Self-Study Systems for Art
7mo
pinkapricorn
Those of you that are learning on your own from books, videos, and whatever else you decide to use, what is your overall approach to art study? And how do you deal with problems like: -Knowing what to study, when, and for how long? -How do you keep the difficulty level appropriate--not so easy it's boring but not so hard you spend most of your time spinning your wheels and losing morale -Tracking your progress and actually being able to feel the sense of progression
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Mike O'Sullivan
I got the curriculum from Reddit user Radiorunner, posted on here, actually, then used Notion to start adapting it to my needs. Having a place for feedback is important, which is one reason I'm so excited about this site! I've been doing art for a while, so I'm using it to work on my weaknesses, but also take my strengths to higher levels. All the while experimenting to push my artistic development. I think its important to document your own reflections about the work you do too. I'm glad I found a good framework, because I tend to veer into something for way too long, and only do what I like to do. Also, having something laid out makes it so I don't have to stress about the next step each time I finish something. It is amazing how many resources are available. I use Schoolism, Proko, books, Gumroad classes, anything that pushes me further. Hope this helps.
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Olga Bruser
Hi. I always had the same dilemma and how to learn more efficiently. Lately I found what helps me more and keeps me more focused. I decided on a project I want to do and tried to define some story, art style and gather good references. In my project I defined some characters and one of them is a a knight wearing armor so I wrote a list of studies I need to do. For example - to tackle armor I needed to understand shapes and build up my visual library so I grabbed my sketchbook and did some quick studies to get in as much as I could, this way my brain got something I could use to invent something of my own and of course using reference at all times! Then I did armor lighting and texture digital studies and tried to break it into steps so I could later use in my own project. Portrait studies for the knights face. Hand studies if I struggle with that part. I also did anatomy studies for the base figure under the armor. So all of these studies were project focused and I find it very helpful and the results are better right away. So each painting I divide into mini studies. If it has a sky with clouds then I do that kind of study, from photos or even better - from masters. About tracking my progress - I have my project folder and the general folder where I keep my studies. It's nice to see these folders fill up. About morale - it's not easy but with studies I try to convince myself to just try and jump in. It doesn't need to be beautiful and just focus on learning at least one thing from that study. If it's project focused it's a lot easier to understand your goals for that particular study. Before this approach ,I used to do random studies and copy from photos. I learned a lot from it but it's not as efficient. When I do these studies I try to not overthink and not be a perfectionist to keep it light and more enjoyable. I don't have to study 100 armors for that particular painting, a few are enough because next painting I'll improve anyway and even if I do 2-3 studies in each painting - I'll improve very fast and not burn out. I hope you'll find this helpful and good luck to us all! :D
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Fioretin
—Knowing what to study, when, and for how long? Currently, I’m following Drawabox’s lessons, so that gave me the structure for learning the drawing fundamentals. That being said, I’m also learning some other stuff alongside those lessons (e.g. anime body proportions, figure drawing, perspective), and those don’t have anyone telling me how much I should study and for how long. For those kind of things, I set a target for myself to achieve (e.g. 250 bean quick sketches, 50 anime figure studies, etc). I deliberately set the target high so I can get used to it and really learn from it. For me, doing just 1 or 2 pages full of studies won’t really be enough to truly get the lesson sink in. So that’s why I placed such a high target to achieve. —How to keep difficulty level appropriate Well, with things like Drawabox or Proko’s lessons, that’s already been taken care of by the instructors. All I have to do is follow it. But for personal studies (e.g. anime figure studies), I just do what feels right for me. As for how to not make it boring, I give myself tons of breaks and treats after a practice/study session. For example, I give myself time to nap, play video games, or eat snacks after doing my drawing exercises. Furthermore, I also try to do some random doodling for myself where I can just draw without thinking about lessons. It’s stress relieving, hahaha… —Tracking progress I keep a daily Art Diary ever since 31 May. Actually, if you check this forum, you can actually find my thread there. I started posting my entries here since a week or so ago, but for the complete entries (+sketches and exercises I did), you can check out my Instagram (@ fioretin_florenne). The purpose of my Art Diary is for me to not only keep track of the things I’ve done, but also to write down my notes, observations, self-critiques, and reflections. I also make sure to write at least 2 things I should do the next day there. Plus, once a week I also do a Weekly Review, so I can check in on my progress so far and evaluate what I need to do next I hope this helps! Good luck to your art journey! ^_^
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Sam Guss
I've been wanting to do art for as long as I can remember. I would get all the materials and struggle for a couple of days or even a week and then... give up. I wasn't "getting it". As time wore on I went from trying to learn to draw, to paint with acrylics, to mixed media art journaling, and just a couple of years ago watercolor. I had decided that while I was interested in art, and how it was made, I had absolutely no talent, no skill, and no patience. Then I got my new iPad and an art program called Procreate. Fell in love with it instantly. The main reason? Laziness. There is no setup I had to do for traditional methods and thus no cleanup either. See, one of my issues was (and still is) I can't seem to work on anything art related for more than hour and often only half that time. In the past this was not worth the effort of setting up and cleaning up - at least how I perceived it. Procreate allows me to instantly start or work on an ongoing project and to stop when I'm ready and move on to the next thing in my life. I'm not sure about everyone else, but learning the basics like shading and light, and how to draw a sphere or a pyramid... I find boring as hell. Conceptually I get it. If you want to draw a characters face and head, you have to know how a sphere works. In order to make a face even look halfway resemble an actual character, you have to know how lighting works and shading. It took me forever to find something that I could latch onto. For me it was the book 30 Days to Learn to Draw (or something like that). Day one has you draw a sphere and shade it. Done. Next day, draw 2 spheres and shade. Done. And so on - the last day has you drawing a face but in between that you draw a house, wacky geometric shapes, and even a hand. Here was something that I could do and set aside at least every couple of days time to draw something fundamental. Surprise, while I still sketch like a 3 year old, I can put together an egg in the corner of a box with shading and unless you look for longer than a second passes as something artful. In other words, I see myself improving now for the first time ever and it is motivating the hell out of me. I'm also following step by step tutorials on Procreate from a variety of content creators on YouTube. Lastly, I'm finally figuring out what I want to be able to convey in what I would like to draw and or paint. The closest thing is Concept Art - Character, Creature, and Environment. Because of this new insight, I'm able to focus in more on what I need to learn and start getting the books I need to learn and the content creators and instructors I should follow. Proko being one of them which is why I am even here to begin with. -How do you keep the difficulty level appropriate--not so easy it's boring but not so hard you spend most of your time spinning your wheels and losing morale I cheat. Since I work with Procreate I can technically just trace any image I want to. Believe it or not, I don't. With a couple of exceptions... I use stamps. So I have several awful IMO mountain landscapes that feature stamped trees in the foreground. I also use an app called Pose. It's a digital mannequin that I can adjust how I want, save a photo of it and use it in Procreate to draw over it on another layer. I haven't gotten into botany drawing for practice yet.... but suspect I will probably end up doing tracing then to be honest. Now, on the other hand I AM also studying hard on drawing without the cheats. So the Loomis method on Head Drawings. I have a couple of beginner Anatomy for Artist books, that I am working with, etc. Eventually I should be able to move on without the cheats, but for now they help me express my creative side on what I am trying to present and working on skilling myself up to a point won't need them. -Tracking your progress and actually being able to feel the sense of progression Simple. I keep everything in Stacks on Procreate. All I have to do is open a stack say on my landscapes and I can see my first attempt. My last attempt. Every attempt in between. They all still suck and there's nothing I'm proud about them to begin with BUT, I am proud to say I can see improvement from my first attempt to my last. I can see what am doing wrong and if I can remember to look at the previous pieces before starting a new one, succeed in getting past those obstacles. A perfect example is my use of highlights and shadow. I'm starting to get it on how to build up highlights and strengthen shadows, but I'm inconsistent with it. I am skipping some areas that I shouldn't be, thus making a scene look off-kilter in a bad way. My color palete sucks - but I have no idea yet on how to fix that (though I do know I have to study some color theory in order to get it). And it's that last part I think is the most important. The ability to look at your work and all of it's faults and be able to SEE the aspects you are improving on and being honest with yourself about what you should work on next or keep trying. Anyways hope my ramblings helped or will help someone in the future. Cause at my age I've learned one secret... If you have a feeling or a thought... I guarantee someone else has to and thus sharing may feel vulnerable but someone else out there will get it. ;-)
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Rosemary Murray
We are life long learners and it is helpful if we can "learn how to learn". In reality each of us create our own path (often without realizing it) through the choices we make, the experiences we have and how we process all that information. It can spur us on or paralyze us. It starts with a spark, a need, a desire and from there we start doing, searching, doing, assessing, doing, listening, doing, watching, doing, reading doing, and doing and doing and doing and doing... I am currently exploring ideas I have found to be true on Instagram @invaluable.lessons and perhaps others would find this useful too.
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Side Shave Laura
Oh I love these questions! Okay, I have a Google Form I complete every night that contains daily goals for art and life, questions include - "Did you do a Croquis figure drawing session?" "Did you burn 2100 calories?" "Did you listen to 30 minutes of an audiobook?" "Did you do Spanish Duolingo today?" "Did you work on this semester's art goals?" Every 3 months I reevaluate the daily goals, and refocus my specific art goals for the next 3 months. These specific art goals have included 3 months of Drawabox, landscapes, joints and bones, 100 mannequins, and Schoolism with Nathan Fowkes for environments. I HIGHLY recommend custom Google forms if you're bouncing around a lot. They help me tier up small daily goals to overall progress and big goals. Essentially keeping me from looking back and panicking! Google Forms - https://www.google.com/forms/about/
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Liandro
@pinkapricorn @Vincent Duncombe These are great (and super broad and complex) questions! :D I’ve quickly read the people who replied before and tried to sum up a few things that seem clear to me as a general common ground: —— 1. Deciding what to study depends on specific goals (so having clear objectives is a pre-requisite);  2. The calendar is our friend; 3. Keeping a log (whether public or private) is a good way to track progress; 4. Learning is a personal journey with no "single right answer"; 5. Consistency and patience are key; 6. Progression is not a linear ascent, it’s made of ups and downs. —— I think these points our fellows brought up cover pretty much everything. But I feel like I could add some extra thoughts on “how to keep the difficulty level appropriate”. If it feels too easy, I suppose the answer is pretty straightforward: once we notice it's getting boring, all we need to do is drop it and move on to something more interesting or challenging. But when it feels too difficult (not just challenging, but "freezing" difficult), chances are we might be getting ahead of ourselves. Often, it can be the lack of a more basic skill or knowledge. So I think a good “rule of thumb” for all aspiring artists is to make sure they’re familiar with the very basic, “universal” drawing fundamentals first and foremost: line, shape, proportions, perspective, 3D form and value. These are the “core muscles” they'll all use regardless the specific goals or contexts. Only after these they should move on to what I’d call “second-level fundamentals”: gesture, structure, composition, basic lights and shadows, design basics. And only after that I’d say they’d be ready to go to more specific or advanced topics, such as human anatomy, animal anatomy, drapery, character design, more advanced lighting, color etc. The only problem is: when we’re in the middle of the learning process, we’re might not be aware of the skills we lack. We just get frustrated, feel like something is wrong or missing, but can’t figure it out on our own. So here's what to do when things get too hard: get feedback. Count on other people to point out what you might not be seeing, and try to be open to it. If possible, even better: get mentored by someone you trust and that you believe to be "above you" in terms of skill and experience. But, since mentors, teachers, critiquers and even friends and mates are human beings and will have their own biases and judgments too, here’s a “hidden hack” few people mention: we can “filter” the feedbacks we get. Actually, we should. We certainly don’t need to accept every piece of advice as helpful, suitable or even true. If we’re minimally clear about what we want and where we’re going, we can learn to recognize and harvest just the helpful stuff from the feedbacks we get - in other words, we can slowly become our own mentors in a sense. Of course, we might also wanna avoid the opposite pitfall: becoming conceited or arrogant. It's a balance. And this balance requires a good deal of self-clarity and reasoning (as well as patience, humility and some effort to grow a thick skin sometimes) and it can be challenging. But by practicing it, over time, we do get better. Hope this can bring up any insights!
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Vincent Duncombe
@Liandro this is a great summary of all the great things that were said along with the added input. I am looking at my journey (short so far) but everything I have found to be true is in here. I would just add to that patience part ... and say give the lesson/practice time to work. Set a certain amount of time (2-3 weeks) that you want to spend on a lesson you want/need to learn. Don't conclude that the lesson is above your learning level until you have honestly fulfilled that allotted time with real practice. Sometimes we are tempted to give up too soon (was my problem). It is when you have honestly put in the time and you are still not getting it then I think that is the point were you should reach out for additional guidance as to whether this is above your level. I think recently ... now that I've settled down some :) ... I have found that I may have several days or even an entire week of bombing on a lesson ... but I've learned to just hang in there and keep on trying and eventually something clicks. Embrace the struggle a bit I guess.
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Jesse Yao
1. Knowing what to study, when, and for how long; Generally since I just started I am still focusing on the fundamentals (especially figure drawing), but this is something that you'd have to find out through research. For example, since I want to be a manga artist, I'd need to know: The art fundamentals (figure drawing, composition, perspective, color and lighting, etc.) Beyond the fundamentals (character design, environment, etc.) The history of the craft Storytelling The native language These are things that you'd need to research. The sooner you get a grip on what exactly you want to do with this, the more clear your goals can be. Though saying this, in addition to the things you have decided you must know, be sure to throw some experimental classes in there to add a nice pazazz to your own personal art. This tip was one of many that Peter Han gave me in the Dyn Sketching class, and helps especially to make you stand out and not just be "another artist." For how long, it's mostly rough blockouts of time mentally and then instinctually moving on when I feel it is enough (or investigating further when I feel the necessity). Not a very helpful answer in that front I know. As for when, Stan and Marshall have talked about on the Draftsmen podcast to realize when your creative hours are, and safeguard it at all costs. This is a good idea, but once you've practiced anything enough, practice goes from something you force yourself to do to something you just do. When it feels weird or even hurts to not practice is when you know you've gotten there, though that kind of feeling takes a very long time to cultivate. As a side note, my personal creative hours happen to be late at night, which also happens to be when I want to sleep, and many times I've chosen to sleep because I'm just tired. This kind of justified procrastination is extremely dangerous, and I've started using the chain method to try to get over it, and it might be helpful for you. The method's idea is simple: Keep a physical or mental calendar. Now practice one day. Now practice the day after. Here now you have a "chain" of practice days. Your goal is now simple: Do not break the chain. How to keep the difficulty level appropriate: Again if you're starting with the fundamentals like me you're gonna be pretty bad at everything, so there's no wrong turn. Just don't go into trying to draw an entire animated movie by yourself and you should be fine. I try to learn at least one new thing a day to make me feel that I'm always improving, but that usually comes after my finished exercises, though this can vary. Personally it helps for me as doing the same routine too long makes me bored of doing it. You cannot know what is too hard for you until you actually try to attempt it, so go try it. If it's too easy that it's boring it is time to either move on or relegate that to a brief warmup before your actual practice session. Slaving away is seemingly a bigger morale killer than actually attempting something that you can't actually do, so if anything keep pushing yourself. Stan doesn't tell people to make sure they master each module in his courses before moving onto the next; it's 2 weeks max. Whether or not you're comfortable with it or not. We move on to further concepts because many times you will be practicing the more fundamental and basic skills when you're practicing more complex things. And if people didn't move on to bigger and better things BEFORE they mastered the basics, then no one would be beyond drawing straight lines or perfect ellipses. I know personally that some of the things I've drawn that I'm most proud of were things I never thought I'd be able to do in the moment but just went in anyways. The mistakes I make make me laugh anyways, so it's an interesting time! Tracking your progress: I keep a public instagram progress account and post whenever I have stuff to post (ie whenever I practice). Not only is it a good way to keep progress but is a great way to train your mind to not post for the likes, since (assumedly) you won't like many of the drawings you put on there... but other people might. It's a nice way to get over the barrier that many social media people feel when they post something - that the post HAS to be perfect and HAS to be successful, which is a problematic mindset. And if you post everyday, you'll start getting on the algorithm's good side.
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Jessica Harrison
Hi! I’ve found that scheduling out and planning what and when I’ll be studying to be very helpful. Up on my fridge is a whiteboard planner that I use to plot out my week for both studying and my regular events (work, appointments, etc). For example I’ll have at 1pm-3pm on Tuesday will be when I practice my arm anatomy, and then Thursday will be “work” from 10-8 and so on. I really like this method for myself as it helps me stay organized and hold myself accountable to do the things I’ve planned out. As for knowing what to study, I determine that based off the kind of goals I have. For example, I want to improve my overall understanding of anatomy and have a deeper understanding of how to design and bend it. So that being the case I’ll focus on studying the figure sections at a time; for a few weeks, arms, then legs, torso, etc. Posting to social media is a great way to track your progress. If you don’t want to post or share on a public instagram you could make a private page that only you have access to. That way you can still see in a clear, linear fashion your progress. Sometimes that sense of progression can feel like its delayed or not there at all. When feeling that way, take even just 10 minutes to go look at work from the past (a year or more ago). Hope this helps! Good luck!
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Joe Watson
I second this - goals and structure are super important, if you know what you are heading towards you can identify the tools to get there. Also saw this graph the other day, really resonated with me about the ups and downs.
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Christopher Lebreault
Asked for help
I actually logged on today to ask this very same question! I've been dealing with some uncertainty in the realm of all those things listed. If anyone has any insight, it would be greatly appreciated.
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