April 02, 2015

"What steps can I take to become an artist if I can only manage stick figures?"  — a question from Quora

Art begins with inquiry, and the fact that you're asking this question is, in and of itself, a wonderful first step. There isn't a single clear path to becoming an artist. And the practice means many things, as artists work in all variety of media, and pursue many forms of concern. The choice of medium, in many ways, interacts with / dictates / draws out / complicates / inspires / and limits the inquiry; the two are interrelated. 

Regarding drawing: there isn't much more to it than lines, so you're off to a good start! Lines are where we all begin: it's simply a matter of seeing where you can take them. Read books, take classes, draw with friends, and find out what works best for you; everyone you speak with will have a different approach. Be open to them, and be critical of them. Some will lead to dead ends, some to epiphanies; some will restrict your thinking, and others will open more doors. The more you can enjoy the challenge of learning to draw, the more you'll grow. What this all means is that you should just enjoy drawing and stay curious about it. 

And as for stick figures: when I worked at Pixar, where I taught figure drawing classes, it was always the basics that tripped people up — people were always so eager to skip ahead. My simple advice: don't sell the basics short: they're the building blocks of your knowledge. A circle must be round, a straight line must be straight, and a curved line curved in just the right way. More angled or less? Is something heavy or light? In front or behind? Being able to knowingly, sensibly relate lines and forms — that's the whole thing; that's drawing.

For drawing, curiosity, and it's products, some books I recommend: 
  • Drawing: For the Artistically Undiscovered, by Quentin Blake 
  • The Art Spirit, by Robert Henri 
  • Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees, by Lawrence Weschler and Robert Irwin