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  • Helen English Artist

What does skill building look like?

The second week of talking about skills. After talking about the value of attending classes which may not directly relate to your artistic practice, there is also the entirely valid question of what skills would be helpful which do add to your ability in a chosen field.


The first answer is establishing what you are trying to achieve. For instance, if you are keen to draw and paint portraits people, as I do, then you need learning and practice in this area. You might make a mindmap – I love that tool! – of the skills which you want to learn. Starting with pencil skills. Once you have pencil skills, you then can start figuring out how to introduce colour effectively, and how this fits with shadow work.


Then you can organise the list which you’ve created and add anything which might be missing to make something which could look like this:

1. Learning the proportions of a face and a body

2. Draw five line drawing faces from photos

3. Practice shading simple objects with a light source (a lamp) to create a 3D effect – a tennis ball, a box, a tube

4. Learn how to shade a more complex shape – an egg box, a bag, a dress on a hanger

5. What makes a surface look reflective? Practice shading shiny objects – mug, bowl, knife

6. Add colour and find out how it changes with shadow

7. Work out skin tone and eye colours


Then onto painting skills in your chosen medium. Either add onto the first list or start a second.

So this is a breakdown of my list in my chosen area of art but the same principal works with whatever you enjoy doing, or what you wish that you do with more skill. The thing to remember is that absolute perfection is not the aim. Being perfectly you is. Skills and practice are essential to build a base though. They give you the ability to give projects a go with a feel for what you can do.


Skills help you learn to look, and that is the essence of hands on endeavours – they require an eye for what you want to achieve. And, believe me, the list is endless and ongoing…at times it can be frustrating but such a lot of fun when you make progress!




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