception) of my peripherals are HP. I'm in the market for a new tablet, and refuse to buy anything that isn't Wacom. I won't do art in any programme besides SAI. When I do art by traditional media, I use Prismacolor markers and pencils, and occasionally Crayola crayons, and I sketch with Uni-ball coloured pencil leads and Sanford erasers. But the thing is, I've spent YEARS learning how to use these items. I know how those pencil leads work with that particular brand of eraser, and can anticipate how well they will work on a huge variety of paper. I know SAI inside and out, to the point that I could write an instruction manual on it. I've learned how to make very detailed pictures using Crayola crayons, and can get Prismacolor brand markers and pencils to do almost anything I want.

When I bought my first set of Prismacolor markers years and years ago, I had no idea what I was doing. I'd never worked in a wet media before, and kept trying to apply what I knew about pencils to it. Eventually, I gave up, chucked the markers into a box in my closet, and wrote them off as a bad investment. In fact, I hated the results so bad, I don't seem to have actually uploaded anything from it. I went back to my pencils, learned a lot about colour theory and light, just from drawing every day, and got pretty damn good with the things.

And that's why. I drew every. single. day. At that time (late 2006, early 2007), I was living with my partner in the middle of nowhere, had no job, and was manically depressed. The only thing that seemed to really keep my attention was art, so that's what I did. I made art, and marked a huge improvement in that time. In six months, I had gone from this to this. It didn't happen over night, but it did happen quickly. I got into photography as a way of learning about composition and light balance. I started asking my partner to pose for me so I could draw him. I looked up countless books and websites on anatomy and colour theory. The second link still has loads of flaws, but was a vast improvement over the first. My anatomy was getting better, my colours more smooth, if still rather flat, and I'd begun to really get a taste for detail.

At the end of 2008, I found my Prismacolor markers in a box in the closet, and got bored enough to pull them out. By then, I'd learned a lot about colour and light that I felt confident to branch out and try a wet medium again. My first attempt was not fantastic, but it gave me plenty of ideas about how the markers actually worked. I toyed a bit with how the markers and the pencils worked together, and basically just played around and learned how everything went together.

In 2009, SAI was released, and at that point, I'd been trying to get into digital media and was looking for a good programme. Again, I'd made the same mistake with digital that I'd made with the markers, and got one of the more expensive programmes, thinking it would make me awesome overnight.

It did not make me awesome. It overwhelmed and frustrated me. I don't even remember what the programme was, but it had about a billion options too many, and I didn't know how to use any of them. I gave up for a while, went back to my markers, and fell into cell-shading. Which, as it turned out, is something for which SAI happens to be awesome.

Again, my early stuff was not great, but I had used everything I'd learned with pencils and markers as a base, and was able to build up from those principles. By about this time last year, I'd gotten to a point where I was back to fiddly little details everywhere.

That's four years. Four years it took me to get to a level where I was able to be giving more advice than I was asking for. I still get stuck, and I still ask for advice, whether it's here, on ConceptArt, or on dA. Because that's what you have to do if you want to improve; you have to keep going back for advice when you get stuck, and you have to keep working at what you're doing. I am not the best artist on this board. Far from it. I still have huge weak areas in light and shadow, but I work on that by doing a lot of pieces with dramatic lighting. It doesn't do at all to say, "I'm not good at X, so I just don't like to draw it." That's how you wind up with artists who always find ways to hide their characters' hands and feet.

Mess up. Make mistakes. Get things terribly and hideously wrong. Believe it or not, you're learning, even when you do this.

Vary what you draw. Experiment with different poses and environments. Morning light looks different from evening light. Indoor light looks different from outdoor light. If you draw the same thing over and over again, you'll get really good at drawing that, and won't be able to draw anything else.

But most importantly, DRAW. Don't stop. Get a sketchbook and try to fill it in a month. Draw everything you see. Make your partner (if you have one) strip down so you can draw them. Barring that, read books on anatomy. Learn the bones and muscles. Read up on colour theory. Ask for advice, and don't get angry at the people who give it to you. When you finish that piece, you're going to be very proud of it. It will be your baby, and it won't have a single flaw.

Finish six more pieces, and then go back and look at the first. You will see no end of flaws. Look at those flaws, see what they are and why they're wrong, and work out how to avoid doing that in the future. Come back here and offer critique. You'll learn a surprising amount just by looking at what other people are doing. Read the critiques offered to other people. Study the redlines.

TL;DR: You will improve, but you have to make it happen. We can't do anything for you, but if you're willing to listen, we can show you how to make yourself better.


In FAF CAThulu lies dreaming..
^ I approve of this rant.
Yay! But it's not a rant. More of an essay, really.


Hit 'em right between the eyes
I greatly approve of this. Sadly - as ever - the people this is aimed at will never bother reading this.


This is a good thing.

Also, even though I'm not consistent in how often I draw, I find that after I come back from a long break that I change how I do things a bit. I lose a little bit of what I knew before (almost always bad habits, thank god) and have somehow picked up a few good things I've never even done before.

But then again, I'm the kind of person who will be worse if they practice something every day than if I practice every week.


The future Mrs. Schmuck
Thank you for this, Zeddish. While I agree with Toreneko that the people who storm off will never see this, at least those who might come to this section in the future might see it, read it through, and understand that critiques aren't given to ridicule or shame someone.

I find it comical that people who ask for "Constructive Criticism" claim to want to improve, but only see "YOU DID THIS WRONG, YOU DID THAT WRONG, YOU ARE WRONG" when someone with more experience than them points out that an arm is bending the wrong way or that the hands are too small, etc. Then they take that all as insults and storm off, never to pick up a pencil again. What did they think Constructive Criticism meant? Asspats and free cookies for doing a good job? Come on.


This is the most amazing ra- essay ever. For me, anyways..

I've been drawing since I was a little kid, but sadly enough, I was self taught because we couldnt afford art books for me, and now I can't get into Art class at school, heh.. but I still try to draw one thing every day. I improve a little.. I mean, the first drawing I did on Ms paint was.. horrible.. and now I'm somewhat decent. Now I have SAI, and I have NO idea how it works but I fidde around on it with my tablet day by day... but now I'm concentrating on traditional media so I can get better with anatomy and such.

I have my eyes set on some Prismacolors, but I know they won't magically make me amazing... (though I still want them really bad.. my crayola's are crap ;-; )

Also- why the hell wasn't I watching you on FA.
Asspats and free cookies for doing a good job? Come on.

Yesh! Endless asspats pwease!

I do agree with Gaz. There may be a lot who won't see, but hopefully there are the few who will see, use this info wisely and learn to not take things to heart so they can improve their art in whatever way they desire. I endorse this "essay".
A very well written post, and this applies to pretty much every medium of creative work. I figure since I'm posting my work here I'll pitch in. :)

My very first 3d animation was pretty darn bad... it had floating objects, rigid rigs, jarring snapping movements and TONS of clipping (objects moving through other objects).

2 years later, my latest animation (Delura EP 2) emerges and the contrast between the two is pretty astounding, but I still consider myself very new to the field and I definitely need a lot of improvement still. Keep in mind though, that I did not-so-great 2d animation and crappily made 2d art well before I even touched 3d stuff... overall, i've spent around 7 years experimenting, refining, and applying the skills i've learned... and by 7 years I mean from the first moment I became interested in art (making my first real drawing) to right now. I'm not saying it takes that long to do great work as people learn at different rates or have obstacles in their lives that take them away from their interests... I'm just saying it has to be something that's always present in your mind... something where if you were asked to sit down and do it for 10 hours a day without any consequences, you'd get all tingly inside. There are levels of interest/skill in various artists, but if you want to be more than mediocre then that's how it is... it has to be a big part of your life... part of what identifies who you are.

The point is, the learning process NEVER stops. If you're expecting to get to a level where you feel comfortable with your work, expect it to take about 5-10 years before the average person will begin to realize how skilled of an artist you are. Its difficult starting out... there is so much that you don't know, so much that has to be tempered with frustration and patience. If you tell yourself "everyone has gone through this learning process at some point", it helps a little bit.
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Nothing New Under the Sun
This applies more than to just art. You could apply this to anything you do, although the essay/rant relate to art. I agreezzz


Hit 'em right between the eyes
I hereby propose this thread be stickied at placed at the top of this forum. A few of the stickied threads can be merged or linked into other related and already stickied threads, if it's too cluttered. (eg. the OC thread and Free Programs)


I think a lot of people who come here looking for advice are hoping for 'kind' critique. I say 'kind' because you can tell someone that the head of they're tortoise looks too fat, or you could be kind and tell them that the head of a tortoise should be proportionally the same size as its foot.

The following examples are common trends that really do nothing to help an artist improve. These are some comments I found, just browsing the first few threads of this forum.
"The background is flat"
"Don't use black for shading"
"You need to improve your anatomy"

Instead, we as critics need to approach these new artists with more depth. Sure, we know what it takes to make something 3D or how to use colour theory instead of black. And we've studied anatomy, so we know what it looks like. But they haven't, and they have no idea which direction they're going. That's why they're here; asking us for guidance.

Instead of the examples above, the following versions would be much more helpful to a beginner.
"The best way to make something 3D is to use a vanishing point which I think would really help your background. Here's a tutorial that better explains perspective [link]."
"Black has a tendency to make shading look dull, instead try using a dark green for your shading since green is the complimentary colour to red. Using complimentary colours makes your art look more rich and interesting."
"When drawing a rabbit its important to remember that their heads make a triangle shape. Their torso is also pretty prominent and a bit larger than what you've got here."

When giving a critique you want the person to think, "This is what I could have done better," not, "You must hate me because I did this wrong". When they think the latter they feel as if they need to defend themselves. The problem is not that they don't want the critique, but that they feel like they're being attacked.

If we don't explain what we mean then they won't understand. They'll just get frustrated, which in turn makes us frustrated. As artists helping other artists I think a little more leniency, patience, and communication is necessary.

The OP has many valid points; nothing is gained without good, hard work. However, I do think that this should be in the rants forum. Essays generally have bibliographies and references with supporting facts, and since we're not critiquing anything in specific the critique forum is probably not the best place for this thread.


I will add to this thread some things that I think about too:

*If someone bothers to give you advice, at least take the time to thank them. Putting in the effort is often unrewarded around here, and we're really doing the critiques for the people that ask for them. If you never reply to a critique, we've no way of knowing whether you bothered to read it or not.

*If you're angry about a critique, the best thing I can tell you to do is wait and reply to something after 30 miunutes of thinking about it. Most of the time, angered crit-seekers fly off the handle and want to post something retalitory as soon as they perceive an insult.

*It's not worth the critique-givers to insult you. If we were going to do that, we'd find another thread you posted in and settle it there.

*Everyone once sucked at artwork. The typical person will hit a point around the age of 12 or 13 where their skills were average The skill will naturally stall whereas it naturally improved during childhood. This means you might get delayed and start back drawing again after several years. That's okay, but you need to learn if you want to improve.

*we can't pass some concepts over to you on a silver platter for you to use immediately. I wish I could, but it's not possible. You need to work at these things and earn the skills yourself. We'll provide you with all the help to get started.

*crit-givers are willing to learn, but let's be honest: if they are better than you and you recognize it, don't try and patronize with your own tips in a field they could teach you more things in.

*what does arguing on the internet really accomplish?
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Wolven Bird

Why the hell isn't this stickied yet?


Well-Known Member
I read a quote that said "the good artists are only the crappy ones that didn't give up." They ask for advice and they should quit bitching when they get it. Hypocritical douchebags. I hate when people do that. ...and some catch on faster than others, it happens. Doesn't mean you should rage-quit. That's all I have to say... good luck to those who keep trying... and this is coming from a guy who has a long way to go, so you can choose whether or not to take what I have to say on this matter lightly.

Arshes Nei

Masticates in Public


Well-Known Member
I'd say getting better at the same thing takes a long time, but it is possible to pick up new things quickly, if you're good at something else and some of the technical skills overlap.


Hit 'em right between the eyes
This seems to be relevant:


Wolven Bird



There is no magical short cut that will take your art from a basic sketch to a technically perfect painting over night. You can download every art programme you can find, spend a small fortune on Prismacolor and Tria markers, get the best Wacom Cintiq tablet, but if your quality was poor before you bought those items, it will still be poor after you bought them.
I believe it does encourage the artist to try new things, but it will not make you draw like.. like... Wolf-Nymph. You have to constantly practice with said items to become good at them.

Arshes Nei

Masticates in Public
While I understand and agree some critiques can take out the time of why. The general problem is that people think their specific issue is special and a lot of this is covered in many threads before theirs. My suggestion is to read those other threads before posting, otherwise people who do want to help do get burned out and regurgitate the same advice and shorthand it like "Don't use black for shadows"

When people are telling you to learn anatomy, most of these people haven't picked up the book, read it and actually did the exercises. This is an expansive subject that will take years to learn.

When people are telling you to learn color theory, it's not just the basic of compliments but understanding hue, value, chroma and how light plays a factor. This is an expansive subject that will take years to learn.

The best thing to do sometimes is to remove yourself from the computer and go outside and do observational drawing. Google and other search engines are wonderful tools for reference, but if you're just sitting there all day and not learning to see objects without the camera lens, you will not put your own actual spin into drawing.

Use a lot of other resources. Don't just use FA for advice, if you're drawing a lot of stuff you're ashamed of and want to learn, draw stuff you're NOT ashamed of and get advice from your peers. So here's the trick: YOU APPLY THOSE STUDIES INTO DRAWINGS YOU WANT TO DO. There is nothing more irritating when people tell you to practice because you whine about wanting to be as good a X artist, but don't apply the studies it takes to learn. "Well all I draw is furry porn, so I can't show my friends and family and get advice" ProTip: draw other stuff so you CAN get good advice. Nothing stunts growth and learning by just sticking to something you can only get mediocre advice for.

"Well since I draw porn, I need special advice" no, actually about any subject comes down to observation and constructing the same object. For example on seedling's Concept Art 101 guide: she talks about drawing a shoe. She then tells you to construct the same shoe in a different angle - teaching you how to visualize 3D form so that when you use reference, you learn how to use it right.

I also mean going to other sites for advice, you don't have to go out and get a critique for everything, but check out more forums than Lounge, and "It's finally Finished" on Concept art because it seems cool. Check out Fine Arts and Studies and Critiques and other forums, that goes for other sites like CG Hub. Try doing some challenges or group studies like Daily Sketchgroup. It only helps get that variety out there so you can draw.