Research for Writers – Being an Artist

Wow, it’s been a long time since I’ve posted.  Sorry guys.  However, maybe this will make up for it: a blog series for writers with general information on what it’s like to be an artist (or singer or jewelry maker or sculptor or crochet master).  Hobbies or passions that maybe you the author never personally experienced–which is unfortunate because you’re writing a character who has.  Hopefully, this series will provide some information, and give you ideas for what to research further.  🙂

All the information will be pulled mostly from my own experiences.  And other writers, feel free to grab this concept and post about what it’s like to have the other hobbies/passions that you do!

General Facts of the Life of an Artist:

  • The road to becoming an artist is…actually, multiple roads, with multiple twists and turns.  Every journey is different.  Many artists have been drawing since they could hold a crayon.  Others haven’t.  (I fall into the latter category; I didn’t develop a drawing passion until after high school.)  Many artists have taken art lessons.  Others haven’t.  Others have taken lessons on and off through the years.  Others took art classes as a kid, somehow forgot everything, and so had to take more classes once they rediscovered their interest.  Still other artists are self-taught (and the tutorials on DeviantArt are often a lifesaver!)  And some artists may have grown up with a general idea of how to draw due to watching a family member, who is also an artist.
  • Despite our passion for creating art, there are some days when artists…just don’t want to art.  Whether we’re burned out, or have so many illustration deadlines that our minds just shut down; or would rather be playing outside; or just have a bad habit of procrastinating, sometimes the thing we love most becomes the one thing we hate.
  • The twin brother of Writer’s Block is Artist’s Block.  And they’re the same in principle, though Artist’s Block can take the form of (a) not knowing what to draw (nothing looks interesting enough, or everything looks so interesting that we can’t choose), or (b) not having the skill to depict what we see/imagine.

Common Art Tools

  • We artists have a lot of pencils.  I mean, a lot.  Favorite pencils; pencils rarely used, but that came in the kit; stuff we received as gifts; extra favorite pencils; mechanical pencils; pencils of a different brand; pencils of a different brand that turned out to be totally useless, and so on.  I currently have 34 pencils in my case; 28 graphite pencils, three white colored pencils, and three charcoal pencils.  And that’s before I open my case of colored pencils…
  • We will also have erasers of varying kinds…and yes, there are different kinds of art erasers for different needs.  (More on that later.)
  • And pencil sharpeners, of course.
  •  The artist might also have a big ol’ bag to carry around all those pencils, erasers, sharpeners, and 346 sketchbooks.
  •  Oh, yes, the sketchbooks.  We can’t get enough of them.  Whether we’re trying out new kinds of paper, need a travel journal (and forgot we already have one, oops), need a bigger size, thought that one on the shelf just looked cool, or grabbed one because it was on sale, we artists have multiple sketchbooks.  I myself have 11 (at last count): some with plain white paper, some toned, some specific to colored pencil, and all of varying sizes.  🙂

Common Habits/Quirks

  • Artists may stare at a stranger for a long time–trying to memorize that unique facial structure.
  • We might also take note of someone’s expressions to tuck away as mental reference for drawing.
  • We see potential in things–sometimes random ones–that non-artists might miss.  Lines, color, perspective, contrast…like ivy on a brick wall, the pattern on Grandma’s china, or the tint of sunlight at a particular hour, will often catch our attention.
  • We may pull the expression of the character we are drawing.  This gets awkward when other people are in the general vicinity.
  • We also frequently have graphite, paint, or chemicals smeared on fingers, hands, and possibly face (if the face is touched in a moment of absent-mindedness).
  • It’s not that simple to stop buying new sketchbooks or supplies.  We don’t want to run out, and we can easily see how to use that cool new paintbrush, or whatever art supplies we have our eyes on…or at least we intend to use them, someday.
  • We get absorbed for hours in sketching/drawing.
  • Alternately, we get distracted and restless after five minutes and end up browsing Pinterest for inspiration.

Common Pet Peeves

  • “You’re talented; I can’t even draw stick figures!”  Yes, this is hyperbole.  But yes, you can probably draw stick figures.  Also, this is a common comparison that people use to explain how badly they draw.  The least you can do is get creative with the wording.  🙂
  • Oh, great, the price of art supplies went up.
  • And finding places to store our stashes of supplies is another problem…
  • Not to mention carving out space for a studio.
  • We artists have motivation to draw, or time to draw, or inspiration for a subject.  Not all three.  Certainly not all three at the same time.
  • Some drawings/paintings will be left unfinished.  But don’t worry, we’ll totally finish them…eventually…probably.
  • There’s always that one element/subject/detail that each artist absolutely cannot draw.  Despite trying.  And looking up reference photos and tutorials.  And practicing for hours.  Hands are a very, very, common trouble spot, but so are poses (any or all), certain facial expressions or angles, anatomical proportions, eyes, hair, feet, teeth, and foreshortening in general.
  • We artists will never capture perfectly on paper the scenes we imagine in our heads.  And most of us know this.  However, we still lie to ourselves that someday, we’ll be able to.
  • Old art is so embarrassing.   How was I ever proud of this portrait with the slightly smushed features and disproportionate shoulders and goofy grin?!?!?  And to make it worse, I posted the thing online…
  • Mature artists know that comparing ourselves to other artists is unhealthy…but inevitable.  And we’ll always feel inadequate.
  • We love and hate other artists for the exact same reason: their art is so good!

So there you have it!  I’ll post later the details of drawing with pencils and painting in watercolor.  And feel free to drop me a line in the comments if you have any questions about the life of an artist!

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