Learning art methodically: how should I proceed now?

I wanted to take regular art classes this spring, but now it’s of course impossible.

So I thought: maybe I should take online courses? But in an actual art school located in my area, or something like Skillshare or Drawabox? Maybe you will have some ideas?

What I’m looking for:

  • having exact exercises to do
  • I don’t really like long videos… I prefer just images. Videos are fine if they’re not too long and they’re not just “look how I draw a fox” without any speed-up
  • I’m not a complete beginner, I don’t think drawing 250 boxes is something I will have a patience to do - I’d like to skip most of the “learn how to make a nice line” exercises and go to anatomy or composition or stuff - I mean it can start there, just I won’t pay that much attention there
  • I want one complete course, can be divided into parts
  • can be portrait drawing, figure drawing, landscapes, can be everything - actually the more general art course, the better for my case
  • I wish to get critique on my progress…

What is my current level of art:

That’s of course hard to tell, but I’m a hobbyist that needs assessing and systematizing the knowledge, not really learning it from 0.

What I was thinking of:

  • maybe art course organized by one of the art schools that prepare students for ASP, “the” art school, or for architecture uni courses; there are some online ones now, I could buy one and get both homework and critique hour once a week (on Skype, Discord etc.), for example. That would also help me keep motivated.
  • Drawabox? Cltr+Paint? Something like that? Drawabox really looks like it starts from drawing those boxes and focus more on creating pretty lines, so it’s fundamentals of the fundamentals… Ctrl+Paint series admits that the traditional drawing course is a bit limited. Other ideas?

Do you have some advice for me?

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First, I think it’s good that you put some thought into how you could create your own curriculum and it made me think about how I learned it. To be honest I still have not much of an idea how I came to where I’m now. I never studied art on a school. I’m basically 100% self taught since art class in the schools where I went to were either more of history classes with occasional painting (usually just copying the works we discussed before) or do-whatever-you-want-as-long-as-you-don’t-bother-the teacher" kinda classes.

So I can’t give you much of an advice when it comes to schools but maybe it helps you (or someone else reading this) when I tell you what helped me most, when I was teaching myself.

First off, I’m just an amateur, so take everything I write with a spoon of salt, but I managed to sell a few works in the past for several hundred bits (if that means anything to you).

I’m a bit like you. I don’t like long videos. In fact I don’t like videos at all. I have some art books that came with videos I never watched to this day. I learn a lot from books. When I start a new Book I usually read through it and all the lessons at least once before even doing one exercise. Now that I think of it, I often learn big parts of the books lessons until I know them by heart before even painting. This proved useful because I didn’t have to put my nose back in the books every five minutes. I could redo or practice a lesson while on the go, or on the phone or when I got hold of a spare pen and an old recipe to draw on. Sometimes I dig out old lessons from the book and check if I still do everything correctly. I often find my self in habits that started as small mistakes and got stuck in my brain without me even noticing it. Checking the books again helps finding these bad habits.
Youtube videos are cool and sometimes helpful but they often build on knowledge that is explained nowhere. You can’t flip some pages back to check what they are talking about. When they show you how they draw a fox you already have to basically know how to draw a fox to pull it off. Although I guess that is not much of a problem when taking an online course since I’m sure (I hope) they order their material in a didactic way.
Did I mention I like books? Books are usually self contained and easy to work with by just working through it from the beginning to the end.
Don’t be afraid to accidentally buy a book that is above your level, you can still get anther one that is more basic and get to it later.

A few Users already collected some good books and other resources in this thread:

Collaborating with other artist helped me a lot, especially in the early days. Collaborations give you useful insights on how other artists approach the same things and you can learn from it. Try to get you hands on a few permanent partners. Do lessons together when you are on the same level. Collaborators can help you focus on what you want to learn at the moment by doing your boilerplate work. Want to focus on learning coloring? Ask your collab partner for sketches they would otherwise throw away so you can focus on coloring a batch of pieces, or doing outlines, shading, you name it. You will also create loads of sketches and linearts just for training, give them to your partners. Check each others works for mistakes in perspective and anatomy, discuss why they did the things they did the way they did, why they did take some artistic license at some point or not. If you find a mistake in the others work, this is a huge learning opportunity for both. You can also learn a lot about yourself by explaining to others why you did something the way you did. I was lucky to have collab partners that were better than I so I could quickly soak up some of their knowledge, try to do the same. Collaborating is also a lot of fun and in my case sometimes turned into art fights with funny results :D.

Drawing 100 lines, circles and boxes a day. Yeah that’s something I never did, although its advised in some of the books I have. However I kinda do these exercises and I advice to do it. But don’t make it a chore. Don’t sit down and draw circles for two hours. Do it as a warm up instead. Like an athlete warms up and stretches their muscles, you as an artist can also warm up by drawing some circles, squiggly lines and cartoon faces to warm up, make your arm ready (or wrist) and get the juices flowing before you dive into a 4 hour painting session. This way it’s less of a chore and in no time you are laughing about people who need the stabilizer to make a nice line without even realizing it. And most important, it does feel less of a chore to practice the very basics.

Don’t waste time for finding your style. I kid you not, I learned this the hard way. When I got serious with art I was into Manga (I guess like everyone at that time) and I took a lot of time to “find” my style. And by find I mean force me to do something in a specific way just because I wanted my style to be unique and recognizable or look like the artists I admired. What a waste of time, the style developed all by itself much later when I stopped caring about it.

More general is good at first but it is impossible to learn all of it at once. Spread out, get a taste of it all and then dive into whats most fun at the moment until you are bored of it, then do something else, repeat.

Do what is most fun. This sounds like a no-brainer but it is not. I’ve seen a lot of autodidact artist forcing themselves to do stuff just because its next in their books. Don’t want to do landscapes at the moment? Skip it for now and draw cute anime boys. You will come back to landscapes eventually when you see that your backgrounds suck (that’s how it is for me at the moment). Fun is a huge driver. Maybe it’s obvious for most people but especially important for someone like me who is stuck with serious depression.

Well, I guess that’s enough incoherent off topic mumbling from me (for now).

Finally I have a last anecdote regarding art schools. I had three friends who went to different private art schools. Two of them were very disappointed that they couldn’t draw better than me after years of studying and one of them (I have to mention she was already really good before) really soared but is now studying bio-engineering or something (still an amazing artist). So I guess, just because you went to art school, doesn’t guaranty that you learn anything from it. Everyone learns a bit different find out how you learn best and you can probably even do it without a school.

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First off, I just want to say great write up @Takiro! You pretty much went over everything I would have wanted to say.

But I’ll chime in and say I’m also self taught. Learned through Youtube videos, books, and most importantly, studying real life, or other artworks. While I may not be a fantastic artist, I’m pretty good, I can say that at least. But I’m continuing to learn, and critique myself all the time. And my work continues to improve.

I don’t think it’s necessary to go to an art school, you can learn all the fundamentals of art online these days. That said, if you want to learn from someone else, and get One On One interaction with another artist, go for it, if you think that will help you learn better (Well, once quarantine is over…). But I really think it comes down to your own self discipline and study.

And as I said, learn from real life! Grab yourself a sketch book and go do some studies from real places and environments, do a portrait of someone, or if no one is around, do a portrait of yourself . Or do a study from photos online. All I’m saying is just look around you and pay close attention at the details in real life, their is a lot to learn from it!

Oh, and, try drawing in different ways. When we start out in art, we usually are doing line art, but lines can be limited in what they speak. So try and draw in a more sketchy, painterly way, where the focus is shape and value.

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Hey there,
I just wanted to contribute to the conversation. As for me, I am a total beginner and I have understood from mostly videos on YouTube that I first needed to learn the fundamentals. So, after wandering a lot on different YouTube channels and so on, I finally decided, during this “lockdown” time here in France, to start learning the fundamentals with Drawabox. It is great for me because I felt like I needed to learn how to do a straight line, an ellipse, a cube and so on… At first, I thought it might be boring and, in some ways, it is. BUT, I have seen some improvement already and I have just made lesson 1. And seeing those improvements, it is finally not so boring because I KNOW that I am improving…
Anyway, for now, drawabox works for me because it is what I needed.
@tiar You say that you would do some figure drawing. If anatomy is your thing, then I would recommend to check Proko’s website and YouTube channel. It is not for anatomy only, there is a lot in there, free and paid courses and it seemed to me pretty well structured. He also has a podcast channel called Draftsmen where he talks about art, art school and everything about art. It is really interesting I think. For me, as a total beginner, I thought Proko’s website was too overwhelming but I guess it might be good for people with already some art skills. I will go back to it once I will have more drawing skills.
Well, I think the most important is to determine what you want to learn and improve and to “feel” what is right for you, what method suits you the most. Sometimes lessons are boring but you need it to improve. You can continue to draw your own stuff aside so you keep the fun part !
A good book to learn how to draw while having fun is “Fun with a pencil” from Andrew Loomis.
Hope that helps a bit.

Thank you all for suggestions! I really appreciate them :slight_smile:

@Takiro - that’s a really good advice about the books. I searched through some bookstores if I can get some of the highly rated books in my language and it looks like I could order them.

I have the opposite problem with youtube videos - they are often far too basic and they don’t really show to practice it, just tell the knowledge, but I think I have the knowledge - at least at that level, and in some cases, often on higher level, for example how light and colors work and how to approximate them on the painting, it’s just, I’m still bad at colors in painting itself… And perspective videos are all talking about very basic things that are quite easy for me (I’m, like, really good at math and stuff which I feel helps) while most of my problems with it comes from judging the distance and depth (alternatively, laziness, when I don’t want to use rulers and just assume that something is good enough :stuck_out_tongue: ) and most videos don’t show any tips on that. I’ve seen a tutorial/book on how to draw the same length in different distances from the viewer, that was helpful, but it was also the only place I’ve seen this advice (it seemed correct, just “advanced”).

Warming up definitely seems useful and collaborating might be a lot of fun, too, I’ll think about it. And the fun part - yes, that too, otherwise the passion might easily burn out…

@ArtAvenue Generally I agree, that’s a good tip overall. But I learned like that for a long time already, I feel like the knowledge is a bit scattered now, I feel like I’d want some external guidance.

And I agree with the lineart tip, especially learning how to use the first tablet is much easier when one does painterly paintings than lineart… even a sketch can be very frustrating to make.

@FloDX Yeah, I feel like I’ll need to check Proko again… I did check him out earlier but it was different back then.


Also I believe I wasn’t really clear on the art school stuff… It might be a cultural/country difference, too. So let me explain how it works in my country and how I wanted to use it.

Generally there are art colleges, the most prestige ones are called “pretty art academy”, yes, seriously (I guess the correct translation would be “Academy of Fine Arts” or something). The prestige ones are usually, with some rare exceptions, public schools, which means you only pay if you cannot pass to the next class or if you are on special evening course etc. It also means that there is a huge competition to get there. There are art exams and you need to show the portfolio. It’s also true if you want to go to architecture course. They basically expect you to know how to draw before going to art school or the architecture course, and the exam is quite difficult since you need to be better than all others.

To get to that art academy, you can first go to an art high school. But if you haven’t, and there are some reasons to not go, and it might be that you decide to go to art school much later than when you decide on a high school, then you need to learn it elsewhere, so there are those… art courses, art workshops, that prepares you to the exam. It’s an extra-curriculum, like activities you do after your normal school. They know how to make a good portfolio and what can be on the exam, and they can prepare you from 0 to someone passing the exam in max two years. They’re extremely effective (usually one year is enough to get very high level). Of course if you want to go to art school and that’s why you go to that course, you need to work hard, but I’ve seen results. So I was thinking this kind of school - focused entirely on art skills, no art history or anything else. They usually have hobbyist courses, with a bit less pressure and less time in a week (cause the academy-preparing ones would be at least twice a week etc., too).


Ahh and also, for reference I wanted to show some examples of my art so you know what level of art we’re talking about.

Lineart/sketch from reference:


Lineart/sketch without reference:

Full color, from reference:
https://www.deviantart.com/tiarevlyn/art/John-Watson-759714923
Full color, me coloring someone else’s (Jazza’s (from Draw with Jazza), more precisely) lineart (no reference):
https://www.deviantart.com/tiarevlyn/art/Post-apo-grief-727191014

I just gave up finding the books in my language and just ordered them in English. I am lucky of course that I’m pretty much fluent in English so this was not much of a problem. Actually it even helped when discussing things from the books online since I could use the same terminology.

The arts seem to be very competitive in your country. Still I’m a bit envious that there seems to be so much schools and other opportunities to study art at all. Compared to my country where you can only study art for when you want to become a school teacher (except for the private schools of course) and politicians even made efforts to get rid of all courses and degrees that are not generally associated with business. I kid you not there are people trying to ban art, language, philosophy and the like from our public universities and schools.

The best overall art instruction content I’m aware of online after years of perusing tons of resources are these:

ctrlpaint.com/library - This guy teaches a ton of important, discipline-independent concepts in a mercifully brief manner. Lots of informative videos that are expertly edited to cut out the clutter

proko.com - While his humor can be hit or miss, his lectures and resources are really top notch. He has the best 3D anatomical models that exist anywhere on the internet and a lot of great model photographs to study from

There’s also books; Andrew Loomis’ “Fun With a Pencil” is a personal favorite

If you’re interested in character animation and cartoons like I am, I can’t recommend my mentor “AMB”'s facebook group or youtube page enough (https://www.youtube.com/user/eubasaban).

Also, it doesn’t really fit your criteria because the videos are LONG but the NKU college lecture series which is free on youtube is a great resource if you can handle it (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCNPLX1hfy3Q8zr4eKvmhLGQ)

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