"I want to get better at drawing." What does that mean? Do you want to learn how to make things look real? Do you wan to get better at drawing things from your head?
One of my desires is to be able to draw things from my head so they look more fleshed out. A while ago I asked around for advice from people I thought achieved this on how to go about doing it. A friend and seasoned professional (http://www.kestillustration.com/ - check out her art, it's fabulous) gave me some great advice and I thought I'd share it here. Basically it sets you up with a way to practice.
1. List 100 things you think you might like to draw. This could be anything. What do you like?
2. Narrow the list down to 50 that seem the most interesting to you.
3. Start drawing. They could be about 5"x7" or as large as 8"x10". Try to draw one a day (maybe some might take 2 days). The point is to get the idea into drawn form so pick a size that you can comfortably create. Draw as much as you can without using reference so you get the idea out and down on the paper. Then go find reference for the parts you're struggling with or don't know what they look like. Add some simple shading. Give each of the 50 a try. Some might turn out pretty good, some not so much. Try to do the best you can with the skills you currently have. Don't judge them until after you do all 50. The point is to try. I had to scrap a few ideas because I had trouble getting the idea down on paper but I ended up with about 46 rough sketches.
4. Pick 10 of the 50. Of the 50, which ones carry the idea best? Which ones do you want to turn into refined drawings or paintings? One at a time, make a larger refined drawing for each idea and gather reference to flesh out the picture. It could be reference for textures, or how light hits metal, or how your character looks in a particular pose.
When I'm at a loss for what project to make next I return to this list. Ideally I'd like to blast through the 10 but the more I do the better and faster I get. This is where my current owl man project came from.
In addition to wanting to improve at drawing from my head, I also used this exercise as a way to add new images to my portfolio. When I started drawing the 50, I was thinking about what I wanted the picture to look like through the filter of "I want to make a portfolio targeted towards book covers". I think I also used that mental filter a little when listing out the first 100 and then narrowing down to 50.
I'd love to hear what advice other people have to share about improving at drawing, painting, or building a portfolio!