Week 18: Efficient Art Learning


Edit 22/05/16: I have just reread this. Later, I will get back to this post and fix it up. Both content and writing are incredibly bad. Read at own risk.


The fastest way to learn art*:

I will build upon this post/idea later when I have 'gotten good'. However, for now it wouldn't hurt to write what I currently think my biggest 'breakthroughs' in art* are.

I feel as though this list could be applicable to many as I started from 0 knowledge in art.

I did not draw lots as a kid. In fact- I did not draw at all! "What a waste of time" I thought. Instead, I just played video games and rode BMX. 

Therefore I started from 0. Perhaps milestones in my path would be a good reference for others. Maybe someone will learn something from my journey.

When I started art I tried to find the most efficient way to learn.

Yes, we're all different and we all learn differently.

But this is data and information for yourself to analyse. It's always your choice to determine what you think is important. Never 'do' or 'copy' a process blindly. Understanding is 99999x faster for building long term skills. Always understand when you learn.

*Definition: In the context of this article 'art' means concept art. Or specifically "how to draw and paint cool things out of imagination so it's understandable".

Level 0: Perspective

Line Drawing in perspective by disney for 101 dalmations

History: It took awhile for us as a race to understand perspective. The most accepted idea of when we learnt perspective was in 1413. Filippo Brunelleschi traced outlines of Florentine buildings on a mirror. He noticed convergence. After other artists saw this, "nearly every artist in Florence and in Italy used geometrical perspective in their paintings". (Source: Watch more on this subject). Perspective became exponentially more used. Before that images didn't really understand perspective. That's why old paintings sometimes look 'weird' to the 'average person'.

Perspective is important because it helps you understand the world in 3D on a 2D surface. For learning to represent objects, you need to understand the rules of perspective. I personally think it's the most important thing to learn, as without perspective you can never truly and accurately represent objects in 3d space. Without learning the understanding you could always guess how things work. However, why guess? Perspective doesn't take that long to learn lol. You'll better understand how the world works with spacing and form. It truly is an invaluable skill.

You can learn perspective in many ways. Here are two resources that I like/used:

In addition, Scott Robertson has also done a Gnomon video and a book "How to Draw". I have only heard good things about both resources.

I personally read the Perspective Drawing Handbook first. I skimmed through and tried understanding the subject. It made sense to me at a superficial level. However, it took some time for the idea of perspective to harden in my mind. What really helped me was the CGMA course. After being 'forced' to do the exercises over two months, the ideals became more solid.

However, even after the CGMA course I still didn't have as well of a grasp on perspective as I do now. The reason for this is because it's simply a matter of 'practice'. I didn't 'practice' perspective by itself per se, but I did use perspective afterwards whenever I were to draw an object. The constant 'passive' use of it in all my drawings helped me further understand.

You should learn all about 1 points, 2 points, 3 points, Fisheye, Horizon Lines, Plotting Shadows for any Shape, Drawing Any Shape in 3D in perspective, and How to section/cut any shape. When you're done with that... Yay. Level up!

Level 1: Viscom. Dynamic Sketching.

drawings showing the 3 step viscom approach

For people who previously never knew how to draw, I've heard many say "This course changed my life".

So this guy called Norm Schureman used to teach a class called Dynamic Sketching/Viscom at Art Center. Art Center is like the Harvard of art in the concept art world.

In this course you'll go around drawing many objects from life. It's an extremely foundational course. By the end of the program you'll be confident in drawing any object from life. (Perhaps except people :P People are a whole new category of drawing).

The class is taught in real life at:

  • Concept Design Academy (CDA), [CA,USA]
  • Art Center (Obviously) [CA, USA]
  • Online at CGMA.
  • It is possible to self learn for free. I've heard there are videos online.

After this course I became confident drawing. I knew I could get a small resemblance to any object I wanted to draw. Organic object or hard surface. It didn't matter. The course is about the simplification of all objects. When you've learnt some principles about simplification, it then translates to every object you can think of.

Level 2: Shading. Rendering. Black and White. Scott Robertson.

Now is probably a good time to get into value.


Lets hit the gnomon dvds with Scott Robertson's Matte Painting series. A series of 3 videos that goes from shading planar shapes, to curved, and finally complex shapes.

The main principle to take away is Form change = Value change. And Value change = Form change.

I know a guy who spent half a year practicing and learning from these videos/concepts. Afterwards he could realistically render in black and white, any object in existence and from imagination. Because he had done dynamic sketching and understood perspective, he could also draw and object too. It created a feisty skill set!

(?)Level 3: Shape/Graphic Read/Composition

 Robh Roppel. Graphic LA.

Robh Roppel. Graphic LA.

This is probably where I'm at with the learning process. I don't want to comment on it prematurely. I'll further write up more when "I've gotten good". But to progress so far I understand it to be along the lines of "Drawing from Life", "Creating focal points in compositions", "Simplification of Shape", and "Graphic Read".

(???)Level 4: Colour and Light

Nathan Fowkes

I'm not really up to this level yet so I can't comment. However here is a list of resources I have found so far to be amazing:

  • Schoolism: Fundamentals of Lighting with Sam Nielson
  • Schoolism: Designing with Color and Light with Nathan Fowkes
  • Schoolism: Painting with Light and Color with Dice Tsutsumi and Robert Kondo
  • Book: Color and Light. A Guide for the Realist Painter by James Gurney
  • Book: How to Render by Scott Robertson

Theoretically after these 4 levels you can understand 3d objects on a 2d plane (level 0), draw any object (level 1), render in black and white (level 2), create a pleasing image (level 3), finish with emotional appeal using colour and light (level 4). Now you can take over the world.

Other levels:

Sketching for environment.
Looking at course curriculums.
Figure Drawing
Character Design
Form language/design
B&W Value studies
Colour Relativity
Colour Relationships
Breaking down each category.

That's all I got for now!

Till next time!

P.S. Somewhere along the journey (perhaps around level 3) you'll probably decide to 'specialise' or choose what you like to draw/paint. The main categories I've encountered are environments, props, and characters.