Christopher Hart, best-selling author of many popular art technique books on manga and more, is swinging by Unbound Worlds to offer a bit of his own expertise to those aspiring and developing artists in need or want of a little improvement.
I receive many emails at my website, but far and away, the most frequent questions are written in an almost urgent plea for advice on how to improve as an artist. Wisely, they are looking for a plan of action, which will move the quality of their art to the next square on the checkerboard. In response, I’ve developed a three-pronged approach to help fellow artists improve, and even reach their ultimate goal: to become a professional artist.
To get where you want to go, just remember this acronym:
T.I.P., as in “Art Tips.”
T = Time
Theoretically, it’s possible to improve by leaps and bounds without putting in the time to practice. Theoretically, it’s also possible that all the oxygen molecules in the room will suddenly gather in one corner and you’ll suffocate at your drafting table. But both of these things are equally unlikely. However, that doesn’t mean that unless you confine yourself to a dark and dreary corner of the room and draw for five hours each day, you’ll never improve. Continuity is more important than the number of hours you put in. Where can you find the time to draw in your busy schedule? That’s easy. Next time you’re watching TV, pick up a sketchpad and draw for an hour while your show is on. By doing this three or more times a week, you’ll remain in a progress-driven mode.
I = Information
Without exception, beginners acquire a few – or more – bad habits. We’ve all been there, including yours truly. It’s not a judgment; it simply means that you need to replace the techniques that aren’t getting you where you want to go, with new techniques that will. Where do you find these techniques? At the risk of sounding self-promoting, it’s simply a fact that every pro artist has purchased his or her share of How-to-Draw books. In addition, your local art center probably offers art courses, as may local colleges and universities as part of their Continuing Ed offerings. I recommend that you take a few. Just don’t expect to find an instructor who knows anything about manga or contemporary cartoons. However, there are many excellent life-drawing and still-life teachers at many of these small art centers. Drawing bowls of fruit may not be your preferred subject matter – or mine – but the experience of attempting to draw realistically will give you more tools to solve your drawing challenges in your preferred style of art. Go to comics conventions and get feedback from editors as well as pros who display their work in the “Artists’ Alley.” The question of whether to attend an art college or simply to take a series of art courses at a liberal arts university is a complex one. There’s not adequate room in this column to do it justice.
P = Perspective
Most people fall into one of two categories: They either love everything they draw, or criticize it to death. My philosophy on this differs from most, but I believe it produces better results faster: Work on improving your strengths before you concentrate on fixing your weaknesses.
Here’s the concept behind this approach: As an artist, people tend to improve faster at things that they do well than at things that they don’t. By focusing on improving your weak points first, the best outcome you can hope for is to end up at the same drawing level, but devoid of obvious flaws. Not thrilling. However, by first concentrating on your strengths, your drawing level tends to improve, and faster. Once that occurs, apply your increased skills to fixing your drawbacks. You will then be addressing your challenges with a higher degree of ability and confidence.
No skimping! Incorporating all three of these elements produces better results than just settling for one or two.
In closing, I’d like to thank the people at Unbound Worlds for inviting me to contribute this piece, and I wish all of you the very best in all of your artistic endeavors.
Christopher Hart is the world’s bestselling author of drawing and cartooning books. His books have set the standard for art instruction with more than 2.5 million copies in print in eighteen languages. Renowned for up-to-the-minute content and easy-to-follow steps, all of Hart’s books have become staples for a new generation of aspiring artists and professionals. Christopher’s latest books are Young Artists Draw Manga and Basic Anatomy for the Manga Artist. Visit Christopher’s website here.