Hey guys! Still on the commission hustle— job offers keep coming in! haha.

Below is a list of 10 rudimentary skills, techniques, and tips that can drastically improve the quality of one’s art, and their overall understanding of visual perception.

If you feel that you learn better by watching these demonstrated, I have half of them recorded as video lessons for just $5.

You can literally apply these artistic principles and transform your work within minutes after watching the lessons.

Every artist can use these— so let’s get started, shall we?

1. Squint:

Squinting is one of the most important tools the artist has— and all one needs is their own two eyes! The objective of squinting is to strip away detail and see basic shapes, values, and edges. You’ll quickly be able to see what’s working in your image and what isn’t with a well-executed squint.

2. Breathe deeply For better Concentration:

This practice is hard to implement for chest-breathers, but once you’ve trained yourself to breathe properly from you’ll notice a huge difference. Using your lungs to the fullest means more oxygen and energy for your body and brain, and thus your overall perceptions improve.

3. Clarify Your Intent Before Starting:

Clarity can make all the difference between a masterfully executed sketch and a fearsomely flawed finished piece. Sketch and play until you have a solid idea, then start over with that idea in mind. Don’t just keep refining the first idea, it’s nowhere near as clear or strong as it could be.

4. Banish Negative Thinking:

How do you know when you’re thinking negatively? You’ll get a miserable ‘feeling’ in your chest, throat, back, or somewhere else in your body. Not only is this feeling distracting, but it also begins to dismantle your confidence and courage— thereby weakening your ability to create.

The key here is to pay attention to your thoughts, and quickly replace negative ones with their polar opposite (positive). Don’t fight them, that just empowers the form.

5. Decipher the Masters.

Don’t just sit there with your jaw on the floor and your awe-struck eyes bugging out of your skull. Let the amazing emotions pass, and then begin to pull the piece apart in your mind, like a puzzle. Imagine a vivid time-lapse video of it being painted, play this image over and over. Try writing down the most well-executed aspects of the image, break them down using the fundamentals. There are literally hundreds of ways to decipher a piece, I cover more in The Big 10 Artist Course

6. Master the Fundamentals.

This one should go without saying, but not all of us are aware of the principles that make an image ‘work.’ The fundamentals are baseline concepts that artists have discovered, refined, and implemented for centuries. When you study the fundamentals, you study mastery.

The fundamentals themselves call for a whole new blog post at the -very- least, so I’ll simply list 5 of them here:

composition, value, mass, form, and color.

Worry not, I’ll cover these more in depth in later tutorials/guides.

7. Understand That All is Simply Shape, Value, Edges, and Color.

Simplify to conquer. Make an image as easy for your brain to understand as possible. Stop seeing objects as their titles like “apple” or “dog” and begin to see them as abstract vessels of shapes, values, and colors. This is the eye of the painter. Learning to Squint properly is your best friend in this endeavor.

8. Balance Longer Works With Shorter Ones.

Whatever you may be spending on your art, I’m willing to bet you either crank out many short pieces or spend months working on one or two works.

The rule here is to shake that routine up. If you spend only and hour or so on your sketches, take one of those sketches and re-draw it, paint it, find reference! Turn it into a 20-hour project.

If you spend 15-25 hours on each and every piece, I urge you to try some gestures, which can vary from 30 seconds to 5 minutes.

9. Composition is King.

Composition is the sovereign fundamental we should all consider first. it deals with the placement and flow of all elements in the picture plane. Is can be as large as the whole image, or as finite as the way a strand of buttons leads up to an eye. It deals with communicating not only a visual statement, but composing a cohesive image.

10. Work Deliberately and by Design.

Too often, artists get caught up in the notion that as long as they’re making art, it’s for art’s sake— that’s not always the case.

The best artists on this earth know that mastery is not an accident, nor a capricious muse that decides to flutter in and sprinkle art magic juice into a piece or not. It’s a series of well-executed decisions backed by knowledge of what works, and quickly fixing what doesn’t.

Always have an aim, never rush, and think critically before each big choice.

Michaelangelo said it quite well:

“If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful at all.”

In closing:

These are all potent practices that can be applied straight away! I sincerely recommend studying each one in earnest, as your results will become more powerful that way.

If you’d like some updates on new posts, tutorials, videos, and the like, feel free to sign up below. Lots of free tutorials and my personal cache of .PSD files you can download after you sign up.

Happy Drawing and Painting!

-Taylor