How to Art!

Learning art can seem intimidating sometimes but trust me, the journey isn’t as hard as it seems. The benefits of developing a creative hobby greatly justify the time and effort it takes to learn it. Making art, or creating anything is known to be therapeutic and meditative. It engages the mind and body, giving diction to a different kind of communication. If you need to relieve some stress, express yourself or just need a few colors in your life, learning art may be the perfect thing.

Edvard Munch’s The Scream

Exploring art outside formal schooling gives you a chance to develop a style that is truly your own. Perfectionism isn’t a concept applied to art, beauty is subjective, it can’t be formulated. Besides, as Bob Ross says, “There aren’t mistakes, just happy little accidents”. With a lot of practice a little help from the internet and good ole conviction. You can be just as great as the masters. So here are a few pointers to help you get started.

Building a Habit

It is important to allot some time on a near daily basis to create. One thing most people misinterpret about practice is that you have to construct a well thought out piece every sitting. Building a habit for making art is a lot less terrifying than it sounds, it essentially is just allowing yourself some amount of artistic activity in your daily routine. They can be doodles, figure exercises or even just playing around with your favorite medium; it’s more about ensuring you build a consistent process to keep your art muscle exercised.

Start with 15 minutes a day and build on your time. Make sure you have a minimum time allotted at a consistent frequency and stick to it.

Check out this video by Kesh – an Indian, Chennai based YouTube artist who took up the challenge of drawing for 6 minutes every day. His philosophy – make the challenge so simple that you can’t even make up an excuse to yourself.

Where to Start

Inspiration is the starting line. To some it can be other art, to others; it’s just a will to create and express. But inspiration isn’t always there, be it seasoned artist or beginners, the question ‘what to draw’ will eventually haunt you.

Selecting a Subject

Still Life: set up objects and try to replicate them. Easiest – round fruits and bottles, hardest – fabric. A good method is to break your objects down to their basic shapes and build from there.

Anatomy: take references from magazines, movie stills or observe people around you. You can range from details sketches of poses or simple action figures.

Andrew Loomis’s ball and plane method of drawing is still one of the most widely used for drawing anatomy. My Drawing Tutorials does a small series on how to implement the Loomis method and drawing heads in various poses.

Landscape/Scenery: we’ve all drawn ‘landscapes’ in school. Two mountains, the sun in the middle and some trees on the side, so why not take it up a notch? Add detail or only observe the colors, sketch from a reference or paint from real life.

Abstract: make free forms, geometric shapes or paint splatters on paper & canvas. An interesting feature about Abstract Art is the lack of rules. Take advantage of this and find a new way to express yourself.

Study: find an accomplished artist or a ‘master’ you’d like to learn from. Replicate artworks in whole or in parts. For example; if you’d like to build on how to draw eyes in different styles, copy a pair of eyes from different sources; or pick an art piece as a whole to study its style and elements of construction.

Select a Style: Realistic, stylized, cartoon, anime or your very own? As an absolute beginner I would recommend a realistic style. Understanding a subject in its natural form helps you visualize into other artistic translations. 

Pay Attention to the Elements: this is particular to practice, specially if you are trying to improve on your ability to render a figure. The four essential focus points would be Form, Proportion, Detail and Lighting. Ask yourself: Does your work have the right ratio between individual elements? Have you replicated the details? Is your light source consistent through the entire piece? Depending on the depth and style of your work certain elements may be altered, but as a general rule, pay attention.

The (American) National Gallery of Art has some great resources regarding the elements of art, among other things. You can find the link Here.

Selecting a Medium

Pencils and pen are a traditional artist’s best friends, being open to trying out new materials – could help you discover and sometimes create your personal style of art. So, experiment every chance you get! And YES, Digital Art also counts.

Remember, paper is media too, pick the right kind, based on your medium for a better finish to your work.

Gathering Resources

Building a visual reference library is important – gather all references you use on a digital or in print if possible. HOWEVER; building a mental reference library is just as important. Make it a habit to notice small details when you look at things, how light falls on it, what the proportions are in different perspectives, observable textures etc. As a self-taught artist, I can guarantee the more you draw, the more this becomes a natural habit, but you do need to jump-start it with a little mindful observation. 

Reference Resources: Sites like Skillshare allow you to take up classes from different artists, giving you access to a variety of styles, concepts and inspiration; others include YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, Magazines, and traditional drawing books.

I personally find sketchbook pages / sketchbook tour videos quite useful since they give you an insight to the creating process of the artist. The older the sketchbook, the more of the artist’s progress you’ll witness, and hopefully be inspired by. This sketchbook video belongs to Rin -creator of DrawingWiffWaffles, one of my favorite YouTube artist.

Building a Portfolio

PSA. DATE, SIGN AND STORE all your work. You’d want to re-visit your progress someday just to see how far you have come, and even revisit some ideas that you are now better equipped to render. Every scribble is a step toward improving and therefore important.

Storing Online

Digital Galleries: Behance, Dribble, Art Station, Deviant Art; all offer galleries online merged with a community of artist. You can not only showcase your own work but visit other artists, projects and create a network or collaborations. These galleries also offer sponsored competitions which give you a chance to win products, cash and bragging rights. 

Websites: Many sites offer free / paid blogs with galleries. You can make use of a suitable theme and upload your work to a blog site such as WordPress or Squarespace. If you’re interested in a personalized URL, you could purchase a domain with these sites. 

Cloud Storage: A more minimal, maintenance-free approach to keeping a portfolio in hand would be to upload it to a cloud storage. Create a basic PDF, limit your file size or break your portfolio down into sections, just to make downloading/uploading easier.

Social Media: Instagram / Facebook / Pinterest – while social media can get you publicity traction for your work, there are two disadvantages. One – your account is governed by community guidelines differently on different platforms. One misstep on your part or a technical glitch at the site’s end may cause irrecoverable data loss. Two – it isn’t professional. Asking a potential employer to check out your Instagram might not be the best idea. A well curated portfolio PDF file or hard copy would make a better, more serious impression. 

Care for Art

Your final traditional art pieces need to be shown a little love if you want them to last, and each medium has a different maintenance requirements. Some media don’t respond well to stressed temperatures, some are affected by humidity or light. A simple way to store small to medium pieces is to place them in plastic folders and store in a cool dry, dark place. Still, do a little research if you want to store your work for a long while, specially if you use complicated mediums.

I hope this post inspires you to pick up a pencil and scribble your way into a little bliss. If you like our content, do let us know. Do you want to see something particular? Tell us in the comments below!

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