How to become better at drawing?

Hello everyone, I’m currently in a tricky situation. I want to attend a school called SVA (School of Visual Arts, ) in NYC. I need to have a decent portfolio that shows my creative and technical skills for the admission review. The problem is that I have never done any serious artwork in my life. I have practiced drawing objects and shading in my drawing class at my high school but I don’t think that I currently have anything worth including in my portfolio. I want to sharpen my skills over the summer so that I can have something that is worth including in my portfolio. Does anyone know of any decent tutorials on the internet that could help me? I know that the only way to become better at drawing is to practice constantly and learn from your past mistakes but I often don’t know what to draw or how I should draw something. I’m not used to the artistic freedom that creating art provides and it makes me feel a little lost. I’m accustomed to following specific rules for accomplishing something and the lack of rules(except for the Principles of Design) is a little hard for me to accept. This is also a problem when I try to create something in Blender and it’s rather frustrating.

Don’t take this the wrong way, but if you’ve never done any serious artwork, why would you want to spend 40k a year at an art school? Its not all roses, if art isn’t a hobby, you’re probably not going to stick with it as a profession

I’ve decided that I want be a CG Generalist/3d animator. I’ve never thought of art as something that I would enjoy creating until I was introduced to 3d animation. That’s why I never did any serious artwork. I was mostly focused on doing well in my classes in school. It’s a little late but I was wondering if I could just sharpen my skills so that I could at least have a chance at getting into SVA. I want to go there to learn more about 3d animation. I think that bringing a concept to life through 3d animation is quite fulfilling and that it never gets dull. There’s always something new to do and other things to improve on with every successive animation. I can’t see myself as anything other than a CG Generalist or a 3d animator.

Then why don’t you incorporate animation into your portfolio as some stills and a cd/youtube link of your work? As for drawing, much fine art is actually done from live observation, and that is easy to do if you want to do that. Do some live sketching, study people and how they are built, walk, gesture, etc. and build some projects from that…

I’ve been drawing since I was a small child… off and on. I’ve experimented with a lot of mediums and now I use digital mediums primarily. This wasn’t the case when I was a teen though. Back then computers cost upwards of $5,000 and weren’t the medium that they are today. I’ve also dabbled in music and in the past 10yrs. 3D. You may bounce around as well. It seems that you are building this behavior now and you also seem to have interest and aptitude for design. This is a good thing.

Drawing is something that requires persistence. You need to do it every day this summer. If anything will help you it’s being more perceptive. Look at details and appreciate their value to the image. Also describe to yourself what you are observing and above all express that with your pencil. It’s not just a graphic skill. Draw it the way you see it.


i’m currently in a similar situation. i REALLY want to get a internship at dreamworks next summer and to do that i need a rocking demo reel (and at the moment… i suck) so i set aside this summer to learn animation. i have learned drawing online in the past and it is not as hard as everyone seems to think. all you need are the right places to look.

if you’re not already on there, i would definitely suggest you join it’s an online community of artists that has hundreds to thousands of tutorials, some of them very in depth about the process of drawing. it is also good to be able to see art from other people because it helps get a feel for the subject and also you can see what others did right and wrong and learn from their mistakes

another thing you could consider is getting a few books on drawing/animation. until about a year ago i was entirely self-taught and relied solely on the internet and i cannot express how frustrating it is when your information comes up dry on a subject you’re looking at. the right book can save you days of frustration and it’s a lot easier than trying to find it on the internet.

also don’t discount youtube. speed-painting videos have helped me a lot because i can see the process an artist went through to achieve the final result (there are also video tutorials on animation and modeling. not to mention speed-modeling videos)

also, if you really want to get into 3D animation i would definitely recommend learning 2D animation as a study point. the basic concepts are very close (although 3D is more based on puppets than drawing) a good book for this is “the animator’s survival kit” by richard williams.

don’t forget to play. One of the things i dislike about school is the lack of room for experimentation and that is the way i learned the most. everyone has a different learning style and if one isn’t working, try another! there are so many ways to learn the same subject that there has to be at least one that works! (e.g. i tend to learn well by starting a tutorial, then stopping halfway through and figuring the rest out myself. i also like to play with settings and see what i get)

finally, something i like to keep in mind. the rules are guidelines, and you don’t really have to follow them. but you have to know them to break them properly. getting a good grounding in the basics will help tremendously when you get to the advanced stuff.

i hope this post helped and i hope it wasn’t too long.

good luck and feel free to ask me any questions you’d like.


Go through some of the videos on Ctrlpaint – in particular the Study Habits section.

For animation you’ll want to know the 12 principles of animation, which the video below shows.

Digital work isn’t really considered during the review process. The reviewers want to see proof that I have some basic drawing skills.

I mostly have trouble with proportions and angles. This is probably due to a lack of practice and poor hand-eye coordination.

I’ve been trying to do that recently but my aversion to failure keeps stopping me. I know that I need to fail in order to improve but I feel like most of the mistakes that I’ve made aren’t really helping me.

Simply study one, two, and three point perspective drawing then - and then apply that to what you see around you. Overlay with photos, tracing the perspective and find it in many images. Even so far as to use blender to make block references like David Revoy did in his Blend and Paint dvd, and then just draw from that and expand on it.

Mistakes are the best teacher, and if you can get over that aversion then you will succeed. Make a mistake, make it into something, then go on and start another. There is no way you will get the skill from staying in the comfort zone of drawing what you know.

The trick to drawing, is not in the drawing itself. That’s easy. Anyone can put pen marks on paper. The trick to anything from drawing, texture making, sound making and many other things is … observation.You’re trying to represent a physical thing, and, thouh it may sound obvious, you have to know what it looks like.

Without consulting some reference material, tell me:

  • Which colour is at the top of a traffic light? Green or red?
  • If you have an analog watch, are it’s digits in roman numerals or numbers?
  • Do you click on things with the left mouse button or the right mouse button? (No cheating. Guess before you try)

There are many other things you do/see very often, but won’t have looked at.
Art/drawing is the ability to look at something, and see it sufficiently that you can recreate it.

People who spend a lot of time 3d modelling will look at real objects and see where to put vertices. People who do texturing will see the roughness of a surface and will know the set of noise layers they need to generate it. Artists? They look at a scene and can see how to turn it from a 3d scene into a 2d representation.

Yes, it takes practice. Yes, it takes the ability to hold and move a pen where you want, but most of all it takes observation - and the abiliy to critique your work.

So, tutorials. They’llnteach you the skills of wielding a pen, but they will not teach you to draw. Ever noticed it’s easier to draw from a photo than off a real scene? It’s because it’s already compressed into 2d for you. So do some drawings from tutorials and photos, but also do some from real life.

I have tried really really hard to only draw out of my minds eye, and never copy anything,

I like to rotate things a little, or add this or that, (in my mind) then draw it.

it’s probably good for creativity, but also I can’t “Clone” anything, it always has my style bleeding out.

so for realism my approach is not so good

However your style is important as well, it’s what makes your art stand out.

The more you get into the debates about art the more you realize that there essentially is no failure. Studying art gives you basic tools alone even though it’s a great deal of work. The rule sets are a guide that you eventually will be expected to depart from to some degree for the purpose of expression. Those broken rules are your blue notes. Just practice and think about it a lot and don’t be so concerned about the end product at first. Experiment with the medium, analyze your piece and go from there. You’re likely to see more fault in your work than other artists will, except for second year students AIR :yes: ? Have fun with it. :slight_smile:


I have browsed before but I’ve never thought of looking for tutorials on that site. I do remember finding an excellent tutorial for eyes though.

I never really thought of watching speed-painting videos for that purpose before. Perhaps I’ll find them more useful as I practice more.

Your post wasn’t too long at all, it was very detailed and insightful. Thanks for taking the time to make a thorough reply. :slight_smile:
I’ll make sure to check the resources that you mentioned.
Sorry about the late response, my internet connection wasn’t cooperating with me yesterday. :frowning:

Good luck with your internship! :smiley:


Ctrlpaint seems like a very good site with a comprehensive series of tutorials. It’s exactly what I was looking for! :smiley:

The 12 Principles of animation seem to be simple. I suppose I’ll need to practice a lot to properly understand them though.

Thank you very much for sharing this with me! :slight_smile:

Sorry about the late reply, I was having some issues with my internet connection. :frowning:

It’s funny but I always considered that observational drawing and understanding of form and line (there are no real lines in nature just intersections), is sort of the opposite.
Try to not ‘recognize’ the thing you are drawing, turn the real thing upside down. A photo or an object, try to break out of your own preconceived ideas of what something ‘should’ look like.

Remember to look for a thing’s volume, how it is built from more basic forms. This can often help you understand proportions and fix issues of symmetry when you are drawing things that should line up correctly.

Lastly there is sooooo much good stuff on the internet to school you on. I think that Andrew over at Blender Guru did a couple of podcasts about exactly this topic.

@Craig Jones

I often had very little time for learning a new skill due to my school work and my other obligations so it seems like every second I spend doing something is precious. This led to a mindset where I was always afraid to make mistakes because I thought that the time that was spent for the mistake was time taken away from properly learning a new skill. I would always try to have a “safety net” so that “I wouldn’t lose any precious time”. Of course this was a very bad mindset and I find it somewhat sad/comical that I realized this very late in life as a young adult. I’ve always heard people say “No pain, no gain”. I find it funny that I never truly understood its meaning until now.

Good on you for being big enough to admit that. I spend all my time convincing my kids to just fail and fail again. Every failure is forwards, it’s all a learning experience but a difficult thing to accept.

I blame Yoda… “there is no try, only do or do not”. Schmuck.

Which colour is at the top of a traffic light? Green or red?

  • Green?
    If you have an analog watch, are it’s digits in roman numerals or numbers?
  • The analog watches that I’ve owned only had numbers
    Do you click on things with the left mouse button or the right mouse button?
  • Left mouse button

I feel that I lack patience. I’ve often rush my work so that I can squeeze in more time for other things. I usually miss many things because of this bad habit…