Sunday, July 21, 2019

7 Confessions of a Raggedy Artist: Part 4

Today's post will complete my 7 Confessions series. I saved this confession for last because there are a few subcategories under it. I have always learned best by researching and hands-on training and practice, and I know that I am not alone in this, so I decided to turn my last confession into a teaching moment to help others avoid my mistakes.

Confession #7: I still make rookie mistakes! 

Sure, I have been into arts and crafts for decades, but I still make some mistakes that I think I should be well past by now. Hey, nobody's perfect! Maybe this confession will help a few rookies out there.

Background First!

I learned early on that it is usually better to complete the background of a composition first. This is good advice for a few reasons. Backgrounds tend to be less detailed than the foreground in a work of art. Completing the background initially will help you avoid obliterating details that you want to emphasize. Depending on the medium, the background first rule can also keep your surface cleaner. Working from top-to-bottom is also beneficial when your medium is easily smudged like graphite and pastels. I know these tips are not applicable in all situations, but I have found them to be beneficial most of the time.

Photo by Craig Adderley from Pexels

Sketch your subject a few times before starting the finished work.

You might think that this goes without saying, but sometimes I get so excited with an idea that I want to jump right in with the good papers or canvas. This works out sometimes with crafts like acrylic pour abstract painting or drippy expressive watercolors, but any piece requiring detail and precision is worth planning and practicing first so you don't waste materials. You will also enjoy the results more, in my opinion. You don't even have to make detailed, full-size sketches. In fact, completing a few thumbnail renditions can be more helpful because you can try out different compositions in a fairly short period. You use less sketchbook space as well.

Photo by Burst from Pexels

Loosen up!

I tend to get so wrapped up in my work that I want to be as close as possible to it, which often results in an aching neck and back and cramped fingers. This is not only uncomfortable, but it can be detrimental to one's work. Tight, rigid arm and wrist movement can inhibit expression and throw off scale and proportions in your artwork. Bad posture and a cramped or cluttered work space can lead to frustration and exhaustion as well. Here are some tips to help you avoid physical pain and aggravation while drawing and painting:

  • Set up your work space in advance
  • Sit up straight! Check and correct your posture regularly
  • Use your whole arm for more expressive strokes
  • Hold your pencil or brush loosely and change grips to make different marks
  • Step back from your work a few feet regularly to check your scale and proportions

Photo by Laura Stanley from Pexels

Use scrap paper to test new techniques. 

No matter how experienced I become with a certain medium, I still cannot always predict how it will work with other media or surfaces. For example, I have used colored pencils for a few decades, but there are innumerable combinations possible in mixed media work. I have used them with liquid blending mediums like mineral spirits and alcohol with great results, but not all art papers can handle that combination. You never want to experiment with something like that after you have completed several layers on a finished piece (yes, I have done this). This is when you want to use a scrap of the same type of paper to test out the combination. It only takes a few minutes, but it can save you many wasted hours of hard work!

Do you have any rookie mistakes that you want to confess? Feel free to share them in the comments!

I hope that my confessions series has been informative or at least somewhat entertaining for fellow raggedy artists out there. I want to add more interesting content for readers, so I plan to document a personal project for my next few articles. I have a redecorated studio that needs more wall art, and I want to create a couple of small decorative paintings that compliment my new color scheme. I will be using inexpensive materials that anyone can buy at the local craft store or Wal-Mart. I can't wait to start! 

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