Monday, 25 November 2013


Firstly, apologies for my absence.  I have had to replace my studio computer, which holds all of my images.  Hopefully, my technician will be able to recover all the image files....a salutary lesson about having a good backup system!

So, today's blog post will concentrate on a couple of important things I have noticed when doing critique sessions for artists at local art clubs and what I have seen recently on line on art websites.

Beginners to painting ...and sometimes even more experienced painters....often complain of not having enough time to do anything worthwhile.   I remember well, when I used to teach a regular weekly class, that I would give everyone a little "homework".  One lady never, ever did anything outside of the class, she always maintained that she was FAR too busy...chairlady of the golf club, seeing her grandchildren, lunching with friends...there was always a reason.  At the end of a year, she complained that she was making far slower progress than everyone else in the class...looking rather accusingly at me as she said this, the implication being that it was clearly my fault!!!  When I pointed out to her that she never, ever, worked outside the classroom, so she did no more than 2 hrs a week, which meant that in a 30-lesson year, she had actually given herself only 60 hours in which to work....while everyone else had managed to find time to practice during the week, so they mostly managed about 10 hours a week =  300 hours in the year!!!  What a huge difference, and of course they were making better progress!  

Painting is all about experience, and DOING.  If you only give yourself permission to work for half an hour every so often, you should not expect to make great progress, and shrugging your shoulders and saying "well, I know it is only rough, and the proportions aren't right,  but I had no time to do better,  no time to do any more than a quick sketch"   just doesn't cut the mustard if what you want to see is development and improvement. 


When kids begin to draw, say, trees, they paint lollipops.  A stick, with a big bubble at the top.  Interestingly to me, I see adult beginners doing this too!  Even when they are sitting in front of a tree...they will paint what they THINK it should look like, rather than what they see.  It is possibly because they are rather nervous of looking hard, and attempting to put down the shapes that they can is all rather daunting and they resort to an approximation of a tree.

Their time would be better spent really looking hard at the shape of the tree, the way the light hits the tree, how the "clumps" of leaves group together and are seen as a shape;  how the leaves and branches part here and there to show sky;  how a tree has a filigree edge - here is a simple progression of a tree drawing:
Not a complex or particularly difficult drawing process, but this is a particular tree;  consideration has been given to its "portrait" ;   the way the trunk leans;  the way light hits the  trunk; the way the trunk branches, and where;  the effect of adding just tiny marks to suggest leaves, and then, at the very end, and few little specific leaf shapes on the right.  It is definitely not a lollipop on a stick!
So - the moral of the story is... give yourself TIME to practice.  And when you practice, sharpen up your observation, don't be sloppy and fall back on what you think is there, "feed" yourself with good experience - good food, which will make you develop in a healthy way, rather than junk food in the form of half-hearted practice which relies on lack of experience and childhood "memories".
It will pay dividends if you take yourself, and your dedication to learning, seriously.  It can be really fun as well as sometimes frustrating, but will give you much more satisfaction, that is for sure, than just doodling for half an hour and throwing it to one side, saying, "well, I know this is a bit rubbishy, but I just don't have any more time.  At least I did something".  Something, yes, but possibly a rather pointless something, imho.
Time is elastic.  The choice is yours how you spend your time.


  1. This is wonderful! great advice. I used to teach art to adults, for many years, and would suggest they draw (I was teaching drawing and printmaking) for ten minutes a day. Just that. But with total focus. And people who really did it found that after ten minutes they didn't want to stop, and they went on. People who said they didn't have ten minutes to spare (!) noticed how the others progressed.

    I think beginning artists are very unused to the total focus of making art, and they rush into a general purpose image rather than a drawing, to escape the discomfort. As you said!

  2. Great post, Jackie! I see this too...and it is just fine is all a student wants is two hours of social art. Just that they be aware that is ALL they will get!

  3. Excellent blog and excellent advice to this beginner. Thank you, Jackie.


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