This site is for people who want to improve their drawing and painting
It exists because I want to help you take control of your own learning.
Because it worked for me, and I think it'll work for you too.
In late 2005 I returned to drawing and painting after a long gap. My work was awful. I was horrified. I realised that I needed to learn again from the beginning.
Along the way I went down many dead ends. But slowly, surely, I progressed. I learned a lot about how we learn.
I want to share that with you so that you don't have to make the same mistakes I did.
Learning to draw and paint isn't as hard as some people would have you believe. Really, it isn't.
It does take time and practice, but that practice doesn't need to be a grind. It does need to be effective.
A Short History Of An Autodidact
When I was at college in the 1980s, we weren't taught to draw. Abstraction and conceptual art were the dominant forms. At the end of my first year of college I had so little to show for my time there that they threw me out.
It's a pretty typical story for people with some skill at drawing who went to art college at that time and became discouraged. A whole generation of artists have come up without being taught how to draw and paint. Many stopped being artists at all.
So I was out on my ear. For a few years I worked freelance with what skills I had. I painted murals in motorway service stations and night clubs, did a few private portraits and did a lot of street art. Eventually I went back to college, learned something completely unrelated and got a job doing that instead.
But I never forgot painting.
When I did come back to art, I needed to fill all the gaps missed by my art 'education'.
I tried books. I bought a lot of books. With a few notable exceptions, they were useless.
I tried looking for websites that could help me. I found people making money out of other people who wanted to learn as I did, promising lost secrets of the masters and 'revolutionary' colour theories. I followed some of the dead ends they lead me down, as I see people still following them today. Although the snake-oil peddlers are still out there, things are generally better now. But back then I found no-one making an honest attempt to help people like me.
I was frustrated. I got angry.
I decided that the only way forward was to take control of my own learning, to accept that there would be a lot of trial and error, and to practice hard.
So that's what I did.
In time, I went from this:
And from this:
I still have much to do to improve my work - I always will have. And I don't claim to have all the answers.
There have been many frustrations along the way, times I felt like giving up, but I've learned a lot. As well as learning how to draw and paint, I've been learning how to learn. And now I know what you don't need:
- You don't need a library full of art books. In fact, the weight of those books will hold you back.
- You don't need to pay thousands for academic training. I'm not saying it won't help you if you can afford the time and money, but that you don't need it in order to progress.
- You don't need to learn convoluted techniques.
- You don't need expensive, esoteric materials.
There are no secrets of the masters you need to learn, except one - and actually it's not a secret at all:
You Need to Practise
But there are more and less effective ways to practice, and that's what I want to share with you.
I want to help you to:
- Understand the core skills you need to develop. Don't waste time learning this or that esoteric method just because some painter you admire does it. Practise the core skills and you'll progress much faster.
- Overcome your fear of failure. By seeing your progress, albeit slow at first, come to believe that you can improve, perhaps far beyond what you thought you were capable of. Forget misleading thoughts about talent, and:
- Take control of your own learning. This is the most important point. Through taking control of your learning yourself, you take responsibility for your own achievements. It's empowering.
What is effective practice?
Effective practice is:
- Enjoyable: The more we enjoy our practice, the more effectively we learn.
- Repeated and Regular: Repetition builds and reinforces the mental maps that represent our skills. That's why regularity is more important than total time spent in each session. This is true of any skill that requires practice to develop. Start small, make a daily appointment with yourself and keep it.
- Focused: Give what you're doing your full concentration and you'll see progress. That requires mental effort, but the equation is simple: the more effort you put in, the faster you progress.
- Deliberate: Practise towards a specific goal. Understanding value, for example. Improving accuracy. Improving colour matching. Be clear about what you're working towards at that moment in time and practise it to the exclusion of all else.
So that's what this site is for. I write about effective practice in the hope that it'll help you in your own endeavours to learn to draw and paint.
If you want to join me on this road, and see what we can learn together and how far we can go, then sign up below.
Initially I'll just email you when a new post goes up, but you'll also be among the first to know about the Effective Practice workbooks I'm putting together which should be arriving later this year. They're designed to help you learn.
Here's to the journey, and to our continued improvement.