Hello everyone, I am back for another long rant, this time to answer questions I get often: Do you have tips so I can improve? How did you get so good? How can I find a style? I am starting out, what is my life?? What iS YOUR LIFE??
I'll be answering these vinegar chip fueled essay rant style, so I'll bold the important bits if you just want to skim read ok! I'll be talking about my own personal experience with improvement and style aswell as how i started out as a beginner, then I'll move on to some general things about the subject. That being said, 2/3rds of this is about my experience, because I have more to say about that since well. FIRST HAND EXPERIENCE!... Umm small text to compact it mor but zoom in if its too small LOL
I. PERSONAL EXPERIENCE 1. Method and entourage a. Attitude b. Studies
c. Entourage 2. Influences and inspiration 3. Why? goals II.TIPS FOR BEGINNERS III. IMPROVEMENT TIPS IV. STYLE BUILDING V. FINAL NOTES
I. PERSONAL EXPERIENCE
1. Method and entourage
I got this question a few days ago on DA with a lovely user; "What explains your progression of style and your improvement?" - a question I have gotten several times from various people over time, but probably not as well phrased as that. There are many things suggested to me as answers - years and years of hard work and practice; dedicated studying from anatomy studies to color theory; being a master in the practice of realism; frankensteining like a pro; going to the correct art school; having a big crowd of art friends to have fun with; referencing other great artists and emulating their work.... The answer is, well, pretty much none of that, with a few exceptions. NOW this does not mean the things listed above are terrible ways to go around improving. No I just mean that that is not how I have done things. I am going to cover a few of the mentioned things above in order to explain my methods when it comes to improving and style building etc.
I have drawn for over 5-6 years now, and have progressed from this beautiful mess to well, my current messes. 5 years seems like a pretty long time to me, but to others 5 years is nothing. The point is, time doesnt really matter here. I remember when I was 13 I would look at pics on the internet and be like, "why am i so shit" and well, the reason was cause I just was and that is how things were. At 13, I guess you - or I was, atleast - are somewhat naive and do not think that much for yourself, so my methods in improvement went along the lines of whatever I read on the internets. Tutorials, challenges and rigorous goals of the likes of "one full drawing per day" or "draw one new thing every day" or "100 themes challenge" - you know the deal. This is kinda shit. Not because of what it WAS, but rather it was something that was not adapted... to me. I didnt really get much improvement from that. It was only later on, near 15ish, when I kinda just dropped all that shit and was like you know what, I am a lazy piece of shit and that is ok.
To answer the question this opened with, I think my attitude towards art as a whole is what allowed me to improve in the way I did. I drew what I wanted, when I wanted (even commissions - more on that later), and did not force myself into constant practice. I did not put pressure to improve on myself, nor did I bother myself with generally accepted things artists should strive for that I knew did not really matter to me (that is, having the ability to draw everything, being able to draw x or x thing, etc). I think some people would call that a comfort zone but I see it as a more person thing? When someone goes into a supermarket and buys certain things instead of the other, they'd either be sticking to a routine due to fear of trying new things (Comfort zone), or they just really know what they want. Right? I think I just really know what I want. Feel free to disagree with me tho. My mind functions, art wise, with the "I wanna do what I want, and if I care for it the rest will come later because I can do it anway". Just ASSUMING that if anything crosses my interest, I will learn how to do it. Which is true! I do. However to the exterior eye, it might not seem like that. But the exterior eye's opinion doesnt really matter if they dont actually know what's going on right? Moving on
Being the lazy person that I am, I never was big on doing studies like life drawing, learning color theory, all those things youre meant to do as an artist I guess. Sometimes I like doing a study of a picture I like, but I think that is maybe once or twice per year. I'm not against it, it just doesnt help me much. I am someone who takes things in visually and reflects on it.. rather than physically working it out? I like to think that my improvements would come from a mix of a percieved ideal and a lot of observing and stitching things together mentally. This is ofcourse, not only for art, but for other things aswell - at school, it was a lot of the same thing; rigorous studying wasnt really my thing, but listening and reflecting in the bus was instead. Adding to that, following tutorials probably helped me as much as sprinkling a few drops of water in the desert helps a forest grow. Following up on that studying thing, or comfort zone thing, I hear REALISM being screamed at me. Simply put, I am not that good at realism, nor does it interest me, and like I said above - if I am not interested, I am not going to waste my time on it. However processing things you see IRL is different to drawing realism, and the first is something that is.. pretty much essential in drawing. I think people take that "you need to know how to draw realism / properly / etc before stylizing" too literally.
I would replace all of that with a huge emphasis on my own experimentation on whatever program I was on, or whatever process I was currently using. I remember really strongly little "clicks" - where I would do something and it would just CLICK and I would follow it all the way, rework and refine something for months (something being, a process or techinique, not a piece of work LOL) - until the next click. etc.
Things that were also mentioned were art school or art friends - general entourage, which I think can be totally great or totally shit. I have never been to art school prior to uni - I spent my years studying literature instead! It was great. I dont regret it. I went to an art school last year (UCA Canterbury) and I can swear on my favourite pair of shoes that, by my experience of art school, they had no part in my artistic progress whatsoever, apart from the fact it made me realise I was much smarter than most the people there, and thus began focusing on developing my own reflection a lot more. Hence why I have come to the point where I write literal essays about my life and artistic things. I did not personally grow from art school. Point. As for art friends - I had none really with me! And the ones I met at uni, hahahahhahahahahaha. /evil glares. HOWEVER I am aboarding this subject still because IT IS TRUE just not irl. I spent a lot of my years on a forum called GASR, which people on IMVU may know to be the graphics art subforum. I actually started arting a lot more by EDITING AVATARS there, can u believe. I have mentioned before, I am a lazy person. Nothing really pushes me to work... apart from maybe cute clothes (virtual or not). Commissions pushed me to work myself so much. Gotta own those cute things. THAT BEING SAID, like i mentioned previously, I am only did what I wanted, and I still do. So I was and am pretty picky with commissions. I am not someone to bore myself for cute shoes, if that was the case I'd be working at mcdonalds and making more money. But I dont because I value what I do because it gives me something more personal than Mcdonalds cannot give me. Anyway. Said forum (which I am still in, btw), surrounded me with lots of artsy people that I got along with sometimes not, sometimes well, but it definitely spurred me on and I do really think it has a great part in my progress.
2. Influences and inspiration
On more of a style progression thing. A lot of kids, young and starting out, they draw what they want to draw instead of what they see. Like, you draw like how your fav artist does. I was like that!!! One of the artists I copied was tagl on DA (which you might have noticed in that previous art thing I linked!) - I think the difference in my case was that I always got bored of trying to do something like someone else after 1-2 weeks time and just went back to drawing things "by default", like how I did without anything to look at (which I must say, remained very animu aswell). THAT IS TO SAY, it is ok to do that... but you must move on and grow into your own person at some point. This is why the thing mentioned above, frankensteining, I dont consider it a good way as to build your own style. Since when did people's art become some kind of self service buffet?? you know, pick the things you like, ditch the rest, make your own meal and be happy about how you're such a great chef? Like, pleaseeee. (more on that later.). I am a stubbornly independant person and thus my art and its style grew in a way kinda seperate from direct artist influences. INSTEAD, other things came to influence me - which brings me to answer another frequent question I get: "What are your own influences? What inspires you?"
Well?? What does?? I rarely get inspired by other artwork. It's like how I wish I could be physically attracted to girls, but I only hold great appreciation for them. I wish I could be inspired by artwork more often but man, apart from really liking some things, generally I dont. I tell you what though, instead, it must be fashion and clothes that really make me roll - street fashion, haute couture; ahh. There is nothing greater than drawing cute clothes. I get particularily inspired while cooking, if that is a thing. You can check out my tumblr inspiration tag to see what I mean though (not for the cooking part)
As it is for inspiration, Street + fashion stuff is a big influence on me artwise too. I am someone who adores pretty, intricate and detailed things, especially ornate things, so all those kinda of ornate.. architectural details and the like, i think, also count. BUT YOU KNOW WHAT, there are also some artists whose works, I think, have influenced me in one way or another, and these are always the three artists I cite but; Alphonse Mucha; Brian Viveros; Michael Hussar. Mostly the first one. Weoo! Some people have told me that my art really reflects who I am and what my interests and likes are, and I really think that is what I want my art to be for me.
3. Why? goals
This is basically to say like... it doesnt what others think really. I mean it is great people like what you do, but when something is meant mostly for you, I dunno why people feel so entitled to tell you what you should be doing, and then tell you you cant take critique when you tell them you have no intention of doing what they want you to do. But it's ok? But at the same time I wish for people to understand that if you really feel so entitled as to want something from someone's art, why not just do it yourself? Adding to that, I do really think that one should always just assume people do certain things for reasons you may not know, and to not just assume the opposite (in which you know everything including what is right and wrong for them). It reminds me of a tumblr anon I got once telling me I never added emotion or message to my art and it remained "Just pretty", and that it was disappointing. But oddly enough that is exactly what I want to do, so it only disappoints them? Emotion and message in my own art speaks to me and I do not want it to speak to anyone else, and on another level, I am pretty much really satisfied with my art being just pretty. But why does it matter? so this is why I included this third section, just to remind you all to think a bit before you say something about someone's art, thinking you know best for them. Even if it's out of good will! I mean it is appreciated but if everyone did what others wanted them to do, where would we be now. Just like people grow in different ways, people grow for different reasons and goals, and that's okay.
II.TIPS FOR BEGINNERS
I know I just wrote an essay about my own progression and shit but the thing is, NOT EVERYONE WORKS THE SAME WAY. I think that is important to remember, especially when you're starting out. A habit people have told me numerous times on both DA and other places is that they seem to compare a lot. If you are prone to getting upset and demotivated when comparing yourself to someone else or their art or anything else, tell yourself STOP. Whenever you catch yourself doing it, say STOP. Because it really doesnt even make sense aswell. There is so much going on in you, and in whoever you are comparing with, you can hardly begin to find an equal ground to compare yourselves. So the result is always kinda biased to what you know right? And if your mindset is, "I am terrible and they are great" due to not acknowledging the differences between you two; then no wonder you will fall on such conclusion. So try to tell yourself instead that you are doing fine and have the potential to do great things and to carry on on your own, instead of pedestalling others and bringing yourself down!
Now on starting, starting, a lot of people have expressed just a ... a lack of understanding whatsoever as to how to start, how to practice, how to know they are doing things, etc. I think that is probably due to pressure put on themselves by wanting to do everything the right way, perfectly, straight off the bat. Like I said above, there is no real RIGHT way. There are wrong ways like.... tracing, entirely adopting someone else's style, stealing - but that is pretty obvious right. The thing I would recommend to people in this situation is to just draw what you want. FOR YOU. You dont even need to post it anywhere or anything if it gives you pressure. just like. Sit down and doodle on paper, see what comes out of it. Dont think "how do i doodle", stop thinking that. just try and see what comes out naturally, what do you enjoy doing, etc. Pick up on things that make you happy. Focus on those things. It really has to do with getting rid of the presupposition that you have to do something in one way and only that way. I think that comes from people drawing based on other drawings? or things like that. Try not to base yourself on anything else other than your mind and what you literally see in your kawaii lifu. Avoid pulling out a drawing of your fav artist or fav manga or fav comic and trying to copy it, because it probably wont help you learn to draw (you are just gonna be learning how to emulate something you have no understanding of). DONT LET others bring you down. People may make fun (my sis did, but who owns the cute shoes now??), people might be harsh with their criticism, people might just be dicks but you know what. If you know what you want, and if you are pretty set in mind to do it, then what they say really shouldnt matter. Obviously, uhhh. If what you want to do is just steal and rip off people, then this doesnt apply to you.
Last thing, I have seen some people drawing guidelines like how books teach them, you know, either as circles or as squares? but they use them more like to have them there, rather than to let it help them. like, "oh no this isnt a real drawing if it doesnt look like I used professional looking guidelines / draws circles everywhere". I just wanted to say that, if you find yourself doing that, it either means you dont know how to break things down and understand them, or it means that you probably have your own way of sketching and breaking things down, which is totally ok! Just remember to do what works for you, because plz if there was a perfect method that adapted for everyone, everyone would be great artists by now.
III. IMPROVEMENT TIPS
In the very start of this rant, there was a list of things that I denied being part of my own progress - but just because they did not work for me does not mean they will not work for you. (apart from all that style stuff, I'll tackle that later on). If art school helps u, good. If multiple studies and theory learning helps you, GOOD. REALISM HELPS? GOOD. It's all good. Be selective. I've written a lot so I am gonna list some improvement tips unrelated to the things listed above, in hopes to lighten this thing up.
-Draw often. dont just draw to post. -Focus on making things for yourself and ask yourself what you want -Take a break and switch it up on multiple levels (material/program used; dif types of art; different activities; taking breaks) to allow diversity of practice in -doodle and draw a lot and dont show them to people. No pressure -Experiment with your most used media -Dont stick yourself in a label ( "i draw cartoon/ manga/ realism/ etc") - this will block you. Say "I draw" instead and be a hot mess. But a hot one. -Dont overdo the drawing. Drawing non stop can be great but it might lead to you just growing tired and uninspired. -My other tips are kind of scattered in this essay and I cant remember them I'm sorry -I am going to move on to style building now
IV. STYLE BUILDING
STYLE!! AHHHH THE BIG TREASURE OF THE ARTIST?? THE MOST IMPORTANT THING ABOUT STYLE BUILDING IS TO NEVER FOCUS ON ONLY ONE SOURCE OF INFLUENCE, ESPECIALLY IF IT IS AN ARTIST. Do you know what happens when you do that? You just end up having some kind of second hand shop version of their style and it becomes copying/emulation rather than your own development. It stunts you, and it invades the artist's personal space. Dont give me that "you cant own a style" bullshit. It is not about owning, it is about common sense. You are standing in a public space and someone is stepping on your feet to stand in the same area you're in because "it is a public area" - no. It is common sense to respect people's space and boundaries, and that applies to art too. Be respectful to people's work. MORE THAN ONE SOURCE OF INFLUENCE. Be OPEN on several levels, ONCE AGAIN: Be open on the ARTISTS that influence you. dont "frankenstein" (= taking pieces from their art you like in order to forge a weak excuse of "your own style) . Instead, appreciate their work and try to help it make you understand what appeals to you in their collective aesthetic, let it show you what you're interested in creating. Be open on THE DOMAINS that influence you. Move away from art. What other things interest you? What else do you do? How can that feed into what you're doing? I like food with vivid coloring. I like savoury food, sweet foods, spicy foods. Bring it alllll in. Dont lock yourself out of something jsut cause it is not art and you do not think it can influence you. READ A BOOK I DONT KNOW Be open to YOUR EVERDAY LIFE that can influence you. A lot of my art style builds on the people i've met, the things I've seen, the places I've been. Why does one do x or x thing? How come someone is drawing something like that, but their neighbor the other way? Maybe because something in their life has caused them to view them differently. Maybe because they have just broke it down and processed it a different way.
Brings me to the next thing - Dont... dont just find a style and call it your new thing and stick to it. I moderate an art forum, I know, I SEE everyday people with art which is just stylized symbols with nothing to back it up. You have to understand what you're drawing. I dont mean "study realism for 5 years then come talk to me" naaaa. (refer to like 10 paragraphs up on realism). I mean, try and draw from real life and understand why you are rendering something in such a particular way. You need to have a minimum of understanding of what you are doing. I feel like if you dont... most of what you're doing will kind of be warped imitations of various things you've seen and in the long run it will stunt you more than anything else.
I LIED ABOUT THE FIRST THING BEING THE MOST IMPORTANT THING, THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING. STOP LOOKING FOR IT. STOP SEEKING TO BUILD IT. LET IT BUILD NATURALLY. When you hit 20 and become an adult you dont suddenly become a different, more mature, full person right? Why do you think that works with art?? "ah yes, THIS IS IT, I HAVE FOUND MY STYLE!" - triumphant victory declaration I have heard from many people who ditched their style 5 days later simply because, it wasnt. Not to mention, whenever you 'build' a style in an attempt to make something unique, it ends up laboriously generic. You know those "IM DIFFERENT!!" snowflakes? Do you see how all these people sound the same? That is what is happening, but with art. As a kid you have one of those... those toys where you put the shaped blocks into the correct block shapes right? So here is the thing. When you are emulating/copying another artist, you're bashing the triangle block on the circle hole. Maybe it is funny for a bit, but then it becomes laborious and you start wondering why things dont feel right. Probably because you're not doing what is naturally yours. On the other hand, when you are 'building' your style all in one go, you are modifying the blocks and toy in order for things to fit how you want them to - and they do now! but now your toy is broken so that's not interesting anymore, bye. BACK TO SQUARE ONE. That is why you should just... leave it. Style is something that can grow so unique if you let your personality speak through it. You are still growing as a person, so does your style. You shouldnt pressure yourself to be innovative because well, you dont have to? since when if having a style of your own = being new? It's not. Everything's been done before some way or the other, what you're bringing to the table that IS new is yourself, as the artist. Your choice, your life, your experience and vision. This is what will make things your style. Because they are exclusively sewn together to be something so personal and something others will never have - because they have their own thing. Themselves. TL;DR FOR STYLE: Why search to be someone else or something you're not when you are guaranteed to be the best at being yourself?
V. FINAL NOTES
I'm so sorry this is so long and ranty but I hope it may be some fruit for thought or help a few out. I just wanted to say before finishing this off that, wellllll. These are all notes from myself, and things on style in particular are pretty like biased. like they are VERY MUCH my opinion on things.
If anyone even reads this I'm good to answer things or discuss in the comments
have a break off the screen if you managed to read all the way down to here byeeee
wow, honestly reading this I never knew there was someone who was lazy about art as me LOL.
I fucking hated the amount of realism the art teachers drilled into my head. when I drew something I actually liked, they would always be like uhhh yeah no you do better on realism it's like you took a step back or something.
I completely agree with the pretty thing. I just enjoy drawing people or things that just seem pretty to me lmfao. Style was always appealing.
Thank you so much for writing this though, it made me feel better with how I approached art. and I could relate like 100% to you lol.
Ahhh You know art schools push you on with realism because it's the easiest way of making students understand that you cannot stylize without having a minimum of understanding of what exactly you are stylizing. I think it's just a poor attempt in reminding you that? But a lot of art schools do prioritize realism. I think it is just easier to teach. I mean, everything is laid out for you if you want to do realism, theres nothing to reinvent? After, if they think you took a step back or not doesnt matter because you dont draw for them and if you' re happy, then their opinions dont really matter. Unless ofcourse, you need to get graded or something - falling in the same commissions thing - you' d need to adapt to them, because in that case, yes u r drawing for them
I totally agree with you, there are times that I notice I've made improvements but I never think of it as a big deal.
It's really nice when I'm able to see into the head of another artist - especially one that I look up to - I'm able to see where you started, and I'm sure most artists know that it takes time to improve but to see it in someone else makes it more concrete!
Thanks so much for the well wishes! I'm consistently working and drawing Keep your hard work up too! I can't wait to see where your art takes you in the future!