A slightly impious idea...
You know, I might have an idea for you Fray. Aside from materials, its free. It doesnít require travel, and you can do it anywhere and anytime you feel like. Its something I'm probably going to get smacked for saying, but if your really, really struggling then try this. First thing to do is try things that are more simplistic, its basic advice. Maybe you should try things like pencils, tongue depressors, or anime characters, your choice though. The next thing to do, my authentic piece of advice, is to find some plain (unshaded but clean) sketches, print them out and trace them. Then just move to shade, and/or color, and/or complete them. It'll help you work around any weak point you may have with drawing, you know, roadblocks. If you get stuck, you can go back to the sketch. After a while, when tracing and finishing simple sketches is too easy Ėor boringĖ move on to tracing complex, colorful, images. Your goal with complex images is to chose the most important lines to trace, the outer edges and telling lines. You shouldnít be trying to chose the fewest lines possible, but tracing only enough so you know definitively what is happening in your tracing. And then repeat as before.
I find that this method is very good at teaching form, shape, and posture, at least with me that is. Another even bigger reason to use this method is that; when you self teach, by definition, you lack someone to demonstrate technique for you. Normally, an art student is shown the basic kinds of pencil or brush strokes available to them, and if the teacher is a good one, how to apply and modify each. But the self-learner has to figure all that out on their own. Tracing helps a person to develop the ability to literally, physically, execute pencil, pen, or brush strokes. But also, it is critical to note that you have to approach tracing with that particular goal in mind, otherwise you learn jack nothing from it.
I posted this idea/technique on another forum a little back. It got blasted, loudly and emphatically. That given, Iím going to go ahead and explain why I used tracing in the first place so I donít have to later (or hear about it either...). I endorse tracing because Iíve used it for a while, and it works for me personally. Its important to note that my reasons for using tracing in the first place are very unique (or at least rare). Others may (and I believe will) find it useful to try at least once, but I used the method because I had to. I started sketching and teaching myself art when I was seventeen, just as a hobby; doodles and things. I had developed a little talent by the time I was nineteen, and wished to continue sketching/drawing/drafting/art as part of my profession (which isnít hard to do with the engineering fields). But around age eighteen, I started show signs of carpal tunnel in both wrists (twelve years of typing w/ bad posture). It developed for about eighteen months, but it eventually leveled out. I lost most of the feeling in both hand, except for my palms and pinkies, and I developed a slight, constant tremor. Luckily, I never developed joint pain or stiffness (i.e. debilitating). But because there was no pain or immobility, my insurance didnít cover surgery, so itís never been treated. It's not such an everyday issue, but for precise things like drawing, not being able to feel the pencil or having even a sixteenth or an eighteenth of an inch tremor is trouble. I used tracing to learn how to draw cleanly again, with success. Thus, I endorse and recommend it for similar issues and/or skill levels.
The only danger in tracing, btw, is if you become reliant on it, or if you stop adding original content. And itís a darn hard rut to get out of once you get in it. Peace
Hell hath fury, and I am ti !