Broaden, Practice, & Extend your Artistic Knowledge
By Karen Elzinga, 31/01/2018
Learning and exploring various art processes is like a tree growing fruit, the more nutrients it receives the more growth and better the outcome. When you have a foundation to draw from, your art becomes richer, more in depth and broader in its reach. Regardless of what you learn in the art landscape, it is the process that you are taking from it not the end result. For example if you learn to collage, your learning how to get the paper to stick and look professional when it dries, this may take practice to get perfect, but what you take from it is how much glue to apply for the perfect stick, how quickly to apply the glue and get it stuck, how to prevent rippling, how to overlap for the best aesthetic.You're also building knowledge about what are the different looks you can achieve by ripping the paper as opposed to cutting neat edges. This knowledge Is IMPORTANT! As a beginning artist, you need to learn your craft, that takes time, patience and plenty of practice, practice, practice.
You may think l don't want to be a collage artist, but you need to think of the bigger picture, and that is 10 years from now when you may discover a great new look that involved mixed media works that involve adding fabric to paintings, you need to be able to draw from your art knowledge bank of processes and apply that simple collage technique to your mixed media works. Knowledge is power, and l cannot stress how important it is for beginning artists to explore past their own knowledge and explore something new and outside your comfort zone.
The broader an artists knowledge bank of processes and materials the better the artist. Why? Well think about it, if you were a cocktail waiter, you know what a margarita looks like and tastes like, but if you didn't explore how to use other alcohol and make other cocktails, you would feel pretty lost when customers asked for other cocktails, or asked for your advice on what's drinks work well together. The same applies for any profession, you must learn all aspects of your craft, regardless of whether you plan to utilize that genre as your favorite form or not, knowing how other mediums perform also broadens your horizon and you find yourself vering off from your preferred path and venturing into new and exciting art forms.
So what can l do, l hear you say, well it doesn't have to expensive over the top projects, even the simplest will grow you art knowledge bank and fast. Here's a few ideas to get you started.
Project 1. Turn a person into a digital characterised figure using Adobe Photoshop, paint, or pencils.
Start by selecting a good sized picture approx A4 or something that covers the whole page of a glossy magazine, then rule 1cm lines across the page both horizontally and vertically.
Next using a blank page the same size as your picture again draw 1cm lines horizontally and vertically.
Now simply fill in the blanks by looking at the corresponding squares of both your picture and blank sheet and try colour matching, your simply filling the whole square with a block colour.
What your going to start seeing is a digital looking image, something that looks weird up close but viewed at a distance looks like the original image to an extent.
Keep it simple use a simple face image as your first try, try to get a face that covers the whole page.
Here's the finished work, now take a few steps back and take a look, then quickly view the original image, cool ha!.
So what have you learnt:
1: To use your eye to turn one tiny square block from several colours that it may contain into just one colour in order to represent it, the best way to do that is by squinting from a distance, what colour appears as the main colour. Use it.
2. How to change a photographic image into something artistic and interesting.
3. How to alter reality into fantasy.
So how would l use these skills in future?
If your going to be a painter, you're definitely going to need an eye for colour, if you take a flower petal for e.g. looking at it up real close, you will see it is really made up of more than one colour, but mainly presents as one colour, as a painter you may choose to represent the flower as one colour or delve into it further and represent other colours that the flower petal is made up from. These types of foundational colour exercises really get you to explore colour intricately and not just take what you see as the true colour but explore how you can depict what you see in new and interesting ways.
So let's have a look at another exercise- Collage, with ripped paper pieces as opposed to cut with scissors.
Now because this is a learning exercise, l'm going to add in a new element, and that is all your paper pieces must be approximately the same size, regardless of whether your doing a face or truck, you have to work out how to do your design with pieces that are all the same size...no cheating, it's tricky because you need to throw out what you know and decide on a composition that is going to work with your paper. Good luck!
In my design, because of the 1cm square paper pieces the head took up most of my page, which meant l had to think creatively about cartooning my person by giving her a tiny body.
Another thing to keep in mind is your foreground and background, how are you going to keep your foreground image from fading into the background. Colour is how, you need to think carefully about your colour choice, l choose a colour not related to my picture, and l kept it simple, don't try over complicate an artwork at the expense of what you want your audience to see.
Here is the finished work, have a close look at how ripped edges brings a totally raw look to collage. Here are some close up images.
Let's try another exercise, this one is about SIZE and SCALE.
This exercise is about utilize and getting to know size and scale and joining two images together to create a new a interesting image based on decreasing one image and placing it into another.
So let's do one together.
Here are some toy transformers, l took a photo of them on a white background, now l did this activity in photoshop, but if you don't have that program on your computer a good stencil knife or scissors will do. If your not using photoshop, your going to have it photograph your image further away so that it become smaller than the image you plan to merge it with. You may need to try a few distances till you find the right one and the right fit.
Now let's select or take a background picture.
This is going to be my background image, if your using photoshop it's an easy fix to lighten the photo to find the right tonal light balance between the two photos, if not then my advice is to take the photos of both images at roughly the same time of day so your lighting is the same.
Now let's merge the two images.
See how the Transformers have grown to be bigger than the cranes now, size and scale, play around with this, it can be fun.
So what have you learnt from this activity?
Size and scale is an important part of any painting, drawing, mixed media work, you name it, whether you create things to look out of whack or design things to look a realistic way, learning different techniques about size and scale is a great way to build your knowledge. Let's try another quick one.
Time and Motion
Art can come from all manner of ideas, and Ephemeral Art plays a big part of many well known artist's work. Here's a very inexpensive one to try. All you have to do is mix a bit of paint with water and lightly mix it in an old ice cube tray and freeze.
Once frozen retrieve from your mould or ice cube tray and place them onto a sheet of paper, now these blocks are going to melt, that's that whole idea, so do this activity outside over the grass, you certainly don't want the kitchen floor wet with paint.
The trick with this exercise is to keep the camera handy and take pictures of the melt at different intervals.
Photographing the process is called Ephemeral Art, it's a process where the art is only fleeting, here one minute and gone the next- Unless it's photographed. So click, click click, you can decide later which pics to keep.
This is the finished image, just imagine how this image could look different, how l placed the ice moulds could be a factor, how l arranged the colours, was the surface completely flat or slanted to mix the colours more, there are loads of variations, it's just a process of trial and error to see what works best and what looks best.
Here's a really quick one try - Empty the contents of a hand bag, wallet, gym bag, suitcase and than put everything into a square shape in an ordered fashion, this is called Deconstructed Art. And yes it's a real art process and style for some really big artists, go research a few.
Here's a last quicky exercise - Rhythm and Pattern
Listen to 4 different music genres, and concentrate, what does the music style say to you in terms of drawing it with a felt tip black pen. Can you draw the music.
Here's Pop Music for me.
Can you guess... This was Techno!
Argh... Classical Music
And finally Rock and Roll music.
Sound is definity part of the creative art process, and music can definity alter your art as you create it, so when or if your listen to music as you create, set the mood that corresponds to your artwork, it will help your artwork to tell the right story or message. Just imagine your trying to paint death whilst listening to Katy Perry, or your painting a happy festival scene whilst listening to Marilyn Manson. The right headspace matters more than you think when creating. So create the right mood for the art you wish to create.
I hope this blog post was helpful, see the Education Hub for many more free art lessons.