Applied Painting Theory and Techniques

31 Jan 2023

Become an artist

Am I an artist?

There are hundreds of tutorials on the web, which offer a complete beginner to become an artist in just a few lessons. 

In such types of tutorials, a student is often supposed to copy the step-by-step work of a professional master. The tutorials leave a large number of basic painting rules omitted; instead, they concentrate on different tricks and methods of making the resulting work “appealing”. 

Are these types of tutorials effective? 

I would say, yes. As any studies you, my fellow artist, undertake – any, absolutely any studies – are effective. 

But they will not leave you a feeling to be “complete” and independent as an artist. They will not give you your artistic confidence. You can make dozens of tutorial copies; but one day you will try to paint your own subjects, and you will finish by searching for pieces of somebody’s work to copy.   

"I sell my paintings for money! Am I a professional artist?"

Technically, dictionary speaking, yes... but... No! 

You know that; if not, you wouldn't be asking! 

It's like being a professional electrician – the fact of selling your services is not enough to call yourself a master. 

To be an artist, to be a professional artist, you need to have your artistic confidence – to paint whatever you like without any help.

An artistic eye

A classical, academic approach starts with practising to develop an “artistic eye”: to be capable to see the surrounding objects or landscapes in a special, artistic manner: analysing their structure, positioning, colours, games of light, existing harmonies and visual interdependencies. 

“Having an artistic eye” is to be capable to see the beauty of the moment and understand how it is composed. 

It’s similar to “having a musical ear” – listening to some musical sounds and being able to understand them, “decompose” them and simplify them enough to write them down and reproduce. 

An artist, walking on the beach side, sees the colours of the sky, playing on the water. He/she/they sees the undertones formed where the colour of the sand mixes with the colour of the water masses; the groups of foam that create sculptural objects of definite forms; the spots on the water that are more enlightened than others, the movement of clouds that repeat the destination of the roaring waves; the shadows behind large beach rocks and their reflects; the sea horizon which disappears, becoming one single entity with air masses, or, on the contrary, which opposes to the sky in its sharp and contrasted line… 

How can we learn to see the world this way? 

The answer is all in practice, in time you dedicated to reproducing these scenes on canvas. And, surely in knowledge – you need to know what to look for, to find it easily

So, this “artistic eye” – is it just a mechanical skill, like driving a car, or do you have to be “natural” in that? 

To be an artist, you need to have them both, actually: a skill, and a natural artistic taste. But their proportion varies, depending on your natural abilities. 

The more “natural” you are, the less you will have to struggle to learn. It means that even if you’re Supernatural, you have to learn basic things “to drive this car”. It also means that if you are not sure to have a baby-born splendid talent, all you have to do – is to learn and practice; and one day you will find your ease of seeing and reproducing the visual beauties of our world.

Basic methods

Apart from an “artistic eye”, there is another force that only educated knowledge can give you: a method, a procedure.

When you copy somebody’s drawing of a car – you try to reproduce its lines as a technical copier machine. You can even apply a grill on a photo or somebody’s drawing, to find where the headlights of the car begin and where the tyres touch the pavement (good technique, by the way, to copy things fast). 

But when you create your own car – on a manga page or in a seascape oil painting of the Amalfi coast, you will start by drawing two cylinders and one rectangle in the lines of 3D perspective. And when your rectangle-on-cylinders is perfect and well-positioned, you will add details to turn it into a car. 

No one can stop you, an artist, from turning your no-head-no-tail rectangle-on-cylinders in Ferrari on the piece of paper! 

But if you don’t know that you had to start with cylinders (an example! can be a cone or cube or whatever, depending on position and view) your white and empty piece of paper can stop you from creating your Ferrari.

This is the only way to become an independent and confident artist: you need to know how to proceed and which instruments to use. The method. 

These are just the first and most simple reasons, to convince you, my fellow artist, to start learning some basic things to improve your artistic skills. 

Whatever learning you choose – online classes or university studies – you will pass the same stages: getting knowledge, practising, evaluating, getting more knowledge, and practising again. The only way to see the surrounding beauty and to be able to reproduce it. The only way to become an artist. 

© Bogacheff Marina. France, Switzerland. 2023

Ivan Aivazovsky, 1837

Ivan Aivazovsky, 1879

Ferrari sketch by Ferrari design director Flavio Manzoni

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