How to Improve Your Art Skills
Improving your art skills takes passion and dedication. Whether you want to be a professional artist or just get really good at a new hobby, you can create thoughtful, highly-skilled art with a little patience and lots of practice. You'll...
Method 1 of 3:
Learning New Techniques
- Watch free online tutorials to learn techniques like blending or shading. If you want to learn how to make particular colors or create realistic-looking shading and shadows, consider watching some free online tutorials. Have your sketchpad and supplies handy so you can pause the video and practice as the instructor breaks it down. X Research source
- Peruse the comment section on videos because it's likely that other artists have left some tips and suggestions.
- Search for tutorials in any particular technique you want to learn. For instance, you might find some good lessons on composition, working with light, cubism, surrealism, or even creating 3-D effects. If you can think of it, the internet probably has it!
- Take private lessons or join an art class focused on particular skills. If you're a beginner, look to local community centers and libraries for beginning art courses. If you already have some intermediate or advanced skills, you might consider enrolling in a class offered at a local college or art institute. X Research source
- Taking classes is a great way to meet other artists and get some constructive criticism.
- To find local instructors, classes, and workshops near you, go to https://artcantina.com/.
- Use instruction books if you're a beginner or learning a specific skill. Workbooks are a great way to start if you're a beginner or looking to pick up a very specific skill like figure drawing or cartooning. This is a great option if you have a busy schedule because you can tackle each lesson at your own pace. X Research source
- You can buy instruction books online or at most large bookstores.
- If you rent an instruction book from your local library, don't draw in the book! Photocopy the practice pages so you can draw on those instead.
- If you're a beginner, look for instruction books that have traceable practice sheets so you can get a feel for it before practicing on a canvas or sketchpad.
- Beware of the "paint or draw by number" format—it can help if you're an absolute beginner, but it may also hinder your individual style. Great artists are unique!
- Connect with other artists online for tips about styles and materials. If you want to learn to draw or paint particular things (like people, animals, and landscapes) or work with certain materials (like oil paints, watercolor, and charcoal) join an online artist community. Peruse the forums for any particular style or material and don't be afraid to ask for advice! X Research source
- Deviant Art, Artist Daily, and Wetcanvas are great online communities with thousands of artists to connect with and learn from.
- For example, you might visit a new artist thread and post something like, 'I'm trying to learn different techniques for blending oil paints. I'm also not sure what kind of brushes are best for my geometric style. Any tips or advice?'
- Assess your weaknesses and work on them. Take some time to think about which techniques you're really good at and which ones you can improve upon. Rate yourself on a scale of 1 to 10 for each of the following skills: realism, life drawing, portraits, imaginative or memory drawing, proportions, composition, human anatomy, color blending (or theory), and shading. Then, put extra effort into working things that you've rated on the lower end of the scale. X Research source
- For example, if you're great at drawing geometric shapes but struggle with shading, spend more time practicing different shading techniques.
- Set a realistic goal for improving on particularly weak skills. For instance, you might say, 'I'm going to devote at least 40 minutes of each sketching session to practicing shading faces.'
Method 2 of 3:
Practicing Your Skills
- Practice your art every day and set goals for yourself. Schedule time to practice every day, even if all you have is 20 minutes to spare! Practicing every day is essential to learning and mastering new techniques. If you're a beginner, make an effort to practice for at least 30 minutes each day and gradually work your way up until you're practicing for an hour or longer. X Research source
- After dinner or before going to bed are good times to practice because it will help you unwind from the day.
- Keep a calendar and 'x' off each day that you practice your art. Try to rack up as many days in a row as you can to form a good habit.
- Set daily or weekly goals for your art practice. For example, you might say, 'I'm going to finish 1 charcoal sketch per week.'
- Use a wooden human mannequin to practice drawing anatomy. Set up a wooden mannequin in any position you like in order to practice drawing the body. This is particularly helpful to learn proper proportions. X Research source
- You can buy a wooden mannequin online or at any art supply store.
- Reference a photograph to practice making realistic art. Use a photograph you took or clip one from a magazine. Set it up near your work area and try to emulate it as best you can. Or, you can incorporate some elements of the photograph (like color the color scheme and composition) and let those things inform your own artistic creation. X Research source
- Set up your own still-life scene to draw or paint. Search your home for interesting objects you'd like to paint or draw. Then, arrange those things in an interesting way in front of any backdrop you like. For instance, you might place a vase, candle, and bowl of fruit onto a table in front of a checkered wall. X Research source
- When setting up a model, play with the composition by moving pieces around before you start working.
- Consider making interesting shadows by rearranging larger or taller items in reference to the light source. For instance, you might create an interesting shadow across a bowl by placing a tall candle between the bowl and the light source in the room.
- Ask a friend or family member to be your model. If you want to practice life drawing or portraiture, consider asking someone you know to sit for you while you sketch or paint them. Just make sure they're okay with sitting still for however long it takes you to do it! X Research source
- If you're using a live model, keep lighting in mind. You might want to use a small desk lamp to light them from the side to create interesting shadows.
- Invest in quality art supplies. Better paints, tools, and other materials will often perform better and last longer. Putting money into your art will also make it more likely that you'll take it seriously and keep practicing. Don't swear off cheaper materials altogether, just try to work with the best quality materials for what you're trying to do. X Research source
- Experiment with various brands of the same media at different price ranges.
- Open stock supplies (like paints, pencils, and markers) are often less expensive than ready-made kits.
- Get out of the children's art supply section! Those brands typically don't have the same properties as the more professional or artist versions.
- Break out of your comfort zone by trying new mediums and styles. Try out different mediums and styles to expand your overall skill set. For example, if you typically use pencils and colored pencils to create classical art, try using pastels for a new perspective. Or if you're comfortable drawing anime, try practicing surrealist art or cubist styles. X Research source
- If you're okay with spending some extra money, try using a pen tablet to take your art to a new (digital) level!
- Learning different mediums will also help you create unique mixed-media pieces.
- Get inspired by your favorite artists. Look at the work of some of your favorite artists and consider learning how they did particular techniques. For instance, if you want to learn how to use shapes in an interesting way, you might study Picasso's Guernica and try to emulate a similar sense of urgency through the geometry of your work. X Research source
- As another example, if you want to get better at blending colors, you might focus on emulating a particular section of one of Van Gogh's works. Then, use that skill and apply it towards your own work.
- Go to local art galleries and museums to get inspiration. And, when you do go, read the artist's notes and statements next to the pieces to see what materials they used. If the artist is present, ask them about their techniques.
- Don't be afraid to experiment and break some rules. Some of the greatest artists hold strong opinions and unique viewpoints, so feel free to rebel against artistic norms. Think of how Picasso rebelled against traditional modes of perspective or how Edgar Degas rejected classical methods of composition. Like Picasso said, 'Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist!' X Research source
- Art is all about making mistakes and working with them, so if you experiment and don't like the result, find a way to make something new out of it.
Method 3 of 3:
Training Your Artistic Eye
- Take time to express curiosity in your surroundings. Study the color, shape, texture, and size of random things you encounter throughout your day. Look at the face of the person you're talking to. Notice how light affects the shadows and the shape of their features. Pay special attention to how light looks on certain textures like clothing and skin. X Research source
- Noticing these things will help you gain a better understanding of how real objects look with different types of light hitting them.
- As a fun exercise, try to describe objects without using their names to help you visualize and capture shapes. For example, if you're looking at a tree, you might describe the trunk as a sloping cylinder and the leaves as tiny lemon shapes.
- Identify variations in color so you can accurately recreate them. When you're looking at something, notice any color variations and how that causes your eyes to want to linger or move to another area. Note the subtle hues within a certain color (like all the different shades of red on an apple). X Research source
- For instance, if you're looking at a brightly colored tulip, note how the hot pink petals contrast with the soft green hue of the stem and how your eyes are drawn to the lighter tips of the petals.
- Squint at objects to see their composition of shape and color. Take time to squint your eyes at a particular thing, landscape, or scene. Squinting minimizes your eyes ability to see color and detail and blurs the distinctions between things. This is especially helpful if you want to paint a mass of individual things that are far away like a landscape or a forest full of trees. X Research source
- Squinting will also help you distinguish between shadows and light.
- Use negative space to create balance or tension. When you're looking at a particular object or scene, notice the background space (like a wall, table, or backdrop). Allowing negative space in your paintings will give it a sense of balance or tension depending on the scene and overall esthetic. X Research source
- For example, take note of the colors, shadows, and textures of objects behind the central objects you'd like to paint. For instance, a burnt orange wall with a diagonal shadow can make the candles and flowers in the foreground stand out more.
- Study the composition of a particular scene or object. Notice how certain objects are put together to create shapes or lines. The geometry of a particular scene or collection of objects draws the spectator's in a particular pattern. X Research source
- For example, imagine a still scene of a bookstore. The aisle on the left creates a line that moves the eye vertically, a string twinkle lights between shelves might move the eye across the top, and another shelf encourages the eye to move up or down. The vertical eye movements on each side of the painting might act as a sort of frame for the still-life piece.
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