I've people ask me if I could teach them how to paint.
My first response was to search for materials on things I learned in art classes. But isn't that kind of stuff readily available online?
Then I realized that its the basic study of drawing that guides my work. It’s not that I draw perfectly but instead that drawing has helped me to see the world differently. Any venture into painting is all about seeing.
Seeing as an artist is about becoming aware of what you actually see with your eyes rather than what you expect something to look like.
From a scientific point of view, our eyes use a multitude of tricks and gimmicks in order to produce a vision that our brain can understand. The role of an artist is to deconstruct what we see in order to get to the mechanics and details of how we see something, then transfer that to whatever medium or style we like. Since we are all individuals, the product of our seeing will be as diverse as the number of artists in the world. Which means a whole lot!
That reminds me of a wise saying: "Don't try to be someone else – they're already taken."
This intentional way of seeing is something that can be learned. That's where drawing becomes such an important foundation for any artist. Challenging yourself to look deeply at a subject and attempt to reproduce it on to a 2-D surface, requires careful looking – without preconceptions or whether it makes sense to your brain or not. Well, maybe especially if it doesn't make sense to your brain! (Remember all those tricks and gimmicks!)
Can I suggest a great way to start drawing? Use your eyes to find shapes of color, shades of color, where light is touching and where shadows are falling. As you see these things, try your best to copy them. Not how you think it should look, but just what you see. One of the best tools to begin seeing this way is with a sketchbook that you use daily.
Drawing is always an important part of my painting process. Abstract artists usually have the ability to draw. Even a friend of mine that creates fine art sculptural baskets will draw sketches of his ideas. As you practice and practice this kind of focused observation and recording, you will begin to see like an artist. As awkward as it might seem at first, your brain will slowly start letting your eyes take over. With regular practice, you will begin to notice that you are seeing things differently. It's like discovering a whole new world!
I can't think of a better foundation and starting point for learning how to paint than drawing.
And the best news – you don't have to know how to draw a straight line! (Really? Where did that excuse come from anyways!?!?!)
If you have more thoughts on seeing like an artist, I would love to hear your comments below!
Hi! I'm Becca Farmer and I'm a visual artist.