I was apprehensive to make this video. As much as I love sharing my experiences and tips to help people who are probably in the same position I’ve been in a million times in my journey with art (and continue to be in sometimes today) I hate to come across as didactic, or a know-it-all, and there will always be people who disagree with my approach. When it comes to art- and good art at that- it’s such a subjective topic. I know a lot of people will consider my strict and structured approach to improvement, so far-removed from the fun, expressive experience that art is supposed to be.
The point I hope to get across is that you have to take art seriously, in order to have fun with it. I suppose like if you wanted to be a ballet dancer; you have to go through the pain, force yourself into those shoes, stretch and strain and bruise your body, before you can move with character and zest and that effortless fluidity.
Now if that sounds like something you can get on board with, here are the steps mentioned, simplified and broken down into a plan of action that you can adopt into your life today.
1. Dedicate a specific amount of time to your art EVERY DAY. Create a habit, whether it’s a sketchbook session straight after breakfast, an hour of drawing before you go to bed, or doodles in a notebook while you’re watching TV. (Quick tip- Before you start getting too serious with it, just work on solidifying that habit into your daily routine. If you make it too challenging and demanding from the start, you’re not gonna be too keen on keeping it up. Start out by just committing to drawing something. Everyday. It doesn’t matter what. )
2. In this dedicated time (once you’ve got the habit established in your routine) you have the options to WORK or PLAY. Below are some examples of each. Play is something you can’t force, but if the moment takes you then I’d really encourage it. It all depends on how inspired you’re feeling. If you’ve got no ideas or motivation, it’s time to work. (The more you work, the easier and more natural play will become.)
Study the work of the masters; read up on artists you admire. What tools so they use? And how? Try to adopt some of their methods and recreate some of your favourite pieces of theirs as accurately as you can and to the best of your ability.
Learn the fundamentals; watch online videos or read a book on things like lighting, colour theory, composition etc. Take notes and practice what you’ve learned.
(I’ll have a list of my recommended books, lessons and resources at the end of this article).
Figure studies; there are some great online resources available for free that allow you to draw models posing in realtime.
Reference; Find pictures online. Better yet, draw from life. Draw the thing you struggle with the most, over and over. The best way to learn the structure of something, the best way to make sense of it, is to draw it.
Build up an encyclopaedic catalogue in your head of as many things as possible, all learned through drawing them.
Any ideas for drawings you might have, get them onto paper. It doesn’t matter if you don’t think you’re good enough yet to do the idea justice. You don’t have to get it down right, just get it down. You can find the flaws and use those as subjects to work on next time you want to work rather than play.
Experiment with supplies you’ve never used before, but have always been tempted to. Don’t be afraid to make a mess. Just make marks on paper and see where it takes you. Try new things and see what works and what doesn’t.
Just doodle; maybe you don’t have any idea what you want to draw. Just let the drawings take shape. You might start with a scribble or a circle or a line. Let if flow.
If you find yourself staring at a blank page, unable to create anything, you need to pop over to the work column and do something over there.
Remember, playing requires fuel and fuel comes from work!
3. Once you’re done, it’s time to reflect. Look at what you’ve done, analyse it. What went well? What didn’t? What could you do differently with the things that didn’t go so well? Note down the aspects that you need to put more work into. When it comes to your art session tomorrow, you’ve got a head start on what you’re going to focus on.
4. In the meantime, don’t forget to share your work, either online or with people around you. Feedback is important, people see your art in a way that you don’t. And you can learn a lot about yourself by analysing others as well. Engage and put yourself out there.
The major key here is balance, we learn through studying and we learn through doing. And both of these will only get you so far on their own. You can draw and draw but if you’re not studying your subject matter, you’ll always be limited to what you think you already know. And you can read all the books in the world, but until you start implementing what you learn onto paper, its not gonna stick. You’re taking in the facts, but you’re not translating that into the truth.
Useful Links and Resources
- Anatomy For the Artist - Sarah Simblet
- Sketching From the Imagination - 3DTotal
- Imaginative Realism: How to Paint What Doesn't Exist - James Gurney
- Real-time life-drawing
- Timed (optional) poses
- Skillshare (use code MINNIE when signing up for your first 3 months at $0.99)
- Educational YouTube channels and playlists
- Artist James Gurney talks through and demonstrates his plein-air process
- Lots of sketchbook flip-throughs and tutorials
- New Masters Academy learn a range of tips and skills