Our artistic health can be compared with our physical health. Over time it’s easy to lose sight of the benefits that routine exercise provides, allowing other distractions to encroach. While most novice artists enthusiastically begin with simple exercises that ultimately lead them to becoming stronger painters, seasoned artists often can lose sight of those benefits and fall prey to the paint-a-painting syndrome. Every time they step up to the easel, a fabulous winner is anticipated. Remember, even the best professional athletes don’t play an important match every day. What they do everyday, though, is practice.
A well-balanced artistic exercise regime should include some of these:
- Draw something every day. Spend a few minutes in this exercise of hand- and eye-coordination. These simple sketches, or doodles for that matter, don’t have to be detailed finished renderings worthy of framing, just a simple drawing that keeps your ability to accurately portray what you see in tune. As much as some painters hate to hear it, drawing is the foundation of any good representational painting. All the beautifully applied pastel in the world will not solve a weak drawing.
- Commit to doing compositional thumbnail sketches in advance of a serious painting. The longer we paint, the easier it is to ignore this basic design exercise but its benefits far outweigh the time involved. The stronger the compositional design, the more emphasis can be placed on the technique of product application, leading to a more masterful outcome.
- Work in monochrome frequently to strengthen your value perceptions. By removing the sensation of color, the power of the design of light and dark can be better understood and the nuances of form manipulated. As the popular saying goes: “Value does the work and color gets the glory!”
- Continue to study. The mind is a muscle. Ignored, it will suffer from atrophy. Read and reread the instructional works of artists you admire. As you grow stronger as a painter, you will find new understanding within familiar pages and new worlds of possibility within newly discovered works.
There is one aspect that all successful painters share: a dedication to frequent artistic exercise. Exercise may be no fun, but the long-term benefits are well worth the effort. With a little discipline and hard work your painting muscles will bulge with confidence.
MORE RESOURCES FOR ARTISTS
- Richard McKinley on DVD
- Watch art workshops on demand at ArtistsNetwork.TV
- Online seminars for fine artists
- Get a copy of Pastel Pointers, the book!