If you’re teaching yourself to draw with online tutorials…
Since you’re here, you’re probably learning to draw with some help from online tutorials, from websites like Love Life Drawing. I’ve started to teach myself through online learning too – we are all about figure drawing here, but I also want to be able to paint landscapes . And I’ve realised that I need some skill to manage my online learning. (You can watch the video, or read the article version below)
Sometimes when learning to draw, it can feel like you’re lost, especially when you are self-taught. I often feel that way. Watching tutorials and reading books can feel like someone’s giving you a map through the wilderness.
And then from the YouTuber point of view, we love to make tutorials and it’s good for our channels to put out consistent videos every week. Online course creators want to make sure you get your money’s worth, so they’ll pack lots of great tips into every lesson.
But then, if you’re anything like me, you’ll often put pencil to paper after the tutorial, and it doesn’t quite work as promised, and you feel lost again. And even worse, you might start to feel like you don’t have enough talent, because you couldn’t do it even with the great tutorial.
Your learning pace
I started an online course taught by a guy called Nathan Fowkes. It was about landscape painting with watercolour. I really loved it. I have no relationship to Nathan Fowkes, all I know is what I saw in this course, and I think he’s one of the best art teachers I’ve come across. So far, so good.
The first few weeks of the course were all about value studies – getting to grips with painting landscapes using only black and white gouache and looking for the big simple statement that explains what’s important about the view. After that, the course started to move on to limited colour palettes. If I were more experienced with landscapes and gouache, that pace would have been absolutely fine.
But I had to be honest with myself, after 2 weeks, my value studies were still a mess. I was still on the steep part of the learning curve with the value studies, and also with gouache. I’m quite busy so I could only fit in 20 to 30 minutes of landscape practice when walking my dog on my own, so progress was going to be slow. So now to add another learning curve with colour, was going to be overwhelming.
I needed to at least get to that first plateau in the learning curve with value and gouache where I was comfortable before adding anything more. So instead of spending 2 weeks on value studies, I paused the course and have been doing them for a few months, and I intend to continue.
The plate and the fridge
I don’t want to watch fewer tutorials though, because they are fun and interesting. In my head, it’s like eating food. If I try to eat all the food I can at once, I’m going to feel ill, and just not want to move. So instead, I can store some food in the fridge or the freezer, and just eat an amount I can digest now. This way I can have just the right amount to energise me. I watch lots of tutorials, but a lot of the information just goes in the fridge for later. For right now, I just want to have enough for a healthy meal.
When I’m ready to start working on a new skill, then I take in a good amount of information about it and then start practising. And as specific questions or difficulties arise, I go and find tips that will help with them.
Alongside that deliberate learning, I like to watch videos just because they are interesting. I love this subject, so hearing people talk about it and explain it is fun. As long as I don’t start thinking ‘I need to start doing that!’ every time.
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