Last time we talked about why some of the most common question on the internet is actually not the most important ones. And why things like materials and technique won’t make you a better artist. If you haven’t watch that one I strongly suggest you go back and read that one first. Today, I’m going to continue that topic and share with you what should you be doing to become a better artist. And the best thing about them is that they are completely free and you can do it right now!
Train your eyes and your mind
So the first thing is to train your eyes and mind. As I mentioned briefly from the last video. The most important thing a good artist should have is to have a keen eye and a sharp mind in order to have a good vision for the painting. I’ve seen so many artists, despite has little to no experience with watercolor, they were able to produce a beautiful painting with just a few tries. In fact, their painting looks better than some of the artists who claimed they have been painting watercolor for ten plus years. Why? It’s because they have a good vision of how they want their paintings to look like. They know what makes a good painting, and to them, materials and mediums are simply tools for them to achieve their vision. As I said, the material is the extension of you. So, working on improving your artistic core should be the first thing to focus on. I am sure you got a list of your favorite artists, spend some time on the internet and look for their paintings. And I mean, really look into them and study them! Spend a good amount of time on them. Trying to understand why do they paint a certain way, the value, the shape, the visual language they use, and the subject and composition they choose. Really be honest with yourself by comparing their painting to yours, you should be able to see the difference. Ask yourself some hard questions like “what makes their painting better mine?” “What am I lacking?” and “what can I do in my painting to have that same look?” If your eyes cannot see the issues of your own painting and you have no clue what makes a master painting better than yours, you really need to start training your eyes and your mind.
I often look at my own painting and compare it with some of the artists who I look up to and see what do I need to work on. It’s not an easy thing to admit your own shortcoming as it wasn’t easy for me. But remember,
Nothing will change if you stay in your comfort zone.
So get a little bit uncomfortable and really be honest with yourself and study your painting next to a masters painting.
Practice your fundamental drawing
The second thing is to practice your fundamental drawing. Train your eyes to see the fundamental issues such as perspective, lighting, proportion, and scale. Some students sending me some paintings and asking me for feedback. When I look at their paintings, there are some issues that are very obvious to me. Like a portrait with misaligned eyes or a street scene with cars out of scale and people fall off the perspective. These are the things that you need to learn to spot, especially if you want to paint a believable painting.
As much as we just want to paint watercolor, I cannot express how important your drawing skill is. Here’s the thing, practice drawing doesn’t require any expensive material, all you need is a paper and pencil that you probably already have. Start practicing drawing the subject you are most interested in. Draw from photos, from life or copy other artists’ drawing it doesn’t matter. What you want to do is try to practice fundamental, practice drawing good shapes, value, and line works. There are many students who just want to dabble the paint and hoping to create a masterpiece. But that’s not going to happen if you don’t practice drawing. In one of his recent painting film, the master Joseph Zbukvic said…
Now, Joseph said it so well, I’m not gonna try to say it any better.
Take more photos
The third thing is to take more photos. Wait, aren’t we talking about watercolor? Well yes, but again, watercolor is just a medium, and so does photography. And taking photos is the most direct way to capture your vision. And no, you don’t need to use a fancy camera, your phone will totally do. Look for interesting shapes and lighting around you. Compose your photo as if you are composing a painting. Don’t just hold up your phone or camera and take random photos because you see pretty things. How would you present it in your own way? Can you envision this into a painting? There is so much thought you can put into a single photo, and if you put some thoughts behind every photo you take, you will improve the way you see things and your sense of composition.
Many of my paintings are painted from the photos I took. The painting doesn’t start when the paintbrush touches the paper, it starts when I took that reference photo. You should always look for interesting subjects around you and see if you can take an good photo of it. If you look at your photo and you are able to envision a painting out of it, then you are well on your way to make a good painting.
Now, I understand each and every single one of the things I just listed worth its own video or even its own course. But I also want to remind you that they are all free for you to do right now! All it takes is time, and that’s something most people don’t want to spend. We all want some quick ways to become a better artist and something that will instantly make your painting better. But tough love for you, that just doesn’t happen that way. Putting the mileage in is very, very important. What I want to do is to help you along and provide you a good path to it, as I am walking that path as well. So keep going, every little thing you do helps, and just because you don’t see the result right away, doesn’t mean you are not moving forward.
New painting video
I did a live painting demo on YouTube this past Sunday. In case you missed it, you can watch it here. I really enjoyed painting this one because how simple and powerful this image is. And best of all, it doesn’t take a long time. The whole painting took about 30 minutes. Enjoy!