Be wary of what other artists teach
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There was a point in time when I was looking for art tutorials and improvement tips because I was still very much a beginner to drawing and wanted to get at least some foundation of thought up and running. In the midst of all of this searching, I stumbled across the classic video from Sycra Yasin called "Iterative Drawing - The Fastest Way to Improve". Of course, with the words "the fastest way to improve" in there, it intrigued me, and a couple million other people apparently.

the video in question by Sycra

So I watched it, kind of excited to try it out because you know, I was going to improve. I was pumping myself up for this, and I did it for like two months or so and... nothing really improved. I don't know whether or not I should've done it for longer, but I knew one thing for sure: it was boooooooooring.

In fact, it was so boring that I actually stopped drawing entirely for a few months. And this has happened on multiple occasions. Every time I came back from a hiatus I'd try doing iterative drawing again, got super bored, and then stopped drawing for another couple months. It was like the worst cycle imaginable to get stuck in. I was not being fulfilled by what I was doing. In my head I thought "man, if improving in drawing is like this, then I don't even want to draw."

Was it something wrong with me, or was it with the method that Sycra was teaching me? Well, none of them were wrong. Not myself, nor his proposition. It's just that his method wasn't applicable to me. Like trying to fit a cube inside a circular hole, it was just not going to work.

The Issue

Two or so years later, after ditching his method entirely and going my own way and still managing to improve, I decided to revisit his video again. I knew for a fact that I wasn't going to take up iterative drawing again, but I wanted to hear his points again just as a refresher.

It turns out that he said something crucial in the midst of his one hour ramble: he talked about how this method worked for him because he was more of an analytical drawer as opposed to an intuitive drawer, and he said that his method may work for those who are the same as himself. Now that was something that I didn't catch the first time around! And it probably would have saved me a lot of grief.

Analysis vs. Intuition

I don't remember him explaining the difference between analytical drawers and intuitive drawers, and honestly I don't really want to rewatch his video again to find out. So I'll try my hand at explaining it through my own perspective:

Analytical drawers tend to look for the building blocks that make up a drawing, and they come up with logical steps and systems of thought in order to create all of their work. They need to know the reason why something is the way that it is before they can use it properly. They handle drawing as a puzzle of sorts, working out the rules, and coming up with various steps to reach their desired result. Reading up on various concepts like colour theory, rule of thirds, and things of that nature help these artists out a lot, as they can immediately start applying it to their work.

Intuitive drawers, on the other hand, just kind of... draw. They intuitively know where to go next while they are drawing, and often there is no logical flow between their strokes. They can jump all over the place and somehow in the end there is a finished, cohesive piece. Oftentimes they don't know why something works or not, but they just know, as strange as it is. Colour theory? They just pick colours which look nice to them. Rule of thirds? Again, they just pick a composition which looks good to them. Intuitive artists are actually more likely to stumble on a theory on complete accident rather than reading up on it themselves.

I believe that analytical drawers are more consistent due to the fact that they can create a set of logical steps to create a good drawing every single time, but with the risk of their drawings being more stiff. For intuitive drawers, their drawings typically have more flow as a result of their less rigid method, but they sacrifice consistency as a result. One is not better than the other, I don't think. It's just that they are completely different operations of thought with very different methods of functioning. Also, I highly doubt that it is very black and white - where you're either only an intuitive or analytical artist. It's more of a spectrum, just like a lot of things involving the human brain.

And for myself...

It turns out that I was very much on the intuitive end of the artist spectrum, which I had not found out only after a few years of working on my own.

And because of my method of operation, how I go about improving may be vastly different compared to others. And what works for me has a high chance of not working for other people. The fact of the matter was that my brain's way of operation was just not working with Sycra's method of iterative drawing, because there is a sort of mismatch between the two.


The reason I'm writing about this is to showcase that artists often work very differently from each other, and in an attempt to try and force another person's method of work onto our own way of operation, things may be incompatible and we might be demotivated into thinking that we're just not doing it right.

What I dislike about how Sycra presented his video is that he called his method the "fastest" way to improve. It implies that if you don't use his method, then you are not improving at the fastest speed, even if he didn't intend to communicate that. While speed isn't everything, we as humans often gravitate towards the most effective methods of progress, and speed is one such attribute for maximum effectiveness (in the usage of our time, in this particular case). And especially in this society where speed is overly emphasized, this becomes quite a big issue.

Since me and his method were not the best of buddies, I was discouraged to even find my own method of work that best suited myself, because it wouldn't be the "fastest" way to improve, however he managed to even come to that conclusion. While I think Sycra himself is a great artist in his own regard, calling something as the "fastest" method, when the level of variability of the human brain is incomprehensible even to ourselves, is rather irritating. It derailed me from my progression possibly due to the fact that I was a bit too gung ho about trying to improve back in the day, but at the same time there are probably other people who have been discouraged by the method not working for them as well. And they were suckered into this by this promise that they were going to improve in the fastest way possible.

"Absorb what is useful, reject what is useless, add what is essentially your own."

That is a quote from Bruce Lee's Tao of Jeet Kune Do. To apply this to art, we should find the useful parts of the methods of other artists, reject that which doesn't work for us, and add a little bit of flair of our own, and voila: our own artistic method.

As a beginner, it's good to adopt the methods of other artists when there is a lack of foundation. Books are a primary way for a beginner to find methods where they can start from the ground up. But I just want to say that we should experiment between methods to see what works for us the best. What is often deemed as the best method by others doesn't necessarily mean that it applies to us. And for me, this experience with iterative drawing is one such example of what not to do. That is: trying to religiously stick to a method just because it says it's the "best", or because people say it worked for them, when in fact it may not even work for most individuals.

This is only from my experience though. I found that a lot of methods didn't work for me personally and I did stuff my own way and still got results. It really depends on the individual, which of course means that you should take my words with a grain of salt as well; and I suppose this proves my point even further: be wary of what other artists teach, even if they have the skill to back up their claims.

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