A circle of colors, based on the primary colors of red, yellow and blue, has been used in art for hundreds of years. In fact, it was Sir Isaac Newton in 1666 who first developed a circular diagram of colors showing their relationships to one another. Artists and even scientists have created many variations of the color wheel concept, and the debates continue to this day as to which format of the color wheel is most valid, though any color wheel offering a sequence of pure hues that are logically arranged is worthwhile.
Here is how a traditional color circle is organized:
1. Primary Colors: Red, yellow and blue – All of the other colors are created from these 3 hues.
2. Secondary Colors: Orange, green and purple – These colors are the ones created by mixing two primary colors together.
3. Tertiary Colors: Yellow-orange, red-orange, red-purple, blue-purple, blue-green and yellow-green – These are the colors created by mixing one primary color with one secondary color, which is why they have two-word names.
The importance of life drawing, or drawing from the human figure will not be disputed by fine artists throughout history, the world over. One of my own great teachers in the past, Glenn Vilppu, stressed the importance of basic concepts in drawing and their application. He said, “Never underestimate the power of life drawing.” He was so right. The most powerful way for your drawing skills to grow is by drawing from the human body. Everything is there to learn from – form, depth, shadows and light. Life drawing gives you understanding of how the human figure is constructed, and then you can create any pose from any angle from your imagination. Here is a great book for artists who want to know how to do life drawing with a good foundation of how to draw the figure: Vilppu Drawing Manual Vol. 1: Infuse Life into Your Drawings with Gesture. In fact, I recommend anything and everything by Glen… including the online or CD courses.
Many people have told me that they always wanted to be an artist but that they don’t have any talent, that they don’t have it in their genes, they don’t have a creative bone in their body, etc. Once they actually sat down and received personalized instruction, these beliefs changed. I recently read in a blog that someone named Seth Godin said, ‘Art is anything that’s creative, passionate and personal.’ If you love to bake or crochet, if you love building fences and brick walkways in your garden, if you’re crazy for singing country and western oldies, these are creative, personal passions. So everyone is an artist of one ilk or another. Being an artist does not mean you can draw and paint like a master. It means you have a natural, creative life force within you that expresses itself in many ways; much of this energy is, of course, for survival. And when you are doing things you enjoy – sports, crafts, dog training, whatever – you are also expressing that creativity that every human being is born with.
Drawing birds is actually quite simple if you have good reference material, such as photographs or books. If you try to draw from a live bird, it won’t stay still long enough! Learning how to draw birds is the easiest way to learn how to draw animals. Begin by finding the simple shapes that comprise the animal, such as circles, ovals, rectangles. Start by looking for the largest shape first, then add the next biggest ones and last the smaller ones. It’s fun to place a piece of very transparent tracing paper over a photo to experiment with a pencil as to which shapes you like the best. You can also look at basic animal-drawing books for ideas on how to find the shapes and lines that you can use to draw a bird or draw an animal.
Once you have the shapes in. look for ways to connect the parts as well as change the shapes a bit. For example, you may need to change the oval for a wing by making the end pointed. Sketching loosely actually gives the drawing more life than hard outlines do, so hold the pencil gently. Plus the more you practice staying loose, the skill of drawing quickly will develop.
Artists enjoy a number of universal types of paintbrushes. In the photo from left to right they are: Flat, Bright, Filbert, Round, Detail/Rigger, Angle, Fan and Mop.
The bristles can be made from synthetic fibers or natural hair, or even a combination of both. Oil painting artists prefer natural brushes of hogs’ hair because they are tougher. For watercolors, synthetic fibers are best since they’re softer and hold the water. Synthetics are also sometimes used for acrylics.
For large paintings it’s a good idea to use a big paintbrush (2-4 inches wide) to be able to cover large areas of paint or for laying in a neutral underpainting over the canvas. Flats and Brights are similar, though I like a longer brush length for loading paint onto. Fan brushes are fun for painting grass or for blending. The detail brush (Rigger) is great for signing, painting small paintings and for outlining, i.e., for trompe l’oeil. I don’t much use for the Round, Mop, Round, or Angle brushes.
Obviously, you will find all of these brushes in various sizes, and you really don’t need them all. You will mostly find yourself using Flats (sharper edges) and Filberts (softer more rounded strokes) because of their shapes.
If you are just beginning in watercolors, the first thing you need to learn is how to paint a “flat wash.” First, it’s important to have the top your pad, or a piece of watercolor paper taped to a drawing board, raised about 3 to 6 inches higher than the bottom. This allows the paint to puddle at the bottom of your strokes.
To begin, mix about a tablespoon of water with a middle tone color of watercolor paint on your palette. Red, green or blue will work fine. Use a good amount of paint to get nice color with the water. Next, fill your brush and paint a thick straight line from left to right on your paper, about four to six inches long. (Note: If you are left-handed, paint from right to left.) By keeping a full brush, there will be a puddle across the bottom of your first stroke.
Next you will replicate what you just did. This time, start at the bottom of the first stroke, picking up the puddle at the bottom of the first stroke. As you keep repeating this over and over again, keep picking up the puddle at the bottom of each stroke as you begin a new stroke. You are actually moving the puddle down the page.
When you get to the bottom of the page, or when you are finished with your “flat wash,” there will be one last puddle. Gently squeeze the excess water/paint out of your brush with a paper towel, the pull the tip of the brush across the puddle. The water will be absorbed into the dry brush. You can let your wash dry in one of three ways: 1) dry naturally, 2) dry in the sun, or 3) use a hair dryer, gently moving it back and forth over your work about 6 inches away from the paper. Any closer and you could burn it.
In modern society, we are continually bombarded with standards of beauty and what is cool, and these standards are imposed by others. Artists coming out of various cultures not only express what’s inside, but there is also an influence that delicately affects us out of culture. This is where the intellect takes over. It is a reservoir of endless, inner commentary based on a lifetime of inflow! This can have a deep impact on creativity, sometimes causing us to be hard on ourselves, be critical of what we are making, make us feel stuck, etc., all of which I call “inner creative challenges.” I have a personal “bag of tricks” I use to help me overcome myself, and to stay in touch with my inner creative energy. Different things work for different people and each individual can find ways to inspire his/herself.
I cannot command my creativeness to appear, but I can influence it. Some examples are that I often keep a small sketchbook in my purse, I take photos with my phone of things I want to refer to later, I jot down notes of ideas that will probably slip my mind, I change what I have hanging on the walls, I have several projects going at the same time so I can get away from something I can’t be objective about, I work on my painting upside down, I make lists of unexpected things I could incorporate into a work, I take a class in something new, and I always try the opposite of what I would normally do in a drawing or painting (or in my jewelry designs).
Other things I do when those inner creative challenges arise are I’ll take a walk or a drive to get away from my project, then draw something while I’m out for a change of pace. Or I take 5 minutes to talk to myself in the mirror and encourage the one I see across from me. Sometimes I take ten to practice changing my thoughts – I sit quietly and then for every negative thought, I make up 25 positive thoughts. I’ll trace a drawing/painting I’m working on, transfer it to another paper/canvas, and start over in a completely different color palette or style. It’s all about being kind to myself and having fun. And I’ve discovered that whenever I’m too serious about my art, the inner creative challenges rear their ugly heads!
Painting lips is a great skill to learn. The mouth is one of our most prominent and expressive facial features. Because human emotions express visually via the lips, in a portrait the mouth tells an important part of the story that is communicated with the entire painting. By giving careful attention and observation of the structure of lips, your portrait will radiate strong feeling. Because the mouth has a lot of dimension, colors must be blended to create the form of the lips, using highlights and shadow. Though you may see multiple highlights on a lower lip, it will have more impact if they are gently condensed (blended) into one light tone, as opposed to putting “white spots” to insinuate shine. And where the lips meet, it’s better not to paint that line all the way across the mouth. One or two light or dark marks will work.
Watching other artists draw and paint is a fast track way to learn , as opposed to being given the how-tos verbally. It surprising how watching other artists gives our own abilities a boost. For visual artists, audio learning doesn’t work as well as visual learning. The Old Masters had a culture in their society of peers wherein they not only watched one another, but they also duplicated one another’s work and drew and painted together from the same models. By studying another artist’s work, your personal toolbox of methods, materials and ideas will grow.
By duplicating another artist’s work, this does not mean to copy it. Rather, it means to put yourself in that artist’s shoes and try to do what he or she did, as if you’d had an opportunity to watch the other artist. How did he mix the colors? What direction was the cross-hatching going? How thick was the paint? How did he make those brush stokes? Never compare your work with another’s. Just use their art and techniques to enhance your own creative experience! Enjoy watching Russian artist, Igor Sakharov, while he paints by clicking here.
Drawing the live human figure has been practiced for centuries to increase the skills of artists, including honing the ability to see correctly, the ability to create the illusion of form on a flat surface, the ability to understand human anatomy, as well as becoming more competent in using a variety of drawing implements – charcoals, pens and pencils. If you save all of your figure drawings, year after year, you’ll be able to compare earlier work with what you’re doing now, allowing you to see the progress you have made as an artist!
Many artists believe that drawing and painting the human figure is more challenging that any other subject. It’s also commonly understood that more you do figure drawings, the better you will become as an artist in general. You can check meetup.com or your local college or recreation center to find uninstructed figure drawing groups, or look for classes. You can never do too much figure drawing!
Creativity doesn’t strike like lightning. It’s seems instead a bit like a friendly energy arising within. And it is possible to create the right environment for it to thrive. Creativeness is not something that can be learned, however, anyone can become skilled at arranging conditions to promote the best opportunity for creative expression. For example, practiced artists surround themselves with a variety of supplies they enjoy using – charcoal, sketchbooks, paints, clay, etc. – and dedicate a space to create whenever the urge strikes them.
For beginners, you can start by clearing out a drawer or shelf to have a place to begin collecting items to make art with. Try browsing large art supply vendors online for good pricing, and visit local arts and crafts stores just to wander around and see what there is. Creativity in drawing and painting loves to have lots of supplies, colors, paper… whatever strikes your fancy!
If you feel stuck (no ideas or don’t like what you’re making), shake up your thinking patterns. Most important is to train yourself to play, and not be attached to the outcome. What you make is not the goal; allowing yourself to enjoy your creative energy and have fun, is. It’s about new possibilities, new perspectives. So just relax, play, experiment and enjoy the materials. That’s what creativity is all about.
Create your own schedule!
Non-competitive and supportive!
Focus on your own projects, not class projects!
One-on-one with lots of demonstration!
Work at your own pace and skill level!
Choose the mediums you really want to work with!
In the comfort of your own home or studio!
Educational, fun activity for small groups of kids!
Fabulous, creative group activity for adults!
All levels are welcome, ages 5-95. If you are looking for art classes in Santa Monica, Pacific Palisades, Brentwood and nearby, why not try private lessons in the comfort of your own home? You may be interested in cartooning, sketching, portrait painting… whatever you are interested in learning or enhancing your art skills in, I would love to be your private art coach.
When children are given the opportunity for creative, open-ended play, the imagination is stimulated and they learn to think in new ways. New ideas form because in creative play they are free to see things in different ways. They begin to rearrange things and think outside of the box they normally live in. They fantasize and dream about things, and do whatever feels fun or interesting. They exercise their curiosity as well as their visual muscles.For as long as I’ve been teaching the visual arts of drawing, painting, and animating, I’ve seen children and adults develop faith in themselves, through self expression, because each one is seeing himself or herself as unique. (Read my full article here.)
Adults are like children in their need to express their inherent creativity. Creating art makes people of all ages feel good, and happy people have more self-esteem. I’ve had many students, children and adults, whose self-esteem grew as they became more proficient in drawing and painting.
Becoming a good watercolor painter means learning how to control water with the brush. A watercolor brush is thick at the base, designed to hold a lot of water since we do lots of washes; and pointy at the tip for detail work. When painting a wash, the idea is to move a controlled puddle of colored water across the paper, and the brush must be loaded. Your paper should be taped to a drawing board that is set at an angle to let gravity help you control the water. Tip the handle of the brush up as you paint so that the water flows out the tip and doesn’t run back into the base of the brush.
Painting the “color” of light brings beauty into a painting. For an area where the sun or light touches an object, many artists use white. But white is the absence of color, whereas light is the essence of color. Because light is warm, warm colors are used to express light. One of the ways I mix colors of light is to combine Cadmium Yellow Medium + Cadmium Orange + Titanium White. Combining these three creates colors that seem to emanate light. One of my favorite artists, Joaquín Sorolla, was a master at painting light and you can see that his Children on the Beach in this post truly glows!
When a painting glows with the color of light, this can create an emotional response in the viewer. Traditionally, light is beautiful, light is good, light represents the divine presence, etc. Feel free to exaggerate light in your painting to create beauty and warmth. Try using the colors of light on areas in white clouds, on flowers, buildings and skin. Notice how Sorolla even used the colors of light on the blue blouse in the example!