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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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the bird is pretty good. :)

the best way to learn is to do it everyday. play around with it. if you're using a pen, try to make different shades, not just black (or dark blue) and white, but use cross-hatching or dots or scribbles of varying densities to get different shades of grey.

one way to trick your brain into not drawing the symbols that you know (square + triangle = house) is to try to draw the air around it. think of the area around the object as some sort of abstract shape that you want to copy down.

try drawing things that don't have a symbol attached to them in your mind. instead of tree (stick + circle), face :-) crumple up a napkin and try to draw that. Follow the lines on the paper. Use your pencil to measure the angle of the line you want to draw, then copy that down on to the paper. the paper needs to be at perpendicular to you and to what you're drawing. when i write, i turn the paper about 85% to the left and write bottom to top, completely sideways, and my handwriting is much better for it, but you can't do that when you're drawing, because you'll mess up the angles. notice where things are darker and where they're lighter.

look around you. do you see a black outline around objects? no, you don't. you see where the green of the lamp becomes the pale yellow of the wall. if you're drawing in colour, outline the lamp in green, and don't outline it very hard, because there's no real outline, the lamp just stops at some point. :)

when you're not drawing, try to think of how you would draw something. look at shapes. don't look at them and dismiss them as "that's a tree", but really look at them and notice how things are different and notice the shapes and the colours and the shadows and the light. it's good practice for when you are drawing.

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