Updated: Oct 20
I have been taking classes to improve my art for a long time now. To this day, I continue to take classes in hopes of improving my art. You want to know the one thing the art instructor didn't tell me (or if they did, I just never heard it) is what you do after class is important. Taking classes is important to learn the techniques but you cannot just learn the technique and assume now you are an expert. You must practice it. So, you see, the work you do between classes is just as, if not more, important as taking the class.
I assumed amazing artists were either naturally gifted or they learned in art school from a gifted artist. They are good because they now know all the art related techniques – yeah, I know what they say about making assumptions. Yes, artist learn techniques that part is true, but they practiced those techniques numerous times to become proficient. That is what makes them amazing - the work they’ve done after class.
I was in an online class one day and the instructor talked about pressure of the pencil and how to achieve the different values needed in the class project. I had no idea what that meant but I knew my project looked nothing like that of the instructor’s. It was clear my pencil pressure needed an overhaul. At this point I needed to act. I could either assume that I am just not good at art because I have pencil pressure problems, or I can do something about it.
I decided to take a break from classes to work solely on improving my pencil strokes and work until I could control the pressures of my strokes so that I could achieve consistent strokes that were even and smooth. Every day I doodled on a piece of paper just making strokes. Along the way I got a little help and learned some key things that made a significant difference with my practice.
The biggest impact came when I started to understand that how I hold my pencil matters.
To keep even pressure, you need to hold your pencil in a way that encourages even strokes. I have seen people hold their pencil in different ways but all of them have an anchor point and they move their whole hand not just the fingers like you do when writing. This tip was a game changer for me. I used to hold my pencil like I was writing and inevitably each stroke has variation in pressure because as the pencil touches the paper it was light but as I continued it dig into the paper putting more pigment. As I finished the stroke then it would lift off making it light again. Holding my pencil this way was the ultimate problem as it made it too hard for me to control my strokes. When I learned to hold the pencil while using my pinky finger as an anchor point and moving my whole hand to create the pencil stroke, the result was being able to achieve those even and smooth strokes I was after. Don't get me wrong it took practice to get comfortable with these changes, but I was able to get better with it quickly.
I was so happy with my progress with this new way of holding my pencil that I had to try it on my next project. You know that I love drawing faces and I always start with a sketch before I start adding colored pencil to it. I usually use my Primsacolor Col-Erase pencil for the sketching. I also found with my new way of holding the pencil it was easy for me to shade in the values I wanted because I now could get the pressure right. It’s ignited my love for the sketching part as I pretty much create the entire drawing with just one pencil and various pressure.
You see, it was the time I spent in between classes that improved my art. I took the technique I learned in class and practiced it until I felt comfortable to use it in a project. Now I cannot create without it. These are the things I never realized were crucial before. I assumed that I would need to take more classes to improve my strokes but really I just needed to practice what I learned to make my next class more enjoyable because I could focus on the next technique instead of being frustrated about the past one.
What's happening in the Corner . . .
We are now focusing our attention on coloring eyes because it's amazing how something so small can add so much emotion or attention to the image you are coloring. Big or small, there are details that will help you color successful eyes every time.
If you are reading this after we moved on to the next technique, you can find the Practice Technique Pack for Eyes here.
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