Have you reached a point in your art journey at which you feel relatively confident about your skills but are anxious to find your own style and voice? Are you stuck with your art and feel that your own perfectionism and/or fear of failure is keeping you from moving forward?
"Create your own visual style... let it be unique for yourself
and yet identifiable for others."
There is a point in every artist's journey at which a substantial amount of time and effort has been dedicated to developing artistic skills, but the artist has yet to decide what ideas he/she wants to share with the world and what mediums, techniques and style will set him/her apart from others. It takes an immense amount of work, exploration and introspection to push through this point, but it's important to keep on until the breakthrough happens.
In my opinion, it's exactly THIS desire to push through the initial phase that differentiates a hobbyist from a pro. It's a point at which perfect rendering and technique becomes just as important as (or may even take back seat to) having an artwork transmit the ideas or feelings we are striving to transmit.
In this blog post, I will be sharing five very useful tips that will help you loosen up and express more of yourself through your art. It's this exploration that will help you discover yourself as an artist. If you're at this point, it's time to experiment fearlessly and push your limits!
I wrote a blog post several months ago in which I share an excellent method that you can apply to start discovering your own art style using other artists' work as inspiration. This strategy will be very useful for you in this stage, so make sure to check it out after this post.
How to Effectively Use Other Artists' Work as Inspiration and a Great Method to Start Developing Your Own Artistic Style.
Currently, I'm doing a lot of exploratory work with oils on canvas. If you've been following my work for any amount of time, you probably already know that I love working on smaller-scale watercolor illustrations. However, I've had the pleasure of creating larger decorative fine art for local clients and have really enjoyed it! I'm making time for oil painting as much as I can and am planning on selling my artwork internationally in the near future.
I'm working on a series of five large landscape oil paintings. I will be sharing these with you throughout the upcoming weeks so stay tuned!
5 Tips That Will Help You Become More Loose and Expressive When Creating Art
"Regularity, order, desire for perfection destroy art.
Irregularity is the basis of all art."
1. Gain confidence in your skills by learning and practicing
In order to draw or paint freely, you need to have a certain level of confidence in your skills. And the only way to truly gain confidence in anything, is by practicing first-handedly. Knowing Art Fundamentals inside and out is going to help you IMMENSELY, and is the basis for everything else.
Things like composition, harmony, proportion, color, perspective, texture, value, etc., have to be engrained in your head so that you can apply this knowledge naturally and organically as you are creating your artwork.
Aside from knowing Art Fundamentals, it's also imperative for you to have some experience working with whatever medium and supplies you're thinking of using. How are you going to paint or draw freely if you feel like you're constantly fighting with the medium?
The saying "Learn the rules before you can break them." applies here!
In my blog post titled Why Sketchbooks Are Essential Tools for Artists and A Few Usage Tips
I share how I personally use my sketchbooks on a daily basis to make sure I'm progressing continuously.
2. Prepare yourself mentally before you begin
It's absolutely essential to start a challenging piece in the right headspace. Once you have arrived at the idea of what you'll be creating, start with positivity and confidence. I've mentioned this before, but our minds are EXTREMELY powerful! Remember, if you think you're going to fail, you most likely will.
Now is the time to embrace experimentation and throw perfectionism out the window! Allow the magic to happen as you work with your medium and tools. Do your best to give up some of your control and allow your medium to do some of the speaking for itself.
3. Paint with larger brushes and, if possible, on a larger substrate
Painting/drawing at a larger scale will not only encourage more arm movement (which in turn leads to more dynamic work), but allows you to focus on larger shapes. Using a larger brush, or drawing tools like chalk or charcoal, also make it more difficult to obsess over tiny little details. This, in turn, challenges you to think about what is actually needed in your composition and what can be left out.
Not to mention, larger pieces are also (usually) meant to be viewed from farther away. At the moment of drawing or painting, step back and continuously remind yourself that the piece is meant to be appreciated from a distance.
If you're creating a painting, remember that your paintbrush is not meant to be held as a writing pencil or pen! Try holding it with your thumb and index finger, and keep the rest of your hand relaxed. Beginners have a tendency to hold brushes very close to the bristles to feel more in control. Try holding your brush farther up the handle, anywhere from halfway up to the tip.
Explore the different types of brush strokes your brushes are able to create, and the shapes and textures their bristles naturally leave behind. Load your paintbrushes with a good amount of paint so that there's more of a chance for interesting "natural" occurrences to happen.
4. Use music
Music can have such a deep impact on our mood and inspiration levels! I love creating a good, long playlist for myself prior to starting with a painting. Music helps keep my creativity flowing and my energy high for hours.
Our taste in music will vary from person to person, of course. Perhaps an artist looking to create an extremely dynamic abstract painting would be inspired by music with a faster/upbeat tempo. Whereas, another artist might find more relaxing, classical music more helpful.
Regardless of your taste in music, create a playlist that will help you stay positive, inspired and motivated to continue.
5. Learn to leave your brushstrokes alone
Do your best to place your brushstrokes (or lines if your drawing) with intention and then leave them alone! Allow the organic occurrences to happen and think of how you can use these effects to your advantage instead of trying to correct them or blend them out.
Stop yourself from pushing forward with actions that are really not really necessary. Try to do more with less and don't obsess over every tiny little accident!
Let go of the mental need to control everything!
I hope that you found this post helpful and that it encouraged you to keep exploring and moving forward with your art! I wish you all the best and remember to enjoy the process!
"Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes.
Art is knowing which ones to keep."
Are you in the process of finding your art style and voice, or do you feel you still need to practice your basic art skills? What type of artwork are you most drawn to, and how do you think this will translate into your own artwork? I'd LOVE to hear from you in the comments section below.
Thanks so much for dropping by today! If you enjoyed this post/video, check out the following:
Do you want to go off on vacation, but fear you'll lose your creative streak or even fall behind artistically if you take a few days off? Ever wondered how you can ensure creative progress while away from the studio and regular work routines? Curious to see what happens when you take your art-making on the road but are, perhaps, a bit nervous about working in unusual/public settings?
As artists, traveling is a great way of gaining new inspiration and facing challenges that can lead to substantial growth. It may sound counterintuitive, especially for us workaholics, but putting miles between us and our studios may be just what we need to kick our creative progress into gear.
In today's blog post, I'll be sharing the three things I personally did to prepare for my last trip, which allowed me to enjoy it immensely WHILE moving forward artistically. By preparing ourselves mentally and doing a bit of research beforehand, we can take full advantage of our travels and come back home refreshed, motivated and full of ideas!
To clarify, I consider the incubation of ideas just as important as the act of creating finalized artworks. It's through first-hand experiences that we get to know ourselves as artists and come to conclusions about what messages we want to bring to the world. This, for me, is just as essential as working on our cold artistic skills.
I absolutely loved Toronto! In my last blog post/YouTube video, I shared how there was just SO much to get inspired by! Check that post out HERE. The huge variety in cultures present in the city, as well as the beautiful architecture, music, coffee, shops, galleries and art studios triggered a lot of emotions in me that made me want to create.
Visit THIS blog post to find more pictures of the painting process for this watercolor sandwich!
3 Hacks to Apply Before and During Your Next Trip
1. Give some thought to what supplies and promotional items you'll be taking with you
The supplies that you choose to take with you will vary depending on your artistic medium(s) of choice, as well as how comfortable you are drawing or painting in public (or rushed) situations. I love watercolors and immediately reached for my smallest/most portable set to pack up. However, I knew that I would probably have limited time and space to create, so I also made sure to take a few pencils and drawing pens with me.
I recommend sticking to the basics and taking only what's truly necessary when selecting your art supplies (unless you're deliberately traveling to a drawing/painting event). Take your most portable sets and supplies that allow for easy cleaning, making sure they aren't the most expensive or even your favorite. Things get lost and damaged during trips, and you want to avoid sad situations. Also, consider what bag you'll use to carry your stuff in while walking around.
I knew since before my husband and I started preparing for our trip, that I didn't want to pressure myself or take away from fully enjoying the experiences Toronto had to offer. I wanted to focus more on taking note of moments, feelings and thoughts that popped up. The few sketches I created were quick, but I made sure to take lots of reference pictures that I could work with when I got home.
If you're up for the challenge, however, traveling is a great opportunity to practice plein air painting, drawing settings, objects and people! You can also set timers for yourself to practice creating faster drawings and/or paintings, which will help you become more expressive and efficient!
I've made studies of skulls like this one to the left, and have found them extremely helpful. They've allowed me to gain information that I'm later able to apply in my drawings or paintings without giving it much thought at all!
I really recommend making time to create a few sketches of skulls or even paintings like I have!
As previously mentioned, most artists start off their portraits by creating simple shapes much like the ones below. These shapes and lines allow them to visualize where the facial elements will be placed.
Understanding Basic Proportion and Location of Facial Elements
While there is an incredibly vast array of face shapes, as well as shapes and sizes of individual facial elements (eyes, nose, lips, ears), there will always be general guidelines to follow in terms of their placement within the head shape.
By this point, you've probably already seen something like this before:
By seeing the diagram above, we can conclude the following:
-For drawing purposes, the head can be divided into three parts
-Drawing vertical and horizontal lines down/across the head shape will allow us effective placement of facial elements
-Effective proportion and placement of facial elements calls for some degree of measurement
-The hair line is BELOW and not ON or ABOVE the head shape
-The width of approximately five eyes should fit along the main horizontal line
-We can use the inner corner of the eyes to define where the curves of the nostrils should end
-The lower part of the face (from end of the nose to tip of the chin) can also be divided into three parts
So how does this information translate into a head at a 3/4's angle?
In a sense, we are distorting facial proportions when drawing a face at an angle. We are no longer looking to create symmetry, as we usually do when drawing someone facing forward. We are now dealing with certain levels of foreshortening, depending on the angle of the head and what perspective we're seeing it in.
When viewing a face at a 3/4's angle, we are able to see much more of one side of the face than the other. We are able to see one eye completely, but perhaps only part of the other one. Usually the eye on the side opposite to us is at least a tiny bit smaller! We are able to clearly see one half of the person's nose and mouth. All this means we have to be able to draw believable facial elements that are skewed!
Here are some basic ways to draw facial elements in both forward and 3/4's angles:
How to Draw a Face in a 3/4's Angle in 4 Steps
-Pencils (I recommend HB-4B)
-Quality reference pictures (you can use your computer or print them out)
-Paper or sketchbook
*Optional: Tracing paper
*If you wish to use the same images I have, download them for free by clicking on the portraits in the instructions below.
*You can also download and print the free PDF's I've attached at the end if you'd like to use the face maps I've created. Use a piece of tracing paper to transfer the face map onto the paper you will be drawing on and move on to the next step!
1. Find a quality picture to use as reference
I thoroughly recommend using reference photos when starting to draw portraits. Even if you're not intending to create a full-on realistic representation of the person in the image, having a reference will give you a solid foundation to work from.
It's always awesome to take your own pictures to use as references, so never hesitate to take a photo of your own face to study from!
Really observe your reference image and compare the facial elements with each other in terms of size and shape. Notice the distance between them and where they rest on the head structure. Compare one side of the person's face with the other and pinpoint differences. Pay attention to the silhouette created by the brow bone and cheekbone of the side opposite to us. Analyze the shapes of the eyes, the nose, mouth and ears, as well as those created by the shadows within the picture.
For the purpose of this tutorial I will be using the following two images found at Pexels and Unsplash. If you wish to use them, simply click on the photos to get to their original sources and download from there.
Pexels, Unsplash and Pixabay are great options if you need free quality images to use as references for your artwork. To find a list of my favorite free image sites visit my blog post My Favorite Free Image Sites & Two Examples of References with Finished Illustrations.
2. Create your initial face ``map´´
Using the information you already know about facial proportions and locations of facial elements, create a ``map´´ using vertical and horizontal lines. Usually, these lines are going to be slightly curved, as opposed to the straight lines created when drawing a map for a forward-facing portrait. It'll depend on whether the person is looking slightly upwards or downwards.
If you take a moment to observe the image of the woman I used, you'll notice that her chin is pointed slightly inwards. This was probably a deliberate choice made by the photographer, as it emphasizes her eyes and makes them seem bigger. Even though the photograph is cut and we can't see the top of her head entirely, there is a bit of foreshortening happening for sure! We are able to see more of the top of her head when compared to the picture of the man, who has more of a leveled head.
*If this is your first time drawing a face at an angle, I highly recommend printing out your reference photo (preferably letter-sized) and using a piece of tracing paper to create your face map, then transferring it to the paper you'll be drawing on.
3. Start placing individual facial elements
Once your face ``map´´ is set, start drawing your eyes, nose and mouth LIGHTLY (this will allow you to erase mistakes). I usually start with the eyes because they fall in the center of the face and allow me to visualize the other facial elements.
Look at your reference photo CONSTANTLY and try to replicate the shapes you see. Drawing eyes, noses and lips on heads at different angles is a lot harder than drawing them on a head that is facing straight forward. This is why practicing individual face elements is so important!
As previously stated, the elements on one side of the face are going to look different from the ones on the other side. We are no longer trying to create perfect symmetry! However, they DO have to look like they are all part of the same face.
Draw lightly and don't get discouraged if you need to erase a lot! The following image will help you get an idea of how to draw eyes, noses, lips and eyebrows at a 3/4's angle. At this point, focus on achieving adequate shape, size and proportion. Don't even think about starting with your shading yet!
*I love using a desk easel when drawing so that my surface angle is more similar to the angle of the image I'm looking at. When I draw faces on flat, horizontal surfaces, I often find that my drawings end up distorted! If you're having this problem, I can't recommend a desk easel enough!
4. Once your initial sketch seems on point, move on to creating values
Take a final look at your initial outline sketch and make sure that the location and proportion of facial elements looks correct. Don't worry about your drawing not looking like the person in the picture, just focus on making things look believable.
Afterwards, decide how you will be creating your tonal range throughout your drawing. To learn about crosshatching and other ways to create shadows/values in your drawings, visit my blog post titled Guide to Shading Techniques: Hatching, Cross-Hatching, Scribbling and Others.
Having a picture to work from provides you with a solid reference of where to place your darks, lights and mid-tones which will later lead to believable form and three-dimensionality. Pay close attention to your reference image! If you're having trouble discerning lights from darks, I recommend opening the image in a photo-editing software and desaturating it so that you're working only with grayscale.
Personally, I enjoy leaving my face drawings sketchy and unfinished-looking, but this final step is where your personal style comes in! I love to create values using hatching and crosshatching, and give a lot more emphasis to the face than I do to the hair or anything else, which is were I want to draw the viewer's attention towards.
Take your drawings as far as you'd like and remember to have fun with it!
What do you struggle with most when drawing or painting portraits? I've love to know! Leave a message in the comments section below.
Does fear of failure and criticism constantly stop you from producing or sharing your art? Have you ever tried to create a specific art piece only to become increasingly frustrated with yourself after failing multiple times? Have you ever just wanted to give up creating art at all?
Today I'm sharing a video in which I talk about a very important and recurrent issue in an artist's life. Artistic self-doubt and insecurity is something that affects all artists at different points, whether he/she is a beginner or a professional that has been at it for years and years.
How frequently do you find yourself doubting your artistic abilities? Are you frequently demotivated? Do you have any specific methods that have helped you overcome this issue? I'd love it if you'd comment below!
An Artist's Guide to Using References (Pt.4): An Effective Method to Create Unique and Expressive Art
Do you frequently struggle with creative block? Does it bug you that your artwork isn't as original or engaging as you'd like it to be? How often do you take time to explore different sources of inspiration or experiment with alternative methods that could possibly propel ideas for new work?
In today's post I will share one of my go-to methods of artistic exploration that I use when I need to get my creative juices going. This technique is one of the easiest and most practical ways to boost your inspiration and I will explain why I consider it to be so powerful so that you can use it to your advantage as well.
Whether you are currently in period of creative block, are in an exploratory mood, or you simply need ideas for a new piece, I highly recommend trying collage ! It is an excellent way to produce or kick-start the production of engaging and personal artwork. As an extra bonus, I find it incredibly fun and therapeutic (and boy do we need both of these things as artists sometimes)!
This blog post is the fourth in a four-part series about the use of different types of references when creating artwork:
1. Using Other People's Photographs to Create Art (when it's okay to use other people's photos and how to do it in a way that will ensure your artistic progress)
2. Creating Artwork Based on Your Own Photography (click here to learn fast and easy ways to produce your own reference pictures)
3. Why Drawing from Direct Observation is Essential and 10 Tips to Improve (click here to learn why this drawing/painting method is so important in order to progress artistically)
4. Using Collage as an Effective Method to Create Unique and Expressive Art (click here to find out why collage is so powerful and how you can use it to your advantage)
``Our souls as well as our bodies are composed of individual elements which were all already present in the ranks of our ancestors. The ``newness´´ in the individual psyche is an endlessly varied recombination of age-old components.´´
The term collage comes from the French verb coller, which means to glue. It is an art technique in which a new composition is created by arranging a variety of clippings taken from preexisting materials. Though there are many, many ways of going about creating a collage, it usually involves selecting some type of substrate (which can be paper, canvas, wood, cardboard, etc.) and materials like paper, fabric and photographs to glue on it. The photomontage is a type of collage that incorporates primarily pictures or pieces of pictures to create a new image.
An assemblage is a type of artwork worth mentioning in this post because it is somewhat related to the collage. It is basically the arrangement of an indefinite amount of three-dimensional objects to create a sculpture. Assemblage art usually involves the use of wood, metallic objects, plastic and even items collected from trash bins.
Brief History of Collage
The collage was made famous in the early twentieth century by Cubist artists Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, who started gluing pieces of paper and other objects on their paintings. These artists completely altered the course of abstract art by incorporating real-world materials into their work and inciting the public to arrive at their own conclusions about what it may all mean.
The photomontage was heavily used by Dada artists like Raoul Hausmann and Hannah Höch, who created bold artwork in response to political and social issues of their time. They used collage to transmit important ideas to the public who was dealing with the aftermath of World War 1.
The collage is associated with the beginning of modern art, as artists passionate about experimenting and finding new techniques to implement began turning the art world on its head. These artists began challenging conventional ideas of what art is for and how it's supposed to be created.
To this day, collage remains a technique that never fails to cause an impact and is still used by artists to address topics that are important in the world.
``The beauty of the collage technique is that you’re using sounds that have never met and were never supposed to meet. You introduce them to each other, at first they’re a bit shy, clumsy, staring at their shoes. But you can sense there’s something there. So you cut and paste a little bit and by the end of the song you can spot them in the corner, holding hands.´´
(This quote was found at Austin Kleon's website.)
A Few of My Favorite Collage Artists
(German 1887- 1948)
(German 1889- 1978)
Kurt Schwitters, Hannah Höch, and Raoul Hausmann were all artistically multitalented and key participants in the German Dada movement. They became known for their bold, expressive collages that communicated thoughts about the state of their country following World War 1.
The messages behind their most important works were either deeply autobiographical or charged with political/social meaning. Though their artwork may seem nonsensical and even humorous, these artists brought important topics to the public and made them think about the current state of their society.
Like Cubism and other movements, Dada was considered avant-garde. These types of artists were tired of old art perceptions and sought to create change by exploring new techniques and introducing new ideas to the public.
Many Dada artists used mass produced printings like magazines and newspapers to create their works, blurring the line between what is and isn't art. They stimulated their audiences to interact with their works and incited them to arrive at their own meanings.
Read my blog post titled How to Effectively Use Other Artists' Work as Inspiration and a Great Method to Start Developing Your Own Artistic Style.
Why Collage is So Powerful and Why You Should Use it To Your Advantage
Though I personally use collage as exploration or to create a reference image for a future painting, and not as a finalized piece in and of itself, it is an invaluable part of my creative process. It has a lot of advantages that I have yet to find in other techniques.
To start off, collage requires nearly no preparation and you probably have any needed supplies at home. You don't have to be particularly inspired to start, as frequently, one gets inspired along the way. Collage is cheap, practical and almost always yields some type of positive result that you can use to progress artistically.
It is an easy and fast way to exercise your knowledge of Art Fundamentals. Everything you have in your head about compositional arrangement and Elements/Principles of Art like shape, color, texture, balance, rhythm, etc. is applied by creating a new piece out of ready-made materials.
Furthermore, the technique requires almost no effort at all, which is great if you need a break from your current processes. I find collage is created almost subconsciously. All you have to do is allow yourself to work. When creating a collage, your mind starts connecting ideas and coming up with meanings that are personal to YOU.
NOBODY else could have created that composition because YOU picked the individual pieces that called out to YOU, and YOU arranged them in a brand new way. You created this work based on the ideas and connections that you formed in your head and nobody else has your tastes and/or thoughts.
FInally, collage leads to very expressive and unique artwork. It helps to get to know yourself as an artist and often brings out ideas about what you are personally currently going through.
My Collage Making Process
To begin, decide whether you're going to be creating a traditional or a digital collage and prepare your supplies. I do both, by the way, depending on the circumstance!
What you'll need:
-Computer or another device with a photo editing software like Photoshop
-High quality images (either your own or that you have permission to use)
*Find my list of favorite free image sources HERE
2. Create your individual clippings
Take your time searching for individual elements that call to YOU personally. Prepare AT LEAST 5-10 individual items and create a variety in terms of texture, color, shape, etc. I also recommend picking out different types of subjects. For example, create some clippings of human figures (or parts of the human figure), a few of inanimate objects, animals, textures that can be perhaps used as backgrounds, etc.
For this exercise I looked for my images online, but I also wanted to include my own hand in my composition, so I went ahead and took a picture. If you're creating your collage digitally, make sure to keep your images organized in folders so you don't give yourself a headache while doing your photo editing!
Click on each photo to go back to its original source at Unsplash and Pexels.
Start playing with your clippings, arranging them in a variety of ways to see what is most interesting. Don't paste anything down yet! I usually start by creating what I want my focal point to be and then add to it. Think of where your biggest shapes are going to be placed and then add smaller ones as you go. The point isn't to fill up your entire background space, but to add smaller elements where it makes sense to depending on your overall message.
Try to think more about a possible meaning, than about saturating with color and shape just because it looks pretty. As you go, you'll inevitably begin creating connections and thinking of ideas that are personal to you. At this point, I almost always start thinking of possible titles for my collage!
4. Carefully paste everything together
Paste everything together, thinking about overlapping elements and position within space. Try to apply your knowledge of Art Fundamentals so that you can create a composition that has meaning to you, but is also visually pleasing.
5. Consider whether you can take your collage a step further!
Finally, it's time to think about whether you are going to leave you collage as an exploratory exercise or whether you are going to create something with it!
Personally, I decided to create a watercolor painting with mine! In the past, I have even used collages as references to create large canvas oil paintings! The possibilities are endless!
Have you ever had positive experiences creating collages? Do you have any particular way you use them? I'd love to know your thoughts! Leave a comment in the comments section below!
``It's easy to attack and destroy an act of creation. It's a lot more difficult to perform one.´´
Have other people's comments ever made you want to stop creating art? Have you ever wished you were more like those magical individuals who seem to exude self-confidence 24/7 and never let anyone rain on their parade? Ever wondered how much more productive and successful you'd be if you didn't allow other people's opinions to interfere with what you want to achieve in life?
``Haters don't really hate you! They hate themselves!´´ they say. ``Just ignore them and keep at it!´´ they say. These suggestions are all well and good, but do they help, really? Are you able to simply forget about what that rude person just said to you or do you let it sour the rest of your day, maybe even allowing the negativity to carry over until tomorrow? Most of us creative beings are sensitive by nature and, at times, it may take only one negative remark to make us forget about all we have done right. Over time I have realized that life is too short and I cannot waste precious time and energy on negative people that will bring me no growth whatsoever.
Criticism, constructive or not, will be a recurring element in any artist's career. No matter how talented or well-intentioned someone is, there will ALWAYS be people that do not agree with him/her. We need to practice effectively reacting to criticism until it becomes second nature to us. Whether we are sharing our work online or in person, we need to be prepared to react in a way that transmits professionalism. Remember, in order to receive respect, we need to give respect. You never want to do or say something that you'll regret later!
Accept the fact that ALL people who put themselves out there and/or dedicate their lives to activities that may be perceived as uncommon will be judged and that these things are beyond your control. What you CAN control, however, is how you react in these situations. And what you CAN be sure of, is that with time, it will become easier and easier to react favorably. In the first few years it's going to be challenging. However, in time you will gain more experience both in terms of artistic skill and verbal communication. You will get to know yourself as an artist and your self-confidence will grow without you even realizing it.
Next, I will explain why art criticism is an important part of any artist's career. I will also share some tips to apply when receiving criticism that will allow you to gain respect from others. To finish up, I will clarify how to properly critique a work of art.
What is Art Criticism and Why is it Important in an Artist's Life?
The term art criticism refers to the analysis, evaluation and discussion of an artwork. It requires the participant to reflect about a particular work of art and make a personal, substantiated interpretation of the piece. The term was first used in 1719 by English painter Jonathan Richardson in his publication An Essay on the Whole Art of Criticism. In his book, Richardson attempted to create a system to rank works of art based on drawing, composition, invention and use of color. Aside from analyzing the piece itself, professional art critics also question whether an artwork has importance within its historical context and how it relates to works before it.
Criticism (the constructive kind) is necessary in an artist's life because it is quite simply one of the best ways to improve our work. We should actively seek ways to better our skills, not only in terms of technique, but in how well we are able to engage and connect with the public. Even though most of us create in solitude, we do it with the purpose of eventually sharing our art with the world. Not everyone will react favorably, of course, but we should keep creating for those people that do find themselves in our work.
How to Take Criticism Like a Champ
Taking criticism is hard for anybody. However, as artists, we most frequently create in solitude and do not share responsibilities with anyone other but ourselves. This can make the experience a lot more personal and harder to deal with. Here are 10 tips that will help you receive and digest other people's comments in an effective way.
Read my blog post titled Self-Doubt as an Artist: How to Stay Confident and Keep Going.
How to Critique Artwork Intelligently
In his essay The Psychology of the Critic and Psychological Criticism (1962), author Philip Weissman argues that an art critic needs to have knowledge in the field in order to make a judgement. I'm including this final section because I want to encourage people to share their opinions about art in an intelligent, substantiated way that shows appreciation and leads to positive growth. Constructive criticism is based on facts, and only after proper analysis can judgement be made. Negative opinions void of any objective reasoning should be ignored.
I will be using Edmund Feldman's method of critiquing for the purpose of this explanation. His proposed system involves four steps: description, analysis, interpretation and judgement. You will notice how the first two steps of the process are the study of objective facts found within an artwork and the second half is more subjective in the sense that they require the participant to make connections, reflect and finally share a personal opinion.
As an example, I will apply Feldman's method of critiquing to the following masterpiece by the great Edward Hopper:
-This piece is titled Nighthawks and it was created by American painter Edward Hopper in 1942, amidst the socio-political turmoil caused by the ongoing World War 2. It is also important to note that Hopper lived through the Great Depression, which was an extremely hard economic time for many countries.
-The scene is very American and set within Hopper's time judging by architectural design and the dressing style of the subjects. It portrays a sense of everyday life in an American city.
-Hopper has mentioned that he was inspired by a particular diner in Greenwich Village, where he lived and worked from the time he was 31 until his death. However, it is not meant to be a direct representation and, by the lack of detail, one gets the sense that it could be any diner in any city.
-The medium used was oil paint and the style is quite realistic but not heavily detailed.
-In terms of Elements of Art, what strike out most are use of color, shape, space, form and line.
-One could say that the subject of the piece is the diner itself. However, inside it we can see four different characters. Our eyes gravitate towards the only woman included in the piece, due to the bright color of her clothes and hair. Hers is the only face we can see almost completely.
-The composition in itself is quite simple but is visually very engaging.
-The composition is divided into thirds and the diner takes up approximately two thirds of the entire area.
-The use of color in this piece is quite striking. The bright yellow hue used inside the diner, which creates the effect of fluorescent lighting, contrasts with the colors outside of it and provides emphasis on this area of the painting, where the subjects are located.
-There is a sense of illumination created by the diner's unnatural light. It spills onto the concrete outside and creates a few stark shadows. We can easily tell that it is nighttime, but we understand this from the moment we read the title of the piece.
-Muted, dark colors are used on the facades of the buildings and street elements outside of the diner. Very few details are included in this area, which further draws the viewer's focus to the inside of the diner.
-There is almost no sense of movement perceived, even within the diner.
-There is an asymmetrical balance achieved in the arrangement of forms within the composition. There is just the right amount of form and detail within the small area outside the diner to balance it with the enclosed area of interest.
-There are various lines included within the composition. The vertical lines used to create the windows of the diner and the buildings behind it ground the piece. At the same time, strong diagonals create the form of the diner and lead to a vanishing point somewhere outside the piece, to the left (linear perspective).
-These lines also create a triangular shape containing the subjects, making it look like the front part of a ship.
-Windows, architectural elements, and bar stools, create patterns and repetition in certain areas of the piece, transmitting a certain sense of order.
-Hopper creates very smooth paintings, leaving out texture (probably deliberately). We are only able to tell that there is glass separating us from the people inside the diner because of the edge painted at the end of the building. There is no door to be seen.
-Even though a lot of people consider Nighthawks an expression of Americans' feelings during the WW2 period, Hopper's wife once said that he deliberately chose to ignore the chaos going on around him, immersing himself in his work. The Pearl Harbor bombing occurred only a few days after this painting was completed.
-It is important to note that Hopper also lived through the Great Depression and did struggle economically for quite some time. Isolation and disconnect are present in many of Hopper's paintings even before WW2 started.
-This great artist was once quoted saying: "I don't think I ever tried to paint the American scene. I'm trying to paint myself." This tells us that Hopper used his work as a means of self-discovery and personal reflection.
-The emptiness in the piece, combined with lack of movement/expression, as well as the fact that these people seem close and yet apart (both amongst themselves and from the viewer), transmits feelings of loneliness and isolation. Even the couple sitting together seems detached. They could be married or they could be total strangers that just met.
-The stillness and silence make me feel like something is about to happen.
-I believe this piece is extremely effective in both technique and narrative. For me, both are essential in an artwork and Hopper's painting definitely shows both.
-I really admire Hopper's painting style as he creates a specific level of realism but retains visible brushstrokes, leaving out high amounts of detail.
-He was also immensely talented in terms of being able to transmit specific feelings and ideas to the viewer. His work is simple, displays common scenes, and yet is extremely psychological, making the viewer think whether there is another layer to everyday life.
-With every piece, the artist incites us to connect the dots and come up with stories. His work is compelling, even today.
-Hopper is known for taking a long time to complete his works, and the effectiveness of his paintings really show a deliberate study and planning on his part.
_Personally, I feel like a lot of Hopper's work (Nighthawks included) is able to resonate with people even today. I think the modern world is so fast-paced and immersed in technology (especially larger cities), that we lack deep communication with one another. We can be surrounded by large amounts of people and yet feel incredibly alone. Also, the lack of expression in Hopper's subjects reminds me of how we are becoming more and more desensitized by violence and, at times, lack the humanity to connect with others. We are together in this world and yet, almost everyday, we ignore there are others beside us that may need help. Everyone is their own island!
Because you will likely by receiving both positive and negative criticism on a regular basis, it is vital for you to start training yourself to respond in a professional manner and, more importantly, to not let it stop you from moving forward in your artistic journey. It is extremely unfortunate when artists never show their work out of fear of failure or criticism. Please remember that being brave enough to share work you have worked hard on is an accomplishment in and of itself!
Have you ever had any particularly bad experiences receiving criticism? I'd love to know! Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
Thank you SO much for reading! I hope this helped/encouraged you in some way.
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