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How Long Does It Take The Average Person To Learn To Draw?

How long does it take the average person to learn to draw? 

There is one question most aspiring artists have and whether you’ve already started drawing or you’re still planning on it, you might be wondering the same thing: How long does it take the average person to learn to draw? 

For the average person, it can take about 2-3 years to learn to draw with consistent practice.

Now, while you shouldn’t worry too much about the timeframe, an answer to this question can help you set your drawing expectations and goals, and this post will give you just that.

For reference here are three of my own figure drawings. I started drawing consistently late fall of 2016:

December 2016:

March 2017:

April 2018:

At about 2-3 years of consistent drawing practice, I was pretty happy with my drawing skill level and how my drawings were coming out.

In this post, we’ll also tackle other related questions you might have. So let’s get right to it!

Table of Contents

    How Long does it take to learn to draw?

    How long does it take to learn to draw?

    Again, for the average person, it can take about 2-3 years to learn to draw with consistent practice.

    Learning to draw can take as little as two years to more than half a decade. Beginners in drawing usually develop their skills after a couple of years of consistent practice.

    Although you won’t yet have mastery of the art, you should be able to create decent drawings by this time.

    It can take much longer for you to learn how to draw if it’s something you aren’t fully committed to. Sporadic practice sessions won’t get you very far and you can expect minimal progress — if any at all.

    Image credit:

    There are factors that will determine your level of progress in drawing at any given time within a two to five-year period and the rate at which you achieve it.

    • Practice. Practice is the cornerstone of artistic development. Any hope you have of becoming an artist and producing great drawings can only be brought to fruition by regular practice. The amount of time you dedicate to it will directly influence the speed of your progress in learning to draw.
    • Study. There is a theoretical aspect that you will need to understand to be able to inform your art and produce drawings that are not only aesthetically pleasing but also accurate. The sooner you understand these principles, the sooner you can learn to apply them to your drawings. 
    • Consistency. It may be cliché, but consistency really is key to success. Drawing cannot be a “whenever I have time” pursuit. If you want to make any real progress, you need to commit to it and be consistent in both practice and study. 
    • Drawing classes. You can certainly learn how to draw on your own without having to take drawing classes. However, your progress would arguably be faster with the guidance of a professional instructor. So if you’re looking to speed up the learning process, enrolling in a drawing class is an option you can consider.
    • Natural ability. While I stand by the belief that anyone at any point in their life can learn to draw, I do acknowledge that some people have an innate artistic talent that is tied to their genetics. It can be expected that these naturally talented ones will be able to develop their drawing skills faster than others despite putting in the same amount of time and effort. 

    While you don’t have any say in your genetics, you do have control over the time you choose to dedicate to learning how to draw.

    Some artists are born, but other artists are made through their consistency in the practice and study of the art of drawing.

    What is the average time it takes to learn to draw?

    Again, the average time it takes to learn to draw is two to three years. Within this period, the progress demonstrated by the artist is the sum of the time and effort they poured into drawing, as well as the knowledge they acquired on the elements and principles of art.

    How long does it take to learn to draw anime?

    Most people are surprised to find out that it can take about two to 3 years to learn how to draw anime. While anime may often be unfairly dismissed as an inferior art style for children and many don’t realize just how complex anime drawing can be. 

    Remember that this art style heavily deals with human or humanoid forms and that conveying facial expressions is central to these drawings.

    Having a background in drawing fundamentals is helpful if you are getting into anime drawing. But you will also need to have an understanding of anatomy and work on your ability to convey emotions.

    How long does it take to draw realistic drawings?

    Image credit: @caddenpaul / Instagram

    Because this art style requires a lot of technical skill, theoretical understanding, and keen observation, it can take five to ten years to learn to draw realistically

    You should already make significant progress in your first two to three years, but you will still be a long way off from proficiency in realistic drawing. 

    Within this period, you will need to work on the basic drawing skills you first learned as a beginner. It is only with mastery over them that you can hope to learn how to draw realistically.

    How to learn to draw

    How to learn to draw – the very first and most important thing you need to do if you want to learn to draw is to just start drawing.

    For those who begin at a young age, art is a no-brainer. Give a kid some pencils and crayons and they’ll dive right into it. 

    But there’s a lot more hesitation for older folks who are considering learning how to draw. 

    The angel on one shoulder tells them they can learn to do it, while the devil on the other reminds them that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

    To make it perfectly clear, you can learn to draw at any age. Art isn’t limited by a biological clock. There is no cutoff beyond which all hope of learning to draw is lost.

    So, whether you just got past puberty or you’re a senior citizen looking for more ways to put up resistance against the mental decline that comes with aging, you can learn to draw

    Here are some helpful tips to help get you started:

    • Just draw. Forget all the reasons why you think you can’t or shouldn’t draw and grab a pencil and paper and start sketching. For many artists across different mediums, this first step has often proven to be the most difficult hurdle to get past. You have to determine that you’re going to do it—and you do it! 
    • Keep it simple. Aspiring artists can be the most ambitious folks around. Now, it’s not wrong to dream of all the incredible drawings you can produce someday. But first, you need to develop the limited ability you have and practice drawing basic shapes and figures no matter how tedious it gets. It can be tempting to attempt drawing fancier subjects so soon, but you wouldn’t be doing yourself any favors. Keep it simple for now and lay a solid foundation for your future artist self to build on. They’ll be thankful that you did. 
    • Step up your learning. There isn’t a more convenient period to be a novice artist than in the information age where you have ready access to a wealth of educational material on the subject. From books and websites to YouTube videos, there is no limit to what you can learn. Supplement your technical development with theoretical knowledge and understanding of the principles of art. This will significantly influence the quality of your drawings.
    • Be consistent. If you really want to learn to draw, you can’t miss a beat. Draw often. Draw regularly. Beginner’s fervor has a tendency to burn bright and die out. There’ll be times when it seems like you aren’t making any progress at all and you feel like you aren’t worthy to sharpen Adonna Khare’s pencils. It’s important that you be consistent and just keep at it even when you get frustrated—especially when you get frustrated. Just keep drawing.

    How often should you practice drawing?

    Ideally, you should practice drawing for two – three hours every day. Meeting this number of hours is crucial if you’re looking to really develop your skills. Perhaps you’re hoping to someday make a living from your art.

    But if you’re taking up drawing merely as a hobby, or if you simply don’t have that much time to practice, try to put in at least two hours daily.

    How to get better at drawing faster

    At some point in your journey to becoming an artist, your patience may start to wear thin and you will find yourself looking for ways to get better at drawing faster. 

    But you need to understand that there are no shortcuts to learning how to draw, and even the best tips for quicker progress in drawing require dedication. 

    That said, here are proven techniques beginner artists use to speed things up and improve their drawings faster:

    • Practice. No prizes for guessing this one. But at the risk of sounding like a broken record, practice is absolutely essential to your development as an artist. The more time you put into it, the better you get at drawing. Although having a fixed schedule is ideal, any number of hours at any time of day will suffice. But if you want to get better faster, you should also squeeze in some sketching into those spare moments throughout the day. I recommend keeping a small sketchpad you can take with you anywhere. When you find yourself with a little time on your hands, such as when you’re sitting in a meeting or you’re waiting for your dental appointment, you can whip out your sketchpad and do a bit of drawing. For an aspiring artist like yourself, it’s the most productive way to pass time.
    • Warm up. The importance of warming up before drawing isn’t emphasized as much as it needs to be. Sure, drawing isn’t exactly a physical sport. But it requires the movement of the shoulder, elbow, wrist, and fingers for minutes to hours on end. When these joints are not warmed up, they can make for stiffness that will affect the quality of your drawings and slow down your progress. You’ll see greater improvement if you put in some warm-up exercises before getting down to your main sketch.
    • Draw with your whole body. There is a rookie tendency to draw only with the wrist and fingers. This not only limits your movement and strokes, but it also limits your overall improvement. From the get-go, you should learn how to draw with your whole body. More than just using your whole arm, you should also be mindful of your posture and stance. To a great degree, being relaxed and able to move freely influences how well you draw. It is only when you have learned to use your whole body that you can hope to make any strides in your drawing.
    • Work on your weaknesses. Take the time to assess yourself and identify the areas that you’re not very good at. You may be having difficulty drawing a certain object, or perhaps you can’t seem to get the proportions right. Whatever it is, zero in on it and put in extra minutes and hours to working on it. You can’t expect to get better at drawing if you don’t address those weaknesses, especially if they have to do with the principles of art.
    • Keep it simple. Let’s be honest. Most aspiring artists can be rather ambitious. But to be fair, no one looks at a basic shape and makes it their life’s goal to draw one just like it. It’s the impressive sketches that make us want to pick up a pencil and learn how to draw. But one very important thing you need to keep in mind is that you have to first work through the boring before you can create the magnificent. Many people hamper their development by attempting drawings that are too complex for their level. Without the proper foundation, you’ll be going around in circles and not getting it right. In the end, the time-consuming lessons in the basics that you hoped to avoid to save time are what can actually save you time.
    • Take a drawing class. It’s merely optional when learning to draw, but taking a class can do wonders for you. The very first meeting alone often makes a massive difference for beginners. You’ve probably heard how one little detail — whether they learned to do things a certain way or to stop doing things a certain way — had a significant impact on their drawings. The fact is that if you are learning on your own, you’re taking baby steps and figuring things out as you go. But the invaluable guidance of an instructor can speed you along the path of your drawing journey.

    Learning to draw people (how to draw figures)

    The human figure is arguably the most important subject in art across all mediums. From sculptures down to paintings and drawings, capturing it has remained an esteemed endeavor for centuries.

    For beginners, drawing the human form can be a very daunting task. But in the following video, artist Marcel of the YouTube channel “Draw Like a Sir” does a brilliant job of breaking it down into individual sections and simplifying it.

    Here are some further tips to help you as you learn how to draw figures:

    • Study anatomy. Taking that leap from stick people to proper human figures requires a study of anatomy. Unless you are naturally a very keen observer, it will take conscious effort to note the little details most people take for granted. Yes, you definitely know what a human body looks like. But it’s only when you attempt to draw one that you realize there are so many particulars you didn’t notice before, from the different proportions of body parts to the muscles that define each one. Now, you don’t have to go so far as to dissect 30 cadavers as a certain renaissance master once did. But gaining enough knowledge of anatomy to inform your drawings is essential. Thankfully, it isn’t too difficult to get your hands on resources. Whether it’s a textbook, an encyclopedia, or a quick Google search, you can get the information you need.
    • Master proportions. Drawing proportions accurately is one of the basic skills a beginner learns. The importance of this is underscored when attempting to draw the human form. Without mastery over it, your figures will look awkward or even deformed. Unless you’re intentionally drawing a sensory homunculus, it isn’t a good look. So, before diving into drawing figures, you’ll need to practice drawing proportions accurately.
    • Use a mannequin. It’s a lesser-known tool that could be found in art workshops in the renaissance and is still used today by artists in different mediums. The artist’s mannequin is a human-like form that you can configure into any position that an actual human body can assume. So you can practice drawing figures using it in its range of positions as references. And it helps with more than just the form. By drawing with a mannequin as a reference, you can also study and learn to capture the elements of lighting. While this cannot take the place of drawing a human subject from life, it is very practical. For one, you can practice drawing with it as a reference at any time of day or night as opposed to having a person sit for you at a particular time. For another, your real-life reference would not be able to hold certain positions for as long as your mannequin can.

    Simple drawing ideas

    One hurdle faced by many beginners is coming up with ideas for practicing drawing. 

    We previously compiled a list of simple but very helpful drawing ideas for beginners including landscapes, still life, animals, individual parts of the face, and loose drawings.

    Each of these ideas can help you work on specific areas as you develop the techniques that will improve your skill.

    If you would like to know more about how practicing each idea can benefit you as you learn to draw, check out our must-read post where we take a deep dive into each one: 17 Drawing Ideas For Beginners To Warm up and Build Basic Skills

    Frequently Asked Questions:

    Do you need to take drawing classes?

    Although you do not necessarily need to take drawing classes to improve at this medium, some professional instruction would certainly benefit you and help you hone your craft. 

    There are many artists who are self-taught and able to develop their drawing skills on their own by consistent practice supplemented with guides from books, articles, or instructional videos.

    But whether you take up a casual art class or enroll in a prestigious fine arts academy, there is an advantage to be gleaned from the guidance provided by an instructor.

    For one, you’ll always know where you stand with the direct feedback you receive from them on your drawings. Their critique would be a valuable pointer in the right direction.

    You would be promptly informed of what you aren’t doing right and the steps you need to take to correct your mistakes.

    On the other hand, if you are a self-learner, you would not be the recipient of this instruction and guidance.

    As a result, it may take you more time to work out what you need to be doing differently and this would be a delay in your progress as an artist.

    How many hours a day should you practice drawing

    Image credit: @satwik_sahoo_arts/Instagram

    If your situation allows for it, you should practice drawing 1-3 hours a day.

    When I was purely focused on drawing, I would aim for 3 hours a day of drawing practice.

    I would draw for 1 hour, take a 15 minute break if I needed it, then complete that cycle two more times.

    When you begin to learn a new skill, such as drawing, a phenomenon known as neuroplasticity takes place in your brain. When this happens, new connections are created between your neurons.

    These connections are strengthened through regular practice, and the more they are reinforced, the faster the transmission of nerve impulses becomes.

    Your progress in drawing corresponds to how well those connections between neurons are reinforced.

    If you still aren’t getting those proportions quite right, or your shading is still off, it means the connections haven’t been strengthened enough.

    So, if you want to get better at your art, you will need to dedicate several hours to consistently practicing it — five hours a day, to be exact.

    Can I get good at drawing in three years?

    With consistent practice, you can get good at drawing in three years. The average time it takes to learn drawing is two to three years.

    If you dedicate two to five hours of drawing every day, you can make marked improvement within this timeframe.

    Like any other skill, practice is key to development. The amount of time you pour into drawing will be reflected in how well you improve over a given period. 

    The duration and frequency of drawing practice generally recommended by professionals are five to six hours daily.

    If you have set an objective for yourself to achieve in three years, you’ll have to stick to this practice timetable.

    But when you simply don’t have enough hours in a day, two hours of drawing practice should be the bare minimum.

    Is drawing good for your brain?

    A growing mountain of scientific evidence indicates that drawing is very good for your brain. In a nutshell, it can improve your cognitive function and is also greatly beneficial for mental health.

    To see our full post take a look here: Is Drawing Good for your Brain?

    For a long time now, scientists have linked viewing art with substantial brain stimulation. But studies in recent years suggest that creating art takes it even further.

    Here is what drawing does to your brain:

    • It improves connections between your neurons. New connections between the neurons in your brain are created when you first learn how to draw. These are strengthened with continued practice, and as a result, communication between neurons becomes more efficient.
    • It improves your memory. This is especially so if you are drawing from life. Granted, you will have references. But the act of observing your subject, registering the details in your mind, and then transferring them onto your sketchpad exercises your memory. Moreover, a study has shown that people who sketched while listening to a lecture were able to retain more information than those who merely listened. This suggests that drawing activates areas in the brain involved with memory and these can be further developed by drawing.
    • It improves your focus. As with most other art forms, it requires you to have impressive levels of focus to observe the details you need to draw. Indeed, artists have earned a reputation for losing themselves in their work. Once they get started creating something, all else ceases to matter. Of course, you shouldn’t go overboard either. But you can use drawing to train your brain to achieve a healthy level of focus.
    • It improves your observational skills. It’s so effective, in fact, that medical students take up elective art courses that include drawing workshops in an effort to enhance their observational skills, as these are transferable from drawing to patient assessment. Similarly, nurses who engage in art also report an improvement in their observational skills.
    • It improves your motor skills. It’s one of the reasons why kids are encouraged to draw. This activity mainly involves hand movements, but as signals are sent to the motor neurons in the brain, your overall motor skills get better. Because of this, drawing is even used to rehabilitate stroke patients who have lost some of their motor skills. 
    • It helps lower stress. If you’re having trouble managing stress, you might want to give drawing a try. This activity has been linked to lower cortisol levels. Cortisol is the primary stress hormone and research shows that just 45 minutes of drawing can result in a significant drop in your cortisol levels. Who knew that stick people could be the solution to stress?
    • It activates the reward center in the brain. When you create art, the blood flow to your prefrontal cortex increases. This is associated with the brain’s reward center. So as you are drawing, this causes a boost in feelings of pleasure. For this reason, drawing and other forms of creating art can potentially be used as therapy for those who deal with addiction, eating disorders, and other conditions that activate the brain’s reward center.

    Because of its effects on the brain processes, drawing has become widely used in art therapy for cancer patients and veterans and the results have been very positive. 

    But one remarkable thing worth noting is that drawing offers you these benefits regardless of your physical health, mental health, and even your drawing skill level. 

    You can be completely new to it and your brain will still benefit as you doodle or sketch stick people.

    Why Does drawing take so long to learn?

    Drawing takes so long to learn because it is a skill that requires technical precision and a theoretical understanding of the different principles of art. It takes time to develop the former and study the latter. 

    It will take you even longer to learn different drawing styles. On top of the average of two to three years to learn the basics of drawing, you will need to practice for another two to five years in order to gain proficiency in a specific style.

    Thanks for reading and see you in the next one!

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