Category Archives: Art

Best of Pastel Pointers

“Color gets the glory and value does the work.”

Most of us love color. We’re drawn to it hoping to accomplish something expressive in our paintings. If the value structure (the relative lightness and darkness) in a painting is wrong, however, all the pretty colors housed in our pastel cases won’t work, and the painting will fall short. If you’re one of the fortunate painters that has a keen eye for value—congratulations! If, on the other hand, you’re among the many that work diligently analyzing value ranges, here are a couple of tips that might help.

  1. First, convert your reference to a value scale. If you’re working with photo reference, you can digitally convert it to a gray scale and remove all traces of color. This will instantly show you the value relationships of all the individual elements in the scene. Another option, if you have a color photograph, is to scan it into your computer and then convert it to gray scale. Or, go down to your local copy center and use one of the better copy machines. This isn’t as accurate as converting your own digital files but still serves a useful purpose. Remember that any photographic reference has its limitations; value ranges are never exact to what the human eye is capable of seeing. Shadows are often extremely dark and lights get blown out. So use these black-and-white representations as a generalization.
  2. Second, when you’re working from life, employ a piece of red plastic. Red has its limitations but serves well for most outdoor situations. The majority of landscapes are saturated with green, blue, and gray, allowing the red plastic to neutralize the color and producing a monochromatic image in appearance. When painting in the Southwest, which has bright reds and oranges, green plastic is useful. Holding this up and scrutinizing the scene, as well as your painting, will help remind you of the relative value range. This allows us to use all the color we wish without compromising the structural form.

Two Drawing Tips to Consider When Sketching Faces

Drawing skills are a great foundation for painting. We learn the building blocks for brush work, proportion, hand/eye skills, etc. In the beginning, drawing faces and figures is a lot like learning to play an instrument–there are mathematical proportions that we study and practice like learning musical scales. Over time the mechanics become automatic, allowing quality of line, shape and value to emerge and express more than the technical process of early attempts of sketching faces, for example.

If you’re new to portraits, there are a couple of things to keep in mind when sketching faces.

• Consider the placement of the eyes within the oval shape of the face. Looking straight on at an average face, the eyes are aligned horizontally approximately halfway within the oval. Often we place eyes too high between the top the head and bottom of chin. We forget that there’s a forehead and in most cases, a hairline that encompasses a similar space to that below the eyes.

• Consider the size of the eyes. We spend a lot of time looking into people’s eyes and have a tendency to exaggerate and enlarge the eyes. On an average face there are approximately five eye-widths from one side of the head to the other. Keeping this in mind, you’ll have greater success with rendering proportionate eyes.

Taking away the subject can remove fear and opens the door to seeing and shapes in values and colors. You may choose to grid your subject and surface as a method of drawing an accurate face.

Drawing should be enjoyable and, like fitness, the more you do the easier it becomes. Whether in an organized figure class or squeezing in ten minutes a day in your sketchbook, make drawing a part of your routine.

Learn How to Draw for Beginners

How to Draw for Beginners

The first step of learning to draw is figuring out what drawing tools you want to work with and gaining an awareness of what your chosen drawing medium is capable of. Working with a graphite pencil is quite a different experience and utilizes a completely different process than working with a stick of charcoal or oil pastel or pen and ink or colored pencil. Drawing : The Complete Course and Jill Bays’ drawing video workshop can really help you reach your fullest potential by giving you an understanding of the different drawing techniques used with different drawing media. For example, if you want to really work on your mark-making with an emphasis on hatching or cross-hatching, you’ll probably want to work with graphite. For more expressive marks, reach for charcoal.

Drawing Basics: Initial Tips for Learning to Draw

When you start to draw the first thing you will want to do is loosen up—literally. You want to draw fluidly and spontaneously, so the first thing I was always taught to do is warm up with exercises like drawing circles or cubes. This gets your hand and eye working in concert and can bring about a certain level of focus that you’ll need as you start to sketch.

Another of our drawing tips that I’d like to share is to be mindful that as you learn to draw you don’t have to erase. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you must. Oftentimes, “incorrect” marks can be guidelines for you as you zero-in on the right way to draw the curved shape of a vase or tilt of the nose. Leaving those marks—known as pentimenti—is something that master draftsmen have done for centuries, so you can too.

Take it Up a Notch: Learn to Draw Portraits

As you get more comfortable with how to draw, take your drawing tools and create a realistic drawing of someone you love. This is one of the greatest things about drawing—it offers us an incredible opportunity to celebrate the world around us while sharpening our drawing skills. Drawing is a way of bringing your art and your everyday life closer together. That can be especially powerful when creating a realistic drawing of someone you love. If you are an absolute portrait drawing beginner or want to brush up on the skills that, for a draftsman, never get old, check out Drawing Portraits for the Absolute Beginner and Lee Hammond’s video on drawing lifelike portraits, which delve into the essentials of learning to draw a person and gives drawing instructions on how to move beyond a likeness to capture something really unique about your chosen model. One great drawing lesson I will always remember is the importance of sitting and observing your model: the tilt of their head, how they carry their body weight, where they naturally put their hands at rest, and so on.

Learn to Draw What You See : Your World!

Indeed, the best way to approach learning how to draw is to hone your observational skills. A great resource to help you fine tune your hand-eye coordination is the how to draw book, How to See—How to Draw by Claudia Nice. Nice teaches you that as a drawer, you reinterpret the world through line, lighting, and shading. These are the tools you need to create objects and figures on paper, but rendering three-dimensional objects on a piece of paper with them is often a matter of two drawing essentials that you should always keep in mind: proportion and value. Knowing how to draw well is truly often a matter of getting the right proportions of a face or body or landscape, and applying the correct level of light and shadow to them. If you can do that, you are well on your way to learning how to draw anything and everything you want.

And beyond practice there’s no secret to learning how to draw well. Instead, it just takes practice and acknowledging that not every drawing is going to be a work of art you want to frame. So learn the lesson I still struggle so hard with when it comes to learning to draw, and cut yourself some slack and enjoy the process!


Quick and Easy Oil Painting Techniques for Beginners

Learn Oil Painting Techniques for Tinting Strength

Knowing how to use oil paints starts with discovering the tinting strength of each color on your oil painting palette. For example, Prussian blue and alizarin crimson have very strong tinting strengths just a small amount of either color added to white makes a vivid tint. On the other hand, terre verte and raw umber have weaker tinting strength and turn pale when mixed with just a little bit of white. A beginner oil painting lesson you can teach yourself right now is adding the same amount of white to each color on your palette to see how each pigment is affected.

How to Use Oil Paints with Impasto Effects

Building up the surface of a painting with thick and loose applications of paint is one of my favorite oil painting techniques, and it is known as impasto. First, there is just such a sensual pleasure in moving the buttery paint around in this way. And the fact that you can also leave behind the marks made with your brush makes the activity an expressive one and one of the most valuable abstract oil painting techniques worth exploring. To practice with impasto, you will want to keep the paint thick enough to stand on its own though many artists will add a little medium so it is slightly more workable. And then you just get in there, applying the paint with a brush (flat brushes are ideal as they hold a lot of paint) or painting knife, and being sure to paint with purpose. What I mean is use impasto to good effect, whether by applying it to visually contrast with smoother areas of your paint or use it on a whole oil painting for a three-dimensional quality.

Top Oil Painting Lessons, Tips and Techniques on Blending

You might think that blending is one of the easiest oil painting techniques to employ, and it is in that you can practice it starting right now on just about any figure, landscape, or object you paint. But there are specific oil painting lessons on how to blend that are key if you want to know how to use oil paints like a master.

Blending at its most basic simply involves learning how to oil paint by brushing and rebrushing the areas where two different colors meet, so that they seem to merge together seamlessly. But you can also blend by stroking one color over the edge of the next the brushstrokes are obvious but the blended area is still created. You can also, as a final step in an oil painting, trace a brush over the entire surface of a painting or concentrating in the areas where you want to knock down the visible brushstrokes so that no trace of the brush path are visible.

The Secrets of Perspective Drawing Made Easy

Why  knowing how to Draw perspective is important?

I will be the first to admit that learning and practicing linear perspective is a little bit like eating your veggies when you are a kid. You aren’t sure about them even though you know they are good for you but, in the end, you learn to love them. But what is really worth remembering about perspective drawing is that if you know the basics, you’ve got all the capabilities of a 3d drawing in your hands. That’s why understanding linear perspective is so important for artists, beginners included.

Linear perspective revolutionized the way artists perceived and incorporated spatial depth in their work. Established in solid, mathematical terms in the 15th century, linear perspective creates the illusion of three-dimensional space on a two-dimensional surface.

Telling the Difference Between One-Point Perspective and Two-Point Perspective

To create effective linear perspective, artists establish a horizon line, a vanishing point on that line, and multiple orthogonal, or vanishing, lines. The horizon line is a horizontal line that runs across the paper or canvas to represent the viewer’s eye level and delineates the sky meeting the ground.The orthogonal lines, which distort objects by foreshortening them, create the optical illusion that objects grow smaller and closer together as they get farther away. These imaginary lines recede on the paper to meet at one point on the horizon called the vanishing point.

The difference between one-point perspective and two-point perspective is the number of vanishing points and where they are placed on the horizon line. For more on the basics of drawing perspective, consider the digital download of our best-selling perspective drawing workshop, Perspective Made Simple, which breaks down all of linear perspective into simple, focused steps that anyone can learn.

Practicing Your Perspective Drawing Lessons: Where to Start

When first learning how to incorporate perspective into your composition, concentrate on one-point perspective with one vanishing point (two-point perspective and three-point perspective use two and three vanishing points, respectively). One-point perspective is helpful when drawing or painting roads, railroad tracks, or buildings that directly face the viewer.

 According to linear-perspective instructor Patrick Connors, “The components of perspective are three: the eye (the artist or viewer), the picture plane, and the figure (or object). The science is about the relationship among the three. An introduction to perspective will enhance an artist’s appreciation for the perceptual underpinnings of the illusions of space.”

So feel confident in your knowledge of the basics of perspective drawing. They can take you wherever you want to go, artistically speaking, and allow artists just like you to create illusionistic spaces in their drawings and paintings that look incredibly real. Enjoy!

Step by step Drawing Lessons for Beginners

Successful artists always seem to list drawing art as the constant “helping hand” activity that they go back to when they are stumped and need to refresh themselves or sharpen their techniques. Through simple drawings, you can make discoveries about your own artistic style and further enhance how you see.

Drawing Basics : Love the Line

Drawing ideas often spring from the medium itself. A stray mark or pencil stroke can bring to mind so many possibilities, from the feathers on an owl’s wing to the profile of distant mountain peaks. That’s why it is so important to spend time just free drawing that will give you the opportunity to learn to love line.

So take time as you work through drawing tutorials to work only with line. Create simple drawings using hatchings and crosshatchings alone. Discover how you can layer line, or use different sides of your implement for smooth and crisp marks or smeary strokes. Decent drawing tutorials will tell you the same because drawing basics like this are what allow you to really command the best from the medium, be it graphite, charcoal, pastels, or any other implement you choose to draw with.

Drawing Tutorials: Use the Negative Space

Drawing for beginners also means learning to see and to draw negative space as well as positive space. In other words, spend time drawing the shapes of the space around objects as well as the objects themselves.

It sounds easy, but oftentimes this basic drawing idea is hard to truly understand until you actually do it. But once you capture a few angles, the negative space will take as much prominence in your drawing as the object you are drawing.

Continue working on negative space and other simple drawing techniques with the Complete Drawing Course. Even if you never went to art school, learning to draw with this at-home study course is completely within your grasp!

Drawing Lessons: Don’t Use Symbols

One of the best drawing exercises you can practice involves symbols or, actually, resisting the temptation to use symbols. You see, when you start to learn drawing, there is always the urge to draw objects or figures as shapes, ovals for eyes for example. But in reality, the structure and shape of eyes is nothing like an oval. Instead, you must use light and shadow and proportion to truly capture a person’s eyes in your drawing.

To practice this, sit in front of a mirror with a lamp tilted over your face to create strong light and shadow shapes. Practice creating a basic drawing of the abstract shapes of light and shadow on the features of your face. Creating a drawing step by step in this way frees you to see abstractly and that is the secret to drawing art. You learn to draw what you see, not what you think you see.

Become an Expert in Color Theory and Color Mixing

Become an Expert in Color Theory and Color MixingReaders are always asking for more instruction and painting methods surrounding color, which is not surprising considering how crucial color, the color wheel, and mixing colors are to a successful work of art. That’s why I’ve pulled together three top color resources on the market right now and what they can do for you!

Expand Your Art Knowledge: Understanding the Color Wheel with Color Theory Made Really Easy

Color Theory Made Really Easy is the one-of-a-kind resource for conquering color! It’s a 60-day course that you take in the comfort and familiarity of your own home, which is great for me because I am able to master color theory on my own timeline. What lured me to this way of learning was the focus on how to mix colors that aren’t muddy, which is something I feel like I do time and time again! And you’ll find the attention instructor Sandra Angelo pays to teaching the “secret” formulas that the Old Masters might have once used is really appealing. It sealed the deal for me and is definitely worth the investment of time and money because the payoff is so huge and important to the development of my art!

Discovering What Your Art Colors Can Do with Color Mixology

Learning how to see and mix colors is crucial. But there are so many color schemes out there, and the color wheel has so many variations that I can start to feel overwhelmed. But Color Mixology is a video download that is really hands-on. I get a sense of the practical aspects of color and, more importantly, how to manipulate the characteristics of color so that when I look at my composition, I know how to mix colors that will get it up on my canvas!

PowerColor : What Every Artist Needs to Know About Mixing Colors

You know how there are some resources that you never let out of your sight in the studio? For me, PowerColor is definitely in that category. From basic color theory to knowing how to create a color mixing chart to more complicated color mixing, it is a book that has it all. Covering optics and physics as well as how to mix colors successful and without waste, to pigment properties and even demonstrations from established artists, I feel like ‘comprehensive’ is the best way to describe it, but ‘top-notch’ works too!

Painting for Beginners Learn How to Paint

Painting for beginners and painting for more advanced artists do not involve totally different processes. Only the familiarity with basic painting instruction and the ease of executing those technical steps is what separates a beginner painter from an advanced one.

To learn how to paint—right here and right now—start with three easy steps that will allow you to grow in confidence and skill as an artist.

1. Learn Oil Painting Step By Step: What Your Materials Are All About

There are dozens of beginner oil painting lessons out there. But the first, and most crucial, step of painting instruction is coming to know your materials. All oil painting lessons start there because knowing how your paints respond allows you to fully understand how to exploit them to their fullest potential, and how to avoid any big mistakes.

Traditional oil paints consist of ground pigments combined with a drying oil, such as linseed, walnut, or poppyseed oil. A “drying oil” is one that absorbs oxygen from the air, which causes it to dry and harden over time, forming a flexible and resistant surface. Each pigment requires a different amount of oil to reach the consistency needed for painting. The amount of oil absorbed by a pigment directly affects its drying time, which can be useful for an artist to know as he or she works in the studio to learn painting.

When applying layers of oil paint most artists follow one of the most popular oil painting lessons known as the “fat-over-lean” rule. ‘Fat’ oil paint contains more oil than pigment, which increases the length of time it takes to dry. ‘Lean’ oil paint is oil paint mixed with less oil, or with a solvent such as turpentine.

When creating an underpainting, painting tutorials often advise artists to avoid using colors with high oil contents, because subsequent layers of paint may crack if the layers contain less oil than the previous layer. Many artists prime their canvas accordingly to make this easier. “I work on oil-primed linen, so the ‘fat to lean’ qualities of the ‘paint to surface’ are an integral part of the painting process,” says still-life painter Ellen Buselli.  –Naomi Ekperigin

For more painting lessons and essentials, learn from best-selling painting instruction artist Johanness Vloothuis in his Essentials of Painting Series as well as Donna Dewberry’s Essential One-Stroke Painting Reference, featuring 60 “learn to paint” demonstrations created using the artist’s popular one-stroke technique.

2. Painting Lessons for Beginners: The Basics of Color

A painter can learn how to paint nearly every color with just three pigments. Exact hues vary from one manufacturer to the next, but an artist could go far with any company’s Indian yellow, naphthol red, and ultramarine blue.

Secondary colors, such as orange, green, and purple, are made by mixing primary colors. Tertiary colors are those made by mixing a secondary color with a primary color. Other colors are made by adding a bit of white pigment (a process called tinting) or adding a bit of black (a process called shading).

When you start to learn painting, it helps to understand the vocabulary used in discussing color. Hue refers to the arbitrary name given to certain colors on the color wheel, for example, red, orange, blue-green, mauve, etc. Value refers to the degree of lightness or darkness in a color. This can be adjusted by tinting or shading the hue. And chroma, or saturation, is how pure the color is compared to its corollary on the color wheel. If a color is close to how it appears on the color wheel, it is said to be “high chroma.” Colors have less saturation or chroma when they are created by mixing two colors. This is because we experience color as light that is reflected off a toned surface. When we see green paint, we are seeing pigment that absorbs all the other colors in light except green. (White light has all the colors of the spectrum in it.) When two pigments are mixed, each color absorbs its own share of light, so the resulting mix is duller than either of the two mixing colors would be alone. The more you mix, the less saturated a color will be. This is often a good thing–colors straight out of the tube usually make a painting look garish and unnatural. –Bob Bahr

3. Learn to Paint with Dimension: Layering with Acrylics

Acrylic painting lessons lessons will usually include the basic techniques for manipulating washes of acrylic paint to develop detailed paintings of landscapes, figures, still lifes, and the like. This process sounds more complicated than it truly is, as there are just three essential steps to learning how to use acrylic paint to give objects depth and dimension. Here’s a painting exercise to show you how.

First, Apply a Thin Wash : Use either a wash or glaze of red oxide combined with a small amount of titanium white and diarylide yellow. Apply one thin wash to your surface to create a few shapes. (If you are still learning how to handle your paint brush, consider Brushwork Essentials, a resource that shows you how to use a brush properly for effective control and expression.)

Second, Apply a Second Coat: Using the same color as in step one, mix a wash or glaze using slightly less water or gel. This value will be darker because there is more pigment. When the first coat is dry, apply a second coat to the areas to give the initial shapes more dimension. For example, the second coat could be applied to the front and side of a cube.

Third, Apply Shadows: After the second coat is dry, apply a third one of the same color to the areas where shadows from other objects could be. You may need another coat after this one dries to further delineate shadowed areas. All of this was done with the same color and shows how successive layers of a single color can easily add dimension to a basic painting sketch. –Hugh Greer

Photo to Painting: How to Use a Photo Reference in Your Art

Photo to Painting  How to Use a Photo Reference in Your ArtUsing a photo reference is a convenient and rewarding way to make drawings and paintings if it is done right. But there are a few pitfalls to avoid, so if you are interested in ways to go fromphoto to painting, these six tips on painting from photo references are for you along with our editor picks of the top resources for painting from photographs as well!

  • Don’t forget that when you want to transform a photo into a painting, first look at the scene, person, or composition with your own two eyes if possible. Take in the view, make mental notes, and memorize the scene. Only then take out your camera and photograph your composition carefully.
  • As you turn photo into painting, remember that consistency in your treatment of the light source is key to a convincing painting. So look at your photo and ask yourself, where is the light coming from?
  • Shadows are crucial to study when you are going from photos to paintings. Often times you can lose the light in the shadows with a photograph, so be sure to interpret these hidden areas when it comes time to paint them.
  • Even when using a photo reference, it is important to squint. You will see patterns in your reference and avoid unwanted patterns on your canvas.
  • Painting from photo references can make you forget that thoughtful cropping of the scene you want to paint or draw is necessary. This will help you reduce a lot of work composing on the canvas. If you take the picture with this in mind, you significantly cut down your workload.
  • You don’t have to paint from photos that are large, with high resolution. Instead, use small photos of low resolution. It will help you to not rush into the details. And small, indistinct reference photos force you to simplify and reduce what you depict.

There are several resources that can help you learn to successfully go from photo to painting. The first is a unique photo-painting guide full of landscape photography reference photos. Photo Reference for Artists : Landscapes is full of images that will allow you to create art from photo references that are significant to you. There are over 400 images to choose from so you are sure to garner strong results with whatever image you pick.

One of our editor’s top resources on painting from photographs is the video download, Painting from Photos: Pastels with Maggie Price. In this video workshop, Maggie reveals how to correctly use a photo reference to make artwork that is not just about copying static images but instead gives you convincing and lifelike paintings as a result of careful observation and understanding.

And to capture the ever-changing water and skies you see and so want to depict in your landscape paintings, use Photo References for Artists : Water and Skies to help you.  You’ll find compelling images to draw and paint from and more than 400 photo painting references to choose from.

Learn How to Draw People : 7 Tips from Professional Artists

It’s no secret that learning how to draw people is an essential, timeless lesson in an artist’s development; figurative drawings continue to be among the most popular subjects in art schools and among professionals. But it takes more than just knowing how to create the contour lines that form a two-dimensional drawing of a person; one must have an understanding of anatomy, including muscle and bone structure, and of movement and balance to render the three-dimensional human body.

There are also the various body parts that have unique qualities to consider; the texture of the belly may be soft as a flower petal, while elbows and knees speak a different story. And the hands, poetically expressive and complex–they’re often thought of as the hardest part of the anatomy to depict accurately, and they can make or break a drawing.

In this exclusive collection of advice from top figurative artists, we share seven tips on how to draw realistic people.

7 Tips: How to Draw People

1. Drawing Hands

Keep in mind the bone and muscle structure beneath the surface. In some places the surface is influenced by the angular bones, in others by the soft muscles. Don’t round off all the forms or the subject will look rubbery.~from Walt Reed (author of The Figure)

2. Drawing People and More

A classic way to draw something with correct proportion is to create a grid and place it over your reference photo, then draw a grid on your paper. Erasing these lines can be a pain, so a lightbox (or window on a sunny day) can be used instead. Place the grid on the lightbox, tape it down, then place your paper over the grid. You can see the grid through the paper and there’s no erasing later.~from Carrie Stuart Parks and Rick Parks (authors of The Big Book of Realistic Drawing Secrets)

3. Drawing People

A useful device is a shaft or midline, which is a line drawn through  the middle of a human form to see how it is supported. A midline acts like the armature underneath movement and direction. It also simplifies the process of seeing and indicating the angles of specific forms.~from Robert Barrett (author of Life Drawing, now available as an ebook)

4. Opposites Attract

An essential principle of design that also relates to the human figure is the concept of opposites. The use of opposites, or contrast, exists in all the arts to create interest. In the human figure, a contrapposto position, where the weight is on one leg, is usually more interesting than one where the weight is equally balanced on both legs or throughout the figure. Each opposite helps strengthen and clarify the other.~from Robert Barrett (author ofLife Drawing, now available as an ebook)

5. How to Draw a Person

The muscles are the body’s substructure. They are a big part of what gives the figure its shape and form. Understanding what goes on beneath the surface will help you see important details that might have gone otherwise unnoticed.~from Jeff Mellem (author of Sketching People)

6. How to Draw Characters

For a visual artist, choosing how to depict an event–what parts are emphasized and what are downplayed–is done through staging. If there are enough clues through the interplay of body language, setting, costumes, props and even artistic style, the viewer will understand the story and the meaning behind it.~from Jeff Mellem (author of Sketching People)

7. Make the Most of Your Time

Don’t necessarily add more detail in a longer study–spend the extra time observing the overall pose more carefully. You may want to choose a less familiar viewpoint. This figure, for example, is foreshortened because it’s seen from a high eye level. There are some surprising correlations of different parts of the body. Note how the fingers of her right hand appear to reach her calf and are even in line with the toes of her left foot!~from John Raynes (featured in the video Drawing & Painting People: Anatomy of the Body)