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Thread: Back to the Basics: An FAQ regarding the foundations of creating art

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    Lightbulb Back to the Basics: An FAQ regarding the foundations of creating art

    This thread will be an open topic thread for the moderators and those with professional tags to contribute their insights on how to get started in art as well as how to improve your basic skills.

    Please read it throughoughly and follow it as it grows. We are going to focus on helping the beginners to a much larger degree. Some of you will be the next Mullins, the next Justin Sweet's, or the next Andrew Jones...some of you will surpass all that any of us has done. We are here to help you do this.

    Thanks,


    Jason

    PS..mods..feel free to brainstorm ideas in this thread. after we get the ideas out, we can clean it up in a fresh FAQ and GUIDE which will be ideal for this section.
    Last edited by Mike Corriero; September 12th, 2005 at 10:00 AM.
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    1. Look at other artists works. Start building a library of images in a "Favorite Art" folder. Save all the images you like from here on out. Include old masters works. All secrets to making art can be found in the masters works. Be sure you name your images so you know who the artists are later. You will end up with a wonderful library of inspiration and it will also help you to understand your tastes to a higher degree which in turn will help you to define your style which will come out all on its own later.
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    2. Always always always ask youself "WHY?". I feel, quite strongly, that this is a fundemental element of understanding and creating art that is sorely overlooked in today's art education venues. Too much focus is placed on HOW to draw/paint but not nearly enough placed on WHY, the how works.

    For example, anatomy. There are fundemental rules to how the body is put together. Bones act as anchors for muscles which move the limbs which deform the skin which makes the body look like it does in whatever position it's in. Yet, in most anatomy classes emphisis is placed on different ways to draw the body as an object sitting in front of you rather than the intricate machine it is. Without that underlying knowledge of that machine that fills that structure you're simply copying a visual reference. Take away the reference and you've got nothing. Learn the WHY e.g. why does the body look this way when I put my arm up... And you can make educated and informed decisions when looking at a reference, advance more quickly in your understanding and ultimately be able to understand what you're viewing to the point where you can intrinsically be able to reproduce it without the reference.

    And that's just one example. Everything about the images you create, composition, psychology, anatomy, costume, architecture, perspective, camera angle, color choice, lighting, EVERYTHING has an underlying and oft times dynamic set of "rules" that determine it's success in your drawing which in turn determines the success of a particular piece of art. Understand those rules, or more simply put, WHY something works or doesn't work and you can create art with forethought and intent.

    Think of it as the difference between walking into a room with a gun taking careful aim and shooting at a target rather than, walking into a room, closing your eyes and shooting in the general direction of the same target. Chances are you'll hit a lot more often doing the former.
    These grapes taste like Fresno! -- Steinbeck
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    3 draw from life...

    dont just draw from your head...you need to put stuff in your head. draw the figure...draw people on the train or at the mall or airport....get a model or do self portraits.

    you need a balance of short term capturing gesture ability and long term undertsanding of light and forms and anatomy.

    do long poses....three to twelve hours...over days if you can. if you cant get a model you can get a plaster cast (see mindcandymans thread for a nice cast drawing example). You can also do self portraits. You need time to just draw...to see...and to learn to quickly understand what you see.

    do short term stuff....two minute..three minute...one minute....you need to be able to quick sketch....note taking of your environment...what you put out is only as good as what you put in.

    truth is found in nature. look...remember...understand.


    spend just as much time working from imagination. if you are out of balance it will be obvious in your works. Those who do work from life a lot will see right through your mistakes unless you understand what you are making. learn to understand what you see...and how to put that down on the paper.


    work just on drawing at first...save painting for when you have mastered value.


    this is just some brainstorming...we will clean this up nice later.


    J
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    In the Academy we have some related threads.

    For example we have an attitude lecture.
    Lecture #1 - Attitude

    And we are working on a list of common mistakes that you should try to avoid.
    Announcement - Frequent Mistakes
    Last edited by Signature; August 12th, 2004 at 12:48 PM.
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    4. Talent does not equal skill...

    Just because you've got an innate artistic talent doesn't give you a free ticket to great art. You've got to use that talent to hone your skills. This means simply, practice practice practice.

    Think of it this way. A professional athlete doesn't become a pro just by waking up one day, walking down to the ball-park, field or track and start performing great feats of prowess. A rock-star doesn't just wake up one day pick up an instrument and blow us all away. They spent years and years turning their innate abilities, talent, into amazing skills. You are the equivelant of an athlete or a rock-star in the making. You may have the talent but it's going to take a lot of practice to achieve the skill level and noteriety you desire. This equates to sketching.

    If a nice drawing or painting or sculpture is the artist equivelant of playing a championship game or an arena venue, sketching is the artist's practice. Sure it's a great way to draft out a painting or drawing as it lets you hammer out and refine your ideas without a lot of work, but just sketching for the sake of sketching is also a great way to get the creative juices flowing, it hones the skills you're trying to develop as an artist, it quickly refines your artistic eye and it's a great way to pass the time if you're ever stuck waiting for a bus, between classes, on your lunch break, etc.

    The more art you do the better you're going to get, so fill that down time between masterpieces with practice practice practice.
    These grapes taste like Fresno! -- Steinbeck
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    5. KNOW your art history. ALL OF IT.

    Don't just study comic books or illustrators or the like...learn all your art history. study from the masters. know all about who did what in art history. If you know the history of art you will know what has been done and can use that as a springboard to your own images. You can also learn about composition, color, drawing, design and more through knowing the masters works.

    what makes art nouveau special? if you know your art history you know what makes things fit within the art nouveau period. What is the difference between a classical and a baroque composition? if you know your history you can use this knowledge to further your own art.


    j
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    6. Take little bites...

    Art is a complex, multilayered, and dynamic beast. It's impossible to jump right in as a beginner and be good at everything. Instead try to become proficient at one aspect before you move on to the next.

    For instance, learn how to represent form with tone (black and white, sepia, etc.) before you do the same thing with color. By trying to learn everything at once you're just setting yourself up to fail, or at the very least many, many, nights of frustration.

    The other thing to keep in mind is that the knowlege that you gain studying one aspect of art is most often applicable towards other aspects of art. The more knowledge you gain, the quicker you'll be able to gain new knowlege, making the learning process a compounding event.

    Becoming a pro might seem like a long and insurmountable journey when you first start out, but by breaking the process down and taking it one step at a time, it turns that insurmountable task into a long string of tiny, readily attainable goals.
    These grapes taste like Fresno! -- Steinbeck
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    never be satisfied. if there is something in your piece that you dont like...FIX IT. ..even if it is two months later.

    be your own critic. if you know that peeps online will say to fix the hands or to increase the value range then beat them to the punch and fix the stuff before they can even give you a crit. however, if it is on purpose...what you have done...then do what you need to do to get done what you intend.

    if you know they will complain about anatomy because you need to study more anatomy then find out the problems in the books or in photos or in front of a mirror and fix the stuff. if you know your anatomy and you distort on purpose..then that is your choice.

    in other words...fix the stuff to your own intent. do not be satisfied with almost good. that satisfaction is your worst enemy. if it doesnt look right then you need to DO WHATEVER IT TAKES to make it right to you. if that means repainting for three days...do so. if that means getting reference...do so. if that means drawing studies...do so. do what it takes....


    j
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    8. Knowledge is power...

    Being good at art goes way beyond just knowing how to render a box, paint a face, or draft a building. Just about everything subject you learn in real life can be reformulated to improve your artistic abilities.

    For instance, learning Psychology has helped me immensely in learning and understanding composition, color theory, and the ability to use emotional triggers in my art to better effect the connection between myself and my viewers through my art.

    Think of it this way. If you learn the finer points of non-verbal communication, understand how people move their arms, hold their body, use their eyes, when they're angry, sad, lying, etc., then you'll have a much better sense of how to portray that emotion when creating an image. Thus, you'll more effectively communicate said emotions to the viewer, be able to create a stronger connection and therefore have a more powerful and moving, piece of art.

    This point goes hand in hand with number 2. above, understanding the "why" and is another vastly overlooked, yet intrinsically important learning tool.
    These grapes taste like Fresno! -- Steinbeck
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    9. Style is something which comes on it's own. It is not something you can force. As you become proficient it will become like your own personal handwriting. Learn your art history, learn your foundation, as an artist masters this stuff he or she will find their style coming out just based on their own tastes which are finally settling in.


    Here is something which can aid you in your own development of style though. choose your favorite four artists from ART HISTORY....ask your self what you like about those artists.....and make some images for yourself using those qualities. For example...maybe it is muchas' flowing design, Bouguereau's ability to render life like flesh, rembrandts value range, chagalle's rich color, etc.... or maybe its sargents brush strokes and rockwells use of interesting character etc....the list is endless. the handwriting of art is not as important as your perspective. When doing this, use your OWN subject matter.

    as an artist works on their foundation and masters the craft and emotional qualities of their work, their style just comes out all on it's own.


    j
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    10. Nothing beats real...

    Though digital is a wonderful medium, is a great learning device because of it's virtually consequence free enviroment, and is great for production work due to it's speed and image editing power, it shouldn't act as a replacement for real mediums.

    I myself, a self-proclaimed "digital artist" who will readily defend the digital medium will oft times go back to doing art in "traditional" mediums to sharpen my mind. Any medium where you've got to work at fixing your mistakes rather than simply clicking a couple of buttons will sharpen your mind so you won't make as many of those mistakes in the first place. Simply put it will strengthen your powers of forethought, perception, and intent.
    These grapes taste like Fresno! -- Steinbeck
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    11. thumbnails and color studies...


    when starting a piece do some thumbnails and color studies....work out some of your issues and choose from the best image. play with camera angles, poses, color composition....sometimes it is NOT your first idea which is most appropriate for what you want to do. put some time into planning your piece.

    since i work digitally i just take my thumb and blow it up and finish it. i also did my thumbnails and studies when i worked traditionally.

    norman rockwell would draw out the characters in his paintings dozens of times sometimes. you need to be a perfectionist with your work. doing studies will bring you closer to that perfection in your work. reaching perfection may be impossible but it is a worthy journey. dont settle for good enough...do your studies to try to get your image to be great.

    j
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