As a visual artist, I find that it is quite common to have a love/hate relationship with challenging pieces. On the one hand, you want to expand your style, but on the other, novel concepts can drain you physically and emotionally – the best comparison that comes to mind is a car going through a car wash, being prodded and squeezed and buffed and scrubbed, only to come out the other end looking much shinier. What’s important is that you keep driving yourself through it all.Here are some of the main challenges a lot of artists face, and how I like to get over them.
»Attention to detail.
Look at any realistic drawing or painting, and you will notice that the best ones include every little nuance that you could find in a photograph. Right from the little flecks of light in the eyes to scratches on a metallic surface, finer details make certain pieces rank well above others.
Let’s take as an example, this mind-blowing hyperrealistic drawing of Big Ben by artist Keith More (caption links clickable).
Notice how there are virtually no large areas of flat colour. What really makes this piece extraordinary is the placement of the minute details that your eye catches, but your mind skips over. For instance, look just below the dials, at the rows of inscriptions, or the little windows below them.
While these little things may not be the focus of the piece, they are certainly very instrumental towards building a complete image in the viewer’s mind.
The best way to get an eye for detail is to zoom into everyday images.
Even if it’s just a selfie from your considerably low-res front camera (not all of us are into those fancy iPhones hurr durr), really look at every area of the picture. Where does the fabric crinkle? What direction to the eyelashes cast their shadows in? Why does the background look so distant?
No really, write it down. Make a comprehensive list of things you’ve notices about the pictures and tape it to your workspace. When you’re working, keep referring to this list to see if you’ve missed out on any relevant details. I’ve managed to get my list memorized, which truly helps me ‘see’ pictures a lot clearer!
Yes, it’s been said a million times before, but I’ll say it again. Unless you’re patient with your work, it’s never going to be patient with you.
Think about it as getting a puppy. You can’t expect little Squiggles to just know to sit on command, or not to chew into furniture. Similarly, you can’t expect yourself to just know how to create a masterpiece.
Tom Martin’s brilliant acrylic piece Deja Vu (pictured below, clickable links) took him about two weeks to complete. And that’s quick for this amount of complexity!
I think the main reason artists lost patience is because we try and compare our work to others. Every artist works at a different pace, and some don’t like to share their work until they’re completely happy with it. This means that what you’re seeing on their Facebook or Instagram profile is probably regular uploads from a backlog of work. Your mind is tricked into thinking that they’re finishing a piece a day, and thus you feel rather slow in comparison.
Let me tell you that this is not how it works. No one can put out incredibly high quality work within a few hours, and no one expects you to, either.
So relax, your audience isn’t going anywhere. Take your time, and commit entirely to your work.
» Build up your skill set.
As with every other profession, art requires growth. You can’t expect the quality of your work to improve without trying new things every now and again.
For me, the most challenging new skill to learn so far has been to draw fur. In my piece ‘Forlorn’ (pictured below, clickable links) – which took me 23 hours over several days, by the way – the novelty of having no flat patch of skin (or rock, for that matter) was both enticing and terrifying. However, having pushed through that mental block, I managed to create one of my proudest pieces to date.
Try something new.
You could, like me, just go out on a limb and learn new techniques through trial and error, but bear in mind that there will be times where errors can occur too frequently.
Alternatively, a plethora of online tutorials (free and premium) are available for every type of art, and these are truly some amazing resources. A quick Google search can bring you a whole bunch of useful links!
Finally, I’d like to leave you with a beautiful inspirational quote that gets me through everything:
Work hard in silence. Let success be your noise.
So what motivates you through your biggest struggles? Share it below so we may all learn! 🙂
Thank you ever so much for reading my happy ramblings, and have a lovely day!