What is it about birthdays that makes us reflective? Or is that just me?
Here's my thoughts today on art education, and why so many of us have been failed.
And perhaps, too, what we might do to turn that sad state of affairs around.
There's something about sharing a struggle that makes it easier.
There's something about sharing a struggle that unites people, too.
And if you're anything like me, you will have days when it's a struggle to keep your practice going.
Well, I've got something I think might just help to get you started.
There's been a lot research into what creativity is in recent years.
Presumably it's an attempt to understand where creativity comes from, so that we can make ourselves more creative.
I'm not a professor of an illustrious university. I'm not a researcher or a well known author.
But I think I have an idea how to help you become more creative:
We've all done it.
Turned over a new leaf, decided that this time, we really are going to practice harder. We're going to draw every day until we really see some improvement in our work
It's a positive impulse, often borne of frustration with our work. It's a good thing to want to do. We want to get better, of course we do.
So why is it so rare for these new leaves to stay turned? Why is it so difficult to keep up a regular practice routine?
Have you ever felt slightly out of step with the world around you?
Are you often happier with your own company? Do large groups of people and social events drain you and leave you needing to recharge?
Would you often rather stay at home and work on something creative than go out socialising? And do you ever feel slightly guilty about that?
If so, this post is for you.
Composition makes or breaks a picture, so we often hear.
I wouldn't disagree. The more I practice composition and the more I become sensitive to it, the more I realise the truth of that.
But frankly, if you want to go about improving your compositions, you'll probably struggle to find an effective way forwards.
When we learn something new, our brains change. They physically change.
Every time we practice, new connections are formed between neurons. Existing connections are strengthened.
So we want to make sure we're building and strengthening connections that are useful to us; positive connections that will help us progress and improve.
Regular, consistent practice is the only way to build any skill. That's as true for design and composition as it is anything else.
That's not news to musicians, who happily spend the majority of their time at their instrument practising. Most of what they produce, an audience never hears.
Why is that approach so rare for visual artists?
Perhaps you think that design is one of those skills that you're just born with. If you do, then frankly, you may as well stop reading. I write for people who believe they can get better with practice, and who are willing to commit their time to that belief.
If that's you, then I think I've got something for you
For a long time now, I've been publishing the results of my drawing and painting practice here.
People sometimes tell me I'm very hard working. They tell me I have a strong work ethic. Sometimes they say I must have a lot of will power.
But words like 'will power' and 'work ethic' suggest that you have to force yourself to do something, to make yourself keep going, and force is a form of violence.
In my experience, that's not the best way to make a hole in the stone.Read More
Have you done an art course you thought was really worth-while?.
My last post, Why You Don't Need Another Art Course, ruffled a feather or two.
I make no secret of the fact that I'm self-taught. In fact I'm proud of it.
But perhaps I should have realised that some people might be a bit put out by my suggestion that there might be a better way to learn - particularly people who offer courses themselves!Read More
I get quite a lot of emails from people who want to learn to draw and paint better, but just don't know where to start.
It's a problem I identify with, one I've had to overcome myself.
The obvious answer is "go and do a course". But that's not always the right one. Truth be told, I think it's rarely the right one. I'd like to offer you another option, one that might well be much more useful to you in the long run.Read More
If you struggle to keep up with practising your drawing and painting, this post is for you.
Regular practice will improve your work far more than any book, famous artist's demo DVD or course. We all know that.
But let's face it, it's not easy, not for any of us. That said, there are more and less effective ways to approach practice. With the right approach, you can take the pain out practising regularly and make it much, much easier to sustain it. This post will tell you how.Read More
According to Carol Dweck (who's book Mindset I heartily recommend), there are two basic mind sets with which people approach their lives: The fixed mind set and the growth mind set.
People with the fixed mind set think that you have a natural set of abilities that you start with, and you can't do much about them either way.
People with the growth mind set believe that you can improve through applied effort. You can develop your skills in just about any area of life through practice... Read More
Is too much perfectionism stopping you from making progress?
And if it were, how would you know?
Perfectionism is one of the most pervasive problems that budding artists suffer from. I know because I get a lot of emails from people who single it out as an issue for them. If you think you might be affected by too much perfectionism, rest assured: You're not alone.
What do planets, fractals and migrating birds all have in common?
They all follow patterns.
We know they do because we notice patterns in the world around us. In fact, our predilection for finding patterns seems so strong that we find them even where none exist.
What does that have to do with composition?
I've been practising with pattern in order to improve my compositions, and I think it's working.
I think it can improve your compositions too... Read More
"Fine Art, by its very name, implies fine relations. Art study is the attempt to perceive and to create fine relations of line, mass and colour."
So begins chapter three of Composition by Arthur Wesley Dow, and it couldn't be clearer: For Dow, visual art and its study is purely about creating harmony and beauty through design.
This post is the third in a series on the book Composition, which I'm using for my regular composition practice... Read More