Our Best Tips For Sketching Every Single Day For 30 Days Or More

By Nicole Tinkham

sketching

We hear from artists all the time who have gorgeous sketchbooks with little to no actual sketches in them. The reason? It’s the lack of time and motivation to keep up with the daily sketching habit. It’s really a shame but we completely understand how easy it is to fall behind on your sketching goals. We see the same exact thing happen when it comes to a healthy diet, exercise, reading, or any other daily task. It works great if you’re consistent but as soon as something interrupts that consistency (like a vacation or family emergency) and you miss a few days, it’s so incredibly difficult to get back on track. We don’t want you to give up or let that beautiful sketchbook collect dust though. So here are our best tips for sketching every single day for 30 days or more.

1.    Get a sketchbook you love.

Of course, this is only the beginning. Just because you have a killer sketchbook doesn’t mean you’ll actually use it. But it does help with the initial motivation. Be sure to pick a size and style that works best for you. Spend a little extra money on something nice that means a lot to you.

2.    Set your goals.

Will you take on a 30 day sketchbook challenge? Maybe a 365 day challenge? Determine what your goal is before you get started. If you need help coming up with daily ideas, just Google “sketchbook challenge” or “drawing challenge” for prompt ideas. Have your start date planned out and be sure you are ready to go.

3.    Set aside time to sketch.

Let’s be realistic, many people don’t have an hour or more of focused time every single day where they can sketch. Maybe you have a full time job, a family, or other art projects to work on. That’s totally fine. What you can do is think about how you can work in mini sketch sessions throughout your day. It could be while waiting at the doctor’s office or on the bus. There is nothing wrong with a quick sketch. You can always spend more time on your sketchbook during those less busy days.

4.    Bring your sketchbook everywhere with you.

You have got to start bringing your sketchbook with you everywhere you go. You just never know when you’ll have a little downtime or when a creative idea strikes. Start by carrying it around with you from room to room in your house so you’re used to carrying it. Eventually you’ll feel lost without it and that’s the feeling you want.

5.    Form an accountability group.

It’s great to make a promise to yourself that you’ll sketch for 30 days or more but if you miss days and fall off track, no one will be there pushing you to continue. We’ve found that checking in with someone else (a friend or a group of people) is helpful in staying motivated. You could form an online group or a group of local friends to take on the challenge with you. Be sure to check in with them often and help each other stay on track.

6.    Keep learning.

Always look forward to the next sketch you’ll be doing. Think about certain techniques you want to learn and focus on them until you feel comfortable with your skills. This will keep you coming back for more because it eliminates the boredom and challenges you. For example, if you’re struggle with drawing hands you may want to do some research and watch some videos first. But then you can practice the new techniques learned.

7.    Do something different.

Switching up your medium, adding some color, exploring a new location or focusing on a different subject will also keep you from getting bored and giving up. Always keep it interesting!

8.    Give yourself time to form the habit.

Forming any new habit takes about 2-3 weeks of consistency. This being said, it may not come naturally for you to pick up your sketchbook in the beginning. Set a little reminder for yourself every day until you are able to get your daily sketch done without thinking about it. You can also replace another habit with sketching. Maybe instead of watching TV after dinner, you use that time to sketch.

9.    Celebrate often.

You don’t have to complete 30 days or more of sketching to celebrate your accomplishments. Every single day you open up your sketchbook is a huge win! Celebrate daily and be proud of what you are achieving. That kind of recognition is what will keep you going for the long haul.

10.    Don’t strive for perfection.

The whole point of daily sketching is to improve your skills. Of course you won’t be perfect from the start and if you are, you aren’t challenging yourself. This is your personal sketchbook. No one else has to see it. Get rid of that fear of imperfection and just do it!

The very last thing we want to leave you with here when talking about our best tips for sketching every single day for 30 days or more is just to have fun with it. Don’t overcomplicate things, just get creative whenever you can and put that sketchbook to use. We know any new habit is difficult but it will be so worth it when you grow and improve in your artwork and really every area of your life. Once you pick up one good habit, you’re more likely to get involved in more habits and goals. Keep up the great work on your sketchbook challenge and please let us know how it’s going over on our Facebook page. We can’t wait to see those sketches!

Blending Stumps Vs Tortillons And Other Tools To Blend Like A Pro

By Nicole Tinkham

Blending-tools

Whether you draw or are a makeup artist, you know that blending is essential. For drawing, you have many blending tool options from tortillons to stumps and many others. The right tools can make a huge difference in your artwork and when it comes to blending, you definitely have to think about your supplies of choice. Every artist is different and prefers a different tool. In this blog we’ll talk about the difference between a blending stump and tortillons and more tools to help you blend like a pro.
Blending Stumps

What they are: A solid “stick” made out of soft paper with a point at each end. These can be sharpened with sandpaper and also cleaned with a kneaded eraser which is super convenient! Since these are available in a variety of sizes, they’re great for many different projects.

Tortillons

What they are: Tightly rolled paper with a point on one end ideal for blending small areas. We recommend using it at an angle to keep that nice pointed tip in tact.

Tip: Have many of these in use at once. Once dark graphite gets on these, you won’t want to use it in a lighter area. Tortillons are inexpensive enough that you can be using several for different shades in your piece at once.

The difference

Tortillons can be a little more difficult to use since that aren’t made with the same soft paper that of blending stumps. This makes it difficult to keep a consistent tone. However, tortillons are perfect for precision! Our suggestion: Have both!

What you can achieve with BOTH options

1.    Blending: Push graphite around the page to blend tones together.

2.    Shading: Pick up graphite with your tool of choice (use scrap paper to scribble on and then rub your blending tool over the graphite to pick it up). Now you can apply that graphite to your drawing and layer it on depending on how dark you need it to be.

3.    Light values: A clean blending tool is key for blending light values!

4.    Dark values: When working on a dark area, it’s typical for tiny specs of the white paper to shine through. Using a blending tool can cover up those areas.

Other tools

Chamois: Not for detailed work but this cloth is perfect for a soft blend when using charcoal and pastels.

Makeup brush: We’ve heard from one of our artist friends that makeup brushes are excellent for blending!

Q-tip: Use for larger areas, not precise spots.

Paper towel: Fold in a triangle so you get some nice points on the ends.

Facial tissue: Wrap it around your finger to prevent the oils from your finger to get smudges on your artwork.

Cotton swab

Don’t use..

Your fingers! The oils from your finger can make the graphite impossible to erase.

If you aren’t already blending, you need to be! It can definitely transform your artwork if you do it right. Play around with it first though as it takes some practice. There’s no right or wrong answer here either. Try a few different blending tools out and see which one you like best. Every artist is different so we can’t really recommend blending stumps over tortillons or anything else.

Let us know, what’s your favorite tool to blend with and why? Please leave a comment below!

11 Items That Make For Perfect Still Life Paintings And Drawings

By Nicole Tinkham

Still-life
If you’re feeling less than enthusiastic about your next still life project or it’s just taking you forever to get started on it, you have got to make a change! Any project that you set out to do should be exciting and fun. You should be kept up at night just so anxious to get started working on it. If you’re doing the same still life paintings and drawings over and over again, it can be so easy to push off the project and never really give it your all when you do decide to work on it. To make your artwork more exciting, we asked artists over on our Facebook page what types of objects they love to use in a still life project to give you a few new ideas. Of course you aren’t limited to these 11 objects but it’s a great place to start if you’ve never worked with them before. Oh and we have some bonus tips at the end that you’ll want to take a look at too 🙂  Let’s get started!

1.    Old fashion cans of tomatoes

2.    Fresh veggies from the garden with bright colors

3.    Tea cups and teapot

4.    Pears

5.    Candles for light source

6.    Feathers

7.    Crystal

8.    Spoons

9.    Fruit

10.    Flowers in old containers, vase, or basket

11.    Rocks

Additional tips:

•    Choose items with various heights and texture

•    Look for items with color and reflections

•    Always work with objects you can get excited about

•    Play around with positioning and lighting

•    Take a few photos of different angles first to get the perfect composition

•    Just get started – it doesn’t have to be perfect!

•    Pick objects that are new and different to you

Still life paintings and drawings don’t have to be boring! Find unique items that are colorful and different. Let them speak to you and give the artwork meaning. Play around with different objects. Find the most random item possible and include that! Just get started and have fun with it.

Tell us, what objects do YOU like using for your still life projects?

5 Surprising Things That Make A Sketch Great So You Can Proudly Show Off Your Sketchbook

By Nicole Tinkham

sketchbook.jpg

Have you ever looked at another artist’s sketchbook thinking they make it look so easy when yours always seem to be a struggle? Why is that? Often times when we compare ourselves to others, we walk away feeling defeated and ready to throw in the towel. “Is this whole art thing even worth it”, you ask yourself. Ok, time to take a deep breath and just STOP for a moment.  It’s completely normal for you to feel this way. Thinking you’re the only one who has their setbacks is ludicrous. This is exactly why we need a community of artists who aim to spur each other on. If you’re looking for ways to develop a sketchbook that you can show off with pride, read on to find out things that make a sketch great- the answers may surprise you!

Let’s start with the definition of what a sketch actually is just so we’re all on the same page.

Sketch
skeCH/
noun

noun: sketch; plural noun: sketches

1.    a rough or unfinished drawing or painting, often made to assist in making a more finished picture.

“a charcoal sketch”
synonyms:    (preliminary) drawing, outline;

We wanted to first make that clear because so many artists beat themselves up over simple sketches when really, sketches are meant to be rough and unfinished! While they don’t have to be perfect, there are a few specific qualities that make good sketches good (in our opinion, anyway). Read on for what those 5 qualities are and how working on them can improve your sketchbook.

1.    CREATIVITY!!

In any piece of artwork, the main thing that catches the viewer’s eye is how creative it is. When people see a bunch of the same things over and over again it becomes dull and they don’t think twice about it. But the more creative a piece is, it stands out and causes people to stop and notice. This works with paintings, sculptures, photography, digital art, and anything else you’re creating. Good artwork can often be subjective but one thing we can pretty much all agree on is that it must be creative.

2.    Perspective

Perspective is such a tough thing to master and we know many artists who struggle with it. Unfortunately, if the perspective is off even by a little bit the entire sketch looks a little strange. Take the time to learn and practice perspective to strengthen your skills.

3.    Emotion

When you sit down to sketch, your feelings and emotions show through in your work. If you’re just doing it to say you got it done, people will notice. There will be a lack of enthusiasm in your line work. But put passion into it and your sketch will jump off the page. It’s the same thing when talking to someone else about your artwork. Your confidence and excitement is all in your tone.

4.    Roughness

Your sketches should not be perfect. That is not the point of a sketch! They should be loose, rough, and quick. We love sketches for one simple reason; we can see the way the artist thinks and works through the piece all within the lines. Your sketch lines are the most important part so don’t go erasing all of them. Be confident with the lines you put down. When you’re unsure, that also shows through in your lines. Be loose, have fun, and don’t stress out over whether or not your sketches are any good.

5.    Progress

Sketching is all about learning and improving. Most often the point of looking through old sketchbooks is to see that progress. To see how far you’ve come between the very first pages to the end of the book. You’ll go through a lot as an artist, many difficult times, struggles and failures. Use your sketchbook as a way to share the journey with others. We’re all at different points so you really can’t compare your sketch to another artist’s. Focus on your own journey and you’ll discover that your sketches are more incredible than you gave yourself credit for.

You may not be where you want to be in this creative journey of yours but you are getting there. When it comes to your sketches, or any type of artwork you do, keep learning and practicing. Come up with some super fun and creative ideas, work on your perspective (take a class if you need to!), put emotion into your work, get your line work on point with a nice flow, and track your progress along the way. You too can have amazing sketches in a sketchbook you love showing off.

Interested In Conte Crayons But Don’t Know What They Are Or How To Use Them? Here’s Your Guide!

By Nicole Tinkham

conte

They resemble pastels and are even located in the same general area in your typical art store, but Conte crayons are actually much different. We’ve found that when the average person doesn’t quite know what a product is, how to use it, or what results it produces they skip right past it and move onto something they are familiar with. Do you ever find yourself doing the same thing? While that’s totally normal, we dare you to try at least one new thing this month. That’s right; we’re kicking off the year doing something completely new! And we will strive to bring you a new art supply guide each month to help you pick up a new medium and learn how to use it. This month is all about Conte crayons. Funny thing is, as we were browsing the Keeton’s art department, we glanced at these and instantly thought of pastels. So we did our research, found out how these differ from pastels, how to use them and then came up with this helpful guide. Read on to discover the possibilities of Conte crayons in your next masterpiece.

What are they?

Conte crayons (or sticks) look similar to that of a pastel but are much different. These are a drawing medium made up of compressed charcoal or graphite with the addition of wax or clay mixed in for the base as well as natural pigments for color. Conte crayons are actually commonly used for the initial sketch for a pastel drawing as the colors mix well.

Paper to use them on

You’ll want to use a rough textured paper with Conte crayons as this will hold the pigment better. You can also use a primed canvas for your drawing. Just keep in mind that Conte crayons are better suited for hatched work, not bold lines (as with soft pastels). You’ll notice that many Conte artists use a tinted paper for their drawings, something to consider for a different look.

Conte Crayons versus Pastels and Charcoal

Although Conte crayons look similar to pastels, they are harder and waxier. This means they produce less dust and are easier to control. They actually produce a similar line as charcoal but since they are harder, lines with a Conte crayon will be finer. You’ll also notice that Conte crayons come in different colors but are most commonly found in natural browns, reds, tans, black, and white (great for highlighting). This makes Conte crayons perfect for figure drawing and portraits.

Features

The square sticks are great for producing blocks of pigment, as you would with oil pastels. As mentioned previously, the harder crayon is also great for producing very fine lines. Conte colors are very easily blend-able (we recommend a blending stump) and since they aren’t powdery like charcoal, they work well in layers.

Sharpening

The typical Conte crayon is in a block stick form but it is possible to sharpen. Just use a little sandpaper to sharpen the stick to a chisel point. You can also break the sticks into smaller pieces that are easier to handle.

Working in a medium you’re not too familiar with doesn’t have to be all that scary. It’s important to understand what the medium is, how to use it, and the results it produces before you begin. We also recommend researching helpful techniques and example pieces for inspiration. So now that you know a little bit more about Conte crayons, will you be giving them a try? Let us know in the comments!

5 Things You Need To Know About Oil And Wax Colored Pencils

By Nicole Tinkham

5 Things You Need To Know About Oil And Wax Colored Pencils

You may not know the difference between oil-based colored pencils and wax ones. Or you may not even realize that there are two different types of colored pencils. That’s ok! No shame here, I didn’t know the difference myself. I knew one of the two were the common colored pencils that we see everywhere. You know, the Prismacolors we all know and love. The other type, I had never used and knew absolutely nothing about. It’s funny how when you get used to one thing it’s tough to try something else, isn’t it? You already know what to expect from wax-based colored pencils and more importantly, know how to use them (oil-based are a completely different feel). Not only will you tend to stick with what you know (and save some money while doing so), but you’ll also most likely miss oil-based pencils altogether unless you’re really looking for them. Wax-based are much more popular and can be found just about anywhere. But as we know, just because one type is more popular than the other doesn’t mean its better. Read on for 5 things you need to know about oil and wax colored pencils.
1.    Wax-based colored pencils tend to show up lighter on the paper allowing you to work in layers. Oil-based pencils lay down a lot of color, eliminating the need to work in layers.

2.    Oil-based pencils are much more expensive than wax-based ones but they offer a professional (think oil painting) look.

3.    There’s a wide range of wax-based pencils to choose from with the hard lead you probably used in grade school and a softer lead used by more experienced artists. Oil-based pencils on the other hand are more specialized, smear easily, and rely on the artist’s skill.

4.    Wax-based pencils offer a softer core that can break easily. They also tend to leave a film on the work surface. Oil-based pencils have a harder core and don’t leave behind that film.

5.    It’s recommended to use a fixative with wax-based pencils as it prevents the wax from rising to the surface or “blooming”. A fixative is not needed when working with oil-based colored pencils.

When it comes down to choosing either wax-based or oil-based colored pencils to work with, it’s all about personal preference. Both options have their pros and cons producing different looks. If you’ve worked with colored pencils in the past, they were most likely wax-based since those are the most popular. If you’re comfortable and happy with them, that’s perfect! But if you want to try something new, grab a few oil-based pencils and go to town! Be sure to leave a comment below and let us know your experience with either or both options.

23 Sketching tips for the beginner

By Nicole Tinkham

blog

As a beginner artist, you most likely know two things are sure: 1) If you want to get better at your art, you’ll have to practice often AND, 2) you should keep a sketchbook handy. To improve and grow as an artist you’ll have to be all in. You’ll need to start taking your art seriously. If you make one commitment today to better your art, make it to sketch DAILY. If you’ve purchased a brand new sketchbook before, you know there’s no better rush of excitement than opening it up to the first page. But don’t stop there. Filling that first page in can set the pace for where the rest of the sketchbook will go. So, where in the world do you start? Our best piece of advice is to just get started. And we have a list of 23 sketching tips to help you do just that. Note: These tips will cover a little bit of everything from choosing the right pencil to shading techniques. Let’s begin!
1.    Always start with the basic shapes. Draw these in lightly and add in more details as you go.

2.    Avoid smudging by placing a sheet of paper under your hand when shading. Right-handed artists should shade from left to right and left-handed artists should do the opposite.

3.    Don’t use your finger to blend! The oils from your skin will end up on your project and they can make taking away graphite in these areas difficult.

4.    Instead, use a blending stick to blend the graphite. Use a small circular motion for even blending. This will give it a more natural look.

5.    When shading, work from light to dark. Otherwise, the dark graphite could get stuck on your blending stick and mixed in with your lighter areas.

6.    Add some texture by using different mediums in your sketch like watercolor pencils. You can add water on parts and leave other parts dry.

7.    Use “H” (harder) pencils for lighter lines and “B” (softer) pencils for a darker line. More on pencil lead options here.

8.    Get a very soft look by scribbling on a scrap piece of paper with your pencil. You can then pick up the graphite with your blending stick and transfer it to your project. This way you won’t get those pencils lines in your sketch.

9.    Choose a paper with a “tooth” for added texture.

10.    The closer you hold your hand to the end (lead end) of the pencil, the more control you have.

11.    Use a photo as your reference. The nice thing about photographs is your object won’t move and the lighting won’t shift on you.

12.    Vary your line widths for a more interesting drawing.

13.    Use cross-hatching or stippling to shade for a different and unique look.

14.    Practice every single day! Whatever you’re struggling with, just keep sketching it out and you will get better.

15.    When creating 3D objects, you’ll have three different tones to pay attention to: highlights, shadows, and mid-tones. Your highlight area will be the part directly facing the light. Shadows are the area facing away from the light and mid-tones are the other area (not directly facing the light source and not directly away from the light source).

16.    When choosing a reference photo, make sure there are both light and dark areas.

17.    To achieve accurate proportion (especially when working on a portrait) use the grid system. Lay a grid over your reference photo and lightly draw a grid on your drawing paper to scale.

18.    Practice blind sketching. This is a fun technique that loosens up your drawings, like a drawing warm up. Basically, you’re drawing the subject without looking down at your sketchbook. This is just a fun way to get those creative juices flowing.

19.    Carry a sketchbook with you everywhere you go. Observe and sketch often!

20.    Draw what you see. Pay close attention to your subject matter. Really look at shapes and shadows.

21.    Always keep your outlines light. Real life objects don’t have dark lines running along the edges. However, if you’re drawing in a cartoon style, this tip doesn’t apply.

22.    Choose which details to include and which ones to leave out. It’s not necessary to include every single detail in the leaves of a tree. Think about what’s aesthetically pleasing and decide what can be left out.

23.    Add color! Bring in some colored pencils, pastels, or even watercolor paint to your work to add some color.

We stressed in the beginning of this blog that these tips are meant for the beginner but actually, any artist regardless of their experience can use them. Print this post out and save it. These are excellent tips to look back on when you’re struggling or have artists’ block.

As with many of our other posts, we’re always adding and changing it based on what our fans have to say. If you have a killer sketching tip you want to see on the list, leave a COMMENT below and we’ll add it. Do you think we can reach 100 tips on this post??