Practice Practice Practice makes perfect...


Alright now I am here to pose at first a simple question. Then expand on that question.

Does practicing really make perfect?

With all of the technology involved does this old saying even true with this?

You learn and learn in 3d… and it doesn’t mean squat 2 years later…
With painting, a new program comes out every 8 months…

Now can someone with little natural talent besides an active imagination and some drive
sit back and practice, unguided by anyone, no schools completely self taught, actually succeed in the professional world?

I personally would like to learn how to paint. But there was a point where I was doing it everyday, and not seeing improvement it seemed pointless as all the work I did I wasn’t happy with. I did a daily sketch for months and didn’t really even post most of them.

So, how to get better? What practice or kinds of practice should someone be doing really?

All those sketches /paints were me doing my own thing…

Can someone do there own thing, (don’t copy other artists, shy away from tutorials) and become better? To me it seems like rehashing the same stuff…
And Lastly…

Tutorials, do they really help? Or is it just another “trick” added to your arsenal without actually becoming better?


Well, let’s see some of these questions…

With all of the technology involved does this old saying even true with this?

You learn and learn in 3d… and it doesn’t mean squat 2 years later…
With painting, a new program comes out every 8 months…

Well, the basics will always remain the same… Speed is probably the only thing that will really change with newer technology… I don’t think that there is anybody out there who makes use of every new piece of tool coming their way (especially since the use of many of these tools is often considered cheating and can easily be spotted). Actually, I know that there are some people out there who still use old versions of Photoshop.
So, it all comes down to the basics (even with 3D)…

Tutorials, do they really help? Or is it just another “trick” added to your arsenal without actually becoming better?

Yes, they are often just another technique added to your arsenal… But, you might find a tutorial that will provide you with exactly what you need to reach you desired level…
Maybe you should try a different approach… For instance, have you tried going from abstract to concrete? It has helped people like Andrew ‘Android’ Jones and Daryl Mandryk:
Of course, you need to be really good technically for these workflows, and I don’t know how good you are… Anyhow, this is just an example…


Here’s a cliche phrase…

Practice doesn’t make Perfection, Perfect Practice is what makes Perfection…

anyways, what is perfection though? You have to compare yourself to anothers work to say whether or not your work is up to snuff…your probably being your own toughest critique, let others judge and see if your developing new skills/techniques…

I’ve taken minor weekly painting courses… (like camp for young adults…lame i know) and I can’t say they were an immediate improvement but I did learn several new techniques so I definitely recommend at least trying a local course at a nearby community college…

hope that helps…


Practicing is not a simple blanket word that you may think it is. There are complexities involved in practicing. Ask youself these questions:

  1. Are you simply repeating what you already know when you practice, and not pushing forward to things you don’t know and haven’t mastered?

  2. Do you have a list of goals when you practice? Do you set goals with each practice session?

  3. Do you know what is the most effective way to practice a certain skill?

  4. Are you just going through the motions and spinning your wheels when you practice mindlessly, or are you being very observant and engaging your critical thinking and analytical mind while practicing, noting your every move and assessing how effective every decision and move was, and how to improve upon them?

  5. Do you know how to be resourceful and search for knowledge that will aid you in your growth?

The main problem with a lot of artists is that they don’t know how to work and learn in a smart manner, and tend to just spin their wheels with no real game plan or purpose. If you are methodical and analytical and critical in your growth, you will improve so much faster than simply going through the motions without thinking about what it is you’re actually doing.


Ok wanted to let it sit before replying.

Abstract to concrete seems like a different way than I do things so I will give it a try.

I am my own worst critic, so I have updated my portfolio here ju[st](file://\st) for this so please review.
also an old portfolio online (05)

And no I was not aware of complexities of practicing. I pick a picture in my mind and I attempt to replicate it.
So to answer per number Lunatique…
1 I know neither my strenghts or weaknesses really. I just know that my image doesnt really turn out how I want it to.
2 No, what kind of goals would one set? What are some examples?
3. No, when I paint I just do something until it looks how I want it to.
4. Spinning my wheels actually sounds close, but I am very observant of what works and what doesnt, I thought this was the point of practice?
5. Nope not in any shape or form. Thats why I was asking if tutorials really even matter. Ive done a bunch, great for X situation (like making metal, wood, human skin) Crap for anything else.


It is almost impossible to satisfy your mind, once you get it looking good new things will pop up and take over what you accomplished.

It’s like buying something you ‘really’ want you may go through a lot to get it but once you have it you mind will set itself to something else.

Setting goals are brillant. That way you’ll have a target to aim for.

If you want to improve your artwork you need to practice but practice ‘analytical’ like Lunatique have said.

Also ask an artist/teach you might know around your area they could give you valuable advice.

I guess you could ask yourself.

Why it doesn’t look right? and see how you can actually change it.

Also you should check out Andrew Loomis’s books they are one of the greatest assets you can get for free. He was one of the best artists of the 19th century. Check out the sticky threads on CGSociety i think the link still works.

Another book is “Drawing on the Right Side” by Betty Ewards.

The most important thing is “Patient and Never Give Up”, I was like you and probably still am but i’ll keep going.


Ok, I took a look at your updated portfolio and basically I would categorize what you have in there as early stages of novice work, and you have a long way ahead of you before you reach any level of competence.

I’ll ask you some more questions and then I’ll try to answer all of your questions, but mind you, I tend to ask questions that are meant to lead you to find answers on your own by thinking in ways you never did before, instead of spoon-feeding every little information, as that is nowhere near as helpful. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “If you give a man fish he’ll eat for a meal, but if you teach him to fish, he’ll eat forever.”

  1. I see that you went to Full Sail. What kind of classes did you take at Full Sail? Do you still remember what you learned in those classes?

  2. How hard did you work at Full Sail? Were you working like a madman non-stop during your schooling there, or were you just coasting?

  3. Did you have classmates there that really grew and improved a lot and turned into amazing artists? What do you think the differences are between you and them?

Kenrick-Wu - Loomis is not as ancient as you think. He’s actually 20th century and fairly modern. :slight_smile:


Whats a goal you could set to fufill why you were painting?
Ya and I ask myself allot “why doesnt it look right” normally I dont know and dont know how to fix it.
Used to be Like me, do you think you have improved?

Yes I went to Fullsail for Computer Animation. Most of the classes are aimed at directly that.
There were some art classes and I actually enjoyed them the most. I remember alot of what was taught, if I had to guess id say I remember all of the object perspective class. And I did take a few art classes at a local CC, while informative I do not think they helped my art as a whole. (One was a still life drawing class, the other was an Art Theory class)

I was a machine at Fullsail. There was a time where I spent a week and a half there, no shower didnt go go home and I would sleep on the floor outside the lab curled up in a ball or putting my head into my knees. I got good grades and did my assignments. Despite my hardwork and many many other peoples hard work in that school only 2 people out of my graduating class got a job, I think the school was flawed. And out of the graduating class before me and the one after only 3 have Ca jobs as well 4 years after graduating. Something is screwed there.

Nope not really. I can remember around 3 amazing artists. They were amazing before they started the school. One had already gotten a bachelors in art before coming there. Another had an associate in fine arts. And the other used to teach at a local college, had no idea why he was even at fullsail.

Lunatique when did you start painting? All the good artists I see seem to have started when they were very young, and im an old fart now at 25 :stuck_out_tongue:


I’ve been drawing all my life, but I got serious about it around age 13-ish. I went pro by the time I was 18 (doing comic books full-time). BUT, age has nothing to do with it. I know plenty of people that started late as an adult and because they had talent and they knew how to study/practice smart, they got up to pro level in just a short few years. There’s a guy at who has a thread (it’s now a sticky thread it should be easy to find in the “Best of CA” subforum) that he started when he was a newbie, and he was pretty much at your level. He kept practicing and posting his improvements in that thread, and in a short time, not only did he become very good, he became a pro and started teaching others. You really should try to search for that thread for inspiration.

Now, with all the information I gathered from you, this is my assessment and recommendation.

  1. You said you worked hard in school, and I’d have to think you either had really bad teachers or you were just spinning your wheels on stuff that had no bearing on how your growth as an artist.

  2. You took foundation courses but to be totally honest, based on your portfolio, it looks like the work of someone who never studied art at all and is completely lacking in even the most basic foundation knowledge. I don’t know if this is the fault of the school or you just were approaching it all from the wrong angle.

  3. Based on where you are now, you’ll be starting pretty much from scratch since what you were taught in school obviously aint helping you with jack. But do not be discouraged. There are so many guys who are self-taught, including me. If you are resourceful and smart about how you plan your growth as an artist, then you can definitely do really well on your own. Hell, plenty of the self-taught guys I know SMOKE many of the dudes who went to school and have gone on to teach art schools. Truth is, if you’re talented and work smart, you’ll be that way whether you’re in school or on your own, and that is the best combination you can possibly have (well, make that three. Add Perseverance as well).
    In fact, if you have two of those three qualities, you’d get somewhere. Just one, maybe not.

  4. My recommendation to you right now is to start over. Start with the art tutorial sticky thread right here in this subforum. Also check out the Figure/Anatomy thread that Rebecca leads too. Start participating in her activities. Find the Andrew Loomis books mentioned in the sticky thread and read them from cover to cover, and practice those lessons like hell. Read all the tutorials and lessons listed in that sticky thread–many will teach you much that your school seem to have skipped. Start thinking analytically and start observing the world around you with an analytical mind. Do not just go through the motions.

  5. When setting up goals, try something like this example (this is JUST an example of the kind of stuff you could/should be thinking about and planning, it is by no means complete).

(Example goals)

Short Term
-Today I’ll read the first 3 chapters of Loomis’s Figure Drawing For All It’s Worth, and I’ll do at least 15 practice drawings from the those chapters.
-Tomorrow I’ll read up on values and how they help create a sense of dimension and volume. I’ll do at least 10 drawings using values to depict dimensionality.
-Next week I’ll read about how stress points and compression form the wrinkles on clothing, and how different types of fabric will react differently to those factors.
-I cannot drawing convincing eyes for the life of me, so I’ll need to analyze the structure of the human eye, and understand why it looks the way it does, how it reflects light, how it expresses emotions…etc.
-My animation sucks. I need to examine why. I need to get Animator’s Survival Kit by Richard Williams and study the hell out of that book.

Medium Term
-I’ll Do a series of practice portraits, half from photos and half from real life sessions. I’ll try to make them as photorealistic as possible.
-I’ll do at least 5 monochromatic photorealistic paintings of either people or still life or scenery, and they could be in any paint medium. The idea is to get familar with the handling of paint.
-I’ll Do at least 10 really good copies of old master’s work or artists I admire, and I’ll try my best to figure out their thought process and approach while doing these copies.

Long Term
-I want to amass a body of new works within 3 years that are good enough to get me a job as an entry level (insert job description).
-I want to be able to enter Call For Entries invitations from CG annual publications like Expose or Exotique from Ballistic Publishings, and at least get one piece accepted.

etc etc.


Wow, thanks Robert.

Never ever thought of some of those things.

This is really helpful tips. I am also practicing to improve my drawing and reading Loomis books at the same time.

They are a bit hard to digest cover by cover and also its not very instructional by that i mean he doesn’t say draw these but he does explain the concept/theory which can be overwhelming.

I’ll keep your advice in mind thanks.


Sometimes seeing how other people work may help to break some mental locks. I have found Bobby Chiu’s ( and Riven Phoenix’s ( videos excellent for this purpose. Latter ones are commercial (costs around 50 dollars) but they start from very basics which is not a bad thing itself.

I am sure there is a lot of other useful material out there. It’s up to you to find the most useful for you. Not everyone learns the same way. :slight_smile:


Hmm… I would like to see that thread, but I can’t find it…


I think, Lunatique is talking about “MindCandyMan” and this thread:


I have some input on this matter if you guys don mind…

The way I see it, it takes more than talent to get good at art… Some people have the luxury of starting young or having artists for parents. Some people don’t, and it doesn’t matter that much like was said before.

I think the most important ability you need to have is the drive. The ability to pick up that pencil even though you know there’s so many more talented artists than you out there.

My situation, for example is this; I have recently been sketching and doing some sort of 3D or digital painting everyday for the last few months. I hope to keep this up because apparently, it will all pay off in the end. But lately I have these feelings of hopelessness, like Im trying to hard to get something that cant be got. Like I am wearing myself out. But I think eventually, if I have the ability to pull myself out of these ruts and fill another sketchbook up, Ill do ok.

This of course, is just my opinion.
All the best in your quest bro,


Yeah, that’s the thread I was talking about. IMO every single aspiring artist who feel daunted by the journey ahead MUST go through that entire thread, because it is solid proof that if you stick with it, not only can you become good, you can become VERY good.

I think one of the problems is that many who are starting out have no idea the amount of work it takes to get that good, and it feels like you are on this journey with no end in sight, and you don’t know if you could keep going or if you’ll ever get there. The problem isn’t the journey–it’s the mentality. A person should not dedicate his life to creative endeavors if it’s not out of love and passion and enjoyment. If you are not having any fun at all and every moment of learning, growing, practicing…etc feels like torture to you, then you should not be doing it–pick something else to do with your life. You must think of it like this:

If someone really loves singing in the shower, although he’s not very good, should he stop doing it simply because he’ll never sound like a professional opera singer? If you really enjoy the endeavor, then that should be the main reason for doing it. Little old ladies around the world enjoys doing little watercolors or velvet paintings of their pets, and most of those are considered horrible art, but hey, they really enjoy themselves and that’s all that matters.

To enjoy something is actually quite easy–either you find yourself drawn to the process or you find something else that interests you more. BUT, once you decide you want to excel at it, then you must work hard and work smart at it, and you must stick it out, even if it takes years. There is a very real possibility that some people can only enjoy something when they don’t need to push themselves to excel, but as soon as they have to work hard at something, they stop enjoying it. It’s more than just about talent and hard work–it’s also about personality type, and you don’t hear people talking about that aspect enough. There are people who don’t enjoy having to push themselves because with that comes stress and expectations, and then there are those who thrive when challenged. Even if you’re not the type to enjoy a challenge, you’d still be able to enjoy yourself doing whatever you choose, but you probably won’t get very good at it if you don’t push forward and meet some challenges.

I get people who contact me all the time, asking for my help, and often they get frustrated after just a few months or a year or so into their journey to become good artists. They’d say things like “But I filled out this whole sketchbook and I didn’t see any improvement!” or “I already drew dozens and dozens of heads but I still can’t get it right!”

If anyone reading this thread has felt the same or said the same things before, then you must stop thinking like that. It isn’t about how many sketchbooks you fill up or how many heads you’ve drawn–it’s about how smart your learning methods are and how analytical you are when you are drawing. The average artist will fill up well over a dozen sketchbooks before they start to get good, and they draw hundreds and thousands of heads to get there–a few dozen is NOTHING in the grand scheme of artistic growth. You could maybe excel faster than the average artist if you are very smart in the way you seek out learning resources, the way you absorb new knowledge, the way you incorporate new knowledge, the way you train your eye/hand coordination, and the way you observe/analyze the world around you and apply them to your artistic growth. But even then, it takes at least a couple of years of full-time hard work to get there. If you look at the really good first-year art students who are already kicking ass, I’ll bet that just about every one of them have already been drawing a lot even before they entered art school.

Anyway, have faith in yourself. Be smart in the way you learn and grow and practice. Have patience and stick with it. Also, be honest with yourself. Have you been spinning your wheels without really learning anything? Are you seeking out new knowledge to strengthen your weaknesses and you target those weaknesses when you practice? When you practice, are you analyzing what it is you’re doing and asking yourself how would it help you grow, or you are just going through the motions blindly, like an dog walking in circles chasing its own tail?

-Set clear goals, and have realistic expectations.
-Search for knowledge, leave no stone unturned.
-Practice smart and practice often.
-Enjoy the challenge. You should be having fun instead of feeling like it’s a chore.
-Failures will teach you more than successes will. Embrace your failures as valuable lessons (analyze your failures and don’t repeat them!)

BTW, I’ve made this thread a sticky because I think it will help others that wander into this forum.


Yay! I have decided to dedicate myself to becoming better and have been faithful to it. I have started a noobie thread at concept art :slight_smile:

That thread was really inspiring, and I knew of the site I never took a serious look around. There are tons of ppl who sucked at some point, which to be honest is encouraging lol
This thread was very helpful in me determining exactly what I wanted and a little bit more on how to achieve it. Thank you very much everyone :slight_smile:

I heard twice now that drawing is more fundamentally important than painting. (Like if you can draw well to begin with your paintings will be better)
Even though I want to paint really well should I be focusing on drawing first?

I am currently working out of the book “Anatomy Made Amazingly Easy” : By Christopher Hart.


Yay! Starting that thread is a good idea, as people will be tracking your growth and can tailor their feedback based on the rate/direction of your growth.

I would say that drawing is more important than painting. The often misunderstood thing about painting is that it is somehow a separate thing from drawing. It really isn’t. Painting is still drawing, since you are still dealing with shapes primarily. If a painting is monochromatic, it is still a painting, no? And if you did a drawing that’s completed shaded, it’ll look very similar to the monochromatic painting, no? So if you don’t consider color for a moment, you’ll see drawing and painting aren’t that different. And with drawing, you can use colored pencil, pastel, markers…etc, so with a full colored drawing, how different is it from a painting?

With painting, if you get the shapes wrong, then no amount of brushwork can save a painting, but if you get the shapes right, even if your brushwork isn’t impressive like John singer Sargent or Richard Schmid, it at least wouldn’t look wrong.

So yeah, make sure you can draw well, and the rest will come easier than if you didn’t. Just keep in mind that while you are practicing painting, you are still practicing drawing at the same time–you cannot separate the two and you should never make the mistake of separating the two in your mind.

My advice is to make sure your drawing skills are at least average before you attempt painting–meaning get your drawings to look like the average quality of an average art school student, which usually translates into not stunning, but no glaring technical mistakes in proportion, perspective, and lighting. The average drawing may not portray the volume and values as correctly as should, but at least it suggests them and has no glaring mistakes like depicting a white cylinder having darker form shadows than a medium grey cylinder.


Robert i don’t suppose you could give us a run-down of how you practice / what you drew etc… before you turned pro?

Obviously you’ve already recommended Loomis books, (Did you use those? stupid question).

I’m currently reading Drawing Heads and Hands but theres a section i don’t quiet understand which is the planes topic where he showed everything in blocky pictures but i’m not sure how i’m suppose to draw those so i did a plain copy.

Also did you do a lot of wacom drawings or just plain pencil?


Well, even after you turn pro you should still continue to learn and grow–it really is a life-long journey. I doubt any masters when dying of old age felt like they had mastered it all, and for most creative types, a lifetime is not nearly enough to do all that we want to do.

Important stages of growth don’t necessarily happen before one made a living as an artist. Whether you make money with your talent/skill is not really a watermark in your artistic journey–plenty of people who make a living as artists are very limited in their skill and even their level of talent–to the point of being dubbed as incompetent or a hack, yet they can still enjoy a career doing it. Which industry you become a pro in does make a difference though–for example, if you want to be a concept artist for film and games, then the accepted skill/talent level would generally be higher than some of the other industries. There’s also style and intent. An artist who does abstract or very simple cute greeting card illustration may not have the goal of mastering photorealism, and it would be unreasonable to expect that from such an artist. So one question every aspiring artist needs to answer for himself is “What career path do I want to take?”

For me, I got serious about drawing around 13 or 14, and I knew I wanted to be a storyteller first and foremost, and my artwork is there to serve my storytelling. That has never changed, and I’m always happier illustrating my own intellectual property than playing with someone else’s toys. Well, fan art can be a lot of fun I guess, since you’re emotionally attached to works you are a big fan of.

My sketchbooks were typically filled with anatomy studies, life drawing (of family and friends and classmates), storyboards, concept art…etc. As I got older, my sketchbook became more like project planning/research, where I’d design stuff for an upcoming painting, or working out a problematic composition I’m dealing with on a new painting, or concept art for my screenplays and treatments. I’d still practice some of the other stuff, but not nearly as much. My growth at the later stages were mostly project based. For example, if I was working on a painting that had an infant in it, I’d do research into what makes infants look the way they do, and I’d do sketches to figure out the core qualities of an infant’s proportions, skin tone…etc.

One of the most important aspect of practicing and studying smart is to not merely copy, but read between the lines and understand what are the core ideas in a lesson. This is precisely why the most useful tutorials aren’t necessarily ones where the artist just documents all the steps–the best tutorials are the ones where the artist explains the ideas and philosophies behind his working method. He’ll explain why he chose a particular composition, why he used a particular color scheme, or why he lit the scene a certain way to achieve a particular mood, or why he prefers to draw female noses a certain way.

When practicing–let’s say a life drawing of your girlfriend sitting on the couch playing your Xbox360. Assuming she’s not naked, you’d have to draw the folds in her clothing. Instead of merely copying what you see, you should take note of where the compression points are, how the wrinkles will go from the compression points to the stress points (for example, the armpit is a compression point, and the shoulder is a stress point). When you understand the core ideas behind how and why nature works the way it does, you’re well on your way to learning and practicing in a smart manner instead of just going through the motions and spinning your wheel.

The most drastic improvement phase for me happened during the time when Craig Mullins was still active on the internet (at Sijun Forums). Many of the members there didn’t go to a high profile art school like he did, and he was very nurturing to us pups. He taught us the core ideas behind why things look the way they do, the higher concepts of visual construction and structure, such as the relationship between textures and values and colors, how form and colors contribute to an image and which is more important, and also taught us how to deconstruct an image and figure out why it can convey the mood or style that it does. I had already been a professional artist for about 10 years before I wandered into the Sijun forums, and of course I had some idea of all that stuff, but many links were missing and some concepts were hazy in my mind. It wasn’t until being part of the Sijun community and learning from Craig did everything eventually come into focus. He spelled it out in ways I had never thought of before. It’s a shame he’s no longer active. I miss him like hell. Craig essentially influenced a large portion of the current generation of young concept/matte artists.

In any lesson about visual art, you should always remember that the core ideas are always the same, and they are the most importan and also the most basic foundations in any image. I personally break it down into something like:


-Color theory

Depending on subject matter:

-Figure drawing/Anatomy
-Design (biological, mechanical, architectural, decorative pattens/colors…etc)

Depending on medium/style:

-Line quality

Depending on intent:

-Idea behind the image (storytelling, atmosphere, socio-political statement, emotional expression, intellectual exploration…etc)

To answer your other questions, I didn’t discover Loomis until I’d already turned pro, and most of the stuff he taught I’d had already picked up from other sources (Jack Hamm, for example) or through experience. What I did find more helpful to me at that stage was Creative Illustration, as that is the most advanced book of his IMO. It deals with the higher concepts like those Craig taught us at Sijun.

The whole planes thing is really about helping you understand how to simplify the complex curved surfaces that exist all around us. A good analogy is if you took a color photo and ran it through Photoshop’s “posterize” filter, and you’ll see how it simplifies millions of colors into just a handful, but retains the overall color scheme. Visualizing complex curves in planes is just like that, except it deals with shapes instead of color. To be able to draw in planes effectively, you must first do some time in perspective lessons, to at least understand how basic perspective is constructed, otherwise you’d struggle with drawing in planes.

For drawing, I didn’t start using the computer/tablet until about 1998, and by 2001 I pretty much converted to digital for everything except personal enjoyment (I love traditional oil painting). Prior to 1998 it was all traditional mediums. Is doesn’t matter what you use though–just please don’t use a mouse.


As always i really appreciate you taking the time to answer questions us noobies have. Thank you.

It was very insightful (not what i expected) thank you for sharing. I bought “Perspective Made Easy by Ernest Norling” which Loomis recommended in his book :).

Do you think it’s better to finish that first and then continue with the planes section or just read them side by side?

Thanks again ;D