Wednesday, February 03, 2010

6 Things You Can Do Today To Improve Your Art/Drawing

Sick as a dog today. This is my 3rd illness in 2 months. Yeah need to take vitamin C!

It was pointed out to me that I've become a cranky mother f'er in my old age and I am less than helpful with my advice for younger artists. In the spirit of that I wrote a list of 6 things you can do to improve your art/drawings. A little disclaimer. I'm not a master artist. I've never claimed to be. These tips are
for you to either use or not. They are not the gospel just some tools I've picked up over time. They are made for artists that are just beginning that need a little practical knowledge. Some will take more than a day to master but everyday is a new opportunity to learn.

Use as you see fit.


6. Always Flip Your Drawings.
We have some quirk in our brain that corrects what we see when we draw. If you turn your paper over and look at it on light box or against a window you will notice how off eye lines and perspective in terms of anatomy and environment are. With a few simple corrections on the back of the paper (use a colored pencil it helps you see it better from the other side.) you can flip your page over straighten things out and improve your draftsmanship by leaps and bounds. This is important because as you practice this technique on a subconscious level you begin to see the draftsmanship errors in your work sooner and it improves your inner artistic eye. A must for serious drawers.

 5. Draw With A Ballpoint Pen.
This may sound strange but filling up a sketchbook with ballpoint pen sketches is a fun and easy way to improve your decision making skills as well as refine your hand eye drawing ability. With a pencil we have a tendency to draw multiple line with the intent of erasing and refining them later. With a pen you are forced to make a choice. This will get your observation skills (when drawing that cute boy or girl at Starbucks) in line with your hand coordination. In time this will improve the line quality of your pencil work and speed up your drawing process.

4. Use Reference When Possible.
This should be something every artist does but for some reason it got a bad rap over the years. If you need a specific object let's say a building or a car or a gun go take a picture of it. If you can't take a picture go to the library and get a book about it. If you can't find the book go on the Internet. If you can't find it on the Internet go to Google and download the free simple to use  3d program and build it.  Either way the time you spend referencing the real world object will improve the authenticity of your work. A byproduct is that it will eventually speed you up as you collect more and more reference. Which leads me to...

 3. Create A Morgue File.
All great Illustrators have a reference library. In the past it was called a morgue file. This came from both the newspaper business and through that I believe the term floated to spot/commercial Illustrators and became the name for the reference library In reality the morgue file is a drawer or file cabinet that holds any reference you may need for your artwork. The morgue file is important because it's more than just shots of cars and buildings.  It's your inspiration place. Anything you find in the world that may be of use to you in your art should go in the morgue file. Everything from colors on a napkin to photos ripped from magazines. In fact I recommend trying to collect imagery that is far removed from your own style. It will help you bring fresh ideas into your work. Keeping it organized is great but not essential. I've seen it work both ways.

I keep a file on my desktop called "Son of Crap." It houses random imagery I get from the internet. When I'm tired of my own work I'll drag and drop it into Preview and just sit back and watch lot's interesting images float across the screen. It never fails. Watching all that interesting material leads me to new ideas and get's me revved up to do art again.

The process of creating your morgue file will work two fold. You will expose yourself to new material and you will have a treasure trove of visual material to pull from for reference or inspiration. In turn this will improve your art.

 2. Paint in Grayscale.
When learning to paint there is often a panic about what color to use and how to mix colors. Great paintings are not really about color they are about contrast and the illusion of depth. How do you get depth? Work on refining your sense of shape and tone in gray first. By separating the process you can work out the draftsmanship and depth and than add color to it. This works especially well in digital painting. I always keep an adjustment layer that will turn the piece gray so I can see if the contrast and depth are working. Makes refining your piece easy and keeps you from over painting the highlights.

1. Draw From Life.
This one never gets old. It's been said a million times but I'll say it once more. Draw from life because even if you are a hardcore Mangaka or a Funny Animal artist the illusion of life we
create has to come from some inner reference model or pictures we can reference as we draw. When you draw from life your brain begins to pick up on the subtle bits of information that when put together will inform your artwork and make in convincing in the minds of the viewer. Take life drawing classes or take pictures with your camera phone so you can draw them later. Draw on the bus or at the coffee shop but keep building that reference model in your head. Draw dogs and humans and buildings whatever you see draw it because you never know when you will need to recreate what you've seen in some form in your artistic work. If you are home watching TV draw your living room. Draw a stack of books. Refining your artistic mind is a life long endeavor. Draw it with a ballpoint pen and you will really be smoke'n.


I hope that helps. If you have any questions feel free to drop them in the comments section.

Good luck and good art.

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