Friday, 10 September 2010

6 Useful Art Tips - Part 1

First of all I’d like to welcome all new followers and readers and say that I very much hope that you will perhaps find something useful and interesting in my blog and the comments – or if not useful and interesting, then at least sometimes entertaining! And it goes without saying that your comments are always welcome!

We have often touched on the subject of teaching art and those of you who have read my previous posts will know that I have some doubts about the extent to which Art can be taught. Of course there are practical techniques which we can learn from other people. But in my view, much of what we can be taught is a question of ‘unlearning’ the things that have inhibited us and prevented us from reaching our full potential.

The same thing applied to my literacy teaching. I spent a lot of time and effort trying to undo the bad habits my pupils had been taught; and isn’t psychotherapy largely concerned with ‘unlearning’ the beliefs and habits that have held us back in life?

But looking back over the many art classes I have attended over the years, from school to Adult Education classes, there are a handful of ‘tips’ that  I think have been useful as well as ‘lessons’ I have learnt from experience so I’d like to pass them on for your consideration - but not as rules set in stone.

Some of the following are tips I picked up from Art teachers – others are lessons I’ve learnt from experience.

1. Make a thumbnail sketch before you begin the full-size piece. Not always necessary or even advisable but sometimes it can help a lot, especially from the point of view of composition! (If you paint from photos you have taken yourself, much of this preparatory work will have taken place in the photo editing.)

2. Respect other people’s work-in-progress and expect them to respect yours by not allowing them to add or change anything you have drawn or painted.

3. Work all over the painting. Don’t get caught up in finishing one section in detail but keep the whole work at the same level of completion. (There are some mediums which make this more difficult than others and it is probably why I like working in soft pastels so much!) The danger of not doing this is that you may find yourself working very hard to change one part of the painting that you’re not happy with while in fact a small change in a different area may be all that was needed.

4. Stand back frequently and evaluate the whole painting. Sometimes a painting misses the mark because the artist has overworked it but if you can stop and leave the painting somewhere where you will see if frequently, after a while you will know whether it is finished or, if not, what you need to do to complete it.

5. Trust your intuition. This ‘tip’ is perhaps an extension of No. 4. The way it was put to me was, ‘let the painting tell you what it needs’. Sounds a bit fanciful, but if you have allowed your painting to ‘flow’, there will be a connection between you and the painting which will allow such two-way communication and remember that this ‘work’ is all about you and your artwork and while other people’s comments and suggestions may be interesting they are rarely truly helpful.

6. Allow yourself to get into a muddle and work your way out of it. Keep going, even if you think your painting is going nowhere. Again, I find this easier to put into practice using soft pastels but in my experience, the paintings that were, at some point, descending into chaos are the ones that have stood the test of time. The ones that came easily and seemed straightforward at the time, often seem to lack something when I go back and look at them later.

I hope someone, somewhere will find something here that helps them and perhaps you would like to share some tips of your own?

Very important to me is that I’ve found that some of these ‘Art tips’ have taught me some lessons for Life! In Part 2 I will endeavour to explain what I have been able to transfer from my painting to other areas of my life, what Art has taught me!


Ulla Hennig said...

I don't know whether the following tips could count:
1. Practice, Practice, Practice!
2. Join communities like TotalArtSoul or Deviantart. It is like visiting galleries--for me a good tool to get inspired.

Judy Adamson said...

I certainly think those are useful tips, Ulla. Thank you!

The first one, Practice, Practice, Practice.. particularly applies to drawing, I think. I've often heard that the best way to learn to draw is to draw something every day.

And, yes, becoming part of an artistic community can be very beneficial - I think it's possible to improve one's work technically 'by osmosis' as well as the inspiration factor you mention.

More tips still welcome!

Polly said...

I really like your blog, Judy! Very inspiring.

I was told to draw or paint something -from life- every day, no matter how mundane or how small. Just get something on paper every day.

I'm not very good at following that advice.

Polly said...

Oh, looks like we were both told the same thing:)

Judy Adamson said...

Thank you for your kind words, Polly!

At certain stages of my life I haven't drawn for months, or even possibly years and it took a while to get back into it. But these days I find a little bit of drawing, or even doodling, so therapeutic, I rarely miss a day. But, as I've said before, most of it gets done when I'm taking a break from the computer to 'watch' television - maybe that's why I am perfectly content with a very old and unbelievably small television?

Country Mouse Studio said...

my best tip would have to be - don't be afraid to throw it out or put it away for a few days, months or even years and start all over.

Too many times I struggled for days with one that should have been either discarded or set aside and many times I picked up one even years later and had an Ah Ha!! moment where I could see what it needed.

Jean said...

Judy, I not always comment but always come and enjoy everything you have to share or say...teach.:)

I can see where these tips can be applied to the art of living life and will look forward to part two.

Betsy Grant said...

I'm a composer/musician not a fine artist like yourself, but I find your comments fascinating in terms of the creative process. I especially like the part about allowing yourself to get into a muddle and work your way out.

Judy Adamson said...

Thank you all for your comments -

@ Jean - I wonder whether your ways of seeing how these art tips can apply to Life are the same as mine. If not, it would be great if you would share your interpretations. We are all different and you may well be able to add some things of value to others.

@ Carole - I can see that with watercolours it is far more difficult to 'work your way out of a muddle' than with soft pastels so probably putting your 'muddle' away for while and perhaps even make a fresh start when that 'Aha' moment dawns.

@ Betsy - for me the 'allowing yourself to get into a muddle' - or even a chaos! - is probably the most important point, both in my art and in my life.