Even though this is an article about how to be an artist, I’m going to have to start by talking about a seemingly unrelated subject for a couple of paragraphs. As usual, there’s a good reason for this.
One of the things that always amuses and amazes me whenever I see anything in the sci-fi genre is when the characters discover technology that is years, decades or centuries in advance of anything that they use. At the time of writing, I’m watching “Star Trek: Enterprise” (a prequel to “Star Trek”), where there are absolutely loads of these scenes and they’re always fun to watch.
After a while, I asked myself why I find these scenes so fascinating. In a way, it’s the idea of getting a glimpse at the future. It’s also the idea that futuristic technology might exist somewhere right now. It’s also because, being somewhat behind on technology myself, it’s an amusing parallel to real life.
But, most of all, it’s because it reminds me of being an artist. Even after I’ve had several years of regular practice, I still often have times where I’ll see a piece of art and think: “Wow! That looks really cool! But, it’s years ahead of anything I can make!”
When you experience something like this for the first time, it can be easy to feel discouraged. After all, you might think, “I’ll never be as good as that artist is!“. Either that, or you might end up feeling jealous of the other artist.
Needless to say, these are the wrong ways to react when you see art that is years ahead of anything that you can currently draw or paint. So, what should you do?
1) Look at your old art: If you’ve been practicing for a while, then one way to deal with seeing a much better piece of art is to look back at some of your old art. If you’ve been practicing for a while, then there’s a good chance that you’ve improved. So, look at your old art and notice how primitive it looks when compared to your current art.
Notice how far you’ve come since you started practicing. Now look at the better piece of art and compare it to your current art. There probably will be a huge difference in quality between the two but, as you may have noticed, it’s kind of similar to the difference in quality between your current art and your old art.
If you’ve improved that much so far, who’s to say that your art won’t eventually end up looking like the more advanced piece of art that you’re looking at if you keep practicing for long enough? It might take a while, but it’ll probably happen eventually.
If you think about it this way then, when you see a far better piece of art, it goes from being something that makes you feel discouraged to being a fascinating glimpse into the future. It becomes something that encourages you to practice more.
2) Study it: When you see a better piece of art, treat it like a puzzle. In other words, try to work out how it was made. If you need to, copy parts of it by hand in order to test out your theories about how it might have been made.
If you see anything that the artist has done which look simple enough to re-create, then try to learn how do this through practice and experimentation. Whilst you shouldn’t copy the entire picture or an artist’s entire style, except for private practice – there’s no rule against copying individual techniques and incorporating them into your original works of art. In fact, learning lots of different techniques from different artists is one of the ways that you develop your own unique art style.
For example, I originally learnt how to draw shiny hair from looking at manga comics. After looking at the comics carefully, I realised that the artists were able to make long black hair look shiny by adding a thin wavy horizontal white line to it. This is a technique that I still use in my art and comics to this day, albeit with a few changes:
3) Remember that every artist is different: If you see a better piece of art, then you’re probably never going to make anything exactly like it. You might make something as good as it, or even better than it, but you’ll never make art that looks exactly the same. This is a good thing.
Every artist has their own style. Every artist has their own way of drawing things. Every artist has their own favourite colour schemes. If all artists were the same, then art wouldn’t really be art.
So, when you see a better piece of art, then don’t strive to make art that looks exactly like it. Instead, start wondering about what your own art style will look like when you’ve had as much practice as that other artist has had.
It’ll look just as advanced, but it’ll probably look different. It’ll be uniquely yours. But, well, you’ll never know what your own art style will look like when it reaches that level if you don’t practice. So, keep practicing and keep wondering…..
Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂