The Most Valuable Thing To Unlearn

This is a thing I learned the past year or two: our schools taught us one bad habit we have to unlearn to become better artists.

At regular schools, we are taught to avoid making mistakes; we should ensure we don’t make mistakes during tests to get high grades. And that is valid.

But this carries over into school work. Making mistakes while doing schoolwork is considered a bad thing. And this is a bad habit you have to unlearn.

Making mistakes is GOOD!

Let me explain.

I had an excellent art coach for a while. Alexander Steenhorst. One trick he showed was to, immediately after drawing something, write what you note about the drawing. Write down what you feel worked and why, and also write down what you think is off and why.

Do this in an aloof fashion. Don’t feel bad you made mistakes! Mistakes are good! Here’s why. They point you at something you can focus your attention on to improve.

And then you devise a plan to improve that. You decide to devote maybe a page to practicing one thing you found you needed to practice.

One reason it works well is it takes away that sad feeling you tend to have when you see something wrong with your drawing. Something positive came out of it: a plan on how to improve it!

That’s the habit we have to unlearn: the habit of feeling bad when we notice we did something wrong. Take a step back, look at it objectively, and devise a plan to improve it.

The plan should involve focused attention on that thing. You want to engrave this new knowledge into your brain.

Some research has been done on test-based learning. I haven’t studied it, but I found that this test-based learning works for everything.

It’s one of the things that happens when I do drawing from memory exercises. I try to draw it from memory, then pull up the reference image again to see where I got it wrong. I fix it, consciously focusing all my attention on it, and try it again.

And THEN I might make a finished version or a video recording of myself drawing. THEN, we don’t want to make mistakes, and THEN we want it to be perfect.

But during practice? Celebrate if you found you did something wrong! It points to something you can focus your attention on to improve!

My Favorite Drawing Exercises

If you feel like drawing, then check out my favorite drawing exercises!

Do these exercises

form studies to warm up, slow down, get into the right meditative state, and improve your draftsmanship skills.

Do these form studies

form studies to help you improve creating underdrawings, place things in space, practice doing perspective by sight.

Practice drawing from memory to fill your visual bank, ability to memorize, ability to visualize, ability to draw what you see in your imagination and your ability to see what is wrong with your drawings.

If you find it hard to create or maintain a creative habit, you can find some habit-related tips here.

Check out these pleasing, calm, art-related (mostly) podcasts to listen to while drawing. They have been automatically prepared for you to automatically binge-listen to so that you can start drawing.

Lastly, also make sure you have fun in your sketchbook after the hard practice! Here is one guide that can help you jog your creativity.

creativity exercise

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