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Personal Art Advice

I have been asked by +10 persons in different asks about art advice during the last month, so I figured it would be nice to mix all their questions in one single post and make it open so others (maybe) can find something useful in it.

I will summarize, from my experience, the most important aspects of art in 5 big points (+ art advices in general) that are from my point of view, the basics you need to take into account when you’re an artist in development.

(sorry in advance for the grammar horrors;;;;;)

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Practice.

  • Art is a progressive-empiric, rational learning process, where your practice leads you to “unlock” abilities. But at the same time you NEED to understand what are you doing, what are your strengths (and enforce them), your weakness (recognize and accept them before you think about how to solve them) and that also you’re in a forever learning process, that you’ll never get the ultimate knowledge on anything because you’re not a frikin machine. Yet, the more you practice, the faster you’ll grasp concepts.

  • Practice is probably the most important point when it comes to everything you can attempt in life. Innate talent is good and all but I could be Da Vinci’s reincarnation and if I don’t practice, I will never know nor put my spark to work.

  • Daily practice is a must. And when I say practice I don’t talk about a whole Guernica everyday, but doodles, doodles are more than excelent because with each doodle a little +1 EXP pops up over your head (like some person on my dash said once, after you finished darwing this mug, you’re basically +1 better at drawing mugs, and the next time you do it, it will come out even better).
    Even if you don’t feel inspired, draw stuff. Everybody has 10 minutes a day to doodle something on a mere sheet of paper, on the corner of your school notebook. Don’t know what to draw? Draw something you have around you. You can even use your left-right hand as reference and practice drawing it (because God knows hands are the biggest Achiles’ Heel in the art world, so any practice and study you can do of them is more than welcome).
    Never use the “geez it’s not coming out well…” as an excuse to dismiss a  practice. If something’s not coming out the right way, just let it be. Maybe for 10 minutes, maybe forever (and start another one or move into a different thing immediately). If you’re stuck while drawing something, just take a break, go for a walk, to the backyard, do the dishes, and then come back to your picture with a new perspective. 90% of the time just taking a break will solve any visual issues you might have. Also never forget that not everything you draw has to be perfect, specially in your earliest stages as an artist (I’m still there btw).


References.

  • First of all, there’s nothing shameful about references.
    References of human anatomy, expressions, color, lighting, clothing, landscapes, buildings, coloring techniques, etc; gather all of them. The most professional artists, animators out there use references ALL the time, so why would you abstain from them? I don’t know where that concept/trend came from but carve this in your brain: Art is not a competence on who uses less references to do their stuff. Referencing less than the artist next to you won’t get you higher in any rank of anything. Such rank doesn’t exist. End of.
    Now.
  • When you start drawing, referencing is often done in a mimicing way (aka you basically stick to copy exactly what you see) because it’s a human basic instinct: in order to learn something, we start copying it exactly as we see it from the closest referral we have (like when you learn how to eat by yourself copying the way your parents do it). After that, you start making your own decissions, since you already gathered your basic info (how to grasp a fork) you can now move on and decide minor details to make the thing fit your specific necesities and shape to your personal limitations or requirements (like grabbing the fork with your whole hand, with the tip of your fingers, from a lower possition than your parents, etc).
    What’s my point? The worst thing that can happen to you is to become a references slave where you basically can’t function, draw basic shit without having a perfectly ideal reference (thing to copy), even when you have drawn the thing in question before, and many times. That’s where 75% of the newbie artists trip, and most of them can’t get up ever again. If you can’t think for yourself in a rational way, all the references in the world will be useless.

  • Being a references slave doesn’t only kill your creativeness, but also clogs your growth as an artist. When you reference from something, learn to discriminate what elements of what you see fit the drawing, image you’re trying to produce in your current style and/or ammount of details. The sooner you learn the difference between referencing and trying to be a human carbon paper, the sooner you’ll start enjoying your uniqueness, your individuality. It’s not something that can be taught, but a growing up process you have to do by yourself. Which leads me to the next point.


Style & Inspirations in relation to success.

  • I’ve heard countless times the phrase “yeah man I’m working on having my own style and that but it’s hard….”, specially from people that are basically trying to copy an artist (sometimes not even a professional artist) they admire and trying to force their uniqueness in the style of said artists. And sadly, I came to notice that half of the time, what they try to achieve is not the style precisely, but the success and popularity it gave to said individuals.
    So, please don’t.

  • If you attempt to be someone else, you’ll short change yourself and deprive a potential audience of the work that only you could ever create. It’s okay and completely osm admiring somebody, in fact the more people you have as idols the better, but don’t misinterpret admiration/appeal of their style with admiration of their success. 

  • If what you want is the popularity of your idols it’s okay, take them as an example, but as a whole person: what made them be in the place they are, their attitudes towards others, towards themselves, their connections, external factors of their lives, analyze what exactly makes their art successful or if it’s just their natural charm (some people have it, believe it or not, their art can be average or nothing super special but they are SO magnetic and SO lovable that they get more successful than more-skilled artists with horrible, toxic personalities. I have seen it happening a lot around me some years ago).

  • Style develops if you do art long enough, and that’s always going to take time. When you try to develop your own style, both extremes -trying to be different from everybody and excluding stylistic resources other artists use; and copying somebody’s else style and just changing a minor thing- are simply awful. Balancing both things and after a bit of self discover, you’ll be able to develop your own, unique way of doing things that is called style. Don’t force it, the best things take time. Let your style be one of them.

  • When I said that the more people you admire the better, I was talking about this as well. The variety. The more sources of inspiration you have, the better. Because even when you think they’re incompatible and can’t share aspects between them, they DO. There’s always you will learn from one style/artist/thing to apply to your own production. 

  • Coming from a self experience, when I started to draw things in pokemon style, I came to realize stuff that helped me enormously in my Fullmetal Alchemist style. Most people would go “but how if these two styles are NOTHING alike????”. And that’s exactly the point tho. At the same time, many people with an untrained artistic eye don’t notice it but my FMA style is not exactly like the official one, neither the one I use to draw Pokemon things. Why? Because I don’t commit the fatal mistake of automatically accepting these two things are sacred stuff, I don’t force myself into finding those styles perfectly appealing just because “a pro artist drew it”. There’s things on both styles that I just don’t like 100% and I decide to add my own touch in order to make it appealing to me (for example the eyelashes thickness on pokemon and mini-mini torsos for females, as well official designs for certain FMA characters).
    That leads me to the next point.

Draw for yourself.

  • If it’s not a commission (aka you were paid to draw that thing) or a gift for X person on an specific date, draw for yourself and for what you like. End of.

  • Don’t try to draw things that are popular on the moment and you just don’t like because it shows, for Jesus it does. Drawing and artistic expressions in general are that, an expression of yourself, and when you want to be a pleasant minion with no individuality just to fit in current tendencies, it also shows. Also the worst part? You’ll never catch up. By the time you produce enough work to impact the audience/fandom, the trend will have changed. You’ll forever be behind the tendency, and what’s worse, you’ll never develop a body of work people will look at and say “That’s a (insert your name)!”.

  • If you like doing memes with your favorite character, do it. If you like crossovers (like moi) of your fav chara with other charas they share personality/clothing style/seiyuu with, do it. If you like drawing mermaids, do it.

  • Please do what makes you happy, otherwise the whole art thing will be completely senseless because what’s the point of attempting to make others happy if you can’t do it with yourself to start with?

Get an art buddy.

  • And if possible, make it be more than one to don’t become dependant on them. (it’s not a nice thing once it happens;;;).

  • Let me clarify this first and have it present please: an art buddy is an artist like you, roughly in your same skill level, roughly in your same work field, that will be developing their style at the same time than you but most likely not at the same pace.

  • Things that an art buddy is not:

    -That one super nice person that always kiss your ass even when you draw a circle and throws hearts to you no matter what and never sees anything that could be improved on what you draw.

    -Your recurrent commissioner.

    -Any non-artist person that had made their favorite sport to criticize your art even when they don’t draw (non-artist people in general can opine too but they’re not art buddies).

    -An artist person you don’t know or talk with personally.

    -An artist person you talk with about your art each a few weeks and then the earth swallows them again for an undetermined span of time.

    -An over-leveled artist that qualifies more like your art tutor.

    -An artist that moves on a completely different field of work (like, you draw kawaii desus and they go with super-realism).

After making that clear, I continue. 

  • Be sure to find somebody you can at least relate personally to, somebody that can keep you motivated on a daily basis and give them reciprocal motivation, since the art learning process is a long and the more company you have the better. More likely you will also learn stuff from them and complete each other with your respective knowledge. Exchange numbers and social media directions and all of that.

  • But always remember: an art buddy is supposed to motivate you to stay on the road but at the same time not everyone has the same development pace. Never feel guilty for improving tons while your buddy doesn’t or don’t be resentful when it’s your buddy who improves and you feel stuck; that stuff happens. Help your buddy as long as it doesn’t burdens your own growth, and feel motivated when your buddy is successful.

  • Sometimes also, people are just naturally toxic and it takes you a while to notice. But as soon as you do, please, just put an end to the partnership as soon as possible because toxicity is contagious, and you have no idea how much.


Finally, a few basic tips on art itself:

  • Contrast is essential. Makes everything nicer and pleasant to the eye.

    > Blurry and sharp.
    > Color contrast (warm and cold colors; dull and saturated; complementary ans supplementary colors; lighters and darkers).
    > Line contrast (thick and thin lines; broken and regular lines; curves and straight lines; curves and counter-curves too; colored and black lines).
    > Elements contrast (basic example, draw something round and big next to something small and square to make the big round thing look even bigger and rounder. That’s basically how it works).

  • Always sketch, draw basic structures of your thing before attempting the thing itself. I still see out there people that claim that their “art teachers” told them to don’t sketch and go to the drawing directly. That’s bullshit.

  • Proportions are your friends. Take them into account.

  • A gray layer on overlay above your pic will make colors look like WOW.

  • Colors are an entire language by themselves. Learn it please. Schemes and mood of the image go hand to hand (don’t paint it mega technicolor where the scene goes about somebody mourning a dead relative, you know).

  • The rule of 4:3 exists for a reason.

  • Learn about laws of composition. When you take them into account, everything you produce is 25% more appealing.

  • Don’t shade colored pics with multiply and grey for god’s sake…. (unless it’s a tone-overlay technique where you also hue-ize those gray shadows later).

  • Rotate your canvas for major comfort, it’s not illegal.

  • Avoid tangents as much as you can (that’s when two lines oooor edges of two elements of your drawing touch in a way it looks the the logo of Adobe).

  • The closer, the more detailed it is. The further, the less detailed. It’s further for a reason: it’s not the focus of the picture.

  • Natural boobs can never be bigger than a human head. Women’s nipples don’t look like a tanner mini boob over the major boob either (I know I might destroy many individuals fantasies with this but somebody had to tell you dude).

  • When your hands are down, thumbs point the body. When you show up your palms, they point outside. Simple as that.

  • Unless you’re making an acromatic pic (black+white+grayscale), even your darkest colors will need a hue, even minimal, just don’t leave it on zero.

  • Textures are your friends when you want to give a final, distinctive touch to your drawing, but remember the protagonist is supposed to be the picture, not the new texture you downloaded (instead use your new downloaded texture as a screentone and color your picture with it maybe).

  • Lines are thicker where there’s supposed to be a shadow, lighter where the light hits the object.

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That’s all on my head now :D Hopefully in a near future when I learn something myself, I’ll be able to improve this, and add or fix some points maybe!


♥Happy arting♥