The Secret in Art

There is a misconception out there about artists. 

Some artists even like to perpetuate it. It makes them feel special and unique.

It's the idea of "I'm a gifted artist", or "he/she is very talented", or "either you have it or you don't".

Personally I have never met anybody who from birth or from their genetics was able to draw or paint well.


Most things in life have to be learned, and art is one of those things, whether it's drawing, painting, crocheting, needle-stitching, etc.


Artists work hard to be good at their art.


It doesn't fall into their laps, it doesn't all come naturally.

Maybe somebody has grown up around artistic parents or relatives or friends.

Artists have gone to great lengths to learn how to use their tools effectively to produce beautiful artwork. They attend art school or have private tutors or learn from books or from videos on the internet. Or they learn by trial and error. But they all learn. 

When using a teacher or coach, you need to know that some artists are very good at what they're creating, but they might not be able to pass on successfully to others how to do it. Teaching incl. connecting to the student is a different skill.


Anyway, - and what you will read here is what most art teachers do not necessarily share with their students -:

Before sharpening a pencil or before opening a watercolour box, or even before taking your crochet hook or knitting needles, there is one thing you have to learn, --- unless you just want to follow other people's knitting patterns? or fill in colours in pre-printed colouring books ... - ?


The big secret in art is OBSERVATION. It's SEEING. 

And you can learn it, if you want to.


It's funny, you can find DVDs or videos (incl. on or elsewhere) where artists explain and demonstrate "how to paint an owl's eye" or "how to paint a dog's ear" or "how to draw a winter landscape" or an orchid or whatever. It's very entertaining to watch them do it. Unfortunately usually you get to see only the paper or canvas they're working on. I always emphasise the importance to focus mainly on the photo you're drawing from, the reference picture you're copying from, the view you're looking at in order to capture it. When you see properly all the details on that picture or view, then you will be able to render it accordingly on your paper or canvas. You can only reproduce what you've seen or noticed.


In my classes, people ask me, "look at what I've done, is it good?", and they hold up their work. In reality they don't need anybody to judge it, because they can judge it themselves, - all they have to do is put the original picture right next to their painting or drawing and compare. Do the lines and shapes in the outline correspond to the original? Do the colours - in hues and in intensity - correspond with with original? If something is darker in the original, then it should be made darker in your painting, etc etc. Or if you choose to keep it lighter, then compare within your drawing or painting, and make sure that the values give a balanced effect. Eg. if you make a black/white pencil drawing of a flower, then you need to compare the effect within the original with the effect within your drawing. It might be beneficial to get up, walk about, come back to it, and look at it. Or to look at it from a distance, to get a more realistic view.


And some people say "this picture is hard to do", while another picture appears easier to them. But in reality everything is the same difficulty or easiness, the only difference is how many details are in the object. Then it takes longer to do, that's all. See, the left-hand side of the brain likes to do things simply and quickly. So anything that requires patience is generally considered "more difficult". The right-hand side of the brain doesn't mind complexity, nor the passing of time, and it's much better at art than the left-hand side. When using the right-hand side of the brain, time seems to stand still.


Once you know how to look at something the artistic way - or even analytically, (we're actually mixing the use of the two halves of the brain) -, you just need to apply your medium and start creating.

Yes, you do need to know how to hold your pencil for different jobs, or how much or how little water to use for your watercolours, how to use different brushes, etc etc.

But once you have learned the techniques of how to use your chosen art medium, (whether watercolours or acrylics or oils or glass paint or in crafts wool and needles, or your sowing machine, or whatever it might be in your case,) - then you can do just about anything. You look intensely at a picture of a bird or a flower, and you can work it out in your mind how to draw it, paint it, or crochet it, even in different ways, in various styles. Patterns become boring and obsolete.


So while creativity in art and crafts is something amazingly wonderful, now you know that you can actually learn it. No problem. It's a matter of the brain, and you have a good brain in your head, we all do. The one secret is to learn how to look at something properly, how to observe all the details in shape, colour hues, etc. As they say, if you've never drawn or painted something, you've never looked at it properly.


This observation or seeing in an artistic way is a valuable skill to have, and you benefit from it not just when doing arts or crafts, but also in other avenues of life.  You learn to look patiently at all the angles and details of a situation, and that way you're more likely to handle it successfully. You'll also notice that looking at all the details might make you see something in a more positive way.


Please click on SEEING (which is the button up there right next to this one about the SECRET), for more details.


PATIENCE is another part of the secret of how to be successful in artistic ways. That is definitely true. However, be assured that once you've learned your observation skills - mostly on the right side of your brain -, you'll become faster in using your medium (i.e. pencil or watercolours or crochet hook etc.). But you'll continually and repeatedly need to look back at the original to get it right.

Yes, particularly at the beginning PATIENCE and allowing time to pass is absolutely important. Without PATIENCE you cannot switch to right-brain thinking, which is necessary to SEE PROPERLY the artistic way.


And in this way, art and crafts are actually very good for your nerves, for your health. Your daily stress and tension can lead to a host of health problems. Learning how to see and observe the artistic way, including applying patience, helps you to shift your focus and relaxes you. And if your art or craft can be done outside in the fresh air, or at least with an open window, all the better.


Pssst ... - look at this photo further down - that was me, Angie, many years ago, on our balcony, drawing a picture while sitting on my old wooden tricycle ...


And this is the way I was drawing a person when I was 4 or 5 years old. Nobody is born as an artist.

Right column: some of Angie's latest artwork.