I hear and read comments ALL THE TIME where people are looking for a way to skip ahead to more advanced painting and drawing. “Can you tell me how to draw a wave?”, “Can you tell me what colors to use for fill in the blank“, “Can you tell me how to paint a mountain?”. These comments usually accompany a frustrated artist who is unhappy with the handful of paintings or drawings they’ve completed in their lifetime. Sure, let me just sum up a lifetime of experience and trial and error into one instagram reply.
The thing is there is no magic portal you can walk through or fairy dust I can sprinkle on your head to help you to get from point A to point Z without you needing to walk through the rest of the points on the way there. It doesn’t work that way! Videos, tutorials, classes and books can help you to get there faster, but you still have to make the journey. It’s sort of like allowing you to run instead of walk from point A to Z. You have to walk to B, C, D, E and all of the rest of the alphabet creating some not so amazing pieces of work along the way as you learn. That is ok! Don’t kick yourself because your work at stage B doesn’t look as good as the artist who has already walked to stage Y!
“Wait, but I DID practice! I’ve been drawing a lot for the past few months!” Months?! You’ve been doing this for MONTHS and are already frustrated? Your work is not going to be amazing at first. It takes years to get to that level. While you will occasionally come across someone who picked up on art faster than someone else, the majority of us need to practice a LOT. Then practice some more.
What you may not realize is that I have completed THOUSANDS of paintings and drawings. Nope, that is not an exaggeration. THOUSANDS. I’ve been doing this for over 20 years now, and I sure did not start off where I am now. There was no magical tip someone gave me that fixed all my problems. I found inspiration from artists I admired and adjusted materials based on that. The majority of what I learned was from experimenting. I had to make mistakes so that I could learn from them. I could not spend time being frustrated that my work wasn’t what someone with more experience than me was.
You can get all the advice in the world from the most experienced artists. You can watch every tutorial and buy every art book, but if you’re not putting in the time to practice, all of those things will mean nothing to you. They won’t really make sense until you start experiencing the medium and making your own mistakes. When you practice, then read advanced art books or tutorials, they will make SO much more sense to you!!
One thing you will hear from a lot of experienced artists when asked “how do you know how to mix a color/paint a whatever subject“, the answer is usually “I don’t really think about it, I just do it”. Overthinking color theory and such is not something that goes into our thought process. How in the world does that happen?!?! Practice. Lots of experience of doing it wrong so many times that we figured out what does and doesn’t look how we want it to. There is no way around it. You HAVE to practice to get better. Tips from videos and books can certainly help speed up the process but they can’t do all the work for you!