SI #4- A Study Plan, Part Two: Fundamentals & Theory

Like a lot of people, I am a very lazy person at heart. 
The types of practice in the last post - creating projects for yourself and learning "passively" through continously making art - are very appealing to me. They require me to do something I like doing, and to keep doing it. At most, I needed to impose a schedule on my art, but as long as I give myself a bit of wriggle room, I am okay with that. 

This post however does not go well with my previous relaxed approach. It talks about things that require forcing myself to sit down and study, repeating exercises countless times, improving through gaining knowledge and applying said knowledge over and over again. It is tedious, it takes a lot of time, and it might not always be a lot of fun. But it is necessary, and I will make myself do it, because I know that the end goal will be worth it. 


The drawing and painting books I got when I was younger could be sorted into three categories:
1) Inviting you to copy step-by-step instructions.
2) Discussing materials and techniques for most of the page, and then adding a small gallery to make up for it.
3) A combination of the two.

I never felt like this was very helpful, but I could never point out what bugged me. It is easy to see now though - I missed the basic training, and I didn't know how to use the books I had properly.
I might have been able to copy a sketch of a flower, but I didn't know about repetition of the sketch in order to add it to my visual library, I didn't know that I had to pay attention to the construction in order to use my new knowledge when drawing other flowers, and I didn't know how to study the drawing techniques to apply them when working with that medium again. In short, even the best books won't help if you don't know what you're supposed to be doing with them.

At this point, and with a little help from David Allen's excellent book Getting Things Done, I know which questions I need to answer:
  • What is my end goal?
  • What kind of knowledge and skills do I need to achieve it?
  • How do these skills build upon each other, i,e, what do I need to study first?
  • Who do I want to study from?
What is my end goal?
I know that - my end goal is to be an illustrator.

What kind of knowledge and skills do I need to achieve it?


There are three sets of skills (and one area of knowledge) required:
  • Basic art skills. Going by Sycra's incredibly helpful video about art fundamentals, these include:
    - Form & Construction
    . Proportion & Placement
    - Perspective
    - Anatomy
    - Gesture
    - Composition
    - Values
    - Colour Theory
    I would also include a topic about different art mediums, to enable branching out and discovering what works best.
  • An idea supported by the necessary writing/storytelling techniques.
    This may be outsourced when illustrating a pre-existing book or working from a finished script. Otherwise, this will require writing skills, such as story structure, characters, world building, ..., and of course script writing.
  • Marketing skills and a business strategy.
    This includes building a portfolio, growing social media, networking, ...
  • Illustration Theory
    Knowing and understanding the field you want to work in is important when trying to create something new. This field would include a study of past and present artists, a look at how illustrations can be used, and knowledge of the different fields of illustrations and their respective requirements.  


What do I need to study first?Starting from the last point and moving in reverse order:

I have little structured knowledge of the field of illustration, so please expect semi-regular blogposts on other artists, visual storytelling, and similar topics. I will start of with book illustration and graphic novels, but I expect that I will branch out one day.

As for marketing, I am a perfectionist, and I firmly believe that I currently lack the required art levels to produce consistently good content, which would then lend itself to more aggressive marketing. But hey, I am writing this blog, and I am posting to Instagram, and I will keep this topic in mind for later.

Having started out as a wannabe writer of big fantasy epics or literary fiction including magic realism, I have already studied a lot of writing theory and acquired a lot of pratice, so I will leave this subject be for a while. (If you are looking for further information however, I can recommend the podcast "Writing Excuses", especially seasons 10 and 11, which offer a more structured approach than previous seasons.)

This brings me to the last/first point - the art itself.
I am ashamed to say that while I like to draw a lot, I am lacking in the fundamentals department - thus it is back to the drawing board. Literally.


Who do I want to study from?
This may seem like an odd question, but there is a lot of art advice around. A LOT. I would rather focus on a small number of 'instructors' than get lost in a ton of different advices.
There is also the fact that I (and I assume most other artists) have developed a sense of aesthetics. If I do not appreciate an instructor's end results, I will not be very interested in learning how they got there. Furthermore, when sticking to an instructor / book / tutorial, you will get used to the way things are done there, which makes learning new things easier. Ideally this also erases the point where you would be required to have a skill for something that you haven't yet learned.

I have looked through my different resources, and I have decided on the following approach:
I will use András Szunyoghy's huge book on Drawing and supplement it with corresponding courses from the Society of Visual Storytelling. The reason for this is that while András Szunyoghy has detailed explanations and examples, SVS provides a direct link to illustration, which will hopefully serve to remind me of my goal, and show me how to use my knowledge in a practical sense.
Additionally, I will use youtube tutorials or other drawing books, or indeed things around me, to practice what I learned.

My drawing book leaves out the topic of colour, so I will have to supplement that from elsewhere.
It also bases all its instructions on pencils alone, thus I shall need to find resources for practising other materials. But there are enough amazing artists on Youtube that can provide a live demonstration of these things, so I should not think that this will be a problem.
I will leave out digital art however - my eyes much prefer working on paper or canvas, and I do not want to stress them so much.

This will be a looooooong journey. But I am not bothered. Many people started late in life, and at least I now have a proper plan in place. I always feel more optimistic when I have a plan :).

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