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Submitted on
June 30, 2008


20,868 (8 today)
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"How do I improve my art work?" is one of the most asked questions in art related forums, mainly regarding drawing and painting in any media. Because the question is recurring so often, I wrote the following tips that I still copy-paste in various threads.

You can apply these universal strategies not just to traditional and digital painting media, but most of them even to photography and collage.

- Look at pictures by artists you admire, and try to figure out things. How do they handle light and color? What edges are sharp, and what edges are soft? Why do they use that particular color there? What technique did they use? How did they work? The more you look at work of others, the more different kinds of styles and techniques you will see.

- Learn from the masters. Copy works you adore. Not for imitating the artist or showcasing your copy, but for the sake of learning. Don't be shy, ask your favorite artist everything you want to know, such as "What paper do you draw on?", or "How do you go about painting a picture, do you start with a sketch?", etc. But be specific, don't ask "how can I paint like that?". And check the artist's website, chances are they already have tutorials, a FAQ or step-by-step tutorials there.

- Challenge yourself. Never used a particular medium? Then buy it, no matter how poor you are, and try it out. Never drawn a still life? Do it. Never used that particular color scheme? Give it a try. At a certain point, when you are afraid of repeating yourself, you are on the right track to improve.

- Use reference. If you aim for realism, you can't paint most things straight from your imagination. The old masters always made preliminary studies of life models, and did most paintings from life models too. For example, if you are unsure how to paint a head with the light source from below, look up a photo, or take it yourself, or have someone pose for it. It is worth every effort!
Stock photos from deviantartists can be a valuable resource also and provide inspiration.

- Draw from life. It's probably the most valuable practice that there is. Sign up for a life drawing class so that you'll be actually "forced" to do it. Believe me, it works wonders.
As for studying anatomy from books about figure drawing (Loomis, Bammes, etc.) a good exercise is to copy the body parts and figures in there and then trying to draw the same from your mind to see how much you remembered.

- Look up tutorials. Browse through the tutorial section and study the many different ways and media of the different artists. Also visit the websites of the great artists here - many have tutorials up there.

- Collect pictures. On my harddisk, I have different folders of fantastic art.
They are very inspiring to browse through and can give you new ideas in terms of technique. Whenever I feel uninspired, I look through my folders.
The images I've collected over time, mainly from, Deviantart, Epilogue, and many other websites.

Further Reading:
Why Reference is not a crutch

Useful resources…………………

Forums for those who want to learn
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Spocky87 Featured By Owner Edited Aug 26, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Sometimes... I feel myself a little bit worried because i think my art is not good enough. (Especially Traditional). And working on it as hard as i can.CURSE YOU! 

And sometimes..., i'm jealous at certain artists here that are better at traditional than me (digital too) And how they got the most attention.Sniff 

I have a flash drive with alot of pics stored with humans and other stuff to use for references. Atleast, it looks better than 5-10 years ago.:phew:

Thanks for writing this journal.Here's a kiss for you, my love! 
Thaeonblade Featured By Owner Aug 6, 2014  Student Writer
I'm going to keep this in mind.

I really do feel like my art is missing something that takes it from "okay" to "really good".
RyokoKyzuka179 Featured By Owner Jan 28, 2014
I can give it some thought but a lot of my favorite artists I ask are douchers... and won't bother to respond most times :/ EVEN WHEN I ASK NICELY DX
KristinaGehrmann Featured By Owner Jan 28, 2014  Professional Digital Artist
Maybe your question is already answered in a FAQ somewhere on their website, or journal. :) Or maybe it is a very general question that has been discussed in art forums already.

But anyway, if your favorite artists are really "douchers", they're probably not that good anyway. Learning to draw is a tough journey that humbles those who spend the many years on it that are necessary to attain mastery, because it makes them realize how much they don't know yet.
 MY favorite artists, atleast, have always been most kind and helpful.
ArtGool Featured By Owner Nov 3, 2013  Hobbyist Artist
This helps a lot.
I'm always too scared to try something new because I'm afraid it'll look stupid and I'll mess it up. I guess now I should just practice more with different techniques! 
ghaleonvash Featured By Owner Oct 5, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
thanks for the tips
MoonwolfYouthOtaku Featured By Owner Sep 5, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
This is well thought out and it gave some hope to improve a lot more =)
pokeabubble Featured By Owner Apr 28, 2013
Thanks for writing this! I've noticed that I'm always to scared to get out of my comfort zone, hehe.
ShadowStormEX Featured By Owner Apr 18, 2013  Hobbyist Filmographer
hey can you tell me how to draw great art in a specific software i mean i have joined alot of final fantasy groups and the fan made artwork they come up with is always so inspiring the color the light and everything else so i wanna learn to draw and make digital art like that for now i can only do manips and small stuff like this [link] and now i have even forgotten how to do this as well so please help me bcoz i really wanna bcome a gud artist like my companions, + i don't know in what software to draw and how to do it???
KristinaGehrmann Featured By Owner Apr 18, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
Photoshop and graphics tablet. Just search for digital painting Photoshop tutorials here on deviantart.
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