Alright, so you’ve got some pencils, maybe you even scribbled around on a few pieces of paper, wondering exactly what’s supposed to happen, maybe you have some ideas about what you’d like to express, but no idea how to `get it out`. Welcome to my world 🙂
When I started out I had some ideas, some big ideas, I wanted to make art that would impact people, that would change lives, art that would be compassionate and truthful and expressive and a lot of other stuff… then I sat down and tried to draw my first cube, and my dream of making soul-searching portraits was shattered.
So what can I say to someone who is just starting out?
As every beginner in art – you will be disappointed. If you’re not about 3 years old when you first read this, chances are that your critical thinking and your reading & writing skills are much more highly developed than your art skills, unless you’ve had special training, in which case you probably wouldn’t be here. So if you’re over the age of 3, have something to say or feel a particular way about the world, chances are you won’t have the sophistication of expression you want to convey your message. This will inevitably lead to frustration.
You’re in for the long-haul. Unless you want art to just be a hobby, then you’d better be prepared to spend day after day fighting off confusion and frustration to get to your goal, because drawing is like writing – first you have to learn your letters, then you need some words, then you can make some sentences. But if you want to write a novel, and each finished piece is the equivalent of a novel or a story, then you can see how much work needs to go into your studying. You are essentially trying to become an author in another language. Not just to speak the language, but to be an author in it, so just how you practised the stems of letters before you could even attempt a whole letter, this is how you’ll have to practice your straight lines, your ellipses, your cubes, your spheres, your cones, your cylinders.
Alright, you’ve been frustrated and you know this will take time… now what? Well, here are some general categories of things you’ll need to practice. This will more than likely need to have a separate post for each item on the list. First of all – your major categories of study will be Perspective, Form, Color & Design. For someone just starting out, don’t even worry about the latter 2, perspective and form will keep you busy for a long time, before you’re ready to increase the complexity of your work with color or design.
Some basic things that you might want to know as you’re just starting out, is that lines will more than likely not give you the result you’re looking for. If you’re trying to represent reality, then you need to think of lines as maps. Lines define where forms will go, but lines will not give you the effect of volume, you will not be able to, for instance, make a realistic portrait with just lines, you will have to use shading or values, which are tones, shades of gray. If you look at the image at the top of this post, you can see that the lines give you an effective map of where everything will be, but they don’t have the same feeling as the picture on the right. The effect of volume is achieved by using gradations of tone, patches of color, darker and lighter.
Where I would suggest you begin your journey is with some line drawings. Try to become as accurate as possible. This accuracy will serve you throughout your whole art career. There is nothing that you will be representing that does not require accuracy. And if you’re unable to produce the map for something, chances are your final result will be distorted or different from the object being copied. An example of why accuracy is important is if you look at the picture on top again, you’ll see that it’s not quite the same as the photo on the right. The nose is larger, the whole face is bigger, if you began to paint now, your final would not look like the photo. But that’s ok. This is how we practice and learn. We don’t care about the finished product yet, we’re writing our alphabet. So try out some simple objects first before moving into something like portraits or this head.Try items with many corners, these are easy to measure and to see if you’re accurate or off. Try out some boxes around your house – see how the corners align and try to reproduce that. If it’s too difficult take a photo and look at the photo, chances are it’ll be easier for you to see the object correctly when it’s flattened on the picture plane. Once your accuracy is satisfactory, then you can try some tone, reproducing the brightness of an object. But that’ll have to go in another post… this should keep you busy for at least a month or two.
Good luck! 🙂