During a rather long series of thoughts I had the day before I wrote this article, one intriguing phrase appeared in my mind quite often – “knowledge that cannot be found on the internet“. The phrase sounded mysterious enough to fascinate me – but, the more I thought about it, the more I realised that it probably applies to most artists in some way or another.
After all, aside from more basic things, there isn’t usually a tutorial online for the exact specific thing that you want to draw or paint. Usually, if you want to learn how to do something new, the internet can only often help in the most indirect of ways. So how do you learn how to do something artistic if there isn’t a specific online guide for it?
Here are a few tips:
1) Learn the basics (then extrapolate): One of the best ways to work out how to do something on your own is to have a basic knowledge of the theory of art and to have some basic art skills. No, this doesn’t mean that you have to have gone to art school (I haven’t) or even have a particularly advanced level of artistic skill. But, the more theory you know and the more skills you have, the easier it will be to work out how to do things that aren’t explained in online guides.
Why? Because you’ll be able to see which “rules” the thing you want to make follows. For example, if you see a really cool-looking piece of art and you want to make something in a similar style, but can’t find any guides online, then knowing some basic theory and having some basic skills can help in a number of ways, including….
– Knowledge of different art mediums will allow you to guess which tools the artist used. And to find the closest available thing to it that you have.
– Knowledge of colour theory will allow you to work out that colour palette that the artist used, and why it “works” so well. Likewise, it’ll allow you to see the relationship between the colours in the picture too (eg: does the artist use one or more complementary colour pairs? etc..).
– Knowing how to copy from sight alone will allow you to make private studies and reconstructions of the artwork in question, which might give you an insight into some of the techniques the artist used, and why they used them. You can then use those techniques in new and different ways for your own original art.
– Knowledge about how lighting is often relative (eg: something can be dark, but still appear bright when placed next to something even darker) can help you to work out how the artist gave their picture a particular “look” (eg: vivid, muted etc..) and how to use similar techniques in your own original art.
I could go on for a while, but the more theory you know and the more skills that you have, the easier it is to work out how to do things that aren’t explicitly spelled out for you in an online guide.
2) Observation (and study): If there isn’t a specific online guide for how to draw something, then start by looking at as many pictures of it as you can (in books, online etc..).
However, unless you own the copyright to the images, then you shouldn’t directly copy any of the images that you see.
Instead, your goal is to see as many different pictures of the thing in question from as many different angles and perspectives as possible. To break the object in question down into it’s most basic shapes and outlines. To see what visual features all of the pictures have in common and to build up a “3D model” of the thing in question inside your mind.
The more different pictures of the same thing that you see, the easier it will be for you to work out the basic principles of how to draw or paint it. Then you can use the “3D model” as the basis for a new and original piece of art.
3) Trial and error: If you really want to learn how to draw or paint something that isn’t explained in any online guide, then sometimes the best way to do it is simply through good old fashioned trial and error. Even if the results aren’t perfect, then at least you’ll be closer to achieving what you want than if you didn’t try.
Genrally, if an impressive piece of art or an interesting style of art exists, then that means that it (and more importantly, art in a similar style/traditon as it) can be made. After all, someone has already made it. So, there has to be a solution to the puzzle of how to make it.
It’s kind of like how, in old first-person shooter computer games from the early-mid 1990s, the player would often end up “stuck” in challenging situations. Yet, because these games were often designed to be fair, there was almost always some way or another, some tactic or stratagem that the player could use to progress, even if it took a lot of thought and a lot of failed attempts. If you play enough of these games (modern fan-made levels for “Doom II” are probably a good place to start), then they can really improve your attitude towards trial and error in other areas, such as making art.
Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂