How to create better art with less effort

Is it even possible to create great art with little effort? Yes, and no.

The most important part is probably wasting less time and materials. We need a plan to achieve that. A good plan for creation of a painting means sketching and drawing or creating a value sketch. In my personal experience, it is pencil, pen and watercolor sketch which is the best preparation stage for a painting.

When somebody wants to apply for classes I am usually told this:

Well, I’d really like to paint. Something like that. Points to some landscape or floral, or still life. Basically, everybody is interested in the result and not that much in the path which led me to it. I spend a lot of time practicing and exploring the subject from different perspectives.

If you are one of those artists-to-be who jumped straight to brushes and did not take your time to explore the elements of a piece of art, I can understand you. People usually think watercolor and sketching is for watercolor artists who mask out white spots or those who get ideal washes just by swinging around the brush with some paint on it. However, there is a missing link between the idea of our art and it’s draft.

The real life shows that any potential artist and anybody who does art as hobby would have gotten much better paintings very soon if they considered sketching as an important step to creation of a painting with any medium: watercolor, pastel, acrylic or oil. The truth is, they all originate in one place: in our brain through our eyes and senses. Therefore, we should exercise our visual abilities (I’m talking more about importance to see in my previous post) and especially our visual perception maximally often.

The problem with not well developing painting is not the technique of putting on paint. That usually works fairly well after a few attempts. The problem most often is in our eyes: we do not perceive values, shapes, proportions and potential composition; therefore, we cannot come up with a neat plan to make painting elements work.

Sketch is done much faster than a painting. Sketching out objects or just values, putting them in a draft composition momentarily allows making a decision if that will or won’t work. Sketch isn’t the entire painting, but by doing it one learns much more about their subject. We find out that we need to look at it more carefully, more intensely, more accurately.

Bluebell path, sketch

Path to unknown, sketch

I can compare creating art with writing. When people say I don’t want to sketch and I don’t want to know anything about drawing it is like somebody who intends to write a novel would say: I don’t want to know anything about spelling and grammar, I just want to write a novel, so give me the idea and off we go. The entertaining painting type of events also does a bad service: not only the entire idea does not allow anybody to really learn anything about creation of art, but the approach is just so wrong and materials the “drink creatively” events use are so bad that many people get a wrong idea.

White birches, recent class demo, 20 x 24 inches

When somebody is just moving paint around the canvas in hopes that it miraculously will take the right shape and become the right color, I must say, unfortunately:, it won’t. Painting is a summary of things we put in it. It also is the energy we put in it. Therefore, the sooner one learns about values, relationship between light and dark areas, values, softness or roughness of edges, proportion and compositional layout of objects, the faster their paintings will take shape and look multi-dimensional. Lesson 2 is: the missing link between our idea and its incorporation into artwork is the value sketch whether in color, or black and white. Creating value sketch and color sketch is not a waste of time and paint: it is the straight path which leads us to much better art. I’d suggest: take the sketching classes and workshops, it helps hugely. Apply for art classes here:

68 Replies to “How to create better art with less effort”

    1. And I am glad to hear that. I’ve been watching so many people over very many years, especially the moment when they try to start the painting. It quite often simply doesn’t work because most people think it’s technique of paint application, some tricks or color mixing, but, in fact, they don’t know what goes where or what should be placed in some particular spot. I am always suggesting learning about values and doing a preliminary sketch first, but it is most often assumed a waste of time by those who are beginners. Most people also assume that sketching is a standalone activity or necessary for watercolorists only. Which is wrong.

    1. Thanks Inese! In my opinion, this is definitely the missing link in creation of art, and I hope more potential artists and not only artists use this very important aspect and create sketches to see the draft of their idea.

      1. Absolutely. Even in photography, I often sketch before I shoot a project. I want to see what my final result is going to look like, especially if it is a diptych or triptych, or a series of images.

        1. It means you are serious about what you want to achieve. I can only congratulate you on that because I really regret seeing wasted efforts just because it is quite often assumed sketching out the idea is sort of step which can be omitted. That’s why your photos are so impressive: you work on the idea and draft a plan for its implementation.

        2. Thank you so much! I don’t know anyone who writes, or paints, or photographs for themselves. Each of us does our work for a reader or a viewer, and it means that the work has to be attractive in some way or another. It has to have an idea and a composition. Even if I leave background wild and blurred, I focus on a model very carefully. If there is no particular model, I make sure that the details are in my control as much as it is possible, and the composition looks pleasing. I need that sketch 🙂

        3. I don’t have enough serious works to fill up the blog at the rate of about 10-20 images per blog, but I do my best to make my pictures presentable and diverse both in subject and technique. It was my plan from the beginning to blog about different things and post very different images. I cannot post portraits of people, and I don’t want to, unless it is a part of an artwork, and the person doesn’t mind. I am trying to be very careful on the internet.

        4. Yes, we have to be very careful with posting pictures of other people. I have started even to avoid taking pictures with people, too. I never understood parents who are posting pictures of their kids. Honestly, that’s not needed. I don’t agree with those who say they want to show these pictures to family. There are so many much more private ways.
          You have plenty of great pictures, I’m always taken away by the diversity they represent. I cannot travel too much, once a year at the best, and the immobility kind of ties me to just my backyard and my place.

        5. I don’t travel much, Inese. Most of my pictures were taken in the past. You are tied to your backyard and I am tied to computer 🙂
          Sometimes I share pictures of children, but without any description, and mostly the old ones.

        6. That is amazing! Well, I was drawing and painting, but I never had a camera to take any pictures before 2004. I started doing this here in Canada. Isn’t it problematic for you also to find a storage for all pictures? I just keep deleting and deleting and re-sizing, still way too many.

        7. I have 1000Gb external drives – Passports. Haven’t lost anything so far, but sure there is a risk, like with any electronics. There is a paid cloud space in the internet, but I have never used it.

        8. I have a few external drives, too. I am thinking to get everything archived on some external drive. There are pictures which I definitely don’t want to loose. I don’t want clouds because I have hard times with signing in in any of these applications, I can get so messed up with Windows passwords, and Microsoft and Apple. I also have lots of places for which I do medical work, and there are passwords everywhere, that is horrible. I think having external drive is good, especially if it’s marked up with dates, etc. I have a few for certain years. Need more.

  1. I love how you painted those silver birches. I remember painting silver birches with my aunt. We would watercolor together when I was in law school. I miss that. I have one of her paintings. I found myself planning a painting recently. I compose one that same way I do poetry. I start with an idea. I consider what the focal point is. I think about how the background or foreground should interact with it. I think about whether I can convey it as an abstract and if so, what elements I might want to introduce. I have missed doing that. It’s very visual and stimulating. I plan to set up my easel this year. I bought it right before I got pregnant with my third, and the smell of the turpentine turned my stomach. I’ve never used it. A year after she was born, I had back surgery. That’s when I started blogging, when I was stuck, immobile. Otherwise, I think I would be a painter again by now.

    1. What a story, Brenda! The nice thing about painting is that it is never too late. It’s great you haven’t lost interest, and most likely returning to art will be easy for you. I cannot do oils unfortunately, I am so abnormally sensitive to anything. I got the watersoluble oils because I assumed I could tolerate those, but I couldn’t. Therefore, I can do watercolor, acrylic and pastels. Pastels are slightly irritating, too, for me because the sound when dry pastel touches surface makes me very uncomfortable. You certainly have a choice, too. Paints are very expensive recently, especially oils, so at some point, I’m ok with acrylics.

  2. Your sketches are wonderful examples Inese.. And I could not paint or use pastel unless I sketch first.. 🙂 🙂 lovely to catch up with your works again my friend.. Happy Painting xxx

  3. Couldn’t agree more with this statement:

    When somebody is just moving paint around the canvas in hopes that it miraculously will take the right shape and become the right color, I must say, unfortunately: it won’t.

    I’m embracing my sketchbook at the moment and abandoning pushing paint around.

    1. Believe or not, that’s what I can observe quite often. There is some kind of attraction in just moving the paint in all directions, maybe in hopes of blending it. It’s just so that acrylic doesn’t react too well to this. Good for you, because sketching is the step which brings us straight to great values and multi-dimensional images.

  4. `The problem with not well developing painting is not the technique of putting on paint. The problem most often is in our eyes: we do not perceive values, shapes, proportions and potential composition; therefore, we cannot come up with a neat plan to make painting elements work´…

    I think this is a great excerpt as it highlights the importance of our perceptions and even preconceived notion when it comes to artistic creation… Sketching really seems to be a basic point in order to create…
    I think your analogies between writing and painting are truly accurate as well…
    A very enjoyable and pleasant reading, dear Inese…
    Sending you all my best wishes!. Aquileana 😀

    1. Thank you so much! My biggest pleasure is when somebody pays attention to writing and reads also what’s between lines.
      I am seeing this at practically every class or painting event. I thought at the beginning, too, we can skip this step, but only these ones with well trained eye actually can do both at the same time: sketch in the main guiding lines and paint right away. Nowadays, time rushes everybody, and there are so few people who want to take their time and do things properly.
      Best wishes to you, too!

    Je viens tout en douceur
    Avec mon petit sourire
    Et ma bonne humeur
    Te souhaiter tout ce qu’il peux y avoir de meilleur dans ce monde
    Passe une belle journée
    Une très belle fin semaine surtout avec du soleil
    Je te fais un très grand signe d’amitié
    Pleins de bisous pour embellir cette amitié qui règne entre nous depuis xxx temps

  6. Bonjour BELLE INESE

    C’est bientôt le premier mai
    Et j’ai cherché , cherché
    Les brins de muguet

    Dans les bois d’ALSACE

    Sur les talus ,sous les branchages et je l’ai trouvé

    Je viens t’offrir en avance ce petit bouquet de muguet

    Je l’ai sentie il a une belle odeur parfumé

    Regarde ces belles petites clochettes blanches

    Chaque clochette sonne mon amitié

    Pour toi ce petit porte bonheur

    Passe une belle semaine et un bon 1 mai avec du bonheur

    BISE Bernard

  7. Bonjour INESE
    Dans un coin de mon cœur
    Ton amitié vit comme une fleur
    Avec un joli parfum de tendresse
    Ses pétales sont toutes colorées
    Les racines de cette fleur sont solides
    Voilà ,pourquoi , notre amitié dure depuis
    Des jours , des mois , des années
    C’est un lien très fort entre nous
    Je te souhaite une agréable journée
    Prends bien soin de toi
    Bernard , bise

    Un petit café ensemble ,tisane ou autre

  8. I don’t really understand the paint and sip businesses either. I’ve had several people try to get me to go with them, but I’m not interested in spending a lot of money to create a subpar painting with subpar materials. I can’t imagine anyone learns very much from these “classes.” One recently opened up in my town and the owners were on Facebook asking artists to submit simple paintings along with a list of colors used and instructions in exchange for free classes. Ugh. I couldn’t even dignify it with a response.
    I don’t personally sketch outside of underpaintings, but I’ve done a considerable amount of it in the past and see the value in it. I think becoming proficient in sketching sets up a good foundation for the artist to see shapes and values more easily. Sketching isn’t everything though. Taking the time to learn fundamental skills and concepts will help the budding artist recognize what makes a work of art successful or not and create their own successful art.

    1. We have a lot of drink and paint events in this area. Some people consider it a class. When somebody knows what they are doing, it is different. I have students who never painted before. If they can sketch out the potential image, everything goes smoother. Most people just move paint back and force otherwise, so everything eventually becomes one color. I love drawing and therefore I love sketching. I never had to learn to draw because I could always do that. I don’t need photos or similar stuff and I am very happy to use real or live reference. Unfortunately, students cannot follow, maybe 1 in every 100 could, but my observations show that it is much better to start with a decent sketch so they learn something about the subject. Classes are short, most people would come for 6 hours or so, we do not have time to really learn, that’s why we go with a step-by-step project. If the first painting doesn’t meet their expectations, many never come back.

  9. Bonjour INESE et bon week-end de Pentecôte

    En cette nouvelle soirée

    Comme un oiseau de tendresse

    Je viens te chanter mon bonjour

    Comme on chante les belles histoires

    Je te peints mes pensées à l’encre de mes mots

    Comme on peint les jolis tableaux

    Je te dessine le contour de mes plus beaux sentiments

    Comme on dessine l’innocence à travers les yeux d’un enfant

    Je t’ai écris ces quelques lignes nappées de bonheur

    Comme on écrit les plus beaux souvenirs

    Je te souhaite une bonne soirée . avec des petits bisous



  10. Bonsoir Gentille INESE
    Je viens chez toi comme par magie
    J’adore venir voir les nouveautés sur ton blog
    A mon tour
    Je vais essayer de faire rêver
    Dans ce rêve
    Tu y trouveras ma douceur
    Tu y trouveras du bonheur
    Tu te trouveras dans mon petit monde
    De la joie et du partage
    Même si ce n’est qu’un petit rêve
    Il y aura quelques instants sur ton visage un sourire
    Qui te permettra de réchauffer une partie de ton cœur
    Gros bisous , Bernard

    1. Thanks Christie! Did you get a chance to see the other blog, I’m trying really hard to get somebody to visit it, it’s very unfortunate that WP has these primary and secondary blogs of one account, but it’s impossible to have two separate blogs:
      Thanks so much for stopping by! I saw your poems on Aquileanas blog, and I liked them a lot!

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