• Alicia Kidd

How to improve your sketching skills

Updated: Sep 8, 2019

There are a few things you can do to improve your sketching skills. You should know, you won’t improve unless you practice. These things take time. Make sure you keep a record of everything you have sketched until now and I know you will see an improvement. My number one advice to everyone is to “sketch with intention.” When you draw with intention, you observe, you correct mistakes, and you ultimately improve as you go. Otherwise, you’re just sketching aimlessly, not paying attention, not learning, and not improving. The goal is not to make 100 sketches and not have changed anything at all. The goal is to see some kind of improvement, whether it’s your lines, use of color, use of space, shading, inking, highlighting, composition, background, and so on. So here are some of my recommendations on how to improve your overall sketching skills. These are the things I’m doing to improve my skills.

Take courses, workshops, seminars, and participate in clubs or groups.

Yes, participate in some kind of social gathering where everyone involved has a common interest, sketching.

Sketch Everyday

A great way to improve in any skill is to practice at it for a few minutes or hours, every single day. Here are a few motivational exercises to get you going:

watercolor materials for sketching alicia kidd
I'm currently using a Strathmore Watercolor Sketchbook with a custom made watercolor palette, a mechanical pencil and a fountain pen with waterproof black ink.

Sketching challenges

  • Buy or make a sketchbook specifically for a challenge, for example: fill a 300-page sketchbook in one month

  • 100 sketches of people in one week

  • Challenge your self to do a drawing a day

  • Participate in World Wide Challenges like Inktober

  • 50 illustrations of everyday items in one day (this one could possibly take all day, sketches can be very loose and simple, you can start with 10 then build up to 50 in 5 days)

Other things to try:

  • Buy or Make a traditional or an accordion sketchbook on your own. I recommend a good paper for mixed media and watercolor; arches cold press watercolor paper 140lbs.

  • Keep a chart with prompts and track your daily progress

Share your work

Sharing your work can bring in a few compliments, critiques, and comments from people who are at your level, masters, or even beginners. Constructive criticism can help you improve in many ways.

I practice watercolors at the moment because it is a medium I unfortunately ignored for a very long time. I have used acrylics in art school, pastels, color pencils, charcoal, gouache, ink, and, but I have never used watercolors or oil paints. And I’m sure that if and when I try oil paint, I will need to research, ask people questions and practice to get at least good enough to where I feel comfortable using that medium. I started using watercolors a year ago. Before art school and during art school, acrylics and gouache were the shiz. I felt very comfortable using both mediums. I never liked, and never tried using watercolor. I am now obsessed, and I have taken various courses, joined multiple groups, and practice as much as I could to improve my technique with this particular medium. If I keep practicing, I will keep growing.

As a challenge this month, I am currently doing “A cactus a day.” Where I sketch and color all the cacti, I have in my house and neighborhood for April. So these are real-life cacti drawn in my Stillman & Birn watercolor sketchbook and colored with my custom palette using Winsor and Newton professional watercolors. This is a great challenge that will hopefully help me improve my observation skills, my color mixing and painting skills, and my overall sketching skills. I hope to share my results on Instagram, so please take a look at my work over on Ig: kiddsketches

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