Why Just Copying What You See
Makes Creating Art So Hard

Gary head shot

We have become almost ingrained from birth to believe that "more" is better.

It’s one of the big reasons why complexity - being very detailed - in your work comes so naturally. But makes creating art so hard.

Hard because the more “stuff” you try to cram into your drawing or painting...

...the harder it can be to make all those details be interesting art.

It’s like visiting your great aunt who has walls covered with tchotchkes and floors covered with cats.

Sensory overload to the max.

Why Copying What You See Seems So Natural...

It’s no wonder we gravitate toward detail and complexity at first.

We encounter complexity and details everywhere in our lives. You only need look out your window to prove this.

But that’s only part of the problem...

Want to buy a car?

Expect to be handed a two-inch thick manual explaining all the features crammed into its computer-controlled circuitry.

(I never did figure out why our Volkswagen Rabbit insisted on locking the doors, moments after we got in.)

Want a new cell phone?

It's practically impossible to find a simple device that isn’t crammed full of apps and a multitude of settings for each one.

Settings that you may or may not understand....or ever use.

Want a new computer program?

With millions of lines of code and a multitude of features, how many of those features do you actually understand and use?

And each new version brings more of them.

If you are like most people (me included) you only use a ridiculously small fraction of the functions available.

Then there are all the jokes about trying to program your TV’s remote.

Just Copying Makes Creating Art So Hard

Despite how I may sound, I am not against modern devices or their multitude of features. I love the electronics I have.

But I recognize that all this abundance of features comes with a price.

Blog gesture drawing

It encourages our human tendency to embrace complexity. And, unfortunately, we bring that mindset to the art creation process.

Look at this simple gesture drawing. Being that simple took me years of drawing because...

Like most people, my tendency in my early years was to try to capture every little detail of whatever I drew or painted.


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Especially in the beginning years, complexity is not your friend. Copying everything you see makes the whole process of creating art more difficult than it needs to be.

It also makes the goal of creating interesting art harder. I’ll show you an example of this from my own life in just a second.

We naturally assume that all the details we see in our subject need to be in our art.

But making highly detailed art doesn’t necessarily make the art interesting....or fun to do.

Forced To Stop Just Copying

I realized my drawings were boring. At least the ones of Michael were.

Let me introduce you to Michael.

Michael was one of the figure drawing models at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design when I attended there. And he was built like a Greek god.

Very trim, muscled physique. Obviously, a bodybuilder.

In those early days I was still under the spell of just copying.

Without really thinking about why, I drew or painted everything I saw. And on Michael I could see every muscle.

So, my first drawings of him looked like things pulled from an anatomy book. Borrrrring.

I got pretty frustrated doing nothing but dull drawings of a good model.

Making Art Easier Is Counter-Intuitive

It was only when I finally decided to leave out a lot of detail that my drawings of Michael improved.

For someone who finds complexity comes so naturally, this was a revelation. By showing less I created better work.

This same principle applies to painting.

Blog Waiting for flight home

Sometimes aspiring artists are so afraid to let go of detail. That’s often why they discover that minute detail makes creating art so hard.

If you start eliminating detail, what do you have left? If you start eliminating detail, you actually need to think. What do you really, really need and what don't you need?

I had to make those decisions in the painting above. I didn’t just copy what I saw.

This is a process called becoming an artist.

To help you do that -- and become a better artist -- I created a short video.

It shows you a remarkably simple idea for eliminating a lot of those complex (and unnecessary) details in your art.

Watch it here facebook.com/GumbleArt . And let me know what you think.

Best Wishes,
Gary Gumble
Founder of BeginningArtist.com
Without art the crudeness of reality would make the world unbearable. (George Bernard Shaw)

P.S. Look at the simplified art in this article.

Do you have any problem understanding what everything is?

There is not a lot of detail.

Yet, I’m betting you recognize exactly what the subject of each piece of art is.

Think about how miraculous that is.

And everyone can do that... even viewers of your work.

Not matter what kind of art you strive to create, watch my video here facebook.com/GumbleArt

And start simplifying your work.

P.P.S. Have a friend who would enjoy this article? Send it to them and invite them to join my blog. Click here to Subscribe.

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