Requesting input on a learning plan

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  09 September 2011
Requesting input on a learning plan

I'm a beginning artist that is focusing on basic drawing and rendering technique right now. I'm in my early 40's, so I'm a late starter, but I am investing the time like a serious hobby or fitness plan - at least 1 hour/day.

I've read a many of the beginner threads here, as well as looked at other's sketchbook threads for inspiration. The one thing I really want to do is invest enough time into this to determine if I really can reach a skill level that will satisfy my need to be creative, or if I should just relegate myself to forever being a fan.

The issue is that I seem to have a bit of stage fright wtih my sketchbook. I think it has to do with starting out later in life, and having such a large set of areas to focus on. Some things I have done to keep myself focused is 1) Deciding to only use traditional tools right now in the beginning, 2) Deciding to avoid color and only do grayscale and 3) Deciding to just use graphite. I was hoping by narrowing my scope, I'd be filling sketchbooks, but that still isnt the case.

I tend to like a lot of artwork, but if I had to choose some specific goals, I'd like to be able to 1) Render photorealistic portraits, 2) Draw pinups and 3) Have a foundation to move into digital painting.

All this being said, I just dont know what to put on the paper. I tend to spend my hour looking for references, inspiration, or reading up on techniques. But I think the fact that I'm starting out later in life coupled with the huge group of things I need to learn makes me want to have a plan. Should I just read Loomis and do the exercises? What is a good way to learn value? Should I draw life, references or both? Should I try all of those at the same time? And, what should my expectations be at this time if I do anything of those?

Right now when I do draw, I just doodle some line drawings (I'm partial to Ugly Dolls, so I have lots of original Ugly Doll designs), or try to copy various eyes or other body parts, or lineart I see on DeviantArt. I havent got my head around values yet - so I havent even tried portraits yet.

Those of you that have been through this - or who are instructors - what would you suggest as a good 3 or 6 month plan?

Thanks for any input,
  09 September 2011
I can tell that you're very serious about your quest for artistic growth. It's too bad you just missed the current run of my workshop, Becoming A Better Artist, which was designed EXACTLY for people like you--those who badly want to learn and grow efficiently and not waste time being ineffective, confused, and feeling lost.

The next run of the workshop will likely be a couple of months from now, or maybe early 2012--you should subscribe to the official thread (linked in my signature below) so you'll be notified when the next run's enrollment goes live.

In the mean time, the Andrew Loomis books are a great way to build up your foundations. I tell anyone who's thinking of taking my workshop to warm up with the Loomis books.

The key to moving forward is to not just copy what you see, but to understand how the world really works--the laws of physics that govern the behavior of light and shadows, the way different surface types reflect light, the structure of the human anatomy/figure, the psychology behind body language and facial expressions, how living creatures--in particular human beings, deal with their center of gravity and how that affects the way they stand, walk, run, sit, lean...etc. There's also perspective, composition, color theory, brushwork, line quality, as well as the often neglected but very important topic of a personal creative vision.

All of this stuff is covered in the workshop. You can try and study all this on your own by hunting down online tutorials, books, videos, or take classes, but it'll be far easier and more efficient when you have a seasoned artist who's a proven, passionate teacher with amazing word-of-mouth reputation show you the way and be there to answer every question, provide in-depth critiques, and show you things you would never have learned on your own. If you read the student testimonials on the workshop description page (linked in the first post of the official thread), it's very obvious how this workshop has changed the lives of many.
  09 September 2011
Hey Robert - I was hoping you'd reply to this thread. I think the workshop would be a good match for me also and will hopefully take it when it runs in the winter. That also gives me some time improve my skills enough to get 100% from the workshop.

I think if I tried to take the workshop now, I'd have problems with the 3 prerequisites you suggest. So, short term, perhaps my goals should just be to work on those types of pieces so I can represent myself well in the workshop.

It still boils down to what to put in my sketchbook. I see some people carry their book everywhere and draw everything. My brain works a little differently and I need more structure (I hope it's not a substitute for passion, but instead just the tax I have to pay to push my creativity). In fact, I tend to work better when I have a fixed place to sit and draw (like a desk).

You mentioned Loomis, but I'm curious - is that all a beginner should focus on? At times I thought I should do something like this:
Monday: 1 minute gestures from photo references
Tuesday: Loomis exercises
Wednesday: Pick a body part - anatomy study
Thursday: Work on values (how does one even work on values as an exercise?)
Friday: Draw a portrait from a reference
Weekend: Put it all together into a finished project.

Other times, I thought I should just do project after project to completion (for example, for now just trying to render photo references as well as possible) without any "exercises" and as I finish them, I will note my weaknesses and improve them on the next project.

5 years into this, I'm sure I'll easily be able to identify what I need to work on and just do it - but now I need to work on EVERYTHING and can't figure out where to begin.

Any further thoughts on how to approach this or what to put in my sketchbook?

  09 September 2011
IN the workshop, I have detailed analysis and suggestions of how to learn and grow efficiently, what to avoid, what to focus on, as well in-depth and comprehensive plans that will take an artist from total beginner to advanced, as well as career planning, and how to deal with emotional/psychological setbacks that artists sometimes run into when they feel self-doubt and self-loathing, which myths and misinformation that's detrimental to artistic growth to avoid, as well as how to avoid all the common missteps that causes people to lose motivation, passion, and how to keep the fire burning in a consistent manner. It is a lot of stuff so I can't really post pages and pages of this stuff here--it's all doled out during the 8 weeks of intensive learning and training.

As for the prerequisites, they are really a formality. I have plenty of students who can barely draw stick figures, learning right alongside of advanced artists who are already art directors, and both extremes of students do just fine and get a lot out of the workshop.

For now, I think just the Loomis books will be plenty enough. Just having read all of this books from cover to cover would already be quite an accomplishment for a beginner, and if you add the practices/exercises you would do along with the books, that's already a good solid couple of years of hardcore study--IF you are very passionate and diligent. For others, it's more like a good few years of study--in fact, most will never even get through those books.

Anatomy study is always good, but you have to learn to put them in proper context, or else you'll end up like the many artists who learned the wrong way and have a tendency to draw people like cadavers or bodybuilders. It's a very common problem even among veteran artists.

In week three of the workshop, I have a very challenging assignment that trains your ability to manage and work with values--it's one of the hardest assignments in the workshop, but it will teach you so damn much.

Anyway, just focus on Loomis for now as that's more than you can handle already, and once you're in the workshop, you just leave the rest to me--I'll guide you through your entire growing and learning process, and show you a ton of stuff that will blow your mind.
  09 September 2011
Thanks for the reply. I'll stick with Loomis - maybe start a sketchbook thread here or deviantart and hopefully see you in the next workshop.

  09 September 2011
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