Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks

This evening I was given a spontaneous art lesson by a good friend of mine. He is a very talented artist and I am touched that he set some time aside to show me the ropes.

Now, the extent of my artistic skills are as follows:

As you can see, I am a bit rubbish when it comes to drawing, both by hand and digitally.
My friend Mat however, is a true talent. Here are a few examples of his beautiful art:

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As you can see, Mat has real skills. What is more impressive is that he has painted these using a simple paint program and a mouse!

Today I contacted Mat and asked him to suggest a beginner’s level image to copy, so I could practice a little and see if I could improve my skill or lack there of.
To my surprise, he went ahead and suggested a program to download and informed me we would be spending the next three hours on a painting. Obviously I was not going to pass up this chance, so I put aside what I was doing and focused all of my attention on the project.

At this point I thought we would be painting something simple like a tree, (Which apparently is not as easy as I thought!) When I was sent the image below, I thought I might as well give up before I started.

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As you can see from my attempts above, I cannot even draw a simple head shape, so this project was intimidating from the start. I was getting ahead of myself though, as Mat’s first words of wisdom were to start from the background and work my way forwards.

I did not realise at the time, but he was making an instructional video on how to use the software and the basics of creating a background. During that time I was trying to paint what I saw and this was my first try.

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Obviously blending is another skill I was lacking!

After watching Mat’s video and familiarising myself with everything, I trashed my first attempt and tried again. I saw improvement right away, by following Mat’s advice.

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I worked on the background for a while and it eventually became something that resembled art. At this point I did not want to attempt to draw the face, as I did not want to ruin what I had already done.
As soon as I began, I thought there was no way I was ever going to paint anything that resembled the reference picture and with this next image being my first attempt, you can probably see why!

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I relayed my concerns to Mat and showed him my “progress”. He explained that I should work more on adding shading and highlights in the larger areas of the picture and not to worry about outlines. With the shading, the picture would take shape itself. And so I erased the terrifying first face and proceeded to try again.
My second try at least started to look like a head, which I was quite pleased about.

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When I finally took his advice and worked on the shading and highlighting over the line work, it really started to take shape. (Sorry for not listening in the first place, Mat!)

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At this point I thought it was starting to look more like Batman than the Terminator, but despite that, it was still the best work I have ever done!
With Mat’s encouragement, I carried on trying to copy the image in front of me and it slowly started to look better.

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There were many times when I completely wrecked my progress. I tried erasing my mistakes or painting over them, but nothing worked. I found out during my time on the project that it is better to work with what you have and so I persisted more than I have ever persisted before!
Three hours was none negotiable. Over that time, Mat checked my progress and offered me tips and advice and at the three hour mark he requested I sign the painting and call it finished.
Now, I would not goes as far as calling this a work of art, BUT it is a massive improvement from my current efforts.

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This was the end result. I know it lacks realism, but I have never been able to create depth before and that is the result I am most proud of. It turns out if you do not give up and just keep going, a picture will eventually form from your efforts. I have a long way to go, but now I feel like it is actually possible.

Here is Mat’s finished piece:

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It is stunning!

I want to thank you Mat, for giving me your time and patience today. It far exceeded my expectations and you have left me feeling ambitious.
I never knew I could produce something like this and you got it out of me with such ease. I am extremely grateful to have you as a friend. You have always been understanding and non-judgmental of my “quirky” ways.
Today you made me feel like I am capable of much more than I thought. I just need to give it time and believe I can do it. Those three hours were invaluable and I will take all of what you taught me and try my best to improve further.
If you want to see more of Mat’s artwork, you can do so here.

Today ended up being a great day. I hope you had yourself a great day too.

Until next time, try new things!

-Sara

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25 Comments

  1. Nice attempt, decent for a first lesson. 🙂
    I know a digital artist who is amazing and another who is awesome at freehand drawing. Apparently both are completely different and tough to master

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I have not done anything like that, but one time, I had to edit a photo by blending something of similar colours after removing the object. It took me a whole day before I got it. So yes, anyone can do once you have mastered the basics.

        Liked by 1 person

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