Have you ever sat down to draw and then nothing happened?
Blank page syndrome strikes again!
If you’re sitting down to draw and you don’t know what to do or what to work on, you’re not setting yourself up for success. You need to prepare for your drawing times!
Imagine you are suddenly transported to an olympic track. You look around and everyone else is ready in the starting blocks. Within seconds, a starting gun fires and everyone takes off running, and you’re still left there trying to figure out what’s happening, where you are, and what to do. That’s pretty much what happens when you sit down to draw without preparing.
A track sprinter physically trains and mentally prepares for a race. They learn the rules and regulations, visualize winning, and take care of themselves all before they even step up to the start line. A race is won in the hours of preparation beforehand. This is what you need to do when you draw.
How to prepare for your drawings times:
Determine your drawing goals
Why are you drawing? What goal are you trying to reach with your drawings? How can you get there? What are steps you need to take? What do you need to practice- subject matter or technique/style? These are important questions you need to answer first. I’d even encourage you to write down your “why” or your goals in the first page of your sketchbook. Then you always have a handy reference to keep you on track.
When you sit down to draw, you should not be focused on your big goal, you should be focused on your next step. What can you do today, right now to improve? Focusing on the big goal is only going to discourage you and make you feel inadiquate because you’re not there yet. Focus on the small steps instead.
Determine what to draw
Now that you know your illustration goals, figuring out what to draw should be easier. A big goal of “I want to be a comic book artist” can be broken down into smaller tasks like “I need to practice drawing superheroes” or “I need to practice the styles used in MARVEL comics.”
If you need to, compile a list of specific things you want to practice whether it’s a technique, style, or subject matter.
Create a backup prompt list
Come up with a list of things to draw at a time when you aren’t drawing, like your lunch break or right when you wake up. If you’ve determined your goals and what to draw but still don’t “feel like” drawing those things, you can always go back to this list of random prompts which still lets you practice the craft of drawing without getting stuck on what to do.
Your list should have a wide variety of prompts- write down things you want to draw and things you don’t, write down objects, places, people, animals, and write down things that are simple and things that are complicated. The list needs to be varied so your future self can pick a prompt that sounds fun in the moment. Sometimes drawing a robot sounds like the most fun thing ever, and sometimes drawing a robot sounds too complicated and technical. Your varied prompt list will give you freedom of choice when you feel like you have no idea what to draw.
Some ideas to help you start your own prompt list:
- your room
- your most prized possession
- your family
- a pet
- the first phone you had
- a mythical beast
- a machine
- your favorite vacation spot
- your childhood home
- a pattern
- objects on your dresser or desk
- self portrait
Lastly, ask someone else.
I spend a lot of time waiting in airports and on planes- and I love to use this time to draw! Sometimes I’ll send out a tweet or snap and ask my followers whet I should draw. These times have been some of the most enjoyable because I never know what to expect, and I love the reactions people have when they see their suggestion drawn out.
If you can’t figure out what to draw yourself, just ask someone else!
If you can’t figure out what to draw, set yourself up for success by using these methods:
- Determine your drawing goals
- Determine what you need to draw to get to your goals
- Create a prompt list for when you’re stumped and “not feeling it”
- Ask someone else for ideas
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