“So I, as many other amateur visual artists, did the worst possible thing when I first started drawing. I didn’t realize the need for studying anatomy, so I plunged out in trying to copy a specific artistic style. This was mainly, I think, because of my young age and my ignorance when it came to “real” art, I was eight years old when drawing really started to mean something to me. I started drawing because I wanted to give a visual image of my imaginary friends. As I had no friends when I was a child, drawing and making art started to mean more to me than other people. In some ways, it still does.
To improve as a visual artist, you need to be rigorously disciplined, have a fierce determination to achieve your goals, have infinite patience, and be willing to put in hours and hours of labor to get there. Being a visual artist is a major physical and mental challenge that many people are not prepared for. Your mindset is everything. I’ve seen students in my freshman drawing classes at RISD enter with almost no drawing experience absolutely soar with success because of how determined and disciplined they were. I’ve also had students with tons of drawing experience bomb because they had a lousy attitude and didn’t want to work hard or try anything new.
You have to make bad work if you want to make good work. See the mistakes you make as required parts of the creative process. Rather than punishing yourself for making mistakes and/or bad work, embrace the opportunity to learn something new. Don’t get too fixated on specific pieces of art that you make. Create the work, learn from it, and move on. The more prodigious your production level is, the less attached you’ll be to specific works, and the more willing you will be to experiment and try new things.
If you’re looking for some structure in terms of what to draw, I would recommend purchasing the book “Drawing: Structure and Vision.” There are a lot of really hokey drawing books out there; this book is the real thing. Written by two of my RISD colleagues, Fritz Drury and Joanne Stryker, the book covers all of the fundamentals of drawing and provides excellent historical and contemporary examples. There are also drawing assignments and examples of student drawings throughout the book. All in all, a worthwhile investment that will provide you some kind of reference to work from.
ART PROF is a free, online educational platform for visual arts which provides equal access to art education for people of all ages and means.
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Portfolio Video Critiques for Art Students & Artists
Prof Clara Lieu offers 30 minute video critiques on 8-20 artworks for students working on a portfolio for art school admission, and for artists of any age working on their artwork. Watch a sample below, and get more info here.
Every month, we assign a topic for you to respond to with an artwork. We give out prizes in several categories, and post select submissions on our Instagram and other sites throughout the month. Use #artprofwip and Prof Clara Lieu might just stop by and give you some feedback! We have a special prize for art teachers who assign the Art Dare to one of their classes. More info is here.
Ask the Art Prof Live was a weekly live video broadcast on our Facebook page where Prof Clara Lieu provided professional advice for art students and professional artists. Ask the Art Prof began as a written column in 2013 and was featured in the Huffington Post from 2013-2015. See the full archive of columns here. Prof Lieu discussed being an artist today, art technique & materials, work strategies for artists, career advice, teaching art, and more.
“How can I tell if I’m skilled enough?”
“How do you find your own individual style?”
“How do artists manage to get their soul out into images?”
“How do you develop an idea from a sketch to a finished work?”
“How do you make an art piece more rich with details that will catch the eye?”
“Is it bad to start another piece of art before finishing another one?”
“How do you work in a series?”
“When and how should you use photo references to draw?”
“How do you know when to stop working?”