The Magical Artist

People tend to have serious expectations that art somehow magically appears... For those artists who like to keep that myth alive, forgive me for telling trade secrets....

When I started learning about art, there were a couple of hundred preparatory steps involved in crafting a composition, and a stack of design and study works that had to be carried out before you even got to working on the final canvas. Visual diaries had to be filled out, research and evidence of research had to be provided, source folders and scrapbooks created, journal entries and thoughts and ideas had to be recorded, and there was always this ever-present sense of calculated procedure - I was young, knew nothing about the artistic process. I wanted to pick up a brush or a pencil and have it 'just happen'.

Classical training in art teaches you more about how to think and observe and analyze like an artist than just learning how to draw or paint. The visual diaries and journals and the constant need to record and document was just as important as knowing colours, light, positive and negative space.... there was so much in-depth detail that went into 'crafting' a work of art than merely drawing a picture. You learn by studying the works of other artists, in all genres, in all mediums, in order to apply that which is relevant and inspiring and interesting to you. You studied their works by copying sections from them, learning how that effect was created, that system of light and shade worked - you learned by doing. From learning the skills of analysis and observation, the technical skills of the medium, you were then able to apply your own emotional context, story, narrative, statement, style, personality... the list goes on.

When you have spent years working in this fashion, you find the preparation invaluable - doing detailed studies of textures, or hand positions, or genre-specific stylisations - recording and archiving every little scrap and scribble for use at any point in the future.... and to record your travels and travails as an artist. Having a library of source material, quick ideas, references to your own development - it's like having not only a huge keepsake box about your life, but a treasure chest of inspirations and revelations for both the future and about the past.

As you grow and expand and extend, it's extremely important to be able to see where you've been, where you have progressed and changed and evolved - this drives you forward, motivates new directions and enthusiasm... As an artist, you want to avoid becoming stagnant and stale.

And with all those skills, techniques and artistic discoveries in your journals and diaries, you provide yourself with the ability to make it seem like the art 'just happens'. And you are the magical artist you always wanted to become.