Respect Your Art

A couple of words of wisdom to all aspiring visual artists out there – things I learned the hard way:

1) USE TOP-NOTCH MATERIALS.  When I was starting out, including when I was studying Fine Arts in university (more on that later), I used the cheapest materials I could find.  In fact, in art classes I was actually told to use large sheets of newsprint for my assignments.

Now, this isn’t a bad idea in a way, especially if you are in the early stages and aren’t turning out a lot of work that you feel is good enough to keep.  If you’re going to wind up filing away (or throwing away) a lot of early attempts at drawing/painting/pastels/whatever, you don’t want to waste a lot of money on materials.

On the other hand, when you get to the point that you are starting to turn out works that are a respectable quality, you will truly regret not using good materials.  Because cheap materials turn yellow or degrade in other ways – along with your work. 

I’m speaking from experience here.  I have a number of drawings I did fairly early in my art career that were really good drawings – but done on cheap paper.  I still have the drawings, but they are no longer good enough to exhibit because the ground has yellowed badly. 

Yellowing paper (drawing: “New Sprouts”)

(Note:  for smaller works, there is a work-around:  if it’s small enough to scan into your computer, you can use photo editing software like Corel Paintbrush Pro to correct the discolouring and fading, at least for digital prints.)

Sample of image drawn too close to edge.
Drawing is too close to edge of paper (drawing “Neighbour’s Horse”).

So, once you’re really starting to bloom, invest in good materials – and that means archive-quality materials. 

While you’re at it, be sure you’ve made provision for archival-quality STORAGE of your materials and your finished works as well.

2) PLAN AHEAD.  I have always had a very bad habit of just starting in on a drawing – only to find that the finished work was too close to the edge of the paper to properly mat and frame – or even to finish.  (Another thing that you can work around if the item is small enough to scan into the computer). 

I’ve learned to start my drawings by penciling in a margin around the page – at least 1″ in from all edges.  That way, even if I get close to the margins, there’s still enough room for matting and framing.  Even if you’re just doing casual sketches in a sketchbook, you want to be prepared in case you turn out something really stunning!

I’ve also learned to do a quick, very rough, very light sketch of the entire image to begin with.  With close attention to relative distances and proportions, this gets you off to a MUCH better start.  (Note that both of these apply whether you’re working in pencil, pen, oil paint, acrylic paint, or pastel – start with a light rough first.)

In other words, have enough respect for yourself and your art that you EXPECT to turn out works that are good enough to display, to cherish, and even to sell!

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