I’ve been asked by people who are just beginning to draw digitally for tips on where to begin the learning process. I started by just messing around in Photoshop and other digital programs, experimenting and not expecting too grandiose of an outcome. My first drawings in Photoshop were simple, drawn with a mouse and blended with the smudge tool (something I don’t really recommend, but it worked for me at the time!). It’s good to slowly familiarize yourself with the digital drawing process, so that you’re comfortable with the tools and options, before you start drawing elaborate and detailed pieces. I created a lot of smaller drawings in a day, rather than putting a lot of my time into larger, more elaborate pieces. My work became more detailed as my skills improved. I think one of the best things you can do to get the hang of digital art is to practice sketching and speedpaints, since it prevents you from getting hung up on details and allows you to become comfortable with the tools you have. Keep it simple and practice as much as you can!
Many artists pick up digital art later in their life, having started with traditional tools. Next to that, there are many people who pick up drawing as a whole later in their life. I’ve been approached by a few people who are afraid that it is too late for them to make this change and develop a career in this area. I personally don’t believe there is any point where it is ‘too late’ to learn something new, although whether you can build a career as an artist depends entirely on what field of art you’re looking to enter and your location. Some directions and areas may be more restrictive than others. In my personal experience as a freelance animator and concept artist working in the Netherlands, the content of your portfolio and whether your clients trust you to deliver the materials is the most important factor. This has a lot to do with the impression you make, your style of communicating, and also your experience (which in turn affects what kind of impression you make). I believe that this can be cultivated at any point in one’s life and that it is never too late! Most importantly, being a self-taught digital artist, I believe that it’s possible to get the hang of digital media at any age if that is what you want to do. Just be sure to develop your knowledge at your own pace and find what works best for you, rather than feeling the pressure to learn every single trick in the book. For more information on finding your career later in life, check out this conversation between me and my friend Iris Compiet, who found her career path in her late 30’s.
From time to time, I’ve heard people say that an artist must draw every day in order to improve. However, I personally do not recommend drawing every day. I do believe that there are some artists out there who benefit from a good dose of self-discipline and would learn a lot from drawing daily, but for many artists, this is a lot of pressure to put on oneself. On top of that, I don’t think that it’s a requirement for improving your skills. You can improve your skills in other ways as well: finding inspiration in your surroundings or in other artists, or giving your brain some time to come up with new ideas and motivation. But to those who are considering drawing daily, also take into consideration the need for your mind and body to get rest and recover from the drawing process! Having said that, I do think that drawing regularly is a good idea, but if you feel that daily drawing is burning you out, it’s definitely ok to draw less frequently.