How Learning Helps Your Art
I’ve always had a hard time learning. When I was younger, my fourth grade teacher told my mom that I was the kind of child that “needed to hear things over and over to understand.” I always found learning to generally be boring, at least when it came to reading a textbook.
I got into concept art because I felt it was more “hands on” learning. It was something I could excel in by actually doing the activity. When I started doing art, there was minimal textbook-style learning.
As I got into it more complex aspects of art, though, I realized that if I wanted to keep growing as an artist, I would have to accept that even art had aspects that I would have to learn the boring, old-fashioned way.
What do Top Artists Have In Common
Trying to learn things like anatomy, perspective, and other terminologies made me feel like I was back in math class: it was so immensely hard for me to memorize names and properties and make them second nature.
Now, I want to point out the one thing I’ve noticed about nearly EVERY top artist that I’ve met, or seen a video from. The one thing they have all had in common is their addiction to learning. Every one of them has had some fascination with the world, with history, with animals, or the solar system. They are addicted to learning, and not just because they’re all book nerds that don’t get bored as easily as I do – but because the knowledge they gain appears in their projects.
Here’s what I mean. My teacher one time was telling us about Cymothoa exigu. This isn’t just a boring word to copy down and define - this is a real parasitic louse that goes into a fish through its gills, severs the blood vessels to the tongue until the tongue falls off, and then attaches itself to the stub and becomes the replacement for the fishes tongue. Not only is that interesting, it’s a real, usable factoid that would be great inspiration to use in a comic, video game, or illustration, drawing designs.
So if you’re like me and you find it hard to stay interested when learning something, here are 3 things that made all the difference to me personally:
1) Watch something more than once
When I watch a documentary on YouTube or Netflix that I feel is
important, I immediately press the play button again once it’s over. I tend to only retain about 25% of whatever I watched on the first view, if that. If I watch a 2 hour documentary on color, and how it’s used in photography and painting, I’ll watch the entire thing over again – immediately or the day after. The second time seeing it is almost like the first time ever; I’ll catch different details that I didn’t hear the first time. And, if necessary, I’ll watch it a third time while drawing something unrelated. That way I can listen to it, but still get some separate work done. If you don’t know where to start, I suggest podcasts on history and science as great current sources.
2) Take notes on everything
I take notes on any lectures in my art class and for important art videos. I take them down by hand while hearing them, and then I go home and type them again into my computer and save them in a file that I’m able to find again. I have a folder in my computer labeled “art notes,” and I create sub-folders with more specific topics. Writing by hand and then later transferring those notes manually into my computer makes sure I go over that information 2 times at the very least. Most people never do the second part and never look at the notes again. Actively look back on a random file you saved and skim the information. You will learn sooo much.
3) Learn to see the “coolness” in the natural world
If you really look at a crocodile, it’s as amazing as most of the dinosaurs in Jurassic park. They have a bite force of 3,700 psi and have slit eyes. Chimps are 5 times stronger than a person. Some mountain ranges were formed from giant plates around the earth that smashed together. Fire tornadoes exist. The list goes on: there are really amazing things in the natural world and in history. Really reminding myself of this has made me love learning about new things. The more you learn, the easier it gets to learn drawing designs.
Really though - you’ll start to find that the more you learn and the more you memorize, the more that you’ll start to like it. It’s like a flicker inside you, that you nurture until it’s a giant flame. Plus with all your new knowledge, you’ll have to coolest party conversations.
Places to start learning for the Multi-tasker: Podcasts, audio books on YouTube, documentaries on Netflix.
How to Get Good at Art Fast
Growing up and going through several different art schools, I’ve seen A LOT of new people come and go through the processes of learning drawing and painting, illustration drawing. People progress at different rates because of other obligations like work or school, and the interest level in some is higher than in others. But there is always that one guy/girl in the class – that one person that seems to start right where you are, but quickly rockets ahead of everyone else. They seem to get good by leaps and bounds. How did they do that? Is it genetic? Are they just putting in more hours?
While some people really do put in the hours, I’ve noticed something else that an art prodigy always has mentally. Here it is >>> they never hesitate to try something< <<.
They never hesitate to draw another subject or try a different medium. If they see something in a video on art they will try it immediately without procrastination. The results will be inconsistent, but they’ll start to build up until their best piece now is their worst piece several years from now.
So how can you apply this? Here a few things I recommend:
1) If you aren’t doing so already, try a harder medium out. If you’ve never sketched with anything other than pencil, try ballpoint pen. If you’re using ball point pen, try a fountain pen. If you’ve never done painting in your life, try that out.
One of my closest friends has hardly sketched with anything other than a pencil because he’s afraid of not being able to erase. We’re literally pushing him to try extendedly sketching with a pen. Using another “less forgiving medium” will give your perspective and present you with new challenges you never thought about. When you use a harder medium, you’ll also find, going back to your old medium, that it’s much easier. The mule gets stuck in the mud – don’t be a mule. Be a race horse, run like the wind.
2) Don’t cherish your drawings. It’s easy to get attached your drawings. While I think you should save all your drawings, I don’t think you should take them too seriously, especially while you are in a stage of trying to improve. Cherishing your drawings in the moment will hold you back. You might develop fear, thinking you “don’t want to ruin your drawing,” so it sits there unfinished for months. One day you'll sell illustration art for sale .Which brings me to the third thing…
3) Finish your sketches! When you are trying things out and pushing yourself to do more, be careful of falling into the habit of not finishing anything you do. Doing so can create bad habits that will really hinder you in the future. And it’s going to be hard to get rid of that habit. It’s a habit where you sketch and about 60% through you get tired and start a new sketch.
Don’t forget to try things out and put some miles on that car. Just do; don’t over-think. It can be tough to come outside your comfort zone, but your overall goal is to be a well-rounded artist. You want to have nothing you are “totally weak” on. This is a key to working in the art field as a career.
So in summation one of the greatest indicators for success in art, or as a concept artist, I’ve seen is ironically something outside of art itself. It is the thirst for knowledge that will add the complexity and realism and detail to your bas sketches. Obviously reference plays into this, but the more you know firs hand the better. I hope this article has been informative. If you have any suggestions for topics, please let me know and I’ll be sharing other ideas related to art in the coming months.
Also, if you are looking to hire me for a commissions please click below. Or check out my concept art sketchbook that I have on sale here. It’s a collection of illustration drawing, pen drawings, drawing designs, sketches and ideas I had that I decided to let only a few people buy. Thank YOU. Art life rules! :D