When time is precious and life gets in the way, building a daily drawing habit can seem like a really difficult task (and one that often slips to the bottom of the list). However, I know that a daily drawing habit forms the basis of some of my most creative thinking and is something I thoroughly enjoy. Trust me, I spent many years saying ‘I must draw more’ but the blank sketchbooks just kept piling up and the pens and pencils just gathered dust.
What changed? Well last year I made a decision to start a daily drawing habit and put in place a few simple things to keep me on track. And this year… more creativity, more drawing and more full sketchbooks! Oh and another 1500 people drawing alongside me in the 30 Day Sketchbook Challenge 2018!
So here are my top tips for building a daily drawing habit…
1. Set aside a regular time each day
Setting aside a regular time each day forms the basis of your daily drawing habit. This is best to be a time when you can block out your diary if need be or when you can 90% of the time guarantee that you can open your sketchbook and draw without interruption. Don’t make it time when you are just about to leave the house for work or other things could distract you… First thing in the morning, last thing at night or at lunchtime seem to work well for a lot of people. Really block out this time as much as possible and don’t let anyone or anything distract you.
For me this is usually after 10pm if I haven’t managed any earlier in the day as part of my printmaking work. I am a night owl and my creative brain kicks in late at night (helpfully timed when my baby is in bed) and so I can sketch without interruption and enjoy this little slice of me-time.
2. Don’t aim too big too soon – Quantity not Quality
In terms of big I refer to both the time spent and the size of sketchbook. Start with drawing for really short 1-5 minute bursts – a quick sketch or a doodle totally counts – you have still picked up that pen or pencil. This short amount of time needs to be something you can definitely fit in even when you have a really busy day, are out in the evening or even away on holiday. This can gradually build with time or you can spend a few days a week on longer or more complex drawings but start with little and often.
Likewise, if you decide to use a massive A3 sketchbook or large piece of paper, this can prove to be too much to do on a daily basis and just such a big task that it gets put off or as soon as you miss one day it all goes downhill or stops all together.
3. Keep a portable sketchbook on you
Following on from my point above of keeping it small, sometimes the best idea is to also have a small portable notebook or postcard sized sketchbook on you at all times. Then even if you aren’t in your regular place to draw, with all your materials around you, you can still doodle or draw on the go. In fact for many people, the daily commute may be the perfect time to open the sketchbook and draw…
And if you forget your sketchbook, napkins and the backs of envelopes work perfectly fine too. They can always be stuck into a sketchbook at a later date.
4. Set yourself some topics
Sometimes it can be difficult to think of what to draw (especially on stressful or busy days where time is short), so set yourself some regular topics. Then when inspiration is short, for whatever reason, you just go for this first and don’t have to think about what to draw, you just crack open the sketchbook and draw on one of your pre-planned topics.
I keep a few separate little sketchbooks for drawing mandalas and patterns, which are my personal go-to topics that I like to work on when I have the chance. So, when I don’t know what to draw or doodle I just pick one of these and off I go. I also have a creative doodle journal as well (something discussed in my online course Mindful Drawing and Doodling for Beginners).
5. Join a drawing or sketching challenge
Joining a sketchbook or drawing challenge set by someone else can help to keep you motivated. Many of them provide topics that you have to use as themes and there will be lots of other people alongside yourself to connect with and keep you accountable. It’s also a lot of fun and very inspiring to see other people’s work, ideas and interpretations of topics! You may have been taking in part in my own 30 Day Sketchbook Challenge, which has been absolutely fantastic in terms of getting people drawing in 2018. If you missed it, take a look at the page that explains it here.
6. Don’t go it alone
Trying to do something daily on your own can be hard work. Why not get someone else to join in with you? I was lucky enough to get my partner, parents, sister and several friends joining me in the recent sketchbook challenge for 30 days and we all kept each other motivated. The daily drawing challenge was a regular point of discussion in our households.
So why not buddy up – find another creative soul and see if they will partake in some regular drawing that you share with each other or discuss regularly?
If you don’t know anyone that also wants to draw daily, perhaps find someone to show your work to or at least discuss what you are up to. Once you tell people what you are up to, it is amazing how many people will check up on you!
7. Process not perfection
Enjoy the process of drawing, don’t seek perfection in your work. To build a daily drawing habit you very often have to let go and be a little more free and loose in your drawings. If you are drawing for just 1-5 minutes sometimes, this will very likely be a rough and ready sketch, but that’s ok. Don’t put pressure on yourself to produce a finished piece of work each day. Relax and enjoy that process. Enjoy the making of marks, the observation of what you are doing and the way that your mind switches off from the outside world for just a few moments.
8. Commit to a minimum of 30 days
It can be a good idea to actually commit to doing a certain number of days to start with. Certain sources state that it can take anywhere from 18 to 254 days to set a habit (1). Why not start with 30 days and see how it goes? To say that you will draw daily forever can again seem like a massive mountain to climb, but 30 days? That’s totally doable.
9. Do things to inspire you
To keep yourself inspired and motivated to draw you also need to take time out to find inspiration and do things that open that creative side of your brain. Just sitting looking at a blank page every day won’t get those creative juices flowing.
Supplement your drawing time with regular things that inspire you. Think about trips to museums, galleries, read books about drawing, visit the library, look at other people’s work or join a drawing class or art group. Sometimes doing something else that is creative but not drawing can work well (I love a bit of sewing or crochet for example.)
Even a simple walk in the fresh air can inspire drawing (or a holiday if you can afford it!!) Whatever you need to do to give you ideas or clear the mind ready for drawing, do it!
10. Make it fun!
If something isn’t fun then making it a daily habit simply won’t work (unless it’s brushing your teeth of course). Make drawing something you look forward to every day. It is your fun-time, your creative-time and your me-time all together. If you dislike drawing perspective, then don’t draw perspective. If you don’t like pen drawing, use another medium. Do what you like – it’s your drawing habit, no-one is judging, so make it fun. If that means every now and again drawing some cartoons, doodling or drawing with your eyes closed, then simply do this! Don’t draw what you feel you should draw, draw what you want to draw.
I hope this helps
I truly hope that one or all of these tips help you to build up a regular drawing habit. If you don’t quite make daily, then even a few days a week is fantastic!
Need Some Help?
If you need a little help to get your drawing off the ground, why not take a look at my Mindful Drawing and Doodling Course for Beginners?
Learn alongside Susan as she shows you sketchbook techniques and fun ways to relax the mind, express creativity and reconnect to life.
The course is packed full of simple ideas and fun ways of making marks on paper. No experience of drawing necessary and only a few simple materials required.
Visit the course here: https://coursecraft.net/courses/z9Ttt
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