You actually answered your own question, but I suppose I will also clarify some things, since this question is becoming a little more frequent! I might as well take some time to address it more broadly.
Consistency comes with practice. I draw every single day! But if that sounds discouraging, I should also add that not everything I draw is substantial; sometimes it is just a weird half-finished sketch, or an experimental speed paint with horrible vomit colors that I will never show to anyone, or a hand-written chart mapping out the political structure of the Alternian Empire. I have off-days where the only thing I accomplish is a single, wobbly line and breathing. This is not a bad thing! In fact, breathing is a great thing and everybody should take a day off and try it. Breathe all day. Seriously, it’s amazing.
The point is, draw! Draw a lot! Even if you don’t feel like you’re making anything great, or making any improvements, you’re still drawing! That in itself is more than helpful. Think of it as exercising a muscle; the more you use it, the stronger it gets, and the more you’re able to do with it. Unfortunately, this is also a long, slow process - much like building physical muscle - and a lot of people quit because they don’t think they’re making any progress.
I will give you an example of progress and consistency using Darkleer’s face.
This chronological line-up proves three things. 1) I have a Problem and its name is Darkleer. 2) I draw Darkleer differently in almost every picture. The only consistent Darkleers are the ones on the bottom row, which I drew one after the other in rapid succession. 3) I had to draw a lot of Darkleers to even start to make him look consistent. What you are not seeing are all of the Darkleers I drew and then erased before making the Darkleers you see here.
THAT’S A LOT OF DARKLEER.
(I was going to make an example consisting entirely of lesbians, but that was around the time I dislocated my shoulder, so there was sort of a sine curve of quality throwing off the sample group. :c )
((I have a broader progress chart here, if you’re interesting in glimpsing the ridiculous things I drew when I was 9. Hint: COMICS.))
As for art school… well.
Art school did not teach me anything about technique. Their teaching method was pretty much to sit you in front of a canvas with some paint and see what happened, then they would tell you if what you did worked or not. Not really the best method, honestly.
Not that I regret going to art school! Far from it. Changing my major from computer science to art (I know, right???) was the best thing I ever did.
What art school really gave me was a support system. You need support - be it parents, professors, peers, some form of consistent structure, if not in a classroom then in your work space, or just a part-time job - to be able to create art in the first place. You need someone who will have your back and keep you alive when you’re not selling anything (even if those someones are Mrs. Pocket Change and Mr. Ramen), to encourage you to keep honing your skills, and it helps to have someone to tell you when you’re slacking or when your quality or ideas aren’t as good as they could be.
The other thing an artist needs is time. Everything I learned about the process of making art, I taught myself through doing, because school gave me the time and the opportunity to do so. I sat in front of a canvas and put paint on it. I drew and painted nudes. I drew people I saw in class. I painted some landscapes. I wasted a semester on a stupid idea that I hated. I drew oversized comics on huge pieces of paper with charcoal. I learned something from all of those experiences. The trick is to give yourself the opportunity to try new things, to make time. I know you probably get home from work super tired, but it’s important to draw anyway. Ignore tumblr for a bit and use your art to unwind instead (100% fewer hilarious .gifs but 100% more skill improvement - I think this is a fair trade-off). Draw something silly and make yourself laugh!
If you need more structured homework, try filling out one of those 25 Essential Expressions charts, a little every day; it’s meant to help you develop consistency when drawing a character. Heck, try a 30-day challenge and draw some things you wouldn’t normally draw. You might find something you really enjoy drawing!
The last thing that an artist needs is work ethic, which is also something I did not learn in school. Largely, my ethic comes from my own drive to make the image I see in my head. Structured classes and due dates just helped me reconsider the way I was managing my time. You learn really fast how quickly you can make a five page comic, without sacrificing quality, when it’s due in two days.
All in all, art school is nonessential. It helps with a lot of different things, and provides good venues for developing your ideas, but you don’t have to go to an art school to be an artist. An artist is just a person with the passion and drive to create things. Your support system could be your part-time job and your best friend. As long as you’re putting aside time to work on drawing, and actually drawing, you’re already doing better than all the kids who quit drawing when they were ten (to which my reaction is always :c ).
I can’t tell you how to get better faster, but I will tell you a few things that I always keep in the back of my mind:
- When brainstorming, discard the first three to five ideas that occur to you. The first ten, even. They are usually super obvious; they are the things that everyone else thinks of first, too. Getting rid of those ideas immediately gives you room to think of all the things no one else considers because they stop at two.
- Never make a line that doesn’t matter. Lines that don’t do anything are just cluttering up your picture, so get rid of them. It will keep your picture clean and efficient. My style gets a little gritty sometimes and throws around a lot of tiny lines, but I can guarantee you that every line I make is placed with forethought. Those lines need to be there.
- Go for it. Taking the first step on a big project, and you’re scared it won’t turn out the way you want it to? Do it anyway. Do the best you can. Maybe it won’t be the best thing ever, but at least you’ll learn something that you can carry over to your next project. You can always try again later, and go about it a different way. Your next project will always be better than the last.
- Finish something. This sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised! It’s not enough to sketch. Every once in a while, you need to try something bigger and more elaborate than usual. It can be anything! But starting and finishing something of greater complexity gives you a greater feeling of completion, and that feeling is really, really encouraging. And then you should do something nice for yourself, because you finished something and you deserve it. Start small; reward yourself for filling a page in your sketchbook, and work your way up from there. Positively reinforce the behavior of drawing (not punish yourself for not drawing). This is science and it works. I nearly threw myself a fricking party when I finished For You. I’m pretty sure I baked myself some cookies.
And finally, I suppose, if you really, really wanted, you could commission me for art. That’s a lot like paying me for these, and everybody involved wins. Just throwing that out there. :)
I hope that this was somewhat helpful? Sorry this turned into a lecture!