12 Ways CONFIDENCE will transform your artwork
What if you were the same artist, same experience and skill level, but just with loads more confidence. Would your work turn out better? Does confidence itself add something? I’m going to argue it does, and then tell you how to get it. First here are 17 ways confidence itself adds to your drawings (the video has 12, but I added 5 more in the list below!).
- Confidence is essential to line quality. That’s obvious. Attractive lines are confident lines. With experience you develop muscle memory, which is important, but an even bigger factor is you develop confidence in your lines.
2. Confidence means you have the guts to filter out detail. You know that your version is better than the literal truth and reality’s details aren’t as good as your selective simplicity.
3. Confidence means you don’t straighten the pose, instead you exaggerate it. Straightening the pose, a classic beginner struggle, comes from fear.
4. Confidence means you bring out the things about the figure you find interesting because you know what you find interesting matters. Again you know better than the literal truth.
5. Confidence in what you see means you don’t draw with pre-conceived symbols, which is how our brains think things should be drawn, but instead you draw the interesting shapes you see.
6. Confidence means you let colours bounce around your paintings. You need confidence to paint a person’s chest green like this instead of skin tones.
7. Confidence means you are ready to use dark darks and strong contrasts where they are needed while also ignoring contrasts where they don’t help your image.
8. Confidence helps you take the viewer’s eyes and guide them to where you want them to look. In the drawing below, Lane has merged shapes, lost edges and brought out extra contrast to guide the viewer’s eye through the drawing.
9. Confidence means you can blur edges as you see fit. It’s tempting to want to render and detail everything crisply, try to make each little part look good. With confidence, you choose what gets drawn clearly and crispy and what is left blurry.
10. Confidence means you draw what you want to draw instead of what you think everyone else wants you to draw, and still believe in it even if it doesn’t get as many likes as your other stuff.
11. Confidence to change the scene for the sake of the composition.
12. Confidence means you design the shadow shapes how you want them instead of blindly rendering them as they are.
13. Confidence to keep learning. Staying in your comfort zone is partly an insecurity thing because you don’t want to let go of your expert status.
14. Confidence to draw with pen.
15. Confidence to draw terribly all day and know it doesn’t reflect on your talent, it was just a bad day.
16. Confidence to take your time even in a quick 60 second sketch, by just simplifying your drawing even more.
17. Confidence to take criticism even when it’s presented to you harshly.
So how do you get confidence
Confidence seems tricky because you get confidence from being good and you get good partly from being confident. You can do it though, here’s how.
Part 1: assess yourself by learning, not the beauty of your drawings.
When you compare your drawings to 6 months ago, are you applying the principles of drawing more than before? It might not be coming together to actually make the drawings beautiful yet, but are you adding skills? Here’s a graph of learning versus beauty in your drawings. The drawings don’t get super beautiful for a while but you are learning.
Let’s say building a house is a 100 step process, stage one looks like the image on the left below and stage 65 looks like the one on the right. Stage 65 looks different but not much better. But if you know what you’re looking at, it’s a big step forward. To get here, you’ve got architectural planning, hiring the contractors, permits and connections to sewage and stuff, pouring the foundations.
Part 2: have faith in the power of purposeful practice.
If your assessment showed that your drawings haven’t really changed across the last year, be honest with yourself. Did you practice consistently, daily?
I don’t mean you got your sketchbook out once a month, I don’t mean doodling. I mean you got stuck into the hard challenges, trying to wrap your head around difficult principles. Did you persevere through the frustration and confusion that comes with learning something new?
If you can keep doing that consistently for 1 to 2 years, you’ll be drawing in ways you didn’t think possible. 99% of people don’t do that, so doing that makes you different instantly. That puts you in a special club, and you can have confidence in that.
Your practice doesn’t need to be perfect, because that puts too much pressure on it. It just needs to be that you are trying to get those fundamental principles of drawing that aren’t always easy or fun to grasp.
Because the practice doesn’t always give you really clear signals it’s working, so you don’t see a linear improvement in your drawings with each session, you need a bit of blind faith in the process and in yourself.
Part 3: Take risks when making marks:
If you are tentative and conservative while you learn to draw, especially when drawing figures, it’s going to hold you back. As you shy away from risks, you make yourself more and more risk averse, and that means you will lose the gesture every time.
People are very concerned that their drawings will be go wrong and look silly. That concern itself ruins so many drawings. You are not doing brain surgery, it’s ok if you take risks in your drawings and they don’t work out.
I don’t mean you draw without thinking and just put down random marks without a care. I mean if you see that interesting angle in the pose, you don’t shy away from it. I mean you put down your mark with a bold movement of your arm, instead of little tentative movements. Those bold movements will fail sometimes and it’ll go wrong, doesn’t matter.
If you take a risk and 9 times out of 10 it doesn’t work, but 1 time out of 10 it does work, then that risk is worth taking. You need to accept that bad drawings don’t reflect on you as an artist, they are just part of learning.
As you keep consistently practising the fundamental principles of drawing as well as learning to take risks during your drawings, you will start to see results more and more. This in turn will continuously grow your confidence which will provide all the benefits listed above, which in turn creates even more confidence. The tricky part is getting through the early phase of the learning process where the practice doesn’t have clear visible results yet.
If you need some guidance about the learning process for life drawing overall, check out our Life Drawing Success Guide (it’s free!)