Educated vs Self Taught

I love to browse artists’ websites to see the different styles of work that people do.  Sometimes I get inspired to try something new, which is always a good thing.

A while ago I saw something on an artist’s website that got under my skin a little bit.  That particular artist posted in her ‘About Me’ page that she was an educated artist, and that unlike self-taught artists, she knew what she was doing.

Ouch.

I looked at her art, and it was good, no doubt about it.  Was it better than mine, the art of a self-taught artist?  No, not really.  Her style was very simple and not super detailed, but it had a nice, soft quality to it.  It was nice.

What is the difference between a self-taught artist and one that has been formally educated?

Artists who go through the formal training get to know the parts of the body, like bone and muscle structure, and they practice doing the same things over and over again until they get it perfect.  There’s obviously a lot more than that, but this is just to give a reader an idea on what I’m talking about as far as “educated” means.

A self-taught artist practices and practices until things look right.

In the end, do I care exactly what the muscles are called?  Not really – it doesn’t add anything to my finished product.  It is super important, of course, to understand where muscles/bones are and how they’re shaped, or else drawings will come out looking kind of weird.

All the same, it’s practice, imagination, and observation that  will dictate the level of success that an artist will have.

wp-1454788173419.jpg

This baby in progress, for example, is a few lines and some shading.  I can look at the photo and see where the shading and shadows should be.  The next time I draw a baby, I’ll know about the chubby cheeks and round little nose, and I’ll be able to produce it again.  It’s all just practice and experience and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Acrylic Painting

I’ve been experimenting with acrylics, because there is something about acrylics that really appeals to me. Watercolor is fun, but there’s a certain type of wantonness about watercolor painting that connects me more with the abstract and random. I feel like I connect with different mediums in very diverse ways; pencil drawings lead me toward realism, pastels lead me to cartoonish pieces, watercolor to the free-flowing and abstract, and acrylics with a deep seated type of sentiment.

Acrylics draw out my darker thoughts and feelings, which exhibit themselves into my work. I started the painting that is in the title photo of this post, and I felt like I could really connect with it. It’s far from complete; the main subject has yet to be added, and of course the finer details of the water, sky, and beach are still missing. I think, though, that the viewer can ascertain the frame of mind and the world that I came from while working on this painting. The painting was inspired by a photo that a husband/wife photography team took, (visit their page here) though my interpretation is darker and lonelier.

How do different mediums affect you?

Happy Customers!

In case you missed it, I’ve been hard at work completing my first charcoal portrait of a beautiful Great Dane named Draco.  Great Danes are known for their size, but also for their characteristic faces, which makes drawing their portraits both challenging and interesting.

wp-1452297710125.jpg
Draco

I dropped off Draco’s portrait this morning to his very pleased pet parents, who proudly show off their new piece of art!

 

Should I Use an Easel?

Ah, as you walk amongst the throngs of Parisian street artists, you see that some of them have easels nestled comfortably under their canvasses. Confusingly, you also see some artists who are using their laps, and let’s not forget the dreamers who are using artists’ board. Who is right?

Don’t bother trying to peak over someone’s shoulder in order to compare results; chances are, they’ll all be good.

Many mainstream artists will say that an easel is necessary to avoid losing the 3D-ness and to get caught up in the foreshortening of the drawing, and while that may be true for many, it’s not the case for everyone!

It takes some practice to get accustomed to using an easel, because there’s no longer anywhere to rest your drawing arm. The whole process can feel awkward and uncomfortable, but like many things, it gets easier the more you do it and get used to it.

I myself have an easel, but I don’t use it very often. I like to think of it as my travel companion; it comes out of its case mainly when I’m away from home, or sometimes I take it out to place finished works on it until I’ve decided what to do with everything.
In general, I use an artist’s board. It’s smaller than an easel, fits in a portfolio bag, and I can sit with it on my lap when I’m working. The downside, of course, is the horrendous posture that comes with hovering over the board.

imag0756_1_1.jpg
As you can see from the image of my unfinished drawing above, an art board can still be used effectively to achieve good results.

I also have, in my beloved art studio (a colorful room in my basement that contains only some shelves, yarn, and piles of art supplies), a glass art desk that tilts. It’s much more posture friendly, while still allowing me to comfortably tilt my work. It’s a fantastic thing to have, but definitely bigger and pricier than an easel or board.

My point is that what you use is up to you. Don’t knock anything until you’ve tried it a few times; something as subtle as your drawing support could make a world of difference to your end product.

Trying Different Mediums

Art is like anything else where the ground is unfamiliar.  People get skittish and don’t want to attempt something new in case of failure.

But guess what.

You will fail.  If you’re smart, you’ll try again.  If you’re really smart, you’ll keep trying until you get it right.  There will be no prouder moment in your life.

imag0732.jpg

I drew this Final Fantasy X character way back when I first started drawing, and I really thought that she was the bees knees.  Even now, many years later, I look at this drawing with a sense of satisfaction.

Is it the best drawing?  Hell no!  Could I do a ton better now if I were to redraw it?  Absolutely.  That’s not the point, though.  The point is that I decided to pick up the pencil and give it a try, and the result at the time was way better than I could have hoped to achieve.  This drawing inspired me to continue and to move on to greater things.

imag0736.jpg

Only today I decided that I wanted to give pencil pastels a shot.  Believe me when I tell you that I hate failure just as much as anyone else, but what did I have to lose?  A few bucks on the pastels, but I’d have them no matter what, so I can always try again later.  The image above was just some messing around that I did to get a feeling for the pastels.  I wanted to see how they’d blend, how they’d cling to the paper.  I got cocky and decided to try for a masterpiece.

imag0735_1.jpg

Say hello to Masterpiece.  Meow.  Not quite (or at all) what I hoped for, but hey, it was my first time attempting to use this medium!  With some practice and a ton of luck, I think I’ll eventually be able to make something out of these demon pencils, and that’ll be a moment that will equal the satisfaction that I achieved from that Final Fantasy character.  I’m looking forward to it.

Step-by-Steps

If you follow a lot of amateur artists online, you’ve probably seen this drawing a lot.

imag0729.jpg

I drew that particular set of lips, but it’s certainly not my design.  Why is everyone drawing this particular mouth, or some variation of it?

The answer is easy – a Mark Crilley instruction video!

Videos are a good resource to learn from, even though I’m not a huge fan in general, but it’s important to keep in mind that thousands of other people are seeing the same video, and at least a few hundred will attempt the step-by-step.  It’s not a bad thing for practice, but don’t try to market off the results of watching that video.  As I already said, other people are posting the exact same thing!

The experience is valuable, but don’t forget that nothing is more valuable than finding your own way to learn what works and what doesn’t.

Progression

It’s so easy to get frustrated when a certain drawing just isn’t working out.  I used to get to the point where I’d erase so much that the grains of my paper would start to lift off the page, and then I’d give up because it would be a matter of redoing the entire thing at that point.

My first ever portrait.
My first ever portrait.

Sometimes it’s helpful to take a step back for a while and come back with fresh eyes.  It can be a difficult thing to do, especially when all you want is to get that drawing finished and showcased, but it’s totally necessary.  Why are those eyes not looking right?  What is going on with that mouth?  It kind of looks like who it’s supposed to… But something isn’t right!

The best way to figure out what’s going on is to simply stop looking at it.  Stop thinking about it.  Give it a break for a day or two, then go back to it.  Suddenly, it’s like everything that wasn’t working out has an obvious reason!

Second Attempt
Second Attempt

The biggest make it or break it parts of a portrait are on the face.  The facial shape can be a little bit off without huge detriment, even though it’ll never look quite right, but if the eyes, nose, mouth, or even eyebrows aren’t right, the entire face looks wrong!

 

 

 

 

Second Ever Portrait
Third Ever Portrait

That’s why it’s important to practice seeing.  It sounds funny, because for most people, we think that we’re seeing every day.  A person doesn’t realize how much is missed in every day life.  Since I started doing portraits, my entire view of the world has altered.  I’m cognizant of shadows, of the shape of a person’s nostrils, or how the light reflects in a person’s eyes.  When I watch movies, I see how the sweat moves on the actors’ faces and which areas of their faces shine the most.

Eventually, something just clicks, and it becomes a natural movement to put those observations into portraits.

Work in Progress
Work in Progress

Are the teeth perfectly aligned?  Where is the reflection in the eyes?  Can the nostrils be seen?  How does the light hit the hair?  It all becomes important.

 

 

 

 

 

wp-1451436949126.jpeg

Eventually it all comes together and starts to make sense.  There is nothing more important in a portrait than contrasts, and when the eye is able to see the contrasts without struggling, drawing becomes much easier.

Ink

imag0970_1.jpg

Ink can be a super cool medium for drawing and shading (we’re talking on paper here!), but it is a little bit more on the difficult side to use effectively.  It takes some practice to learn the proper pressure to apply, and how to avoid those awful gummy spots that ballpoint can leave behind.

Calligraphy is a popular art form all to itself, done using the type of tools photographed above.  I’m hoping to one day soon integrate ink art into my repertoire, because I believe that it brings a special kind of effect that can’t be achieved through any other medium.

What do you think of ink art?

Painting

I get asked all the I time if I plan to start painting, and the truth is that I have dabbled in painting. Admittedly, I would never attempt to market any of said paintings at this juncture, because I’m just not super great at it. Like all new skills, painting will take some time to master, if mastering is even possible. For now, I will comfort myself with the whole, “I did my best,” slogan.

image