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 11:00 AM.
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  4. #2
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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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  6. #3
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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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  8. #4
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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 01:48 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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  22. #11
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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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  26. #13
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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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    12. Attitude is important.

    Some things that show you have the right attitude:

    -When someone crits your work, you don’t feel hurt or angry. Instead, you think, “I’m so glad they told me. That’s exactly what I needed to hear.”

    -When someone crits your piece, you take their suggestions and rework the art. Then you bring the reworked piece back to get more feedback.

    -You stop with the excuses: “But, I . . . ,” “But the . . . .” No one wants to hear excuses, especially not a client.

    -You’re willing to stop being lazy and start putting in the hours.

    People love helping someone who has a good attitude. It took me a while to learn to suck it up and show my teachers that I was serious about learning. But once I did, they went out of their way to help me and I started progressing so much faster.

    emily

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    13. Simplify...

    If you're having difficulty representing form in your subjects try simplifying them into basic shapes, (cubes, cylinders, etc.)

    For instance, The human face may be a complex jumble of compound curves but when you simplify it down to it's basest shapes, seeing the form and more importantly how the light affects that form will be much easier to grasp.

    These grapes taste like Fresno! -- Steinbeck
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    networking and burning bridges

    14. Networking and Burning bridges.

    Keep your contacts. Build your contacts. If you meet talented people, stay in touch with them. Make friends with each other. We all need help with stuff and if you have the right group of friends, anything is possible.

    as you journey through school and your career you will find people who are absolutely impossible to deal with or even be around. one thing we have learned is that those are the people who end up in places to help you later. for some reason the biggest idiot always is the one to rise to the very top...at least that is the old joke. If you burn bridges with people...anyone...then you have one less person to help you later. Tact is always necessary. Do your best to keep from burning bridges.

    Make friends...lots of them. Be genuine. Be yourself. Stick together.



    j

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    listen to critiques

    16. KEEP AN OPEN MIND WHEN LISTENING TO CRITS

    a crit is there to help you. listen to the harsh words and the good ones too. look into what people say. do NOT take it as a personal attack. Look at everything said as a possible way to improve.

    the key is to be able to see others viewpoints. if you can see it how others would you can make your own decisions. do not post it if you know what people are going to say...fix those parts and then post it. try to stump the critics.

    keep an open mind. put your ego away. listen for answers like a thirsty person in the desert looks for a nice cold one.

    Learning takes putting the ego away. Not arguing.

    J

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  36. #18
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    get together with other artists

    17. get together with local artists. there is no better way to learn than in groups who are all working on their art. if there is not a local group..organize one. there are local artist groups in the lounge. take initiative.

    things to do:

    1 get a figure model...do as much life drawing as possible
    2 organize a sketch group or attend one at a coffee shop or library or other such place.
    3 go to the museums
    etc....


    J

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  38. #19
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    one from personal experience

    18. Letting projects or events outside of your craft seep too deeply into your life will slow your progress with that very art which got you here..or will get you there. An eye must be kept on that balance where your skills improve but your business life, social life, volunteer work, travels, and the like thrive as well. For every great artist there is one thing which they all share together. Art is a top priority in their life.


    Jason

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    19. Don't make someone else do your research for you.

    It's ok to ask questions, but don't make someone else dig up resources, books, or links for you. Go to the library and check out a few books on your own. Learn how to search the internet to find answers to your questions. Do a little of your own legwork.

    There's a wealth of information out there. You can find just about anything if you put in a little bit of work.

    emily

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  42. #21
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    20. Read the advice and the critiques that others get.
    Doing that will help you with judging your own pieces.

    Do you see what people are talking about?
    Did you see it before you read the critiques?
    Do you make the same mistakes?

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  44. #22
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    21

    21. The Right Workspace.

    Your workspace should have everything you need to create art. Resource materials, art materials, drawing supplies, painting supplies, drinks, snacks, red bull, music if you enjoy it, and anything else which makes your workspace an enjoyable and accessable spot to make stuff.

    If you have all you need, you can attack your stuff when the inspiration hits you. If you have to go digging, dont have what you need, or just feel cramped with the location then your space is counter-productive to creating.

    Design your space around art. Make it easy for yourself. Be willing to make art no matter what your space.

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    Cool Thanks

    Hey Thanks Y'all...

    I suspect this is maybe not the sort of post that goes in this thread so feel free to remove it when you 'cclean up'; but I just wanted to say Thanks.

    This is all excellent stuff in this thread. Most of it I knew already but its profoundly enriching to get it all sequentially in a single thread of communication.

    Thank you, Thank you, Thank you a million times over. Off to post some paintings in the noob thread, I look forward to hearing from some or all of you there.

    Thanks Again, for this thread, this forum, this site.

    Y'all Seriously Rock.

    Be Well,
    Twitch

    Death Dances Only With The Living
    My Sketchbook
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    22.

    Just from my own experience and discussions with artists:

    Read books, and to a lesser extent movies. Read the newspaper. In the time when you just have to take a break from your art, reading fiction and keeping up with curren affairs and film trends will aid you in your understanding of popular design and what is in visual 'fashion'.
    Reading books can give you a big boost to your creativity and if you ever find yourself struggling with idea development, having a healthy taste in literature can often help you greatly. Dont be concerned about losing your individual creativity as all the ideas you read will eventually be amalgamated into your unique style (same as the master studies as mentioned earlier).

    Hope i wasnt out of line posting that here, its just something I have been neglecting of late - literature and (good) film - some of the classics - that remind us why we do what we do.

    Adam

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    Stay Loose. Don't get cought up in details right away. Somtimes you have to let the piece create itself. You are only there to bring it out.

    Mistakes are somtimes genius! Don't get in the habit of erasing.

    Most of all, no matter how boring the subject, put emotion into it. " A work which did not begin in emotion is not art." --Paul Cezanne

    "If one advances confidently in the direction of
    his dreams, and endeavors to live the life he
    has imagined, he will meet with a success
    unexpected in common hours."
    - H.D. Thoreau
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  51. #26
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    24. Have Fun -
    Having fun drawing is very important. Being bogged down by how bad you are is going to get you no where. Dont waste your time fealing sorry for yourself, you dont need to practice that; practice drawing. Enjoyment in your artwork will encourage you to continue doing it and often. You draw because you enjoy to, not to pick up chicks( that comes later on). So remember to have fun.

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  53. #27
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    25. Humility

    I was at lifedrawing tonight with a new teacher who has won many Australian prizes in national annual competitions - a very skilled realist painter.

    My point being - he was the teacher, and his authority on the subject at hand was very apparent.

    It was my first night at this place, as it was for one other guy.... so we got first lesson special attention sort of thing - a lot of 1 on 1 which was great.

    At several points the teach had the two of us sitting down with him as he explained what to look at in the figure. The guy next to me could not stop looking around, fidgeting, sighing and making it very obvious that he thought he already knew everything the teacher was telling him.

    Later as we were drawing, he repeatedly called the teacher over to try and explain things - things which were clearly explained when he had us sitting down. NOT ONLY THAT but the guy then tried to challenge the teacher by listing how all the other lifedrawing people (vilppu, loomis, bridgeman etc) did it and why this was BETTER THAN THE TEACHERS METHOD.

    Needless to say myself, the teacher and the rest of the students wished we could muzzle the guy. Eventually the teacher just gave up the will to help him and the student gave up the will to ask questions. When he left i got the feeling he had learned little if anything.

    As you progress as an artist it is essential that you remember your humility. Dont bite the hand that feeds you - realise the experience of opeople who have been at it far longer than you have - as well as respecting the opinions of those around you. The more humble you are the more other people will be likely to help you again and again, if you act superior or elitist then they will leave you to your own devices and you are cutting yourself off at the knees.

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  55. #28
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    25. Practice
    Don't expect your first efforts to be front page material. We all start as beginners and need to practice and make mistakes before we start getting things right. Exhibit patience, as it can be very frustrating when you don't see your work living up to the level of those whom you admire.

    As Lord Cardigan said to the Light Brigade, "Just canter down the valley toward Balaklava, fellows. Nothing to worry about." -W.E.B. Griffin
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  57. #29
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    Private class with the masters

    Great thread, great advice. I would put my two centimos in with, go to museums and see the original old masters' works. Reproductions just do not cut it! Often the format (the physical size of the painting) will make a profound difference in how you see it. When you are in front of the original, you see the impasto, the brushmarks, the true values and colors (assuming it is well preserved).

    But remember, especially with really old works, often they have been cut down (Rembrandts' "Night Watch" is a good example) and the composition is very different from the original. Also the colors may have changed, faded, become more transparent, or may be overpainted by lesser talents (Titian's works were often abused in this manner). Find out the history behind the painting so you know what has been changed. This will open up whole new worlds for you!

    One of my favorite tricks is to bring a pair of small binoculars with me when I visit a museum. I can see detail across the room, see it on large paintings high up, and if there is a crowd I can stand back and still see it better than they do! I've only encountered one other person who had the same idea. It really works, try it!

    If you are fortunate enough to have a museum which permits copying in the galleries, then by all means do so! It is like having a personal class with the master.

    Find out everything you can about their palette, the kind of paints they used (lindseed, walnut, hemp, poppy oil?), pigments (is it real ultramarine made from lapis lazuli, or something else?), orginial support (canvas or panel or gesso?), and any hidden (to us) symbolism (was that worm in the apple just there, or does it represent the impermanence of life?), local history (was there a plague going on when it was painted -- see Brughel's "The Triumph of Death."), in short everything you can about the art, the artist and the enviornment. Now THAT is what I mean by art history! Now go forth and copy thou. . .

    Best in paint,

    Martín de Madrid
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    26. Talent does not equal skill - part II
    Talent does exist imo, but it's not a gift, it's a curse. Talented people who work as hard as others, learn things more quickly. Yes.
    But talented people never learn to work hard for anything, and so they give up easier than others, they fail more often than others and have more fear or failure too than others. Talented people aren't easily satified or proud of their own achievements, enjoy their work less than others.

    When you study art history, you'll see that most famous artists have travelled a long way to get to their best works. The only one I know of that has always been incredibly good is probably Leonardo Da Vinci, but I still can't believe that he has always been that good. No one ever has.
    Da Vinci just had more time to concentrate on developing his skills, without any distractions like annoying clients or friends or phone, tv, internet, games.

    The word 'talent' also includes a sort of expectation, something we can expect of this person in the future. Skills is something you have now, something you can use now. Talent does exists, but it's as useless as a high IQ or a weather forecast for next week.

    Last edited by RedSox; January 24th, 2005 at 08:18 AM.
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