Hey guys! I'm so glad to have you back!
Here are a few paintings and studies that I created last week. I have some very exciting news to share! I am not only working hard on producing content on YouTube now (two videos are up and the third can be expected THIS Thursday!), but also, by the end of December my first monthly newsletter will be set which will include a usable freebie for you! It's a surprise, so I'm not going to tell you what it is, but make sure to visit throughout the end of December so you can sign up and we can be friends forever. :)
I'm very excited for the helpful content I will be sharing this Thursday (blog post/YouTube video). It's going to be the first of a four part series related to the use of references when creating an artwork.
Thanks so much for the visit! I wish you a wonderful and inspiring week!
Do you let other peoples' comments about watercolors (how they are temperamental, unforgiving, etc.) dissuade you from using them to create art? Have you ever binge-watched YouTube videos from amazing watercolor artists who make the process seem extremely easy, just to get frustrated when you try a painting out yourself?
It's hard for me to believe, but it's already been a year since I made the decision to get serious about advancing my drawing/painting skills and made my first investment in (actual) watercolor painting supplies. By then, I had already tried acrylics and oils, but I wanted to keep experiencing different mediums in order to see which I liked best and which complemented my art style most (this is an ongoing process btw). I became increasingly interested in watercolor illustration and was very inspired by artists I found online. I made it my objective to paint and learn as much as possible in the afternoons after getting home from work and whenever else I could.
Though I still have a long way to go before I reach the skill level I want to be at, I have managed to advance my skills and want to share what I have learned with you. Make sure to check out the free downloadable PDF at the end of the post that you can use for practicing! I created what I call a "watercolor painting map" for you using a reference picture of an apple. Remember that practice is what's going to make you move forward and, above all, you need to be patient with yourself. Read my blog post titled Self-Doubt as an Artist: How to Stay Confident and Keep Going.
Here are the ten things that I wish somebody had explained to me before starting with watercolors! I really believe that if you understand these ten things and consciously apply them throughout your work, you will be able to improve your watercolor painting skills a lot faster AND not waste as much money and supplies! Watch the video, read the blog post, or better yet, do both! : )
1. Buy paper intended for watercolors
It can be extremely frustrating to feel like you're constantly fighting against your supplies when your trying to create artwork! Make things easier for yourself by actually buying paper intended for watercolors. If you're serious about improving, DO NOT attempt to paint on regular paper or cardboard. Mixed-media sketchbooks may or may not work depending on the amount of paint and/or water you use, so I don't recommend them either until you gain a bit more of experience and control over this medium.
I suggest doing some quick research in order to find a brand of watercolor paper that is relatively good quality and price for you to start off with. With experience, you'll start seeing whether you prefer thicker, thinner, cold press, hot press, etc. As my watercolor journey has progressed, I've discovered that I love thicker varieties (preferably 140 lbs. and up) because I can be pretty heavy handed with my paints and I'm pretty rough with my paintbrushes and paper! I also like that I don't have to necessarily tape down my paper every single time I feel like painting.
Canson watercolor paper is a good option for beginners in terms of quality and price so do check it out if you're looking for something that won't break the bank. Here's the link to the watercolor pad shown in the picture below.
Canson 140 lb. Watercolor Paper- Amazon
2. Plan colors before starting to paint
I know this may feel like a pain, especially when you just want to get to painting. However, I ruined SO many good drawings because I was too anxious to get started and ignored the planning aspect that goes behind creating an artwork using watercolors. Remember that truly effective artworks show harmony, unity and coherence. For this to happen, the artist MUST give thought to how the elements included within a composition (no matter how simple or complex) relate with and complement each other. This applies directly to the colors you use.
There's a lot of value to starting with a limited color palette. I suggest you plan and limit not only the colors you'll be using in your painting, but also decide how you'll be creating your darkest mixtures and shadows. You can use mixtures of complementary colors, analogous colors, earth tones, etc. Planning and keeping colors in control will help ensure a more professional outcome.
3. Keep pencil sketches as light as possible
Because watercolor layers are transparent and thin, any hard pencil marks will most likely be visible through the paint at the end. I recommend using your pencil lightly when you are creating your initial sketch/map and erase at least partially afterward, if possible. Remove any extra graphite you may have accidentally smudged on your paper while drawing using a soft and clean eraser. This will ensure a cleaner outcome at the end.
Something I have found useful is creating my initial sketch with a water-soluble gray colored pencil! That way, these lines will disappear completely as I paint. I highly recommend this method if your drawing and observation skills are already good (some lines that you weren't intending to erase could be erased).
Read more about the watercolor paper, pencils, erasers and other useful tools in my My Favorite Art Supplies (So Far) blog post! I include Amazon links to the products I've bought in case you want to give them a try.
4. Protect the whites
This was SO hard for me in the beginning and is STILL something I have to make a conscious effort to do! As previously mentioned, watercolor painting definitely requires some plan work. When creating your initial sketch, make sure to map out/indicate where the lightest and darkest areas of your painting will be. You can see how I did this in the PDF included at the end of this post.
Once your sketch/map is complete, make sure you do your ABSOLUTE best to protect the lightest areas throughout your painting process.
I have three specific tips related to this:
a) Pick a good reference photo to work from. Artists have to develop an eye for picking out photographs that will lead to good paintings. If you'd like to read more about the characteristics that make a good reference photo and how I take my own in my studio, read my blog post titled How to Take Great Reference Photos to Use in Art and Why They Are Important. A good reference photo demonstrates a balance of darks, midtones and lights.
b) Work large. If your creating a painting that will have a good amount of detail in it, make it easier for yourself by working larger. Water gives watercolors a mind of their own and you have to learn to work WITH it and not AGAINST it. Give the paint space to do its thing! With practice, you'll naturally start learning how much water should be used in any given point and you'll be able to gain control. Later on, you can move on to smaller paintings or illustrations.
c) Use masking fluid. A lot of people abstain from using masking fluid because it adds a couple of extra steps to the process and can be time consuming. However, depending on the complexity and subject you are painting, this may be the best way to go. Masking fluid ensures that the whites will be protected throughout the painting process and you don't have to be as careful when you're painting!
5. When starting to apply paint, start as light and transparent as possible
As previously mentioned, I personally tend to be quite heavy handed and have to make a conscious effort to control the amount of pigment in my paint mixtures, especially as I start a painting. ALWAYS begin with a transparent paint mixture that contains WAY more water than pigment.
Work your way up to the darker values slowly by adding layer upon layer and allowing appropriate drying times in between. Also, make sure to place the darkest values (paint mixtures with large amounts of pigment in them) ONLY in the very darkest areas you see in your reference image. Be careful and selective about where you place your darkest values or you risk creating a flat painting! It's these varieties in values, as well as their proper placement, that will give your painting dimension and depth.
6. Let layers dry
Once again, approach watercolor painting with patience! I honestly think that's half the battle. When I first started, I didn't understand the need to allow each layer to dry before applying the next (unless you're painting specific areas in which you want to create wet-on-wet effects). I went WAY beyond over-working, messing up my colors and my paper, over and over again! It took me a bit to learn that the effects I was looking for are created with subsequent washes and by reactivating colors that are already dry.
If you're impatient like I am, I recommend working on compositions in which you can jump around from one side to the other or simply working on two separate pieces at a time, switching between them to allow them to dry whenever needed. The more realistic you want to get with your paintings, the more layers it will require.
One final recommendation, but a very important one, is to resist the urge to keep painting when you make a mistake. Let it dry and, most likely, you'll be able to fix it later or at least make it less noticeable when adding more layers! Do NOT stress out when you make a mistake!
7. Don't use more than three colors in the same mixture (unless you know what you're doing)
I'm totally behind creating new paint colors and think color-mixing experiments provide us with invaluable knowledge. However, when you are attempting to create a painting, it's important that you have good understanding of the color wheel and what happens when different colors are mixed together.
I mix analogous colors together all the time when painting my middle values, but am very careful when creating my darkest hues because they usually require me to mix very different colors together. When creating these mixtures, I make sure to prepare them and test them out before actually applying them in my paintings to make sure they are what I'm looking for! You do not want to ruin your work by applying a color that looks like mud!
Something I ALWAYS do is keep a scrap piece of watercolor paper next to me as I paint in order to test colors before actually applying them! By doing this, you can ensure that both your color AND level of transparency are what you actually want at that given point.
8. Clean brushes between colors
In the beginning I took for granted that watercolor pigments were easily removed from paintbrushes and didn't take the time to make sure I had removed the previous color completely before going in with the next. If you're using the same paintbrush with very different colors, doing some gentle blotting on a rag after having rinsed it can usually help you notice if its clean. You don't want to create muddiness in your paintings that will be impossible to remove! Also, swivel your brushes in your water gently!
9. Replace your water frequently
It's important not to be lazy and replace your water when it starts to get murky because this can affect your colors and/or muddy up your work. Some artists work with several different water cups at the same time, but you'll find whatever works for you personally in time. I'm guilty of waiting WAY too long before changing my water and there's nothing worse than ruining a great painting with something that could be avoided so easily!
10. Invest in quality over quantity when it comes to paint colors
I recommend doing some research and finding watercolor sets that are good in terms of quality and price. Depending on the subjects you like to paint (landscapes, interior scenery, portraits, food, etc.), you can go for sets that contain colors you will actually be using. It is preferable to buy smaller sets with better quality than larger ones with poor quality. You should look for paint that has a strong color payoff and that blends well when mixing. I love creamier paints.
Two brands that I recommend are Winsor & Newton (their Cotman line is great for beginners) and Sakura Koi Watercolors (good for beginners in terms of both quality and price-this one actually comes with 24 different colors). Here are the Amazon links for both:
Sakura Koi Watercolors Pocket Field Sketch Box
Winsor & Newton Cotman Watercolors Sketchers' Pocket Box
Finally, download and use the PDF below to practice your watercolor painting skills! I suggest printing it and transferring the drawing onto watercolor paper using a pencil and some tracing paper. Once you have that done, open up the Unsplash link for the actual apple picture so that you can use it as reference throughout your painting process!
Unsplash is an awesome website that provides TONS of free high quality images that you can use in your art studies!
That's it for now my friends! Apply and be mindful of these ten things throughout your painting and your watercolor skills will improve in no time!
Which of these ten things gives you the most trouble? Is there any other aspect of watercolor painting that you find particularly frustrating that didn't make in on the list? I'd love to know! Let's have a discussion in the comments section below!
Thank you SO much for reading! I hope this was helpful! I have BIG things to come including a monthly newsletter with useful freebies, more YouTube videos and new products for my online shops!
Hello friend! I am SO glad you are here!
I totally failed at uploading this blog post yesterday, so here it is. Last week I worked a lot on products for my online shops (Redbubble mostly). I still have SO much to do and am constantly working on them so please do check them out! Comments, ideas and likes are very much welcome. : )
I also have been working a lot on Christmas gift card and greeting card designs which I will be selling! I still have to properly scan them, clean them a bit and add in the text, but they will be up in my Society6 shop at some point this week.
This Thursday's informational blog post will be about the importance of constructive criticism in an artist's life, how to learn to take it positively and also how to properly GIVE it! Stay tuned for that.
I wish you an amazing week full of inspiration and productivity! Cheers!
I am really enjoying creating collage designs out of individual watercolor flower studies! I've already created two different sets of awesome products for my online stores! Check them out at my Redbubble shop by clicking either of the images below. :)
If you were to asked to choose between an artwork that displayed an amazing quality of realistic rendering or one that captures your attention due to its unique expression of ideas, which would you choose? Are you one of those people that just plain hates all degrees of abstraction in art, praising only those artists who consistently produce work with high levels of realism? On the other hand, do you find photorealism boring and lacking a particular style or unique touch on part of the artist?
``Neither is there figurative and non-figurative art. All things appear to us in the shape of forms. Even in metaphysics ideas are expressed by forms. Well then, think how absurd it would be to think of painting without the imagery of forms. A figure, an object, a circle, are forms; they affect us more or less intensely.´´
In this blog post I will explain the differences and similarities between figurative and abstract art styles, as well as why it is important to make space for both in our artistic journeys. Also, I will be sharing some effective tips and exercises that will help you move towards creating artwork that shows both technical skill AND is also meaningful.
This is not going to be an opinionated post bashing either abstract or figurative artwork or anything in between. This will not be a rant about how much I dislike either style and, much less, a criticism towards artists of any kind. Au contraire, my friend! One of my main philosophies in life is appreciating and learning from all types of things and finding morsels that speak to me so I can create my own unique mishmash of awesome.
I believe that there is something to learn from everything, and that if one remains open, there will ALWAYS be something valuable to take that will enrich us as human beings (and consequently improve our work). I believe exploration and the desire to improve should be an intrinsic part of an artist's life, and feel like constricting oneself to a particular style will not allow as much progress to be made.
This said, today I am not going to get into the contemporary kind of artwork that does not really demonstrate any kind of particular knowledge about Art Fundamentals on part of the artist. You know which kind of works I am talking about! Though I do give some of these artists merit for striving to engage with their audience at a philosophical level and attempting to communicate ideas about difficult topics, in this blog post I am only considering work that shows knowledge of Elements and Principles of Art/Design.
In my personal case, it didn't take long to realize that I am naturally drawn towards creating figurative artwork. What HAS been a struggle, however, has been reaching a conclusion about what degree of realism I want my artwork to convey. You see, though I admire and respect hyper/photorealist artists very much, I would like to be able to arrive at some distinctive style that I can call my own someday.
Though it requires an immense amount of patience and skill to produce hyperrealism, I want my work to be more than an exact replica of what everyone else is able to see by looking at a picture. I'd like to arrive at an artistic style that demonstrates both skill AND is able to communicate an idea or feeling. I know I have a long way to go before arriving at this point, but simply having reached this conclusion tells me I am making progress as an artist.
What do the terms ``Abstract´´ and ``Figurative´´ mean in Art?
``Figurative´´ and ``Abstract´´ are simply two (very broad) categories in which artwork, be it painting or sculpture, can be divided into. It is important to understand that there are numerous degrees of figuration and abstraction, and this can even occur within one same piece. Though some art can be easy to categorize into either pool, others are a bit harder to decipher. There are a few art terms that are often confusing when learning about figurative and abstract art that I want to touch upon.
The word ``representational´´ is often used interchangeably with ``figurative´´ but these two terms are not synonyms. Both abstract AND figurative artworks are usually representational. Why? Because, most of the time, even when creating work that is completely abstract, there IS something from the real world that artists are trying to represent.
Two artists, one figurative and one abstract, can be creating a painting using the same flower arrangement as reference, and each of their works at the end (though completely different from each other) are going to be a representation of those same objects. Abstract artists simply choose to express what their eyes are taking in in a more expressive and unconventional manner.
Also, it is important to note that the term ``figurative´´ does not solely refer to artworks containing the human figure as subject, though many times they do. This term describes any work that is clearly derived from object (or living) sources, be it a portrait, landscape, still life, etc. In other words, if you are able to instantly recognize what it is your looking at, whether its a house, a flower, or a horse, it can be classified as figurative.
Finally, just because an artwork is figurative/representational, doesn't mean that it has to be realistic! Realism in art is created by the ability to render pictures using perspective, value, proportion, form, texture, etc. to depict subjects as closely as they appear in real life. This type of artwork is created with the intention of representing the subject as truthfully as possible.
Realism is also an art movement, but we are talking specifically about styles today. It takes an immense amount of knowledge about Art Fundamentals (form, perspective, shading, proportion, human anatomy, color theory, etc.) and practical experience in order to create realistic artwork.
This is not to say that abstract artists know nothing about Art Fundamentals or how to create the optical illusion of three dimensionality! There are amazing abstract artists that are able to combine color, line, texture and shape to create three-dimensionality, movement and many other interesting effects in their work. Consider the artwork below by the great Victor Vasarely. There is simply NO WAY that he could have created pieces like this one without having extensive knowledge of the Elements and Principles of Art, as well as years of practical exploration!
``It takes years for representational artists to develop their skills in mimicking the objects before their eyes.´´
This term simply refers to artwork featuring subject(s) that retain a fair amount of real-world characteristics. It is always representational and the audience is easily able to recognize what they are looking at, no matter what degree of realism is involved in the creation of the piece. The term ``figurative´´ became a common term to use in art conversation after the arrival of abstract art.
Consider the following two artworks. Sargent and Matisse were both figurative artists, but they had VERY different styles!
For a very long time in history, realism was sought after by artists and praised by art appreciators. From the time the Greeks became obsessed with the human body and began studying its proportions to create beautiful marble sculptures representing their perfect Gods and Goddesses, to the Renaissance, when Filippo Brunelleschi discovered how to transmit perspective and depth on a flat, two dimensional surface, creating true-to-life art was what all artists strived to achieve. Throughout history, mathematical and scientific advances allowed for both greater knowledge on part of the artist, as well as more effective artistic tools and supplies. It wasn't until the second half of the 19th century, with the surge of Impressionism, that realism started to be challenged by artists who wanted to explore further.
``Abstraction allows man to see with his mind what he cannot see physically with his eyes...Abstract art enables the artist to perceive beyond the tangible, to extract the infinite out of the finite. It is the emancipation of the mind. It is an exploration into unknown areas.´´
Contrary to figurative art, abstract art does not attempt to represent subjects in an accurate or natural way. It is not the objective of this kind of artist to achieve realism, but to communicate emotions or ideas. These artists make use of Elements of Art such as shape, color, line and texture to create visually appealing compositions that are meant to express what is in their mind. As mentioned before, this kind of artwork is usually also representational, as the artist has at least some sort of reference to work from. However, there are artists that do not use any particular reference, but apply their knowledge of Elements of Art and Color Psychology in order to very effectively transmit emotion. Abstract art can range from easily comprehensible to entirely geometrical/organic with no recognizable figures. One of the main characteristics of this type of artwork is that it interacts with the viewer in the sense that it calls out for interpretation.
With the arrival of the Industrial Revolution and the invention of camera, artists started seeking new ways to create artwork that went beyond a realistic representation of what they could see. The Impressionists were the first to start exploring use color and paint in new ways that would permit not only the rendering of a beautiful picture, but expression on part of the artist. They wanted to create work that the camera couldn't. It was in this time that the manipulation of color and shape started to occur. Later on, the Cubist movement brought forth an even greater degree of abstraction.
Though the stylized drawings on cave walls and symbolic stone sculptures created by prehistoric people are disregarded by some as simple decoration, they demonstrate that abstraction has been part of human life since its beginnings. Groups of people all over the world used shape, color and line to communicate ideas and created decorative designs on pottery and other tools. This means humans have been creating abstract art since we first had the need to express ourselves. Abstraction is not a completely ``contemporary´´ or ``modern´´ thing, but a style that has been with us all along.
Tips to Explore/Improve Both Art Styles:
1. Practice drawing both from life AND from quality photography. First focus on shape and proportion to create an effective outline drawing. Worry about detail and shading only after you have been successful in this. Once your ready, explore shading in whatever technique yo prefer (you can learn about hatching/crosshatching shading techniques and download free practice worksheets in my "Guide to Shading Techniques: Hatching, Cross-Hatching, Scribbling and Others" blog post).
2. Keep a sketchbook and use it CONTINUOUSLY as a means of exploration. Read about why it is important to keep a sketchbook and how to use it in order to improve in my blog post titled "Why Sketchbooks are Essential Tools for Artists and a Few Usage Tips". Your sketchbooks will be your best friends!
3. Whatever your subject or choice may be (portraits, landscapes, still life, etc.), study the elements involved INDEPENDENTLY. For example, if you wish to be a portrait artist, make time to study only eyes, then focus on noses, then lips, and so on BEFORE attempting to draw or paint a complete realistic face. If you want to do landscapes, make time to study different types of trees, how to paint clouds, water, and so on BEFORE attempting to create a complete realistic landscape. Explore your medium of choice and practice creating different colors and textures with it.
4. Always keep learning and practicing Art Fundamentals. No matter what your artistic style is or even what subject you wish to specialize in in the future, ALWAYS make time to practice things like form, perspective, anatomy and effective compositional arrangement. I created a blog post for beginners about perspective and drawing three dimensional shapes which includes free worksheets to practice with that you can read here. I will be expanding on different Art Fundamentals in the future, so stay tuned!
1. Practice the deliberate manipulation of Art Elements (be it color, shape, texture, etc.) in order to more efficiently transmit ideas or emotions. Maybe for you this will mean simply starting to use colors that are slightly more unnatural, bright or contrasted in order to make your drawings or paintings more impactful. Maybe it means arriving at your own, stylized version of a human figure. Maybe you wish to bring out only a certain part of your drawing or painting by adding more detail to that area. Whatever this may be for you, think about the message behind your work and how you can modify reality in order to impact the viewer. Don't be afraid to break the rules!
2. Try using art supplies that FORCE you to pay less attention to small details. This goes especially if you are naturally prone to want to create high levels of realism. If you paint, try using larger brushes and/or creating a picture using less brush strokes! If you draw, try using a medium like charcoal or oil pastels that don't really allow for high level of detail. Try to discern between what a picture has to NECESSARILY include in order to portray what you want to portray, and what can be left out. Also, try using techniques that will allow you to work faster and looser.
The following pieces have been explorations I have done in the past in order to gain practice at working faster and more loosely. This has been hard for me because I am prone to want to add detail, but I am seeing much progress with time!
3. Experiment and explore with unconventional supplies! Use ready-made things you have laying around in your studio or home like fabric, paper, pieces of plastic, etc. and think of them in terms of shapes, color and texture. How could they complement each other to create one same composition? Make your collection and think, are you drawn to these particular objects for a specific reason? One of the best (and most fun) ways for me to explore shape, texture and color is by creating collages! They are something I start with no particular idea in mind, but new ideas always pop into my head throughout this process!
4. Look inwards and use internal stimulation instead of external stimulation to create your work. Give importance to getting to know yourself and think about what ideas and themes are important to YOU as a human being. Continuously write and brainstorm what comes into your mind. Start works based on these ideas instead of working from images or objects that exist beyond you. How can you use color, shape, texture, etc., to transmit your idea?
Making Time to Explore Both Styles
``What interests me is all the stuff that goes into abstract and abstract-figurative art. Not the styles, but the stuff that, in various combinations, make the styles: mixing and matching painting methods and ideas.´´
As artists, we should make time to explore both figurative and abstract art throughout our journeys because it will enhance the outcome of our work. I believe we should always seek improvement and be willing to step out of our comfort zones. On one hand, it's incredibly important to learn the rules before attempting to break them and to always make time to go back to the basics, no matter what level of expertise we have achieved. This will help us maintain our observational and rendering skills fresh. On the other hand, we should explore new techniques that will enable more effective communication with our audience because, well, isn't that the point? Great art is engaging at a visceral level and makes people feel and/or think!
Personally, some of the artwork that has called out to me the most combines both figurative AND abstract techniques within them. This is what I seek to achieve some day with my work!
I'd love it if you could answer the quick survey below!
Thanks SO much for reading and visiting my site! I hope that you found this post useful. Have a wonderful rest of the week and I hope to see you around later!
Hey there! Thank you for visiting!
This week was kind of rough for me. Not only did I have family staying over at my house, but I also got a bit sick. I'm fine now, thank goodness! However, once I got back to it, I decided to take it easy and paint some fun stuff (thus, the food). I spent a good portion of today cleaning my house and organizing my studio so that next week can be super productive and I am excited for all the things I will be advancing on.
Next Thursday's blog post will be about Figurative vs. Abstract Art. It's going to be a good one! Though I don't make much Abstract art, I'll be challenging myself to make some original examples! I will also be continuing with Christmas-related artwork.
I hope you had an amazing and restful weekend! See you around soon!
Hey you all! I hope that you are having a wonderful and restful weekend!
As I do every Sunday, here are a few studies and pieces I was able to complete this week. This week I worked primarily with watercolors and oils. You may have already seen some of these, as I created them specially for my Day of the Dead blog post I published this past Thursday. Read that blog post here to learn more about this wonderful Mexican celebration and how to draw a human skull (for beginners)! I included a downloadable step-by-step PDF at the end for you to practice with!
Next week, I am continuing with the plant/flower studies I promised myself I would work on. I really need to improve in this area! In next Thursday's blog post I will be sharing with you how I am brainstorming and planning for the seasonal/Christmas paintings, cards and tags I will be selling both personally and through my online shops. Just in case you aren't aware, my Redbubble and Society6 stores are now open! I am making it a priority to keep uploading awesome products with my work to sell there, if you are interested!
Thank you for visiting and I hope to see you around soon!
Hey there! Here are a few drawings and paintings I worked on this week. I've been very much into watercolor face sketches lately! I've decided that, starting next week, my quick daily sketches/paintings will be of flowers and plants. I will be practicing these subjects for the entire month of November and am excited to see how much I can improve. I was also able to start a new still life oil painting that I am hoping I will be able to finish next week. Thanks for coming by and stay tuned for next Thursday's blog post! It's going to be related to Mexican Día de Muertos artwork and I will be painting something inspired by this interesting celebration!
How to Effectively Use Other Artists' Work as Inspiration and a Great Method to Start Developing Your Own Artistic Style
Are you constantly trying to find inspiration by admiring other artists' work and find yourself copying more than you'd like? Do you feel like you are making no progress towards finding your own artistic style? Are you simply unable to produce as much original artwork as you'd like?
“Those who do not want to imitate anything, produce nothing."
In this post I will explain one of the methods I use to make sure I produce original artwork while getting inspired by other artists. This strategy is an amazing way to work towards finding and developing one's own artistic style. Plus, it's very fun!
The act of copying is a very delicate subject in the artistic field and just the word seems to put many of us on edge. I say, let's try to relax and admit that each one of us has been constantly inspired throughout his/her life by people, experiences, artwork (and by “artwork" I mean movies, music, theater, books, etc.), the environments we have lived in, advertising, and pretty much everything around us. Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, has a conscious or unconscious effect on us and, therefore, on the work we produce as artists.
We have all been influenced by a combination of different things and have different likes and dislikes. This is not to say that two different artists are never going to produce similar work. There are bound to be similarities amongst us in terms of technique and/or subject matter because there are only a certain amount of techniques and subjects to work with. However, if we put in the effort to discover ourselves as artists (what techniques/supplies we enjoy working with most, what our own distinctive abilities as well as areas of improvement are, what ideas we want to put out into the world, etc.), we will eventually get to a point at which our work will be a direct representation of ourselves. This is, in my opinion, what matters most and what I am personally working towards. At this point in my artistic journey I allow myself to admire and analyze other peoples' work, but make sure that the bulk of my time goes towards looking inwards and doing my best to apply what I have learned in my own way.
Having said all this, let's begin!
The Artist Mishmash Exercise
The purpose of this exercise is to start pinpointing specific characteristics of other artists' work that you are drawn to, whether it's related to subject type, technique used, general mood of the piece, etc. Afterwards, you will explore how to use characteristics found in different artists' work in one same piece!
To begin you will need a phone, computer, or any other device on which to search for existing artwork, a few pieces of blank paper and a pencil. Make a list of three artists that create work you greatly admire. If you have already created a Pinterest inspiration board like I have, go ahead an use it! If not, now is the time to investigate. I really recommend keeping it at only three and trying to select artists that produce very different types of artwork. Once you have finalized your list, and perhaps read a bit about each artist if you don't know about them already, analyze several of pieces of each, and write down four to five specific characteristics that you have found in each artist's work.
a) Henri Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901)
French artist Toulouse-Lautrec was both a painter and an illustrator. He is known for his provocative paintings and drawings depicting the decadent Parisian nightlife, that he was a part of himself. He created many posters and advertisements for nightclubs including the Moulin Rouge, and elevated advertising to a fine art status. He was a skilled Post-Impressionist painter that experimented with a variety of techniques and supplies. In his posters, he made use of bold, flat shapes of color.
Characteristics of his work I really like:
-Roughness/raw quality of his work in both subject and technique
-Bold use of color, perhaps unnatural at times
-Variety of mediums and substrates used in his sketches and paintings (charcoal, pastels, oils, lithographs, graphite, crayons, canvas, paper, cardboard, etc. )
-Hand-lettering in posters
b) Hannah Höch (1889-1978)
Höch was a German visual artist that is considered the pioneer of the photomontage technique. Her work transmitted deeply rooted social and political messages regarding issues that were occurring at the time (sexism, war, etc.). Though she also worked with oil paints, she is primarily known for her bold collages created with images taken from fashion magazines as well as illustrated journals. Her work conveyed strong, important messages, but were humorous at the same time.
Characteristics of her work I really like:
-Collage/photomontage technique (I think it's quite interesting how we can take bits and bobs of already existing images and create a whole new meaning for them by combining and rearranging them)
-Charged with deep meaning about political/social issues but humorous at the same time
-Incorporation of popular elements into artwork
c) Edward Hopper (1882-1967)
Hopper was an American artist that started his artistic career as an illustrator and turned into a fine artist later on. He is considered to be one of the most important realist painters of the twentieth century. His enigmatic artwork depicts the loneliness of modern urban life in America. The arrangement of elements within his compositions, as well as his amazing use of light/shadow and detail, create very visually striking pieces that very effectively create tension and emotion in the viewer.
Characteristics of his work I really like:
-Realist style but not literal copy (certain degree of interpretive rendering that makes artwork more expressive)
-Artwork tells a story or makes the audience think
-Use of color and contrast creates very striking imagery
-Feeling of mystery and solitude
Alright! Once you have your three artists, and you have listed a few characteristics of each person's work, start brainstorming ideas in which you could incorporate most of these into one same piece. Create several different sketches! You don't have to use ALL of the points you've written down, but make sure to at least use one characteristic of each artist.
Having trouble? Consider these tips.
-Start with the artist that uses subjects or styles that you have a bit of practice in already and then see how you can incorporate characteristics of the other two.
-Instead of wasting too much time thinking of the overall idea you want your drawing/painting to transmit, start drawing ONE object/person/animal/shape and add to it as you go. You'll start making connections between the elements you start adding.
-After you have learned a bit about your favorite artists, think of an idea that is personal to YOU and YOUR LIFE, and then think about how one particular artist might go about representing that particular idea.
Once you have selected an idea to work with, go ahead and start with your final piece! Remember, this is an exercise and is not meant to produce a finalized artwork. As with all types of explorations, try to have fun with it and not pressure yourself to create something perfect. If a great idea for a final piece, awesome! If not, at least you learned something new!
My final exploration piece:
After having sketched out a few different ideas, I selected one and created a composition in Photoshop using five different pictures. I used this (digital) collage as reference as I drew and painted. In this piece, I used a variety of supplies and techniques including watercolor pencils, Prismacolor Soft-Core pencils, Gamsol, watercolor paints, black gouache and even a bit of charcoal. Some areas in the painting are purposely made to look more realistic and polished than others. Finally, I did my best to create an image that propelled the viewer to think about and interpret what he/she is seeing.
Which are YOUR three favorite artists and what is it about their artwork you love so much? Do you think any of these characteristics can be found in your own work? I'd ABSOLUTELY LOVE it if you took a minute to comment below! Let me know if you use the Artist Mishmash technique! I'd love to see what you come up with! Cheers, friends!
Thank you so much for visiting and reading! Have an amazing and inspiring week!
In this section of my website I will be posting helpful information
for other artists and
art educators, as well
as my own thoughts
and personal artistic progress as I move from working full-time to creative entrepreneurship!
Do not hesitate to
reach out to me if you have any questions regarding my work.
Feel free to send me an
email, leave a comment on the site and/or reach out on social media. I'd love to connect!
Hope you enjoy
and find this useful!