I’ve been getting a lot of emails from young artists lately about getting into art schools (highschools and colleges). I’m answering this one publicly to hopefully help the folk with similar questions:
Q:”I have my heart set on getting into this fantastic art school, specializing in various art medias. (ie. digital art, etc.) I am not very confident in my work, and would like to strengthen certain aspects of my art. My problem areas are basically anatomy, perspective, expression, a lot of key elements. My ultimate goal and dream in life is to be an artist. I just really want to be better! I know that you should never compare your work to other artists’, but I can’t help it! I see all my favorite artist’s work, including yours, and I just feel so envious of the talent levels! So, my question being this: Do you have any tips, good things to study, things I should do to better my art; anything at all? Also, do you have any ideas as to what I should put in my portfolio? Was there anything you studied that helped you out when you were just beginning? That would really help, and I would really appreciate it, but (of course) only if you can. Thank you so much!”
To strengthen anatomy and drawing the human figure, the BEST thing you can do is to get out there and draw people. Draw people in action. Sitting. On the bus, in coffee shops, in the school cafeteria, running around, etc! Some art colleges offer summer figure-drawing courses for teens which I recommend you check out and see what’s available in your area (I took art classes throughout my summer breaks at about the same age you are).
One helpful figure drawing resource is the Andrew Loomis books, and now they’re free online! http://illustrationage.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/andrew-loomis-figure-drawing-for-all-its-worth.pdf (you can probably skip the reading for now and just study the drawings. He has helpful tips on drawing the figure in perspective too).
When I was starting out I didn’t really stress too much about where my skills were at, I just drew comics for fun, but I drew ALOT. I took teen figure drawing classes. I studied cartooning by actually pausing dvds (well, VHS at the time) of cartoons and copying the drawings into my sketchbook. Not tracing, but studying. I copied drawings from Disney movies, Sailor Moon episodes, Archie comics, and various art books and comics as well.
The biggest thing you can do at this point though is to draw ALOT. Books help. Reference studying helps. But it is the hours of drawing you do, all the frustration of muscling through a bad drawing, tossing it aside, trying again, working to get better, THAT is what will make you a better artist.
I’ve asked a ton of artists I admire and they all say pretty much the same thing. There isn’t really a magical solution that will help everyone. Some people swear by one book that helped them out, but that same book might not inspire another artist. Some people swear by one school, but for some artists the school system just doesn’t work for them. Books and classes help but the BIGGEST THING YOU MUST DO IS TO DRAW ALL THE TIME! I’m where I’m at because I’ve been drawing for 20+ years (… I just realized its been that long!!)
Hope that helps, and good luck with getting into your art highschool! And just a note… I applied to an art highschool when I was your age but didn’t get in. It sucked, totally hurt my pride, but I didn’t give up. I just kept drawing and got better. I didn’t even get into Sheridan the first year I applied. But I kept drawing and got better.
Keep up your drawing, and it will get you where you need to go. And don’t forget to enjoy the journey!