As an Art Tutor I tutor and teach lots of learners who haven’t had a formal art education and they all want to know how can they learn more? These learners are often so keen to learn everything that they take on too much, expecting to master perspective in a weekend, then onto oil painting and generally all over the place with topics, subject matter and materials.
The result can be confusion and disillusion with art. So how can we learn in a more structured way and build our skills slowly? My advice would be one skill at a time.
The good news is that there is so much information and advice now from generous artists and illustrators online that I think a formal art education is not necessary. I say this as someone who has been to art school and studied art but also learnt a great deal post-graduation from other artist’s blogs, websites, online courses and informal workshops and courses.
It is a marvellous feature of our information age that now we can access teachings from so many artists and illustrators across the globe online. It is now more important than ever, with so much information at our fingertips, to filter out what we need and not take on too much.
Don’t take on too much at first
There are so many, mediums and subject matters to master but you want to give yourself a grounding in the basic skills first. I would pin point the ‘basics’ as the following:
Observational drawing – basic shapes, draw simple objects to start with and observe shape and proportions.
Tone – Study light and dark, try drawing objects in different lighting, observe shadows understand how the light ‘behaves’ when it hits objects and understand how you can achieve dark and light values with your materials.
Angles – Study objects from different viewpoints and observe different angles and perspective.
I suggest to learners write a ‘curriculum’ for themselves of projects that will build these basic skills before moving onto other areas of art. There is a lot of value in concentrating on one skill set at a time.
For example you might like to learn portraiture so set yourself the task of drawing one self portrait a week for six weeks just using pencil. Then you could try drawing a portrait in moody lighting or bright lighting for example. You could then move onto drawing portraits using differing angles or tilts of the head. Each project is building the skills one by one.
Give Yourself Time
One year I set myself the goal of drawing landscapes all year, by the end of the year I was good at drawing landscapes. Sometimes when we are new to art, we flit from one thing to the next and don’t give ourselves time to fully explore a subject matter or medium. Aim for lots of drawings and paintings of a subject matter, with different takes on the theme and you will get much more from this then, a shallow dive into many areas.
The same goes for materials you might give yourself six months with pastels for example to fully work with them and really discover all the ways you can use them, techniques, how they behave on different papers and so on. The average learner I teach gives themselves very little time with each medium before moving on and claiming it isn’t for them. Give each medium a chance.
Which skill are you currently working on?