When it comes to my artistic background, I’m probably more of a cartoonist than anything else. Although I’ve been using watercolour pencils since Christmas 2013, my art and art style originated from the stylised cartoons I’ve been drawing for most of my life.
Anyway, I’ve been thinking about the whole subject of realism in art recently and about how my views on it have changed slightly over time. A couple of years ago (two years exactly as of the seventeenth of this month) when I made a decision to create at least one piece of art per day, I didn’t really care much for realism.
In fact, I was even slightly disdainful about it. After all, who wants to draw boring realistic pictures when you could draw unique cartoons like this?
What I didn’t realise at the time was that my dislike of realism in art was basically a way of covering up my own artistic shortcomings and as an excuse not to practice anything new.
Yes, my art style and artistic skills evolved at a glacial pace through sheer repetition. But it wasn’t until sometime in the second half of last year that I even began to think about practising new things and trying to make my art look slightly more realistic.
First of all, realism in art isn’t a bad thing, but it also isn’t some kind of holy grail which all artists should strive for. It’s a lot more difficult to draw or paint even a vaguely realistic picture than it is to paint a completely unrealistic one. On a purely technical level alone, realistic art is “better” than unrealistic art.
But, at the same time, there is some absolutely great unrealistic art out there (eg: professional-level manga art etc…). Not only that, some artists have been able to make quite a good living just by producing extremely simple (on a technical level) cartoons and comics too.
However, knowing a few things about realism is a good foundation for making better unrealistic drawings. Learning the basics of how to make realistic art (eg: perspective, basic shading, proportions etc…) allows you to use these techniques in your unrealistic art, whilst still allowing you to keep your own art style.
More importantly, learning at least the basics of realistic art allows you to draw a greater range of things too. It allows you to draw people in a wide variety of positions (something I really don’t practice enough), it allows you to draw scenes from a wide variety of perspectives (again, something I need to practice more) and it just gives you a lot more creative freedom in general.
At the end of the day, I can’t tell you whether or not you should draw in a realistic style or not. This is up to you and it depends on what kind of art you personally feel drawn towards producing.
But, even if you plan to draw nothing but extremely stylised cartoons, then it’s still worth learning the basics of realistic art purely because it allows you to draw more things and make your art look cooler.
Sorry that this article was so short and so basic, but I hope that it was useful 🙂