Which changes, events, discoveries, or epiphanies led to the most dramatic improvement in your painting or drawing ability?
A year ago I started drawing and painting in my free time. I try to do it every day, though sometimes it winds up being a few days a week. My training includes art classes off and on in public school up through ninth grade and nothing in the couple of decades since. Periodically in there I've drawn or doodled, but never all that seriously. I greatly enjoy making art, but I don't have the natural gift for it that some painters have. In the year since I started making art quasi-consistently I have definitely learned a lot, but my skills have only improved modestly. Given the amount of time I have to spend on art, I'd like to be able to do it as well as I can and improve as quickly as I can. What I do now gives me pleasure, but I'm eager to level up my skills. My experience in other areas of creative endeavor suggest that long hours of thoughtful practice will help, but I'm wondering if there are shortcuts--or things that I wouldn't think to do because I didn't go to art school.
Some relevant information:
--I have a full-time job and try to write every morning for 1-2 hrs, mostly fiction. The writing has led to some interesting cross-pollination, but that's 5-15 hours/week writing.
--It seems unlikely I'll ever go to art school full-time or enroll full-time at an atelier.
--I am planning to take a six-week basic drawing class starting in January, taught by a local artist whose work I admire. Funds permitting, I hope to continue this with one or more life drawing classes and painting classes.
--My reading over the last year has included any number of books on technique, art history and theory. I regularly check out and read/study catalogs of individual shows, as well as single-artist books. Over the last several months I've had books on my shelf about Thomas Hart Benton, Lucian Freud, Edward Hopper, Norman Lindsay, Maxfield Parrish, Marion Peck, Mark Ryden, Alma-Tadema, Pre-Raphaelite painting techniques, basic composition skills, pigment history, and various "anatomy for the artist" books. I also read sundry art, artist, and illustration blogs on a daily basis. I watch documentaries about artists & art now and again (Waiting for Hockney
--I regularly poke through WetCanvas
for information on technique, ideas, etc.
--Once a month or so I go to my local art museum and sketch, mostly statuary, but also 2D work to get the composition.
--While I enjoy some abstract/non-representational art, I generally aim at figurative/representational art. I have a strong interest in the fantastic, either contemporary artists or illustrators (Brom, Michael Whelan, etc.) or historical artists who dealt with romantic/fantastic subjects (Magritte, Burne-Jones, Bosch, etc.).
--My workspace amounts to either a drawing board for drawing or a table with tabletop easel. Not much ventilation in the room with the easel, so oils are not feasible at the moment.
--I draw mostly with graphite pencils. I watercolor some, but I mostly paint with acrylics. I started with craft paint, moved to student grade acrylic, tried artist grade and realized the difference, and now I buy artist grade. My brushes are student grade.
Previously: successful lessons from art class
Previously: painting in Cairo
Previously: learn how to paint
Previously: learn to paint with oils
Previously: learn how to draw