Do you want to learn how to create a drawing habit?
For lots of artists, illustrators to photographers, a regular drawing habit is a must. It makes up who they are, and what they believe in.
This regular habit grows a drawing skill. Coupled with learning new methods to constantly improve drawing, this is the magic formula.
For myself, I’ve dedicated myself to a daily drawing habit for years, with the odd one or two slips. But, it’s not always been this way. Previously, I would often get sidetracked, distracted and put my attention elsewhere. I knew consistency builds strong drawing skills, so I had to take action. Furthermore, I have now kept my daily drawing habit going for years. However, this may sound like a pipe dream to you…
Are you banging your head against the wall, frustrated that you can’t stick to a daily drawing habit? Do you want to improve your skill, and take your art to the next level? Well you’re in luck, because this article will help. Within this blog post I’m sharing my tips to help you learn how to create a drawing habit. I’ll be sharing my own thoughts and techniques, and also things I’ve learnt on the way.
Whatever your skill level, this blog post can benefit you. From beginners, intermediate to advanced artists. It’s best geared at those of you who run out of time everyday. Without the satisfaction that you’ve completed your daily drawing habit.
But why bother with a daily drawing habit?
Why is a daily drawing habit important?
Drawing on a consistent basis results in an improved drawing skill. It gives you opportunity to experiment, practice, and focus on your weaknesses.
Think back to an activity, hobby or process that you haven’t done in a while. It could be surfing, knitting to writing. How did you feel after all that time out ‘of the game’? I’m confident you felt rusty, and it took you a while to get up to speed.
A daily drawing habit avoids this problem. As inconsistency is the death of progress. Additionally, this is crucial for those of you who are in the creative industry. At the minimum, a daily drawing habit maintains your skill. If you’re a freelancer for example, that next creative commission might be imminent. You don’t want your skill to be rusty – you want to be ready!
However life can sometimes get in the way, and drawing falls by the wayside.
I’ve been in the exact same position on many occasions. But these habit tips can instil a daily drawing practice, can improve your art, and can advance your drawing skill.
What is a habit?
A habit has 4 loops: a cue, craving, response, and reward; as documented in James Clear’s Atomic Habits.
Let’s take the example of checking your email, and where that habit comes from. The cue is receiving notifications on your phone / laptop. The craving is wanting to learn what is within the email, as it could be important. The response is opening your mail application. The reward is reading the email. The association is now reading your email when the notification comes through.
Establishing this loop becomes engrained in the cycle; good or bad, after a period of time. Unless you break this cycle. For example, you could minimise this action by disabling mail notifications. Furthermore, uninstalling the application on your phone, but keeping it on your laptop. Or something even more drastic, deleting your entire mailbox.
Certain habits stem from this habit loop. You can build good habits – drawing, reading, to bad habits – like smoking to eating too much junk food.
How to create a drawing habit
The best way to make your drawing habit stick is by changing the four pillars of habits, as discussed in James’ book. Making the cue obvious, cravings attractive, response easy, and the reward satisfying.
How can we apply this to drawing? Make the drawing cue obvious. Schedule a time as soon as you wake up, after you drink some water and brush your teeth, to draw. Another idea would be leaving your sketchbook out on the desk in front of you. The next is attractive. For example, if you love listening to audiobooks, you could listen whilst you draw. Or as another alternative, watch Netflix after you’ve completed the habit. This is the reward that we want to instil.
The next is easy. Tell yourself that you only have to draw for 2 minutes, and see how you go. 2 minutes is not too challenging and easy to complete. Usually, after 2 minutes is over, you get into the flow. Lastly, you need to make the habit satisfying. This is the cherry on the pie. As soon as you complete the habit, you need to reward yourself. Like James’ was also stating:
“What is immediately rewarded is repeated. What is immediately punished is avoided.”
Making drawing easy
To create a daily drawing habit, drawing must be easy.
Some ideas around this would be to place your sketchbook on your desk, so it’s in easy reach to draw. Additionally, making it easy might be placing your sketchbook in your bag, on your commute. Essentially, the main crux is to make drawing as easy as possible.
The harder a habit is to achieve, the more likely you won’t perform the habit.
Carve out time
Think to a time in the day where you can concentrate, distraction free, for at least 30 minutes. This could be in the evening once the kids are in bed, early in the morning, or after you’ve finished your run.
You may be thinking that you can’t afford thirty minutes in a day. However, I would disagree. You can develop your skills, doing the things you enjoy, and push that creative skill (aka drawing). This is YOU time, so make sure nothing gets in the way.
Once you’ve thought of that time, treat it like a meeting everyday, and put it in your calendar. This is your time to do the things (or habits), that you want to do. For me, I tend to do my best work early in the morning, before the outside world wakes up (crazy morning person over here). I wake up, have plenty of water, meditate, journal, do my teeth, put my headphones on, draw in my sketchbook, and finally write. This is before 7am, with habits that occur after this too.
“Think to a time in the day where you can concentrate, distraction free, for at least 30 minutes.”
I’ve made sure this time is me time, and nothing gets in the way of it (it helps it being so early, limiting distractions). Think to a time in the day where you work best, distraction free for 30 minutes, and make it you time.
Invest In A Portable Sketchbook
One way I’ve been able to draw more is by purchasing a portable sketchbook. It’s a place where I love to draw my personal sketchbook work. I own many different sized sketchbooks, but my portable A6 sketchbook is perfect for when I’m out and about.
My sketchbook is great on trains, buses, and planes (public transport seems to be common here). Quick drawings in your sketchbook can do wonders for your skill and daily practice. If you draw for just 10 minutes a day, that’s 1,825 minutes of drawing time in 1 year – that’s a lot of drawing!
In order for drawing to be a part of your life, you need to make sacrifices. That means replacing television time for drawing time. And yes, The Walking Dead can wait! (I’m sorry Rick!)
If you really want to learn how to create a drawing habit, see what areas of your life you can replace for drawing. You could swap television time for drawing time, using your phone less, or waking up earlier. This might sound unattainable, as the pull for television is just too great. That’s certainly understandable, and I’ve been there many times. However, you could put pleasurable tasks after a habit instead.
For example, you could draw first, before watching television. You’re making a temporary sacrifice, with a reward later. The same applies to using your phone, sacrifice that temporarily for later. You need to make sacrifices sometimes to do the things you want to do, and if drawing is one of those things, then do it.
Another tip to help with cravings (like watching television for example), is to wait 10 minutes. If after 10 minutes you still want to perform that action, then feel free. Most of the time, sudden urges worn off. Cobble this technique with temporary sacrifice and you’ll be onto a winner!
Practice drawing for 5 mins
Starting any new drawing or creation is sometimes difficult. That blank white canvas, sketchbook paper or Photoshop design, staring you in the face. But how can you overcome this? This coincides with the book The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield. Offering advice throughout the book cure procrastination, particularly in the creative space.
Lets use the example of starting a canvas painting, to give you an overview of Pressfield’s advice. The powers at be will force you to stop drawing. Your mind will tell you to not even try, and to do something more pleasurable. The more times this happens, the more of this effect seems to take place. Making it harder for you to start that canvas drawing. The white of the canvas becomes increasingly stark.
Yet, when or if you do start that canvas painting, you’ll notice it isn’t that bad after all.
After 2 minutes, you get into the flow, and before you know it, you have a good amount of work complete. The build up is sometimes worse than the actual doing. I highly recommend the book, with Pressfield elaborating on the topic much better than I.
Keep this in mind when creating a drawing habit. If you’re avoiding drawing like the plague, think of the 2 minute rule. If after 2 minutes you still can’t get into it, stop. This should nullify the hesitation. If 2 minutes is too long, heck, change it to 1 minute! If 1 minute is too long, then I’m done (ha).
I hope you have discovered a few tips to help you learn how to create a drawing habit. Let’s take a look at what we have covered today:
- A daily drawing habit is important to build your skills.
- Habits have 4 loops: a cue, craving, response, and reward.
- The cue must be obvious, cravings attractive, response easy, and the reward satisfying.
- Make drawing as easy as possible by placing your sketchbook close by.
- Carve out time in your calendar for you time.
- Make temporary sacrifices. Instead of television time now, put it after a habit.
- Tell yourself that you’re only going to conduct a habit for 2 minutes. This makes the habit seem simple and easy to complete.
- Enjoy your habits! The more you enjoy, the more likely you are to commit to them.
Drawing should be fun, and it should be something that you look forward to. If it’s not at least fun, then you’ll find it difficult to commit.
I would love to know what you think of these drawings tips and what your drawing routines look like. Add a comment below, or hit me up on my social media links below.
If you enjoyed reading this article, I have a few more pages which you will adore. Firstly, I showcase my art tools that I use to create my art and illustrations. Secondly, if you love a good old fine art portfolio then take a look at my canvas paintings to original drawings. Lastly, level up your colour theory by learning what complimentary colours are.
If you don’t know much about me, I’m a freelance illustrator for hire. I’ve worked for many worldwide clients, from editorial to publishing illustration.
Thanks guys, and keep drawing!