Setting Goals for Yourself
You know that feeling you get when you look at a picture made by your favorite artist, and you love the image, but it seems like what they have done is impossibly far away from your own skill level, and you have no idea how to achieve similar results? Every artist, even the best ones, have felt the same way about their heroes. Don’t let it get you down or discourage you from looking at the art you love.
Whether you are attending a fancy art school, or you are picking up art skills on your own, you will need to set goals for yourself, figure out how to achieve those goals, and then do the hard work necessary to get there. The art that you love can help you to figure out what you need to study
******Assignment #31 – Analyzing Art *****
Pick out one of those pieces of art that inspires you to be an artist. You can paste a copy of it into your sketchbook, or doodle a quick version of it. Then, make a list of all the things that the artist needed to know in order to make that image. You can even draw arrows pointing to those things on the image if you want.
Attached to this post is one of the images that inspired me. It is an illustration from James Gurney’s book “Dinotopia”. Here is my list, and an explanation of each thing.
Human anatomy. You have to know how humans are put together in order to portray them. From the research I’ve done, I know that Gurney takes photographs of friends and family to use as reference for his illustrations. But I also suspect that many of the figures in here are from his imagination. That means he had to know the human body well enough that he has a detailed model of it in his mind he can draw from when live humans aren’t available.
Dinosaur Anatomy. Gurney had to do a lot of research in order to paint the most accurate possible dinosaurs. He didn’t just Google dinosaur images – he studied up on dinosaur skeletons, reconstructions, scientific illustrations, and he even used dinosaur toys as references.
Acting. A story is being told here. Each of the humans and dinosaurs is an actor in the story. Gurney used body language and facial expressions to tell us what is going on. Even those blowing flags are actors of a sort. They are telling us that it’s a windy day out there.
Botany/Landscape. Although trees and grass play a minor role in this image, if Gurney hadn’t thought about the way that grass is trampled on a race-track, then the ground wouldn’t have been as successful. Those bits of greenery tell us everything we need to know about what sort of environment this race takes place in.
Perspective. Those tents were all carefully drawn in proper perspective before they became a part of this image.
Atmospheric Perspective. The far images recede beautifully into the dust. This requires a knowledge of how to use color and value to represent particles in the air.
Light. Every shadow in the image is consistent. The shadows on the tents were first drawn in proper perspective, before color and value was even a consideration.
Value. Shadows are darker than sunlit areas. Once the shape of a shadow is established, value comes next. Gurney paints his images first in sepia tones. That is, he uses a range of browns to sketch in the values before he gets to the colors.
Color. Color is the combination of the surface color of objects, and the light hitting those surfaces. In order to paint a shadow cast on a colorful tent, Gurney had to know what the color in the shadow would be compared to the color in the sunlight.
Cloth. Gurney had to know how to make cloth look properly wrinkled in order to paint realistic flags and clothing.
Costume/architecture/prop design. Gurney had to come up with all of those hats and saddles and tents. Many inexperienced artists think concept art is nothing but coming up with new ideas, but the truth is that design is just one of many necessary steps in successfully communicating through an image.
Composition. All of the above elements had to be arranged in a way that draws the eye to the important parts, and that looks good as an abstract arrangement of shapes.
Media. The final thing necessary to create an image is a knowledge of how to use a particular media. In this case, the image was made in oil paint.
It’s a long list and it is full of tough subjects, but now that I have broken down this bogglingly complex painting into individual academic skills, I can study each of these things independent of the rest. My final goal may be to paint like James Gurney, but in order to achieve that frighteningly lofty goal, I now have a list of smaller goals that are more easily within reach.