How To Be A Better Artist (There is Only One Way)

Practice and learn. Repeat every day.

Shaunta Grimes
4 min readJan 31, 2019

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Photo by Tim Wright on Unsplash

When my daughter Ruby was ten, I bought her a copy of Raina Telgemeier’s book Smile. She was on the verge of getting braces to correct an underbite. She was scared, and I thought Telgemeier’s graphic novel about her own experience with braces might help.

It did. Ruby’s one of those kids who would rather be outside riding her bike or playing soccer than sitting down with a book — but Smile struck a chord. She even took her copy with her when she had her braces put on.

Ruby, age ten, with Smile on her way in to get her braces. September 2015.

So, Ruby got her braces. But something else happened. Inspired by Smile, she started drawing. After a couple of months, she spent hours on her eleventh birthday looking at herself in a mirror and working on a self-portrait.

Ruby, self-portrait age 11, December 2015

Everyone was impressed. I remember being a little stunned, even. But the most important thing was that Ruby impressed herself. After she finished this drawing, she decided that she really wanted to learn to be a better artist.

It reminded me a little of the shift I felt when I finished my first novel. Once I knew I could do it, I knew that I could learn to be a better writer.

I like to think that she learned from what I’m constantly teaching other writers: Work a little bit every day and put in the effort to make each effort better than the last.

She definitely knows that Ray Bradbury’s quote is a driving force for me: Just write every day of your life. Read intensely. Then see what happens.

Whether she picked it up from me or just came to it naturally — she has drawn every day for the last three years.

And she constantly pushes herself to learn how to draw better. She’ll Google “how to draw noses” or “how to shade with pencil” and spend weeks perfecting that one thing.

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Shaunta Grimes

Learn. Write. Repeat. Visit me at ninjawriters.org. Reach me at shauntagrimes@gmail.com. (My posts may contain affiliate links!)