What is art? You've probably had to answer this question one too many times during your art classes in school. Perhaps you even hated your professor, or maybe you absolutely loved him/her! What matters is that you truly grasp the very basic concept of art being a fantastic way to express yourself. Exploit it responsibly. Art gives you freedom beyond imagination, and with today's wide range of different media, all the tools you need to craft your own worlds or simply express your deepest of thoughts.

Here is a basic set of tips, merely friendly advice; things one would find useful to keep stored in your head during your first journeys into art. These points to consider are mostly aimed towards frustrated beginners, but feel free to use this "guide" as a friendly reminder if you're an experienced artist looking to go back to basics. This isn't a step-by-step drawing tutorial, but rather things I kept hearing over and over from fellow artists and teachers (yes, they actually do help!).

Stylized eye sketch
Credit: Art by me

Practice, practice, practice!

No, seriously, practice.

Okay, trust me, I understand perfectly well how annoying and frustrating hearing that little word can be. It's like you can almost see it pulling its lips back to grin devilishly at you for failing at every attempt. Don't be discouraged. The truth is, no matter how raw and cruel it sounds, everyone sucks when they first start. There's no magical secret here. There might be a difference in skill level, but it all comes down to how much you train and develop your skills! If you don't push yourself to practice, you will never see improvement and you will never have the opportunity to allow yourself to make mistakes and experiment. Which brings me to...

Make mistakes.

Never allow yourself to feel hopeless or doomed just because something doesn't come out the way you want to. Especially if it's your first try. You might get lucky every once in a while, but always remember that there's a process many artists follow to reach the final product. This process can seem frustrating at first, as it involves repetition and struggle; changing things constantly to get a more pleasing result. It's okay to fail miserably and make as many mistakes as humanly possible during this process, that's why it exists! Start with your sketches. Doesn't look like it's going anywhere? Start over with another idea. Keep developing your idea, slowly build it up through sketches, rough drafts and quick experiments to see what works and what doesn't. I find myself enjoying this process a lot more while listening to some jazz.

Credit: Art by me

Building your solid fortress of fundamentals.

Anatomy, basic art elements, etc.

Oftentimes I see art students continuously struggling to skip this very important step. Sometimes, they don't even realize they're neglecting it! Sure, it's fun to immediately start working on your "style" or simply doing things your way, but the sad reality of things is that choosing to ignore the immense amount of knowledge being thrown at you is probably going to affect your art in a negative way. Like a good artist friend of mine used to say during critiques, "First learn how the Masters did it, then feel free to bend and twist it to your heart's content."

You have a massive library of knowledge at your disposal, so there really is no excuse. You may not be able to attend art classes such as Life Drawing or Color Theory, but the internet becomes your best friend here! Become familiar with working with your values, line, understanding some of the more basic terms in art. Practice with Still Life, as boring as it may seem. Slowly but surely you'll learn to work these elements to your advantage. Don't forget composition!

If you want to start drawing figures, always remember to practice your anatomy! There are some extremely useful books given to you for free on various websites. You also have a wide collection of reference images to use. Understand what a gesture is, learn how to isolate the human body into basic shapes, start practicing dynamic and interesting poses.

I'm not going to tell you to strictly go into realism first, but I've found that is does help immensely! After all, you really can't draw something correctly until you know what it truly looks like. Stylizing everything is fun, but I do believe it should be done after gaining sufficient knowledge of the basics.

Also remember that your artwork doesn't need to have flawless anatomy in order for it to be "good." Learning anatomy is simply for you to understand the human body and later, if you wish to do so, play around with the human figure and exaggerate the anatomy to create some interesting forms.

Work on your technical skill as well! You might find yourself with amazing ideas but without the proper technical skills, your result may appear sloppy...

Credit: Art by me

Going digital will not improve your art.

Most artists seem to understand this, but I'm still going to mention it. There's a lot of rave and hype revolving art tablets and digital art. You see it almost everywhere now, and it's often used in professional environments. Sure, drawing or painting digitally may give you lots of advantages and neat tricks to make your life easier, but an art tablet isn't some magical tool that will inexplicably improve your art. Digital art, or rather, using an art tablet is something that takes time getting used to and as much dedication towards learning techniques as traditional art. I highly recommend spending a proper amount of time on your traditional art before jumping into digital art. Don't worry about ridiculously expensive art programs or professional-level art tablets, either.

"It's my style!"

My personal views on what so many people refer to as "style."

You're bound to hear the use of "style" countless times as an artist. What does it mean to have a style? Can people mimic other styles? How does one obtain a "style"? The answers to these questions are simpler than one would think. Oftentimes, when young artists speak of "style," they're simply referring to some particular aspects of someone's art that makes it distinguishable to them. It's how you work. Thus, everyone has a style! Yes, that's right, we all have our own style. However, we may find our style to be heavily influenced by other styles. It happens, it's okay to be inspired by others! Perhaps there's a fabulous artist whose style is something you truly admire. Go ahead and do some practices by mimicking their art, that way you get to try different techniques and learn the processes of other artists (just a reminder, though: never publish this work without the artist's permission or claim it as your own idea!).

Now you might be wondering, how do I get a style I feel comfortable with? If you're feeling frustrated with your own work, or find that it's simply not what you want it to be, the best advice I can give you is to experiment and try new things! Don't be afraid to mimic other styles, work with other techniques and elements, try other media, do some realism or go completely wild by filling your sketchbook with ideas and sketches until something clicks! Look for inspiration; try making a folder and turning it into your personal collection of inspirational artwork. Search for other artists that work in a way that seems appealing to you. Perhaps you're inspired by poetry or novels? Save some snippets from them in your folder. Write down the kind of feelings or emotions you'd like to express through your artwork, then try different ways to achieve this. This entire process will also help you get rid of nasty things such as the infamous "art block."