An Epic Story of Art Progression
You arrive in Artlandia with nothing, no abilities just passion. You pitch a tent to live in Line City, on Messy Lines Lane. Around this civilised area of the map is this sprawling jungle. It’s so wild it’s uncharted, the map is just grey.
But within that jungle, there’s little pockets that have been tamed, little villages created. In each, a brave adventurer has gone out into the forest and hacked away with their machetes, fought against the snakes and made it their own.
Those adventurers are artists, and with their paintings and drawings they let you visit their part of the wild jungle. You love to visit them, but you want to go out into the unknown wilderness too, and establish your village.
So to do that you need skills and equipment. Your favourite artists all studied the gesture arts at the Gesture Temple.
So you make a pilgrimage there. Your thrown into the training but get your arse kicked. The monks tell you to head to boring old Proportionton.
You go and work there for a while, and you save up enough to buy a tool you need. It helps you start to get the head roughly proportionate to the torso.
You’ve taken your first steps, but you aren’t really sure what you’re looking at in the figure. So you go to Anatomopolis.
It’s a huge intimidating place, with crazy people speaking a language you don’t understand. But you’ve got a handy guidebook called Love Life Drawing, so you know you just need the basics. You put your head down and just go to see the main landmarks on Ribcage Tower and Pelvis Square, maybe a few other bony landmarks, take a photo, and you know you’ll check out the rest of the city another time.
So now you can start to map out the figure’s important landmarks a little bit, but the drawings feel flat. You head over to ValueMountains, to the Shady peaks, to get amazing shading skills like you’re favourite artists.
But you’re not quite ready for it yet!
You are helicopter evacuated out to a hospital in Form city. It’s just where you need to be. You go to Perspectavenue. The buildings help you understand the building blocks of form.
You’re ready to head back to value mountain, but this time to the Simplification Monastery. They show you the dark arts of shadow shapes. As you meditate, you start to see what matters and how simple it all can be.
I decided to make my fox character look like Link from Zelda, and realised that’s just Robin Hood from the Disney film, which I watched on a weekly basis when I was 8 or something.
Your simplified shadows shapes are really helping you out, bringing form to the drawings, but they’re a bit vague. It’s time to revisit Anatomopolis, to Muscle beach. You think you’ll really take in everything this time nut it’s too much. You wisely choose to just learn the basics of the major muscle groups.
You’re giving some form and sense of light and dark to your drawings. But they are stiff. Finally you truly understand the need for gesture arts. You attempt again to enter gesture temple, you do learn a lot, but you’re beaten by every foe.
Again they say Proportionton! You head back and work, and you pick up a new tool
You can’t face another night in your tent on Messy Lines Lane, you know it’s time to move. You go to the discomfort zone and fight the big ogre, and steal the overhand grip from his lair.
You trade that for a nice house on Line Quality Street.
Things are looking up. You revisit Form city, Perspect avenue, the Simplification monastery. You are fighting monsters constantly, building experience with your weapons. You even venture out to Edge Town, to bring life to the edges of your shadow shapes. You climb the shady peaks for fun now. You even do hiking trips to colour valley.
Eventually, you try Gesture Temple again. You fight opponent after opponent, and you lose to every single one. Bruised and battered, you pick yourself up for one last battle. If you’re going down, you’ll go down fighting. And you win one. You lose the next 10, but you got one, no one can take that away from you. And then you start to win one in 20, and then one in ten.
The monk smiles and opens the huge gate at the back of the temple. You pick up your weapons and look out at the jungle beyond, and you realise, the adventure hasn’t even started yet.
So that’s one way your art story could go. I think it’s common to see a great artist and think, I want to be able to do that, and want to go straight to what they’re doing. They use confident, gestural marks so that’s what I should be doing. They use that material, so I need to use that material. And often, those artists feel similarly. When teaching, they explain how they draw now, at their current expert level.
The idea is that you can fast forward through all their mistakes and get straight to the advanced level by doing what they do now, travelling as the crow flies.
But I don’t think they wasted time on all those mistakes. I think all that time doing stiff drawings was essential learning. Building their eyes to see important information, to see the important landmarks, to measure distances, to intuitively see what aligns with what. We’re not crows, you can’t go straight there. It’s a big journey, you need to go down lots of different roads, stays in various towns along the way.
Staying on Messy Lines Lane for a while isn’t a mistake, it’s part of your route and unless you can download skills like Neo in the Matrix, you can’t just teleport to where the experts are.
But then I realised that learning to draw is not like this either, because it’s not a linear adventure. You go to each place to pick up some basics first and build your experience points and some equipment. You then revisit them to progress the story, learn from that character or find that item you need. You’re constantly fighting monsters as you go and gaining new capabilities. It’s an adventure game!
The practical message I wanted to give you is to make a schedule of topics month by month that you’ll work on – gesture in February, line quality in March or whatever you decide. This way when you start stressing because you don’t know enough about perspective, you can remind yourself, it’s ok, I’m working on that in November. Keep in mind too that you won’t cover the whole topic but just a little bit of it. You’ll need to revisit all topics again and again. Guys let’s work on these skills together for figure drawing month, Figuary. Everyday, we’ll practise and work on specific skills. Be sure to subscribe to our channel and our newsletter to stay up to date.