I originally wrote The basics. a couple months back as a means to show people a way to progress in their art. Since it was rushed I never took the time to go back and spruce it up with more detail so I'll be doing that in this journal.
So what are the basics? They are Art Fundamentals. And art fundamentals are the basis for creating a convincing piece that has proper depth, lighting, color theory etc. It's more or less a few rules that are good to keep in mind when creating a piece. It's good practice to study these as a beginner and revisit them throughout your entire art career. Even professional artists revisit these and know these fundamental rules very well. (Most do at least).
These rules aren't the end all be all to art and they may not necessarily pertain to what you do. I think these mostly pertain to: Drawing, painting, design, illustration etc. Disciplines in those veins, but you could find a use for these in photography and sculpting as well. I implore everyone to give these a try as they really will help you improve.
Why study these rules? Well simply put it's working smarter and not harder. Though you should still work hard at them! Think of it this way: You can draw your favorite character over and over but you're only learning how to draw that character. You still may not know how his/her anatomy actually works and if you tried different poses it would be very difficult to do properly. If you first learn these fundamentals then you'll be able to properly understand their anatomy, proportions, perspective, etc. You could convincingly and easily create that character in any way you desire because you have the knowledge to do so. Now something people tend to do is copy their favorite artists. If you want to draw anime then understanding anime is important and emulating your favorite artists can help, however you can utilize these rules to understand how everything in general works. I guarantee you all anime artists understand these rules and it's because of these rules that allow them to stylize their works. If you know these rules then it's a lot easier to create a style like anime.
It took me a long time to scoop up all of this information over some years before I got real serious into art because I did not know what to study with art. No one tells you what to study (nowadays it seems more people do) so it's difficult to break in and start. The truth is illustration and design is a skill like any other that can be learned. You could be born with a better sense of creativity that helps you excel at a much faster rate but I am convinced that anyone can learn to draw professionally and technically if given enough time to do so.
So after blabbing your ear off let's actually get to the fundamentals.
There is no particular order to these that you should learn them in but I do suggest you tackle one at a time so you cement it into your mind before moving on to the next.
Basic shapes - There is a difference from drawing symbolically and drawing forms that have depth. If you draw what you think an eye looks like then it may not show the proper form of an eye. The purpose of learning your basic shapes is to better understand form and construction.
The shapes you should study are:
With this you also want to learn some proper line confidence as you can't fake confidence in your art.
Watch this link in it's entirety: [link]
Follow what he does and you'll have a great line quality.
Perspective - You will need to know 1, 2 and 3 point perspective in your art career. If you want to create convincing pieces you need to know perspective. It is difficult and throws a lot of people off but it's a must and absolutely necessary. There are more advanced perspective types such as 4, 5 and 6 point which goes into curvilinear perspective. However, you only really need to know 1, 2 and 3 as the others are very specific. There are tons of perspective books out there for free on the internet and pretty much any will do fine. If you want a suggestion though I can point you to two books that I know for a fact will help you in learning.
- Perspective by: William F. Powell - Short sweet and straight to the point. I had a college class based around this (40) page book. It seems silly because of how short it is that a class would be based around that. But perspective is difficult and it still will teach you what you need to know.
- Perspective made easy by: Ernest R. Norling - This one is a bit more in depth but I've heard it recommended constantly from many sources. I highly suggest this book for someone looking to really learn.
Anatomy - Here's the big one that people struggle with. Since the human body is so complex it requires a large amount of knowledge to portray it accurately. There are tons of ways to go about learning anatomy but I will explain the ones that I have seen work on myself as well as other artists. For starters you should get yourself an anatomy book! Simple right? Right. I was personally suggested George Bridgman's - Bridgman's complete guide to drawing from life. The idea is to go through and draw every single image from front to back. Meanwhile read the text and really analyze and study the body parts. Try to replicate them as accurately as possible and understand them. By doing this even once your knowledge on bone structure, muscles and the proportions of the body will be magnified quite noticeably. You will notice a change as you study.
Secondly life drawing and gesture studies are very important! I suggest you try to make it out to a local life drawing session with real models. If that's not possible or if you're too much of a shy NEET then you can find various sites online that have timed gesture drawing. I personally use this site: artists.pixelovely.com/practic…
However there are plenty of others if you simply Google: Timed Gesture drawing.
Let's take a second to talk about how to go about this properly. Were you simply going to go in and draw the silhouette? Reaching for that pencil already? *Slaps pencil out of your hands.* No. When doing these you want to set a goal for yourself before you begin. That goal may involve drawing simply gestures of the pictures. Maybe studying specific parts of the anatomy to draw. Or even to try and flesh out as much detail as possible. Go in with a plan!
Now let's lay down some definitions for you:
- Gesture: I've heard thousands of definitions for gesture so mine may be wrong but I'll tell you what I feel it is. A gesture is the act of laying down enough visual information in a very short amount of time so you can understand the placement of the figure and correct proportions. Gestures aren't always beautiful but they are useful and will help speed up your process.
- Visual Measuring: The act of horizontally or vertically connecting different points of the body to correctly lay in proportions. For example if you were in a life drawing class what you could do is hold your arm out fully stretched and line up the pencil point with a part of the body. In this case let's say the elbow. From there you can hold out your pencil horizontal or vertical and match up other landmarks on the body to better determine if where you're drawing the elbow is correct. In much the same way you can also use this to get a head height and compare how long certain body parts are or how many head heights they are in distance. You get the idea.
- Proportions: The placement of body parts. Simple yet it's something people struggle with constantly. (Pro-tip: Visual measuring helps alleviate proportion problems!) You'll notice a lot of anatomy books break down bodies into head heights. Those can tell you certain proportions of a person. They may be 5 heads tall, they may be 8 heads tall. Those will help determine how long the other limbs are. Just the same you can use other limbs to measure as well. Facial features are also very important to keep proportions in mind! Make sure the eyeballs are lined up properly and a proper width apart by visual measuring!
Composition - Composition is also very important (just like all the other rules, duh.) to understand.
It's something that is often overlooked because it does not seem as important but I can assure you that good composition is paramount to creating an interesting piece.
Look into a book called: Drawing Scenery - Landscapes and Seascapes by Jack Hamm.
The first half is entirely on composition and it's more or less a crash course into it. Though it still teaches things you must know so don't write it off if you think you know composition fairly well. The second half is on drawing scenery and all that if you haven't noticed already but that's not what we're talking about right now. Composition is to create a flow in your piece that makes the viewers eyes stay within it and leads the viewer around on a tour through your painting by use of focal points and direction. You want people to look at your piece for a long time right? Right. This is where composition comes into play. This fundamental can make or break a picture. If you don't plan out what the viewer sees correctly then even if you have amazing rendering skills it may fall flat and look uninteresting.
Color theory/Lighting - As with anatomy there are tons of ways to go about this but I'll try to explain some key points you should look for.
If you want to paint and use color you need to know color theory it is inevitable. Your paintings will show your ignorance if you do not understand how to utilize color to its fullest. For starters I suggest you learn how to mix paints traditionally as this has helped me to understand how it really behaves. There are three books I can suggest you to get that are gold mines of information.
- James Gurney - Color and Light
- James Gurney - Imaginative Realism
- Scott Robertson - How to render
What to know?! Color and light, silly. As I said for color theory it's good to start off basic. Learn the color wheel. C'mon son learn the color wheel. If you went into a new job and didn't know the alphabet you'd probably get fired pretty quick. So it's important to know the color wheel as it is the language artists speak. (This includes values of black and white) Then as the books will explain you should learn some color harmonies as these are the means to painting with beauty. Though it isn't necessary color harmonies are always going to look pretty if executed properly as they are tried and tested since art began. An example would be Complimentary colors which are two opposing colors on the color wheel. There are many you will want to learn so let me name a few. Complimentary, split complimentary, triadic, quadratic, analogous. Learn those and you will go far.
Lighting is very much the same beast as color theory as they work in tandem with eachother. Learning in grayscale is learning in light since you need to know the values of the colors instead of the color itself. Drawing or painting still life's are a great way to go about learning as you will study how light affects objects.
If you're looking to paint digitally and have no idea how then go over to this site: www.ctrlpaint.com/
Go into the video gallery and there are tons of free videos on how to paint digitally. From bare basics to more advanced techniques you can learn quite fast from this dudes videos. They practically taught me how to wield a tablet overnight.
Style - While this isn't really a fundamental rule it is something so many people wonder about that I figure I explain my thoughts on the idea.
I personally feel that style is something that you make on your own. It is your artists signature. It is what defines you. As so many wonder, how do you create a style? While there is no one answer I feel you create a style of your own by learning how you want. You may spend a few months really hammering out lighting and it'll show in your work as a strength that others don't have as well as you do. Then you may work on hands for a really long time and have amazing hands in your pieces. Those will stand out and eventually you will stylize them in your own way from simply understanding them so well. A combination of everything you learn will eventually mold the foundation of your style and who you are as an artist. Of course with this emulating other artists you admire can add to it and influence you. You may have an entirely different means of creating a style and that's okay. As someone who wants to work in a production pipeline I'll have to emulate plenty of other styles, however, my own personal style will still be mine alone by how I was brought into the art world.
Networking - Again this isn't a fundamental but since so many people have trouble with this I'll give a little insight.
Get out there! You gotta break the shy mold for a bit and suck it up to get noticed. Unless your work is just that killer that you don't need to say a word for it to go viral then you're gonna need to be active in a community for a while. Right here on deviantart is a great place to start but make sure you also branch out and keep journals on other art forums as well. Even making a tumblr can help get more eyes on you. Offer a service if you can for a while. I personally do critiques in the thumbshare forum. It's something I enjoy very much and while it helps other artists grow it also helps get me some exposure as well. Requests can help as well as people love free shit! When I first started my page here on deviantart my talking was very stiff and robotic like since I was so nervous I wanted it to look so professional. But you're still a person and you want people to know you! So be you then, talk like you do and don't be afraid of rejection as it will happen in the art world.
*Edit - Goal making - Due to a recent comment it was brought to my attention I should make a better statement on goal making in art. I had touched on it a bit within the anatomy section of this journal but it is something that I think is quite important as well. With how daunting art can be and how much information is here it seems almost impossible to cover it all in a fair amount of time. In all honesty if you study hard for a year or two you can get pretty much all of it in. Setting goals is quite important to your workflow and it's something even I do myself. For each section of fundamentals I have made a set of stages that I work through to better cement them in my head. For example in color theory I first learn the basics of digital painting then I move onto color theory. Then from there I can learn a traditional media then how to utilize those in a piece etc. Take it step by step and in no time you'll see a sizable chunk taken out of all of this. It's well worth it and remember that 5 minutes of planning is worth 5 weeks of work. Goal setting is so important to your workflow so be setting them!
These are the most important things you should revisit over and over again until you die. There are other advanced things I could go into but that's unnecessary and up to you as an artist to find for yourself! That's the joy of art after-all is creating something that you can be proud of and that others will enjoy.
I hope this helps even one person then it was all worth the typing on my poor fingers.
Of course I have to give credit to a big influence of mine: 4chan's /ic/ board. The mention of the name makes a lot of people's assholes pucker up tight enough to create a diamond. Even when I say it it kinda kills me inside. For as much shit as that site gets the /ic/ board has been immensely helpful and where I learned a majority of this information in the past five or six years. The community there is way different from other parts of the site that create so much enmity.
Good luck out there! We're all gonna make it if we try.