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  • Writer's pictureKonstantin

The 5 Most Devious Drawing Beginner Mistakes And How To Avoid Them

Updated: May 27, 2020

How you can avoid these very common drawing beginner mistakes.

Are you beginning to draw at the moment? Are you never genuinely satisfied with your artworks? Do your drawings always look somehow childish? If that's the case you are probably doing one of the following mistakes. We will go over ways to improve these mistakes together step by step.


I. Introduction

II. Common Mistakes & The Solutions

1. Starting With Details

2. Doubt & Fear

3. Not Using Fundamental Knowledge

4. Not Using The Whole Value Range

5. Dark Outlines

IV. Conclusion

I. Introduction

Everyone does them. Mistakes. But Beginners especially do them a lot and I'm not gonna lie, I did them all the time. Probably you're going to see some things you do wrong, too but hopefully, you'll find the solution to your art mistakes here.

What are the most common mistakes drawing beginners do and what are possibilities to avoid them? This article isn't supposed to tell you how to start out as an artist but within the following paragraphs, I want to provide valuable information, useful tips for beginner drawers.

II. Common Mistakes & The Solutions

I see my friends and family members do these things all the time, I remember doing them myself a lot when I started to draw and maybe you will also find yourself in today's article. I'll present to you my most common mistakes and the ones I ignored for the longest time.

I want to encourage you to do something against it to finally be satisfied with your work as an artist. These beginner drawing tips could save you much time in your drawing journey.

They would have for me if I had known them before I started to draw my first face scribbles. (scribbles: "a piece of writing or a drawing that is done quickly or carelessly". Yes, indeed!)

Starting to scribble something is better than procrastinating your whole life of course! I always talk about how important it is to take action, but the best ratio of progress in any field is 50% doing and 50% learning.

So without further ado, let's dive right into these 5 devious mistakes.

1. Starting With Details

Let's assume you already know what to draw and maybe it's a face. I'll use this example because this has always been what I'm most interested in. If you are, too then good for you. However, the following advice will apply to every motif you want to draw.

Definitely the most common mistake of all beginner artists all around the globe is this one. They start off drawing something very detailed putting a lot of effort into it and then realize that the whole drawing doesn't even fit on the available space on the paper.

Let us stick to the face example. You may have already tried to draw your first faces and if you did you probably have started with one or rather two detailed things in it. You started to draw eyes, am I right?

Don't hide. Many aspiring pencil artists do that. You're here because you want to learn about your mistakes and you want to learn how to improve, right? That's a great move and it shows that you really care about your passion and that you want to do it right.

In Germany, we have a saying that says: "admission is the first step to improvement." Admitting and acknowledging your own mistakes is brave, proves greater interest in a topic and you are more likely to progress faster.

Anyway, please excuse my little digression. Let's return to the actual topic now. Many beginning drawers start with the eyes when they actually want to draw a face.

From this point, many people don't even go any further and keep drawing these two eyes or just one of them adding more and more detail. While doing this sometimes for 30 minutes or longer, they ignore everything else basically. I have always been fascinated by eyes and I also started to draw faces with eyes at first.

Do you see yourself in this, too? No? Well, that is pretty unusual and if you have just started your drawing journey I'm not sure if I even would believe you. If you see yourself doing this all the time, don't be embarrassed or ashamed.

You're definitely not alone with this and there is a very simple tip I want to share with you now to prevent you from starting off with details. Just don't do it. Start your drawing with the complete opposite of detail. What is that? The answer is simple.

Start off sketching very basic shapes or envelopes around your actual subject later on.

You see, you don't even have to start with shapes but just draw some kind of robe to break down the outer dimensions of your subject. Do this in a very rough way and merely use very light strokes for this very first part.

Important hereby is to pay attention to get the outer proportions correctly and really don't start off with details such as the mouth nose or the already mentioned eyes.

Another very common beginner mistake that goes hand in hand with starting off with details is not using guidelines! Even if you start with the very basic outline you can still ignore the fact that guidelines are king for getting facial proportions right.

You should draw them very lightly to be erasable later on when you're finally allowed to add details. A great way to start drawing heads correctly is the Loomis method. Watch this short video to get an idea.

As you can see, if you watched the video, this method to draw heads include both guidelines and starting with basic shapes. I highly recommend this technique to you if you want to start drawing three-dimensional looking faces and heads.

The Loomis method is one of the easiest ways to learn how to draw a face for beginners I know. As I watched this very video for the first time approximately 10 months ago last year I was so fascinated by this technique that I instantly had to try it.

This is what started my realistic drawing journey and "pencil obsession" as I call it sometimes (right after getting into drawing with Zentangle). I'm really not funny, I know.

Well, in case you're interested I will insert below the first drawing I ever created following the instructions of the video.

Remember these steps when you're sketching not using the Loomis method:

  1. Draw soft and vague outlines (use basic shapes)

  2. Refine it over and over again

  3. Define it by using stronger and darker lines

This is basically everything you need to do in order to tremendously increase your satisfaction rate. Being content with your results is important.

2. Doubt & Fear

When you've just started to draw or you're at least very interested in drawing chances are you have already experienced this once or twice. You sit in front of your blank piece of paper and you don't know what to do.

Often you sit in front of that paper staring at you without even having a clue of what you could possibly draw now. You simply don't have any ideas. This is a problem I'll be talking about in another article where we can get more detailed. Finding the necessary motivation and inspiration is hard.

The fear of creating something that won't meet our expectations is nothing unfamiliar since there is a little or not that little perfectionist inside every one of us, right? That guy often keeps us from progressing in any possible field in life.

Training makes perfect. So they say at least... I'm sorry if I disappoint you right now but a lot of practice does not entirely kill that perfectionist in you. He shouts at you far less often than at the beginning and he gets quieter but he is still there!

Setting yourself strict routines doesn't only help with solving creative blocks but it also forces you to ignore your perfectionism and do something no matter what it is.

The much graver problem, however, is for most beginners to come out of their comfort zone. If you don't feel comfortable yet with some special parts of the human body you have probably avoided to draw those parts so far.

That is also keeping you massively from progressing at drawing. In order to achieve something and learn new things you really have to do one thing.

Avoid avoiding the unknown.

Force yourself to draw these things and force yourself to deal with the theoretic stuff behind it. My tip is to always keep the 50:50 learning-practicing ratio in mind. Don't drown in binge-watching sessions where you watch one drawing tutorial after another and you can't tell me you haven't been at that point yet.

Many beginners, also probably including you (since I guess that's why you're here) fear not being satisfied with the results. Generally speaking, this is the main problem of this second most devious danger for drawing beginners.

Know that you are a beginner and you cannot possibly be as good as a master artist after your first 10 or 20 drawings. When you start at a new job at a company normally you don't start at the top.

You have to learn the stuff about your work first and then keep working harder and harder on getting better and better to earn more money or reach higher positions. This is exactly the same in any type of sport or any other creative field.

I know you want to draw perfect people, objects, landscapes or whatever else you're interested in right now. Just never forget that it takes a lot of time, effort, blood, sweat, and tears to achieve great things everywhere in life.

The harder you work on your dreams, the faster you'll get results and the more satisfying your results will be.

Don't be afraid of mistakes. Making mistakes is the most essential basis of true growth. Keep failing and you will keep learning and improving.

With that all said, we will now move on to the third very common mistake.

3. Not Using Fundamental Knowledge

Starting off with pencil drawing is super easy, costs almost no money and you only need a pencil and a piece of paper to create first scribbles. This is very often the reason for many beginners to completely ignore the theory around this art.

Drawing is very easy to start but it gets bigger and more complex the deeper you dive into it. The more you want to know about drawing the more you will realize that the amount of knowledge you can have about this skill is enormous.

Since it is so easy to start off, however, you have probably thought for a decent amount of time that you just have to keep doing exactly what you started with to become a professional.

You do get better the more you practice obviously but you will never see any significant rises in your learning curve if you never confront yourself with some of the theoretical stuff about art. I've created Mac H. - Creative mostly for this reason actually.

Combining useful practical stuff, including my free online course and all the theory that is important to become a good graphite or charcoal artist. This and keeping my mailing list subscribers at an approximate 50:50 rate concerning theory and practice is my philosophy behind Mac H. - Creative.

The fundamentals of drawing consist of:

  1. Value

  2. Form

  3. Composition

  4. Perspective

  5. Anatomy

  6. Proportions

  7. Colors

All of these are essential for everyone who is serious about getting into drawing in a professional manner. Even if you just want to draw casually and for fun (which it should always be!) I'd also recommend learning the basics. You'll simply be more excited about how fast you progress.

So if you subscribe to my mailing list I will definitely send you emails containing the free three-day online "Zentangle" course, useful practices and of course theory-based knowledge. This also includes the fundamentals and I'll be writing to you in person.

4. Not Using The Whole Value Range

A mistake that can also be seen a lot of times in beginner drawings is the lack of darkness. The fear of doing something wrong comes into play here once more.

Do you often find yourself looking at a drawing of yours that you have been working on for an hour or two now and think: "That is complete now. I won't add any more, it will only ruin it. I'm finally content with the result at the moment."

This is where I caught myself so many times. Countless times I sat in front of a drawing and thought "Yeah, this is it. I could continue to work on this one but I don't want to destroy it."

Our comfort zones come forward again to say hello. Fear and staying in our comfort zones are the largest and most dangerous factors that keep us from achieving success.

Basically, to get to the point, beginners tend to use too light values.

Yes, not too dark ones but too light ones. This keeps you from creating and simulating realistic-looking depth. If you find yourself in this description you are probably too timid to get messy with your drawings.

Don't worry about it, you can work on it and I am working on it myself at the moment, to be honest. It can be hard to keep working on a drawing that you're already satisfied with, I really know.

But remember that getting out of that comfort zone of drawing merely things you're familiar with won't get you ahead. If you keep drawing as long as you feel comfortable you simply won't progress as fast and at some point, you will stop progressing at all.

What I'm trying right now is to change my mentality, my attitude towards my drawing. I don't want to see them as tasks I start and finish at 100% after a certain amount of time.

I want to perceive the sketches in my sketchbook merely as practices to get better. I want to change the view of a perfectionist to the view of a curious, success orientated and motivated drawing intermediate.

Be brave dear drawing colleague and try something new. For your next picture try to include the whole value range from the white of your paper to the darkest part of your softest pencil.

This also means that you should make a small investment. Get yourself at least a few harder pencils an HB pencil and two to four softer pencil with a higher "blackness" score. You can buy a good pencil set on Amazon here.

Use the harder pencils to draw the light outlines. The darker your lines are getting and the more you get into the shading task the softer your pencil should become that you're using.

Getting messy, breaking out of your comfort zone, and using the whole value range to create depth is the final moral.

5. Dark Outlines

Okay, forget what I said about the first point being the most common beginner mistake on this planet. Just delete this information from your head because this is without any sign of doubt the most widely spread mistake EVERY drawing beginner does.

I know I'm sticking my neck out quite far right now but I'm genuinely convinced that every artist has drawn a picture with strong outlines everywhere at least once. If you haven't done this I think there is something genuinely wrong.

I'm just kidding, let's be honest. Drawing outlines is the first thing every child does when it first gets in contact with crayons or similar drawing and painting tools.

What else should we do?

As children obviously there is nothing special you can do to change that. You just want to be happy with your first creations. Well, I guess so since I don't really remember any feeling about accomplishing drawings as a kid. Do you remember?

Anyway, dark outlines instantly take the illusion of reality. Just think about it for a second. Do you know any man, woman, child, pet, tree or cup of coffee having a black outline?

Take a look at this hand lotion of mine (in winter my hands always get dry as hell and look as if I had the skin of an elephant).

If you look closely at the outer edges of the tube you can clearly detect no black outline. What you do observe looking precisely at the edges is a very slight shadow rolling over the edge. It is the darkest at the border but it is not entirely black!

When you place the source of light slightly behind a subject as seen in the hand lotion image above, you can even detect the exact opposite. Now you have a darker inner area or the tube and the outer edges are clearly lighter.

You just need to observe your subject patiently and be aware of our five basic perception skills.

Memorize this and you will be able to step up your realistic drawings tremendously. But how exactly do you do it instead you might ask. What is the solution to this very problem right here?

Try to divide your drawing into different value areas and by lining these areas next to each other you will automatically create an edge that gives you the impression of reality. This tiny change makes your drawing look more real right away and you will definitely be surprised at how drastically this can change the look of your drawings.

Creating edges or outlines by placing non-identical areas of different values next to each other is your key to simulating reality.

Also, imagine starting a new sketch and not starting with light outlines but with dark ones and making a mistake. I guess you can already tell you will have a hard time correcting this mistake.

Starting with vague and very light outlines makes it easy for you to erase mistakes. The art of sketching is about starting roughly and adding more and more details over time and homogeneously spread over the whole drawing.

IV. Conclusion

There are 5 main problems I see other drawing beginners do and I also see some of them in my own drawings even after 10 months of drawing realistically. At least 10 months of trying to draw realistically.

Summarizing this article with the most important messages:

- Get out of your comfort zone

- Stop yourself from being afraid of failing

- Make mistakes and learn from them

- Try new things and get messy

I really hope you enjoyed reading and that you learned one or two valuable things to improve your drawings. If I could help you solve one or more of these devious mistakes I'd be glad if you shared this post with your friends on social media for example.

Take care and keep drawing. Pursue your goals and passions obsessively. So let me ask you one last question.

Will you step out of your comfort zone to achieve greatness and fulfill your dreams?

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