In search of progress: 4 Lesser known ways of improving your aesthetic sensibilities.
Tips to improve your art that goes beyond your daily drawing exercises
1. You have more than 5 senses
From a high level explanation, making art is the process of learning a subject matter and accessing your references or internal visual library to create new graphic existence on a blank canvas. It might be an original, a copy or something that’s inspired. In short, a knack for laborious observation of our preferred subject matter is the first step to creating great artwork.
However, we have a self imposed limitation around our observatory skills. At an early age, most of us are taught that we only have access to 5 senses- sight, smell, touch, taste and hearing. The greek philosopher Aristotle linked these to the visible sense organs, when in actual fact we have access to more. More accurately, we already are using these senses by reflex like chronoception, kinaesthesia, equilibrioception and so on. To consciously access these other senses, we need to acknowledge their existence and put them into words. Let’s explore 3 examples for art usage.
- Sense of space (silhouettes, spatial awareness, shapes)
- Sense of unit measurement (length, distance, perspective)
- Sense of volume (mass, anatomy, scale, proportions)
- Sense of movement (human, beast, mechanical)
- Sense of timing (effects, inanimate objects, particle simulation)
- Sense of weightage (walk cycles, character acting)
- Sense of body movement (Vestibular)
- Sense of body position (Proprioception)
There are a lot more not listed in each category. In some ways this type of learning is a form of self programming or as writer Alan Moore likes to call it, spell casting. When you acknowledge them and place yourself in that head space, you will pay more attention to these new found senses and learn at a faster rate. Be modular with your approach and be creative with it.
2. Apply the Golden Ratio
So you’ve worked on an idea for hours and feel like the balance in your work is still not as desired. To save it, you tried to enhance your work by tedious rendering but the added details just creates more noise. What other options can you explore? In comes the fabled golden ratio!
The golden ratio is touted as nature’s perfect guideline for proportion and detail distribution. The golden ratio has been used by artists for centuries to locate aesthetically pleasing areas to place our subjects and details within our designs. You can find golden ratio usage in plants, human anatomy, architecture and even vehicles. For a basic example of its application, let’s compare 2 wall layouts. The regular layout features a 50/50 ratio. The golden ratio layout features a 60/40 ratio. Both wall layouts would still function as intended, however the regular layout may not offer the aesthetic dynamism of the golden ratio. Some may even argue that the golden ratio wall has a more attention-grabbing factor.
Now this is not to say that we should forever stray from even proportions. Not every design composition can be derived using the golden ratio. In recent times, many designers have argued that the golden ratio is but a myth and it exists only if you want to see it. Personally, I see it as the ability to give ourselves more options to problem solving. If we are stuck in the midst of creating, you could give the golden ratio a try. It may allow us to reach our desired aesthetic goal.
3. Back to nature
If you’re an artist who’s great at illustrating but lacks some confidence in applying colors, you’re not alone. Color application is always a challenge for beginners as the appearance of color on the canvas could cause a sudden change to the illustration. This results in many artists feeling like they’re making a mistake, thus lacking the courage to experiment further. To tackle colors, I rely on the number one inspiration of great ideas and innovation, Mother Nature. She is the perfect engineer behind complementary colors and patterns. You can’t go wrong if you take inspiration from your surroundings. Designs from nature are virtually endless and sometimes unexpected. Just check out the Jacana Bird, Plant Hopper and the Red Eye Tree Frog. If you have a national history museum within your reach, I highly recommend visiting them. They are a treasure trove of ideas.
4. Mastery over subject matter
Saving the best for last, some successful artists have the illusionary status where they’ve achieved a level of art most artist feel they can’t attain. In reality, what makes them really stand out is the ability to express profound understanding in the subject matter of their choice. For example, Artist A and Artist B are both equally capable of executing art in general. Artist A excels extremely well in drawing super heroes for graphic novels and artist B excels extremely well in drawing sci-fi concepts. They can draw anything they want but they wouldn’t be able to top each other in the mastery of their subject matter. Because they’re so good in their field of expertise, it creates the illusion that they are in an unreachable tier. If they did a switch of each other’s subject matter, they probably wouldn’t do as great a job. The switch may revert them to being just “a good artist”.
In some ways, having mastery over a subject matter of art makes you look like a better artist overall and may place you on a more visible platform. Discovering your choice subject matter may not come easily for many. For some artists, it comes from loving whatever they practice at the moment and it builds up from there. For others, it has to be researched. Having a preferred subject matter doesn’t necessarily shoebox you as a one trick pony. There are many themes to explore within a single subject matter. Some may mix up subject matter and theme but there’s an overlap in them. The subject matter is the broader topic and the theme is a variation of the subject matter. For example, if there’s an art event and the subject matter is on Greek gods, then the floor is open to multiple themes around the Greek gods such as miracles, folly, revenge, tragedy etc.
Learning to make art is like partial training for the brain, it goes beyond daily sketching. It involves devote learning from observation, reading and a whole lot of problem solving. Sometimes depending on what you create, you become more than an artist. You take on the role of a carpenter, an actor or even an athlete. If you like this post, be sure to check out these other useful links to learn more about improving your aesthetic sensibilities.
If you’re interested in learning more about how we do art in Mighty Bear, here are more articles!
- Procedural Workflow in Video Games Art
- 3 Key Rules for Effective UI Design
- In search of cuteness: Defining a look for Butter Royale characters
I hope that you’ve found this article useful and hopefully it gave you some insights into my experiences. Thanks for reading!
In search of progress: 4 Lesser known ways of improving your aesthetic sensibilities. was originally published in Mighty Bear Games on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.