Artistic Knowledge and Creative Design

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  10 October 2012
Artistic Knowledge and Creative Design

Quote: You first need to separate drawing skill, artistic knowledge, and creative design. They are three totally separate things. Drawing skill is the actual technical and mechanical skill of wielding a drawing/painting tool--how you control pen pressure, pen tilt, how you customize your brushes to fit your needs, how to use the right brush tip for shading, for clean edges, for textures, for expressive line weights...etc. Artistic knowledge is your understanding of the foundational theories like composition, values/lighting, color theory, anatomy/figure...etc. Creative design is your ability to come up with interesting visual design--be it a cool looking futuristic MP3 player, a spaceship, a restaurant, a military compound, battle armor, weapons...etc, and not only do they look great, they are also functional (at least visually they make sense). There's also a fourth factor, and that is visual storytelling--the narrative. But that's a whole different topic and not all artists are interesting in telling visual stories, expressing their emotions, or making socio-political statements.

Hello CGTalk,

Above I've quoted one of Robert's (Lunatique) many helpful posts in the forums. I have a question about this statement and I would really appreciate if someone could help me. How do I practice to improve not my drawing skill, but Artistic knowledge and creative design? What exercises and actions will help me become a better artist and designer. I see so many artists just come up with great character, enviroment, vehicle, arhitecture designs on the fly. It looks so easy when they do it but sometimes I can't come up with an idea for days. I wish to become a better designer and also a better artist, but I'm not sure what to do, since it's not as simple as practicing drawing figures all day. I read through the stickies but haven't fun anything concrete on creative design and creating ideas that actually work and tell a story etc. I am ready to do whatever it takes to become better but I need some guidance..

Thank you
Bryan Cranston Portrait WIP Thread
  10 October 2012
For design, you need to focus on the elements of design, such as usage of shapes, combination of shapes, interesting silhouettes, form vs. function, ergonomics, logic behind the design so whatever you design is actually feasible and make sense, and other considerations like how the thing is put together, how it might be manufactured, what kind of materials are used, whether it's practical, etc. You need to study industrial design for this type of stuff, and there are different focus you can study such as architectural design, vehicle design, product design, weapon design, fashion design, etc.

You don't need to be a master in each subject, but you need to have a good understanding of the foundation theories behind them so you understand the how and the why of all the designs you see around you in your life. You have to be curious and pay attention to everything you see. So let's say you are focusing on architectural design and environments--if you go to a public places and study how it's laid out, you'll notice where the emergency exists are, where the elevator and stairs are placed, how the lighting is designed, what kind of materials are used, how the lobby/main area is designed, what color palette is used in the interior design to match the mood/purpose of the location, etc. A hospital will have very different needs than a supermarket, or a military compound, or a theater, or an office, or a restaurant. So much of this stuff is common sense, except most people studying visual art don't realize how much they can improve by simply applying common sense and curiosity to their artistic development. Apply this kind of thinking to all kinds of design and suddenly, you'll see things you never thought about before, and everything will click in your mind.

As for coming up with visual narrative to illustrate, storytelling is a totally different thing from design. Narratives involve emotions and storytelling, and you must think like a writer or director. You need to think about what emotions you're trying to convey--such as anger, loneliness, disappointment, serenity, joy, fear, etc. Think about things that you've experienced in your own life such as being betrayed by someone, falling in love, losing hope, failures, triumphs, etc. You can also express your dispositions about issues such as bullying, bigotry, politics, war, corruption, environmental pollution, religion, prostitution, medical science advances, etc. You can even just ask yourself "what if" questions like "what if I only have 1 week left to live?" or "what if aliens made contact with us tomorrow?" or "what if my country went to war with another country?" or "what if I could time-travel?" Even if you can't find anything you want to express, you can just get inspiration from other people's storytelling, such as illustrating interesting scenes from your favorite books, movies, games, etc.
  10 October 2012
Thanks Lunatique, you're a legend! I've figured along the way that everything in art very makes sense and is very functional, even things like skin folds have logic behind why they are like they are, everything is actually based on functionality and logic which is sort of a great thing because you can learn to be a better artist with everything you do and time is never wasted. Thanks for your answer, It's really important to get in that observer mind state. I remember when I started learning facial anatomy I was observing human faces all day and I learned the most trough understanding the function of the human face, why everything works the way it is, and I actually got in this mind state by accident but by reading your post I reminded my self it is crucial to always have your third eye open and observe everything and try to understand it.
Bryan Cranston Portrait WIP Thread
  10 October 2012
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