How much can you narrow down your subjects in art?

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  1. #1
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    How much can you narrow down your subjects in art?

    Currently I feel kind of overwhelmed right now. With the sheer quantity of things that you can render, I don't know how to prioritize things. I once read that artists should be ready to render anything, which kind of makes sense since your clients and employers can throw anything at you. But aren't you going to know what the job asks for and be able to tell if you're any good with that subject beforehand? I mean, there are things I want to specialize in, I love rendering Sci-Fi stuff, especially mechs, but there's also stuff I can't seem to render if my life depended on it, like anything that has alot of vegetation going on. Is something like that going to make or break my chances as an artist? I just want to know if going for a niche is a bad idea, because right now I just want to cut down the list of stuff I have to draw or paint.

    My sketchbook:

    http://conceptart.org/forums/showthread.php?t=191977

    My page on Facebook, which I update much more often.

    https://www.facebook.com/MarkGrimArt
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  4. #2
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    You don't learn to draw things, you learn to draw. I'm always telling my students if you can reproduce the contour, edge, value, and color of any object then it doesn't matter what it is, a nose, a mech, a leaf, you can paint and draw it. You learn to see those things in relation to the things around them in the scene. An object is half the size of the thing next to it or twice the size or darker or lighter or straighter or softer. Does that make sense? I'm not saying it is easy but don't focus on drawing things and it will be easier to learn.

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    That makes sense, thanks. Although that seems to be more about learning to learn, being able to get a firm grasp on any subject, which is good. But what about things like design and composition? There are specific things you have to look at depending on what you want to learn. I mean, even if I mastered value, line, form, light, and color, that wouldn't mean I'd have the slightest idea how a good looking environment, character, machine, landscape, or whatever, would look like, unless I actually went out and drew those specific things.

    My sketchbook:

    http://conceptart.org/forums/showthread.php?t=191977

    My page on Facebook, which I update much more often.

    https://www.facebook.com/MarkGrimArt
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    From your sketchbook thread:
    Quote Originally Posted by stabby2486 View Post
    My name is Mark and I'm 17, going into my junior year in high school looking to eventually get a career in art, probably in illustration or concept art.
    Slow down. Relax. Draw what you enjoy. You've got plenty of time.
    Worrying about how things are going to effect your marketability at this point is highly premature.


    Tristan Elwell
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    If you learn the basics, you can draw anything. Every subject is basically form, light, color, space, design and composition. The basic knowledge of all these applies to everything.

    You certainly don't need to choose a niche from day one. In fact, it's better if you start with general drawing skills. At this stage, you should be learning basic anatomy, perspective, light, color theory, design and composition, and just generally how to observe and draw things from life, and how to construct and draw forms from imagination. Draw and paint from life. Learn anatomy. Learn perspective. Learn color theory and design theory. Draw and paint still lives and landscapes to help get a grasp of basic light and color. When you have a good grasp of all that, you'll technically be able to draw anything.

    Also, you can always look things up when you need to draw something new. Most people do. When I get jobs, I often have to draw things I haven't specifically drawn before. So I do research. I find out what things look like, how they work, what their structure is. If I can get live reference of whatever I'm supposed to draw, even better. If it's something in an unfamiliar style or genre, I research related art for inspiration. Once I've done research and gathered reference, I can draw whatever I need to draw.

    Quote Originally Posted by stabby2486 View Post
    That makes sense, thanks. Although that seems to be more about learning to learn, being able to get a firm grasp on any subject, which is good. But what about things like design and composition? There are specific things you have to look at depending on what you want to learn. I mean, even if I mastered value, line, form, light, and color, that wouldn't mean I'd have the slightest idea how a good looking environment, character, machine, landscape, or whatever, would look like, unless I actually went out and drew those specific things.
    Good design and composition are universal. Different subjects and genres don't have different rules for design and composition. Again - learn the basics, and you'll discover they apply to everything. (It may not seem that way at first - but they will.)

    Be careful that you don't start thinking in terms of gimmicks and tricks - "here's how to draw a cloud, here's how to draw a robot," that sort of thing. It doesn't work that way. If you can draw, you can draw anything. (With, perhaps, a little research. Research is always good.)

    Also, you may eventually gravitate towards certain things, (maybe it turns out you really like robots. Or you're really into environments.) But let it happen naturally. Don't be afraid to try lots of different things at this stage, the beginning of your training is the best time to be experimenting. You may try some things that don't really work out. You may try some other things that you really love. Don't worry about it yet one way or the other, just keep trying stuff.

    Last edited by QueenGwenevere; July 23rd, 2010 at 11:01 PM.
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    Thumbs up

    I hear a lot of people talking about composition and how important it is, but is it really that critical? If you can't draw to save your life, what good is composition even if you're the god of composition?
    IMO, composition is probably just frills and icing on the cake. Erm, that's just my view.

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    Composition is THE single most important element in art. It underlies EVERYTHING. Thinking you can be an artist without understanding composition is like thinking that winning the spelling bee makes you a writer.


    Tristan Elwell
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  13. #8
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    Composition is the BONES of the picture! A picture with good composition and so-so execution might still work, but a picture with bad composition will fail no matter how slick the execution is.

    (I should know, I've done this... I used to dive right into paintings without working out a proper composition, and I'd fuss and render them to death and wonder "why does it still look bad?" And then I'd realize the composition was a mess, and the only way to make it look good was to start over with a better composition. Now I always do thumbnails first to sort out the composition and avoid getting into situations like that.)

    I've always felt the two most important things in an illustration are concept and composition. If the concept is good, and the composition is solid, the odds are it can work no matter how it's executed.

    (Of course, good execution on top of good composition is best. If it has a great concept, too, you're all set.)

    Last edited by QueenGwenevere; July 24th, 2010 at 12:25 PM.
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    What is confusing is that composition is considered the elements and principles of art. In other words, design. So when they say composition, they're also talking about design. I've often thought of composition as just being the arrangement of the elements that you have in your picture, but it's essentially "design".

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Composi...visual_arts%29

    Though there are different elements in different design books. Form, direction (sometimes referred to as "line direction") and space are sometimes added or omitted. Which ones you should use or not use, I'm not too sure about.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bowlin View Post
    What is confusing is that composition is considered the elements and principles of art. In other words, design. So when they say composition, they're also talking about design. I've often thought of composition as just being the arrangement of the elements that you have in your picture, but it's essentially "design".

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Composi...visual_arts%29

    Though there are different elements in different design books. Form, direction (sometimes referred to as "line direction") and space are sometimes added or omitted. Which ones you should use or not use, I'm not too sure about.
    That definition is correct; composition relates to the arrangement of the elements within the pictorial plane. I consider Design the philosophy used to govern that thought process. So when you compose your pictures you use design to help you make the decisions. Some people focus on color, some on texture some on shape/contour, some on a little of all of those.

    The best thing to do is learn what is considered good design and composition and why it is that way and then use the things that make sense to you in your work. As you grow as an artist you can explore the boundaries of what you consider good design and composition and build on them for future artists to look at and be confused by .

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