This is easily the most common mistake that I see as an Art Teacher, and
it’s often a real shame. Artworks with beautiful colours and strokes and
gorgeous details become overall flat and lifeless because they don’t have the
right range of dark and light or don’t have them in the correct places. Incorrect
tonal value has a bigger impact on realism or believability than any other
element of a drawing or painting.
Contrast – the difference between your lightest lights and darkest darks
– would be the second biggest mistakes that artists make. If used well, it can
draw attention to certain details or make some or all of your subject matter
really pop out of the page or canvas. However, most artists overuse the tones
in the middle.
3 3. Direction (‘Form’)
Understanding how a 3-dimensional form moves through space is key to
creating a convincing illusion of it. To make an artwork believable, an artist
has to think in terms of 3-dimensional space – to think about all parts of the
object not just those they can see. This prevents an artwork seeming flat. Don’t
worry folks – this can be taught! ;)
4. Using White and Black to Lighten and
There are so many reasons why you shouldn’t do this which I go into in
my courses but the best reason is this – what do you get if you mix black and
white? Grey. Say no to grey paintings and start creating beautiful colours.
5. Mis-Using Warm and Cool Colours
Warm and cool colours are a system that each interacts best with those
within the same system. You can mix across, but do it too much or in the wrong
way and you risk making your picture really muddy and losing any freshness.
6. Figure Perspective
It’s interesting how many artist know to apply perspective in their landscapes
but don’t on their figures. This is especially the case in portraits or figure
studies from a three quarter view, where you often see the furthest eye being
drawn too big or too high or low. Portraiture and life drawing are the most
challenging subjects in most art courses and it takes a while to understand the
fundamentals, including perspective on a figure, which is more complex than the
one-dimensional perspective most students are familiar with.
7. Figure Proportions
Figure proportions are tricky when a figure is just standing there, let
alone when they move around! As well, we get used to seeing variations in
proportions through video games, comics and animations. This can make it hard to
see the real thing correctly when we are creating life drawings and figure
studies. Many artists make legs and arms too long or heads too small or large relative
to the body.
Many artists make one of two main mistakes with textures – either they
get the detail right at the expense of the bigger picture, or the bigger
picture right at the expense of the details. The trick to this is efficiency and
technique – planning ahead so that you can create both at the same time. Most people
struggle specifically with the texture of eyes and hairs – keep an eye out as I’ll
give a tutorial on these soon.
9. Specific Body Parts
Most artists find that there is one (or more!) body part that
particularly confounds them, such as hands, feet, knees, ears or eyes. Or when
they get it right, they can’t sit it within the context of the rest of the
figure well. For example, you finally get beautiful eyes happening but they don’t
work within the rest of the head. Some of this will come down to a knowledge of
anatomy – there’s a reason classical artists are trained to learn the skeleton
and muscles! The other part can usually be resolved with detailed studies of
the problem areas and figure perspective.
The problem many artists have with shadows are not just about the
relative darkness (a tonal value problem), but also the colour, size, details
and edges. All of this requires a good understanding of the properties of
light, which many artists haven’t had the chance to learn. Some of these
problems also come down to understanding warm and cool colour systems,
especially with warm toned subject matter.
Pretty much all of these mistakes or problem areas come back to training,
and that is something we can help you with. Our Basic Drawing Course is coming
online on June 10, and Intermediate and Advanced courses after that. These will
teach you the practical skills and tricks you need to be a great artist and
they are completely online!
I've uploaded a fun and simple video on how to draw a cupcake (not to mention with very groovy music!). This should help beginner drawers, those of you with a sweet tooth, those who want a basis for chibi characters and any of you who want to create advertising materials (a small token of my appreciation to cake decorators and bakers ;) ). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XNEPo4EPNsA
If you would like to see more of these, please subscribe to the Blueberry Beetle channel and like our videos! T
To show people the stages I go through when I am creating a drawing, even if it's one from my imagination, I've started recording them. The first of these is now on YouTube at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qE8avKKRen0
I hope that these will help students understand the process as well as being fun to watch :)
Please let me know what you think, or if there are specific drawings that you would like to see in the future.