How to improve your illustration skills. - Advice from a pro artist.

1. PRACTICE: My best advice for developing your digital illustration skills, is to illustrate often. I make a conscious effort to illustrate almost every day. I'm madly infatuated with being creatively productive, and that is the fuel necessary to develop talent and creativity.

When I'm away from my studio, I bring my sketchbook along, and try to use my idle time to doodle. I draw on the bus, or at the pub. I admired that about Robert Crumb, so I took it upon myself to do the same.

Bob Ross compares the imagination to a muscle. You must exercise it regularly to build up strength, and keep it at peak performance.

2. EXPERIMENT: As mentioned in my previous article, digital art is such a new medium, and it's so versatile, that it's quite easy to develop your own style of painting, just from practice doodling with the software. I learned a few tricks here and there, but for the most part, I have just been developing techniques one at a time.

For instance, I'll try different ways of painting clouds, using different brushes. When I find a technique I like, I remember it for next time. One by one, I have developed a general process that works for me.

3. RESEARCH: It's helpful to study traditional painting techniques. It gives you a sense of direction on how to develop a painting workflow.

I suggest watching Bob Ross videos, he is a wonderful instructor. It's easy to adapt his oil painting techniques to create digital paintings. I spent over a year watching Bob Ross right before going to sleep, often falling asleep to his voice. I think subconsciously, some of his wisdom was absorbed.

4. OBSERVE: When painting still-life, I find observation is key. Enjoy nature, and study its every detail. -- The way the light and shadows work. This general understanding of lighting and form, is key to painting realistic imagery.

5. GET INSPIRED: You can learn quite a bit from imitation. I'm sure you can see Dali's influence in some of my work. My goal is not to copy an artist, but rather, see if I have the talent to analyze and match a particular genre or look. I'm also influenced by classical art and history, which give some of my work a neo-classical feel.

I hope my advice inspires you to get creative, and make tons of new art to upload to your DT portfolio!

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Aaron Rutten, Seattle Illustrator & Graphic Designer | |

Photo credits: Aaron Rutten.

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July 16, 2010


Thanks Aaron, another great blog! :)

July 16, 2010


Thanks, Aaron!

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