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Rich Lafferty's Journal

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Learning visual arts?
thinking, perplexed
I just Asked Metafilter about this, so I'll ask you guys too, because I know there's a bunch of creative types out there:

I have no visual arts skills and want to change that this year but I have no idea where to start.
I'm starting from the basics. I didn't even take art in high school. I'm the guy who "can't draw". I do think I have an eye for graphic design, at least, but that's about it.

I bought a set of Sharpies tonight to decorate recipe cards and even then I don't really know what to do with them. I look through Flickr results for sharpie drawing and I don't know how I'd start being able to do ANY of that. Even short sketches, I don't know what to put in and leave out.

I remember reading the introduction of a "how to draw" thingy somewhere on the web that talked about the difference between grade-school drawing, where you draw a symbol for a house, a symbol for a window, a symbol for a hand, and so on, and "fine art" drawing, where you see the lines and draw what you see. I get that idea, but I have no idea how to accomplish it.

If I want to give myself the equivalent of a high-school education in visual arts -- learning to draw, learning to paint, sort of learning the techniques and the visual vocabulary and so on, without taking a course -- where should I start?

ETA: "What kind of visual art?" Not sculpture, not photography. Drawing, painting, sketching, stuff on flat things like that. Drawing and sketching would probably be the starting point I think.

ETA again: O hai I drew a bird.

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You look like you have a good start with your bird. :) You clearly have the ability to look at something and render what you see (which is what I always failed at). I wouldn't call you a guy who can't draw; I'd call you a guy with native talent who's just never worked at it.

I'd start out with picking up a few "learn to draw" type books (go to the bookstore and flip through things until you find things that look interesting/useful/relevant), and then pick up a sketchpad and a set of good pencils (not colored pencils -- artist's pencils, the kind that have different softnesses). Then spend half an hour a day sketching what you see. Even if it's just sitting in front of your computer desk and sketching your environment. The thing when you're first starting out is learning how to faithfully reproduce what is in front of you -- translating what you see into a sketch. Doing that will teach you your materials, and let you start branching out from there. (It's what my design teacher had us doing.)

Do you have a community-college type thing available to you? A lot of them have introductory art classes.

Meanwhile, another thought: I have a great visual eye, but I totally lack the hand/eye coordination to draw anything -- at all. I can't get the proportions right, etc. If you get incredibly frustrated by the process of trying to reproduce what you see, you might want to try doing what I do: when I want to do art, I turn to Photoshop and pick up stuff that's already been done (ie, stock photography, etc), working with that. You can see the kind of things that turns out here: the first seven photos are the things that went into the end result, which is #8 (and the cover for a story by a friend of mine). I had horrible issues about not being able to draw induced by very, very many bad teachers (it's a long story), and for me, finding Photoshop allowed me to be visually artistic in a completely different way that I'd never thought about.

(Likewise with the knitting; when I started knitting, I was really startled to find that my 3D perception skills were so good that I could produce awesome knitted garments without a pattern or anything. Goes to show; the only art sections in school that didn't send me into freakouts were the sculpture/ceramics/pottery/jewelrymaking segments...)

(butting in ^^;;)
I have a great visual eye, but I totally lack the hand/eye coordination to draw anything -- at all. I can't get the proportions right, etc.

You could turn this around by making it a style of misproportion. Exaggerate, emphasize or de-emphasize. Think of caricatures! :)

No, trust me, it's far, far worse than that. When I try to draw something, it looks like a four-year-old did it. Like I said, it's a long story, but it has to do with an undiagnosed learning disability.

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