The Seven Art Sins

20. October 2018 / Categories :  Resources


I saw the original post on the artorder website does not exist anymore, so I thought why not repost the thing. It is a great reminder to all the artists in my opinion. The original post was written bei Jon Schindehette. Have fun:


illustrations must do's


1 – Forgetting The Basics

If you were formally trained, you should have been taught the basics of the profession – Color, Value, Line, Texture, Shape, Form, Space, Balance, Emphasis, Harmony, Variety, Gradation, Movement, Rhythm, & Proportion. We should have also been taught the basic process – Thumbnails, Sketches, Drawing, Tonal Studies, Color Studies, & Final Execution.

If you weren’t taught these concepts, you owe it to yourself to get a grounding in them. If you were taught them, be careful when you choose to shortcut your process and leave them out of your pieces. This is the number one reason that I have to turn down artists for work – attention to the basics. Lately, it has been Value Hierarchy that has been the downfall of so many artists. A value study takes a small amount of time compared to the amount of time that artists can spend on their final illustration – yet it is the one of the tools that can break our painting the quickest (aside from poor drawing).

Remember, just because we were taught them while we were in school, doesn’t mean we should stop using them once we stop attending school. The basics are the foundation for not just our illustration, but for our career!


2 – Faster Is Better

Who ever started posting “speed painting” demos on YouTube should be, figuratively, shot. Faster does not = better. It only equals faster. The intent of a speed painting is not to create an illustration, but to explore concepts and ideas as the starting blocks for a final illustration…or strictly for concept use. In this age of high efficiency production, we tend to forget that illustration is a form of art. We are so busy looking for short cuts, and ways to do things faster, that we have become a industry that is trading our ability to create great art, for the opportunity to create faster art. An illustration is made up on nothing more than a string of decisions…all culminating with a final illustration. If we are taking the decision processes out by hot-keying our way through a painting. We are denying ourselves the opportunity to learn something about ourselves, our process, our subject, and art itself, when we don’t take the time to live in the moment and participate in the moment-to-moment decisions our art requires of us.


3 – More Is Better

Much like “faster”, More does not equal better. Art is an act of creating, but an important part of the act of creating, is learning when to stop. The art of editing is a very important tool in the arsenal of the artist. So many young, and not so young, artists get caught up in the “more” game. If some texture is good…lets go to the extreme and hyper-texture everything. It a little motion is good…let’s turn up the fan and create a hurricane of motion. Rather than trying to amp everything up to the max – consider the idea of distilling your image to it’s essence. Refine your narrative. Use the least amount of visual symbols to impart the maximum amount of visual information. Distilling is hard work though, it requires you to stay present to your process. You don’t just get to go on auto-pilot and bang stuff out. You have to be aware of every mark that you make…and why! It is worth it in the end though. You will end up with images that are pure, focused and powerful.


4 – Not Using Reference

I can’t say it enough. Use reference! Sure, there are artists that can draw the human body without reference, but that is because they have drawn the human body so often, for so long, that they can see every nuance and curve of the human body in their mind…and yet, even they will pull together reference when they are doing something that they are not visually intimate with. Why? Because they understand that they must use reference so that the eye can know what to draw correctly rather than relying on what our brain thinks it knows.

Let’s try and experiment. A Hoopoe is an interesting looking bird, right? Lot’s of visaully distinctive elements. Go ahead, look him over. Take a nice long look. As long as you’d like. Now, put the image away. Tomorrow morning, when you sit down to do your morning warm-ups, draw your Hoopoe. Don’t worry, you’ll be fine. You brain knows what it looks like…right?


5 – Marrying Your Reference

Now you can take reference too far. You can become married to it. Very often I can tell when an artist does and doesn’t use reference. Broken anatomy is one of my first indicators of not using reference, but the flip side to that is when I see photography imperfections showing up in an illustration that I know the artist got married to their photo reference. Lens distortion, focal plane focus issues, visual aberrations, and a whole host of photography sins suddenly becoming illustration sins. Remember that photo reference is better than no reference, but make sure it is good photo reference! Drawing from life, while not always practical, is preferred to photo reference. If you can’t have a model pose live for you. Consider having a model available for early sketches and studies, and then using photo reference for the final illustration.


6 – Being An Island

Being able to work remotely is awesome. The modern conveniences of technology have created the opportunity to work for anyone…anywhere. While that is great from the aspect of getting work, it also creates the opportunity to become a artistic island unto yourself. Too often, I talk to artists that are culturally, creatively, and socially separated from any support mechanism. Sure, you can IM, facetime, hang-out, or any of a million different ways of virtually hanging out with other creatives, but nothing virtual will ever be as good as face-to-face interactions. That was one of the reasons that I started the “salon” sessions back in Seattle, and one of the reasons that I jumped into the art scene in Denver as soon as humanly possible. I’m already having discussions with local artists to try and set of salon sessions here as well. What is a salon session? It is an idea I’m borrowing from the literature world. It used to be common, a long time ago, for writers to come together and discuss the world, their art, the industry, and anything else that interested them. It allowed them the opportunity to share what they have been working on, get feedback, be inspired, and grow. This was the idea I had in mind when we started the Seattle Salon…and the idea I’m fostering her in Denver. Bring together some artists, have them bring what they are working on, and just mix and mingle. Let the creatively flow and see what comes from it…

I bring this up because one of the deadly sins of art is to become an island to ourselves. If we lose all ability to step outside ourselves, and our art and have the opportunity to be affected by another persons art, we can only grow as far as we know how…ourselves. But by being part of a community, by putting ourselves into situations where we are pushed, prodded, and poked into awareness of ourselves, the world around us, and the potential inspirations and challenges that surround us – we place ourselves into positions where we can grow and be nurtured. Sure it’s uncomfortable, and maybe even a little bit intimidating…but that brings me to my last deadly sin..


7 – Getting Comfortable

I was once told, we have a sphere of comfort around us. It contains all the things that we love about our lives, and we are comfortable with the knowing of them. We often call it our comfort zone. I was also told that our dreams can never reside within our comfort zone. The idea of aspiring for something more inherently means that it lies outside our comfort zone. So, if that is true, then we must constantly be striving to push outside our comfort zones so that we can aspire new and more powerful intentions in our lives. So, if you are feeling complacent or safe, perhaps it is time to get out of your comfort zone and try something that will kickstart your creativity and growth again.


the seven things you should not do


My Addition: Fail Faster

The faster you fail, the faster you try out things, experiment with variations, the faster you will learn and grow. Instead of sitting there and just thinking about what you could do – do it. Try it. Try out everything, because wisdom only comes from practice, from having been there. On the other hand – go to the bitter end with your chosen pieces, for it is important to push yourself to the max too, instead of letting all pieces half finished… Oh and face the things you fear 🙂



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