10 Top Tips To Become a Better Artist


I have been reading Shamus Culhane’s From script to screen book, and he suggests that the Loomis style of construction drawing is kind of hack.

While I am learning and loving Loomis I am worried that I might become just another hack artist. But all artists use reference of some kind, right?

Given what I posted in WIP, there’s a good chance I will never achieve the levels of everyone else here, but I wanted to hear some input on Loomis anyway.

I try to do Culhane’s exercise of drawing a pre-sketched figure in a pose, each drawing demanded to only be taken in a minute, but is this just a waste of time for me, given my current state?


I haven’t read Culhane’s book, so I don’t know the context of his comment. You’ll have to elaborate on the context of his comments.

Loomis is one of the most respected and celebrated artist/teachers, and many successful artists learned from his books. I don’t think you have anything to worry about.


awesome, I am working my way through his “fun with a pencil” book, but any recommendations of which one to tackle next (I have all his books)?


After that, it’s a toss up between all the books, except Eye of the Painter (which is probably his most advanced book since it only deals with artistic sense, creativity, and advanced theories). You should flip though Figure Drawing For All It’s Worth, Successful Drawing, and Creative Illustration to see which one appeals more to your immediate needs.


Right now I am trying to copy/construct the various faces/expressions Loomis has in his Fun with a pencil book, and then move onto the feature body/figure construction, pose construction and then perspective in this book.

I am trying to carefully replicate as faithfully as possible, but sometimes the expressions/overall image is off. I do practice drawing circles freehand as much as possible, as well as the “straight” curved lines that set up the axis of the head. Should I race through the faces, or should I do each expression at least twice?


You should never "race’ through anything. It’s just like practicing an instrument–you don’t half-ass a scale run or a chord progression. You get it right before you move on to the next item to learn.

Practicing drawing is equal measures of observation, analyzing, planning, eye-to-hand coordination, comparison, and adjustment. I’ll elaborate on all this in the workshop, so don’t worry.


I would love to join the workshop but I’m afraid that’s a little out of the question at this moment, although I will probably in the summer.

One question though is that I notice sometimes the strokes Loomis does with his pencil seem a little questionable. I hold my pencil angled around a 45* tilt and sometimes end up holding it in awkward ways in order to try to get the blunt side to create that larger stroke.

Does he just create two strokes and fill them later?

Also, the pencils I’m using right now are your standared #2 yellows, although I’m trying to make a run to the art store to get a mechanical 2B.


I don’t understand this part? Can you elaborate on this particular sentence?

Generally, most people hold the pencil in one grip, and then when using the flat side of the pencil lead to shade, they rotate their wrist to the left or right or “squat down” their hand in order to use the flat side of the lead.

When drawing on a vertical surface such as on an easel, most will use a reverse grip (thumb and index finger near the tip and the eraser/rear towards the wrist) to do flat-sided shading.

If you want to keep using the flat side to shade, then make sure you get the thick lead mechanical pencil, not the needle-thin type.


the below link shows my technique for drawing circles, notice how the first try, I keep it fairly conventional (at least I think thats how most artists hold their pencils) and then I hold the pencil almost perpendicular to the paper to draw a circle. I try to avoid this, because I don’t think it’s too good a habit to get into, but it does tend to produce better results.

towards the end of the clip, you will see how I hold the pencil in a very awkward way, with my finger placed over the pencil lead–I don’t believe this is how anyone should hold a pencil, but it’s the only way I can get a nice shading effect going.

here’s a video link, took a while to upload. link


That’s called an over-grip or reversed grip–I mentioned this previously as the favored method artists use when working on vertical surfaces such as with easels. It’s perfectly fine to do that–there’s nothing strange about it. But I find when working on horizontal surfaces, it’s easier to simply roll your wrist or squat down your hand to get to the flat side of the lead. Try it. Just hold your pencil normally and then roll your wrist to one side (either side works, depending on direction of the stroke). To squat down your hand/fingers, do it as if you are relaxing the curl of your fingers and flatten your hand a bit–that also tilts the pencil so you can use the flat side of the lead.

Don’t forget, the flat side is not the only way to shade–you can simply use hatching to shade too.


Great advice and recommendations, thanks! What about the way I draw circles. Some of them are drawn a little awkwardly in part because I was look through the viewfinder of my iphone camera when I drew them, but did you notice how for one of them I demonstrated my perpendicular angle?


Don’t get too hung up on the physical stuff–that comes naturally as your body adjusts to the needs of the image. It’s far more important to focus on the foundational knowledge, because no amount of physical dexterity will mean anything without the foundational knowledge, and it takes far longer to learn the foundational knowledge than the physical skills.

It’s great that you are trying to draw with clean, concise lines. It’s is a great habit to have, and too many beginners do chicken scratches that look very messy and amateurish, do you already have the upper hand there. But don’t get too obsessive about only drawing like that either, because in many cases you’ll need to do faint sketches first to work out the overall proportions and general placement of details, and then do the “final drawing” on top of the faint sketch.


well I’m glad to hear I am making progress in some end, lol.

Do you think, given my current ‘progress’ I’d be able to do fairly well-executed concept art by Winter '12? the concept art wouldn’t be professional, but it wouldn’t be completely amateur either.


If you are total beginner, then probably not. I would say in order to reach intermediate level, it usually takes someone at least two years or more to get there. The fastest growth I’ve ever seen was someone who managed to go from total beginner to advanced professional artist in just 3to 4 years.


good lord! 3-4 years?? What is your definition of intermediate??


Intermediate to me means having a working understanding of all the critical foundations of visual art at a basic level, and can fabricate totally fictional images that are recognizable in what the artist is attempting in mood and atmosphere (though unsuccessfully). It won’t be close to professional enough to compete for a job in film or games, and advanced professional artists will be able to write a long list of critiques for it, but it’ll impress the average beginner or non-artist. At that level, the work probably won’t make it into the Showcase Gallery here (or maybe just barely squeezes through if a particular piece was a fluke and the artist doesn’t even understand why it turned out so good).

I sort of see it like this:

CG Choice Award - The best of the best on the planet
Showcase Gallery - Ranging from good to excellent
Intermediate - Not quite good enough to impress anyone but total beginners and non-artists
Beginner - Padawans

How fast someone grows is variable. I’ve seen people stuck in the beginner or intermediate stages for years and years–some their entire lives. They get stuck because they don’t know how to learn and practice smart instead of going in circles, or they lack the discipline to force themselves to study the things they find intimidating and draining to learn. But I’ve also seen people progress in a short few years from beginner to authoritative and respectable artists, so it really depends on the individual’s personality, intelligence, dedication, discipline…etc.


Well right now, I am practicing the Loomis exercises in Fun w/ a Pencil and doing each face around two-three times. I’m trying to improve both my freehand and my understanding of proportions in shapes at various axis of the circle.


Lunatique Thanks a lot for the tips. I really understand and agreed on everything you said and what you tell is like what my heart truly feels. I love the learning process and the journey to become better, even if it I just discovered a new muscle in the leg I didn’t know existed it feels like a small step to being a better artist. And it makes me happy. I will never stop drawing and wanting to improve even if it will pay my bills or not in the future. My passion for developing is much greater.

Altough I need to grab the bull by the horns and get my perspective skills better, and your tips and motivation is what gonna make me do it.
Thanks again for great great tips!


Thanks Robert Chang for your words of wisdom and reality. I really took it to heart wanting to better myself everyday and finally someone was able to make a decent path or guideline you might say to follow. That I just recently discovered on these forums, to better progress my skills and eventually creating a style that I can be comfortable with but also challenging myself everyday by attacking my weakness. I love and enjoy drawing art and want to always keep it in my future. Again, thank you Robert Chang for time, sir.


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