Armand Cabrera

Outcome is more important than Process
Many people delude themselves into believing that a painting is successful because they’ve worked so hard on it. We have all heard the sad tales of the weeks, even months, of work that have gone into the completion of a painting. Unfortunately, these artists have often ignored the outcome, focusing instead on the effort spent on the process.

In art, only the results count
Only a conscious effort towards a predetermined goal with a successful result can create anything worthwhile; anything else is merely an accident—not art.

Becoming a successful artist requires years of practice. The old adage applies to any career or profession—success is 90% perspiration and 10% inspiration. It is most disappointing that, particularly in the field of art, many artists believe they shouldn’t have to practice because art is “creative”. This unfortunate philosophy was launched by the modern art movement and continues today to the detriment of all artists.

To achieve successful results, practice with specific goals in mind

An artist must recognize where they are deficient. It’s not productive to say,
“I’m going to paint better”. That is a meaningless statement. Instead, ask yourself, “How can I improve my paintings?” Isolate your problems and then take a class or workshop from a professional who can successfully target your particular challenges. Insist that your instructor demonstrate how to help you to correct your inadequacies.

When you think you have acquired the new skills, continue to practice. Remember, it might take five or six hundred paintings before you have truly achieved your goal. This is the effort required to become a successful painter. If possible, show your work to your instructor and ask if you have met your objective. Don’t fool yourself into believing that you are successful just because you have worked so hard!
Focused perseverance will undoubtedly produce the desired results

The Drawing from Life Survival Guide

Armand Cabrera

I originally wrote this for the site, ConceptArt. The information applies to anyone though and I thought it worthwhile topic for the blog.

It seems like there are many artists who want to start drawing from life to help improve their skills. Having drawn from life for quite a few years now, I thought I would create this simple guide to help you survive the cruel world out there. These guidelines have helped me draw for many years hopefully they will help you too.
Before we start the list; here is a little tip you might not know about if you are starting out. Everyone is familiar with pens, pencils, erasers and sharpeners but keep a razor blade handy also. This little tool will allow you to go back and slice out any offending pages that the eraser just can’t get clean enough. Trust me there will come a time you will want it.

1 Be Discreet
Unless you are an A type extrovert that craves an audience look for places you can blend in and people might not notice you stealing their souls by making an image of them. I always try to find a place to draw from where people cannot sneak up on me from behind. When you first start out there is nothing worse than having a bunch of people commenting on your work and your ability while standing right behind you and acting like you can’t hear them.

2 Some places to draw
Public squares, parks, coffee shops, pubs, The bus station, the airport, the train station, just about any mass transit system. You can also stay home and draw using a wardrobe mirror or set up casts or a still life. Family and friends are usually good for poses especially on holidays or special occasions

3 Sketchbooks are not Aphrodisiacs
While there are men and women attracted to artistic types. Beware. We are artists for a reason and usually that reason is a lack of badassness in the Mixed Martial Arts sense of the word. Nothing will get you in more trouble than drawing the wrong person’s significant other as a naked forest elf. While artists are naturally attracted to beauty, drawing someone in public when their jealous spouse is near could get you a black eye. Be aware, and size up any potential threats before you start to draw that cute person you see across from you in a sexy come hither pose from your imagination.

4 Flattery is smarter than Caricature.
Resist the urge to make that person who looks like a character from the Narnia movies, a character from the Narnia movies. This could put you into the same situation as #3 you also don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings if they happen to see you’ve drawn them as Cthulu.

5 Draw in Groups.
If you can find a group of likeminded artists, it is allot more fun to draw in a crowd. This isolates you and people are more reluctant to disturb a group allowing you to focus and actually get some drawing done. Also in groups you can just draw the people you are with since you will all be holding the pose for roughly the same amount of time.

6 Don’t be a Statistic
If people aren’t your thing and you feel like drawing landscapes make sure you don’t sit on the side of the road. Doing so will possibly get you killed by someone who is driving and texting and didn’t notice you there. Seriously it could happen. If you must draw on the road at least put your car between you and any potential traffic and sit far enough ahead of it, that if an idiot does hit it they don’t push it on top of you.

7 Be Prepared
There is nothing worse than getting to your favorite drawing spot and realizing you left your sketchbook at home two hours away. Organize a setup that will allow you to carry everything you need in some sort of satchel or backpack all at once. Have extra pens pencils erasers and sketchpads. Before you leave check it to make sure you have everything you need. When you get home replenish your supplies so the next time you go out everything will be there for you to create your masterpiece.

8 Have Fun
Drawing is hard. Drawing in public from life is even harder. That being said, leave your bad attitude at home. If drawing is such a chore then find something else to do. People that are interested in art don’t need their head bitten off because you are having a bad day. Fall in love with the process and realize nobody draws as well as they want to. Set aside the time for drawing and make an effort to improve one thing about your work every time you practice.

9 Create a Legacy
Every time you start a sketchbook put the date in the front of it. This does two things it lets you look back a few years from now and see how you’ve improved and it will let you know if you’ve been slacking because there is nothing new in it for six months. It is good to have a record of your work.

10 Take the Money
Value what you do, if you draw outside long enough, eventually someone will ask you what you charge for your work. Have an answer! You never know if that person could potentially launch your career and how they dress is not a good indicator of how much they are worth. Decide before you go out what you would say to someone if they either ask to buy what you are doing or they want to commission you to do something for them. I don’t know is not an answer.

Drawing How to: Materials

Armand Cabrera

There are a lot of things you can draw with; Charcoal, pastels, pencils, pens, felt markers for the sake of brevity I am going to focus on pencils.

There are a few basic things you need to have.

A kneaded eraser is a great eraser; I like them better than the hard pink ones. The eraser keeps things crisp and your whites white. I let the blank paper be my white but it helps to have the eraser to pick out areas that might smudge when working. A separate piece of paper works as a hand rest to reduce smudging also.

Pencils come in different lead grades and these control how dark of a mark you can make. I like a very dark one and a medium one. With those two I can get any tone I want. I like a 5 B and a B but try a variety and see what works for you. I use Derwent Graphics, Berol and General Artists Series
A small utility knife for sharpening your pencils is a very important part of your tool set. When you sharpen them do it so you have about an inch or more of lead showing. That way you can get a fine line or a very broad stroke. In the beginning you will go through a lot of pencils when you sharpen them this way because you will break them often. Practice on some cheap pencils first.
I keep everything in an old pencil box. It is the kind that has three tiers of compartments and a sliding lid. It’s compact, light and efficient. I can keep all my drawing supplies in it when I’m traveling and it will fit easily in a pack.
I use sketchbooks with smooth paper in them and buy them in bulk online. I am constanly buying sketchbooks. Crescent black books are my favorite but again try some different things and see what works for you. I know some people take a hundred pages of their favorite paper into a FedEx Office Store and have them bound into spiral sketchbooks for a couple of dollars. It’s a great solution if you can’t get the exact kind of paper you want already in a sketchbook commercially.
Next week, I’ll go into process and some ways to approach a drawing.

Drawing How To: Process

Armand Cabrera

When I’m drawing it’s important to have the simple value plan. I like three or four values at the most depending on the image. I start with placement. After observing the scene and getting the sense of the light and shadow patterns I come up with an arrangement that I think will convey the sense of this place. I want to incorporate the cloud patterns across the landscape and use them to help my center of interest and create a feeling of depth.

When I draw initially I like to keep my lines flowing and not too broken and scribbly. This establishes a sense of rhythm for my shapes.

I fill in the values for the sky and big hill and lay down some strong darks around the house. All the time I am working I’m watching the cloud patterns and thinking about how I will integrate them into the final scene.

Next I work on the foreground and decide on the lights and darks placement there.

After laying in the tones I clean up with a kneaded eraser and add a few more details and I’m done. Total drawing time is about 40 minutes on an 8x 11 pad.
These exercises help in a number of ways. It helps you to reduce shapes to contour lines first. This requires organization on your part. You learn to simplify the scene to a black and white image and to design the elements not just copy. The more you work at it the more you can take it to a high degree of finish and control. Learning to control the pencil and the strokes will help your painting. You will break a lot of pencil lead but I think it is worth the extra trouble in the long run.

If you work in concept or production art this type of sketching will help you build a mental library of real life experience to help in construction and design of environment drawing. I always felt one of the advantages I had getting work in those industries was the amount of drawing and painting from life I did and how it affected my work in the studio..

Book Review: Adolph Menzel: Drawings and Paintings

Armand Cabrera
Adolph Menzel: Drawings and Paintings

Edited by James Gurney and Christian Schlierkamp

Dover Publications 8.5 x 11 Softcover

116 pages with 130 images including 32 in color 

This book of drawings and color sketches showcases Menzel’s talent to record the world around him. His realism is honest and straightforward and transcends the timeframe it is created in because of Menzel’s prodigious abilities with the media he uses, pencil, ink, etchings, lithographs, pastel, watercolor, and gouache. The book is put together by James Gurney and Christian Schlierkamp and you can tell from the quality it was a labor of love for both of them.

 His personal motto was “Nulla dies sine linea” (“not a day without a line”) and you can well believe he lived by those words. Over his lifetime Menzel Produced some 15,000 drawings which are now part of the Berlin Museum collection.

The book’s information is well researched and most of the images are printed full page.The reproductions are crisp and clean allowing the viewer to see Menzel’s virtuosity in detail. If you are a fan of sketching and drawing this book is a must have. 
The book is available from James Gurney’s website and Amazon.