DIY Bachelor of Fine Arts PART THREE: OVERCOMING FEAR

 

Fleur

When I say fear, I don’t mean creative stumbling blocks that are part and parcel of being an artist.  I mean proper paralysing fear of even starting anything.

I spent what felt like months…oh wait, it was months…reading how to paint, how to draw, watching all of You Tube, and too afraid to actually put any of what I learned into practice.  For fear of failure.  I was so overwhelmed.

It’s seems incredible now, as I’m quite prolific, that I ever went through that, but I did.  Getting out of that place was sort of sudden I think, but I can’t remember the specifics….I just ended up committing more and more to my art.

The only solution, if you are in the place where I was, is to do it.  All the books say to do it, and everybody you’ll ever ask will say just do it – just get on and make some art.

At some point, surely, the fear of never ever trying will outweigh any potential duds you produce.  There will be duds, but there will also be indescribable moments of pure joy that pierce your soul, when you create something (even a square inch of part of a painting) utterly magical.

The more you do this, the quicker that fear will recede.  It’s no mystery why many artists set themselves challenges, like paint 30 paintings in 30 days, or 100 painting challenge.

All I know is, when you’re a beginner, you invest every part of your being into what you think is your masterpiece and agonise over it.  Well, if you paint regular, you can’t do that.  Each painting is just a stepping stone to the next one.  I can honestly say very quickly after finishing a painting, all that I have invested in it is gone.  I’m ready for the next one. Using what I learned to do better.

One of the things I struggled with was establishing a creative process.  I found it really hard to find out what other artists did (they can be cagey you know) at 10am on a Friday, for example.  And I do like a sort of framework as a guide.  As it happens, I got into my own rhythm and one day realised I had in fact established my own creative processes and practice – it evolved naturally from the act of doing.  Which goes back to the original point of this post: if you’re that freaked out you can’t even look at your paints without breaking into a sweat, then here’s a list of books I read,  to get the bogeymen in your head simmering down:

  • The War on Art, by Stephen Pressfield
  • Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, by Susan Jeffers
  • The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron
  • How to be An Artist, by Michael Atavar

And when you’ve read them, have a word with yourself and start making.  You’re most welcome.  Good luck.

DIY Bachelor in Fine Arts PART TWO: COLOUR THEORY

PARTTWOHEADER

This post is part of a series on some of the resources I use to improve my skills.  You can read the introduction to this series here.

EXCITED? MUCH

Ooooh, I get such a geeky pleasure out of this topic, I just find it so fascinating.  I’m not going to go into the science behind how we see colour.  It’s better explained by those in the actual know.  But understanding how to work with paint and mix colour is critical to a successful piece of art.  Yes, you could buy every colour available in your chosen medium, and sometimes it makes sense to invest in a particular hue if you always end up using a lot of it in your work, but that’s for later on, when you know what you’re doing.  The thing is, a lot of follow-along-and-paint-with-me tutorials use specific colours that you feel you need to use, and if you watch a lot of tutorials you could end up buying a lot of paint for different projects that don’t come together to form a cohesive palette.

THE BASICS

Having a grasp of colour theory isn’t just about mixing paint and knowing yellow and blue make green.  It’s about understanding triadic colour ways, complimentary splits and being familiar with words like chroma, saturation, and value.  If you want your art work to be cohesive, using a considered colour palette is essential.

Most advice, whatever your medium*, is to start with a simple palette, usually consisting of red (one warm, one cool), blue (one warm, one cool), yellow (one warm, one cool), and,  if you’re using oil or acrylic, white.  With these colours you can mix practically all the colours you will ever need.  It’s such a practical skill to have, to know what you’re going to get if you add lemon yellow (cool ) to ultramarine blue (warm) or cadmium yellow (warm) to ultramarine blue.  And then what happens if you add a smidge of alizarin crimson to it?

It’s one of the most useful skills I’ve developed, being able to mix my colours.  For a long time, I only ever used typical standard palette, which forced me to mix my own colours and which I know if I don’t write down in a list here that’ll be irritating:

  • alizarin crimson (cool)
  • cadmium red (warm)
  • lemon yellow (cool)
  • cadmium yellow medium (warm)
  • cerulean blue (cool)
  • ultramarine blue (warm)
  • plus white
  • plus burnt sienna, considered an earth colour, it leans towards orange and mixed with ultramarine blue makes the most amazing greys.

Mixing your paint, making some colour charts and understanding how far you can push your colours will also help you understand that certain hues have different qualities.  Some are very opaque, others more transparent.  These too have an impact on your mixes and ultimately how you apply them in your work.  And if you don’t learn a bit of colour theory you’ll always be limted!  Plus, you’ll save a ton of money only buying minimally.

I have added to my colours as I’ve got more experienced, and perhaps I’ll do a post of it and link it here when it’s written.

Anyhow, that’s as much as I’m going to say, otherwise I’ll just be repeating what these fabulous experts share:

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Carol Marine gives an excellent demo of how she mixes her colours in her Saturation and Colour Mixing tutorial. It’s a few dollars, which is about about £6, and worth the money.  In fact, I’ve bought most of her tutorials on this page, and I have her book Daily Painting.  It covers painting but also colour.  I love this woman.  I got such a lot out of her book and videos I wrote and told her so.  And I don’t do that sort of thing.  She replied too!

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Craftsy – I purchased Master Palettes: Exploring Colour Mixing with Scott Gellatly  I remember this had some great visuals of the colour wheel.

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Betty Edward’s book Color.  I really like how she explains stuff.

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Not essential but the Colour Mixing Bible by Ian Sidaway is useful, particularly when your eyes stop seeing or your trying to mix a colour that’s so subtle you have no idea where to begin – I found it quite good to have to hand as a reference.  There’s also a lot of info around paint properties.

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Will Kemp’s Art School has some great videos (free and paid) which I found so useful when starting out, particularly Painting a Jug with Two Colours.  It gives great insight to a beginner what you can achieve with so little.  He also has an enormous amount of resource, including a section on colour.

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Paint manufacturers also have lots of useful guides on their websites.

FOOTNOTE

*   soft pastels are a different kettle of fish, in that you need a good amount of variety by comparison to have an adequate palette…..however, even if your primary medium is pastel, I really recommend you spend time mixing paint -after all, you’re handling paint in it’s purest form and knowing how to glaze and scumble one pastel over another is a skill enhanced by understanding colour in more detail.  I speak from experience peoples.

 

DIY Bachelor of Fine Arts PART ONE: DRAWING

PARTONEHEADERLISTEN UP!
Can I just say – this blog series, DIY Batchelor of Fine Arts, isn’t an actual course!  Vocational or otherwise.  Just thought I ought to make that clear.  No, not.a.course.  It is though, some offerings from me, sharing the resources I’ve used in my art journey so far.  If you haven’t already, you can read the introduction to this blog series here.

Part one is going to cover resources I used to improve my drawing, but the other thing I want to point out is that my learning wasn’t so slick that I neatly went from a to b to c.  I dotted around, partly because I didn’t know what I was doing, and partly because I get bored easily.  So what I’m saying is, I didn’t spend all my time learning to draw to perfection (and newsflash, my drawing is what I consider to be one of my weak points), then move on to colour, then composition, then watercolours, then acrylic, then oil painting, form an orderly queue please!  You get the drift.

Consequently there’ll be overlap with some of these posts – other topics might creep in under different headings.  I’m sure if you’re a clever sort you can come up with more structured learning set but I’ve got painting to do people!

DRAWING IS THE KEY
Personally, I don’t see how you can put a good painting together but not give consideration to your drawing skills.  It does matter (even if your thing is abstract).  For a start, it’s about seeing.  Seeing things differently.  Shapes, lights, masses, relationships, angles.  The only way to improve your observation skills is to practice regularly.

I am the sort of artist that likes to draw from reference.  I cannot pluck an image out of thin air and draw it.  I have no idea how illustrators come up with cute fantasy characters.   I suspect they have something called “imagination”, he he.

Consequently there are some approaches to drawing out there that just do not work for me: those books that tell you if you’re drawing a cat it’s a circle (for the head) and an ellipse (for the body), and if you’re drawing a camel it’s rectangles for the legs and cylinders for the humps…what use is that?!  I mean, I agree that it’s important to understand about volume of mass, just as it is to understand about perspective to give depth, but for me this type of approach doesn’t work.

USEFUL STUFF
I didn’t quite do these things in this order but I would if I were you:

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  •  Read Betty Edwards Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.  There is a whole right brain/left brain debate going on, which the premise of this book is set on, but frankly I don’t care.  It made sense to me, and my experience of drawing up to that point.  The main thing I love about this book though, is it teaches you skills to be able to draw anything.  It covers negative space drawing, blind contour drawing, value, line and comes jam packed full of exercises.  Her explanation of the picture plane blew my wheels.  My drawing really took off after that, because of this approach.

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  • Craftsy have some very good, affordable art classes, and they often have sales.  There are a few drawing ones I’d recommend:
      • 10 Essential Techniques for Better Drawing with Patricia Watwood
      • Draw Better Portraits with Gary Faigin
      • Figure Drawing – an essential guide with Patricia Watwood

These cover drawing from a classical approach.  To me, it seemed to follow on from the Betty Edwards book, rather than conflict with it.  You may not be particularly interested in portraiture -but the class is more an exercise in drawing by value, lights and darks, and I found it immensely helpful.

Later on, I also purchased:

      • Sketching People in Motion with Marc Taro Holmes

I know I’ve harped on about the classic approach to drawing but I love quick sketching urban style too.  I like to be able to sketch quickly when I’m out and about and fill my sketchbook, like a visual diary.

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– Juliette Aristedes is a most wonderful classical artist, and I have two of her books, which I found so useful, particularly the DVD that came with Lessons from the Atelier.  The other book I have is called Classical Drawing Atelier.

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Will Kemp has an online art school and I just love this fella!  He’s not on social media, which is a shame as I could stalk him in person    let him know how much he’s helped me.  I confess I haven’t actually done his online drawing classes (perhaps I should!) but I have used his free videos on acrylic painting and can vouch for the quality.  But for him I would still be going round in circles.  He really set me on the right path – for me.

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A word about Andrew Loomis….I don’t get on with his books at all, which is a shame as I have a few! And who am I to dis one of America’s greatest illustrators?  I love the style but my poor old brain just found it all too complicated, for the most part.  It gets very technical in places, and I don’t like the print in the book- very thick, makes it hard on the eyes.  However, he has done some very good instructional on hands, so I might revisit that at a later date.

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the classic approach to cast drawing on toned paper
Using Gary Faigin’s technique to draw my daughter
Using Betty Edwards approach


LAST WORD
Photographs.  They have their place.  I do use them,  but in a very specific way, which I’ll expand on in later posts.  Most advice is, draw from life where possible.  Especially if, like me, you are prone to being a slave to the photograph and get tied up in knots because it’s not exact.  For me, and I’ve learned this the hard way, art isn’t about perfectionism in that sense.  It’s about an essence, a feeling of a thing or place and expressing myself, and what I produce should bring something to the scene that is different from a photograph – or why bother with art at all?

You may not have time to do an extended classical drawing exercise every day.  Nor do I.  But you should carry a sketchbook, even a small one, in fact perferably a small one and take a pen with you (not pencil) and try and get a small amount drawn every day, even if it’s your coffee mug.  Or in my case, glass of wine 🙂  Cheers!

UPDATED: THAT WAS SO NOT THE LAST WORD

Peoples, I really do not know how I forgot to mention one of the most important practices of improving your drawing – especially as I have been consumed with it the past few days.  Life drawing.  Whatever your main subject interest is, nothing will help you see better than taking a life class.  The human body is something we’re so familiar with – until a beginner (or me) tries to draw it.  It is haaarrrd.   

A lot of life classes are not taught, so if you can’t get into one that is, I recommend you spend some time with Stan Prokopenko before you trot along to your local community centre.  Otherwise, you might be so disheartened your confidence might never recover.  Just getting an understanding of gesture drawing, essential for short poses, was a huge help for me.  Stan has a lot of free videos on his You Tube channel.

Prior to life class, most of my drawing was very drawn out (‘scuse the pun).  I’d take hours, shading and more shading.  So approaching a 5 minute pose was something of a stretch for me – I’d really not get very far before time was up.

I like to experiment with different materials at life class.  I like to do pen and watercolour or pen and wash for the quick poses, and charcoal for the longer ones (I’ve only just realised perhaps charcoal isn’t right for my short poses – and I work small, so what I end up with is dust.  A lotta dust).

Right, I think I’m done here.