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What to do When You Hit a Plateau in Drawing Development

Art By Frank Frazetta

Does it feel like you've hit a plateau in your drawing development? Progressed to a point you're content with, but can't seem to get much further than where you're at?

I hear this all the time from students, professional and newcomer artists alike - and yes, I've even experienced it myself. More than once if you can believe it!

It's something we stumble upon at multiple points throughout our drawing journey. We learn everything there is to know about within a given subject (or at least it feels that way), then we find ourselves at a loss as to how to progress beyond that point.

Do we just keep studying proportions and anatomy even after we know both back to front? Should we continue to mindlessly jot down 30 second figure drawing poses, one after the other just for the sake of it - just because we think we're supposed to? How much better are they really making us at this point?

How much longer do we have to keep rinsing and repeating the same stuff before the process becomes redundant?

When you get to this point, where you feel like you've conquered all your drawing obstacles, where you become bored and whatever you're studying doesn't feel like a challenge anymore - it likely means you're ready to move on.

You're ready to venture into a new facet of drawing that you're yet to master. Which is exciting, but also scary. The unknown always conjures up some reluctance within us.

Leaving Your Comfort Zone

Comfort is nice. It's a stress free state of ease, and confidence. And after going through a grueling bout of trial and tribulation no doubt you've earned it. Stay there for a while, revel in it. Have some fun drawing. Just don't get used to it.

Because comfort is also the precise state in which very little growth can occur.

Evolution can't happen without reason. If you've reached a plateau in your drawing, you've got to seek out that reason no matter how far you've come, or how much experience you've got under your belt. If you don't, you'll stop moving, and your drawing development will come to a halt.

Diamonds form under pressure, and so does skill.

Sharpening our skills is one thing, but forging them is another, and the latter is what drives most of us. The ambition to be better than we were yesterday is what gets us fired up! Because what happens if things stop growing? Stop moving? They become stagnant. Frozen in progress.

In that state of sameness, we simply feel as though we're pointlessly repeating the same old thing over and over again. That's what you're feeling when you've hit plateau. Progress needs to be witnessed to maintain motivation.

So then what's the solution?

Learn Something New

It's simple. To move forward you have to find something new within the domain of your craft that serves up a new, novel challenge. You've got to lean into your discomfort, the areas of your drawing that scare you most.

We all struggle with something within our art, as much as we might try to avoid it we know it's there.

Maybe it's to do with the basic fundamentals - anatomy, perspective, posing, composition, or areas that are more advanced such as expression, lighting, rendering, design - whatever you hate drawing most, the thing that you persist to resist, that which just aren't that good at yet - this is the area you need to dive head first into.

Make it your focus.

Or maybe you really do feel like you've aced every aspect of your art and there's nothing left to improve on. I'll grant you that. It can feel that way sometimes.

But if you want to continue getting better nonetheless, I'd suggest taking a good hard long look at the work of artists out there who you admire. Artists who you feel are better and further ahead than you.

What techniques or methods are they employing that you've never tried before? How do they represent their characters in terms of anatomy, proportions and positioning? What kind of compositions do they use? How do they employ lighting and rendering to increase the cinematic drama within their illustrations? What is it about their style that is so damn compelling?

Start taking notes. It'll be a sobering experience but it'll give you a list of areas you can start studying up on to kickstart your learning again.

The mount Everest of comic art mastery can only be trekked in one direction - onwards and upwards. If you stop, you'll freeze. Worse you might start sliding back. Be brave, keep moving.

It'll be hard. Uncomfortable. Good. Now you're remembering how it feels to learn, how it feels to make progress, what it's like to reengage your artistic evolution.

No longer will you feel comfortable, bored or like you're the best. And no longer will you feel like you're hitting a plateau.

You'll be humbled - the greatest advantage one can have on their journey to becoming a true comic art master.

I hope you got some value out of this article and that it helps you take your comic art skills to even greater heights. Thanks for reading, and until next time - keep drawing.


Cover Art By Al Williamson

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