Where do Complete Beginners Start?

I teach beginner art classes and at the start of every course I like the learners to introduce themselves. In every class I  have one or two learners who say ‘I’m not a beginner, I’m a complete beginner’.  I understand how these learners feel, it takes courage to join an art class when you are a complete beginner.

If you are in this group then I have some tips for you:

  • Drawing first – Often complete beginners want to paint straight away, which is fine but drawing is the foundation to painting.  I like to take 3-4 weeks of classes with these learners to just focus on some basic drawing skills.
  • Drawing exercises – I have many drawing exercises that I give complete beginners, they are short simple activities that usually only involve one or two objects or subjects.  Each exercise concentrates on a specific skill.
drawing exercise
This is the ‘360 degree’ drawing exercise where a simple object is drawn from four different viewpoints
  • Keep it simple – Some complete beginners want to paint  complicated landscapes or figures, this is great but you are best sticking to these basic drawing exercises at first.
  • Get to know your materials – Complete beginners need time to get to know the materials and what they can do.  Sketchpad work is great for this, you can doodle, mark-make, try out brush strokes, moving the paint around, etc.  All this experimenting is learning about materials and will grow your confidence (and it is fun too!).
  • Realistic goals – Don’t set your self big goals at first, it it baby steps and soon you will start to see progress.  Experienced artists are still learning, so be realistic about your progress.  It is better to tackle basic drawing skills before moving on to new topics where there will be yet more to learn, as you could end up feeling overwhelmed.

Also see Common Pitfalls for Beginner Artists

6 Useful Items for Your Christmas List

So Christmas is coming up and it is a time when you can gain some extra art materials.  Perhaps friends and family are asking what art materials you would like?  What will you say when there are so many things you could ask for?  It is hard not to ask for something that is a bit more of a ‘luxury’ item but my advice would be to make sure you have the essentials first.

Everyone will have their own ideas about what they need materials-wise, but below I have made some suggestions of the materials that I have found most useful:

1. A Good Quality Sketchpad

A4 or A3 Sketchpad
A4 or A3 Sketchpad

If you haven’t already ask for a good quality sketchpad with thicker, grainy cartridge paper. They are much nicer to draw on than low quality sketchpads and they are made better which means they won’t fall apart when you transport them.  It will also cope will with small studies in other media other than pencil. A4 or A3 are the best sizes to go for.  Hard-backed ones will last longer and protect your work.

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