getting started: the art essentials
Updated: Jul 1, 2021
Ever looked at some art, thought it was cool, but told yourself you "could never do that"? Think again! At first, jumping into a new (very broad) hobby seems a little overwhelming, I get it. That's why I'm here to help!
First, little disclaimer: this is based off of my journey and the journey of artists SIMILAR to me. Being an artist can take a million different forms, so please keep that in mind while reading! Not all of these things are necessary for some paths. Similarly, for those paths, some things aren't on this list.
Ok! I'll cover everything you need to get the ball rolling on your artistic journey in 3 categories:
1. supplies (and where to get them)
2. reference/learning platforms
3. community (aka social media)
So let's get into it! First, supplies.
Here are what I consider the basics for an artist, traditional or digital.
Graphite pencil (non-mechanical) - The pencil is a basic tool. Ya gotta learn it. It's also the easiest step to take because you don't need to learn HOW to use a pencil, just gotta learn how to draw with it.
Sketchbook (of any paper weight, really)
Ballpoint pen - sketch with this pen! Not being able to erase forces you to catch mistakes before they happen.
That is quite literally it, if you just want to get started and see if art is your thing. You don't need anything more than 2 VERY common tools and a sketchbook*. But this small and boring list probably doesn't help you very much.
*I don't agree with the 'you just need a piece of paper' logic because while a piece of paper works for one sketch, having a sketchbook will allow you to create a space for you to be free to draw and allow you to look back and see your improvement
Here are what I consider "nonessential essentials":
Fineliner pen (in any color)
Watercolors (a small set of primary colors is more than enough)
The reason why I recommend watercolors as the first medium you try (aside from graphite) is the opposite reason why I said you needed a pencil. Watercolor is an alien medium. In NO way is it like a pencil, so it will force you to grow/learn at a fast rate!
But at the same time, it is also the MOST common medium in the painting mediums, and you probably played around with a children's watercolor set when you were 8.
Watercolor will teach you some valuable lessons when it comes to art: including patience, color theory, layer building, and how to work with paints and water based mediums!
As for kneaded erasers...they're basically heaven-sent. You get an eraser without the shavings. "Knead" I say more? (If you're not laughing or at least cringing I have nothing to say to you)
P.S. If you want brand recommendations (prices+links too!) for each of these supplies, check out my blog post 'my favorite art supplies'!
Okay! Moving on to reference/learning platforms! I realize this term is probably a little confusing, so here's what I mean by that. Reference platforms are places like Pinterest, a platform/site with plenty of REFERENCES or otherwise learning materials. Learning platforms are more like Youtube or Skillshare.
Pinterest.com : you've probably heard of pinterest before. A platform full of pinned images taken from all over the web, pinterest is a great place to find reference photos of literally everything! (You can follow my Pinterest (pinterest.com/wavylinesem)if you want over 1000+ pins of reference photos (mostly faces/poses)!)
Instagram.com : I'll talk about Instagram in the community sections, but Instagram is an amazing place to find photos, and the best part is you can ALWAYS GIVE CREDIT because you're pulling the image directly from the source (either a photographer or a model's account). Just go to some of accounts that post what you want to draw(for pictures of people, I'll go to accounts of influencers, music artists, portrait photographers, makeup artists/beauty, etc.) Alternatively, search the hashtags for what you want(i.e. #portraitphotography #landscapephoto)
Stock photo websites -- while stock photo websites are known for their obviously fake portraits/expressions, I still think it's a great place to learn the basics, and if you need to draw an exaggerated expression, they've got plenty. Sites like pexels.com/search/portrait/ , shutterstock or pixabay will work for this. Plus, reference photos you find here are less likely to be already used by a different artist!
Drawing optimized websites - Sites such as line-of-action.com or quickposes.com (just google 'figure drawing' are geared towards quick practice and building your foundational skills. While they're not 'aesthetic' or 'pretty', they force you to learn!
I can't stress the importance of references ENOUGH: References teach you how things work. Even if you don't want a realistic style, you need to know how things work (the human body, shadows, light, etc.) SO THAT you can exaggerate the right things. You can make a person's legs way longer in a cartoon drawing and they will still look human. You can't get rid of their shoulder bones and expect them to look like a fluid human. Right?
Moving on to COMMUNITY!
Community is essential if you want to stick with art because it provides you with a) a support system and b) a place to draw inspiration. Communities (mostly social media) will keep you in touch with the art community, so you don't just get bored all the time. This does NOT mean you have to share/post your art if you're not comfortable with it!
Here are the most common social media platforms that have a large art community.
YouTube (debatable as social media, but there are plenty of art youtube channels that motivated me to keep drawing!) (i.e. drawingwiffwaffles)
DeviantArt (while dying, it still is one of the most resourceful platforms)
Tumblr I think has a community but I dunno if it's the most trustworthy
You don't even have to create an art account (though I think it's highly helpful!). You can just browse art-related hashtags and accounts! See what the art community is up to, see how other people draw, what's popular, what's not, what are considered rookie mistakes, what new innovations have come up, etc!
Nobody can draw 24/7, especially not someone who's starting out. In the time you're taking a break, get more inspired and fall further in love with the art community. Keep learning!
If you're the type to share, you can also post your art! It doesn't matter if it's bad. You can get constructive criticism, build an art family, and improve! Plus, if you start posting early, you can learn social media strategy so that when you DO start to get better/bigger, you aren't making rookie mistakes.
Before I wrap this up, I do want to say that the community is optional. I'll go into this with more depth in a different post, but there are pros and cons to having a social media presence in an art community. If you don't feel like that's your thing, then don't do it!
Actually, ALL these suggestions are really just that: suggestions. In my opinion, art has no boundaries. There are technically no rules. You do you. There are ways/techniques/methods that have proved to be helpful for the majority of artists, but there is nothing that works for everyone!
So take all this with a grain of salt.
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Love you all, stay safe, and have an amazing rest of your day/night!