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6 Life Lessons From Abstract Painting

Here’s the great thing about abstract painting: there are no rules.

Abstract art is not bound to or defined by a subject, a scale, or a medium. An abstract piece of work is, in essence, a snapshot of the artist’s mind: and oh what a wonderful place that is! Being completely open to interpretation, it holds a lot of meaning to a lot of different people.

However, abstract art isn’t just nice to look at and understand. To the artist/creator, working solely with colours and textures often rids the mind of inhibitions and structure, and allow creativity to flow unrestricted.

Here are the 6 most important lessons that I have learnt from abstract painting.

 

1. A blank canvas isn’t always white.

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Not all your work has to be bright and sunshine-y. Sometimes, a haunting darkness is just what you need, to let the mind wander.

Now I’m not trying to advocate or romanticize sadness or difficult times, there is nothing pretty about them. However, waiting for the “right” frame of mind to create something could mean you wait for a long, long time.

Sometimes, it’s okay to channel your inner goth (I know everyone has one, so don’t even pretend!) and put it on a page.

2. Start small, and you’ll have nothing to lose.

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You’ve heard the old saying “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” and I’ll say it again. A lot of the times, we put an unnecessary amount of pressure on ourselves to know exactly where we’re going and what we’re doing, right from the start.

Here’s the thing though: if you already knew the outcome of an event, why would you go through it in the first place?

The whole point of life, to me, is discovering new things about the world around us and, ultimately, discovering new things about ourselves; which leads us to our next point:

3. Experiment. A lot.

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I’ve always been a textbook person: I’ve always been terrified to take risks, and as a result, have very few memories of an extraordinary childhood. Ask me to tell you about my past, and I’ll almost certainly repeat a story of wake up, school, come back, dinner, bed.

Only recently have I realised just how important it is to put yourself out there. Dye your hair a crazy colour. Learn how to play a crazy instrument. Teach yourself a new sport. Move to a different country. Make memories that can only be communicated through pictures, and I promise you, there won’t be a day you regret how everything turned out!

4. Let your personality explode!

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A lot of the times, we try to define ourselves based on how other people define us. What we fail to realise is that their perception of us is often affected by their perception of themselves.

For instance, as a creative person myself, I’m inclined to categorize people into “creative” and “non-creative”  types; someone obsessed with healthy living would categorize others as “healthy” or “unhealthy”, and it goes on.

So how do I find out what my personality is really like?

It’s actually quite simple. What makes you happy? Where do you like to shop, and why? What do you love learning about every single day?

So many of us are unconsciously obsessed with labels, which is fair enough – it’s instinctual to try and categorize people and situations. But these labels also bring with them a lot of restrictions that we impose upon ourselves unknowingly. Break through those, and you’ll finally learn exactly who you are!

(P.S. I’m still in the process of doing this…)

5. Sometimes, it’s okay to cut back a little.

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As an introvert, I find it mentally exhausting to have to be “on” all the time. In a crowded room, my mind is constantly switching between “I need to project the best version of me that I can” and “why couldn’t this just have been a night in with Netflix and popcorn?”

However, in order to not appear to be an unsocial hermit, we often bite off more than we can chew, and hit “Going” on that event we know we’re not going to enjoy. And invariably,  all of this stress leads to physical illness, which then leads to more stress cause really, I can’t make it to a 9 am lecture with aching bones!

One of the most valuable lessons I’ve had to learn is to stop when I feel the need to. It may disappoint people if you’ve promised to be somewhere and don’t show up, but they’re much more likely to be forgiving than your own body is. Sometimes, it’s okay to take the time off and recuperate.

Bonus: the next time you go out, you’re going to look and feel a whole lot more alive!

6. Finally, don’t be afraid to change your mind completely!

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Change is the only constant in this world, and oftentimes, it leads to much greater, grander outcomes than you’d anticipated.

Be it your personal style, a career choice, or even the interiors of your home. If something doesn’t look/feel right, you’re probably going to end up resenting it one day. So change it now, while you still can!


‘Space Bound’
Corel Painter and Wacom Intuos DRAW.

I’ve made prints available for this piece here: http://fav.me/daild6z

Go grab yourself one! 🙂

I hope this article has been helpful, and I’m so very grateful you’ve taken the time out to read it!

Thanks for being here, and have a lovely week!

S. xx

Your turn: What are the most important lessons you’ve learnt growing up? Tell us in the comments below!


Like this? Read more!

final-copyright   How To Paint Loose Curls | Little Brown Artist   Title

Tutorial: How To Paint Loose Curls In 12 Easy Steps!

Artists hate curls. It’s a simple fact.

Ask anyone who has ever painted hair, and they’ll almost always say they prefer to render straight or wavy hair. It’s so much easier, and doesn’t make you want to pull your own hair out!  (See what I did there? Do ya???)

Continue reading Tutorial: How To Paint Loose Curls In 12 Easy Steps!

Watercolour Painting for Acrylic Artists: The Basics (+ Sakura Koi Water Color Field Sketch Travel Kit Mini-Review)

This post is not affiliated with or sponsored by any of the brands mentioned. All opinions are my own.

If you’ve followed my work for a while, you’ll know that when it comes to art, I’ve somehow always managed to learn things backwards. I started drawing faces before I learned to draw individual features, I learned to shade before I perfected my lineart. So naturally, I worked with acrylic paints way before watercolours even entered my life.

Confident (or at least praying) I’m not the only one to work like this, I’m hoping this series of posts will help all you over-achieving artists like myself, who try to fly before they learn to walk! Watercolours and acrylic paints could work to achieve similar end-results, but the processes are entirely different, and this post aims to tell you why.

First, let us break down the very basics of both, acrylic and watercolour painting:

  • Watercolours consist of pigment particles bound by gum arabic, which is made of hardened sap. This basically adheres the pigments to each other and to the painted surface.
  • Acrylic paints follow a similar principle, except the binder is acrylic polymer.
  • Both types of paints can be thinned by water, though watercolours are obviously much more soluble than acrylics.
  • As with acrylics, you get both student- and artist-grade watercolours. However, while a higher quality of acrylic paints usually refers to better pigmentation, you can still get artist-grade watercolours without adding unwanted opacity.
  • More opaque watercolours are usually referred to as Gouache, but we won’t go into that here (mostly because I haven’t tried that method out yet!).
Watercolours come in both, cakes and tubes. However, having experienced immense amounts of wastage with acrylic paint tubes (*cough*MyPoorPalette*cough*), watercolour cakes were most definitely the best choice for me.
My current watercolour kit (that I’m absolutely loving, by the way) is the Sakura Koi Water Color Field Sketch Travel Kit (24 shades). While that’s a mouthful, this kit is incredibly handy! As pictured below, it comes with 24 cakes of watercolour, a detachable palette, two sponges, and a (barely visible in this shot) waterbrush. Admittedly, I pulled the picture below from my Instagram, and it is from a while ago when my palette was still quite green. By that I mean I still had the outer cover.

 

These are definitely one of the higher-end student grade watercolour sets, but definitely well worth the money. It has been specifically designed for plein-air work, and is thus convenient to carry around with you. I love that the shade range is rather realistic, in that I can definitely see myself using all of these colours at least a couple of times in my work….or perhaps it’s my painting style that has evolved to involve more colour…. Either way, below is a swatch sheet of all the colours in natural daylight (post-processed slightly to get the colours as close to real as possible). Zoom in for the shade names!

I must admit, I have always grown up a scientist. As is seen in a lot of my drawings, the technical aspects of art come a lot more easily to me than abstraction. If something doesn’t make universal sense, it probably has no place in my work. So, of course, when it comes to comparing two media of art, I was obsessive about try to make it a fair comparison.
I started by grabbing a couple of tubes of acrylic paint that had identical namesakes in the watercolour kit. These, for me, were Cadmium Red Hue and Viridian Hue. I swatched out two circles split into quarters, one with watercolours and the other with acrylics. I also looked at the effects of layering the paints on, and this is what I found:
Before we go any further, I would like to mention that right now is when I realised just how much of a difference is made by the paint quality. Both the acrylic paints I used are student grade, but from different brands. The Viridian is so much sheerer than the Cadmium Red, it’s almost funny! Lesson learned: a lower price almost certainly guarantees a trade-off in terms of pigmentation. 😦
Now clearly, the acrylics are, overall much more opaque than the watercolours, but what’s worth noting is that with enough layering, watercolours can most definitely achieve an opaque enough look. That being said, these have been swatched on paper. It probably wouldn’t be a similar case with primed canvas, which is great for thicker acrylic paints, but would barely hold on to anything so watered down.
Next, I tested the water solubility of both. Admittedly, the colours below aren’t identical, but they are similar enough to be comparable.
What you’ll notice instantly is that the acrylic swatch (right) is much streakier than the watercolour swatch. This, as I mentioned before, is because the gum binder in watercolours is much more water soluble than the polymer in acrylic paints. I should also mention that both these swatches were wet paint on dry paper, and I added some extra water about halfway through the circle.
Now as an acrylic artist, the concept of dipping into water before swiping over paint, to get more pigmentation even, is going to seem strange (unless, of course, you’re using watercolour tubes, in which case I bow down to your superior tube-squeezing skills). With acrylics, I mostly only use water to wash my brushes, and occasionally to thin paint enough so it can be poured on to the canvas directly.
The other novel thing about watercolours for me was the way they dry.

 

If we look closer at this half of the previous (watercolour) swatch, there are a few visible streaks. Funnily enough, this is not because the paint applied unevenly. Usually with acrylics, though the paint dries really quickly, it is still workable when wet. Watercolours do this thing where the paint sets into the paper in the blink of an eye, even if the paper is still wet. The fibres in watercolour paper trap the water really well (hence why this paper is specifically manufactured in the first place), which means that while it adheres the pigment beautifully, it does take a bit longer for the water itself to evaporate. This means that if you outline your shape first  and then go back for more colour to fill it in (which I clearly did here. Rookie mistake, Srish!), the outline might have set, and the new colour will apply like a new  layer, making the edges of the outline appear darker and uneven. If you’re trying to create realistic art with watercolours, this can be a huge bummer. However, here are a couple of tips that help me avoid this kind of kerfuffle:
  • The best thing to do would be to try a wet-on-wet technique to begin with, where you fill the shape in with water first, then go over it with paint. We’ll discuss this in more detail in a future post.
  • An alternative would be to use a lower water-to-paint ratio on the second layer, so that all of it is  significantly more opaque, and you can’t really see the edges so much. However, this can often take away from the airy, care-free feel that most artists seek from watercolours.
  • Finally (and this is my least favourite method) you can go in with a wet brush that has no colour on it, or a damp sponge or tissue, and try to rub the edge out before quickly going over it with more paint. The reason I don’t like this technique is because, as I mentioned before, the paper is usually still wet, and adding friction to wet paper can cause it to peel off or tear. Not an effect anyone is ever really going for!
Watercolours bring with them an amazing freedom for creativity which, for someone as structured as I am, is a huge craving. While acrylic paints help you grow as an artist due to their amazing flexibility of usage, watercolours encourage you to simply play with colours in their purest form. If this hasn’t convinced you to try them out, here’s a super cool watercolour effect that is difficult, if not impossible, to create with acrylics:
So these are some of the basic things I learned about watercolours, as someone who has spent years loving (and sometimes ruing) acrylic paints. I do hope this was a good read, and I would definitely love to hear any similar experiences you might have had! And finally, here’s a piece that I completed using this watercolour kit (and some white acrylic paint for the stronger highlights): WARNING FOR POSSIBLE GORE!
Sakura Koi kit: http://sakuraofamerica.com/component/product/products/412
Get in touch with me via Facebook, Twitter or Instagram!
Thank you ever so much for reading, and I’ll see you on the next one!
-S.

Shadow Play: The Classic Sphere

Hi guys!
Oh it’s been an age since I’ve had the time to sit down and blog properly! However, today I have a more theoretical tutorial for those of you who like to delve slightly deeper into the concepts behind shadow play. However, bearing in mind that a lot of my readers are beginners, I’ve tried to keep it as easy to understand as possible.
Before we begin, I’d like to give a quick shout out to my lovely assistant, Summer (pictured below), for gracing me with the paw of moral support through my art career!

Alright, jokes aside, let’s get started. For the purpose of simplicity, I’ve chosen the classic example of a sphere with a single source of light. As seen below, the darkest shadow will therefore be on the side of the sphere exactly opposite the light source.

For this tutorial, I’ll be using graphite pencils in 2H, H and F, a hard eraser, and a large blending stump with plenty of graphite already on it.
Now although the rest of this post will be a step-by-step, I want you to really focus on the words and reasons why we’re placing the shadows where we’re placing them. Here goes!
1. As always, we start by setting the tone. For today, the lightest part of my shadow will be the shade 2H. We’ll start by shading in parallel to the darker edge of the sphere, and blend in the same direction (as shown inset).

Feel free to draw the colour out while blending, this will help the shadows look seamless a little further on.

2. We’re going to gradually intensify the shadows a bit closer to the outside edge. My next darkest tone, H, goes on in the same direction as the 2H, but it isn’t spread quite as thickly. This is because we’re trying to show the effect of a more concentrated darkness, and thus the wider spread of light on our sphere.

And then, do the same with the next darker shade which for me was the F. Again, we stick to the same direction, but confine the shading to a thinner strip. (Yes, I’ve gone outside the lines a little bit. Nobody’s perfect! We can always clean that up!)

3. Now as you may have noticed, the top left edge of our sphere is starting to look a little flat. In order to add a bit of dimension, we need to push the very outer edges back into shadows. This way, the center of our lightest area will project out of the paper, giving it a 3-dimensional appearance.

I grabbed the 2H again and shaded an oval around the lightest parts. I then went ahead and blended this in the same direction as the shading (i.e. in ovals around the light areas) and gradually pulled the colour in, till there was no pure white left.

4. Alright, here’s a little cheat trick to pull that highlight out so it’s BAM!-in-your-face. Place shadows immediately next to the highlight, and the resulting contrast tricks the eye quite well.
Here, our highlight is fairly rounded, so a shadow approaching from the darkest area would wrap around part of this light area. I picked up my darkest shade and dragged some of that lovely shadow about halfway into the sphere, and blended that as shown below.
5. Finally, I shaded the very outer edge of the lighter half and blended that as well, to further make that light area stand out.
And that’s all there is to spherical objects: a spot of light surrounded by shadows. In the next post, we’ll talk about drop shadows and how they change, depending on the placement of the object, so stay tuned for that!
And, as usual, here’s some of my other work using shadows:
 
Check out my other tutorials on how to draw specific parts of a face or just plain old lineart!
If you have any requests, please drop me a line on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, and I’d be happy to oblige! Also, please share this post with your friends if you enjoyed it, so we may all learn together! Drop me a comment below letting me know what you think, and I’ll see you guys next time!
Thanks for reading!
-S. xx

 

Continue reading Shadow Play: The Classic Sphere

How To- Head Proportions: Adding The Features

Hi guys!
Welcome to Part 2 of the Head Proportions tutorial. If you haven’t checked out Part 1 yet, click HERE! In this one, we talk about how to add facial features to an already drawn head.
Step 1: If you remember, we finished the previous tutorial by drawing three horizontal lines (and then the ear eggs!). Now, vertically divide those lines into four sections on each side. To make this easy, first divide each half of the face into two further halves. Then divide these into quarters. I know, this doesn’t seem to make any sense, but hopefully the picture below does!

Step 2: Can I get a slow clap for Bionic Head down here? Divide the second section away from the centre horizontally into two further halves as shown below. These form guides for the eyelids. I must mention that this step is completely optional, I just like to be meticulous when it comes to guidelines.

Step 3: Draw the eyes in, bearing in mind that the inner corners should be at the same horizontal level, at least from this view, and so should, preferably, the outer corners. Make note to draw the eyebrows longer than the eyes….unless of course your subject has tweezed them super short!

Step 4: Use the nose line we mentioned in the last tutorial to draw in three circles as shown below. This is the base of the nose. Draw in lips as you see fit.!

Step 5: Add and remove details as you see fit. I should mention that most of the lines we drew are only general guides, and it’s more than okay to erase and readjust features as you see fit. For instance, I had to redo the ears and the jaw so they weren’t unnaturally high! The finished product should look vaguely like this:

I gave the sketch a super quick semi-realistic makeover, and this is what she ended up looking like.
To give your sketch a semi-realistic makeover, check out my specific tutorials here!

So there it is! This is the method I use to draw most of my line-art, especially with references. I hope this helps. If you do give it a go, please tweet or instagram a picture to me, and I’d be more than happy to share it!
Let me know in the comments below what you guys think, and also what sort of tutorials you’d like to see in the future!
Thank you ever so much for reading, and have a lovely week!
-S.

 

How to- Head Proportions: The Basics

Well hello, there!

Yes, this blog still exists, and so do I! As an apology for abandoning it for this long, here’s a two part tutorial on one of my favourite themes!

I get so many questions about how I draw realistic faces, and what methods I use to create the line-art. In the past, I relied on the grid method, the tutorial for which you can find HERE. That got very tiring fairly soon, though, so I gave the proportions method a go, and it’s so much quicker and more independent! If you’re a beginner or don’t know how to go about drawing faces from the imagination, I suggest applying this method to a reference. Real faces give you better practice than trying to work within your own mind!

Keep reading to find out exactly how this method works.

Step 1: Start with nothing simpler than a circle. It doesn’t have to be perfect, just try to get it as close as possible!
This one’s digital, but I drew a real one, I swear!

Step 2: Draw a line approximately down the horizontal middle.  It doesn’t have to be perfectly straight, in fact I prefer it to be at an angle – makes it easier to add features later.

 

Step 3: Extend the line by about a third of its original length. This will be the point where our chin lies.

 

Step 4: Find approximately the vertical edges of the circle, and drop down an angle which ends at the chin. Make this look as jaw-like as possible, making sure that the bends are at the same level.

Step 5: Now things get a tiny bit more complicated. Draw a little dash about a quarter of the length within the circle. Draw another little dash between the chin and the base of the circle. The distance between this dash and the chin should be equal to distance between the first dash and the top of the circle. The diagram below makes it easier to understand.

Step 6: Look at the line between the two little dashes you’ve just created. Divide this into three almost equal sections.

Step 7: Now we work with the middle section. Divide it into halves, and extend to form horizontal lines that approach both ends of the circle. Make sure these are fairly even: these are some pretty important lines!

 

Step 8: Finally, make little ovals on both sides, so the tops touch the upper line and the bottoms touch the lower line you just created like shown. Now click on the image below to enlarge it and see what each line stands for!

 

Now you can go ahead and draw in the eyes, nose and mouth if you feel confident enough. If not, head over to part two of this tutorial, where I show you how to add features to the figure you have so far!
Thank you ever so much for reading, and let me know if it helped you!
Thanks!
-S.

Getting started with Charcoal

Hi guys!

A tutorial after so very long! I do apologise for the irregularity, and will try to update this blog more frequently now that I have a rather long vacation. 🙂

Anyway, I recently discovered a fascination for a new medium- charcoal! It is dark and extremely daunting, but once you get the hang of it, it is simply brilliant! Here’s a little project to help you get started the way I did, only a few days back!

Here’s what I used:

Admittedly, most of these are gifts (the advantage of having relatives who know about your fascination of art materials!). No, I’m not sponsored by Derwent! I just happen to love their products, which are also easily available here. 🙂
The charcoal pencils are for precision (well, as much as you can possibly get with charcoal, that is). the shade “Dark” is softer charcoal which rubs of more easily, while “Light” is harder charcoal and appears almost medium-dark grey.
So let’s go ahead and get started!
1. Hold the sand paper board over the paper and scrape the compressed charcoal block over it so as to allow the charcoal dust to fall over the paper.

 

2. Rub the charcoal dust around using the Chamois leather to create a base shade. I used the “medium” charcoal block so that highlights and shadows stand out more prominently. Also, I like to pat the dust into the paper using the Chamois first, then rubbing it out so that most of the dust stays on the paper, rather than getting lifted off by the leather (which is just a waste).
3. I chose to draw an eye since it is the easiest thing to draw- not technique-wise, but the shapes and lines are quite easy to remember. Using the charcoal block (or one of the pencils, if you prefer), draw out a very basic eye.
4. Colour in the pupil and the outline of the iris. (For more on why this is done, check out my basic eye tutorial.)
5. Blend across the iris, leaving specks  for the highlights. Any old blending stump will  do. I used a tortillion because it is smaller and easier to handle since only one end gets dirty. (Also, “tortillion” is a fun word to say!)

 

6. Now starts the fun part. Using the kneaded eraser (or a pointed hard eraser, if you prefer), erase out a spot for the most prominent highlight. This should be even lighter than the charcoal dust background. So erase until you see clean paper. Add specks to the iris, but these need not be quite so light.

7. Time for the cornea (the “whites of your eyes”). Start by erasing off little semi-circles around the iris. Dab outwards with the eraser, till you reach the two corners. Remember that the cornea is the brightest near the iris, then fades off into shadows towards the corners- this is how we perceive our eyes as round and not flat!
8. Draw two little diagonals at the inner corner. Using the tortillion, blend from the inner corner, around one-sixth of the way to the iris. This is the reason I like well-used blending tools. You don’t need to put down more colour before blending. If, however, the stump won’t put down any colour, this is where the “light” charcoal pencil comes in handy.

 

9. Time to add dimension to the skin around the eye. Using the “dark” pencil. outline the upper lash-line and the crease, pulling the colour slightly upwards in each case.

 

10. Blend! I like to blend in the same direction as the lines- horizontal semi-circles. This helps smoothen the blending. Also, remember to carry some of the colour down into the cornea. This causes the eye to appear hooded slightly by the lid.
11. Repeat with the lower lash-line. This time, however, do remember to leave a slight gap between the bottom of the iris and the start of the lash-line. This gap acts as the water-line. No blending into the cornea either!

 

12. Using the kneaded eraser, erase off the water-line as mentioned on the previous step. This causes the eye to appear sunken into the skull, rather than popping out of it like in the cartoons!

13. Add highlights on the upper eyelid and the arch of the brow.

14. I defined the brow by using the block and blending it out. There’s no point in attempting to create individual strands of hair on the eyebrow, or even trying to create lashes. Charcoal is a rather crumbly medium and it is extremely difficult to get a fine point- unless, of course, your subject has dreadlocks on their eyebrows or lashes, both of which seem statistically unlikely!

 

15. The alternative to defining lashes, I figured, was to darken both the lash-lines and blend outwards.

 

16. Use the white charcoal to brighten up the light specks on the iris and the water-line. I also brightened the inner corner a little.

And that, as they say, is it!

Charcoal, as a medium, is a lot of fun to work with. Of course, things get a little messy, and I’d suggest getting a manicure only after you’ve washed your hands out thoroughly, but that only adds to the excitement!
Tinted charcoal is another option, and seems extremely promising. I hope to try it out soon and will definitely put up a review/tutorial when I do.
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this tutorial. Do check out my basic eye tutorial on further details on drawing the eye. If you have any requests or critique, please feel free to leave comments, and I’ll look into it. 🙂
Here’s what I did the first time I played around with charcoal- 40 glorious minutes!
Do try it out and let me know how it goes, and have an amazing day.
Oh and happy new year! I know it’s a bit late, but even so!
Thanks for watching!
-S.