Notes about the drawabox.

Part Zero

Failure is a beginner’s job

While as children we’re taught to run from failure - and even to actively avoid doing something if it has a low chance of success - failure is not only okay, or good - but a critical and integral part of the learning process. Where success tells us where we are in our development, and what we’ve achieved thus far (something that should be acknowledged and appreciated), it is failure that points ahead and tells us what paths lay ahead of us to grow beyond what we are today.

Failure shows us where we have yet to go, and what we have yet to become.

The mistake we all make is that we take our failures personally. We come to interpret a bad drawing as reflecting upon ourselves - if we draw badly, we ourselves must be bad. If we are unable to succeed, then this must mean that we ourselves are less valuable. That we should be ashamed. But ashamed of what? Ashamed of being a beginner? Nonsense.

Everyone starts somewhere, and that somewhere is as a beginner. Some people are only a beginner for a short period, whereas many will continue to be beginners for years. Or perhaps you’re like me - eternally a beginner in some regard, always with something new to learn.

How we approach learning, our frame of mind as we do so, the kinds of exercises we do, and the people we choose to follow - these are all factors that influence how we learn and progress, and at what rate we improve. But throw that all aside, because what’s important is one simple fact: Being a beginner is not a bad thing.

As a painter, we should not fear to do things. When we think about it, there’s nothing to fear about, since we are just painting for ourselves without any expectation upon us.

The 50% rule

And finally, that brings us to why this is relevant to you. Everyone following this course is expected to abide by what we call the 50% rule, without exception.

The 50% rule is simple. All of the time you spend on drawing is to be divided into two equal portions.

  • One half will include anything and everything you do with the purpose of improving your skills. Coursework, exercises, studies, tutorials, etc.
  • The other half is reserved only for drawing done for the sake of drawing. In other words, play. Experimentation, just throwing yourself at the page and giving yourself full freedom to just try, even though the result will likely turn out badly.

Another way of thinking about it is that every minute you spend on learning, should be matched with another minute spent on play. Every day does not have to be split so evenly (not everyone has hours to throw at drawing each day). You could alternatively spend one session learning, and the next session playing.

Part One

On the subject of grinding and warmups

Many students I’ve encountered over the last several years have admitted to grinding the exercises. That essentially means focusing on one exercise until they can do it perfectly (and no other limits than perfection), and then moving onto the next. This is a massive waste of time.

There are several reasons why this is a waste of time:

  1. Learning occurs both in the time spent doing the exercise, as well as the time in between as your brain processes what you’ve learned. It also occurs when doing other related tasks, as your brain is exposed to the same problem from many different angles.
  2. Many of these exercises are straightforward to pick up initially, but very difficult to perfect. I don’t expect students to be able to necessarily do the first exercise of Lesson 1 perfectly by the time they’ve reached the end of Lesson 7.
  3. In the time that you spend “perfecting” an exercise, others will have moved on, completed the lesson, and ultimately made far more progress, developing their general understanding of many more concepts while you’ve focused on nailing down one. “Good enough” is good enough to allow you to be able to understand and apply the concepts in the next step.

Now, this does not mean that we complete the assigned pages for an exercise and then forget about it entirely. Instead, we take all of the exercises we’ve learned thus far and incorporate them into a pool, from which we draw two or three exercises at the beginning of each session to do for 10-15 minutes. This does not mean doing them to completion, or to any particular page count - just to work on them for a set period of time before moving onto the main focus of that session.

You will likely find that some parts of Drawabox do appear to be somewhat ‘grindy’. For example, after Lesson 1, we tackle the 250 Box Challenge. This challenge has a specific limit to it (the completion of 250 boxes), but it certainly is a repetitive task that can be fairly time consuming. So there are some points where some grinding is deemed beneficial - but I have determined this based on studying how this exercise has impacted over a thousand students.