I think that everyone at some time has believed that they can make something "nice" by pulling or pushing a pencil over the surface of a piece of paper. Just take a room full of kindergarten kids and put a box of pencils (crayons, chalks or anything that makes a mark) and some paper or cardboard on the floor and watch them go to town with it. Actually, forget the paper, the marking instruments will work just fine on floors, desks, walls, ceilings if they can reach them, clothing, furniture and even their own skin if it adheres (or the skin of a companion!) But the point I am making here is that every child has wanted to, and liked to, draw or paint. You were one of them, I know you were! So what happened?
Well, I'm not going to assume that you can't or think you can't draw or paint now. You may just be a terrific artist and are reading this to see if you can get any new insight. I have witnessed, though, that most of the people around me have more or less given up on drawing, painting or any other form of artistic expression just because they haven't "learned" what they believe to be their goal with it, or because someone in their past has ridiculed them and criticized their "masterpiece". I'm not a psychologist or hold a degree in teaching that I would give the recognized reasons for giving up on a pleasure of childhood. I know this from my personal own experience and the only reason I have become the artist that I am is for my persistence in the belief that I can do this thing called drawing. I did have some encouragement, especially when I was too young to truly have it influence my direction, but I've had much more then my share of criticism, especially in my teen years when I was most sensitive to it, so maybe it's just my personality that caused me to push this aside time and again (not forgotten, for sure!) and look at my work for what it is and persist in my dream of becoming a good, if not great, artist.
Why am I telling you all of this? You probably thought that this was going to be a drawing class, huh? Well, there are plenty of other artists that have done some excellent work and put it up on their sites to give you technical lessons on producing a fine work of art, and some have even gotten into suggestions (lessons, if you will) on how to be creative and even have fun with art, and I also will have some exercises and projects that you can do that I will be adding continually to this site and hopefully will show you some things that maybe you didn't think of, but what I really am aiming at here is to show you a way of thinking and feeling to help you give yourself the authority to like what you draw again, the way you did before the big people told you that you couldn't. And if you feel already that you can draw (or paint) then maybe the thoughts here will show you yet another attitude to producing your art.
Before I get too far into this discussion let me point you to some of the things that I would have any art student of mine try. Remember, clicking the little buttons will get you there! I have a way of looking at things; no, really physically looking at them that I know has given my art the quality it has and therefore has gained notoriety among my peers. I not only see my subjects in a way that helps me represent them better and easier (for me, of course) but I see my art in a way that when I describe my mental technique to other artists, sometimes they seem surprised and a little inquisitive. I also try to understand the scientific nature of the subject I am representing. I found that if you don't know much about the subject you're rendering it is likely to be flawed in ways that you can't even begin to see, yet you will know, and others also, that something is indeed not right.
On the other hand, choosing your material doesn't have to be such a big deal or expense, especially if you are just learning how to render a subject or scene. I find an awful lot of emphasis put on spending a lot of time and money to acquire top grade artist materials. Some companies and outlets, and even some teachers, seem to specialize in convincing beginners that you can't produce anything of value without the "proper" tools. This may be true for a seasoned artist who already has pushed the ordinary pencil and paper to it's limits or even the student or child who has shown that they are unable to advance without something more substantial, but who would buy their kindergarten child a $2500 laptop to learn how to press the right keys, or expect a preschooler to relish the finer tastes of the satin sofa in your special room, not to mention buying a $200,000 high performance racing vehicle for an 11th grader going for their first driver's license (unless he/she is a child prodigy or the parent is totally unconcerned with what happens to the car or the driver!) My opinion is that you can learn the skills needed to represent a subject at "drugstore" cost, literally $5 to $10 as opposed to hundreds that you can spend on re-supplying a beginner who is just learning to "draw a straight line" as it is often said. I would still consider drawing on "drugstore" paper with a "nice" #2 pencil for most of my "fun" art, and to contest some of the criticism I have gotten over this viewpoint I would ask what is the purpose of the work? Would you be placing it in a museum or selling it that it has to last a hundred years? Twenty or thirty years later the drawings I made with inexpensive supplies are still presentable, and have even become desired objects when shown such that I have had to tell people that I couldn't sell them with good conscience, so don't get me wrong, I do advocate the use of proper materials, but only when the situation warrants it. Buy good stuff when you can produce good stuff, when your skills now exceed the power of the materials and/or you are producing professionally. If you are already skilled you can still have fun and be pleased working with lesser (school grade) materials, it is a benefit to save money.
So, back to my original topic. I think being an artist is a little like being a kid again, you get to play make believe. Art is like food for the soul, and I think that's why children are so at ease with it and with themselves when they do art. Art makes them feel good, about themselves and about living. Art also transports you into another world, in your mind and in a place inside of you that feels different from this world of "reality". That's how I feel every time I produce a "good" piece, I am transported to somewhere else in space and time, and that's why I think I was branded a dreamer, and a dreamer was presented to me as a no-good, do nothing, lazy person. You know, our world puts so much emphasis on making money, and it's called productivity, but we must not forget that producing good feelings in people and ourselves is one of the most economically beneficial things that we could do for our society. I'm not talking about that "I'm okay, You're okay" attitude that has been prevalent in the second half of the twentieth century that has given excuse to all kinds of misbehavior, but a genuine sense of peace and good will about the accomplishment of sharing feelings through art.
Art, regardless of it's form, is a very vital component of human existence, without it we would be just another animal species. We all have art in us and should all find our expressive means lest our culture become dormant and our humanity go stale. So, go and do some art, but don't forget that "good" art is art that communicates, and to communicate you have to speak a common language, and that depends on your being in touch with the world, and that comes with observation. Careful observation of the world around you, and of your art , is the first factor in producing good art.
Page composed: 02-06-2003 by: Martin Peter Dembrowski
Page last updated: 02-14-2004 by: Martin Peter Dembrowski