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Top 10 Tips for Becoming a Better Artist

Instructor Rob Chang talks about his tips for growing as an artist.
July 6th, 2016 by Rob Chang
I’ve been helping aspiring artists in their journey of artistic development for a long time now.
Initially, it was only in the cgtalk forums where I answered questions, gave in-depth critiques, and
wrote posts on various art and creativity-related subjects. During my years working as an art
director in video games and animation, I also mentored other artists. These experiences eventually
culminated in a workshop that I’ve been teaching for CGWorkshops here at CGSociety since 2010,
titled Becoming a Better Artist.

Several years ago, I wrote a post in the Art Techniques & Theories subforum at cgtalk called “Top
10 Tips For Becoming a Better Artist.” That post circulated around the web in the art communities,
and soon ImagineFX magazine asked if they could publish it. Of course I said yes, since I was one
of the very first artists they did a feature interview with in the inaugural issue of ImagineFX. At the
time I was also putting together the content for the workshop (which took about a year and a half
altogether to brainstorm, write the lecture notes, record the videos, and design the assignments), and
those ten tips became the philosophical foundation of the workshop’s creative vision.

and repostings on the web. a lot of people have read those original ten tips in the Art Techniques & Theories subforum. It is my hope these tips will help aspiring artists who are feeling lost and frustrated and could really use some guidance from someone who understands the psychological/emotional struggles that they . but there are still a lot of people who don’t know about these tips and could benefit immensely from them. in ImagineFX magazine.Art by Rob Chang Over the years. So it is with that in mind these tips are now published in this article.

Now. Tunnel-vision is creatively crippling and it breeds imitation and homogenized artists who can't think outside the established box. This doesn’t just apply to beginners. superhero comics. etc. and if you want in-depth critiques on your work. We could all gain from strengthening our foundation knowledge and skills. 2) Break out of tunnel vision. you're not merely competent. an artist may be great at inanimate objects and landscapes. just post in the WIP subforums at cgtalk (I’m active in the 2D WIP subforum. you can send me a private message about it). but master them. but also advanced and professional artists as well. 3) Don't be a mindless artist. perspective. but if you have 3D works you want critiqued. cultures. photorealism.are going through and can lead them out of the dark and help them fulfill their aspirations. then you need to become more well- rounded. When you’re done. and time periods. If that description fits you. Ideally you should not only learn them. don’t hesitate to ask. styles. color theory. Think about why you are creating.). If you have any questions. make sure you visit the Art Techniques & Theories subforum at cgtalk for more helpful tips on effective artistic development. Cross pollinating and hybridizing various art styles and influences is the healthiest and most creatively interesting. on to those ten tips. or any kind of specific style and have not been exposed to or have explored fully other art movements. If you are obsessed with anime/manga. Is your only interest to make "cool shit" and "hot babes"? Do you even have something to say as a human being living in a complex . anatomy/figure. then read on. and I definitely have my own weaknesses I need to work on. Many experienced artists have glaring weaknesses—for example. but his anatomy and figure is lagging far behind. values/lighting. You cannot really call yourself a competent artist until you have done so. but confident and authoritative as well. and when you do. 1) Buckle down and really learn the foundations (composition.

than works that could be mistaken for photographs.. sketchy or clean lines—they’re simply options you choose from to match different subject matters. You have a soul--use it. A good artist should be able to utilize all kinds of surface treatment approaches effectively. Joaquin Sorolla. then maybe it's time to dig a little deeper. and life has been snuffed out. Nicolai Fechin. idealize. we have the power to stylize. not just locked into one and knowing nothing else. spontaneity. (If your job requires photo-realism. Experiment often with different mediums and styles the way chefs experiment with different . For example.. but what about your personal works?) 5) Surface polish is the last thing you should worry about. then a job is a job. I'd rather see works that have obvious artistic footprints left by the artist. Artists like John Singer Sargent. Richard Schmid. never involving the higher motivations like intellect or emotions. John Singer Sargent 4) Don't slavishly copy reality--we invented the camera for that. simplify. Much more important is the underlying structure and foundation knowledge. Loose or tight brushwork. use abstract and surreal approaches--it would be a shame to not utilize those powers. As artists. Gustav Klimt. selectively detail. the difference between crass and shallow sci- fi/fantasy/horror films and cinematic masterpieces is usually in how much heart and soul the creators poured into the writing. Surface polish is an ongoing experiment. and it's always changing and evolving. This isn’t just about being “deep”—it’s about quality.etc are far more interesting to me than artists whose works are so uptight and rendered to death that all the expressiveness.society? Is everything about your creative works completely disposable and meaningless? If you are only serving the basest level of gratification. exaggerate.

and if you cannot take criticism you will be miserable. Doing so. the effects of various facial expressions.). An artist living among other people will get comments. When you get both negative and positive comments. etc. or creative approaches that yield the most effective results (utilizing contrast in color. A bruised ego is an ego that's being conditioned to be stronger and more open-minded. Filling up a sketchbook or two means nothing in the grand scheme of things—it takes so much more. ingredients. Observe. you should be grateful and behave graciously. 8) Learn to take criticism. 6) Do not simply practice hard--you must also practice smart. Avoid wasting time on things that don’t serve an obvious purpose. lighting conditions. Artists don't just draw a few dozen heads and then get it right--they draw hundreds and thousands over the years. Rome was not built in a day. decades. If you cannot see . Merely filling up sketchbooks aimlessly with doodles is not smart. etc. colors. etc. and shapes. age. deconstruct. 7) Have realistic expectations. And that's just the human head. It takes years of working hard and working smart to get good. The journey to becoming a good artist is in reality more like a lifelong journey of creative fulfillment. varying edge qualities. Analyze failures. shadows. stress and compression points of fabric. the idiosyncrasies of ethnicities. you'll naturally gain insight into how each is best used and then be able to deploy whatever technique that suits the image you're working on. and they don't do it mindlessly--they are studying the underlying bone structure and muscle shapes. Treat criticism as valuable arsenal for your growth. Treat it like a science experiment with a structured plan that attacks the problem efficiently with purpose.). You must target your weaknesses and not dwell on things you can already do in your sleep. Be scientific about it. and recognize the structures and patterns--be it the scientific physical laws of our world (light.

these tips cover not only the practical concerns of becoming a better artist. You must also embrace the entire journey. then maybe you love the idea of being an artist but your personality isn’t suited for it. Being close-minded.. everything you do is wrong. frustration. politics. easily frustrated. . and disconnected is nowhere near as fulfilling as being open-minded.beyond your bruised ego. friends. wants only instant gratification and unwilling to pay your dues. then you won't become a good artist. and essentially. you may not get very helpful critique other than “keep learning your foundations. 10) Your personality may not be suited to become a good artist. don’t feel bad. ignorant. but also the emotional.. economics. approaches to developing a compelling creative vision. The more insight you have about the world we live in. and your ability to persevere through hardship. An intellectually and emotionally sterile or vacant person will have very little to offer as an artist. science. you will become crippled by it. As a beginner. add other important content such as the critical foundations of visual art. cannot sit still. any many of them have told me that the most precious lessons they learned from my workshop were things they were never taught in art schools or other online courses. the better artist you will be. and optimal strategies for artistic growth and career development. If you are impatient.” and this is because at your level. I mentioned previously that these ten tips were the basis in which my workshop grew out of. since family. and philosophical aspects. and discouragement that will determine your chances of success. The goal was to create a holistic art education experience that’s unlike any other out there. and connected. professional techniques and workflows. literature. lack motivation. cannot take criticism. lose focus quickly. knowledgeable. Keep learning the foundations and you’ll automatically improve. Becoming a Better Artist is a lot like taking all ten tips and breaking them down into lessons that could be taught in a logical manner. religion. Learn about the world we live in--history. and then on top of that. 9) Be a well-rounded person. You'd be surprised how the world is interconnected and so many things have direct or indirect relationships with each other beyond your initial understanding. Maintain healthy relationships. photography. If that describes you. You might discover something else out there that you’re passionate about and actually enjoy the process as well. and lovers often form the core of our emotional expression as human beings and as artists. Whether you’re “talented” is not the deciding factor--it's whether you can work hard/smart. If you’re always miserable instead of enjoying the process. film. As you can see.etc. music. psychological. self-loathing. I have taught close to a thousand students since 2010.

Art by Rob Chang .

I’ll still help you however I can. I still mentor them regularly in the private alumni forum created especially for my workshop. as I have done with my alumni students over the years. so even if you never take my workshop. no questions go unanswered. and it’s a wonderful tight-knit community where people love to help each other. so just ask whatever questions you have or post your work for in-depth critiques in the cgtalk subforums I mentioned. and keep that passion burning. whether you end up living a fulfilling life of creativity depends on the attitude you choose to do the traveling with. and no one is mistreated or ignored. . Remember. So travel with an open-mind. And if you decide to take my workshop. a kind and sincere heart. then I’m looking forward to seeing you in the classroom and developing a long-term relationship that will continue into the future.I have been helping fellow artists in my free-time long before I started teaching the workshop.