And now for the dramatic conclusion to the epic trilogy. Heroes will rise, bad habits will fall, in this last chapter we'll discuss how to focus your efforts and learn the most and improve quickly with your studies. If you missed them, click these links for Part One and Part Two. And now for...
WISDOM NUMBER THREE!!! Work smart and leave your comfort zone. This part is my qualifier for art school, tutorials, and educational resources in general, because they can be good, but only if you make them good. Once you've gotten in to the habit of drawing consistently, it's important to start being mindful of what you're drawing, how you're drawing it, and why you're drawing it. A key ingredient of success is hard work, but if that work isn't purposeful it might not move you along very quickly. For a highly nerdy analogy, think about a video game; generally speaking a player with the strongest weapon or the largest army is going to have a serious advantage and likely to win the game, but if that player just goes around attacking things at random then a smarter player with fewer resources has a good chance to win the game. It takes not only resources and dedication, but also a little bit of strategy.
To translate that to art, if you're drawing all day every day but only draw the same front-view character that you've drawn a million times already, chances are you won't learn too much. Sure over time that character will start to look pretty awesome because you've ironed out so many mistakes, but what happens when you're called upon to do something else? To be a successful artist you must be a master of principles that can be applied to any situation; if you just follow the same 3-step formula every time you're not going to be able to deliver when an art director asks you for something you've never drawn before.
Now the problem here is that there are different ways to draw the same thing, and a lot of the times beginners will practice, but they do so in a way that doesn't strategically help them with their immediate needs. For example, if you go on any art forum ever and ask for advice, I guarantee you someone will drop this bomb:
COPY BRIDGMAN!!! and the crowd goes wild! And I can tell you that I've seen a lot of sketchbooks with pages and pages and pages of Bridgman copies that the artist learned absolutely nothing from, mine included. But why? How can this be? Because it is copied with the wrong things in mind; people open their book, grab their pencils, then start copying angles, try to get the same texture as him, draw fun swoopy lines, and notice that he has a little zig-zag shading and they completely miss the point. They are copying Bridgman by observation, not realizing that he's meant to be copied by construction; not by using the same angles, but by understanding that all his drawings are forms: cubes, spheres, cylinders, and cones that are welded together to form 3d representations. Now, if you copy Bridgman with the mindset of form and perspective, you're going to learn a whole different ball game, and odds are your figure drawing is going to jump 10 levels in the coming months because you're not not just drawing lines on a page, but you're learning to create 3D space on a 2D surface.
Because of these dangers, you must seek out good information to help you in your quest. If you're trying to walk to a store, you can walk up and down every street until you find it and you'll eventually get there, but it's easier if you just get directions beforehand and go straight there. Similarly, you'll improve faster if you seek out quality information and use it as a compass for your artistic journey. Now don't get me wrong, because that does NOT mean finding a magical figure drawing tutorial that instantly makes you great. Rather, use your good judgment to analyze whether or not the information you're ingesting is actually educational or if it's simply fun to watch. A big one here is time-lapsed speedpaint videos; digital art is great, but these videos are the bane of beginning artists of today, because they leave people with the impression that if you just use texture brushes you should be able to create awesome art in 20 minutes. But what people miss is that the artists who can actually do that have such strong foundational skills that they're able to condense the massive amounts of information they have in their mind in to a few simple brush strokes. You can watch 10,000 speedpaint videos and download all the custom brushes in the world, but you will never learn as much from that as you will from a solid lecture about vanishing points and how to place cubes in perspective.
And lastly on a similar note always remember that you have to have the courage to leave your comfort zone. You improve by doing the things that cause you trouble; so if you have trouble with drawing dynamic figures in crazy perspective, don't try and sneak your way around it and always draw the same one point perspective and hope no one notices. Rather than shirking and avoiding, charge that shizz like a bull and just get it done and get it out of the way. If you can draw great figures from photos but as soon as you try to draw from your head it falls apart, the solution probably isn't to keep drawing figures from photos. Take off the training wheels, put on your helmet and ride. You will fall down, scrape your knee, try not to cry, cry a lot, but then you'll get over it and try again and eventually you'll figure it out, and once you do it will never cause you problems again. You don't want to be 30 years old still riding a bike with training wheels because you're just not sure if you're good enough to ride without them. Of course you're not good enough, that's why you need to take them off and fail a few times, because ultimately that is how we learn.
I hope this series has been useful to you, I'd like to do more things like this in the future, perhaps weekly and with some better editing and presentation, so if there's something you're hungry for feel free to suggest it. Beyond that, keep drawing, don't give up on your dreams, and go kick some ass!