When Should You Start a Drawing Over

Ordinarily, I’m not an advocate of do-overs on artwork. Once you allow yourself to start a drawing over, it get’s easier to do the same the next time. Before you know it, starting over is a habit.

I know. I’ve been there. Of all the portraits I’ve painted over the years, I would guess as many as a third of them were started over. Sometimes two or three times. My personal “best” is  four start-overs.

That means I started that painting five times before finishing it!

Sometimes there were good reasons for starting over, but I’m sad to say most of the time, I was just frustrated. Usually because things were more difficult than I liked.

I don’t claim to be an expert on very many things, but on starting drawings or paintings over…. Let’s just say I’ve made it an art form all it’s own.

What to do when You Feel Like Starting Over

Before we go any further, let me assure you that breaking this habit is the best option.

I’m always working on breaking my start-over habit. When I get frustrated with a drawing, I try to take a break. Sometimes it only takes a short walk to get past the desire for a fresh start.

When Should You Start a Drawing Over - Go For a Walk

At other times, it requires an overnight wait, or a weekend break.

Sometimes I work on something else for a while, or work on a different part of the drawing.

Scanning or photographing the artwork and looking at it in a different context is also helpful. Things look different on a computer screen or in a photo. Sometimes better, sometimes worse, but always different. That change of perspective is often enough to keep me on track or get me back on track.

Maybe those tricks will help you, too. Or maybe you have a few tricks of your own (please share them if you do.)

The point is that it’s not always necessary to start a drawing over. The honest truth is that learning to work through those periods of dissatisfaction or those Ugly Phases is good for us. We finish more drawings and learn how to handle the rough patches when we persevere.

For more tips, read How to Finish a Drawing That No Longer Inspires You on EmptyEasel.


…there will be times when your best option really is starting over.

So how do you know when starting over is the best choice?

When Should You Start a Drawing Over - Decisions

When You  Should Start a Drawing Over

Here are some of the main reasons—legitimate reasons—I allow myself to start a drawing over. Most of them come out of my years of portrait work and satisfying clients. Hopefully, they’ll help you when you’re faced with the same kind of decisions even if you don’t do portraits.

It may be time to start a drawing over when you’ve badly misdrawn the subject.

I don’t know about you, but some of my worst nightmares began with a bad line drawing. I learned as an oil painter that I could always correct problems in a line drawing during the painting process. Just redraw it in paint and move on.

Colored pencils? That will not work.

And if you happen to have a lot of color on the paper or have burnished or blended with solvent when you discover the problem, you just about have to start over.

From scratch.

With a new line drawing.

An unrecoverable error may be a good time to start a drawing over.

So what is an unrecoverable error? That depends on your preferred medium.

For oil painting, I considered peeling paint an unrecoverable error. I remember one time when paint actually began to flake and peel before the painting was half finished. I don’t recall what happened to make the paint peel, but once the peeling began, there was no way I was going to finish that portrait.

Yes, I could have sanded the panel down and simply repainted the bad layers, but my clients pay a lot of money for my portraits, and there was no way I was going to deliver a questionable portrait. Starting over was the only option.

Colored pencils come with a different set of unrecoverable errors because it’s so nearly impossible to cover up really bad mistakes. Even if you can lift color, you can rarely get back to bare paper. That means there’s a risk of seeing a “ghost” of the mistake through the newer layers of color.

You can’t fix or cover up the mistake.

I know what you’re thinking because I’ve been there myself. A lot!

Mistakes that are just a nuisance in oils or acrylics can be major calamities in colored pencils! Right? It’s so difficult to cover up anything but the smallest mistakes because colored pencils are so beautifully translucent.

I’ve learned over the years that not all mistakes that look catastrophic really are. Colored pencil artists have a lot of tools available that make covering up even big mistakes easier than it’s ever been before.

When Should You Start a Drawing Over - Big Mistakes

And even if you don’t have access to those tools, there are ways to lift and replace color, and cover up big mistakes. 

Read How to Fix a Big Mistake for a step-by-step tutorial.

That doesn’t mean that every big mistake can be covered up or corrected, though.  If something is beyond your skill level to fix, or when attempts to fix it end up making things worse, then it’s time to think about starting that drawing over.

The problem can’t be cropped out of the composition.

One of the first options I consider when I find major problems is cropping the drawing to eliminate the problem. If a major mistake is close to the edge of the drawing, you may very well be able to crop it out, or mat over it. That should always be the first option.

But what if the mistake isn’t near an edge? What if it’s right in the middle of the drawing or in a position that makes cropping the drawing difficult?

If there is no other way to fix or mask the problem, starting the drawing over may very well be your best choice.

The support gets damaged beyond repair.

I once tore the surface of the drawing paper right in the middle of the drawing. Pulled the sizing right off the internal fiber of the paper while using tape to lift color. I thought it was ruined!

Fortunately, my husband (and the Colored Pencil Solution Book by Janie Gildow and Barbara Benedetti Newton) showed me how to repair the damage and finish the drawing.

Punctured, torn, or heavily stained paper, on the other hand…. Those are another matter.

Maybe you can crop the damage and salvage the drawing, but if you really want to finish the drawing as you originally designed it, starting over is the only option.

Should You ever Do a Portrait Over for a Client?

This is really a personal choice. Most artists would answer that question with a very firm, “Absolutely not!”

But my word has always been my bond, and I have made extensive changes to portraits to satisfy clients. Especially if I felt the problem was due to my carelessness, laziness, or something else. That hasn’t happened very often, but I can think of at least one client for whom I not only ended up doing the portrait over; the delivered portrait was a totally different concept from the original concept.


I hope these tales of woe from my studio help your make the decision whether or not to start a drawing over when the need arises.

But what I really hope is that they’ll help you avoid getting into that position in the first place! 😉

Finding Your Artistic Style

Let’s talk about style today. More specifically, finding your artistic style.

Have you ever wondered how to find your artistic style? Maybe the following reader question echoes your own.

I am 67 and my life became so much more adventurous due to colored pencils.

I would very much like to develop my own style, but I hope I am not too old to do so, because I think it needs a lot of time and patience to develop a personal style. What are your thoughts about developing your own style?

Finding Your Artistic Style

This reader is right in one respect. It does take time.

But I would replace the word “develop” with the word “find,” because I think that’s how most artists come by their style. They find it.

Or have it pointed out to them by other people.

What is Artistic Style, Anyway?

An artistic style is the style of an artist’s body of work. There are literally hundreds of different things that go into an artist’s style, but the main ones may include the subjects they prefer, the colors they use (also known as their “palette”,) how they combine the colors, the drawing methods they use, and even their favorite drawing sizes.

All of those things and more contribute to the overall look of each piece.

Style happens when a large collection of pieces all look similar, even if the subjects are different.

Most artists don’t deliberately set out to develop a style. It just happens as they create. Given enough time and enough artworks, style emerges.

How I Found My Artistic Style

I know from personal experience this is true.

After years of painting horses and showing art at local county fairs, I missed a year. Later, a neighbor asked why I didn’t have anything at the fair. I asked how she knew I didn’t and she said, “I didn’t see anything that was your style.”

Up to that point, I hadn’t thought about style and didn’t know I had one. I just liked painting horses.

So it’s likely that your style has already begun taking shape, and you just don’t realize it.

Finding Your Artistic Style

Yes, it will take time and probably dozens of finished pieces.

But it will happen.

When you create consistently and over time, people will recognize your art without having to see your name on it.

And it’s quite likely that other people can already see it.

Is It Ever Too Late to Find Your Artistic Style?

No! So long as you have breath in you and the desire to make art, you will develop an artistic style. It’s bound to happen. In fact, you won’t be able to keep it from happening!

Unless, of course, you focus so much on style that you don’t draw.

Getting and Staying Motivated When Art Gets Tough

I recently shared in a conversation with a reader who was just getting started with colored pencils. She’d wanted to be an artist from the time she was five-years-old, but one thing and another got in the way. Now that she’s getting back to making art, she wanted to know my tricks for getting and staying motivated when art gets tough.

Getting and Staying Motivated When Art Gets Tough

I’ll be honest.

I had to stop and think about her question. Do I really have any tricks for getting and staying motivated? After all, that’s an often daily struggle for me. There are so many other things to do.

Things that seem more important.

Things like writing blog posts, freelance writing (to support my art habit,) daily chores around the house, including cat care and, now that spring is coming, yard and garden work.

Yes, I keep a to-do list. Two actually. A written list and Sarah Renae Clark’s Habit Tracker*. I’d be lost without them.

Getting and Staying Motivated When Art Gets Tough - To-Do List

And yes, art is on both.

But it’s still all-too-easy for studio time to be pushed to the bottom of the list. Some days, it drops clean off the list! I hardly seemed like the right person to answer the reader’s question. She deserved an answer, but I didn’t know what to tell her.

Then I remembered my personal art challenges for this year, and suddenly realized I did have a few tricks that help me get and stay motivated to make art.

Even when I don’t want to.

Getting and Staying Motivated When Art Gets Tough

15-Minute Promise

The best thing I ever did to motivate myself was the 15-minute promise.

What is the 15-minute promise? Simple. I do art for 15 minutes, and can quit without feeling guilty. It’s a lot easier to sit down and start drawing or painting if I know I could quit in 15 minutes and still have met a goal.

Some days, I work for 15 minutes, and that’s all.

Getting and Staying Motivated When Art Gets Tough - 15 Minute Promise

But what usually happens was that once I get started, I’m able to work for an hour or two.

Even now, I sometimes (often) still have to invoke that 15-minute promise to get my rear in the chair and my pencils moving over the paper!

15-Minute Task List

Some tasks that have to be done each day can be kept up-to-date and moving forward with no more than 15 minutes a day.

Remember all those “other things” on my to-do list. Some of them are daily things (social media, blog updates, etc.) There are also bigger projects like writing books. All of those things can be managed with only 15 minutes a day.

It’s amazing how much you can accomplish on even the biggest project in just 15 minutes a day. But it’s also a great way to limit the time you spend on things that eat up time like a hungry lion!

It’s also much easier to paint or draw after finishing all those other little tasks.

Draw Studies

Another way I try to keep myself drawing every day is by doing studies.

Studies are not complete works; they’re small drawings or sketches of larger subjects. I like to draw landscapes, so I’ve been doing a lot of small drawings of branches, and bark and things like that. The maximum size is 4 inches by 6 inches and I often work even smaller than that.

Getting and Staying Motivated When Art Gets Tough - Studies

I don’t always limit the amount of time I work on them, but because they’re so small, they don’t take much time, even when I put a lot of detail into them.

You learn more and learn it more quickly this way than by trying to work on larger pieces once or twice a week (or less.) I highly recommend it.

And you’d be surprised how inspiring and motivating a study can be, especially when it leads you to a new subject or a new way to draw a familiar subject.

Draw from Life/Outside

Do some drawing from life and/or draw outside. Plein air drawing not only gets you outside, but gives you the opportunity to see things in a different way.

And whether you draw outside or inside, drawing the actual object instead of from a photograph is a good way to train your eye to see, and to train your hand to draw what you see.

Getting and Staying Motivated When Art Gets Tough - Draw Outside

Draw in Different Locations

Writers do this all the time. They go somewhere other than their office or usual writing spot. It might be a coffee shop or a library or maybe even their car, parked in a scenic location.

That works for artists, too. In fact, that’s part of the reason I started drawing outside. The change of location and atmosphere made me want to draw.

You don’t have to go very far. The next room. Or the front porch or backyard.

Sometimes just changing the way you draw is motivating. Try standing at an easel if you usually sit, or try sitting in an easy chair if you usually work at a desk.

Do Something Fun or Outside Your Normal Art Routine

I recently had trouble working on the drawing for the month. At the end of the previous week, I’d made good progress, so it should have been easy to pick up again the following week. Right?


Getting and Staying Motivated When Art Gets Tough - Have Fun

I did nothing on Monday and kept busy enough on Tuesday that I didn’t give the monthly drawing as much time as I should have. Wednesday was a total wash out!

But I did do art all three days.

I did something experimental the first two days ,and worked on my weekly drawing on the third. Neither one may amount to anything, but they got me started.

Audio Books/Movies/Music

Sometimes what you really need is distraction not motivation. What better distraction than an audio book, a movie or music?

I used to paint to music all the time and it worked. But then I heard Lisa Clough of Lachri Fine Art talk about listening to an audio book or movie while she paints or draws. She said she could sit for hours and make art if she had something interesting to listen to.

You know what?

It works!

Getting and Staying Motivated When Art Gets Tough - Books Music Movies

You might also add live streams from other artists to that list. I often draw or paint while listening to (and sometimes watching) Lisa’s live streams!


Those are some of my tricks for getting and staying motivated with art gets tough. Maybe they’ll help you, too.

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Finding Enough Time for Art

I want to talk about time today, and I want to talk specifically to everyone who thinks they don’t have enough time for art.

Or enough time to give art the time it deserves.

Finding Enough Time for Art

I always look at the reasons people give when they unsubscribe. Why? The reasons people unsubscribe are as useful in determining what I’m doing right—or wrong—as compliments and encouragement.

But they’re also sometimes the spark that leads to a new discussion.

That happened recently. A reader unsubscribed because he or she didn’t think they had enough time to do the tutorials and other things presented on this blog. My impression was that they didn’t have time to do everything so they chose—for the time being—to do nothing.

Let me say that I’m not criticizing this person. I understand getting so overwhelmed with a subject that it’s easier to set it aside.

I also understand life getting so overwhelming it pushes things like drawing aside. That has been my struggle for the past two weeks!

Having said that, I’ll also say the comment took me back to those days when I used to share this former reader’s feelings.

It also reminded me that I haven’t talked about making good use of time for a while, and that it’s a topic we all need to consider now and again.

Speaking From Personal Experience

Let me begin by pointing a finger at myself with the hope that it will help you.

Back in the days when I was an oil painter, I firmly believed I needed at least an hour to paint. An uninterrupted hour. It took time to set up for painting, and time to clean up. Depending on what I was working on, it might take 30 minutes to clean up. That meant that if all I had was an hour, I’d have less than 30 minutes painting time.

So if I didn’t have at least one hour, I didn’t bother. The result? I never had enough time to paint, and most projects didn’t advance as quickly as they could have. Many projects didn’t get finished until the due date and some were overdue.

What’s worse, I felt guilty every day I intended to paint and failed. Hurrying through projects just to finish them on time left me guilt-ridden, too. Clients paid good money for portraits. They deserved the best, didn’t they?

A personal challenge to paint one ACEO a day for an entire year showed me how much painting could be done in twenty minutes or less.

It also revealed how much time I wasted because of my perception of time.

I Don’t Have Enough Time

For a lot of artists, perception is the biggest hurdle. After all, if we believe we don’t have enough time, then we don’t have enough time—even if we do.

If you think you don’t have enough time for art—or enough time to give it the attention it deserves—I encourage you to take a look at how you perceive time.

Finding Enough Time for Art1

Artists aren’t the only people looking for more time to get things done. People in all walks of life are always looking for ways to improve productivity. It’s a universal concern.

Available time varies from one artist to the next. Family responsibilities, an outside job, outside responsibilities, health, temperament; they all play a role in the time you have for drawing.

If you find just one or two simple things that help, would you be interested? Then you’re in luck!

Draw as Much as Possible

This may seem self-evident, but I’ve noticed a tendency to put other things ahead of art. It starts innocently enough. A blog post needs to be written. A sick cat requires extra care. It’s laundry day. Then the yard needs attention.

A day or two goes by without drawing. Then a week. Maybe two. Pretty soon, I’m bemoaning low production.

Remember, I used to think that if I didn’t have an hour for art, I had no time for it. It’s not true!

On hold with a long-distance telephone call? Sketch on a notepad.

Waiting at a doctor’s office? Take out that little drawing pad and start drawing.

How about that long drive, when hubby has fallen silent. Where’s your drawing pad? (Make sure hubby is driving and not you!)

Finding Enough Time for Art2

Carry Basic Drawing Tools All the Time

I once heard someone say that the thing they did that helped them get so many excellent horse photos was to take their camera everywhere. “No camera, no photo,” they said.

The same applies to art. No drawing tools, no drawing.

Keep a small sketch pad and at least one pencil or pen with you all the time. I have a small spiral bound pad in writing paper in my purse, along with at least three pens.

But I also have a small field kit with a few basic drawing tools in it. I try to take that along whenever we go somewhere.

No purse and no field kit? A lot of modern phones now have sketching apps on them. If your phone didn’t come with one, find one. You can learn to sketch with a phone and the sketching is just as helpful as drawing on paper.

Finding Enough Time for Art3

John Middick and Lisa Clough of Sharpened Artist podcast talked about drawing apps for smart phones here.

Set Short Time Goals

One thing that really helped me understand the value of every minute—besides that painting challenge I mentioned—was setting short time goals. I started doing this to get over the hurdle of getting started every day, but it also helps me use time better.

Here’s how it works.

I promise myself that if I work for just fifteen minutes, then I can quit. For some reason, it’s easier to get started if I know I can quit after fifteen minutes. What usually happens is that I end up working for an hour or more, but even if I don’t, I’ve met the goal and can quit without feeling guilty.

But it also helps me do more drawing. I’ve learned over the years that I can do a complete drawing in fifteen or twenty minutes.

Take this plein air drawing, for example. It took less than half an hour, and I drew while waiting in the car. It may not be a masterpiece, but I was pleased with it, and I’d turned time spent waiting into into time spent drawing.

Finding Enough Time for Art4

And maybe a saleable piece. Who knows?

Don’t Think You Have to Do It All or Do It Right All The Time

It’s all right to doodle.

It’s also all right to take your time. Just because some people can do complete drawings in an hour or master a skill in a week doesn’t mean you have to. If it takes you a month to work through the steps of a single tutorial, then do it! It’s better that you advance a step at a time (yes, even small steps) than not advancing at all.

Draw as Much as Possible

I know I already said that, but it bears repeating.

It doesn’t matter how many goals you set, or how good your intentions to use time better. If you’re not drawing, none of those things will help. The point of being a artist is making art.

So make art as often as you can!

Is Tracing Cheating?

I love getting questions from readers (what blogger doesn’t?) The readers who ask questions also love getting answers. It’s long been my practice to answer each question as I receive it, personally and directly.

But some of the questions are so good, I know other readers are wondering the same thing. Those types of questions deserve a public answer.

Hi Carrie
When drawing a portrait in coloured pencil, be it animal or human, do you start with a tracing or freestyle? What is commonly preferred?

That’s a great question, Jo!

The short answer to the question is “yes.”

Most of the time, I begin portraits by creating a detailed line drawing using the grid method for drawing, a method I’ve used for almost as long as I can remember. For simpler compositions and most landscapes, I freehand a line drawing without using a grid.

And sometimes I start by making a tracing directly from the reference photo.

So, as I said, the answer is yes.

But the question leads naturally into another question that is almost always guaranteed to generate vigorous debate.

Is Tracing Cheating

I used to believe tracing was cheating. I truly did. Since I was charging good money for portraits of horses, I felt duty-bound (not to mention honor bound) to make every pencil and brush mark with my own hand, unguided by anything but what I could see in a reference photo. Somehow, I’d be cheating clients if I drew the line drawing by tracing.

Interestingly enough, I had no qualms about tracing my line drawing onto the canvas or drawing paper. Somehow, that didn’t seem like the same thing. Maybe it was because I was tracing my own work.

So Is Tracing Cheating?

I no longer think of tracing as cheating, and here are a few reasons why.

Tracing Isn’t Easy

Most people think that making a drawing by tracing is easy. A snap. A trained monkey could do it, because it involves no skill whatsoever.


I confess that I used to think this way. But I’ve traced enough different things enough times to know that if I hurry through the process or am careless, the traced line drawing is no better than a carelessly drawn freehand drawing.

Hand control and pencil control are no less important when tracing a drawing as when drawing with the grid method. Either way, I need to be able to get the pencil to do exactly what I want it to do.

Sometimes, I think it takes more skill to accurately follow a pattern than to draw freehand (maybe that’s why I never picked up the sewing habit.)

Tracing is Not a Silver Bullet

Tracing your subject to create a line drawing doesn’t guarantee a successful piece of art. You still have to layer and glaze color, you still have to know enough about color theory to know which colors to use, and you still need to know how to shade in order to make that line drawing look realistic. In other words, you still need to know how to draw.

Tracing is a Good Way to Improve Drawing Skills

Tracing something repeatedly—horses or cats for example—is a good way to teach yourself to draw so long as you’re using good photographs. Photos that don’t have a lot of distortion in them. Especially if you’re learning how to draw a new subject, you can benefit by tracing the subject several times, then drawing it freehand.

I’ve always been an equine portrait artist. Horse people paid me for portraits of their horses.

But horse portraits don’t always mean just horses are in the portrait. Sometimes tack is involved, and sometimes mechanical equipment is also involved.

For this oil portrait, I drew everything by hand using the grid method. Everything. But the racing bike never satisfied me, and I had special problems getting the wheels right. So after several attempts to get the curves right freehand, I made a couple of tracings of that part of the reference photo.

Is Tracing Cheating - Learning to Draw Something New

You can see the wheels still aren’t as rounded and balanced as they should be in the finished painting, but tracing them a few times did improve my ability to draw the curves with a brush when it came time to paint them.

Tracing is a Good Way to Get Accurate Drawings

If you’re doing portrait work in which the subject you draw must look like the subject you’re drawing, tracing can be a life-saver.

Take this line drawing, for example. I can draw a horse in almost any imaginable position or posture, but technical drawing of any kind is a major struggle. So I drew the horse in both views, the bridles and equipment on the head study, and the landscape elements. Then I traced the racing bike and the driver to make sure they were accurate.

I’d learned my lesson from the oil portrait, you see!

hbIs Tracing Cheating - Line Drawing

So what I recommend now is to trace something a couple of times to get a feel for the shapes, then try drawing it freehand.

If that doesn’t work, there’s nothing wrong with tracing that part of the composition as part of the line drawing.

Tracing a Reference Photo Simplifies It

Let’s face it. Sometimes, a reference photo shows too many things.

Or maybe the edges get lost because colors or values are too similar.

You can clean up the composition by making a careful tracing first. You can, of course, use that tracing as your final line drawing, or you can use it as a reference from which to make a line drawing.

Even if you chose to create your line drawing directly from the reference photo, a carefully drawn tracing can be a good benchmark against which to compare your final drawing. I have used tracings in this way on quite a few more complex compositions.

Tracing is a Time Saver

I spent two or three weeks on each of the line drawings for the portraits above. Tracing the original line drawing could have saved a considerable amount of time on both, not to mention personal frustration, and having to rush things at the end of the process to meet deadlines.

So is tracing cheating?

Not in my book. At least no longer.

But I also understand that it’s as much a personal preference as anything. If tracing violates your conscience, don’t do it.

Otherwise, make use of it just as you would any other tool in your artists’ toolbox.

What are the Disadvantages of Drawing?

I don’t spend a lot of time checking blog statistics. Those kinds of numbers can be an addictive habit for me, and not a very productive one.

But I do track things like search engine terms (the words and phrases people use that lead them to the blog), and the places they come from. That information is helpful in developing new content and updating old.

I mention those things only because of the topic for today’s post and this week’s article on EmptyEasel. Namely, repeated inquiries asking the same essential question: what are the disadvantages of drawing.

What are the Disadvantages of Drawing?

Some version of that search term appears regularly on the list of most used search terms. Today (Tuesday, April 11), seventeen of the most frequently used search terms over the last 30 days use the words “advantages” or “disadvantages.” One form of the question is the second most frequently used search term.

Some of the searches are specific. Disadvantages of drawing lines, sketches, or still life drawings, for example.

Others are much more general. It all leads to the same conclusion: A lot of readers wanting to know why they should draw.

So lets take a look at some of the questions being asked.

What are the Disadvantages of Drawing? The Questions

Please keep in mind that the answers I’m about to share are my personal opinion. You may very well see other disadvantages to drawing. Indeed, you may think my answers are pretty flimsy! So be it! Drawing—and all art—is very subjective and personal.

Having said that, let me jump into the fray.

1: Disadvantages of the Drawing Process

This question appeared a couple of times in different forms. The phrase used here was the second-most often used key word phrase over the last few weeks.

I find no easy answer to this question beyond the matter of time. It quite simply takes a long time to do a complex and detailed drawing, even if you use modern shortcuts. Some of the line drawings for my large works have taken a couple of weeks to work out. Do enough revisions of the same subject and it can get tiring.

And frustrating.

Then there’s the shading, usually with further fine tuning.

If your end goal is the drawing itself, that’s one thing. But if the drawing is only the first step in the process, it’s quite another matter.

2: Disadvantages of Line Drawing

There is something almost magical about setting up an easel, putting a canvas or paper on it, and just producing a finished piece without going through all the preliminaries.

What are the Disadvantages of Drawing Line Drawings

For this type of artist, taking time to do a line drawing not only takes valuable time away from painting, but it may even quench the creative fires. By the time they’ve worked through a line drawing—even a simple one—there’s no longer a desire do the “real piece of art.”

I can understand that, though my empathy comes by way of writing. My second love is writing stories, but I’ve discovered that my brain thinks the story has been written when the story summary is finished. I can’t tell you how many fully developed summaries have gone no further.

If you’re that type of artist, then line drawing may indeed be a disadvantage.

3: Disadvantages to Sketching

To my way of thinking, the primary disadvantages to sketching are all personal—the excuses I give myself for not sketching. In my case, they are:

  • I don’t want to take the time
  • There are too many paid and therefore “more important” pieces to work on
  • I don’t know what to draw or don’t want to draw whatever happens to be nearby
  • It doesn’t contribute directly to my current project (whatever that project may be)

I still struggle with those “disadvantages”, but I also try to sketch frequently (I can’t yet say “regularly”.)

4. Advantages and Disadvantages of Drawing

I wrote specifically on this subject for EmptyEasel this week.

You see, once I got started, my thoughts on the subject went in several different directions. For a few more of those ideas, read What are the Advantages (or Disadvantages) of Drawing?

Whether or not I’ve answered the questions posed above I cannot at present say. Since some variation of the term appears regularly on the list of most popular search terms, it’s entirely likely that some of you also have thoughts on the subject. If so, I invite you to share them below. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject.

So, what are the disadvantages of drawing for you?

Advantages and Disadvantages of Drawing: A Question

advantages and disadvantages of drawing

disadvantages of contour shading

advantages and disadvantages of drawing process

what is disadvantage of alphabet line in drawing

drawing disadvantages of books

Something interesting is happening here, at your humble art blog. I don’t understand it, and I’m not afraid to ask for help.

The list above is from the list of search engine terms that brought people to this blog. They all have two things in common.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Drawing A Question For My Readers

The first thing is the use of the word “disadvantage” or “disadvantages”. In other words, the people who are using these phrases to look for information on drawing appear to be looking for reasons not to draw (or use contour shading or whatever).

I don’t know about you, but that seems a little bit odd. Usually, when I’m looking for information on something, I want to know why I should use a particular method or particular tool. I can come up with plenty of reasons not to do something on my own!

But maybe that’s just me.

The second thing each of these terms have in common is that they’re rather vague. I can think of several different ways to answer a question about the disadvantages of drawing. For example, if the person searched for “advantages and disadvantages of drawing”, do they want to know why they should draw instead of trace?

Or do they want to know why they should do a line drawing of their subject first, or start without a line drawing?

Or are they even talking about fine art? When I searched some of these same terms, everything I came up with had something to either with computer art or engineering. My husband is an engineer, but that’s as close as I get to engineering.

I’d love to write an article about a search term that’s coming up so often, but what exactly should I write about?

You see my dilemma.

So I thought I’d ask you. If you used any of the search terms listed above, what exactly did you want to know? Let me know in the comments below and I’ll do my best to answer it.

And if your question is related to engineering in some way, maybe I can talk my husband into providing the answer!

8 Things I Wish I’d Known When I Was a Beginning Artist

I’ve been an artist for a long time. Long enough to have learned many lessons that come only with experience.

Long enough to also know that there are many things I could have learned from other artists had I known where to find those artists (I started before the days of the internet).

Most of those tips have less to do with art than with attitude. They’re the sorts of things we all need to be reminded of periodically.

8 Things I Wish I'd Known When I Was a Beginning Artist

Be prepared to persevere.

I don’t know about you, but when I started painting, I thought all I had to do was paint the portraits and get them in front of people. They’d sell themselves and they’d sell themselves quickly. I’d be an overnight success.

The selling part is a discussion for another time (if you’re interested in that, let me know. There’s lots to share.)

The overnight part? Let’s just say I’ve been painting for nearly forty years and I’m still waiting for the overnight success.

Making art is not easy, even when you love what you’re doing. Building a livelihood around it is even less easy. Even when it’s your passion.

The real secret to success is getting up one more time than you’re knocked down, plain and simple. The world doesn’t owe you a living. Neither do the people around you. You may be the most talented artist since Rembrandt, but even he persevered.

Keep going. Be persistent.




Develop a thick skin.

From the first drawing you draw to the last, there will be critics. You will have to learn to deal with people who criticize your work, your methods, your marketing—probably even you. They are as much a fact of life as the sun rising in the east. Learn not to internalize it.

How? Ah, that’s the hard part, isn’t it.The Beginning Artist Needs to Develop a Thick Skin

The thing I did that helped me most in this area was deciding with myself what I wanted to paint, how I wanted to paint, and for whom I wanted to paint.

Once those things were settled in my own mind, the criticisms that came because I was painting horses or painting them too realistically or painting for clients didn’t matter. Sure, they still sometimes stung—especially those delivered by artists whose work I admired but whose vision was different than mine—but they didn’t sting as much.

You may need to make the same decisions.

Then go forward with confidence.

Learn to learn from criticism.

Some of the criticism may be warranted, so you can’t automatically discard it all. When an artist whose vision was similar to mine commented negatively on something I’d done, I paid more attention. Maybe they were right.

If a client had a complaint, I definitely paid attention to that. After all, they were paying me for my artistic skill. If they weren’t happy, neither was I.

But I still had to learn to be gracious.

I also had to learn to analyze those criticisms at face value and glean the comments that improved my skills as an artist and in dealing with people (and let’s face it, most of us like nothing better than to shut ourselves up in our studios and make art). Toward that end, I asked myself

  • Was the critic an artist more skilled than I?
  • If so, is this criticism a learning opportunity?
  • What can I learn from it?
  • Was the critic a client?
  • If so, is the complaint legitimate?
  • How can I improve the painting?

In other words, find ways to learn, to improve your artistic craft. Make every criticism an opportunity to learn and grow.

Draw every day.

Don’t fall into the habit of thinking you need to wait for inspiration to strike before you make art.

Don’t accept the lie that you need large chunks of time, either.

It's Important for the Beginning Artist to Develop a Daily Drawing Habit

I’ve lived both and know they are not true. The best way to be an artist is to be an artist. Every day. Whether you feel like it or not. Whether you have the time or not. Even if it’s just a few minutes to sketch on a napkin, make use of it. Nothing is more discouraging than waking up one morning and realizing it’s been a year since the last time you drew something.

Set goals.

I didn’t have to hear this very many times before I got tired of hearing it. Sick and tired!

But you know what? It’s true! When I came to grips with that realization, I also discovered just how valuable goals can be.

And easy. Start small. The first time I set painting goals, I decided to paint one painting a month plus two for a year. I was painting evenings and weekends then, doing art shows and horse shows when I could, so painting time was limited.

But it worked and for years, I created at least twelve paintings a year. Most of them portraits.

You might also try a time goal. Maybe 15 minutes of life drawing every day. Or even just 5 or 10. Keep a small sketch pad with you and sketch in doctor’s offices, while waiting for your order at a restaurant, or wherever you happen to be. Make it a habit! Have fun with it!

Develop a system to monitor goals.

Goals work best when you have a way to track your progress. It doesn’t need to be elaborate, but it needs to BE.

The Beginning Artist Should Find a Way to Monitor Progress

A calendar is great for this. One with big squares for each day works for me. Find a method that works for you. Decide how much time you want to paint each month, then decide how much you need to paint each day to reach that goal. For each day you paint, record the amount of time you spent. You’ll be surprised how quickly the time adds up.

For some projects, I keep a spreadsheet.

The important thing isn’t how you monitor your progress; it’s THAT you monitor your progress. Seeing how much you’ve done toward a particular goal is a great way to get or stay motivated to keep up the good work.

Don’t let your goals rule you.

You may be thinking this is a contradiction. It’s not.

Life happens. There will be days when, despite your best planning and intentions, you just can’t paint or draw. Don’t let it stress you out. That’s part of the reason I like weekly and monthly goals in addition to daily goals. If I miss a day, I can make it up somewhere else and the weekly or monthly goals provide the incentive to do so.

Have fun.

For the longest time, my art was my small business and I treated it that way. Every line I drew was for a portrait in some way. I never drew for fun or just because something interesting caught my eye and wanted to be drawn.

Don’t do that!The Beginning Artist Needs to Learn to Have Fun

Whether you paint for personal pleasure or as a livelihood, have fun. For some, creating art will become like a job and will require you treat it like a job, maintaining regular hours and behaving like your own employee.

If that describes you, try not to lose sight of the joy of painting (as I did). Keep in sight the reason art drew you in the first place. Take time to nurture that, to grow it as you grow your career. You won’t regret it.

By the way, it doesn’t hurt to learn to have fun apart from your art, too. We all need down time to refresh and revitalize.

Which of these resonant most with you? What advice would you add to the list?

12 Reasons to Love Colored Pencils

For those among us who use them as our primary medium—or as one of our primary mediums—there are a lot of reasons to love colored pencils. If you’ve used them for any length of time at all, you can probably list five or six with no hesitation at all.

And I’ll wager that if each of us listed our top twelve reasons, every one of us would have at least one reason that was unique to us. That’s just human nature. And the nature of the medium.
12 Reasons to Love Colored Pencils

Following are my top twelve reasons for loving colored pencils.

Why I Love Colored Pencils

Colored pencils are easy to use

Open the box, sharpen the pencils (if necessary), grab a piece of paper, and start drawing. You don’t need to prepare a painting surface, mix a palette, or—best of all—wear protective clothing.

Colored pencils are clean

You don’t have to worry about getting them on your hands, clothing, or the things around you. You won’t find traces of them some unexpected place in the house because you brushed against wet paint without knowing it and transferred that color to other parts of the house.

No drying time

One of my chief complaints about oil painting is waiting for paint to dry. That’s not a concern with colored pencil drawing.

All those luscious colors!

What artist doesn’t love color? And there are so many!

Colored pencils go everywhere

Colored pencils are easily transportable. Throw a few supplies into your field kit or a tote bag or purse (depending how big the set—or your purse—is) and you’re ready to go. Anywhere. Everywhere.

No smelly solvents (unless I want them)

I can make a beautiful drawing without having to breathe solvent fumes.

I can create a range of affects from soft focus to tight detail

Fine art colored pencils are much more versatile than the colored pencils I used in grade school. Almost everything that could be done with brush and paint can be done with colored pencils.

Colored pencils look—and work—great on so many different surfaces

We all know about drawing on paper. A lot of us have tried mat board, too. But what about sanded art papers, wood, canvas, or even Mylar? Colored pencils work on all of them and produce unique and interesting affects on each type of surface.

Nothing else captures ‘found’ texture quite as well as colored pencils

I’ve added interesting and unique textures to more than one drawing simply by laying the paper on a textured surface and lightly—or maybe not so lightly—shading over the paper. What a great way to add visual interest quickly and easily.

Colored pencils are perfect for making small format and miniature art

The thing that turns so many people away from colored pencil is the very thing that makes them ideal for small format and miniature art. The thin color core. What better medium for drawing details on artwork that’s 4×6 or less?

Bonus: You don’t need special tools…except for maybe a magnifying glass.

Colored pencils are perfect for drawing hair

Colored pencils are also fabulous for drawing hair. One of the things I love most about drawing horses is drawing those long manes and tails. I can paint a decent mane or tail with oils and very small brushes, but colored pencils are far more satisfactory.

The cat can play in my art box and I don’t have to worry about hazardous materials sticking to paws

This is important in a house with two indoor cats. Cats like to climb. Cats like to explore.

They also like to help. Years ago, one of our cats once threw himself on an oil painting while I was working on it (I work flat, by the way). I had to take time to clean the paint off the cat before repairing the damage to the painting.

That doesn’t happen with colored pencils.

That’s my list. Why do you enjoy using colored pencils?

So You Want to Varnish Colored Pencil Art. What Should You Use?

In a previous post, I shared three professional reasons to consider using fixative or varnish on your colored pencil artwork and three reasons not to.

You read that post and decided to try varnishing your finished work. The next logical question is which type and brand to use. There are so many on the market. How do you choose?

Fixative and Varnish: What’s the Difference?

Before we go further, though, let me take a moment to define terms.

“Fixative” and “varnish” are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same thing.

Fixative is only a temporary “fix”. It’s a light coating you use as part of the drawing process. Fixative sprays are not designed to be a final coating because it doesn’t provide protection from ultraviolet light (UV), environmental dirt, or rough handling. It’s generally applied lightly and between layers of color.

Varnish is a final coating designed to provide protection from environmental dirt, UV, and—to some extent—rough handling. It is applied more thickly. It is not designed to be used as part of the drawing process since it can easily saturate and discolor the paper and darken both the paper and the colors already on the paper.

Another term frequently used for varnishes is final finish. Not all final finishes are useful for colored pencil work. Many of them are produced for oil paintings and contain damar varnish. When purchasing final finishes, make sure to check the contents label. If it lists damar, leave it on the shelf.

So You Want to Varnish Colored Pencil Art: What Should You Use?

John Ursillo uses workable fixative throughout his drawing process and varnishes finished pieces when he works on canvas (yes, canvas for colored pencils). John says:

I use intermediate layers of workable fixative along with solvent-enhanced CP and water-based CP. The finished piece is coated with two layers of Krylon Archival Series UV protective gloss acrylic spray. There are other brands but I’ve not tried them – happy with the Krylon. This goes on very shiny but after a week or so the coating dries completely into the weave of the canvas resulting in a pleasing semi-gloss coating.

The net result is that these colored pencil drawings on canvas can be framed without glass.

For works on paper, he uses workable fixative before adding the final color, then gives the finished drawing an additional coat of workable fixative.

When I use workable fixative, it’s usually late in the drawing process, when I need to restore a little tooth in order to finish the drawing. I have Krylon Workable Fixatif and Prismacolor Premier Fixative on my shelf. I’ve never done a side-by-side comparison, so I don’t know that one is better than the other. Both are good both for controlling wax bloom and for working over.

I also use Krylon Gallery Series Conservation Retouch Varnish. It’s more suitable for finished work on either paper or canvas. Prismacolor produces a non-workable fixative that I have yet to try but that’s worth a look.

In the past, I’ve used Blair products and Grumbacher products and have had good results.

Best Practices for Using Varnish or Fixative on Colored Pencil Art

Look for a fixative or varnish made for colored pencils or, if you can’t find that, one that’s made for dry media. Not all varnishes are created equal and what may work for an oil painting may not work as well—or at all—on colored pencil. Prismacolor makes a final coating made specifically for colored pencils and I recommend it whole-heartedly.

Since each brand of fixative or varnish comes with instructions for use, check those instructions first. Follow them, too, in order to get the best results.

Here’s how I do my varnishing.

  • Work in a well-ventilated area
  • Position the artwork in an upright position. It doesn’t have to be perfectly vertical, but it shouldn’t be flat, either
  • Shake the aerosol can a few times to properly mix the contents
  • Hold the can in a vertical position about twelve inches from the artwork (check the instructions on the can for the ideal distance, as there may be some variation).
  • Holding down the nozzle, move the spray across the artwork horizontally in a slow movement.
  • Start just past the edge of the drawing and spray across the drawing to just past the opposite edge, then back in the opposite direction until you’ve covered all of the drawing, top to bottom
  • Let the artwork dry for a minimum of 30 minutes. Personally, I prefer to err on the side of caution and usually wait 45 minutes or longer
  • Give the drawing another coat (optional).

Two or three coats should be sufficient. Just make sure you don’t soak the paper with varnish. When a heavy coat of varnish dries, it could become brittle, making it necessary ship unframed art flat, instead of rolled.

So You Want to Varnish Colored Pencil Art. What Should You Use?

The Bottom Line

What it all comes down to is finding the best product for the type of work you do and the results you want. Generally, the best place to start is with a brand known for high quality in other products. Grumbacher and Krylon, for example. Products produced by or for companies that also make colored pencils is also a good idea. I can’t guarantee you’ll like Prismacolor workable fixative as well as you like Prismacolor colored pencils, but there’s a better chance the fixative will work favorably with the pencils.

Whenever you try something new, try it first on scrap paper or on a drawing that won’t hurt your feelings if it gets damaged. Talking to other artists about what they use and why they use it is another excellent way to find a good product.