This was originally going to be a post about the pros and cons between self-taught and taking classes, but I’ve decided to concentrate on educating yourself since I don’t have much experience with classes even with the few years in college taking Multimedia Arts. I do consider myself lucky that I had a Freehand Drawing professor who taught us concepts from the book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain (Amazon affiliate link), which now I own myself. It’s a literal lifechanger and I’ll always recommend reading it if you haven’t yet!

I do suggest attending classes/lessons/courses if they’re available, but it can be hard to tell if the teacher will be good. In some cases, it might actually make your art worse, so be careful!

Anyway enough about me, onwards with the post!


Yes, you can teach yourself art

Perhaps you want total creative freedom, or lack the time or resources for lessons so you have no choice except to teach yourself, and that’s totally fine! Whatever your reason, it is indeed possible to make it solely (or partly) as a self-taught artist, as I and many successful self-taught artists can attest.

Am I a success though? haha

So, how do you actually teach yourself to draw? You can certainly shut yourself in your room and just draw draw draw, but that’s the least fun and worst way to learn art in my experience (may be different for you). What’s likely gonna happen is you’ll be mentally drained afterwards and you could’ve spent the time better than just “blindly” drawing.

Put your brain to better use by practicing with purpose. Let’s begin with



Experimenting

You should be doing this from the start and hopefully, throughout your time as an artist. When starting out, you’re gonna have to get your feet wet by drawing as much as possible. Later on, if you’re feeling bored down the road, you might not be experimenting enough! Here’s a few things I do myself:

Draw things you’ve never drawn before, or don’t draw often enough. This is the primary way you learn to draw new things since no artist starts out knowing how to draw everything. Human memory isn’t perfect, but anything that you’ve drawn once will stay with you, and you’ll learn to draw it better next time. Observation, research, and references are key here. You can also try draw something without looking up references about it like I sometimes do, and then making another drawing using references. Why do that? The first drawing will make your mistakes even more obvious so you can correct yourself better while drawing the second.

Draw in a different way. It could be small changes with how you draw things, you could make up a new art style on the spot, or copy someone’s style. Doing this will allow you to find the your “real” art style, train your eyes, and teach you how to draw other styles. When copying someone’s style though, don’t merely copy them but also seek to understand why they drew it that way for better results.

Read, watch, and view media as much as you can. Books, comics, manga, cartoons, anime, movies, video games, etc. This feeds your mind with new ideas and art styles. And do view stuff that you’re not that interested in because sometimes great ideas can come from outside your comfort zone.

Learn new skills and techniques. The more you learn, the more you can do. Perhaps you’re fine with just learning enough, but why be content with that when you can become so much more? You may even find a skill you’re really good at if you keep learning!

Try out different tools and art media. And play around with tool settings, you could discover some interesting effects or find a medium that suits you more.

Never worry about failures when experimenting.  Mistakes, accidents, and failures are natural when experimenting. Sometimes you’ll even learn something new through happy accidents, like some great discoveries in the world.

Whoops I accidentally drew Myan EXTRA THICC and I liked it


My experiments

Some examples of experiments I’ve done to give you something to compare about.

  • Actually Cat Nine itself is something of a huge experiment. I’m one of the types who get bored by just practicing so I started a comic to practice as practice. I don’t draw that much stuff outside of the comic, so many of my first times are in the comic itself. I didn’t know how to draw lions, tigers, and cars oh my. I did use references for a lot of them though so they look at least acceptable in the comic.
  • For most pages, I usually have at least one challenging thing to draw, or draw something I haven’t drawn before. It could be a complicated pose, a pose at an extreme angle, or attempts at humor such as page 122-124.
  • One of the reasons Myan can transform into animals is so I have an excuse to draw other animals aside from cats.
  • Monthly Myan (and friends) like Myanachi are also an excuse to draw my characters in other styles.
  • The various of animations I’ve done.
  • Nighttime, and depicting firelight and shadows for page 153 and above.

How about you, do you have other ideas for experiments, or found a better way to do them? Perhaps still confused on how to do the above? I’m far from an expert, but feel free to ask in the comments section below or Discord!

On the next part of this series, I’ll discuss about refining your skills, or in other words, actual practice.