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#ANTHROCONVENTION #IAMANTHRO ANTHROCOMMUNITY GALLERY MISSION
All of the images featured in this article come from archives of my own work so not to impose unwanted criticism. The intention of this article is not to categorize artists, but to categorize similarities of different skill levels of representational drawing. Please also note that skill level in representational drawing does not equate to the worth of an artist's creative ability. But skill in representational drawing is very important to have in a lot of art disciplines. It is a skill that takes a lifetime to learn. Skill does not come from talent. Instead, talent affects the perseverance, discipline, and desire of the individual to develop skill.
What is Representational Drawing? Representational drawing is a fancy way of saying trying to re-create something you see in real life on paper (or whatever you are drawing on). When we turn about 10 or 11 years old, or brains begin to develop a different perception of visual space than what we could understand before in the earlier years of elementary school. Some people can take this different perception and run with it, while others struggle and quit. No one has been able to pinpoint why this is but art teachers around the nation have several theories. The most supported theory is at that age, you begin to get highly critical of yourself. Just a few years ago, if a teacher gave you crayons, you were happy to color up any picture. It didn't matter if your mom's head was bigger than the house behind her or if your face had more lumps than a potato. But by as early as third grade, suddenly, you realize how unrealistic your drawings are and begin to equate unrealistic with bad artwork. Frustrations builds. Confidence plummets. If you can't draw that flower "perfectly" realistic, then why bother? These children that develop this notion become the people later in life that will say "I am not an artist. I can't draw." Notice how their work looks like it was frozen in time....still representing the world visually around them as they did before they came to the conclusion.
Children that bypass this hurdle of criticism either push it aside and draw whatever they want anyway, or are observant and are successful in picking up details that other kids miss. Some will argue it is an natural inclination and others will argue it is a fostered inclination. Either way, these children are today, people who like to draw. Let me also add that some people go through the criticism hurdle badly, but come back later to try again. These are people who start to develop their drawing skill later in life.
Before I move on, I want to again emphasize that how good you are at drawing DOES NOT make you a good or bad artist. If you have trouble wrapping your head around that, please have a look at this really inspiring artist who collaborated with a 4 year old to produce some really high-caliber artwork: busymockingbird.com/2013/08/27…
How do we calibrate drawing skill? Every person is different. Everyone learns at a different pace. Just like the music discipline, you don't have to be in band in high school to one day decide you want to learn how to play the oboe. Anyone at any age can start the process of developing representational drawing skill. The categories I am about to provide for you are based on information I have gathered from my profession as an art teacher. It does not measure artistic ability. Do NOT use this to calibrate yourself as an artist. This is only meant to assess specific samples of your work for the specific skill of representational drawing. It's not an overall assessment of the artist as a creative. For instance, I might produce a digital painting at a level 5, but I might also produce a sculpture at a level 1. This is handy to know especially when thinking about submitting your artwork to groups or juried art galleries. I am also doing this to provide a resource to because so many people that submit their work and have pieces rejected are still asking for the reason of the decline when what we look for is clearly outlined in the submission guidelines. This calibration is also specifically geared around illustration and figures within a drawing. You will notice me using the terms Low Caliber, Medium Caliber, and High Caliber. Consider High Caliber as the standard for professional art contracts. Game companies, publishers, and art agencies will generally not accept anything but High Caliber work. The Levels that have a next to them are levels of artwork that generally get accepted in the AnthroCommunity group.I will be starting the levels off with what a 10 year old is capable of doing. So here we go!
Level 1 ------------------- LOW CALIBER
Beginning to Explore: At this level, the artwork can range from the artist trying to capture basic shapes up to showing interest in articulating specific details.What is Likeable:
- You can figure out what the drawing is representing.
- Basic facial expressions and setting can be understood.
- Different characters are easy to distinguish from one another.
- Developing understanding of gestures.
What makes these examples LOW CALIBER:
- The first image was done on lined paper, presenting a lack of seriousness about the artwork.
- Furthermore, the artist did not crop out the scanning bed and the notebook spine, showing a lack of care/knowledge in digital image clean up.
- Coloring lines going in different directions demonstrates lack of skill in coloring techniques.
- Demonstrates poor knowledge of the art elements and principles (i.e. contrast, unity, composition)
- Lacks understanding of proportion (a lot of you refer to this as anatomy)
- General media technique feels "unfinished" and sloppy.
Level 2 ------------------- LOW CALIBER
Growing Pains: The artist begins to capture not only detail in shape, but details in gesture and in value. What is Likeable:
- Characters are clearly represented with specific details and expressions.
- Begins to show basic understanding of light and shadows.
- Demonstrates a growing understanding of media techniques. (Using pencil in one direction like supposed to this time!)
- Better understanding of negative shapes and positive space develops.
- Shows an interest in using/blending more than just basic colors.
What makes these examples LOW CALIBER:
- Although overall presentation is neater, messy lines compete for attention
- Media techniques are still very developing. Artist is still blissfully unaware of the "don't use dodge & burn for shading" rule in photoshop.
- Still lacking in elements such as contrast and unity.
- Still very figure focused and not a very interesting composition.
Level 3 ------------------- MEDIUM CALIBER
Focus Shift: The work becomes less about specific details only and more about the composition as a whole. What is Likeable:
- Character personalities are becoming very clear.
- Demonstrates a growing understanding of foreshortening and contrapposto in figures. (Actions start to speak louder!)
- More focus on an over-all presentation of the image. Careful thought about figure placement shows.
- The artist's understanding of proportions are becoming more realistic/ believable.
- Shadow and highlights are becoming more obvious.
What makes these examples MEDIUM CALIBER:
- Still shows a hesitancy towards contrast.
- may still include digital image clean up hiccups and low understanding of image resolution. Big Hiccups can make the artwork fall back to low caliber status and thus not accepted by the anthrocommunity group.
- No knowledge of color theory yet demonstrated. Shadows are still handled in grays and darker shades of the hue.
Level 4 ------------------- MEDIUM CALIBER
Application and Experimentation: Having built good amount of confidence in drawing the figure, the artist begins to play in the "fun stuff". This is an art level that a lot of artists get stuck at without formal training or community/networking resources. What is Likeable:
- Characters resonate emotion. Proportions are reasonably accurate.
- You start to really see the artist's "flavor" develop at this level.
- Understanding of color theory, composition, movement, and unity begin to be applied.
- Strong positive shapes and negative spaces are developing.
- Demonstrates a good understanding of medium techniques to create a unified artwork.
- Neatly presented, clear understanding of digital image clean up demonstrated.
What makes these examples MEDIUM CALIBER:
- Compositions may contain an unsure purpose or direction.
- Use of art elements and principles are not consistently successful.
Level 5 + ------------------- HIGH CALIBER
Demonstrating Professional Skills: The artist can tackle any shape or form and applies the art elements and principles successfully with every finished artwork they produce. Every mark is purposeful.
What makes these examples HIGH CALIBER:
- Compositions communicate the purpose of the image clearly.
- Utilizes different art elements and principles within an artwork to achieve a desired result consistently.
- Artwork is neatly presented, very clear, and eye-catching.
Does this Level mean there is no more to learn?
absolutely not. Artists that can create professional level work still have lots to learn!
It took me about 14 years to develop my representational drawing skill from a Level 1 to a Level 5. It's not easy. It takes desire and dedication.
What I hope you get most out of all this is that you can be a little more honest with yourself about your skill level when submitting to groups. If you know your work is a lot like a level 1 or 2, then submit to a group that accepts that level of work. You are bound to get more helpful feedback from artist who are growing at the same pace as you. Same goes for Level 3,4 & 5. If you are honest with yourself, you will most likely know why something was accepted or declined. I also hope you will understand where you are at in your skill developing journey and continue to pursue your drawing no matter what is said about your work or where it is accepted. We all start from humble beginnings. We are all learning and growing.
I don't use Photoshop, but pixlr (As of what i use at the moment) uses the tools the same exact way.
Now i know how i'll improve.
I like this rating system, not because it degrades and labels people of lower skill levels (because I don't think it does, every last one of us has to claw our way through all of these levels from the bottom up) but because it gives people of a particular level a "Next step" to try for. You can't hit a bulls-eye if you aren't even aiming for it, and even if you are aiming for it, you're going to have to keep at it. That's just the way of it.
I also agree on the 'formal study' bottleneck. If you're serious about your art, like really serious about it, then engaging in formal study of some kind, be it college, university, or an apprenticeship, will be an absolute no-brainer for you, and you will do it with zeal. Let me emphasize - this means going out of your way and devoting significant time, on the order of years, and significant resources to the betterment of your craft, this means engaging in study and practice, and this means hard work. If you aren't that serious about it, well, you ought at least not complain about being left behind the people who are.
i'm better at traditional art (and my style is consistent! woo) but i don't have a scanner so poo :c
Anyway, this is a really cool journal. Fun read ^_^
I'm a Level 3. I need to develop a proper style to upgrade ç .ç
Hmm, I'd say I'm a Level 2 to maybe getting close to a Level 3 for my digital art, I guess. For my traditional, that would be a Level 1, lol. Although I try not to draw on lined paper when doing traditional (traditional art in my case is rare xD) except if it's just a silly doodle or sketch. I do want to try more different mediums, I just tend to have trouble getting out of my artistic comfort zone with certain things. So it takes me longer to improve greater. But I tend to do small improvements faster, so it's a start. xD
This piece is no where near the measure of skill, presentation, and technique demonstrated
in this piece
The first artwork shows the artist has a good understanding of line and movement. The shapes and lines are a very attractive part of the piece. However; it struggles with a lot of elements and principles of art: contrast, unity, value, and form. The lines are not neat- this artist could pay closer attention to presentation. There is no environment which puts focus on the character and amplifies all of it's flaws.
The second artwork's strongest points are it's attention to unity and form. This artist showcases a strength in knowledge of anatomy and value scale. A subtle but descriptive environment makes the piece come together as one.
There are plenty of groups that are less concerned about quality. It's difficult to build confidence when you get declined a lot. Keep up the good work though! Always have a close circle of artist friends to critique and bounce ideas off of. You will learn the most when working and learning with other people who have similar goals as you do.
Grandma Moses had charm to her work- but notice how it was developed as fine art and not commercial art- even though her paintings were very literal. She would not be able to get a job at a video game company for background design, nor win a Caldecott medal for Illustrator of the year. But she did what she loved- again- made art for the meaning to her. With fine art, you can get away with that- especially if your artist statement is a compelling one like Marina Abramovic's "The Artist is Present". But its rare to get around it when it comes to illustration.
It would be really nice to see more groups pop up with a meaning-making centered/ fine art philosophy. Most anthro/fantasy works submitted to the group that I manage are illustrations/ concepts and are not fine art. (Fine art addresses societal issues or personal thoughts/feelings/experiences in a metaphorical way. Illustration describes anything in a literal way).
Illustration has always been scrutinized for formalist issues 1.] because it is used for clear communication of a literal thought 2.] it is very competitive. Publishers of children's books have to critique submissions for skill level or else the market would flood. We jury incoming artworks to the group for a similar reason. Yes, we would decline Grandma Moses. Does our decline mean an artist of her caliber is a bad one? Not at all. It's just not what we are looking for. I visit New York City art galleries with my students every year and the galleries can be very different in tastes and criteria for getting into them. Very little illustration work in them, but still a lot of formalist issues being addressed even if it's one of those paintings that make us all scratch our heads.
I just get a little frustrated with the number of groups here on DA starting to basically deny everything if it's not up to Boris Vallejo magnitude standards. It's getting rather elitist and kind of snobby at times. For instance, I had an admin on one group try to tell me where I NEEDED to put the focus of my image and that I NEEDED to "correct" lighting when I has used the specific lighting in the photo I used on purpose because that was what I wanted and that I NEEDED to not make the image so "soft" (again done on purpose). It was very rude and condescending and pretty much made the decision for me to drop that group. The only thing I NEED to do with my art is make it. It's not up to other people to tell me how I go about expressing myself. I'm to a point of starting to note where even my best work gets declined and just dropping those groups because they're becoming a waste of my energy and I can get more exposure for my work elsewhere.
It's funny, because sometimes the stuff those groups are rejecting end up being top selling items for me. And, often, work I deem sub-par myself because I did it on a lark and didn't spend a whole lot of time on it shocks me by outselling the stuff I spend months on. Art is fickle. LOL
I never give a one-on-one crtique unless the artist asks for that kind of feedback. If not, I focus on what was successful and what I like about the piece (yes, personal feelings and not formalst issues). A lot of people want feedback on formalist issues and that's why I put together this thing above. This is not a thing you should use if your purpose in art making is self expression. This is for someone evaluating formalist issues in their art.
Here are a few groups I know of that you should definitely submit to:
Mostly focused on dA chat but work stopping in to the channel and promoting your work!
--I'm not sure on this one but they have been very relaxed and welcoming to all skill levels in the past.
I think most of my art are ranked to 3, but when i try something new, it will be 2. And i started from 1 long time ago, even i got sometimes feeling i have not learned to draw. ^^'
I just avoid to praise myself, often i blame myself. It's a bad habbit!
I do like this overview though. Great read and well put together.
Thanks, Momma. :I