Will DrawABox help me enjoy the process?

4:45 PM, Sunday August 27th 2023

I'm trying to decide what to do next in my art journey.

In 2020 I did a 100 portrait drawing challenge and I hugely improved my skills, but ever since that challenge I've never done art consistently. I have done maybe 5 or so portraits since then, but I just simply don't enjoy the process of drawing much. (It might sound like I should quit art, but I do have a passion for it and I always come back to wanting to make it, which is why I want to figure out how to enjoy it.)

At the beginning of this year I decided not to force drawings and I set out to find what kind of art I actually enjoy making, unfortunately I really haven't done much with art since then. Right now I'm ready to actually move forward and grow my skills, but I'm not sure where I should start. I've started and stopped DAB a couple times before and I know that I want to actually finish it eventually, but I'm wondering if now is a good time to do it or not.

Does anyone have any insight as to whether they think I should go through DAB (including the 50% rule) or maybe just forget about growing skills for the present and just try to have fun with art? (or some other option).

(I feel like my brain goes off when I try and ask questions on here, so if there's any details I missed that are important or if it's confusing, just lmk)

3 users agree
7:22 PM, Tuesday August 29th 2023

It's hard to say without specific details what might be the cause of your struggles, though I understand you may not want to provide them. I will hazard my theories, make of them what you will.

It does sound like you're experiencing a form of creative burnout or perhaps just general directionlessness. You want to do art, but that's an incredibly broad subject. I think a question more important than "should I do DaB?" is "what do I want to get from DaB?", and more broadly "what do I want to get out of my art?". I know really general questions like the last one can be very difficult or impossible to answer, but I'd at least give it a little thought. The second question is a little easier. DaB has a very specific focus, outlined in Lesson 0. It is supposed to teach you the skills of mark making, observation, and spatial reasoning. It does so very rigorously. DaB is a hard course and while there isn't an easy way, there's countless other places you could start depending on your goals as an artist. That's why the second question is important.

As far as enjoying art, every artist I've ever spoken to struggles with this repeatedly. It is really difficult and I do think DaB's 50% rule is a good tool to develop a better mindset and mental strength for inevitable set-backs. I think the habit of just messing around and figuring out what you do like (looking at art, watching movies, going to museums, reading books, etc.) would be more helpful to you right now than diving into DaB when you've stopped several times before, but you obviously know better than me.

6:57 PM, Wednesday August 30th 2023
edited at 9:35 PM, Aug 30th 2023

To be a little more specific, I was doing graphite portraits, and I learned how to shade really well, but not much else. I finished that challenge and then never drew consistently after it. I have recognized since then how much I was motivated based on results and positive attention from others, rather than just enjoying drawing. I tried doing more portraits at the end of last year and it was an absolute slog, even when I got myself to sit down and start drawing, I would get so deadly bored that I would stop.

The thing is that I WANT to draw and draw people. Like that's what I'm drawn to (no pun intended) very often. I also want to grow my skills, I could just totally forget about that and try and have fun, but I don't want to just draw like a two year old, I want to actually get good also.

If I were to do DAB, the purpose would be to start learning drawing fundamentals, I want to have a base of knowledge and skill so I'm not limited to just copying pictures or whatever.

TLDR: What I really truly want is to fall in love with the process of making art, and simultaneously make art that's actually good, but I don't know how.

Lmk if anyone relates to this and has more advice. I really appreciate this community :)

edited at 9:35 PM, Aug 30th 2023
7:11 PM, Wednesday August 30th 2023
edited at 7:13 PM, Aug 30th 2023

Thank you for the additional detail. I think the advice I gave still applies, then.

I would emphasize art fundamentals is a vast archipelago, with most courses not getting to every island. For example, DaB won't teach you composition (for the most part), color, etc. It would definitely help you construct figures and heads with a better sense of three-dimensionality, but there are courses just about people if that's what you're super into (Proko, Hampton, Evinston, Love Life Drawing, etc.). I think DaB is a great resource and I'm by no means trying to dissuade you from it, but as I said before there are countless resources to learn fundamental skills.

DaB is designed to help handle your conflict with wanting to try to have fun and being afraid of drawing "like a two year old". One point of the 50% rule is to teach you to not be afraid to draw things you may see as childish, amateur, or ugly. It seems like you've been only practicing and not playing. The art of mucking about can be very stressful at first, but it is extremely helpful to your development and longevity as an artist. I'd watch the video on it, even if you don't keep on with the course:


I think in general, you would benefit from experimenting with the knowledge you've acquired. Maybe try drawing a portrait that isn't a direct copy. Don't do another study, try something that feels more unique. Or apply the shading knowledge to something new. It could help to push yourself a little bit out of the realm of copying photos, if that's all you've been doing. It is really two different steps to learn something and then to apply it to other things.

I love James Jean's stylized portraits:





edited at 7:13 PM, Aug 30th 2023
7:49 PM, Tuesday September 5th 2023
edited at 7:51 PM, Sep 5th 2023

Well, I've never developed a skill I cared about without some sort of slog, and that's pretty normal.

I've also never gotten as far developing skills in isolation as I have with a supportive group. This goes for both hobbies and the work it took to get a college degree.

Having a few consistent art buddies (like, you know each other's names/usernames and styles and communicate on occasion), even if it's just online, goes a long way to staying motivated. It's not just for beginners. This guy has art improvement buddies ( https://www.instagram.com/algenpfleger/ ), as does Proko, and probably many other pros do.

I'm at lesson 6 in DAB, and would have quit ten times over if it wasn't for my study group.

edited at 7:51 PM, Sep 5th 2023
1 users agree
11:45 AM, Thursday August 31st 2023

Learning a hard new skill does take some level of willpower. You can't wait for powerful inspiration to make it happen, that is too fickle. You have the basic desire to learn to draw, but it sounds like you think of it as a chore. I am a beginner, been learning for a couple of months. Don't worry about skill building so much yet, focus on making it fun. Focus on the drawing stuff you enjoy, consume media about it to help boost your short term motivation, but most importantly, draw frequently, ideally every day. But start small, whatever you can manage, 5 minutes every day is better than 10 hours of powerful interest one week and no drawing the other 51 weeks of the year. Sometimes you have to just DO instead of think over it endlessly. I am giving myself that advice as much as you, I struggle with similar feelings. What helped me with Draw a Box was dropping all the rules and doing what I want with it. I'm using pencil for everything and not turning anything in and skipping stuff if I feel like it. I don't care if I need to go back later and fill in holes in my knowledge. The most important part to me is making drawing a big part of my life. Forcing myself to slog through stuff I currently hate doing is just going to lead to me quitting hobby. But the balance is that I do need to force myself past my laziness and disinterest a little bit. Once I'm sketching for a bit I like it, just gotta get the ball rolling. Good luck on your drawing journey :)

2:39 PM, Thursday August 31st 2023

Thanks both of you!

1 users agree
5:35 PM, Thursday August 31st 2023

Hello!! :)

I think everybody tried quitting dab and then ended up here again. I dropped the 250 boxes challenge when I only had 20 left to go. I realized I dropped it because I felt I had to do them. Had to in the sense of must do. Perhaps you are feeling something similar? Maybe you feel like you must enjoy the process or even the thought of doing it?

When I read your comment I thought that maybe you might want to try different styles (I know, that's what everybody says, it's so cliché). Yesterday I tried drawing shapes from watercolor stains. You know, just whatever comes to mind: it doesn't even have to look decent (and I'm being very nice to myself here). I don't like watercolor, but it was extremely enjoyable. The art itself was... meh, since I'm a beginner I can't hope for much more, but I was really happy with how it turned out because I enjoyed the process much more than I ever expected to. In fact, I liked it so much that I got some watercolor paint set today just to do it again. (I used watercolor pencils, but they aren't my cup of tea).

I went out of my comfort zone and even though I know I'm not really learning anything by doing art that has no good proportions whatsoever, I really felt like that helped me to continue with dab, kinda in a therapeutic way. Maybe you wanna give it a try?

Ah, and consider not doing challenges for a bit. They can make you feel like you are competing against other people, or even yourself, in a bad way: you might end up rushing it because you overlap 'the challenge' and 'your challenge'. The challenge is good by itself, but when you have to make the art look great or you unconsciously try drawing faster or for longer periods of time just to complete it sooner... then you'll just get tired of both your challenge and the challenge. And when you want to realize it, you have already quit again.

Also... what about changing the pen/pencils for a brush? Like a pentel brush. Maybe changing materials can help your brain reset.

0 users agree
9:44 PM, Thursday August 31st 2023

I wonder if the modern era is playing a part in this. Constant overstimulation from digital stuff makes it hard to appreciate stimulation from normal stuff. You have a natural desire to draw, but maybe it's all messed up from using a smartphone and social media. All of us have been impacted by this stuff to some degree, it's not good for our brains. I took a few weeks off watching youtube and the restlessness drove me to all sorts of other stuff, like a morning yoga practice and learning to draw. Once I started watching again, it immediately became harder to chose that wholesome quiet stuff over the infinite novelty fountain of youtube.

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12:00 AM, Wednesday November 29th 2023

As someone with ADHD I feel you so much. It will be a miracle if I find the right combo of strategies to become an "actual adult". Willpower is a myth for me, I'm quite literally internally screaming at myself and fully ready to go on with an activity/task but my body just won't budge. This has severely affected my ability to draw, and even though I have a motivator/deadline of having to reach a certain skill level before I can reapply for an illustration/concept art master's course (wasn't accepted this year), it's been more stressful than motivating because I have to force myself a lot to give in the "time and effort" and I have the constant fear of not making it in time.

Now, regarding Drawabox, I jumped right into it as it was a solution to half of what the uni didn't accept me for, plus it's great to do these exercises as there's minimal space for perfectionism and forcing me to focus on creating a harmony between my eyes, hands and brain during the act of drawing, it's an interesting sensation too. I've been at it for almost 3 months and just started Lesson 2. I can't say if that's fast or not but I had to be very careful to avoid burnout and quitting, so it's the fastest I can (almost healthily) manage. I've been going through a lot of problems regarding initiating and maintaining focus on and off since the last 70 boxes of the 250 Boxes challenge, trying to implement new strategies like taking short breaks every 30 minutes, stretching/moving about more, having 1 art rest day a week (2 if it won't be enough, still testing). One day I can do 8 boxes in like 45 minutes along with doing a landscape speedpaint (art I enjoy/am the strongest at) and human anatomy practice (my weakest point), and the next day I take 2 hours to do 4 boxes because I keep zoning out and have to call it a day so as not to sabotage a potential following good day. It's the huge differences in my performance that complicate my attempts to smoothe them out.

I don't know if you have ADHD as well or not but these strategies may help either way. I also recommend warming up your body with exercise and stretches before each drawing session (you'll be more relaxed, your body will be more ready and you'll prevent arm injuries like wrist tendinitis or carpal tunnels, I've been dealing with mine for years and this helps keep it at bay). With the 50/50 rule, I mention drawing something I enjoy AND I'm good/best at. That way you can increase some potentially lost confidence, you get to further improve in an area you're more skilled at, and/or experiment and play around. For example, with my 1hr landscape speedpaints, they're still mostly studies of my photos but I try to push/experiment with the colors/composition and find ways to draw trees/rocks/grass etc. in a faster/more fun/dynamic way. So far, even the less successful landscapes are still good enough. Plus I get to implement my improved line-making and my starting sense of feeling perspective. To mention some other art activities I've done with DaB - life object studies (great to test out DaB knowledge), 3D printed human skull studies (good balance between object/anatomy for me so it's not a weakness anymore), 2min gestures (from photos, digitally), sketching my partner/pet cat/animals at the zoo (to practice anatomy from life), animal studies and so far that's it during the time I've been doing DaB. I went through months of not doing any art before so I'm keeping the art on the shorter end of time taking. I really want to do illustrations, ref/pose sheets and other projects but there's a much higher chance of burning out and I have to take it slow.

Nine months ago I was trying to find a way to make drawing fun too, and fully focus on that. What gave me a spark was grabbing the most feared/lowest quality art supplies I had (none were erasable and they are meant for generally quicker work I'd say), and do studies with them or doodle from imagination. Knowing how bad I am with the media, my perfectionism didn't appear or it was minimal, and so I had much more space to enjoy it and go through the process of figuring the media out in a more explorative way. Thanks to this, I am now comfortable with colored ballpoint pens, colored pencils and those cheap thin markers you find in a supermarket. So even if I'm still struggling with making art fun long-term, I have more options to choose from.

In your place I'd give DaB a go but try to be extra aware of your ability to go through it and slow down/take a break when it starts getting bad (I don't know how you behave in that case, but for me it's the fact I can't focus after trying for over an hour, I'm slow, restless etc.) and try it later in the day or the next one, or just spend the rest of the day on more fun drawing activities if it's just DaB that's hard to keep going with. Also expect break days going for more than a day, or even a week, it's still miles better than not drawing for months or years, and healthier. Oh and if you have a good/productive art day, don't be like me and use it to the max and burn out for who knows how long haha.

I hope this helps or gives you some insight, and I hope you'll find a way that works for you longterm, a way that balances out the skill building and enjoyment of drawing.

5:06 PM, Thursday November 30th 2023

Thanks for sharing your experience and advice (: Honestly I'm struggling with drawing at all, not just DaB. My current thought is that it stems somewhat from fear of being bad or some such thing. The mental side of art is CRAZY

2:31 PM, Friday December 1st 2023

It sure is, for me this is affecting any hobby/activity (I used to play guitar and sing A LOT for years, like 8hrs every day, and yeah it basically became an obsession to be "the best" which I know is 100% unrealistic (more like insane) but I guess my "animal brain" doesn't want to listen. So once I completely burned out and only hatred remained, and switched to art, and boy starting out with drawing is really really hard when I haven't learned my lesson. I was driven by getting accepted to uni which was in the following 2 years, I probably would've quit if it wasn't for that. I was so frustrated and angry all the time, which left a mark on the speed of my progress and relationship with the hobby. Thankfully I got accepted and placed high up so that told me I did good and I was able to slow down, and most of all, stop angering myself with human anatomy and focus more on the areas I love most (landscapes, plein air, fantasy) but then social media got into my head with the "necessity" to post constantly, to please the people there (and not myself) so now I'm on a long break and don't want to return until my mentality changes for the better. I'm also simultaneously working on a hobby without the goal of mastering it and competing so that I can better test it out. I procrastinated on art a lot with learning Japanese and now my interest in it decreased as I increased time for art so I'm still figuring it out. I'm also trying to learn new things, especially stuff that one can learn quickly (folding clothes differently to save space, whistling, cooking meals etc.) which motivates me. And It's also a good idea to do activities you're good enough at and don't plan on necessarily mastering so there's a higher chance of enjoying these (exercise, sports, reading, cooking, crafts etc).

I can recommend some books that might help - Art and Fear (it couldn't get more specific haha), The Wisdom Of Insecurity, The Gift of Fear (I haven't read these last 2 but I'll get to them once I finish the first one. Having a healthy and rational mindset is the hardest part of anything for me haha, and it has to affect every area of every activity. I've also started to meditate and journal every end of the day so I hope it helps at least a little.

5:17 PM, Sunday December 3rd 2023

I'll check out Art and Fear. Thanks! And I hope you have success with your art!

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