Common Beginner’s Mistakes

I wanted to touch on some common mistakes that I’ve noticed some beginners make. Mostly because I used to do a lot of the same things myself. If you find yourself doing some of these things, don’t feel bad. No artist was a master the first time he picked up a pencil (or a brush). Kneaded_eraser

Good art takes time, effort, and a lot of practice. But, you can also practice wrong. The sooner you can recognize bad habits, the sooner you can fix them. Which will either make it easier for you in the long run (your skills will also improve faster).


Be Gentle

I love watching my 10 year old sister-in-law draw. She’s actually quite good for her age, but she has a bad habit of pressing too hard. I think I noticed it only because that’s a common problem for myself still. I’m not so bad at it anymore, but I slip up occasionally.

Why is this so bad? You’re not only creating more stress on your own hand but you’re basically carving into the paper. Which makes it harder to erase mistakes. You don’t want to end up with a piece of artwork that you’re really happy with—only to have a strange and distracting ghost-like image off to one side. Trust me.

How do I fix it? If you find yourself doing this, it’s really a simple fix, just don’t press as hard. Be sure too that you’re not drawing one continuous line or holding the pencil strangely (hold it just like you do when you write). Use short, light, strokes of the pencil. This not only gives you better control over the subject you’re trying to capture on paper, but it leaves plenty of room for error. Also remember, the softer the pencil lead you use, the lighter you need to press (this doesn’t apply when shading). I wouldn’t recommend using anything other than an HB or 2B pencil when doing the first rough sketch though. Stick with the harder and softer leads only when adding details.


No Gaps

Shading has to be one of the most difficult things I’ve noticed for beginners. Honestly, I’m not entirely sure why. If you can color from dark to light, you can shade. Practice makes perfect, of course, but it doesn’t stop there either. A lot of people seem to leave gaps while shading (or go in different directions). Don’t be lazy just because you’re going to blend it later. It actually turns out smoother and cleaner looking if you take the time to color in the shaded areas completely. Then you can blend it. It simply gets rid of the pencil strokes and makes the shadows look more natural. Don’t rely on sloppy shading to get the results you want. I can say the same about shading in different directions, which I mentioned in a previous post.



The common mistakes made with lighting is different here, than common misunderstanding of the subject. If you haven’t read my previous post on lighting you can here. This part can only really be fixed by fully paying attention to how the scene or object is placed in relation to the source of light. It’s easy to forget where shadows go if you haven’t studied your original set up or don’t have a definite light source. Make sure you really pay attention to what you’re doing. Well, you should anyway. But if shading is a problem for you, it may be because you don’t know where your light source originates. Remember, it’s about training your eyes as well as your hands. I can say the same about perspective.

Study, study, study! I can’t learn it for you.


 Don’t Be Wasteful

Another mistake I commonly see is wasting paint (and art supplies in general). This isn’t always due to lack of artistic skill or knowledge, sometimes you just aren’t prepared. However, the more you are used to using your tools properly, the less likely this is to happen. Sometimes you don’t even know how to prepare for something. It’s perfectly okay to experiment. You’re going to be doing that anyway. My point is to remember to not do it needlessly. If you know what a piece requires don’t be lazy, plan it out.

Paint is most often wasted. If you are working on a painting and you want stop and work on it later, make sure you have some kind of container with an air-tight lid. This way you cover the paint blobs without them drying out. I use something like this. Or, if you’d prefer, you can squirt the paint out onto some foil or plastic and then carefully place the foil (or plastic) into an air-tight container of your choice.


Be Confident!

The most used statements I hear from people (artists and non-artists alike) is: “I wish I was that good” or “I can’t draw a straight line with a ruler” or “______ is the hardest for me, I just can’t do it”. If you want to learn something, then learn it. Ever hear the quote “Every expert in anything was once an amateur”? It’s true.

Also, don’t compare your skills with another artist’s skills. They may have way more experience than you. I can guarantee that every single artist did not start out naturally knowing everything. They learned it from somebody. Some people do have a gift, yes, but it still takes practice and work to get anywhere. You must have confidence in your own abilities, don’t put yourself down. You won’t get any better by giving up or feeling bad about yourself. If art is something you’re passionate about, if it’s what gets you out of bed in the morning, then do it. Work towards your goals.

Lastly, be happy with your own work. If you are not pleased with your own work, and not because you fail to have confidence, then work on the areas you’re not happy with. An art piece you create could look horrible to someone else, but if you’re happy with it, then it doesn’t matter. Celebrate the little accomplishments as well. You finally mastered a certain technique? Does that hand you tried to draw a thousand times look better than last time? Great! Those are the things that keep you motivated.


Now go out there and make good art.

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1 comment

  1. Really really good advice, I can tell you know what you are talking about. My sister is super artistic and currently completing an A-level in art at school, I’ll be sure to refer her to your page! Cheers

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