How to Study and Improve Rapidly Pt. I: Theory vs Knowledge

In the past few years there's been an absolute explosion of accessible art technique tutorials and classes. Youtube, Gumroad, Schoolism, etc. Buried admits endless high quality videos you can't help but shout out "but where do I start!?" as the next tutorial falls on your head and suffocates you. Just as you think it might be the end, you see the light. A hand reaches down to pull you out of the tutorial hoarding disaster, I'm here, and everything will be alright now.

The remedy to this is simple. If you want to improve your production of finished works and learning efficiency you must do the following:

1. Prepare: Decision (why) Grab reference images if necessary. (10%)

1. Taking action (80%)

2. Supplement action with relevant knowledge (10%)

Repeat step 1. 

That's it, really. You can stop reading now.

But if you want to read a little more: the theory is that if you sit in front of a screen or book trying to absorb information you have 0 context for you will almost certainly forget it immediately. Your brain hasn't build up enough functional knowledge to process it on anything more than an abstract level. No matter how hard you try you can't read yourself into drawing well. That's why this solution is so beautiful. We need a process to prime our brain to receive the knowledge.

(1) We begin with a decision. Why do I want to make this, where do I want to take it? There is hardly a right answer to this, so don't over think it too much. Grab the references that will be vital to your work. IE. the photo of the subject. 

(2) Then take action. Sketching, planning, exploring, designing and executing your image

(3) You may realize after this large chunk of initial action you may have problem areas. Things that you haven't a clue how to deal with. This is what you need to study. Go ahead and watch the video you need or open the book to that specific section.

Now you return to taking action. It can be highly beneficial to do studies at this point until you have a working understanding you can bring into your original image. 

This of course is no hard or fast law but the concept can save you from countless hours of watching videos, pointless studies or wandering aimlessly through a more complex work. Use common sense, you don't need to be literal with the steps. Now you know the level of action you need to be taking to produce.

Your homework now is to go take immediate action. Sit down, ask yourself what kind of image you want to make and then take action. Keep it simple and don't go too crazy. 

Comparative Measurement. Pt I

We're going to be going over the different ways we can measure to make sure our drawings are accurate in proportion even though they are much bigger or smaller than real life. A majority of these methods require a tool (typically your drawing tool is plenty sufficient) but with practice can be internalized and become sensed intuitively. 


Portion measuring

This is known by many artists as the infamous pencil on thumb technique. It's basic but it reliable. The idea behind this is if we can use an arbitrary unit for a measurement, we can take a portion of it (say half, or a third) and recreate that in our drawing. The method works reliably either vertically or horizontally.


  1. Find our arbitrary measurement point. Typically you'll want to use something obvious and appropriate for the thing you want to measure.
  2. Find the portion of the point you are trying to measure. Example, the door know is half way down the door.
  3. Take a mental note of the proportion.
  4. Find the arbitrary measurement again but this time on your drawing
  5. Find the portion within the drawing

"Plumb Line"

The purpose of this technique is to find if a point lines up vertically or horizontally with another known point. 


  1. Decide a point that you'd like to check and your reference point (which should already exist on your drawing)
  2. Look at your reference or subject and hold your pencil out locked vertically or horizontally lined up with your reference point
  3. Determine where the point falls on the subject you're trying to check
  4. Take a mental note
  5. Repeat steps 1 and 2 on your drawing
  6. Make a mark and create a new mental note.