The start of a new project can be terrifying for some artists. That blank piece of paper has the ability to cause self-doubt and anxiety before you even get started. I have learned that, for me anyway, a methodical approach is the best way to overcome these feelings. Here are my tips for getting started on a new artwork and how to lesson any anxiety.
pLANNING IS KEY
CHOOSE YOUR SUBJECT
Oh boy, hurdle number 1! In the beginning my method of deciding what to draw involved trawling through my entire collection of reference photos. The idea behind this strategy was to find something that inspired me. Unfortunately all it did was bombard my brain and waste a lot of time. I would end up going through every single photo (many times) and still not have a clue about what I was going to draw!
To simplify the process I now commit to a subject before I even turn my computer on. This means that it’s usually only one folder that I need to look through to find suitable references.
Completely stuck for ideas? Why not try Pinterest to get the inspiration flowing? I often use my own Pinterest Inspiration Boards which you are welcome to use. Otherwise, fill your own boards with your favourite things.
CHOOSE YOUR REFERENCE PHOTO(S)
Once you have committed to a subject, gather any reference material you have.
A range of references for a single subject can help you decide on what your final piece will look like. It can also be useful if you’d like to change specific attributes of your subject. For example, you may prefer the eye colouring in one photo or the composition or lighting in another.
Photo editing software is a great way to piece together more than one reference photo. This can give you a clearer idea of how your finished project will look before putting pencil to paper. I use Adobe Photoshop but free options, like Gimp, work fine too.
Decide how big you want your artwork to be and cut your drawing paper to size. I tape my paper to some plywood to protect the edges from bending up and to lesson any warping.
Using your reference photos pick out the basic colours you’ll need and set them aside. Create a colour chart by doing little swatches on a scrap of drawing paper. This saves you from having to rummage around looking for the right colour all the time
CREATE A LINE/CONTOUR DRAWING
A strong outline/contour drawing is VERY important. If your outline is wrong any mistakes will be very hard to fix later on. For greater accuracy I find that the grid method works best for me. For information on how to create a grid drawing check out the ArtTutor’s grid drawing tool here
A lot of “sketch, erase and repeat” goes on before I’m happy with my contour drawing. This leaves indents and marks which can completely ruin your paper. I therefor prefer to use cheap cartridge paper for the initial sketch. Once I am happy I draw over the main outline with a black pigment liner so it stands out more. I then transfer the outline onto my final drawing surface using my Huion Light Pad. If you don’t have a light pad you can use a sheet of transfer paper to transfer your sketch onto your drawing surface.
LAY DOWN YOUR COLOUR
Where to start?? This is a personal decision and differs from artist to artist. The eyes can make or break your drawing/painting so I like to get them out of the way early on. Only once they are “alive” do I move on to another area. This way I also don’t waste time and resources if I mess them up and have to start the piece again.
With the eyes completed I generally work my way outwards from this point. The paper isn’t so stark anymore so the rest of the drawing process always seems easier from now. Get stuck in and have fun!