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Rich Lafferty's Journal

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Learning visual arts?
thinking, perplexed
mendel
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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As others have already said, you've got the eye, there's no question about that. Your hand needs training, but that's just learning and repetition.

Before I saw the bird, I was going to say, 'do some photography anyway, if only to learn composition and light, and to give yourself a starting point in photoshop.' Having seen it, I would cast off the final clause and replace it with 'and to have something to draw.'

Does OCA give night or weekend courses? If so, go there. They've got great people.

Whatever else you do, take some design courses, or read some really good texts on design. And if you're adamant about avoiding photography, take something dealing with light, balance, and additive and subtractive colour mixing. Theory matters.

Avoid large group events at all costs. It dumbs down the experience beyond a point where you'd profit. MHO, anyway. YMMV.

Whatever you do, explore. Art is like music: you know the shape of it, but discovering how that shape comes about should be a reward in itself.

It occurs to me that chinese or japanese watercolour might appeal to you a lot. It's very dynamic and yet requires a great deal of centering before the stroke is made. Once you get past the dogma, it can make the act of painting very rewarding. I met a Chinese master trained in the classical style who used to go to the Arctic every year to paint landscapes there. It got him expelled by his patrons, who didn't think the subject worthy, but the results were moving.

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