Ask the Art Prof: How Do You Get Yourself to Practice Drawing?

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“I find myself having a lot difficulty getting myself to practice drawing. I keep procrastinating.  I know this is rather dumb, because it is as simple as just sitting down and doing it. What is your advice to force yourself to practice?”

Many people don’t realize the tremendous amount of self-discipline that is required to be a visual artist. Constant, rigorous practice is an absolute necessity.  Everyone I know who works professionally as an artist does so with rock solid focus and concentration.  Most artists work alone, so we have to have strategies to self-motivate on a regular basis.

One of my former students recently got back in touch with me. She had been really struggling lately in terms of how to motivate herself to work. She asked me whether it was important to be “in the mood” when working. My answer for her was appallingly unromantic.  I’m rarely in the mood to work.  Instead, I splash cold water on my face in the morning, and get to work, no matter how I’m feeling.

53_1CHUCK_CLOSE_35MM_0294

Chuck Close


The contemporary artist Chuck Close once said “Inspiration is for amateurs, the rest of us just show up and get to work.” My work schedule is such that I don’t have the luxury to wait to be “in the mood”. Right now, I work in the sculpture studio most weekdays from 9am-11am.  If I don’t sit down and work steadily for those two hours, my window of opportunity to work in the sculpture studio that day is gone.

You have to create a schedule for yourself to rigidly follow.  Set aside a chunk of time for drawing that you can anticipate and look forward to every day.  Don’t work haphazardly at random times, it will be difficult to maintain a continuous train of thought, and you’ll be much less likely to accomplish anything concrete. I’ve heard before that it can take about one month to firmly establish a routine, so give yourself a few weeks to settle into a predictable work pattern. Eventually, the routine should become an automatic response to your daily schedule.This article I wrote provides concrete suggestions about specific tasks you can do to practice drawing.

Pastel Portrait Drawing Assignment

Extremely long work sessions are not necessary and can actually work against you.  I would rather draw every day for 2 hours than draw for 10 hours once a week. Many of my students have noted to me that their work is better when they break up their work over the course of several days rather than trying to do one 12 hour marathon work session the night before the project is due. The advantage of multiple work sessions is you have the opportunity to come back to your work and look at it with fresh eyes.  You’ll see things you didn’t see the day before, and be able to make the necessary revisions.


ART PROF is a free, online educational platform for visual arts for people of all ages and means. artprof.org features video courses, art critiques, an encyclopedia of art supplies, and more.

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PORTFOLIO VIDEO CRITIQUES
Prof Lieu offers video critiques on portfolios for students applying to art school and working artists. More info.


ART DARES
Every month, we assign a topic for you to respond to with an artwork. We give out prizes in several categories!  More info.


ASK THE ART PROF was a written column in the Huffington Post from about art related topics. Visit our Pro Development page.


Related Videos
Youtube Playlist: Video Critiques on Art School Admissions Portfolios
Youtube Playlist:  How to Draw a Portrait with Charcoal and Cross-Hatching
Youtube Playlist:  Crit Quickies, 1 min. critiques on artworks


Related articles
“What is a gesture drawing?”
“Is drawing considered an innate talent or a craft, which can be learned by anyone?”
“How can I learn to shade objects in my drawings?”
“How can I draw what I see in my head?”
“What is the best way to practice my drawing skills?”
“How can you learn to draw hair?”

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