Skill Up for the New Year

January 15, 2019 | by Matt Roman

At the end of every year, people around the world begin crafting lofty resolutions, lists filled with things they’ll likely abandon by February, or March if they’re lucky. Societally, we do this out of tradition. And that puts a lot of pressure on us to come up with something unique to achieve. But often, we just repeat a failed resolution from past years. Things like diet and exercise, kicking a bad habit or wasting less money. These aren’t bad resolutions necessarily, but most people don’t set up a rigid plan to keep themselves on track.

I’m equally guilty of falling off my own resolution paths. In 2017, I set out to draw more so I could improve my illustration skills not only for my design work, but also for personal projects. I steadily drew for three months, but it eventually fizzled from frustration and a lack of clear goals. In December of the same year, I started thinking about that same resolution and how I could tangibly conquer it in 2018. I knew I had to keep it simple, so my main objective was to simply fill the sketchbook I started in the previous year. If I drew something every single day I could achieve my goal twice over. Knowing my habits, I was aware I wouldn’t draw every day, but I had a plan in place. I still didn’t fully complete my goal, but 70+ drawings later I could tell I improved an incredible amount.


It’s Not Completely Your Fault

The real problem is that resolutions are fragile. They require an extra amount of effort that needs to be put in on a regular basis so they can be achieved. And this is where most falter. Resolutions imply a change that takes a long time to implement, which is often daunting and working against you before you even begin.


A Plan for Success

Short incremental changes are far more effective at keeping you on track. Dividing a resolution into smaller goals, or “skill ups” as I like to think of them, lets you tackle pieces of the larger goal in a shorter timespan. These tangible micro goals can then be measured along the way.

For 2019, it’s no surprise I’m drawing again. This time, I’ve broken the year up into themed quarters. I plan to do a lot less finished pieces each month and instead focus on improving my technical skills. So, my weekly drawing will focus more on individual studies. For any illustration I do outside of my studies, it must incorporate the current quarter’s theme.

If you’re curious, my skill up themes for 2019 are:

  • Q1: Hands/Feet
  • Q2: Hair
  • Q3: Body Proportions
  • Q4: Digital Rendering


With an even more structured plan in place, I’m excited to see just how much I can improve this year. If you’re a creative looking for educational resources to tackle your own goals this year, there’s really no shortage these days. Here are just a few of my favorite places around the web:

  1. Skillshare is undoubtedly one of the most robust and broad platforms for any creative looking to skill up. They’ve got courses on everything from design to illustration to film to writing. And they’re taught by some of the most influential and well-known creators in their respective industries; Aaron Draplin, Simon Sinek and Matt Bellassai to name a few.
  2. If you’re looking for a more hands-on approach, check out Dabble for local classes where you can get a firsthand experience with an instructor.
  3. Lynda is an excellent resource, especially for beginners in nearly every category. They offer a free month trial, but more likely than not your employer may already have a subscription.
  4. Design: For technical design skills, sites like Tutpad and 99designs have fairly robust tutorial libraries that cover anything from Photoshop actions to animating typography in After Effects.
  5. Drawing: For illustrations, hashtags are also a great way to find a repository of related content. #Learnuary is a movement crafted by the Etherington brothers, two incredibly talented comic creators, where social media is filled with crowdsourced tutorials that are simple, useful and empowering. Some more common hashtags worth looking at are: #procreate, #howto, #howtodraw
  6. Coding: If you’re looking to break into coding your own designs or even just further knowledge you already have, Codecademy has incredible follow-along tutorials and specialized program paths so you can hone in on your desired goal.


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