Wolf's Hints for Beginning Artists
The Do's and Don'ts of Furry Art (But Mostly Don'ts)
First things first, I'm going to warn you: this isn't going to be a nicey-nicey stroll through the park essay on furry art. I don't do nicey-nice PC stuff, and everyone knows it.
So Lesson One is this: develop a thick skin. If you can't take the occasional verbal poke in the eye or kick in the balls, this game's not for you. As much as you see all the attention and popularity artists get, what you're missing is all the complaints, the nasty comments, and all the other crap that goes with putting your psyche on little bits of paper and letting the whole world see it. First and foremost you have to be drawing for you. Let's face it, you aren't going to be great when you start, and probably not even good. Nobody is, not even the people who seem like they've been good forever. So if you come out of the gates expecting the world to fall and kiss your feet, you are going to get kicked in the teeth. Expect it. Accept it. Choose carefully the people you trust and respect and listen to them: that's part of how you improve.
Lesson, the Second: There's no right way or wrong way to do art. There's your way, and their way. Obviously, their way is not your way, so copying their way is just right out. In other words, don't choose your favorite artist and slavishly copy their style and subject matter. All you'll end up with is a poor echo of that other person's art. They've been at it longer than you have so you'll never catch up, and all you'll do is end up frustrated, depressed, with people mocking you for being a "copycat". And whatever you do, do NOT trace another artist's work, not physically, not even by eye! All you're doing is cheating yourself and wasting time and effort you could spend on actually creating something yourself. What's worse is, unless you change it completely (in which case why didn't you just draw something yourself?), some bastard like me, who remembers every friggin' thing he's ever seen drawn, will come around and wave it about like a turd-on-a-stick for everyone to see what a fake and a cheater you are. It's just not worth it.
On the other hand, if you do it without intending to, it's not a killing offense. It happens even to the best (Billy Joel once scored a song, and only after he showed it to a friend was it pointed out that he'd un-intentionally written it to a Neil Sedaka tune). If someone points out that you copied someone else's work, slap yourself in the head, go "D'oh!" and try not to do it again.
Having said all that, let me now perversely reverse myself (try saying that ten times fast): One of the best ways to advance your technique is to steal it. Okay, not literally, or even figuratively, but study the artists whose work you like the best. In fact try and see as much art, by as many different artists as you can. Look closely and try to figure out what elements of their work you like, and then try to figure out how they did it. Heck, you can even ask them! They'll probably appreciate a serious real question about their art and techniques. Learning their technique will be slower and harder than copying it, but you'll develop your own twists to it, your own variations, and pretty soon it's your technique! Looking back on my own work, I know I adopted layout techniques from Juan "El Funimal" Alphonso. I borrowed inking techniques from Lance Rund and Eric Blumrich. I studied Terrie Smith's and Ken Sample's pencilling techniques for their incredible tightness, musculature, posing and weight. I swiped eyes from Tom Verre, and Chuck Davies for their expressiveness. The list goes on and on and gets added to every day. If it makes you feel better, think of it as "borrowing their technique", you'll put it back when you're done with it.
Lesson Number Four (Yes, I know I didn't label lesson number three, deal with it.); Practice. Sure, everyone says it, you're sick of hearing it. Tough. I'm really fond of the old saying "Every artist has 10 000 bad drawings in them; best to get them all out now." You don't want to know how many reams of paper I've wasted with half-finished doodles and sketches. Every false-start, ever screw up, every half-assed doodle you roll up into a ball and throw screaming across the room is one step closer to that masterpiece somewhere in your future. Just remeber to look at it before you tear it to shreds and stomp on it. Try and figure out what you did wrong, what you don't like, then try again. If you get to frustrated, go have a Coke, watch some TV, play some video-games, forget about drawing for a while, then come back to it. If you want to be really really stylish (and masochistic), save the better doodles in a folder; you might come back at some later time and realize you had some really good ideas, and finish them. At the very least you'll be able to look back and see how bad you were...and then feel good about how much you've improved!
Last Lesson for the day, and then Class is out; don't beat on yourself too badly. Comparing yourself to other artists who've been doing this for ages is a good way to make yourself feel like crap. Try to be as good as your idols, but realize that you're probably not going to catch them any time soon, they've got a hell of a head-start. Keep it in your head that you're as good as you're going to get today. You're hopefully better than you were yesterday, and with any luck, tomorrow, you'll be better than you are today. Class dismissed.