A simple trick to change how you approach drawing

Here’s a technique you can try, which will help you practice drawing.

I’m calling this technique Face Your Mistakes.


A big mistake is to try to block out mistakes.

When you draw, the tendency is to try to make it look good. The problem with this is that it causes your brain to filter out mistakes.

Then, when you’re done drawing, you take a step back and admire your work.

The mistakes are still filtered out, so you don’t see them.


Let yourself see the mistakes.

You can do this by intentionally critiquing your work. Be like Simon Cowell. Tear it to pieces. Throw the harshest criticism you can possibly dream up at yourself.

This will hurt.

It will especially hurt when you can see a problem but you don’t know how to fix it.

But, the idea here isn’t to fix problems. It’s to learn how to take off the rose-colored glasses that prevent you from seeing them in the first place.

So, when you sit down to draw, you break it down into two steps:

  1. Draw (fully and completely, without a care in the world)

  2. Critique (fully and completely, without holding back)

Keep these two steps separate from each other, and you’ll find that it will completely transform how you draw.


P.S. If you want drawing to be fun, check out Just Draw It.

P.P.S. I heard from my imaginary friend, Joe, to whom I showed this before sending it. Here’s how our conversation went:

Joe: Michael, I read your Face Your Mistakes piece. I’m a little confused. How do I draw without critiquing myself?

Michael: You don’t need to worry about that. You will critique yourself. What’s important is that you have the intention to draw without critiquing. If critiquing happens, let it happen.

J: But, won’t the critiquing mess it up?

M: Yes, but you don’t know how to let go of it yet. You need to practice letting go. The way to do that is to continually set an intention to let go, and see what happens. Over time, you’ll learn how to manage it.

J: Aren’t I just reinforcing bad habits?

M: Yes, but do you have any better ideasYou’re reinforcing good habits, too. Try this and see what happens. It requires practice, not analysis.

J: But, I don’t want to practice something that will be the wrong thing to practice.

M: Is this worse than what you’re doing now? Are you aware of what problem I’m trying to solve with this technique?

J: I guess I am.

M: What problem do you think I’m trying to solve?

J: You’re trying to solve the problem of being too hard on yourself.

M: No. I’m trying to solve the problem of wasting practice time because I’m filtering out useful information.

J: OK. I’m not sure I fully get it. I mean, it sounds like it might be interesting.

M: Try it. Let me know what happens.

J: OK. I’m also concerned that if I critique myself too harshly, I will get discouraged and quit drawing.

M: Yeah, that might happen. But that’s because you haven’t exposed yourself to enough self-criticism.

J: I certainly feel like I have.

M: What do you normally do when you criticize yourself?

J: I look at my drawing, and say something negative about it, and get discouraged and stop drawing.

M: Right, that’s what I mean by not exposing yourself. Exposing yourself would be looking at your drawing, saying something negative, and then keep drawing.

J: But, I get discouraged. It’s hard to keep drawing.

M: Yes, it is. You need to practice that. It’s a deliberate skill.

J: But, this takes all the fun out of drawing.

M: Have you tried it?

J: I criticize myself all the time.

M: No, I mean, have you tried criticizing yourself and then afterwards keep going?

J: I just told you, it’s hard to keep going.

M: It sounds to me like you’ve never intentionally tried doing this. It sounds like you criticize yourself and then get discouraged and quit, like you’re just going with the flow.

J: I guess I don’t really get what you’re saying.

M: I want you to try it, very deliberately. Draw something, then criticize your work, and then draw another picture immediately afterwards. Do this even if you feel discouraged. Draw 20 pictures this way. Use a checklist to ensure that you do all of them. Do them all in one sitting.

J: That doesn’t sound like fun.

M: Then, don’t do it.

J: So, what should I do?

M: I don’t know.

J: That’s not very helpful.

M: What would you like help with?

J: I want to draw better.

M: How can I help you with that?

J: I’m not sure you can.

M: Then, why did you comment on the piece I wrote?

J: Because I thought it was interesting and I wanted to share my thoughts on it.

M: Did you want a response from me?

J: If you want to respond, sure.

M: Were you expecting a response from me?

J: I don’t know.

M: Would you have been fine if I hadn’t replied at all?

J: I guess that would have been kinda rude.

M: So, are we cool, then?

J: I guess…

M: Don’t “I guess” me. Tell me what’s going on.

J: You’re being mean.

M: Did you want help with drawing?

J: Not really.

M: I’m only interested in helping you with drawing, nothing else. So, if you don’t want help with drawing, this conversation’s over.

J: What’s wrong with you?

M: Did you want help with drawing?

J: No.

M: OK, then.

J: I don’t understand.

M: My job is only to help you with drawing. Your job is everything else.

J: But that seems rude.

M: Maybe it is rude. But, I have my own life to live. I trust that you can take responsibility for your life, and let me do my things.

J: I just don’t understand how we can construct a society when people are so rude to each other.

M: I don’t know. I’m not a social scientist. Personally, I don’t understand how we can construct a society when I can’t put out helpful information about drawing without being called rude.

J: Fine. We’ll just talk about drawing.

M: OK, great. Is there anything I can help you with?

J: I’m going to try what you suggested and let you know what happens.

M: Excellent.


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