How to get to the next level in art? What class should I take on SVS?



  • Hi everyone!

    I've been listening to the svs podcast (it's the best!) and looking all over the internet for practical ways to improve my work, but I figured maybe it's good to simply ask for opinions too. I'm so impressed by the amazing quality of art on these forums, and I'd like to get there too! 🙂

    I've noticed that I have a habit of not knowing how to go further in an artwork, as @Lee-White mentioned in the most recent podcast: a professional can dig deeper into a drawing. What's the next step here? I've attached a couple of examples below - you'll notice that I don't go very far in the execution of my work and that a lot if it is quite stylized, but also rough. If I continue on portraits for example after this stage - I feel like I'm just messing them up, so it's better to stop drawing earlier if I want a good result. I've often been told that my sketches are better than my final work - the final work would be too - neat -. But if I only keep sketching like this, I'll only get better at sketching xD

    My current plan is to do one master study per month, take model drawing classes every week, and I was hoping to take a course on svs - but I don't know where I'm at and which one to choose.

    What do you think I should do to improve?
    In each case thank you so much for reading this far and I can't wait to become part of this awesome community! ❤

    Edit: As my first post I'm not sure I put it in the right category, so my apologies in advance if I got it wrong!


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  • @paolatosca I don't think you necessarily need to work on sketches longer to dig deeper into drawing. Pinpointing areas of weakness and stepping outside of your comfort zone, choosing something specific to focus on for a few weeks or months to improve on, changing your approach, or brushing up on fundamentals are all good ideas. I like taking classes with the mindset that I'm a total novice to open my mindset or try something in a totally different style. Something else that I've noticed with myself is if I challenge myself to make more pieces, but not rushing, or doing the opposite and slowing way down and analyzing my process my skills increase too.



  • @Teju-Abiola Thank you so much for taking the time to reply! I wrote your list of options down on a sticky note and posted it on the wall in front of me 🙂

    That's exactly why I'm looking for more specific guidance too though, because I feel like there are so many directions I can go and I have no idea where to start! I'd love to do it all the classes, but what would be most effective? 🤔

    Then again, maybe I have to stop thinking and just go for something 😆



  • @paolatosca I'm pretty sure they have a 'curriculum' breakdown you could check out, but honestly, I like to take classes on specific things I am interested in or I feel will help me bump a specific skill and it just depends on what I think my art needs are at the moment.

    Right now I'm going through the Creative Composition class because that's something I feel I am not strong in and wanna learn to improve my portfolio, but something like the how to draw everything class or beginner digital paint classes aren't relevant. But at a later time I might wanna review Photoshop painting and go through that. Just depends.



  • @teju-abiola I see what you mean, just go for what feels right at this point in time! Sounds like you're very in tune with your art needs, which is really good! It's been a long time for me since I sat down on a long project that was just for myself, so the choices on what to work on are a bit overwhelming. 🙂

    Some are more relevant than others for sure though, so I'm thinking I'll make a list of all the ones I'm really excited about. Those I'll compare with the list of ways to improve that you gave me earlier, then rank the sequence from there! 😃



  • I understand the bit about feeling overwhelmed so well. I think first you need to think what exactly you enjoy most doing and what kind of illustrator you want to be. Narrowing it like that for a moment can help you get ideas what you need to improve

    For example - do you want to do children’s illustration? You can study your favorite children’s books; can study more kids from clothes to movement to faces. You can study childhood related spaces and objects and draw those. It will diversify your drawing elements. You can look at children’s drawings and study color palettes and ways of drawing that children use. Etc. You can go to parks or playgrounds and draw kids from life a lot. Draw in one color focusing on gesture, or draw in a limited palette, in 2 or 3 colors. Impose limits to experiment something more

    If you want to do editorial study editorial illustrators. Look at the New Yorker. Understand why something works and something doesn’t. Read and research to develop conceptual thinking

    Draw after movie stills for figure, movement and composition. Etc

    Ultimately ask yourself first. What kind of illustrator do I want to be? Who are my heroes in whose footsteps I would like to walk? Who is my intended audience? Focus on that for a while and the areas in which you feel unsure (maybe it’s gesture, maybe it’s drawing people, maybe it’s drawing animals, maybe it’s painting in watercolor, or how to draw emotion on faces or how to draw cities or landscape or objects etc.. That’s where you should try to improve or delve in more

    Anxiety about drawing something is a good indicator we need to work more in that area. I worked on a book and realized I was so terrified of drawing people because I didn’t feel confident that I even know HOW to draw people. I realized I was dressing them generically because I didn’t observe enough what kids actually wear. Etc

    Another thing I was horribly depressed about is that I realized is that I need to study book covers more. But what I mean is focus on narrowing it down and not doing it all

    While starting folktale week so many insecurities came up. Inability to draw people and issues with painting too slow and issues with choosing a text and coming up with ideas. Etc

    Don’t do everything. It can’t be done. 1000 drawing styles etc. Pick one tiny aspect and go for it.

    Then, ther's something else. First. Don't be afraid to kill your babies. It's very true and valid in writing and it's the same in art/illustration etc. Don't e afraid to mess things up. It's the only way to learn what works or what doesn't isntead of stopping right before doing something because of the anxiety of messing things up. If you mess something up, redo it. It's harder in traditional media, yes, but it's very helpful in learning.

    When i was tried doing the folktaleweek challenge the first illustration went along easy and free, the next one was a pain and i was cosntantly guessing each stroke of watercolor for fear or ruining things. It took me over 8 hours to do a fairly simple and small watercolor illustration. And after i stopped because i could only see my progress was too slow and i wanted to post on the given day (thus had a constraint of some sort) i realized that actually i was so concerned with insubstantial stuff that i managed to mess up the lighting in the scene completely. And if i had paid attention on that or, even better, if i had started with doing some thumbnails with different ways to shade things and light things or different color combinations. I wouldn;t have worked for 8 hours like a snail in fear of ruining things with every stroke.

    And second, I also sometimes feel my sketches are better than my finished work. They have a vibrqancy and a carefreeness that gets lost in the gritting of teeth that is the making of a complex finished piece. Sometimes when I paint or draw something I am very comfortable in doing (buildings, citiscapes, environments etc or interiors ) I just get very much into the flow state and forget. Whenever I have o do something I’m not comfortable with I work like I would grit my teeth and hold my working tool very tightly. Which ends up in stiff lines. This is one of the reasons I am doing gesture drawing and lots of short croquis of people in particular. Sometimes working with a bigger canvas helps me loosen up my hand I observed. My hand does more broadly sweeping motions, the lines flow better. I am also thinking of tryong marksmaking exercises to further loosen up.
    Quentin Blake was famously told his sketches look better than his finished work and he built up on that later on to great success. So maybe also find the balance between making your strengths your allies and usng your weaknesses as opportunities to experiment.

    In architecture school we were encouraged to ditch the eraser (our teacher actually threw our erasers through the window at some point) and to use thicker (a bigger lead) and softer (6B for example) leads in our pencils or mechanical pencils. I use the same thing when I sketch nowadays. Because it helps more with sort of “looking for solutions” than focusing on perfection which is very important in design. Also draw with brushpens from life, or with a fountainpen or something like that. It should help you get more loose and less concerned with the perfection of the line I think. Less with the cleaning up of the line. I also think drawing a lot and quickly helps to train both hand and eye. In all honesty I’ve been thinking about this a lot in the last few months because I am very drawn to illustrations I find are very very expressive even if they are not necessarily very anatomically correct (take for example the work of Beatrice Alemagna. Or Isabelle Arsenault, Victoria Semykina etc). I often think would have it been better if I actually didn’t know how to draw so I didn’t have to focus so much on getting everything perfect and correct so that in the end my work looks stiff and lifeless and generic? I’m still thinking on how to tackle things, but what I said before are some of the things I want to start implementing in my studies. I can’t totally unlearn what I learned and I don’t want to, but I can rewire my brain/hand connection maybe by experimenting with time length like Teju Abiola said above and pace of doing things or stepping out of comfort zone by for example doing lots of figure drawing in a medium I don’t do it usually – brushpen for example. In your case, instead of oil do watercolor, instead of digital do traditional, instead of vector type cell art do textured stuff, instead of b/w do color. And don’t stop. Don’t stop and fail fail fail fail fail. And redo.
    Also, look at masters in something you do be it inking, painting or whatever.
    Check out this guy https://www.mattotti.com/
    Look at the ink drawings of Van Gogh, at Ronald Searle, at Sempe, Quentin Blake, at the paintings of John Singer Sargent or Kandinskij or Monet, at Edmund Dulac or Yoshitaka Amano, at Moebius, Cory Loftis, John Minton, David Hockney, Franklin Booth etc etc etc
    Also look at these. Your name sounds Italian so maybe you can also understand what they say, otherwise just look
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U-Uyd7EituE&list=PLSov8G3gkhIm_uwk0nH0Hc5woBpHYNlg-
    Bobby Chiu said in one of his videos once that he’s against drawing faster, that he’s more concerned with drawing very very slow as a method of observing and learning what you are drawing. And redrawing and redrawing. I think both are very valid. I think ultimately everything is about very good observation and understanding and training your eye and hand to just glide on the page and keep the connection with your brain going without fear. Still learning myself

    You showcased a lot of different styles and types of work. What kind of work would you like to do ideally? What lights you up when you do it?



  • @irina Hi Irina!

    Wow, first off, thank you so much for this amazing post! I really appreciate the amount of time you must've put into that reply, and on top of that I think you really hit the nail on its head! When I read your question "What kind of illustrator do you want to be?" my anxiety levels went through the roof. I don't know! When I graduated at the art academy I was given a book about Dick Matena, a very diverse Dutch comic artist, because of the diversity I'd shown in my work. I have to add this was really important at the art academy as well; they really push you to try all different things, kill your babies, draw with your left hand, etc. Much like in architecture study I bet! We had an architecture wing at our academy too 🙂 (I studied comics instead 😉 ) Unfortunately the main focus was also on being different and unique rather than building the actual skills to be different and unique, but that's a different story altogether XD

    One thing I find incredibly hard is dealing with that diversity, because it makes it really hard to pinpoint an audience. I've considered having three different art accounts for example, but it seems ridiculous. (Let's not add that this problem extends into my obsession with other things outside of art too😆 ).

    @irina said in How to get to the next level in art? What class should I take on SVS?:

    Anxiety about drawing something is a good indicator we need to work more in that area. I worked on a book and realized I was so terrified of drawing people because I didn’t feel confident that I even know HOW to draw people. I realized I was dressing them generically because I didn’t observe enough what kids actually wear. Etc

    This is gold, such a good thing to be reminded of!

    @irina said in How to get to the next level in art? What class should I take on SVS?:

    When i was tried doing the folktaleweek challenge the first illustration went along easy and free, the next one was a pain and i was cosntantly guessing each stroke of watercolor for fear or ruining things. It took me over 8 hours to do a fairly simple and small watercolor illustration. And after i stopped because i could only see my progress was too slow and i wanted to post on the given day (thus had a constraint of some sort) i realized that actually i was so concerned with insubstantial stuff that i managed to mess up the lighting in the scene completely. And if i had paid attention on that or, even better, if i had started with doing some thumbnails with different ways to shade things and light things or different color combinations. I wouldn;t have worked for 8 hours like a snail in fear of ruining things with every stroke.

    That was me the first few years at the art academy, by graduation I think I almost turned opposite! It's all about efficiency now, work as much as possible within time restraints. Not happy? Move on to the next drawing and redraw the part you dislike tomorrow. Still not happy? Try again next day, until it reaches a point where I feel I could post it online, and then I ship it. These are all commissions though, no personal art. I thought I'd add Inktober to my schedule, and posted sketches I'd made in 5 minutes, just to participate, but quality was highly lacking, so I cancelled it. 🙂

    @irina said in How to get to the next level in art? What class should I take on SVS?:

    Sometimes when I paint or draw something I am very comfortable in doing (buildings, citiscapes, environments etc or interiors ) I just get very much into the flow state and forget. Whenever I have o do something I’m not comfortable with I work like I would grit my teeth and hold my working tool very tightly. Which ends up in stiff lines. This is one of the reasons I am doing gesture drawing and lots of short croquis of people in particular. Sometimes working with a bigger canvas helps me loosen up my hand I observed.

    Another golden nugget! I hadn't thought of it like that, that means I should do the same for environments and buildings! Love this! ❤

    @irina said in How to get to the next level in art? What class should I take on SVS?:

    Check out this guy https://www.mattotti.com/
    Look at the ink drawings of Van Gogh, at Ronald Searle, at Sempe, Quentin Blake, at the paintings of John Singer Sargent or Kandinskij or Monet, at Edmund Dulac or Yoshitaka Amano, at Moebius, Cory Loftis, John Minton, David Hockney, Franklin Booth etc etc etc
    Also look at these. Your name sounds Italian so maybe you can also understand what they say, otherwise just look
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U-Uyd7EituE&list=PLSov8G3gkhIm_uwk0nH0Hc5woBpHYNlg-

    I'm not italian (I'm Dutch 😃 And you?) but wow, I loved that video, that was amazing to watch! Super inspiring! I love the colors in Mattotti's work too, thank you so much for sharing those names! You are on fire with this, a solid reminder that I need to find more time in my life to look at art rather than only drawing, I'm going to add that to my new year goals ❤

    Bobby Chiu is brilliant as well, I like his point about going slow, as I haven't really been giving myself much time for things other than work and family. I'm going to half the amount of commission work next year, so that should open up a good chunk of time for more personal work. Maybe just doing what I love is a way to find out what kind of illustrator I'd eventually like to be? 🙂

    @irina said in How to get to the next level in art? What class should I take on SVS?:

    You showcased a lot of different styles and types of work. What kind of work would you like to do ideally? What lights you up when you do it?

    People! Fantasy creatures and items, illustrating story moments, portraits, or random abstract ideas. For styles I love acrylic and digital realism, Disney/Cartoon-style and oooo boy do I love b&w linearts. Those are the main ones. It's impossible to choose between them! 😍

    How did you narrow down what kind of illustrator you wanted to be, and what artistic side of you do you keep as a hobby? Your work looks gorgeous! Do you have a website where I can see more? Is there a specific thing you turn to when you feel stuck in your progress? 🙂



  • @paolatosca said in How to get to the next level in art? What class should I take on SVS?:

    Maybe just doing what I love is a way to find out what kind of illustrator I'd eventually like to be?

    EXACTLY

    Art academies and architecture school teach you fundamentals, from various techniques and technical stuff, to idea generation, conceptualizing, history, theory etc. Depending on the school of course and the focus and the type of teaching. I'm more used to architecture school because that's what i have a degree in but i guess in art it's similar. I know however some schools artschool further focus on different styles of teaching. Great figurative and traditional belles arts type of teaching in Russia for example or more idea oriented and not technical skills in painting or whatever at many schools in London for example, or i dunno, other types of drawing and focus completely at art and design academies in the us who are focused on animation or working in the entertainment industry. So i can't speak for all but i think universities are there to give you tools and give you the basic training. So from that standpoint pushing to do different things pushes one o be more creative and experiment etc. I am 37 now and regret that i didn't study more art when i was younger and a student. Because then i could have had more time to experiment and push myself. Age however probably gives me more focus and drive because omg i'm getting oooold hahaha

    I don't think i have a particular style though i have been told that i do. I suppose i'm looking at my heroes and think what i do is utter crap so probably the first constructive things to do to improve is to look at artists for inspiration and not for comparison in a destructive way. That is something i still need to exercise because my inner critic just.wont.shut.up

    @paolatosca said in How to get to the next level in art? What class should I take on SVS?:

    Unfortunately the main focus was also on being different and unique rather than building the actual skills to be different and unique, but that's a different story altogether XD

    I have often heard this from art students and have felt it too and that stopped me from pursuing another degree in art, because i don't have money and want to learn specific things. I am also battling with trying to "destroy" my architect-type of drawing and sort of approach things differently because it's been so drilled into me.

    I think pinpointing the audience comes down to exactly what you enjoy doing and what you want to do. When i was younger i was so interested in EVERTHING. I still am to be honest, from art to architecture to writing to a lot of things. BUT. that's the surest way to not get better. for me at least.

    During the years i did webdesign, media projects, tshirt design, icons, illustrations for bands and posters and bla bla bla. Lots of stuff. All of it was interesting and valuable. But ultimately it was after i worked as an assistant in university for about 4 years and taught students and when i started to focus on children's books and worked on editorial illustration for narrative journalism articles on social issues when i realized this is what i want to do. I want to do beautiful children's books and if i do editorial i want to do editorial illustrations only for issues i care for, social issues, education and so on. My main focus is children's books and this is where i want to get better. My goal is also to incorporate my architecture knowledge at some point in doing interesting books to interact with, like popup books and so on.

    I also absolutely love watercolor and textured stuff and while i do try to work in linework and so on i find it unsatisfying. I am not very good or interested in clean clean lines but love hatching and texture and values and so on. I also observed that lately a renewed interest in colored pencils surfaced and i'm experimenting with that and have used that on the book i just finished and i add them to my watercolor work. In digital stuff i'm more into painterly stuff. and i also observed that i gravitate towards a very limited palette made of just 4 or 5 colors that i use all the time and seen as a whole make my work seemingly and accidentally more connected as if having a "style"

    I am Romanian. Currently still in my hometown Bucharest and moving to London starting January. For me looking at art is so so important otherwise i just circle in my own pool of misery ahahah. In terms of art i try to experiment with oils etc as a hobby. And i would love to get into ceramics but i try to focus now on building a career in children's book illustration.

    Thank you for your kind words. I feel like i'm so behind but i try to focus on what ira glass is saying here

    https://vimeo.com/85040589

    My work can be seen here but will be more updated in time. I have a book being published at the moment so i will update when it's done. I'm behind with updating but i keep my instagram fairly active, especially posting process in story.
    http://www.behance.net/irinageorgescu
    http://www.instagram.com/anoctambule
    https://www.facebook.com/irinageorgescuillustration

    btw, Ira Glass says very good things in general in this entire interview that the Gap segment above has been extracted from. He is talking about making stories for tv and broadcasting and so on but it's so powerful about story in general.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5pFI9UuC_fc&list=PLE108783228F1E008&spfreload=5



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  • Have a similar issue... the sketching part, less polish. Where I think you could improve is stepping out of the comfort zone. Something you really struggle with. Tried that a while back with buildings and vehicles. Perspective heavy subjects. after a while i sucked a little bit less at those subjects plus it strenghtened the subjects i was more comfortable with as well. Trying to gain pleasure from the pain and frustration new subject matter can bring.

    Also noticed the use of photo refs, I do not know if you use it all the time... for many drawing without is a big step out of their comfort zone. Just a thought... im biased to that way of drawing... im unable to follow reference exactly, dont use it often. Mind wanders off, get bored easily. Something i should remedy...

    Veel succes 🙂