The Final Puzzle Piece: The Principles of Design

Happy first week of spring! I’m so excited that the season is finally changing.  I’m far from a winter person myself.  I don’t like the cold and everything feels dead.  Some early flowers have even started blooming here.

Two weeks ago I had discussed the elements of art.  To reiterate, these are:

Line: defined by a point moving in space.  Lane may be two or three dimensional, implied, or abstract.

Shape:  Two dimensional, flat, limited to height and width.  Can be organic or geometric.

Value: the lightness or darkness of tones or colors.

Form:  Three dimensional shape, containing depth.  A shape with value.  Can be organic or geometric.

Space:  In which positive and negative areas are defined.  The distance and depth in which objects of a piece interact with each other.

Color: light that reflects off an object to create a hue.

Texture:  Refers to the way things would appear to feel: bumpy, smooth, scaley, slimey, etc.

If you have any confusion about any of these elements, please refer back to the original article here.  All of the images used in the article are royalty free, so please feel free to use them as references to draw on your own!

In fact, I was so lucky this week to receive two drawings from this post.  The artists would like to remain anonymous as they are still learning, and sometimes when you’re still learning it’s a little scary to put yourself out there.  That’s okay! We can still support them anonymously.

Anonymous “M” created this beautiful painting using the image for shape using acrylic paint and marker. I think this is absolutely beautiful: the color choices are great, and each flower has it’s own defined shape, but not so defined that the combination of all the flowers doesn’t make a unique shape in itself.  The background space is even a shape.  Wonderful! I can’t wait to see more, M.

Anonymous “T” created this remarkable graphite drawing of the sunflower in order to create texture. T, the attention to detail in this is insane.  It really shows that you are dedicated to art.

I even felt inclined to draw one of these myself.  Initially I was going to show every element off through art, but I decided it would be best to focus my energy elsewhere.  I probably should have used a medium I was a little more comfortable with to start, but I chose to work in simple graphite (with a little charcoal at the end because I was going mad.)  I myself drew form:

If I’m going into full critique mode, I’d definitely tell myself to be more careful with blending the harsh lines towards the center of the rose, and create more visible texture in the petals of the rose, as they’re a little soft right now.  So basically, I blended where I shouldn’t have and didn’t blend where I needed to.  I’m far from the perfect artist.  

If you have any art that you would like to show off (anonymously or not)  I would love to see it!  Send it over to bmartin.artdesign@gmail.comand it might just get featured in the blog.

Additionally, last week I talked about color.  My boyfriend is a painter as well, and lately he has been painting with some really interesting color combinations.  I wanted to show off this painting he made recently, using strong red, blue, and a toned green.  I love the vibrancy, and how the figure pops out of space.

His work can be seen on Instagram @joethorpedo.art

So now that you have a thorough understanding of the elements of art, let’s talk through how to use these tools to our advantage.  The Principles of Designdescribe the ways that an artist may use the elements of art within a piece.  Similarly to the elements of art, the principles of design work together to create a piece.  There will never be only one principle of design present in art.  Knowing how to use them to your advantage is the key to interesting art.  This is where the true fun begins, folks.  This is where you can begin creating unique compositions that are all your own.

The principles of design are as follows:

  • Contrast
  • Pattern
  • Rhythm
  • Movement
  • Emphasis
  • Proportion
  • Balance
  • Variety
  • Unity

Now, I’d really like to have a theme like I did with the flowers…  but I don’t.  What I do have however, is some hastily made graphics and some famous artwork that I didn’t make and you’ve probably seen before, so that’s equally exciting, right? Let’s get right into it!

Contrast

Contrast is a striking difference between elements within the same piece of art.  Contrast can easily be formed using color by taking colors that are far apart from each other on the color wheel and placing them in the same art piece.   (Scroll up to see the skeleton painting again for a great example.)  You could even take the same color and switch the values so that one is dark and one is light.  You can omit color completely and work solely in black and white: white against black creates huge contrast.  Contrast can be shown in shapes and line and form, too.  Harsh geometric shapes contrast greatly against smooth organic forms. Thick straight lines contrast against thin smooth lines.  The possibilities are endless.

In “Girl with a Pearl Earring” by Johannes Vermeer, look at how her body contrasts with the dark background, allowing her to pop out.

Emphasis

Emphasis is similar to contrast, in that it is the element of art that is accentuated.  It is the “highlight” of the art: what sticks out to you when you’re looking at a piece of art?

“Sunrise Impression” by Monet appears subtle, but the emphasis is clearly on the reddish orange sunrise.

Pattern

Pattern is a repetition of a visual element such as line, shape, or color.

  One artist that pops into mind immediately when I think of pattern is Kehinde Wiley.  While the name might not sound familiar, you probably know his work, as he painted the portrait of President Barack Obama.  The backgrounds of all of his paintings include these stunning, intricate patterns.  Check out this piece above, “Mrs. Waldorf.”

Rhythm & Movement

Technically these are different principles that go hand in hand.  Rhythm is the speed of movement within a piece. Movement occurs as if the art itself is forcing your eye around the piece. 

Look at “The Scream” by Edvard Munch.  There’s movement all throughout the painting.  The texture of the orange sky almost feels as if it’s vibrating.  The focal point of this piece (where your eye goes first, that is) is in the center bottom: the figure’s head.  The blue background leads your eye upwards, and into the orange sky. This brings you back down onto the bridge, which leads your eye downward and back into the head, creating an inverse triangle position for your eye to look.  Rhythm refers to how quickly your eye is led around the art.  This piece feels chaotic; your eye moves quickly throughout it.

“Starry Night” by Van Gogh is another good example of Rhythm and Movement.  You can almost see it swirling right before your eyes.  The visible brushstrokes help guide your eye throughout the piece.

Proportion

Proportion refers to the size comparison of elements in a piece of art.  This can be referring to the proportions of a figure in its surrounding space, or it can refer to the proportions within a figure.  In our minds we know an elephant is bigger than a mouse, but what if they are drawn the same size?

We owe a lot of what we know about the human form’s proportions s to Leonardo Da Vinci.  The drawing “Vitruvian Man” displays the anatomical proportions of a typical human adult male.

Balance

Balance is arguably one of the hardest things to strike in art.  Balance refers to equal visual weight throughout the art.  This means when you’re looking at art, your eye doesn’t want to trail away from it; it isn’t too heavily weighted on one side.  Balance is primarily about the placement of figures and subjects.  A balanced composition can be visually symmetrical or asymmetrical.  Symmetrical art is almost impossible to become unbalanced, though it may appear static, or flat.  To put it simply, your symmetrical balance might be boring.  Symmetry traditionally occurs when you take an object and split it down the middle and it is a mirror reflection of itself, like a butterfly.

Symmetrical balance in art is not quite as exact: rather, it refers to when each side of art has similar visual weight.  A great example of art with symmetrical balance is “The Last Supper” by Da Vinci. The background in particular is almost an exact mirror image, but the weight of the people in the foreground is also symmetrical.

Jan Van Eyck’s “Ghent Altarpiece” is another great example of symmetrical balance.

Art does not have to be symmetrical in order to achieve balance, though.  Asymmetrical art, while more difficult to achieve, is typically more dynamic, and therefore more interesting.

Paul Gaugin’s “Christ on the Mount of Olives”  depicts a figure that’s weighted heavily to the left side.  He is balanced by the details in the background, so it does not feel as if he is falling off the edge of the piece of art.

Unity & Variety

Another pair of principles that go hand in hand, unity and variety are extremely similar to each other. Variety is the combination of multiple different elements of art in one piece.  Unity is what ties them together harmoniously. Roy Lichtenstein is a pop artist who perfectly paired shape, color, line, and texture.  All are prominent in his artworks. This one is entitled “Ohhh … Alright …”


So Now What?

With this knowledge, you have the power to create anything you like.  Seriously.  I still have more to show you, of course, but these are the basics.  The Elements of Art and Principles of Design are the key to understanding any art.  Not only do they help you understand how to make your own work, they can help you break down other artists work and figure out how they did what they did.

Go forth.  Be one with the pencil.  And once you’re finished, please send in your art to bmartin.artdesign@gmail.comand it might just get featured in the blog.

Next week the blog will be dedicated to critique, so if you have any work old or new that you would like to receive feedback on, send it over!   Thank you so much for reading, tune in next time.

Using Color: Color Theory and How to Apply it

How was everyone’s week? I caught a pretty awful cold, and being the baby that I am, I stayed in bed for four days because of it.  In the beginning I was so foggy I could barely form sentences, but I treated myself well, scrubbed the apartment clean, and I’m almost all better now.  I got to do a bit of sketching, but unfortunately it knocked me out of schedule, and my initial plan for this week had to be delayed until next week.  C’est la vie.

In my previous post, I had discussed the different elements of art, but I left color a little vague.  That’s because color is a HUGE topic.  Sure, everyone knows what color is, but do they know the science behind it?  Do they know how to properly use it?  What exactly is color theory?

Color occurs when the spectrum of light interacts with the cone cells in your eye.  What you need to understand is that our eyes are not perfect, and color is more or less an illusion.  Colors bounce off of each other and interact with each other: an object that is blue might look purple, green, or gray depending on the lighting, the time of day, or the objects surrounding it.  Test this by taking an object and bringing it into multiple different light sources.

But let’s go back to the basics of color for a moment.  Maybe you’re familiar with ROY G. BIV, an acronym for the colors of a rainbow. Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet.  Now let’s be real for a sec: the indigo is a part of this specifically so you can remember Roy G. Biv as a name.  It doesn’t really belong, because when you take it out and put these colors in a circle, you get the color wheel:

The colors marked P (Red, Yellow, Blue) are the Primary colors.  This means that any of the other colors in this wheel can be made using these colors alone.  The secondary colors: Orange, Violet, and Green, are exact mixes of the primary colors. Therefore Red + Yellow = Orange, Yellow + Blue = Green, Blue + Red = Violet.  The tertiary colors are that third set of colors in between Primary and Secondary sets: Red Violet, Red-Orange, Yellow-Orange, Yellow-Green, Blue-Green, Blue-Violet.  To make it easier to remember these colors, list the primary color first, then the secondary color.

Before I go on to talking about some color combinations, I want to quickly talk about how these colors can change.  When you see the color blue, it might not always be a pure blue.  When I think of blue, I tend to think much brighter and more vibrant like the ocean.  But again, the ocean changes color depending on the lighting, the time of day, and even the clarity of the water.  This is where hue, saturation, and temperature come into play.

Hue

A hue is the pure form of a color.  This means it has no black or white added to it.  A shade is when black is added to the color, making it darker.  A tint is when white is added, making it lighter. A tone is when a mix of the two is added, meaning the color is grayed.

Saturation

Saturation is similar, as it describes the intensity or purity of a hue.  When a color has been completely desaturated, you’re left with only the value that the color once was: a 100% desaturated version of any color is gray: the initial value of a color determines what the desaturated version’s value will be.  Most colors that we see are at least somewhat desaturated.

Temperature

Temperature is a perceived warmth or coolness to a color.   Typically, warm colors are red, yellow, and orange: they make you think of fire and heat. Cool colors are blue, green, and violet, like the ocean.  However, some colors blur the lines of temperature a bit: you can have a warm green, or a cool red.  

You can also add warmth or coolness to a hue.  Picture those rare golden sunsets you might see during the summer: the sun bathes everything it touches in a yellow light, making everything appear warmer. Similarly, think of those full moon nights where everything is illuminated by the moon.  There’s little light, so everything appears blue-toned. 

Using the knowledge of Hue, Saturation, and Temperature, you can create any color of the rainbow by mixing just the three primary colors, black, and white!  How exciting is that?  Now you need to understand how to use colors in conjunction with each other so that they interact with one another.  There are different sets of color schemes built right into the color wheel.  Color harmonies are basic color combinations that are visible on the color wheel that make for awesome and creative colored art any time.

Complementary

The first basic color chord is complementary colors.  These are colors opposite of each other on the color wheel: these are high contrast images that look super cool in art.  You can play with the saturation and purity of your colors to really make it pop.

One awesome thing to note about complementary colors: if you find a color to be too vibrant but you don’t want to mix in black or white to make it gray, you can mix in it’s complement to get a muted tone!

Analagous

Analagous colors are colors that sit right next to each other on the color wheel.  These are colors that suit each other naturally, and the lack of jarring contrast is typically soothing to the eye.

 


Triad

Triadic color schemes are really fun: they occur when you evenly space out three colors in a triangle wheel.  These often look best when one of the colors is toned down or shaded, one is left vibrant, and one is tinted, but the best way to find out what you like is to experiment on your own!


Split Complementary

Split complementary takes the basic idea of complementary colors and breaks it apart into three colors. You take the compliments blue and orange, and split one side to the colors adjacent to it on the color wheel: blue and orange becomes blue, yellow-orange, and red orange.


You can experiment a lot by mixing color. Color tells the viewer what time of day it is, creates a mood, and can make or break a piece of art. Claude Monet created a series of paintings of the Rouen Cathedral, each at different times of day/in different weather. The only difference between the paintings are his color choices, but take a look at each of them. Each piece creates a different mood, thanks to color’s ability to impact our emotions. The cool image shown first feels gloomy, whereas the third one in on top feels bright, sunny, and happy.

Please go ahead and try playing with color on your own!  You can use any of these color wheels as a guide to help you.

For this weeks prompt, I want you to try and use one of these color schemes in a piece of your art.  Have fun creating!  I can’t wait to see what you make.

A Budding Knowledge: The Elements of Art

How was everybody’s week? I hope you all scheduled in some time for yourself to sketch a little.  Every little doodle brings you closer to your goal.

In my first post, I gave the prompt of “flower.”  I’m really excited to show off the art I was sent as a response!

This first piece was drawn by Josie White.  I love the technique she used on the petals:


This other piece is a bit more conceptual, created by Etherea Art.  (@etherea_art on Instagram) (https://ethereaart.wixsite.com/suryannamdtahir) I love her thought process behind this!  She took the prompt “flowers” and put them on the tattoos of her subject.


Words cannot describe how much I appreciate your submissions!  These are both incredible.

I wanted to talk about flowers today because of how variable they truly are.  Each flower has a different petal shape, texture, size, and color. Each flower has its own personality. Because of this, they make a great subject matter for your art.  More on this in a bit.

What do houses, relationships, and art have in common?  They all need a foundation or they’ll crumble.  A structure built on sandy terrain will collapse.  A relationship with no common-ground interests or beliefs will not last.    Art that attempts to convey some sort of realism without an understanding of shape, form, etc…  well, it’s still totally valid art, but it might not be as successful as the artist wishes for it to be.

So, how do you “build” a work of art?  What are your tools?  These are what’s known as the elements of art.  Whether your creation is 2 dimensional or a sculpture; abstract or realistic, the elements of art are what make up the artwork.

The elements are as follows: line, shape, form, value, color, texture, and space.  While not every piece of artwork has all seven, a piece of art cannot exist without at least two of these elements present.  It doesn’t matter if the work is a masterpiece or something a child drew.  Take a look at these two images:

When you look at this famous painting, Claude Monet – Woman with a Parasol, 1875, the texture is one of the first things you notice.  The painting does not appear smooth; Monet used short brush strokes to create his impressionistic style.  The elements of art work together cohesively in this painting: take a look at the clouds. When you think of clouds, you think white, right?  These clouds have tinges of yellow and muted blue to create form, another element of art.  The use of the element color creates the element form. Color creates form in the dress of the woman as well: the streaks of blues in her skirt area create a highlight. 

Now look at this image.

 


This is a typical child’s drawing.  Upon first looking at it, there’s nothing too fancy about it; after all, children don’t exactly have classical art training.  However, even the works of a four-year-old can show the elements of art, and this piece does a particularly good job.  With this drawing, shapeis the focus.  Take a look at the sailboat to the right.  Our artist Alex knew that a rectangle with a pole attached to two triangles is the perfect representation for a boat.  The sun is a circle with thick lines coming out of it, and yet we know it’s the sun.  Linesof dark blue on top of light blue represent the motion of waves: color and line working together.

If this is confusing, that’s totally normal.  Let’s break each element down individually, with the help of some flowers.

Line

I chose Peony’s for linedue to the way they fold.  Think of the way these petals intersect.  The outlines of the petals and the leaves are creating the illusion of lines.  Look at the petals themselves: the veins in the petals are lines, and these lines give the petals a sense of direction.

Lines can be thin, thick, straight, curved, spiraled, squiggled, zigzagged, dashed, dotted, long, short, and even implied. Implied line is extremely important in art:  look at the petals of the middle flower that touch the background of the image.

The tone of the petal and the tone of the background are really close together.  If you were drawing this, you wouldn’t want to create a thick line for this petal.  You would want it to blend; therefore you would imply the line of the petal.

There’s also leading lines. These lines lead your eye in a certain direction throughout the piece of art.   In this piece, your eye starts at the middle flower: this is what’s known as the focal point.  When you look at the image, it’s the first thing you see.

From there, your eye moves around the piece in a triangular pattern.  The top of the left flower to the tip of the top center leaf is one leading line.  The top center leaf then brings you down to the bottom right flower.  The bottom of the bottom right flower leads your eye to the bottom of the left flower’s petal.  These leading lines keep you looking at the piece of art, making it difficult for you to look away.

Shape

Shape is almost always tied to line.  When you think of shape, you’re probably thinking of triangles, circles, squares, and maybe even stars and .  These are inorganic or geometric  shapes. Shapes are all around you, though.  Any closed line can be considered a shape.  Any shape that isn’t geometric is an organic or natural shape.

What makes shape so unique is that it requires another element of art in order to work.  You need a bounding line for shape to appear. The shape of a daisy’s petals would not be distinguishable from the center of the daisy were it not for the difference in valueand color.  The spacein the background of the flowers creates their own shape, as well, making the shape of the daisies crisp.  Shapes are 2 dimensional, but when the third dimension is added, it creates form.

Form

Simply put, form is what creates the illusion of three-dimensional art on a 2D surface.  You’re reading this post on a screen (or if you printed it out, paper) which is 2 dimensional, but this rose appears 3D.  Like shape, form can either be geometric or organic.  The form of an object creates highlights and shadows.  In this rose, you can see where the sun is hitting the object the most: that’s the highlights.  The shadows are where the sun is hitting the object the least.  The shadows are the darkest areas of the rose.  Form creates depth, perception, and value.

Value

Value is closely tied to form.  An object can have value without form, but it cannot have form without value: this would break the illusion of 3D, making it a shape. 

Value is what refers to the lightness or darkness of a tone.  Value is easiest to notice in grayscale work, but it’s important when working in color as well.

This pansy has an incredible value gradient.  Starting in the middle, there’s a small section of white.  From there, it’s immediately dark: almost black.  Then it gets lighter, and then darker once again, though not as dark as that second color.  Let’s look at the same image in grayscale

Now you can really see the difference in value of the flower’s petals.  However, there’s a new problem that arised.  The value of the green background and purple petals are almost the same, making the image look muddy.  It may be helpful to adjust the value when you’re drawing so get a crisp image.

Color

Color is fun!  It’s usually most people’s favorite element of art. Colors can be muted or vibrant.  Color theory is a hugesubject that will be discussed at a later point, but here’s a quick overview:

Red, Yellow, and Blue are the primary colors in an RGB spectrum.  If you only have these colors in your pallet, you can mix them to create any of the other colors, (orange, green, or violet.)  Different ratios give you different results.  Try mixing some color!

The colors chosen in this bouquet are actually very close to the primary colors.  The florist chose an off blue-violet, a dark pink, and a yellow flower, with some white to tie it all together.  The way you use color can vastly influence the mood of a piece of art.

With that said, working with color before you have an understanding of value (or your medium) can be incredibly frustrating, and you may not get the results you want.

Space

Looking up at the night sky, you might get intimidated by how vast space is.  What you might not realize is that there’s space all around you. This space can be positive or negative. This doesn’t have to do with the energy in the room (although that’s important, too) rather it has to do with where things lay.

In this photo, two flower vases sit in the middle of the composition.  They take up space.  Everything surrounding it is negative space: it’s where nothing is going on, really.

Now, let’s take this same image and crop it differently.

Feels a little uncomfortable, right?  There’s less positive space than negative space.  It feels empty and off-kilter.  Placing your subjects in a space properly can change the entire mood of the image.

Texture

Last but certainly not least, we have texture.   Texture is one of my personal favorites.  Take a look at your surroundings.  No matter where you are, there’s probably at least one interesting texture.  Look at your clothes.  Are you wearing something soft like fleece, or something tough like leather?  Can you tell how it feels without even looking at it?  If you’re outside, can you see any wood or stones?  Maybe brick?  These all have a visible texture.


You can practice drawing with the elements of art using any of these images as a reference photo. They’re all public domain, meaning you can use them for any purposes.  I would love to see your renditions of these flowers! Please email bmartin.artdesign@gmail.com with any art that you would like to show me, and it could end up in the blog!

I hope you have a great week, and I’ll be seeing you soon to discuss the Principles of Design.

Being Bad At First is Okay: Experiencing it Firsthand

If you read last week’s blog, you know that I had discussed how scary it can be to start a new hobby, even if it is exciting.  Sometimes it is downright terrifying.

This week I remembered that first hand.  As a designer, painter, and even photographer, I’m usually behind the camera.  Very rarely am I in front of it.

So when I set off to vlog as a means of introducing myself, I did not expect it to be so uncomfortable.  I mean, I was getting secondhand embarrassment when I was editing the video because I couldn’t stand to look at my own stiff form trying to choke out information in front of a camera.

I ended up scrapping 45 minutes of raw video in favor of some standard iPhone vlogging.  Sometimes you just have to improvise.  Drawing or painting is the same way: it doesn’t always go as planned, but if you can learn to adapt, you can still make something beautiful.

“If at first you don’t succeed, you are running about average.” 

M.H. Alderson


Overcoming the Fear of Creating through Understanding How To Create

New beginnings are terrifying.

Whether you’re trying out a new diet, moving, starting school, a career shift, or even picking out a hobby, the prospect of change is always a little unsettling.  There’s a lot to consider.  Is this change something that will impact the rest of my life? What if something goes wrong?

Fortunately, new beginnings are also exciting.  What if something goes right?

Creating a blog is something I’ve put off for many years.  I’ve tried and I’ve failed before, because I had no idea how big of a commitment it would really be.  Now I can safely say that I’m ready, and I’m excited; even if I’m a little scared.

Maybe you’re ready for a change, too.  Maybe you’ve decided you want to jump into that hobby you’ve been meaning to pick up. If that hobby is drawing, painting, or even taking that preexisting hobby of drawing/painting and turning it into digital art, look no further.  You’ve come to the right place.

If your dream is to learn how to draw, you’ve probably at one point been in the presence of an artist while they were in the process of creation and felt that slight tinge of jealousy.  “I’d kill to be able to draw like that,” you think. But then you go home, get out the pencil and paper, and you have no idea where to start.  The white blank sheet is far too intimidating.

Whether you want to make visual concepts in your head come to life, or you simply want to learn to draw a realistic portrait, you have to start somewhere.  

Most of the time, the reason that people give up art is because they’re afraid of the failure involved.  Not being good at something immediately, especially something as personal as creation, is scary.

It’s okay to be scared, but it’s important to do it anyway.  This is how we learn and grow.  Before you can learn to do anything, you must gain the confidence to be able to do it.

Simple pencil drawing of a woman looking straight at the reader

Sketching

There’s a lot to take in when you’re first starting.  If you’re brand new to art, don’t jump into trying to make a masterpiece.  You’ll overwhelm yourself.  Rather, you should focus on sketching.

What’s the difference between sketching and drawing, you may ask?

While sketching is different for everyone, the basic idea remains the same:  it’s a quick manner of getting ideas onto a page.  It allows you to get your thoughts onto paper.  You can sketch with a lot of detail, or sometimes a sketch is just a few scribbles placed in specific spots.  You can sketch something from life, such as your shoes, or you can sketch something from your brain.  Your sketch can even include written notes.  Sketching is completely tailored to you.  You can sketch however you feel comfortable, and you don’t have to worry about making it “pretty.”  If your sketch is only legible to you, then so be it.

To give you an idea, here’s some sketches from a few different artists.

While these may look like nothing, these sketches are building very important skills.

  1. You’re creating without the limitation of worrying about how something looks
  2. You’re letting ideas flow, sparking creativity
  3. You’re learning what you like to draw
  4. You’re learning how to draw without even realizing it

Sketching is exploration, and therefore sketching should be free.  I recommend keeping a sketchbook on you at all times.  Personally, I like my sketchbooks on the smaller side, so I can fit one in my pocket or in my purse.  Others like large books so they can fill the page with more details.  Again, it’s completely tailored to what you like. (bonus: sketching is useful for graphic design, too.)

This is not to say that sketching can not be a fully fleshed out idea. Some artists like to sketch in detail. This is where the lines between drawing and sketching become blurred.

Drawing

Drawing is a little different than sketching, as it tends to be more thought out.  Drawings can be finished pieces.  You’ve probably heard before that in order to get good at drawing, you must draw every day.  While this is true, it’s also important what you draw, and that you draw constructively.

Drawing stick figures is not trying.  Drawing stick figures will get you nowhere.

Drawing requires some effort, but good news! Effort and skill are not one and the same. Beginners can still draw, but when one is drawing, they must take their time and care for the piece. If you try your best, you will have the best piece of art you could have possibly made. Drawing successfully requires thought, and for best results, an understanding of your subject matter and your medium. Understanding the Elements of Art & Principles of Design is essential.

While you’re learning especially, it’s important to be looking at a reference.  Whether the reference is from life or a photo, having something to continuously be able to look at while you’re making the drawing allows you to compare and adjust your art as necessary.

Simple graphite still life of two tangerines on a piece of crumpled paper: the left tangerine is peeled while the one on the right is still in tact

Again, the line between drawing and sketching can very easily be blurred, and that’s the beauty about art. It’s fluid, and not everything needs to be categorized. Sometimes what begins as a sketch turns into a full drawing. Remember that they are linked, and the key to drawing successfully is to SKETCH!

To Conclude

Guidance from someone experienced in the field you wish to grow in is an invaluable resource.  Not knowing where to begin with art can make the entire prospect feel exclusionary.  “Maybe I’m not meant to be an artist,” you may think. But I’m here to tell you that you are, if that is what you desire.  I’m here to help you.

If you have any art that you would like to show me, I would love to see it!  Please email artwork to bmartin.artdesign@gmail.com and it may very likely wind up on the blog for a critique.  Remember, the goal is to grow and help each other.

Your prompt for the week:  Create a flower.  You can use any medium you like.  Go as detailed, abstract, or as surreal as you wish.  Email the finished piece to bmartin.artdesign@gmail.com  to be featured on the blog.

Introduction to Me

Thinking back on high school, the most prominent element of the entire experience seemed to be pressure.  Pressure tied into everything high school had to offer: the academics, the sports, the clubs, and even the social aspect.  There was pressure to fit in, pressure to get good grades; but the most lasting pressure seemed to be the pressure to decide what you wanted to be when you grew up.  Sure, you might not have full autonomy over when you use the restroom, but you need to decide your future.  Now. Forever.

I remember being told that we should know what we want to do by the time we’re in 7thgrade, and the classes we take in high school should reflect that and train us for the real world.  However, I grew up in a small rural community where I graduated with about 25 other kids.  We had a couple agricultural electives, a drawing class, and chorus/band, but that was it for electives.  The only business class offered was economics, and that lasted only half a year. Everybody had a fairly similar base line.

Still, that pressure to make a life-long decision seemed to be universal. No matter what high school you went to, every student I’d ever spoken with was absolutely frantic with trying to figure out how they were going to spend the rest of their lives.  What would you be happy doing?  What are you good at?  What are your options?  What would allow you to pay your bills and be an independent individual?  All this came about with very little guidance or direction, let alone time to explore your options.

I was a top student in my class and I did well in school, but I still felt lost. Being smart wasn’t an automatic pass to understanding how to spend my own future.  I never really needed to study to get good grades, but I didn’t enjoy school very much unless I was in the art room.  I thought to myself, ‘well there’s no way I can go to school for art, that would be a waste of my intelligence.’  Somehow, I had tricked myself into believing that only stupid people went to school for art; almost as if only stupid people followed their dreams and the rest of us had to be miserable in order to make money.  I continued painting as a hobby, but I was conflicted.  I think I had known in the back of my mind what I wanted to do, but I couldn’t bring myself to tell anyone.  It felt shameful to want to create art for a living.

When I was in 11thgrade, my English teacher gave the class an assignment: each student had to individually present our life goals and aspirations and explain in detail how we would reach that goal.  We had 24 hours to plan before presenting.  The idea of telling my class that I wanted to “throw my life away and paint forever” was mortifying to me,but it was my dream.  It didn’t matter how wild it was, the point of this assignment was to recognize that sometimes our dreams are out there, and we need to figure out a way to reel them in and make them attainable.

Except it didn’t work out that way.  

I got up in the front of the class and told everybody about my dream with the most detail that I could possibly muster for somebody who had only let themselves think about this for 24 hours of their entire life.

I told them I wanted to live in the middle of nowhere on a small subsistence farm where I would spend all of my days painting.  “How will you achieve this?” they asked.  “How are you going to be able to purchase farm land, or keep up with bills?”  I made it up as I went.  “I wouldn’t have to worry about groceries because I would can and preserve the crops that I grew.  I could sell or trade the excess.  As for purchasing the land, I could uh…  I’d be selling paintings or giving painting lessons.”   I was shaky in my answers because they were such new ideas to me. I hadn’t thought about letting it become a reality.  I wasn’t even sure what I wanted yet.  

The reactions were less than pleasant.  My dreams were totally unrealistic or unreasonable, and my English teacher made sure that I knew that.  I was terrified now.  It was the first time I had spoken about what I wanted to do out loud to anyone. Still, it gave me a base to build off of.  What would work?  What were my options with art?  How could I survive doing what I love?

However, even as my ideas grew stronger and more realistic, I seemed to be pushed away by everyone.  Even my art teacher at the time advised against studying art.  Time and time again, I seemed to hear something along the lines of: “keep it as a hobby.”  Coming from a family of engineers and entrepreneurs, I heard a lot of “you don’t have to love your job.  Your life is not your job.  Your life is what you choose to do with your time off of work, and you’ll have more time if you make more money.”

Because I was wavering in my future, my guidance counselor, my mother and I all decided it was best that I chose to study at the local community college.  It was financially the best choice, and allowed for more freedom of exploration, which was exactly what I needed.  I put “undecided” as my degree program choice.

Towards the end of my senior year of high school, I had gotten my first painting commission.  My aunt wanted me to paint her pet boxer for her.  I only charged $35.  It wasn’t my best work for sure, but it gave me so much confidence as an artist. Something inside of me clicked.  I realized that my art couldbe something people would want to spend money on.  An ounce of support gave me the boost of a lifetime.  A week later, as I was signing up for classes at the college, I changed my degree path to Media Arts on a whim…  with a certificate in marketing and entrepreneurship, just to be safe.

I didn’t really know what to expect at all.  I had never tried graphic design.  I just knew that the program had the word “art” in it, and graphic design seemed to be a pretty stable field in the realm of creativity.  On the first day of classes, I was terrified.  I started with a marketing class, and quickly realized something was wrong.  I left the class with a sour taste in my mouth.  What had I signed up for?  Were all of my classes going to be like this?

Three hours later I had my introduction to graphic design class, and it was a massive sigh of relief.   The environment was so much more relaxed and comfortable in this class than I was expecting. People actually talked to each other rather than avoiding eye contact with their classmates.  My professor requested we call him by his first name. Everything felt natural, as if this was the exact type of climate I was looking for.  I swapped my marketing class to online to really ensure I was happiest in my college setting.

For the next few weeks I went to school daily and kept on top of my classes. I allowed myself the time to adjust to college and figure out what was expected of me.  That was just it, though: this wasn’t high school anymore. Nothing was necessarily expectedof me.  It was up to me to live up to my own expectations, however I chose to set those.

As I got more comfortable with the college life, I started putting in more effort and branched out.  I ended my first semester with a GPA of 3.8, and I felt better than I ever could’ve imagined; but more importantly, I had knowledge and confidence.  In the second semester, I took more business classes, and I noticed something that changed my entire outlook: there was a substantial number of adult learners in my classes.  They were all people who decided to return to school to fulfill their dreams, without caring about what age you’re “supposed” to be at when you’re in college.

This brought me back to high school, as I thought about how forced we felt to come up with a permanent plan at such an early stage in our lives.  It seemed ridiculous now.  This sense of freedom I gained when I realized that success doesn’t have a time limit allowed me the ability to fully change my attitude about what I was studying.  So much of the negativity I received about how I should keep art as a hobby remained in my life at this point; but seeing that nothing was really as permanent as I was taught to believe allowed me to focus on what I loved without regret.

Almost instantaneously my skills grew exponentially along with my positive attitude. I gained so much confidence and excitement.  I decided I wanted to do better in my business classes as well.  I pushed myself to stick with it, because I knew that even if it wasn’t my passion, I could use it as a tool to improve my passiondramatically.  Marketing classes in particular helped me with designing advertisements and assessing what type of aesthetics would work for specific demographics.  Entrepreneurship classes gave me a handle on how to freelance.  I actually started my own painting and design business.

I put myself in the mindset to be successful, because I ignored the people who told me that I should do anything other than follow my heart.  However, I also made sure to follow logic.  I took the initiative to get myself organized and assess what I had to do in order to maximize my chances at success.  I had to come up with a logical plan to make my dreams happen, just like in my high school English class.

Am I saying you need to go to business school to figure out how to be successful?  Of course not.  I’m saying you should give yourself the ability to dream without holding back and come up with a plan to make it happen.  Visualize it and put yourself into action.  Put in the extra work and obtain your goals by force. And if you don’t have a clear idea of what you want to do yet?  That’s okay.  There’s no time limit; certainly not by high school.  

Today, I’ve graduated with my Associates in Media Arts (Graphic Design,) and am currently working as a Web Editor and Creative Director, as well as Freelancing and having the time of my life.  I’m continuing to learn more about my field, and more about myself.  I live with my wonderful boyfriend (Joey, who is also an artist) in Upstate NY, and together we have a lovely pet cactus named Prick.