Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Advice for Aspiring Artists Pt. 3

And now for the dramatic conclusion to the epic trilogy. Heroes will rise, bad habits will fall, in this last chapter we'll discuss how to focus your efforts and learn the most and improve quickly with your studies. If you missed them, click these links for Part One and Part Two. And now for...

WISDOM NUMBER THREE!!! Work smart and leave your comfort zone. This part is my qualifier for art school, tutorials, and educational resources in general, because they can be good, but only if you make them good. Once you've gotten in to the habit of drawing consistently, it's important to start being mindful of what you're drawing, how you're drawing it, and why you're drawing it. A key ingredient of success is hard work, but if that work isn't purposeful it might not move you along very quickly. For a highly nerdy analogy, think about a video game; generally speaking a player with the strongest weapon or the largest army is going to have a serious advantage and likely to win the game, but if that player just goes around attacking things at random then a smarter player with fewer resources has a good chance to win the game. It takes not only resources and dedication, but also a little bit of strategy.

To translate that to art, if you're drawing all day every day but only draw the same front-view character that you've drawn a million times already, chances are you won't learn too much. Sure over time that character will start to look pretty awesome because you've ironed out so many mistakes, but what happens when you're called upon to do something else? To be a successful artist you must be a master of principles that can be applied to any situation; if you just follow the same 3-step formula every time you're not going to be able to deliver when an art director asks you for something you've never drawn before.

Now the problem here is that there are different ways to draw the same thing, and a lot of the times beginners will practice, but they do so in a way that doesn't strategically help them with their immediate needs. For example, if you go on any art forum ever and ask for advice, I guarantee you someone will drop this bomb:
COPY BRIDGMAN!!! and the crowd goes wild! And I can tell you that I've seen a lot of sketchbooks with pages and pages and pages of Bridgman copies that the artist learned absolutely nothing from, mine included. But why? How can this be? Because it is copied with the wrong things in mind; people open their book, grab their pencils, then start copying angles, try to get the same texture as him, draw fun swoopy lines, and notice that he has a little zig-zag shading and they completely miss the point. They are copying Bridgman by observation, not realizing that he's meant to be copied by construction; not by using the same angles, but by understanding that all his drawings are forms: cubes, spheres, cylinders, and cones that are welded together to form 3d representations. Now, if you copy Bridgman with the mindset of form and perspective, you're going to learn a whole different ball game, and odds are your figure drawing is going to jump 10 levels in the coming months because you're not not just drawing lines on a page, but you're learning to create 3D space on a 2D surface.

Because of these dangers, you must seek out good information to help you in your quest. If you're trying to walk to a store, you can walk up and down every street until you find it and you'll eventually get there, but it's easier if you just get directions beforehand and go straight there. Similarly, you'll improve faster if you seek out quality information and use it as a compass for your artistic journey. Now don't get me wrong, because that does NOT mean finding a magical figure drawing tutorial that instantly makes you great. Rather, use your good judgment to analyze whether or not the information you're ingesting is actually educational or if it's simply fun to watch. A big one here is time-lapsed speedpaint videos; digital art is great, but these videos are the bane of beginning artists of today, because they leave people with the impression that if you just use texture brushes you should be able to create awesome art in 20 minutes. But what people miss is that the artists who can actually do that have such strong foundational skills that they're able to condense the massive amounts of information they have in their mind in to a few simple brush strokes. You can watch 10,000 speedpaint videos and download all the custom brushes in the world, but you will never learn as much from that as you will from a solid lecture about vanishing points and how to place cubes in perspective.

And lastly on a similar note always remember that you have to have the courage to leave your comfort zone. You improve by doing the things that cause you trouble; so if you have trouble with drawing dynamic figures in crazy perspective, don't try and sneak your way around it and always draw the same one point perspective and hope no one notices. Rather than shirking and avoiding, charge that shizz like a bull and just get it done and get it out of the way. If you can draw great figures from photos but as soon as you try to draw from your head it falls apart, the solution probably isn't to keep drawing figures from photos. Take off the training wheels, put on your helmet and ride. You will fall down, scrape your knee, try not to cry, cry a lot, but then you'll get over it and try again and eventually you'll figure it out, and once you do it will never cause you problems again. You don't want to be 30 years old still riding a bike with training wheels because you're just not sure if you're good enough to ride without them. Of course you're not good enough, that's why you need to take them off and fail a few times, because ultimately that is how we learn.

I hope this series has been useful to you, I'd like to do more things like this in the future, perhaps weekly and with some better editing and presentation, so if there's something you're hungry for feel free to suggest it. Beyond that, keep drawing, don't give up on your dreams, and go kick some ass! :)

Monday, June 10, 2013

Advice for Aspiring Artists Pt. 2

Here's the continuation of yesterday's journal discussing the importance of hard work. If you missed it, click here!
In part two I'm gonna talk about one of the biggest roadblocks I hear from artists who are having difficulty getting in to good study habits, so without further ado...

WISDOM NUMBER TWO!! Don't wait for perfect weather and stop making excuses. So often I hear things like "I don't want to waste paper" or "I don't know what to draw" or "I haven't found a good tutorial" or "I don't want to study perspective" or any number of things along those lines. I'll be blunt and just put the answer out there now: get over it. If you want to be an artist, you have to do the work, end of story. And with all the time you've spent thinking, wondering, being uncertain, and searching for that magical art secret of power, you could have filled 10 pages in your sketchbook today and increased your skill by an exponential amount.

Paper is not "wasted" by being filled with bad drawings, that's what it was made to be filled with. In fact, what even is a "bad" drawing? One of the literal definitions of the word bad is "Not working properly", something that's not fulfilling its purpose. Well, if you're drawing in your sketchbook with the goal of improving, is a "bad" drawing a drawing that doesn't look like Rembrandt drew it? Or is a "bad" drawing something that didn't teach you anything, because that was your goal in the first place? If you fill an entire sketchbook with drawings you couldn't pay people to hang on their walls, but you learned from it and are now a better artist, then you have a sketchbook of very good drawings!

As for not knowing what you should draw, it's a lot easier than you think. Look around your room and draw the 3rd thing you see; spending 30 minutes drawing a stupid sock will increase your skills much more than scrolling through 80 different tumblrs for 3 hours trying to find the perfect, quintessential reference to draw from. If you run out of socks to draw, then be a little more thoughtful and try to analyze weaknesses in your work. Do you have trouble with hands? Draw your own hands, google image search hands and draw the first 50 results (50?!?! Remember the hard work part?). Like I mentioned in part one, having great resources and a meticulously planned curriculum does help, but if you don't have that then don't let it hold you back from drawing. Drawing something for 30 minutes a day is far better than trying to decide what to draw all day and never actually drawing.

Now for something a little tougher to digest, which is that you must be self-disciplined enough to study all aspects of art. If you don't want to put in the effort to study "boring" subjects like perspective, anatomy, color theory, etc. then I guess you don't care enough to become a great artist, because those are the prerequisites. These things are the push-ups you do before you enter the boxing ring; they're boring and repetitive, but you do NOT want to go in to the ring without having done them.

And lastly as far "I don't have time to study." goes... Well, simply put if you don't have time to study, you don't have time for success; and how much time do you spend on facebook each day? Watching TV? Playing video games? If you spent just one tiny hour (about 1/16th of your waking consciousness) every single day studying and drawing, you would progress faster than 80% of other people claiming they want to be a professional artist someday. Also remember that consistency is as important, maybe more important, than quantity; drawing for an hour a day every day is far better than drawing for one 8 hour stretch once a week.

I know this part probably comes off as a little rude and blunt, and it is, but remember this: Firstly, I'm not judging anyone; this journal is for me as much as it is for anyone else, I need to get my arse in gear and get disciplined too, so don't hear this as the criticism of the high and mighty. Secondly is that I think a lot of beginners need a reality check when it comes to art; it's become a very flowery discipline where everything you do is awesome and all your relatives think you're just the greatest, but the cold, hard truth of it is that it's hard and it takes a lot of work. If you really truly want to master it, you'll have to steel yourself against all excuses and get started immediately. Heck, if you want to prove your dedication, close your browser right now and draw for a solid 2 hours, you'll be glad you did.

More tomorrow in part three. :)

And some more studies, too:

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Advice for Aspiring Artists Pt. 1

So this has been on my mind a bit lately and I was just struck with the sudden urge to write about it. It's a bit long so I've broken it in to three parts, but if you're a beginning artist I would recommend reading through it, it might just get you aimed in the right direction. :)

This started a couple days ago when I was trolling facebook and someone had posted some artwork, and one of the comments was something along the lines of "Nice! What tutorial did you use for this?" which prompted an immediate and violent facedesk on my part. I hear things like this all the time and would like to help dispel some myths about learning art; so after 9 years of drawing and 3 years of hardcore education and study, here's what I've learned about how to get better at art:

WISDOM NUMBER ONE! Getting better demands consistent, hard work. That's it. That's the magical secret that great artists never seem to get to in their tutorials; it's that one pivotal thing that makes the difference between us and our heroes when we're using the same brushes and layer modes as they are. Having good tools helps, having education helps, having good peers and a mentor for advice helps, good tutorials help, good books help, good gnomon DVDs and classes and reading inspirational blogs helps... but all of that is multiplied by your own hard work and no matter how big the number is, if you multiply it by zero the results will be zero. The person who has all the best resources in the world and puts in half effort will pale in comparison to the person who doesn't always know what to do but does everything with complete dedication.

The reason I say this is because I think the #1 thing that holds beginning and intermediate artists back is that they spend all their time constantly searching for something that just isn't there. No one ever got wealthy by finding a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, and no one ever got good at art because they finally found the right brush, the right technique, the right program, the right video tutorial. There are a lot of great artists out there, a lot have gone to art school, a lot of them haven't, but the one thing that they ALL have in common is this: they have a shelf of filled-up sketchbooks, a closet full of painted-on canvases, and a hard drive full of psds. You know what else that have in common? Is that 80% of those sketchbooks, canvases and psds are really, really bad. But because they got all those terrible drawings out of their own brain and safely locked away between front and back covers, they are now free to create all the things they've been dreaming of all these years. Not that art is now easy for them or they never make bad drawings, but they've learned how to push through that and find the great drawing a few steps ahead.

Now comes the preachy part, which is that if you too want to get on the road to becoming a great artist, you (and me too!) will have to stop procrastinating, stop trying to find the perfect tutorial, and start filling your own sketchbooks, painting on your own canvases, and crowding up your own hard drive. Great artists are the artists who draw all the time; it's about that simple, so if this is a goal you want to achieve, start setting aside time every single day to study and draw; you'll be amazed at how much progress you can make in a month.

More in part two tomorrow. :)

And also some studies I did yesterday: