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Drawing - Top 10 Mistakes Beginners Make

Tuesday February 25, 2014
Looking critically at your work can be very difficult for a beginner. Part of learning to draw is learning to see, and you can't identify a problem if you can't see it in the first place. So it can be hard to spot where you need to improve. You've also got every right to feel proud of each step along the way - we can be too hard on ourselves, especially if well-intended criticism dents our sense of achievement when we've worked hard on a piece. Remember that just because a drawing isn't perfect, doesn't mean that it isn't good - its possible to pick 'flaws' in even some very great artworks. Learning to assess your work with a realistic eye can help you make major strides forward. This article on the
Top Ten Mistakes Beginners Make in drawing points out the major problem areas and suggests how to fix them.

Now What? Developing your art beyond technique.

Tuesday February 25, 2014
Twenty years after art school, it's still possible to come across tips that are really quite 'basic' but that you haven't encountered before. We've always got room to improve, technically. But being an artist isn't just about technique, of course. We all know that, but sometimes in our quest for excellence, it's easy to forget. So what is basic technical mastery?

Knowing your technical ability is pretty straightforward. You know if you have a solid understanding of perspective. You can sketch something from life or imagination in a pretty good approximation of one or two point perspective. When drawing the figure, you aren't daunted by foreshortened limbs, and you are able to fit the whole figure on the page, with accurate proportions.

Your drawings use a good range of tonal value. Your darks are really dark, and you aren't afraid to use black. You use highlights appropriately and can get a good range of middle values out of your pencil or charcoal. If you choose to use a high key or a limited range of tone, it's through choice, not accident.You can draw most things from life, make a portrait look like the sitter, and draw any sort of texture with confidence.

Ok, so you've mastered basic technique, what else is there? Read More...

Inspiration Boards

Tuesday February 25, 2014
Have you ever made an inspiration board, vision board or mood board? The basic idea is to assemble inspiring images, texts and even objects - though each type of board has a slightly different intention. Chances are you already have a pinboard or wall where you're collecting your favorite images - most artists do! The deliberately constructed board just brings a level of intention to the creation of the pinboard or collage. Why not try assembling your own focused inspiration board to focus your creative ideas, motivate you, or share your vision. Make a Mood or Vision Board.

Image: detail from (cc) by Suzy Spence

While looking for good examples of vision boards, I discovered The Shopping Sherpa Flickr page from Kerry (whom I was delighted to discover hails from Canberra - a fellow Aussie!). I was gobsmacked by her fantastic miniatures, and the very interesting inch by inch project. But what I really loved was the insight into her creative process in her creative space tagged posts. Her workspace is just such a riot of creativity that it makes me want to dive in and make something! What am I doing at a computer! I should be creating!

While on the same quest for inspiration boards, I discovered the work of Marion Joy , whose blog is now a little neglected, but has many examples of 'drawing' with stitched line, and might be of interest to mixed media artists. Now I'm thinking of interesting possibilities for that unused canvas in my store closet!

A Fresh Canvas

Tuesday February 18, 2014
"There are some things one can only achieve by a deliberate leap in the opposite direction." - Franz Kafka

After 12 years writing and drawing the About.com Drawing/Sketching site, it's time for me to turn over a new leaf. To start a whole new book, in fact. So thank you, dear readers, for your company and kind words. It's been an honor to share your creative journeys.

I'd especially like to thank Forum moderator and website contributor Susan Tschantz, who has been an enduring rock, part of Drawing/Sketching from before I started writing the site. Do visit her Starrpoint Blog where she shares her creative thoughts and tutorials. I also enjoyed working with many wonderful guest artists, including regular contributing Artist, Shawn Encarnacion, syndicated cartoonist Ed Hall, cartoonist and teacher Steve Barr, and equine artist Janet Griffin Scott. My thanks also to my fellow Guides - now Experts - at About.com. You couldn't find a more supportive group of people, and I'll miss working with them. Behind the scenes we have an amazing team of editorial and support staff, to whom I am also indebted.

Please drop by and say hi anytime. Find me at my Facebook Page, Art and Psychology Twitter feeds, and Website.

My Favorite Drawing Lessons

Tuesday February 18, 2014
In 12 years of writing About Drawing/Sketching, I've created a lot of lessons, tutorials, reviews and blog entries. As I wrap up my time here at About.com, I wanted to take a look back at a few of my favorites.

First are my 'greenie' posts. Going forward, I hope to make environmental activism a much bigger part of my life, and some seeds are sown here.
Going Green
Sable Brushes
Paper and the Artist's Footprint

Sharing technique has been one of my favorite parts of writing the site. Inspiration is important, but you can't share that inspiration without good technical skills - and these are things you can learn. I've always loved drawing horses, so I'm particularly proud of this tutorial on How to Draw Horses which explains the thought process rather than just copying. I guess thinking about drawing must be a key theme for me - this tutorial on How to Draw Eyes also explores anatomy and approaches. Out of the step-by-step tutorials I've created, I think this one on Volume with Charcoal is one of my best.

Being an artist isn't easy, and it's made more difficult by some of the crazy myths that our culture has about what it means to be an artist. I address some of these in posts like Can I Be a Famous Artist? and Should I go to Art School?. In a complicated world, simplicity is key. Gather your ideas and find your voice.

It's pretty cool, looking through these pages and seeing just how much I've written. I think some of it's not too bad. I hope you might find some of these words and drawings helpful, and maybe even inspiring, as you develop your own art and creativity.

How to Draw Hearts

Tuesday February 11, 2014
an arrow through a heart


The foundation of a really nice looking heart is symmetry and balance - good proportion so that your heart looks rounded and even. From there, you can 'tweak' the shape to create an expressive form, or stick with the clean traditional style. Here's How to Draw a Heart and How to Draw an Arrow Through a Heart.

Draw a Manga Valentine

Tuesday February 11, 2014

Can't get out to stores due to flood or snow or summer heat or cyclone? Create a unique Valentine greeting for your beloved - draw this Manga Valentine's Day card.

You can print and color, trace, copy or use it as an example to do something really individual. Try drawing it digitally - or scanning your outline - and using a paint program to experiment with color. (and stay safe, everyone. )

Drawing on a Budget

Sunday February 9, 2014
Art supplies can be expensive, but fortunately drawing is one of those hobbies that doesn't have to blow the budget. Spending wisely can make it an affordable past-time, make it more rewarding if you are selling work, or let you justify that beautiful leather-bound sketchbook guilt-free. Find some tips on keeping your art supply expenses to a minimum in this article on Drawing on a Budget

Related Topics:
Creative Simplicity
Eco-Friendly Art Supplies
Sable Brushes - Not So Lovely
Recycled and Low Impact Paper

What's Your Artistic Brand?

Tuesday January 28, 2014
A toy sale catalogue arrived in our mailbox today, an I was struck by how everything is branded. You can't just buy a truck - you buy a Transformer. Hannah Montana beams out from kits of craft supplies and Dora the Explorer has her own toy video projector. Everything has some well-known face enhancing its desirability. Commercialism was even rearing its ugly head at the Sydney Aquarium, with 'Spongebob Squarepants' characters decorating the majority of the exhibits.

The problem is, however much we hate it - and most artists I know loathe marketing and would rather perish in obscurity than advertise - creating a viable career in the arts requires that you have a personal brand. This doesn't mean plastering a ritzy logo and flamboyant signature across ever piece you do. It means having consistency of style, a certain unity in your body of work, and something that sets it apart from the crowd. For most visual artists, this tends to happen organically. When your art is internally driven, there are themes and qualities that will keep appearing. It might be obvious, or it might be subtle, and it may well change over time, but if you look hard enough, there are connecting threads.

Lack of a recognizable 'brand' can be a real problem in a competitive marketplace. The value of an artist's work can be somewhat artificial and subject to fashion, as we know, but there's more to it than that. You don't want a potential buyer to look at a work and say 'Oh, I must get a colored pencil horse drawing too.' You want them to think, 'I need a piece by THAT artist.' If you're just another realist artist making generic copies of stock photos, what is there to set your work apart?

Why, for example, would you commission J.D. Hillberry over some other artist chosen at random from a Google search? He is renowned for his mastery of realism, but there are plenty of competent photo-realists around. There's a clue in his expert compositions, which aren't simple copies of photos. Most of his drawings have close-cropped composition and use a lot of white space to balance the intricately rendered textures. His trompe-l'oeil pieces have a unique combination of shallow-space illusion and quirky humor. His personality emerges in his work, even given its degree of precise realism.

Other artists have a notable sense of freedom in their work - vigorous mark-making, or sometimes a particular construction technique the gives a certain recognizable look and feel. Michael Hames uses a textured, painted support and retains much of his 'working drawing' within his realist work, giving it the energy and structure you can see in his wolf drawing

So what sets your work apart? If I browse through your online gallery, will I then recognize one of your drawings when I see it at an art show?

Check out some tips on Developing Your Personal Style from Marion Boddy-Evans.

Should You Go To Art School

Tuesday January 28, 2014
One comment or question that I often hear from readers is, "My friends say I'm a good artist. Do you think I should go to art school?" That's a huge question, and one I can't answer for you. Whether your friends are right or not, whether you are a good artist or not almost doesn't matter - art skills can be learned. If you can hold a pencil, you can learn to draw. The question is whether you have the mind and heart of an artist, and only you can know that. Here are a few things to think about in the process of deciding whether you should Go To Art School

Related Posts:
Is Art Your Life's Work?
Developing Your Work Beyond Technique
Jobs In Art

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