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.


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.

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

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One thought on “Ask the Art Prof: How Do You Get Yourself to Practice Drawing?

  1. “Inspiration is for amateurs, the rest of us just show up and get to work.”
    I love that.

    I love creating art, but I feel like I’m rarely “inspired”, so I don’t draw as often as I’d like.

    Thank you for the great article!

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