Illustration: Family Dog

September 20, 2010 / Updated: September 20, 2010 / Lena Shore

One thing I always want more time to do is artwork. I would like more time to create, more time to push my limits as an artist, and more time to work on my portfolio. Sadly, I end up spending a lot of energy whining about it, and very little energy doing it.

This past weekend I went to a convention that included viewing lots of artwork, speaking to artists, participating in panels, and seeing how others handle their own work… and asking lots of questions. I even came home with some signed art by one of my favorite artists as well as a new favorite artist.

I left feeling energized and ready to rule the world. Unfortunately, I know that feeling doesn’t stick around for too long. Fortunately, inspiration comes from within, as well as from doing. The correct recipe for me (and any successful artist I suspect) will include:

  • Sketching several times a week, every day if possible
  • Participating and communicating with other artists
  • Pushing my own limits
  • Working on my visualization techniques
Family Dog

Family Dog — 45 minute sketch done for Sketchoholic.com weekly event.

Sketching several times a week

I believe that enforcing frequent sketching sessions, even if only for a few minutes a day is going to make a world of difference for me. It will keep me practiced, invested, and energized.

Time doesn’t happen. We have to create it.

Tips I learned from other artists:

Utrecht Recycled Hardcover Earth Toned Sketchbook

  • Wake up in the morning and start sketching first thing and you will never have a bad art day. — Bobby Chiu
  • Start off with a good sketchbook that already has toned paper so you don’t have to paint the background first when doing heightened drawings. Utrecht makes an Earth toned version available from Cachet. — Donato Giancola

One thing I’ve always loved was heightened drawings. This means you start off with a mid-toned paper and sketch all the shadows with a darker medium, and sketch all the highlights with a white medium. You can see an example of this above in the “Family Dog” sketch I did this morning when I first got up.

Participating and communicating with other artists

Years ago, the only way to get great feedback as an artist was to get it  from your instructor or peers in an art class. Art classes are great, but they don’t always coincide with my schedule. Today there are countless websites you can participate in online. You can upload your own artwork and share with the community, find other artists you love, ask questions, and talk about technique and general interest. There are also plenty of sites that hold informal contests each week to get your mind and pencil flowing. Moderators give you a subject to draw and a time limit. You can share your progress with other participants and get feedback.

If you are open to critique and want to improve and learn from others, these are invaluable. The “Family Dog” image above was a quick contest I entered this morning through Sketchoholic. During the contest there was a live interview with Lynn Johnston (For Better or Worse comic strip artist). I had about an hour to draw something, and though I didn’t win, I did participate and had the opportunity to learn from a well known successful artist and my peers. So, when you look at it that way, I did win.

A few sites I like:

Pushing my own limits and working on my visualization techniques

This is just going to come from producing finished pieces and trying new things and techniques. I’ll have plenty of things to try out after spending time with other artists. Great tips I learned:

  • Bobby Chui and Kei Acedera: Don’t put down my work for too long to stay energized. Alternately, switch between two pieces at a time.
  • When you get to the point in your creation that you hate it, get happy — because that’s when you know you are growing as at artist.

Moving Forward

When I came home, I knew I wanted to transcribe my notes and organize my thoughts and plans. Blogging about it seemed only natural. I could help myself retain what I’d learned, but also share with other artists. Then I realized that most of us probably have things we would like to be doing to enrich our lives that maybe we aren’t whether it was art or something else. Your passion might be art, or it might be gardening, music, or collecting. I think we all have similar paths to achieve our goals and I wanted to share mine.

If anyone has any thoughts on what you use to keep your own fire lit, I’d love to hear them.

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Lena Shore

Lena is a full-time freelancer and nerd that specializes in web development, graphic design, and illustration. She enjoys building things, learning new things, pursuing creative endeavors, and giving free advice.

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