Tag: skottieyoung

Looking At Art

It’s interesting to look at artwork made by other people. It’s inspiring to see how well other people create. But not every artwork is meant to convey technical skill. So what am I looking for when I look at work that isn’t photo-realistic?

One of the first things I look at is the title. It can sometimes give a clue on what the artist was thinking. How does it relate to the artwork? Does it seem like there’s a connection?

Some artwork is telling a story. Are there characters that might be doing something interesting? Does it look like something is happening? What could the characters be thinking about?

Other artwork is meant to convey feeling. How do I feel as I look at the work? Do the colors or shapes suggest ideas or emotions? How are they placed withing space? How does that make me feel?

Art can make a statement. Does it seem to relate to a relationship or current event? Is the content strange, off-putting or controversial? What do I think the artist is trying to say?

Of course, I don’t always have any of this in mind when I look at a piece of artwork. Sometimes the artist will write a thorough explanation and post it in a guide book or right next to the work. Then I can choose whether to factor their wishes into what I think of the piece.

And I can choose to think whatever I want. My opinion of the artwork doesn’t have to be based on the artist’s intent. Once I view it, I am participating in determining the meaning for myself.

Perhaps for me the meaning of a particular painting is that cats are scary. Or that eating in bed leaves crumbs and is a bad idea. Or I could decide that the red painting is far too angry and I’m not going to look at it much at all.

I could decide that modern art is boring, and no one can tell me that I’m wrong. They can say that not everyone thinks that, and that can be true too. It’s part of the fun of looking at art.

When art is hidden away with no one to look at it, it has a lot less meaning than art that other people can look at. If art has lots of different meanings, that just means that it’s been looked at and thought about often. So, don’t be afraid to have your own opinion about what you look at.

I think that the more meaning you find, the more interesting a painting is. But to find meaning, you have to spend time with the painting and give it more than just a glance. That’s when looking at artwork made by other people becomes interesting and inspiring.

What is your favorite artwork? What kind of art do you like? Why? What do you look for when you look at art?


My DIY Art School

I like to draw and paint, and I want to improve my technical skills. I cannot go to art school right now, and I’m not getting any younger. So, rather than waste precious time, I am trying to do what I can here and now.

I am lucky. I have access to lovely, helpful books and people to guide me in my studies. This year, each Saturday, I will share some of the work I’m doing and the things that have been helpful. If anyone has any advice or suggestions, please add them to the comments.

I’ll begin with two different activities that I believe have really accelerated my growth as an artist:

My first drawing teacher was probably the book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards. I did all the exercises in the book many times over the years, challenging myself to complete them again every five years or so. Each time I get to the end of the book, I can see the improvements I’ve made. It requires an investment of time, but I think it’s worth the effort. You can check out Betty’s website at http://www.drawright.com/.

Second, I see a lot of growth through consistent drawing practice. Right now, I draw a face a day from life and one from a magazine.

Sketches of two of my kids, 10-17-18 and 10-18-18

Sketches of people going to General Conference from the November 2017 Ensign Magazine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, sketched on 8-31-18 and 9-1-18. You can access this magazine at https://www.lds.org/ensign/2017/11?lang=eng. Bonus points if you can tell me which page of the magazine these two sketches come from!

I also draw something from the yard. Sometimes I do gesture drawings of kids running around and playing. Those almost always turn out terrible, but I think it’s good practice.

Sketches of various plants found in my backyard between 6-25-18 and 7-13-18

All of the above are easy to do and take maybe a half hour total. I draw in pen so that I don’t obsess and give in to my perfectionist tendencies. I draw what I see, and when I make a mistake, I just move forward. Even if the drawing won’t end up perfect, I learn something from drawing it, so I finish anyway.

I also do a study from artwork by an artist I admire, trying to copy it as best as I can. Some I always do a pencil sketch first, others I just dive in and see how it goes. This takes about a half hour to an hour. When I finish, usually all I can see are the mistakes. A few days later, if I look back, I usually think it turned out okay. Some of the artists I consistently study are Chris Riddell, Stephen Cartwright, Bill Watterson, Skottie Young and Quentin Blake. Often, I’ll just copy a piece of an illustration.

When I do a study from a published illustrator or draw a person from a magazine, I always write down the reference next to the picture. That way, I always know what is mine and what is not. Right now, that’s mostly pretty obvious, but I want to make sure I’m honest.

Any questions or comments? I’d love to hear from you. What has helped you as an artist? Who are your favorite artists? What do you wish you had the resources and time to do, and what’s stopping you from doing it?

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