Let’s talk about Art!
A beginner’s guide
By Sofia Dias
14 of January 2021
Let’s talk about Art!
A beginner’s guide
By Sofia Dias
14 of January 2021
Have you ever found yourself doodling absent minded in class or in one of those meetings that lasted just a bit longer that what you thought was necessary? Or were you fascinated with the breathtaking colors of last week’s sunset while everyone else in your family thought that it was just a pretty red color?
Well, then you might just have a creative inclination just waiting to be nurtured.
In this post you will find practical tips that will help you explore art and advance in your creative journey.
You will find information on art suppliers and materials, how to start drawing, find inspirational ideas and we’ve packed it with useful and interesting links that you can explore further.
And most of them are for free! Yay!
So What Is Art?
As Oxford dictionary puts it, art is
“…the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.”
No doubt art is an extensive subject with many definitions, but i think a good definition of art is that it’s simply a means for people of all cultures to communicate and share with one another either something they saw of something they feel.
Sharing and communicating are fundamental to our well being.
Brief Art Evolution
In the beginning… there was a need for people to communicate visually.
Starting with rock painting over 13 000 years ago (have a look at these rock paintings of Mammoths in France) art has been ever present in all ages and cultures.
From Egyptian hieroglyphs to elegant Greek art, the delicate Japanese painting and imposing Roman architecture like the Colosseum, or the Renaissance years which produced works of art that we admire still today, like the Sistine Chapel and the Mona Lisa.
In the more recent years artists started navigating from the realistic representation of nature and portraits to the sharing of emotions and ideas through different colors and techniques such as Surrealism and Impressionism and more recently abstract Expressionism.
Art is present in many areas, from painting to music, to architecture and fashion.
Some examples would be Hans Zimmer’s music which evokes strong emotions, the elegant Heydar Aliyev Center by Zaha Hadid, the rebellious street art of Bansky, William Turner’s ethereal landscapes, and Alexandre Mcqueen provocative designs.
Some of the techniques that you can experiment with and explore are painting, drawing, printmaking, sculpture, ceramics, photography, video, filmmaking, design, crafts, collage, paper art, origami, metal working, glass blowing, mosaics, wood working, ceramics, gold smithing, among others.
In this post i will focus on visual arts, specifically drawing and painting.
Couldn’t resist sharing one of Iris van Herpen's videos on organic shapes on the edge of innovation!
Can I Do It?
Many people think they cannot do art. They see the works of Picasso or Monet and think “no ways…”. But remember that art is just visual communication. Ever played Pictionary? Well then, you’ve started!
If art is something you discovered you like then all you need to do is improve your skill.
How Much Will It Cost?
It depends on the medium and how much you want to invest. Some materials are in fact very expensive, but you can start with basic and affordable materials. If drawing, choose graphite pencils or colored pencils. If painting, then choose acrylics, and if you like sculpture, then choose clay.
How Long Must I Train For?
Each person will have different time frames. The medium you choose will also be important in determining long it will take for you to produce a work you are happy with.
For example, if you choose to go the hyperrealism route, this will take some time. Just the works themselves take several hours to create due to the amount of detail required. 30 to 60 hours on a piece is very normal.
How awesome is this drawing?
If you choose a more surrealist approach, then less details are usually required but it may take you more time analysing if the work is conveying the message you wanted to communicate, since it’s more of a conceptual work.
That settled, I suggest that if you can give 2 hours a week to begin with, within a few weeks you will start to see a difference. You will feel less anxious and less frustrated, your lines will be straighter and more natural, your trees will start looking like more than a stump and your portraits will start being more proportionate.
Instead of making it a sprint think of it as a marathon (which is what it really is).
Keep your very first drawing and review it after 6 months and you will see how much you will have improved!
There are many materials you can work with but the below are the more common ones:
Acrylic, oils, crayons, pencils, soft and oil pastels, graphite, charcoal, water color.
You can mix them and create what is known as Mixed Media.
Gypsum, newspaper, and gold leaves are other materials that you can also incorporate in your works to produce very interesting textured results.
Working with the correct materials and equipment makes all the difference in the quality of the work you get. Trust me! When you’re trying for the nth time to get that shadow in the right way it really helps decrease the amount of frustration when working with good materials.
Here is a list of suppliers that I use on a regular basis.
Windsor & Newton – They have been around since 1832 and have a wide range of oils, water colors, brushes, canvas and more. They also have a very well made and detailed Masterclass videos of “How to’s” which you can view here
Caran d’ache – I use their color pencils. They also have water soluble pencils
Derwent – Their color pencils are soft and very nice to work with
Staedtler – I use their graphite pencils and rubbers. Just love it. Staedtler also has FIMO which is a modelling clay. If you’re interest in sculpture perhaps try starting with FIMO to get a feeling of how shapes work in 3D. For arts & crafts they have a leather effect clay that looks great!
Sakura – Micro Pigma pens. Excellent for more technical drawings or accents. They’re also available in a range of colors
Rotring – Excellent quality. I use their calligraphy and mechanical pens
Copic – With an extensive range of colors and excellent quality, they are great for sketches and presentations. They do bleed a bit into the other side of the paper though
I also use a Pentel clic eraser which is super handy for small details.
Canson – They have some of the best and biggest range of paper supplies available.
And Now Technology
For computer-generated work, here are the programs and websites I use on a regular basis:
Photoshop – the go to software for image manipulation. Its creative options truly are enormous. Another option is a program called Gimp which is free. Krita is also very good for illustration and is also free
Adobe color – very helpful to find and play with color combinations
Wacom – Excellent tool and essential for drawing in virtual format. Their drawing tablets are of very good quality. Ever tried to do a circle with a mouse? Then you know what I mean… A more affordable option is the Huion tablets which also have very good reviews
Procreate – Excellent tool. Available for iPad users
Canva – Great website with templates that range from T-shirt creation to Instagram posts. They have a free option as well as their Pro option where you can find templates, fonts and over 75 million stock photos! Yeah! Very useful and use it frequently!
Designspiration – Think Pinterest focused only on design and art. Happiness! And they have a really nice tool that allows you to search images by color! Love it!
Freepik – free vector images from borders to human figures
Domestika has a large selection of very good quality short courses ranging from photography to graphic design, or leather embossing techniques to window display. I definitely recommend them. They also have a course by Ji Lee who currently works as Instagram and Facebook’s Creative Director, which is inspiring and really worth having a look at.
Udemy has a good selection of short courses that include more technological areas such as Parametric geometry and the likes.
Sotheby’s Institute of Art also has very interesting offers with campus in London, New York and online.
Can I Make A Living With Art?
From architecture to book illustrations, from fashion journalism to web design, there are many professions that benefit from and require artistic sensibility and knowledge.
In this blog by Best Colleges Online you can find a list of the 10 highest paid art related jobs, with an estimate of income. This one by Lovetoknow also gives valuable information on the professional opportunities in which art is involved.
And If I Want To Go Pro?
There are several acclaimed art schools that you can attend to develop your artistic skills. And why not take summer classes in idyllic Europe, or an apprenticeship with renowned companies such as Louis Vuitton apprenticeships or Condé Nast training courses?
Art is also very “forgiving” in the sense that it is now mostly a way of conveying ideas and emotions. There are many courses available and you can learn and improve by yourself at your own pace.
Let's Get Cracking!
Where and how to start
There are so many options and ideas out there that it’s just overwhelming at times.
So, where to start?
The best place to start is with something you enjoy.
Choose a material you like (graphite, color pencils, etc) and then try to replicate a piece of work you like.
Just by the observation that replication requires, you will immediately start to become aware of different techniques and how they were applied by the artist to get a desired look. For example, the thickness of a line or the using of small strokes to create texture and patterns.
Another benefit is that once you’re finished you will have a piece that looks good (or at least ok…) and that you can feel some pride in. You can also use it to compare the differences between the two and see where you can improve.
Then, as you gain confidence, you can move on to more demanding works, like portraits or landscapes.
In terms of materials I suggest graphite or pencil colors. I’m bias towards graphite. Just love it. But if you want a bit of color, then try color pencils.
Most of us have played with them before (kindergarten memory lane…) and they’re an easy way to start exploring and trying color combinations and textures. They are also inexpensive and with a simple sheet of paper you can start creating new shapes and colors to start getting used to it. They’re also available in water soluble options so you can combine color pencils and water colors
Once you are more comfortable with it, then you can start investing in more expensive and technically advanced materials like oils and pastels.
And then practice, practice and practice.
Keep in mind that you are only beginning and that practicing will improve your skill continuously. So don’t lose heart and give up. Just be patient with yourself and with practice you will start seeing better work.
Easy Tips To Immediately Improve Your Drawing Skills
Replicate drawings – As discussed above, I find this to be very helpful to begin. Simply by observing and trying to replicate another work you get a load of information on how shapes work in 2D and how to represent them accurately. Ever tried to draw a foot and just couldn’t get it right? Replicating another drawing will give you an understanding of how to create the correct perspective in 2D.
Tracing – Yes, tracing. This may seem like a very non creative thing to do, but it’s a great and simple technique to improve your stroke and start getting used to making curved lines, shadowing and texturing. Think wax on, wax off from Karate Kid…
Create color comparison blocks – I find it a very useful exercise to create color comparison blocks to study how colors work (or not) together. It’s also good fun. AdobeColor can help you with mix and match of millions of colors.
I usually just get the pencils out and start drawing small blocks of color side by side. It really helps when creating a project. I also prefer pencils that are softer rather than hard as it creates a smoother effect and it feels better drawing.
Practice different textures – texture can make or break your painting. And it’s an essential technique in drawing. Practice your textures and line thicknesses. I really like to use graphite pencils for this as it gives me more control over the different lines. The tilt of the pencil will also help you create different thicknesses.
Great example of increased emotional charge in a drawing.
The addition of color, light and shadow create an impactful effect and help to point out certain areas of a scene like Catwoman in the above drawing.
Can you see the difference once light and shadow is added? In the color example the eye is first drawn to Batman and then the light pulls the eye down to Catwoman, thereby creating a forward movement in the story line.
The Beginning Of Your Journey...
So here it is. I hope this post has both inspired and given you practical guidelines on how to start your fulfilling creative journey.
Let us know should you have any queries and we’ll be happy to answer them.
And remember, follow the fun and enjoy yourself!
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Most of the products and sites indicated are some that i have personally worked with and am happy with. Some of the links lead to affiliate links and TTRG may earn a commission (at no extra cost to you).