Friday, July 24, 2009


I was playing around with coloured pencils and discussing technique with some others in a learning environment, so said I'd try this tutorial by Brian Duey, along with others and see how it turned out.

As I went through the exercise, I think it was fairly well explained if not a little weak on words regarding technique, and illustrated, however my only criticism is that there wasn't a reference image or a master line drawing to show areas of shade/light, so I was drawing 'blind' as it were. Simply following the images provided with some guidance from words. For a tutorial, these, to me, are crucial elements. Creating art involves a lot of observational skills as well as practical techniques and it made me think about what makes a good tutorial.

First I believe that a tutorial on drawing needs to be completed by an artist. No one else could understand the intricacies and problems that drawing involves except an artist who encounters them every day.

Secondly, a tutorial needs to be written by someone who can communicate effectively and who understands the learning process and how to enable it in others.

There are many artists, but few who can do both things well.

There are endless tutorials on every aspect of art technique and medium, from professionally made kits to DVD and online video. There are a lot of very good ones and also a lot of very poor ones.

Its true that a lot of beginning artists rely heavily on tutorials to give them a grounding in technique, but more experienced artists also use tutorials to help familiarize themselves with new mediums or techniques.

Because there are simply overwhelming numbers of tutorials, and the range of quality so vast, it would be impossible to recommend any. People always are asking for 'good' tutorials on various aspects of drawing or coloured pencil or painting etc. I understand that definition of 'good' as meaning providing answers to questions about a technique and making it easier for the individual to understand and apply it to their own piece. Many tutorials are aimed at beginners in whatever medium is being shown and often the quality of the tutorial usually speaks for itself and should provide answers to several questions:

1. Is the technique clearly explained and illustrated?
2. Does the tutorial explain what materials I need and how to use them?
3. Does the tutorial provide clear illustrations or photographs of an example of the technique. Is there a reference image and a final piece shown?

What do you need to find in an art tutorial to make it worthwhile? Do you use online tutorials or do you print them and use them for later reference? Do you use video tutorials and are they useful in seeing a technique being applied? Do you buy DVDs or CDs on art techniques or workshops and once viewed, do you return to them repeatedly?


Ernest Friedman-Hill said...

I share your feelings about reference images. A tutorial in which the author is drawing from a reference you can't see just feels weird.

I have an Anne Kullberg DVD, which was definitely worth watching once to see the pacing of her strokes. It answered a lot of questions that would be vary hard to answer in words.

Sydney Harper said...

I don't often buy DVDs or CDs, but I do like to see a video along with the printed material. It makes a big difference in my understanding. I wouldn't necessarily want to use it alone though.

As for reference images, it depends on the technique being shown. I don't always want to use the reference image the tutorial author is using but it often helps to see how they are using it.

Jennifer Rose said...

Having a reference image for a tutorial is pretty much a must. Yes you can get the basic idea where the light and shadows are on something from the drawing, but at the same time that drawing is what the artist sees, not the actual image.

my biggest problem with tutorials is that people follow them exactly. yes they are made to be followed, but I really do think that an artist can't grow if they are just copying what they are seeing. I always tell people use the tut as a starting point, don't' be afraid to use different colours or try another technique along side it. And I do find that most CP tuts are the same, they all seem to follow the same techniques, which in the end will not teach anyone anything different and everyone's work will look the same.

Marsha Robinett said...

As an artist with no educational background in art, (not even High School), tutorials, CD's, and books have been my source.

Some were nearly useless. I say 'nearly' because I've never failed to not learn anything. Others, I revisit often. I think what you gain from studying the works or tutorials of others depends on where you are in your own personal journey with the medium. Instructional CD's that were initially a disappointment when viewed later when my knowledge and ability have grown have proven to be valuable resources.

Over the years I've been so appreciative of the time these artist's put into their educational materials and yes, some are better teachers than others. I think that is to be expected.

tracywall said...

When I first read this post, I thought "reference pic not necessary!" But upon further reflection of ones I've watched I think you're right.

I think it depends upon your target audience and whether you want it to be a 'Tutorial' or a 'Demonstration'. I've never purchased a tutorial and have only watch artists demonstrations. As an experienced (I'd like to think so) artist, I don't always want every intimate detail of the production process, as per Jennifer's comment.

Interesting things to think about though. Perhaps someone might start a service that assesses these video lessons for exactly that!

Jan said...

I used to buy books and videos but rarely do any more. Most just don't conform to the criteria you set out about being a good teaching aid. I don't get a lot out of just watching someone paint and that seems to be what most videos are about these days.

I agree with Jennifer and think a tut is a "jumping off place". I may follow a tutorial exactly the first time just to understand what is happening when I do what the instructor says. That's the way my brain works and I do it to learn the technique - after that, I can see how the technique would apply to my own way of working and my own ideas.

I do like logical step by step instruction and the ref photo is a necessity to make the connection to what the instructor is doing.