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Thread: Roundtable: HOW-TO learn? An open discussion of techniques for learning art

  1. #14
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    Study has many forms and purposes. So, for me, one thing that has to be defined clearly
    with every effort is the purpose, what is the goal of the study. If I want to practice my
    drawing skills I am going to concentrate on drawing as well as possible, if I want to hone
    my ability to use even very small tonal differences, I'll render the image more carefully.
    Of course, as time goes on each 'layer' that is part of an image is given equal amount of
    care, and as one becomes more proficient, things move on faster.

    Something I feel is needed tho, to learn and grow is variety. For instance, it's good to do
    cast studies with that dramatic spot light, against a dark background, but it's also a hell
    of a great study to try painting that cast when it's fooded in halftone, against an equally
    lit background. The fact that there is literally nothing to work with, no contrast, makes
    this a different kind of challenge, you have to understand why you are seeing what you
    are seeing, before you even figure out how to translate it into the optical language of
    your medium. Or a landscape painting of a summer scene, at nood, when everything is
    bright and hot. The same thing! Or a dark moon lit scene etc etc.

    Also, time helps too. Short studies help you see the big picture, yes. But also longer ones
    especially those that turn out bad for no apparent reason, I feel, help you inspect your
    initial study and results and in having to re-think the problem at hand, one may discover
    more hidden underneath that isn't visible at first.
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  4. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by lilnebo View Post
    I Love this thread so far. It would be cool to open in in the art discussion or lounge just because it would get a ton more answers and then put the good ones back in here

    But anywayz, amazing advice everyone. Already picking up so much
    I did open a thread like this in the Lounge, but it got very few replies. So far it's done much better here. I may link to it in the art discussion forums though, good idea.
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  5. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Line View Post
    Study has many forms and purposes. So, for me, one thing that has to be defined clearly
    with every effort is the purpose, what is the goal of the study. If I want to practice my
    drawing skills I am going to concentrate on drawing as well as possible, if I want to hone
    my ability to use even very small tonal differences, I'll render the image more carefully.
    Of course, as time goes on each 'layer' that is part of an image is given equal amount of
    care, and as one becomes more proficient, things move on faster.

    Something I feel is needed tho, to learn and grow is variety. For instance, it's good to do
    cast studies with that dramatic spot light, against a dark background, but it's also a hell
    of a great study to try painting that cast when it's fooded in halftone, against an equally
    lit background. The fact that there is literally nothing to work with, no contrast, makes
    this a different kind of challenge, you have to understand why you are seeing what you
    are seeing, before you even figure out how to translate it into the optical language of
    your medium. Or a landscape painting of a summer scene, at nood, when everything is
    bright and hot. The same thing! Or a dark moon lit scene etc etc.

    Also, time helps too. Short studies help you see the big picture, yes. But also longer ones
    especially those that turn out bad for no apparent reason, I feel, help you inspect your
    initial study and results and in having to re-think the problem at hand, one may discover
    more hidden underneath that isn't visible at first.
    These are really good points I think, thanks for adding them. Time is important, but I'd say that managing time is more important in many cases.

    I think that there are times when you just let your pencil do the talking and you can go willy nilly just drawing whatever you will in the student. Rendering the hell out of it, while at the same time spending a ton of time trying to nail those lines precisely as you see them, or are imagining them, however most of the time I think you need to be conscious of how much time you're spending on a single study to make sure you're not overworking it while not learning all you could be by completing this study and moving on to another one.

    The comment about variety is also good, but I have a little I'd like to add to that.

    I think it's fairly common understanding among more experienced participants in any discipline that practicing a variety of skills related to your discipline is essential for improvement, but being conscious not to study such a broad variety of things as to over stretch yourself without gaining sufficient proficiency in any of them.

    Finding out what you want to do and how to do it through experimentation and whatnot should be the first step, then when you find that one part of your discipline that you want to master, you focus on that while prioritizing additional skills.

    Focus on your primary, while giving less than equal attention to secondary skills, and paying cursory attention to tertiary skills, being careful not to under-study those additional skills, since all skills play on each other for advancement. To me it doesn't make a lot of sense to become a master of human anatomy if your primary focus is on landscape paintings where there are few, if any human actors present in the painting. Still one should have a good foundational knowledge of all other aspects of their art, as these "lesser" skills will ultimately come into play into your art at some time in the future, and in the future your focus may shift to some aspects of art that you had preciously deemed lesser, or unnecessary to your advancement.

    the ability to keep a wide-open mind to different possibilities is a hugely beneficial tool to have in your possession when undertaking these kinds of tasks.
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  7. #17
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    Some great advice already.

    I'll add in what I've picked up on my own with recently by spending the last two weeks here at CA and doing a loooooot ref drawing =). Feel free to disagree or agree.
    -

    A good study is something that deals with a foundational idea that will only serve to contribute to your visual library. Get a good idea of what you're weak in, at what level you are weak in it, and develop the study from there.

    I also find it important to separate the notions of basics and refinement. Basics should always be the core of learning. Refinement is expanding upon those basics. The more basics I spend time on the more tools I find myself having for when refinement is the focus.

    As has been already mentioned doing your studies as a series is a very good way to keep the flow going, and the focus concentrated. It also serves as a way to gauge your improvement and mistakes. They should also be brief and to the point with the occasional extra time picture tossed in to break things up.
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  9. #18
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    Some good advice here, I agree with you Blondbeard and I am striving to be more structured like this in my learning, thank you for putting it concisely.

    I tend to only study what I need to at the time to complete the painting I'm doing or what has caught my ever changing interest (suspect I have ADD). This (non)method is not very structured and I have lots of gaps in my knowledge so when I try and draw from my memory I find I can't and have to resort to reference which can make the drawing look stale, disjointed or I just can't find the reference at all and abandon the drawing.

    Because of my lack of attention I developed the habit of being random and seeing what happens which has often given me some suprising results and god-awful ones. But this is how I learn and I remember my mistakes more than my successes (which is normal, from what I can gather) so from an experimental viewpoint no study is wasted.

    This thread has given me some good food for thought. Thank you Sepulverture!
    Last edited by Angel Intheuk; March 5th, 2010 at 09:12 AM.
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  11. #19
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    I have the good fortune of working at my schools library and am in charge of keeping the art section tidy. I've found a good way for me to learn about artists was starting at the very beginning. I went to A, picked the first book off the shelf and skimmed through it. Then I went to the next book. If something caught my eye I wrote it down in my sketchbook or set it aside to check out when I left. There's about 8 rows in that section and I haven't finished the first one yet, but I have another three years so I'm not in too much of a hurry. This is a great thread! Very informative.
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  13. #20
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    I think what makes a "good" study depends on the purpose of the study... If you're doing studies to develop a specific picture, what's useful will depend on the picture.

    For what it's worth, my process for a finished painting is something like:
    *Do a whole lot of thumbnails to to figure out the basic elements and composition.
    *When you've got a thumbnail you like, do larger rough drawings based on that until you have something you like.
    *When you have a rough you like, do any necessary life studies, collect any necessary reference, do any necessary research, and then combine all that in a final full-size drawing - this is usually very thorough, as I like to work out all the details, make sure the perspective is correct, etc.
    *Do some color/value studies based on the final drawing. When you have colors and values you like, do the final painting.

    Of course that's just me. I'm not saying this is the best or only process, it could be totally backwards for all I know... But it's worked for me so far...

    For a really finished piece, I usually find that doing some life studies is useful (either getting someone to pose or using a mirror) - they don't have to be super-polished, it's more about the looking and understanding than making a finished study. Once I've tried to draw something I internalize a lot of information about it. If there's no time for a drawing, just posing in front of a mirror and studying the pose can work. I don't think live studies are ever a complete waste, as long as you don't fuss with them forever - even if I do a drawing of a pose and then change my mind about the pose, doing the drawing helped me decide whether or not to use that pose...

    Doing color studies usually seems to be useful, too, just quick-and-dirty roughs in Photoshop trying out different color combinations and values and so forth. Usually after I've done a final drawing for a painting, I slug it into Photoshop and scribble rough color studies on top of it and then look at them all side by side to decide what I want.

    Sometimes just getting outside and keeping an eye peeled can get you necessary info for a picture, too. If I'm wondering how to paint a particular sky or landscape or light effects or something, walking in the park can give me some clues on how to proceed. Likewise if I need to invent a person and I have some specific ideas about how they look but need more research, I'll take a walk and try to carefully observe anyone I pass who has the right kind of face/build/etc. (living in a diverse neighborhood is a huge advantage, here.)

    And research never hurts. I often find that even if I think I know what something looks like, it doesn't hurt to do a quick double-check, usually by looking at a whole bunch of pictures of whatever it is I need to know about until I get the gist of the thing (Google images is your friend.) Also if you're doing something that might benefit from a particular historic or cultural style, researching that style can give your picture an extra edge.

    Re: learning art history. The way I did it was to read every single art book in my local libraries, and any other art book I could get my hands on, willy-nilly. I actually ended up knowing more art history before college just by reading books and looking at pictures than I got out of all our college art history classes. Although, I will say that if you have an opportunity to go to any major museums, GO. When I finally got to see for real the pictures I'd only seen in books, it was a HUGE eye-opener.
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  15. #21
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    Hey I'm really glad to see this thing still going. I've been busy with my own studies and whatnot, currently taken up leather-crafting (since I'm unable to find some things that I've been looking for for a long time, figured i'd just make them myself) and haven't been particularly active on the boards, and haven't been keeping up the tutorials section.

    I'm liking what everyone has been discussing so far and I hope to see more people join in and reflect on each others ideas and discuss.

    Great contributions people!
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  16. #22
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    QueenGwen - thanks for that good advice. I also read obsessively at college but it wasn't til I went to Amsterdam and saw Monets Water Lily's in real life that I truly appreciated it (it's huge and so lively!).

    ah google image! love it! I'm always saving pictures I find interesting or that might be useful, but now I have so many it takes hours to search, it's just easier to google again.

    I wish I had time to just sit and study a particular piece of cloth or a landscape or life-studies, I really should make time I guess but I always run out.

    In the meantime I need to find a program that can sort pictures with keywords so it's easier to locate what I want...does anyone know of any?
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  17. #23
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    Great thread here.
    Some more info can be found in Christians (Christian223) thread too:
    Here is how we'll do it, study the first post from here: http://www.conceptart.org/forums/sho...d.php?t=177756 and try to memorize the head from above using that method. Post everything you have done and what you have learned, I'll do the same and we'll critique eachother.
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  18. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sepulverture View Post
    I've heard a lot of people say that "there is no such thing as a bad study, drawing is drawing" but I beg to differ. I believe that some studies are just time wasters, and you're better of scrapping that study and starting a new one at a certain point.
    Yes - good thread Sepulverture - thanks for linking it.

    I completely agree with you, it takes more than just "going through the motions" to get something out of your time and effort. It isn't just "pencil miles", you have to be engaged to learn - one of the painters I've studied with called it "diligent study".

    Often it seems people are doing "studies" of some particular thing/subject just because everyone else is, or they've read it somewhere - and it is clear that they are not understanding, processing or growing from the effort.

    As far as an answer on "How" to study better or how to know if a study is worth pursuing...that is pretty individual - and I think just comes down to being analytical and critical about what you are gaining from the effort. The one thing I always try to do, with every piece of art I make, even the simplest sketch, is make it better than the last one or the best I can at the time. This seems to move me forward, not as quickly as I might like of course, but forward at least, and I never find myself in a rut or not learning.

    As far as art history...I was fortunate that in Junior College I had a great art hitory teacher that really brought the artists and their times to life. This kept me interested and I took more elsewhere - at the university I had the opposite kind of teachers and flunked. I was also fortunate to take a history of design and architecture which was great. I've learned a lot about the history of illustration on my own by reading biographies of famous illustrators. I find it very interesting that the great illustrators of the "Golden Age" (Wyeth, Pyle, Sundblom in particular) created such archetypical illustrations that they set the style for characters, mood and atmosphere we still see in todays films and illustrations. Anyway, to me it is very interesting to learn about all that and to learn who taught who and influenced each other, etc.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Angel Intheuk View Post
    In the meantime I need to find a program that can sort pictures with keywords so it's easier to locate what I want...does anyone know of any?
    How about Picasa from Google or Window's photo gallery ? But I guess you have to manually tag them.
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    This is where I seem to fall down... a lot. One thing I picked up is to mix gesture work, nitty-gritty bone and muscle studies, and building it all from imagination, all into bite-sized portions.

    This principle I have no trouble with- or at least, can pretty much grasp to a certain extent- it's actually getting the best out of the effort, and applying the knowledge into imaginative stuff. As a lot of what I'm going to say here is in retrospect.. feel free to pick at any niggles Here goes...

    ---------

    I think a lot of the success in studies boils down to your way- and direction- of thinking. If it's all over the place, it seems there's little chance of anything coming of it; if you have had such a study, you can still re-assess what you did. So not all is lost if you have a bad day with memory studies, for example! After all, if you're just beginning with these, it will most definitely horrify you with how difficult it is. The human body is pretty complex, after all.

    Analyse yourself, and what makes you tick. Think about 'eliminating' a part of your thinking that hinders a particular study, so that you can move forward with future such studies in a more 'forward' way, being able to progress with them as opposed to repeating the same process (and feeling absolutely dreadful about 'getting nowhere'). Think about all the possible things that may hinder you.

    For example? Gesture studies. Do you have the irrepressible urge to attempt a perfect outline? It's not good enough to just 'do it quickly', you have to look at it in very, very basic forms, and master the means of doing so before you can progress. Doing it quickly without forethought to the process, will almost always result in a mess. If it helps, don't go on the 30 second feature just yet, simply look at a random pose for the time being and 'think basic'. Draw it, and draw it again. Where did you go wrong? Does it have a flow? Can you 'read' it well? Can you 'see' the line of action? Can you see it interacting? Can you recreate it?

    Have small studies at first- no matter what they are- assess them afterwards, and take about ten minutes to write down your thoughts. Then next time you have a study- perhaps later in the day- refer to it and get your mind back in the right mode. Example: if you were doing a bunch of skeleton studies of an arm (like yours truly...), and wrote that you could have worked on the proportion or relative sizes of one bone to another, then you could 'break them down' into bits next time, draw them more 'loosely', so that it looks more correct to the image. Basically, think of whatever solution that seems to work, and write it down so that you remember. Come next session? Try it out!

    Try to rely mostly on yourself and your own judgement in regards of what to do, when you are doing it, otherwise you may find yourself hopelessly lost. Learning art is about learning initiative and what works best for you- there's no wrong way of learning, just as long as it progresses you personally. If it doesn't progress you, you're not learning, plain and simple. At least not yet.

    If you're really, really stuck, it means you need a lift, and there's no shame in that. There really isn't- that's what critique is for. You may find that you (always) miss a little something also- there's no sense in analysing ridiculously for every wrong, when you can have a little help. Just go with the flow, because you will develop a sensible balance between drawing your experiences from others' wisdom, and drawing them from your own initiative. Never rely solely on one or the other- they should 'feed' off each other, and aid your mental prowess.

    If you're serious about progressing yourself, do whatever it takes. Think about it a lot, and do it a lot. <--- QUOTED FROM SOMEWHERE... Dx

    ---------------

    Holy damn that went on... talk about catharsis. I hope this wasn't too rambly and made at least enough sense.

    Last edited by MightyApplejacks; August 20th, 2010 at 07:39 PM.
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