I have been asked many times for advice from artist friends, or artists I have mentored in the past. When someone came to me recently with the same request, I jumped at the chance to offer some of what I have learned over the years — and decided why not post it on here, in hopes that my advice it may help other artists out there.
The most important advice I have learned so far:
Create for you, not for everyone else.
Being an artist is rough at any age because we creative types crave affirmation and praise – sometimes to the point that when we don’t receive much, we start to doubt our own talent and self-worth. Don’t fall into that trap. You would not be creating art if you did not love it. Maybe you started because it offers stress relief. Maybe you started because it just came naturally. Think of those reasons when you start to get discouraged, then pick up a pencil, or pen, or whatever your tool of choice is, and just keep at it!
If you are unsure about something, learn.
There will always be those who are more skilled or more talented. Don’t be discouraged by them – learn from them! This was a hard lesson for me, but it’s been a good one. Once I let go of my need to be “the best,” I actually began improving tenfold because the insecurity wasn’t holding me back.
Always strive to be better, but recognize the value in your own work. You have a style that is all your own. Embrace and nurture it. Definitely learn new things, but don’t try to be something you aren’t.
Surround yourself with positive people.
If someone tells you that you can’t do something or that you’re no good, ignore them and try harder. Oh, and kick them to the curb. You do not need that kind of negativity (we usually do a much better job at being our own worst critic, anyway).
Figure out your personal brand.
This is important when you start marketing yourself. It’s important to think of you as a business and your artwork as the product it sells. How will people know what accounts are yours, that a site is yours? Not only by your unique art style, but also by how you market yourself. That means your “business” name, logo, color scheme, etc.
Many artists I know use their own name, which is the common thing to do. You can also make it more of a business-style name – for instance, my brand is [email protected]
Trust me on this. It doesn’t mean that your art is no good, it just means that we as a society are over-saturated with – well, everything. Just keep at it. Engage your followers. Post as often as you can (but not too often! I’d say no more than once or twice a day) – and definitely look at the best days/times to post based on the social media platform. There are lots of resources that can help schedule posts in advance and whatnot.
Anyway, I hope that this helps! If you like, I’ve got lots of other resources on my site. And I’m always available if you have any questions, need a critique partner, or just want to chat about art.
“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” – Charles Caleb Colton
How true that statement is. Everyone has things they love, and many of those things shape us. It’s inevitable. This is no less true when it comes to our art. We see things we like, we imitate and try to shape our style to include those things.
Now, don’t get me wrong – I am NOT talking about stealing other people’s work and passing it off as your own. I am also NOT talking about imitating something so closely that the end result is something that is nowhere near your own work. I am talking about imitating things in a quest to find your own style. Finding styles that you like and working them into a style that is 100% uniquely YOU.
Throughout my journey as an artist, these are the top seven things that have shaped my style:
If you know even a little about me, you know about my love of Disney (also known as an intense, all-encompassing obsession). I had Little Mermaid everything as a little girl. Then Lion King everything. Then — well, you get the idea. I mean, I currently own approximately 30 Stitch stuffed animals. I am a member of the Disney Vacation Club. I go on Disney cruises.
(I may have a problem…)
My point is, it seems natural that Disney would influence my art style, seeing as I soaked up Disney animation from a very early age.
I started my love of Japanese animation (anime) and manga around middle school. It started with Sailor Moon (didn’t every girl from the 90s start with this? No, just me?), though my real love was Card Captor Sakura. It branched off into many different directions, but I started drawing in the Anime style, and it definitely leeched into my work after a time.
I blame Labyrinth for my addiction to all things shimmery. (C’mon, that movie is an explosion of sparkles. Seriously. so. much. glitter!!). It is my all-time favorite movie. I’ve watched it an unprecedented number of times. And I admit that I do like to add a bit of sparkle to my work every now and then… Oh, and I will always love owls.
4. Just Imagine: a Book of Fairyland Rhymes
For anyone that isn’t familiar with this picture book… oh, you’ve missed so much, my friend. In case you can’t see the theme, I really, really love fantasy and fairy tales. I think this may have been the beginning of it all. Guy Gilchrist is an amazing illustrator (and the writing is spectacular as well). He has this whimsical, slightly antiqued style with soft colors.
I came across Aimee Major when I was in high school. She was going to college for character animation (which I really, really wanted to do! Funny how life doesn’t work out quite how we picture…. Anyway, I digress). Her work was and is spectacular. She’s worked on several animated television shows over the years, and I remain a faithful follower of her work. And she definitely influenced my style in the late 90s.
James Hance. This man is my hero. He makes the most wonderful geeky masterpieces. I mean, seriously, his work is brilliant. C’mon, Wookie the Chew? He combined Star Wars with my all-time favorite stories – A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh. So, I’m not ashamed to admit that he inspires me to be as geeky as I like in my art. If he can make such beautiful masterpieces, surely I can, too!
6. Antique photography
I love looking at antique photographs. The soft, muted colors (or soft shades, for black and white or sepia photos). The slightly warm sepia tint that comes through that makes them look worn and old. I think that’s why I’m growing to love watercolor so much. You can recreate so much softness that way.
7. Comic books
This is a bit of a broad subject, but I do love comic books, and I do feel they have shaped my style quite a bit. Especially comics such as Sin City. I really, really love the black-and-white/grayscale mood of the art with splashes of color mixed in at certain places.
So, that’s basically it. I’m sure I could come up with many more, but really, those seven things encompass most of what my style is comprised of. Now, it’s your turn. What sorts of things have influenced YOUR style? I’d love to hear them in the comments below!
If you’re anything like me (and you probably are not, because I’m completely strange unique), then you like to find tutorials on the web and try them out. Or, you know, buy those Disney “How to Draw” books. Does anyone else remember those? Are those still a thing? I need to see if I still have mine. I’m pretty sure I got twenty.
(No, that wasn’t a reference to Little Mermaid. I swear.)
Ehem. Anyway, the point being, I love tutorials. And so, I’ve scoured the web for days on end (translation: I googled for about ten minutes) and found a list of art tutorials and projects that I love and want to try — and I hope you try them, too!
Tips for drawing backgrounds: I will be the first to admit that I hate drawing backgrounds. I don’t know why, but I do. So, that of course means that I should be practicing drawing backgrounds as much as possible because if it’s not something you love doing, you aren’t going to do it, then it’s going to suck, and then all your art is going to suck, and then you’re going to curl up in a ball and cry. So.
Step-by-Step Digital Painting Tutorial: Not only do I love this artist’s style, but the infographic-style of this tutorial is beautiful to look at and extremely thorough. I already follow several of her steps, so it will be easy for me to try this one out and tweak my current process!
Head over to Clementine Creative for a list of 12 watercolor tutorials that you can check out. (I, for one, want to strengthen my weak skill in watercolor. It’s a medium where you kind of have to let go — which I have a hard time with!!)
Talking about references… Looking at other artist’s work to help your skill along is never a bad thing (we all do it, and these tutorials are a great example). But, when at all possible, use live references (or at least photographs of live references).
Not only will you ensure that your style remains your own, you will also make sure you don’t inadvertently pick up any bad habits from other artists, either. (Sorry. We ALL have them.)
Along the same vein as clothing, shoes are something I am always trying to improve on. Well, feet and shoes. And I was going to look for a specific tutorial when I came across this link to a bazillion (okay maybe not quite that much, but close) tutorials and references on Pinterest. So, why try to invent the wheel?
Another aside on clothing: this book by John Peacock is amazing! I have one of its older siblings, but I may have to upgrade. It’s a great reference on different clothing styles throughout (most) of history.
One final tutorial on drawing figures – this article on Design Your Way has a ton of video tutorials on everything from eyes, to faces, to gesture drawing and poses.
You can also view more art references and tutorials on my Pinterest board, Art Reference – I update fairly frequently.
So, about those tutorials… Seriously. Try them. And let me know how they are in the comments.
I’ll wait. 😉
(P.S. If you have Netflix, they now have the entire Bob Ross series available to stream. That man fostered my obsession with art at a very early age. And, c’mon. Bob Ross. I dare you to watch it and not laugh you @$$ off or end up in a good mood by the end!)
“Why have a brand?” you ask. “I’m only an illustrator/writer.”
Good question! Personal brands are great for establishing a professional image. They help you to stand out from the crowd.
But where to start? Design is an evolutionary process. It starts with a whisper. Ideas emerge from that single thought and we let them roll around in our minds, where a small number start to take shape. We mold them. Then, when we have the idea in just the right atmosphere, we move it to pen and paper.
Half of the time we shred that paper into tiny bits and throw it into the wastebasket.
No? Just me? Okay, okay, maybe not quite so dramatic. But, I have never taken an idea from thought to reality without multiple revisions. It starts as one thing until I change this or switch that.
Branding has no magic pill. And, what works for one person may not work for another. But I can give you a few tips that I think will help – at the very least, it might give you some food for thought!
Check out the infographic below for more information:
As you can see, I have tried to keep my look consistent across my blog posts and various social media sites. I have:
a designated color scheme,
a basic look and feel to my graphics so that someone looking at them can easily distinguish this is something that I created,
I have always stressed the importance of keeping a sketchbook. My studio at home is jam-packed full of sketchbooks – big ones, small ones, skinny ones, fat ones, (yes, this is sounding like a Dr. Seuss book…)
Karen Elaine’s idea of nano sketching, though. I admit I fell in love with this idea as soon as I read about it! Sketchbooks, minified! Sort of like flash fiction, only for art. And like flash fiction does for writing, nano sketching condenses your art into a small, confined area, which helps to tighten skills and sharpen focus.
So, what is a nano sketch?
Nano sketches are quick gesture drawings done with a pencil (no erasing) keeping the lines loose light and free.
Sounds pretty simple. We used to do exercises like this in art school. Sometimes we would have to look only at the subject and never down at the paper – you know, if you want to take this to an even more advanced level. Or are a bit of a masochist. Either way.
Nano sketches are quick and usually done in a public place.
Since the journals themselves tend to be so small, this makes sense. Think of the possibilities! I would love to take one of these on vacation with me and do sort of a sketch-journal about my experiences!
A real useful trick is to photograph your subject first so you have an image to refer to when things change (and they always do) and if you want to complete the sketch at a later time.
I love the above piece of advice. I almost never finish a sketch in time — and when I am drawing active scenes, it’s great to grab a shot of the instance for future reference. I don’t know about you, but it’s kind of difficult for me to sketch someone jumping in mid-air in the nanosecond it takes them to jump up and then hit the ground again.
If you can do that, you must be some sort of superhero, and you should be out fighting crime instead of sketching.
Making time for nano sketches every day is a quick and easy way to practice drawing and painting skills and to observe the world in an entirely different way.
Seriously, though, I have been trying to make it a goal to draw something daily. Even more so, to draw things I actually see (as opposed to things from my crazy ADHD mind) to help hone and refine my skills. Art is kind of like riding a bike. If you stop riding, you start to lose the basics and you don’t ride nearly as well as if you had ridden daily.
Or something like that. I’m bad at metaphors.
Anyway, I highly recommend you check this guest post out at Doodlewash! Karen goes into much more detail, and her sketches are lovely! (I mean, just look at that cat. So adorable!)
Scroll down to the end of the post for the link to the full article. And, enjoy!
Greetings, my name is Karen Elaine and I am an artist, author and teacher living in the mountains near Sedona, Arizona living with my husband and cat (follow me on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and visit my website!). I’m the author of Origami Card Craft and The Art of Kumomi as well as other books on paper crafting […]
via GUEST DOODLEWASH: Nano-Sketching by Karen Elaine — Doodlewash
I am a professional artist who specializes in pop art, illustration, and graphic design. My work includes both digital and a mix of traditional wet media. (Check out my art gallery to view my work!) I find inspiration from animation (e.g. Disney and Japanese anime), fantasy, fairy tales, and those magical little moments in everyday life.