In the Beginning: Nurturing the Artist Within
By Sara Zimmerman Copyright 2005
(resurrecting older articles just for kicks).
Many people view my works and say, “I wish I could do that,” or when I say that they can, they respond, “I could never do that.” The thing is, everyone can create a 2-dimensional piece of art if they try. They key is practice and having an open mind.
I was first exposed to 2 and 3-dimensional art by viewing my grandmothers’ paintings and my other grandmothers’ quilts. Later, I was brought to numerous museums, and saw art in friends’ and family members’ homes. I was given crayons, pencils and pens at a young age and found so much happiness drawing. I later took some basic drawing and watercolor courses in high school and college that helped me learn the fundamentals. Though I had the background, I couldn’t have done it without practicing and having an open mind about where I could go with my drawings.
Step 1: Getting Started
If you are at all interested in creating 2-dimensional art, I always suggest taking a class and visiting working artists. However, knowing how time and money can shape our hobbies, you can start by trying this approach: get a basic pencil (your regular #2 HB will work just fine), eraser, some newsprint (the larger the better 18″x 24″), a few sticks of vine charcoal, an apple and some paper towels.
Step 2: Resources
Next, go to the library and borrow a few art books (and maybe videos) of artists you enjoy. Take some time and go through these books and/or videos. Bookmark the paintings that you like. Now go back to the bookmarked paintings and ask yourself these questions:
- What is it about this painting that I like? Is it the subject matter? Color scheme? Emphasis of strokes?
- Is there anything I don’t like about the painting?
- What would you do different if you were to paint this painting?
- Now, focus on the horizon, the perspective, and the shape of the painting.
Step 3: Drawing an apple
Having looked at some paintings that you like, keep the main factors in mind. Then grab an apple. Stare at the apple. What shape is it? What color is it? Are there other colors in that apple that you did not see before, such as purple, yellow, and blue? Where is the shadow coming from? What colors are in the shadow? What shape does the shadow make?
Take your drawing materials and start by drawing the outline of the apple. (As with all of these exercises, do not focus so hard on making it “perfect” in your mind, just practice using your pencil and other materials). Next, grab another sheet of paper and do the same thing again. Notice what you did differently this time. Focus simply on the shape and draw and redraw.
Next, take out your charcoal. Start by holding it different ways and rubbing it on the paper. Use the paper towel to smear the charcoal. Inside of the outline of the apple, start by shading the apple exactly how you see it. Use the paper towel to smear it, to lighten areas, and to erase it. (Do not be afraid to make mistakes. You are simply practicing! And that is all that art is!)
Step 4: Keep Practicing
Start setting up different items in the house with different light sources. Start drawing them. Break them down into shapes. For example, a vase may have some curves, but it can be a series of circles, ovals, and rectangles all fused together. Practice this with different objects and soon you will get used to having a pencil in hand and viewing the world in a new way.
Step 5: Taking it a Step Further
Watercolors: Get a cheap, sampler set of watercolors, a few brushes, some cheap watercolor paper (8″ x 10″ish), some white glue, colored tissue paper, some crayons, a cheapo 2″ brush, a few permanent markers, some paper towels, a water bowl and anything that has a cool surface (like a sponge, bubble wrap, cardboard, etc.). You are now going to make a mess and have some fun! Take your apple and draw it’s shape on watercolor paper. With the glue, make a mixture of 1 part glue and 3 parts water. Tear up pieces of your colored tissue paper and put them on the apple using the brush and glue mixture. Make a mess- it’s fun. After letting this creation dry, now go in with your watercolors and start practicing making little lines, washes, and curves. Then press the different textures into it. After that dries, take your crayons and markers and add some detail. Take out any part of this exercise to become more proficient with one medium. Practice this with different objects and scenes.
Step 6: Practice Everyday
This is one of the most valuable lessons I have learned: If you want to be an artists, then do art. It’s that simple. If you want to become a cook, then you must cook. Same with art. Get a sketchbook. Everyday, even if you are not motivated, draw a picture in it. Draw the same picture or the same subject for that matter, just practice it. One of my instructors created an apple a day picture, but used different mediums everyday. One day she made a collage out of magazine clippings, another day she used stamps and thumbprints, and another day she used q-tips with poster paints. She even kept some basic art tools in the car so that she could do this when she travelled or was in a waiting room. By doing art regularly, it makes you think about it and thinking about it makes you improve. If you absolutely cannot create an image a day, get an art or photo magazine. Look at the images. If not that, take some time to examine the items around you. What color are they? What are their shapes? Where is the light coming from? What items could be placed next to them to enhance their colors? By thinking about art, you become and artist and when you have time to paint or draw, it becomes easier.
These are just some basic ideas to get you started. As I stated before, if you have the means, take a class or visit an artists’ studio. You will learn so much. And if not that, simply practice the exercise above and use your free resources to learn more (i.e. library). And always, ALWAYS have fun!