Shop Mobile More Submit  Join Login

'I want to be a better artist.'

Journal Entry: Mon Mar 28, 2011, 11:31 AM
This is a sentiment I hear often on dA. It's usually followed by a question regarding how one should go ABOUT becoming a better artist.

  I've no doubt made journals like this in the past, but here's another one. This page was in dire need of an update, either way. : )

  I could probably talk your ear off for a mile and a half about why I should be the last person you ask for creativity-boosting advice. Aaaand I have my reasons for this, but that's not really what anyone who writes me wants to hear, I think. It's just a fair warning. I'm not an accredited teacher, I was far from the most capable person at my college, I've made a metric crapton of mistakes, and I am nowhere near where I'd like to be in my own personal artistic endeavors. If that doesn't bother you, well, keep on reading!

  The best way I could aid anyone interested in bettering themselves would probably be by giving you the advice that inspires me the most. Stuff I've heard from friends, family, colleagues, teachers, and from some particularly awesome readers. These are some of the words that really stuck with me.

1. Don't neglect the basics.

Yeah, I know. Drawing boxes on tables and fruit in bowls is boring as sin. I completely feel you there.  This was one of the biggest buckets of cold water on the groin I ever received in college. You're fresh out of highschool, eager to bat in the big leagues and show off your killer awesome talents. You've picked your college, you're armed to the teeth with your graphite, T-squares, RIDICUOUSLY priced tubes of paint and paintbrushes alike. You're gonna draw woooorlds man. But oh yeah, first, sketch this pear. Now do it again. And again. And again. KEEP SCRUBBING AND SCRUBBING AND SAYING THE NAME OF YOUR LORD AND SAVIO-- I digress.
But you got to do it. Believe me, in my mind, there is no greater way to hinder your growth as an artist than to neglect your basics. I've told this to everyone who has ever sent a note my way asking for advice. This is easily the most boring, but most crucial bit I could ever give you. I've paid a great deal for failing to realize how badly you need to know your basics, and to this day it's required a lot of self-teaching (and embarrassing mistakes) just to get a decent grasp on the stuff I should have been able to do seven years ago.

It may seem like you've grown past the need for stuff like the most basic perspective, lighting, dynamic, color theory etc..  but the reality of it is, you never grow past it. You should always be seeking to learn more about these things. Every step of the way.

  Oh, and also, if nothing else, there are MOUNTAINS of resources available here on dA. Just do some searches for such, and you'll find treasure troves worth of coloring, composition, perspective tutors. It's really something else.

2. Never make a line that doesn't matter.

I can't adequately explain how great this advice is. Credited to my Foundation teacher in college, that line stuck with me to this day, and has a huge effect on my mindset when drawing. I'll try to explain it as best I can.
When you're sitting down to draw something, let's say in this case a really cool dynamic shot of a character, all fighting-game style, pay attention as you're drawing. If you're anything like me, there are parts of a drawing that are just much more fun than others. This could be eyes, or faces, or you just really love drawing hands. But anyway, it tends to show, when you're really enjoying something in a piece. On the flipside, however, there are portions of your drawing that show you were kind of notsomuch there. If you catch yourself drawing lines as kind of an afterthought, or just to complete something quickly, you're probably weakening the entire piece by keeping them in there.

  It's probably easy to mix up the idea of 'weak lines' with 'detail' as well. A lot of artists on here like to heap on the detail when it comes to designs, and more power to you if that's your thing, because it certainly works for some folks. I'm more the type of guy that follows a Capcom-esque kind of creed. A common thing you hear from Capcom artists, when talking about their own designs, is a kind of mandate on simplicity. Their designs are crisp, to the point, and powerful. There isn't a line in their drawings that doesn't contribute towards the whole.  I'm biased here though, I've been an enormous fan of their artists (Akiman, Nishimura, CRMK, Edayan, etc) for ages now, and I think their work exemplifies my main point very well.

  Let me try explaining from another angle. Have you ever not been sure how to go about proceeding with a character drawing, so you waffle around a lot and end up making wobbly lines or odd, lumpy clothing and/or muscles? That's the kind of thing I'm talking about. There needs to be a certainty, an energy behind it. Even if it means redrawing the same thing over and over again. Try figuring out how you want that arm or leg to look, and then try taking the least about of lines to get your point across. A good way to practice this would be hitting up a site like, and doing the super quick figure illustrations. They basically require you to draw a body as fast as you can, typically resulting in only the most important lines.

  Anyway, let me wrap this one up, I could go on forever about this bit of advice. It's just really, really good advice, and I can't thank my prof enough for it.

3.  'Concept artist' =/= 'Character artist'.

Now here's a contentious point if I ever heard one. And no matter how many times I say it, I will get people telling me that their friend works at (insert name here) studio as a Character Artist and it's  totally possible.

And you know, that's probably true. There are some studios out there who I'm sure are capable enough of paying a person to do nothing but characters all day. But as far as my knowledge on the matter goes.. there really aren't many positions like that in existence. If there are, you'd better believe they're going to the best people in the business, of which there are a  lot.  Regardless, I don't think it's a safe idea to just bank on drawing characters for the game industry for the rest of your life. During the game projects I've worked on, most all the art was done early on. It gets revised over the course of the project, but never enough to merit a full days work, day after day. On the job, I've done backgrounds, menu layouts and assets, storyboards, turnaround sheets for modeling, vehicles, objects, weapons, creatures/beasts, monsters, buttons, buildings..  a helluva lot more than just characters.

For a lot of people this is something they just don't like to hear, but I'm really sorry to say it's true. If drawing is a hobby, and all you want to do is draw people and pin-ups, then by all means. But if you are specifically gunning for a job in the game industry, your horizons are going to have to expand. And you'll be a better artist for it, trust me.

(Don't even get me started on folks who seem to think you can get a job just creating/drawing ideas and having other folks build the game for you. They just..  hoo. Huge wake-up call looming in the not-too-distant future. This job does exist, but usually involves you being the Creative Director. Btw, there are no entry level creative director jobs. ; P)

4. Don't try to please everyone.

Be willing to grow, be willing to learn, but be willing to enjoy your own work.

I've never had a harder time improving than when I was too busy thinking about everyone who dislikes my stuff. And it's true. You can't please everybody, no matter how hard you try. It just spreads you thin, it makes you lose focus.

The problem here is the interpretation, though. I'm not advocating you don't listen to critique, and plug up your ears when others give you suggestions on how to improve. Having a thick skin as an artist is immensely important. So is the desire to get better, to be receptive to change. However, this does not mean you should allow a hateful opinion to change the course of something you personally want to do. Really, it all depends on your personal standards and what you want out of yourself as an artist.

Again, let me make myself clear here. Critique is vital to an artist's growth. Being used to criticism, and able to take it and shape something out of it, is an invaluable trait, one you will benefit most from learning early on in your career. I don't like it when artists hide behind the word 'style' more than anyone else. But you know what else is important? Knowing the difference between criticism intended on bettering you as an artist, and just straight-up hate for your work. One is a resource you can use to level up. The other is noise. Noise wastes your time, and the time of the person making it. Chances are nothing you could create would make them happy, so it's not really meant to be. Press on, and don't lose sight of yourself. : )

Any artist should be so lucky as to create work that makes people want more. That's the real be-all and end-all of art, in my opinion. If people want to see more from you, you're doing something right.  And I don't think it matters if what you're doing is western, eastern, toony, flashy, painty, indie, noir-y, abstractified, or furry fishhead anthro space alien debutantes fighting dragons. :|

5. Drawing is only non-productive when you aren't doing it.

If you're anything like me, you've wasted a lot of time in your life worrying that what you're putting to paper really isn't pushing any of your own personal boundaries far enough. And while expanding your horizons is a fantastic thing to do, sometimes you just got to kick back.

I've spent several days just drawing nothing but characters heads before. And yeah, I've paused and been like.. awgh this really isn't going to help me get any better at drawing legs, or making a picture look like it's popping right off the page.. these are just FACES WHAT AM I DOING. But ease up. A day spent drawing nothing but faces is better than a day spent drawing nothing at all.  I also can't stress the importance of warming-up. Before you sit down to try and bang out the best thing your portfolio ever did see, you should probably do a few short exercises first. Think of it as your creative muscle. You shouldn't work out by going straight to the most strenuous part of your routine. Hell, even if you ENJOY that crazy awesome strenuous kind of work (like most all of us do, it is our passion after all), you should still do a bit of 'jogging' first, in my opinion. Do some silly doodles, sketch out some really really loose body poses, or in my case, just litter the page with lots of little toony pictures. I like making expressive faces, and stretching and squishing eyes and mouths and stuff. It can really go a long way.

6. You only get as much out of college as you put in.

I've had a lot of notes asking where I went to college, and what sort of colleges I recommend others look into. Where I went doesn't matter, for one, and two, there is no one school I could recommend you hit up for a guaranteed excellent time. So much of what you receive from your college experience directly correlates to the effort you sink in. Sure, you can help your cause IMMENSELY by just doing some homework into the art schools you're interested in..  get yourself out to the campus, ask students what they think of certain courses, see if the strengths of the school match your own, etc. My college was very good with traditional work, and notsomuch with digital. If I had done a bit more research and found that out earlier, I might have picked a different school. Still, I made due with what I had in front of me, and I think I learned a lot of great stuff, even though the school was far from the most renowned. Hell, I've said before.. the ideas behindEverafter and Living in Sin were both borne out of class assignments, haha.

But anyway, just do your homework. Be really hands-on. Find out what each school specializes in. Do you want to hone in on sequential art? Animation? Art for games, movies, what? Figure those things out first.

  Yes, college was a worthwhile experience for me, and I highly recommend it. There's something amazing about being around a ton of other artists from varying backgrounds. You can learn a helluva lot from your fellow students. Practically as much as you can learn from the teachers.

7. When in doubt, shut the hell up and draw.

I'm going to go ahead and take this advice now. |D Be seeing you folks. Hopefully this was helpful to somebody out there. And if not, well.. I owe you some minutes of your life back. AND YOU'RE NOT GETTING THEM.


My SDL team headquarters: The Gokiburi-gumi (Profiles, fanart and duel highlights.)

The Everafter webcomic: Outdated.
  • Listening to: Test Drive - HTTYD OST
  • Watching: Spice & Wolf
  • Playing: Valkyria Chronicles
Add a Comment:
hofd Featured By Owner Jun 9, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
nice, thank you :D
LittleDemon250 Featured By Owner May 27, 2013  Student General Artist
This is really helpful and I got a lot out of it. I come back to this journal entry often to lighten up my spirits and then "shut the hell up and draw" I think that line helps me best. im actually going to print this to read over often and keep my spirits up. Thanks! ^^
silpholion Featured By Owner Nov 18, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
Honestly I've always been guilty of no.4, reading your thoughts on it is certainly gold advice!
Thank you for writing this :)
ark-c Featured By Owner Mar 5, 2012
Yes, I agree.
Ailoncha Featured By Owner Dec 17, 2011  Hobbyist General Artist
"Shut the hell up and draw"
That must be the best advice for a lot of people (including myself). Thanks for writing this! C:
ProfessorSteel Featured By Owner Oct 1, 2011  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Saying this way too late:
Thank you.
Aglassman Featured By Owner Sep 6, 2011  Student General Artist
#7 is the best drawing advice I've ever been given. :)
DrMadison Featured By Owner Aug 3, 2011  Hobbyist General Artist
I have pointed SO many of my friends to this journal entry when they have questions for me.
trollypop666 Featured By Owner Jul 23, 2011  Student General Artist
Dear Endling.
i get everything your saying in this journal, but there's a problem i face that always gets me down. I often feel like i haven't have the time, and what i mean by that is that im only 14( all im going to reveal) but i have the urge to learn everything i got to before i reach my adult years, i feel if i don't "prepare" myself no art collage or art teacher will accept me. i push myself to the limit trying, and sometimes it frustrates me to not have the resources i don't have around, in other words, i will get peeved if i think of doing anything easier then what im doing or have something that i must understand to learn, and i will cause hurt to myself. do you have any idea how to stop myself from doing this to me, and yet be active in my artwork?.

i will take whatever you have to say to me, no matter how much it hurts.
DarylLaRocque Featured By Owner Mar 15, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Please use advice #4. Please yourself. And show me your results on deviantart if you do :)
Chibi1010101010101 Featured By Owner Jul 14, 2011  Hobbyist General Artist

Oh, sorry. I had this whole thing planned out for this comment.

Then I forgot it. Ah, well.

-ahem- Well, I am pretty new at drawing, so I'll heed your advice an also start simple.

Looks like Dr. Swineswaggle and his DNA Refluxicator will have to wait. Ah well. More practice it is, then.
BACK TO THE... "DRAWING" BOARD! Get it?! Drawing board?! XD
Chowii Featured By Owner Jul 12, 2011
I love reading this over and over again :'3 it gives me so much inspiration :D i want to be a manga artist btw XD
maybebaby83 Featured By Owner Jul 6, 2011  Hobbyist Filmographer
I couldn't have said it any better!
hubadawaha Featured By Owner Jun 22, 2011  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thank you very, very much for posting this advice. It's enlightening, and encouraging.
plumfish Featured By Owner Jun 5, 2011
This was so so helpful and inspiring, thanks so much Mr. Endling! You're pretty great.
DrMadison Featured By Owner Jun 2, 2011  Hobbyist General Artist
I wish there was a way to Fave a journal entry... =/
Corelia Featured By Owner Jul 13, 2011  Student
LOL, apparently we can now (fave journals, that is). :wow:
This is an old journal, but I had to say:
1.) These are incredibly helpful tips. Basic, yes, but necessary to remember.
2.) HTTYD soundtrack? HELL TO THE YES. John Powell is completely incredible. I loved the movie, but I think that the soundtrack has more life and nuance than any movie could ever have alone.
Last-Jam Featured By Owner May 24, 2011  Student Traditional Artist
Thank you for this helpful advice, I will carry it with me for the rest of my life
CrimsonSilk Featured By Owner Apr 29, 2011  Professional Digital Artist
I feel like this article is reprimending me.
lVlisanthropy Featured By Owner Apr 21, 2011
'Never make a line that doesnt matter'
Really hard to do sometimes. Trying to decide where to place a character (or multiple) and deciding how large everything is (and what angles they are placed at) in relation to itself and other things in the composition... and fitting it perfectly on a page can be hellish.

Personally my biggest flaws as an artist are just that...
Too much detail. Making useless/excess lines.
Being lazy on certain parts and leaving them wobbly and unconvincing.
I keep hearing this advice from some of the more trustworthy people I learn from...
It's very hard to do sometimes though! Redoing things can be bloody frustrating XD Especially if you've spent hours on it and are about to go to bed and have school the next day. o_o'
But I see your point.
Bad practice. Must die.
Thank you for reminding me of the importance of this. XD

I do need to practice more too... it's been FAR too long.
PencilSpecter Featured By Owner Oct 2, 2013  Student Traditional Artist
Ditto bro .. Ditto
Blue-and-Dog Featured By Owner Apr 19, 2011  Hobbyist General Artist
Just so you know...:iconnarutouzumaki90: stole the top part of your journal.
RavensLore Featured By Owner Apr 16, 2011  Professional Digital Artist
Rad. Thanks.
tsubasahiluxisz Featured By Owner Apr 16, 2011  Hobbyist Digital Artist
OMG!! can i fav dis??
LiteraryWeapon Featured By Owner Apr 12, 2011
I'll post a longer comment on how much I appreciate this later, but for now, I'm just gonna shut the hell up and begin to draw : )
Niversa Featured By Owner Apr 11, 2011  Hobbyist Digital Artist
stephastated Featured By Owner Apr 11, 2011  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I wish I could favorite journals right now
SqueakyToybox Featured By Owner Apr 10, 2011  Hobbyist Digital Artist
great advice, i read the whole thing because it was so interesting lol : ) thanks for the help! <3
LunaDarkridge11 Featured By Owner Apr 10, 2011  Student Filmographer
lol, good advice :) btw I love your 'silly walk' stamp!! XD
Aka-Shiro Featured By Owner Apr 10, 2011  Professional Digital Artist
#7 is the best advice ever.
paintausea Featured By Owner Apr 10, 2011  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thank you very very very very much for posting this journal entry. I can't be thankful enough. I'll be spreading the word and trying to understand and learn it more. You've inspired me
kartyyy Featured By Owner Apr 9, 2011  Hobbyist General Artist
Thanks for this post. It really inspired me :)
jasonwang7 Featured By Owner Apr 9, 2011
Thanks for this absolutely enlightening post!
Cashile Featured By Owner Apr 9, 2011   Digital Artist
thank you c:
one question though:
i went to art college, but couldn'T finish due to fiancial reasons. My question is: is the degree paper important in getting any job in the 'artist field'? Or just the skills? I'm still learning, and need a lot of improvements still, but i don't know if i'm going to need to restart a school later, or do i have any chance getting a job like this? :S
Kid-Umby Featured By Owner Apr 9, 2011
So much this.
BeyondSleepy Featured By Owner Apr 8, 2011  Hobbyist Photographer
7 helped me out ^^
GisaPizzatto Featured By Owner Apr 8, 2011  Professional Traditional Artist
Featured: [link]
Sheeters Featured By Owner Apr 8, 2011  Student Filmographer
If I could favorite this or retweet this I really would. Sound advice. Thanks for this!! It's always awesome to read what pros in the industry have to say about how they got to where they are today. Thanks again!
flor18gatar Featured By Owner Apr 6, 2011  Student General Artist
awesome stuff you wrote down there.
Eniat Featured By Owner Apr 5, 2011  Student General Artist
News article please?
starfishey Featured By Owner Apr 5, 2011  Professional Digital Artist
My biggest issue is finding sources of critique. I have been and gone to college for game design and can do all that jazz. The problem with my school was that it taught you to be a generalist. I can program, model, do a little sound mixing, texture, and concept, and because of that I didn't get to really hone my drawing skills on a professional level. We had 3 drawing class: Intro to drawing (the basics, squares, still life, draw with your arm, not your wrist), storyboarding, and then character design. By the time I had finished college I felt grossly unprepared for being a professional in the industry. Heck, I still don't, aside from the contract jobs at start up companies and and indy studios. Getting that experience is SOOO nice.

I never had classes on composition, color theory (everything I have learned has been from friends and the internet), and never felt like I was getting the critique I needed to grow properly. Now that I'm gone I can't even get the few critiques I did. All I can do is keep drawing and hoping that in a year or two, with practice, I'll be up to some industry standard, which in my opinion is pretty insane.

ffff this comment is turning in to a downer. It's not meant to be. I will say though that surrounding yourself with people that can help you improve is a great help.
jp-online Featured By Owner Apr 5, 2011  Professional Filmographer
shoulda put "shut the hell up and draw" at the top.
TitanWarrior17 Featured By Owner Apr 4, 2011  Student General Artist
its times like these where i read journals like yours that make the dA world go round...

thanks mate...
BeforeAfter Featured By Owner Apr 4, 2011  Hobbyist General Artist
The 'shut the hell up and just draw' sure did help!
ChangeOfWorlds Featured By Owner Apr 4, 2011  Hobbyist General Artist
Awesome advice. I've been really lazy about doing any kind of art project whether it be drawing, painting, or knitting. I've been telling myself the same thing, but motivation is hard to come by lately. :/ But I will get back into the swing of things one way or another. x.X

Thanks again for the journal, and I love your art. :)
melsama32 Featured By Owner Apr 3, 2011
Thanks endling

This really, REALLY helps♥
Tetsushi Featured By Owner Apr 3, 2011  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thank you.
ElwenAldalinde Featured By Owner Apr 3, 2011
I wish I could consolidate all this and print it onto a little index card and pass it out to all my artsy friends. Especially one dear friend who really wants to take an advanced drawing class, but doesn't want to bother with the basics first...yeah, pretty fresh out of high school, that one. At any rate, thank you for posting this!
Nectarino Featured By Owner Apr 2, 2011  Hobbyist General Artist
I'll take your excellent advice to heart. You've made some good points there.
Add a Comment:

:iconendling: More from Endling

Featured in Collections

Journals by LunaGorn

journals by Aiko-Hirocho

Inspiration by ViridRain

More from DeviantArt


Submitted on
March 28, 2011


59,042 (1 today)
355 (who?)