The Key to Getting Better

You hear it all the time – PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE – and as someone learning to draw or sketch it can be frustrating when the returns of your efforts aren’t forthcoming. It took me some time to realize this, along with the help of one of my university professors. I came to him somewhat frustrated that i hadn’t been getting better in the short time I had started to sketch in my sketchbook. He then turned to the board, and drew this diagram. I’ve since expanded on it and share it whenever the occasion arises…

Believe it or not, I was full speed ahead on my way to becoming a math major when I discovered Industrial Design. I sometimes use graphs to explain things to this day. Take this one for example…


As you sketch and practice, you see initial improvement, then hit a plateau where you find very little or no apparent improvement. Then, as you continue to push through and practice, you may find yourself hitting a boost in improvement which is encouraging, only to be met with another plateau. This continues on and on, however the returns are diminishing as time goes on. This could be due to a myriad of factors, but essentially, we have our limits and as we get closer to our limits, the returns diminish.

For the casual sketcher, the curve would look something like this.


While personal improvement can be seen over time, the returns are substantially less because sketching may be intermittent, irregular, and occasional. The longer the gap between practice sessions or instances, the more chance for a deterioration in your personal skill level.

So what’s the point of all this?  SKETCH SKETCH SKETCH SKETCH!!! It’s really the way to get significantly better, even if it’s a pain sometimes and you can’t immediately see the results.

Most of what you see in my sketchbook section on the site, was done while waiting on the bus or train, or even while on the train. Take every opportunity you have to practice. It will pay in dividends later in your career.

  • Martin Zapletal

    What is the point of being half way somewhere in your studies, say, maths, languages or basically whatever apart from industrial design… and…ending up doing design ? I am bachelor already in a different area and been drawing myself eversince, I somehow long to do design or whatever connected with concepts. Be it in games, illustrations, anything. 
    Is the answer, too, SKETCH SKETCH SKETCH ? 

  • bobbyboy

    great discussions, Spence, cheers for input and shared knowledge and awesome creative ability! please tell where is this PDF?

  • Jeewangurung

    i m intrested on scatching human face 

  • Taepanit

    thanks a lot

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  • Mahirahonelove

    it really wake me up!!
    im from product design :)

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  • Drego

    the biggest and i mean the biggest change i sawin my sketching was in front of a client. I just doodled something in front of him and I was surprised how it turned out. i practiced often but never noticed this change i understand what u mean!!

  • Whiffen

    This site really has some inspirational tips on sketching. Does anyone know if music helps with the creativity or quality of your sketches?

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