Another Five Art Tricks I Wish I Knew Earlier

February 22, 2020 maddoctorartist 0 Comments

So I've been drawing for a number of years, self-taught, and while that does sound impressive to a lot of people, it comes with drawbacks. Even with the vast resource that is the internet and all the excellent tutorials, hints and tips on various websites (click here to view some of my favourites), there are just certain little things that aren't ever 'taught' per se.

Reflecting on my art journey, I thought it might be helpful to come up another top five art tricks I wish I'd known earlier (click here for my previous post on the same topic, but with different tips).These have mostly come from art podcasts and some youtubers I have recently started to follow. Hopefull you may find these useful!

1. Think in 3D

This is something I picked up a while ago, but I didn't truly understand it until I came across artist Peter Han (check out his youtube channel here). I first encounter Peter's art on another art channel I've followed for a while, Proko, where he made a guest appearance during a panel (you can watch the video here). Essentially Peter advises to break down any form into geometric shapes- advice I have heard many times before- but this time the emphasis was on 3D shapes, and this has actually already had an impact on my art!

The idea behind this is to think of forms in terms of cubes, pyramids, cones and spheres, not as squares, triangles and circles. This is why in my redraw above of my original character Ryan, his head shape looks much more proportioned (as in the old drawing I used a circle base). Thinking in 3D also makes things like perspective easier to grasp, as you are turning an object in space, rather than making guesses with lines.

A crude simplification, but it does help you understand the volume of forms, and this is very helpful for proportions, perspective, lighting, pretty much everything!

This is expecially useful for complex forms like the face- if you draw it in 'planes' rather than jumping straight in with the details, it makes it look much more realistic.

Thus I'm very grateful to Peter for finally allowing me to understand this nugget of advice after many, many years!

2. Find Art 'parents' or styles you want to emulate

This is a tip I picked up from a Proko podcast, and also an professional artist called Ethan Becker. This is *not* advocating that you copy another artist and then claim the work as your own (which is a big no no)- rather, this is asking yourself the question, what kind of art do you like, and what elements of this do you want to put into your own art style?

I really love the shading and line style of the Fire Emblem games Path of Radiance and Radiant Dawn, so this is something I may try to incorporate into my future art [this is official game artwork and is copyright Intelligent Systems/ Nintendo]

This is not something I have thought much about before, as I presumed learning from realism/ real life was enough to then develop your own style. But I have noticed that my struggles towards realism don't ever seem to quite reach it. This was part of the reason I decided to start drawing birds rather than people, as I had been doing, but it also put me off wanting to practice drawing people at all. No matter how much I tried, I always fell short of my expectation, and this took away from my enjoyment. In fact, it even made me almost afraid to try in the first place, which is never a good mindset to have.

However, learning this tip has allowed me some breathing room away from realism. Thus I am now looking at artwork I enjoy (such as the Fire Emblem example above), and practicing the elements I would like to put in my own work by copying. This can be anything from the linework, the colouring style, dynamic shapes, gesture, anything! And by coping, I mean taking an image I like and trying to work out how the artist achieved the desired effect by replicating it myself- again, this is as a LEARNING tool, not to plagerise or post online.

3. Experiment in a different medium

I picked this tip up from a few artists over the years, and also during Inktober 2019 (which I did for the first time last year). I have mostly stuck to digital art for many years, though initially I did draw traditionally on paper with pencil and coloured pencils.

However, for Inktober I decided to go back to traditional media, and I've found a brand new medium I really enjoy!

 It's a lot of fun figuring out how to shade with just three colours, black, white and grey!

Ink art has become a great new discovery for me, and I have even invested in some books on the subject. So it is absolutely worth trying out different artistic media, especially if you feel your creativity has stagnated and you are struggling to find inspiration. And with so many options to choose from, like oil painting, watercolours, ink, coloured pencils, oil pastels, alcohol markers- you might just find a brand new way of expressing yourself.

4. Don't get trapped in the 'collect for future reference' cycle

This tip comes from artist Jake Parker (he also started the whole Inktober thing). This is something I hadn't noticed I had been doing, and will definitely be more mindful of. The problem on hand here is that say you have an art project in mind- perhaps something bigger than a simple drawing, like a comic strip, graphic novel, literature novel, screenplay, whatever it could be, and you need some 'inspiration' or references to help with the worldbuilding, setting, characters etc.

Pinterest is both your greatest resource and worst addiction...

So, thanks to social media sites like Instagram and especially Pinterest, you go 'collecting'- a nice landscape photo for a setting, some references on period clothing, some animals you could combine into a new monster- and you pile these things up like a dragon protecting their hoarde. The contents however just sit there, and you never invest in them to get a return, because there's always more to collect, or something better than what you've already got.

This was something I've done for my old Zodiac Hunters story, where I wanted to redesign the monsters. Yet despite collecting a great deal of references I haven't started on a single one, and it's been years!

In contrast, I managed this well with my Azaria fantasy novel series. I did a lot of research into worldbuilding and world politics, and managed to write a whole timeline and encyclopaedia. Now I have the blocks I was missing, and I have started to write the final part of the trilogy after a long hiatus!

So, it is all very worthwhile to collect the building blocks you need to create your work, but if you don't actually use them, you will just be sitting on worthless stone.

5. Don't get tunnel vision by only looking at artists who use the medium you work in to learn from

Similar to tip #3, this is where I have broadened who I learn from in terms of art teachers. Initially I stuck to digital artists and tutorials on deviantart, but since YouTube has a plethora of artists and art teachers, I have expanded the content I watch. Some might say there's little point in watching an artist who uses oil painting and describes the ins and outs of this when you yourself use watercolour or another medium, but there is a lot of crossover potential. It can also inspire alternative approaches to drawing.

Some personal examples for me include Alphonso Dunn- he works in ink, and I have followed him long before I found ink as a medium I enjoy. His work has been great to see how to create texture and volume.

I also thoroughly enjoyed Proko's guest videos, where artists of all kinds give advice. I learnt quite a bit from an oil painter about choosing colours, which was not something I was expecting!

Of course you can ignore the technical parts of a medium you don't work in, but it's good to expand your horizons and gleen information from unexpected sources!


So there you have it, another five art tips I wish I knew earlier! I'm sure there are many many more- have you got any hints or tricks you wish you'd known sooner? Let me know!

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