Note to Self

Recently my art time has been devoted to drawing. I consider drawing a foundational skill for all other art. I’m sure that as my drawing ability improves, my oil paintings, watercolors, and pastels will get better, too.

And when I talk about spending time drawing each day, I’m talking about really spending time at it. Where I used to sit down and do a bit of drawing for 15 or 20 minutes each morning — as a warm-up — I’m now spending at least an hour, if not more, at my drawing table. I’ve worked a lot on graphite drawing, I’ve practiced shading methods and techniques, and I’ve done a lot of pen-and-ink drawings in anticipation of Inktober, which is right around the corner.

Artist MagazineSo, when I opened the mailbox this morning, found the latest issue of  Artist magazine and saw DRAW NOW, Get Started, Keep Going, Get Better I smiled. It felt good to be ahead of the game for once.

The article gives good advice on how to make drawing a part of our daily routine, how to accurately measure our progress, how to learn from the drawings we make, and how to motivate ourselves to keep going. As the author, Danny Gregory, says, “…if you don’t want to practice, you won’t.”

I’m glad I enjoy my practice time. I look forward to it each morning, and whenever possible, I like to steal a few minutes away in the afternoon so I can return to my drawing table, if only to look back at my sketchbook and the exercises I’ve done.

The article includes a sidebar with a “Note To Self” and that note is too good not to share.


Write these three facts on the inside cover of your sketchbook. Now. I’m not kidding.

  1. Never compare yourself to other artistsDon’t judge your first drawing by their reproductions in a coffee table blook. Let their progress inspire, but not intimidate you. Compare you to you. That’s all that counts.

  2. You’re making more progress that you think. You may not see it, but it’s happening with every page. Guaranteed.

  3. Everyone struggles at the beginning.  Check out early van Gogh drawings. Awful. Struggle is normal, inevitable — and a positive sign that you’re working through things. Your early drawings are zero indication of what you’ll achieve in time. Zero.

From: Kick Off a Drawing Practice by Danny Gregory,  November 2019 Artist magazine

To those three statements, I’d like to add a fourth: It’s all right to mess something up. 

I did that this morning, you see. I had a drawing in my sketchbook that was coming along nicely, but maybe I needed to change this… just a little. I did, and it proved to be the wrong thing to do. It’s an ink drawing, so I can’t erase and do it over. All I could do was shrug and think, “Well, nope, that didn’t work.”

I’m learning a lot about things that don’t work as well as things that do work, and I’m understanding that it’s good to try different things during my practice time. That’s what the time is for. It’s not about creating perfect, finished drawings. It’s about using different techniques, figuring out what’s most comfortable for me, what feels most natural. My practice time is about making mistakes, drawing ugly pictures, and sometimes messing things up.

Since I’ve just started a new sketchbook, the timing of this note to self  couldn’t be better. I’m making a copy of it, cutting it out, and pasting it in my new sketchbook, and I plan to read it each morning when I sit down to draw. I know it will be a helpful reminder.

I hope you find it helpful, too.

SketchbookQUICK UPDATE: There… doesn’t this look nice!





    1. Yes, those reminders are great! I have copied that page from the magazine, clipped out the Note to Self, and it’s now glued to the front of my sketchbook. (I updated the post with the picture.) 🙂 This way I will read it first thing every morning before I start drawing.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I know I’ll be learning a lot this week with my morning practice each day. I really have fun with drawing, more so than with painting. I think that’s because I don’t worry so much about drawing — if I make a mistake in my sketchbook, who cares? So, I learn from that. Happy “arting” and creating to you!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thanks! It’s a week of learning for me too. xD I’ve just started working with watercolour pencils. It’s so different to sketching.

        I think when doing any form of art it’s okay to make mistakes. That’s the best way to learn. I hope you’re keeping well. =)

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Great. Point four could also be “It’s necessary to mess something up.”

    Not deliberately messing up of course, but messing up and listening to what Mr Mistake is teaching you is the absolute number one skill-builder in my book.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It does teach us a lot! And, BTW, I’m really starting to understand what you’ve said about experimentation. I’m using my drawing practice time to try different things. Art practice, I’m realizing, isn’t like piano practice or other forms of practice. It’s not all about drills or precision; it’s more about learning different ways of doing things and finding what’s most natural and comfortable, and what produces the best results. Art is so individual!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It is indeed!

        There are times when performing drills is worthwhile to improve for a specific skill. But oftentimes it helps your sanity and well-being to stop doing scales and just play a tune.


      2. So true. I recently started learning to play the violin (my husband is learning, too) and a few months ago we attended a symphony performance where Stefan Jackiw was the featured soloist. I had an opportunity to ask him what advice he had for “two old people who were just starting to learn.” He pointed out that keeping a balance between technique and musicality is key. We can’t focus on the technical aspect all the time without losing what the music means. On the other hand, if we just play music without working on technique, we’ll never develop those technical skills. So, balance is important, indeed. Plus, almost as an afterthought, he added “Oh, yeah. Practice every day.” It’s a lot the same with art. Balance between skill and “artistry”, and sit down and do it every day. Stefan’s advice was helpful for my violin study, and your advice has been very helpful in my art work.

        Liked by 1 person

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