New Year

William Merritt Chase - Mrs Chase in Prospect Park
William Merritt Chase – Mrs Chase in Prospect Park

We think about what we want to achieve in the next round of our life.

A new year gives us the illusion that we can start again, do better, have more time with our family, become healthier. We are motivated, but everyday life will dissolve this illusion faster than we would like, and we have to wait another year for a new chance.

Let us remember that every day can be the start of a great new year. With a little discipline, energy and time, this year can be the best we have. Let’s start to get a little better every day, not just on 1.1.XX.

We see us on the other side.



Ilja Repin - The Temptation of Christ
Ilja Repin – The Temptation of Christ

I love this mystical painting / sketch by Ilja Repin and it fits perfectly to these days, in which some of us plan what they want to do and what to refrain from in the new year.

Broken Color

Georges Seurat - Seascape at Port-en-Bessin
Georges Seurat – Seascape at Port-en-Bessin

No, my paintings are not that colorful.

BUT, i like how it is painted anyway. Seurat uses an enormous amount a short brushstrokes or dots to create this simple looking piece. He painted it with a broken color technique. He puts blue and yellow dots together and they will visually mix to a green (if seen from distance).

You could replicate this effect by grabbing blue and yellow paint with your brush and without mixing them on the palette put the stroke directly on the canvas. The will mix a bit, but the will also maintain their original character.

It is one of my favourite painting techniques and worth trying out.

A day in Rouen

Pissarro - Pont Boieldieu in Rouen
Camille Pissarro – Pont Boieldieu in Rouen

A few things I like about this piece:

  1. The Z-composition gives the piece a great movement and connects one side of the river with each other.
  2. The limited color palette tells us, that the weather was not so good on this day in Rouen and creates an oppressive mood.
  3. The reflection of the the bridge in the water (and most of the painting) is done with a lot of small tiles of paint and gives the piece a really fitting noise.

Comparing to your idols

general confusion
mixed media collage on board – 9,45″ x 11,81″ / 24cm x 30cm – 2017 – collection of the artist

Beginners often hear “Do not compare yourself to the best.”

Did you do it?

Did you hold your works next to theirs and compared them to each other?

Was the difference big, huge, enormous?

Have you thought about which tricks and abbreviations you can use to get closer to your role models?

Have you really seen all the tutorials and 10-most-secret-master-special-tricks videos?

You did not miss a single one?

Did you feel worse when you realized that you did not find any shortcuts to the goal?

Did you lose your motivation?

Let’s stop here.

First of all, ignore the existence of talent completely. With good old hard work you can draw and paint like the 90-95% best in the world. Maybe more. The rest is talent and you can not do anything to get more.

Watching dozens of videos or reading books do not make you a better draftsman. At my old aikido dojo, someone once asked which book to read to get better. The sensei’s answer: Not a single one, prefer to go to training one more time than reading a book. The same applies to the art.

The comparison with others is a difficult thing.

If you feel bad about seeing someone better than you, it is wise not to compare.

If you look at your idols as human beings (not gods) who have come a long way to get to their current level and the quality of their work inspires, motivates and disciples you to create work of equal value, then the comparison can be a miracle weapon.

At least that’s how it was for me. Every time I see a painter who is better than me, I’m glad to have found him and I watch out for things that I can learn from him.

Every extraordinary work or artist is a proof that my goals are realistic. If they did it, why not me?

A good starting point for learning drawing and painting

Rembrandt van Rijn

As you enter the world of drawing or painting, you find a vast array of information, tutorials, techniques, inspiration, materials, and tools.

Where should you start?

If you want to learn drawing and painting, you should limit yourself to a few options. More choices mean more problems occurring at the same time. More problems mean less success at the beginning, more frustration and a higher chance to stop.

Therefore I advise to start with only one tool / material. Graphite or charcoal on paper is ideal for this. Graphite / Charcoal and paper are cheap, readily available and almost everyone has used it before. So we do not start at zero. We can learn to draw straight lines and nice ellipses quite fast. The key here is repetition.

In addition to that a huge problem pool is left out immediately: Color.

We all love color, but we can use it much better if we understand its foundational element: Value.

To use value nicely, you should be able to lay down ten different values from white to black with graphite / charcoal. Learn to identify different values in black and white images of paintings or photos and fill your paper with value charts. The goal is to learn to recognize and reproduce each of those ten values.

After that, you should learn to move from one value to another using by altering the edges between different values. Edges can be described as sharp, firm, soft and lost.

You will find many tutorials on values and edges online. Watch one or two and move to the exercise quickly. You learn by doing it not by watching somebody doing it.

Rembrandt van Rijn.jpg

Doing it daily

John Singer Sargent - Sister Emily painting
John Singer Sargent – Sister Emily painting

The best tip I can give to someone who wants to learn drawing or painting (or most other things): Do it daily.

I have been drawing every day since 2013. That’s over 2000 days and much more hours. I’ve been drawing regularly before, but I knew that if I really wanted to learn to communicate visually, then I have to make room for it in my life.

A baby who learns a language also tries every day, almost tirelessly. Do I have more willpower and discipline than a baby? For sure.

Therefore my rule: I draw daily without exception. Be it birthday, Christmas, funeral, work or wedding. No exception. Half rules with possible exceptions do not work for me. I use them too often and slowly, I water my way, it gets muddy, walking becomes difficult and exhausting. So I do it daily.

Decide for the way and walk it every day. And if the destination is far away, you might want to go a few more steps each day to arrive at all.

Good and bad drawings

If you learn drawing or painting or any other skill it is very likely that many more bad than good works arise.

That’s a good thing. Because the bad works tell us where we can improve and show us the next steps.

It can be frustrating if there are deficiencies everywhere. Pick one thing that you want to fix next time and work on it.

It’s best to start with the basics that will help you with each future work. Dexterity, hand-eye coordination, perspective, tonal values, for example.

Curse and Blessing of Repetition beach
oil on wood – 34″ x 22,5″ / 86cm x 57cm – 2018 – sold

We need repetition to learn skills. Complex skills require more repetitions than simple ones.

Who connects two points with long straight lines for hours, knows what repetition means.

At first we feel motivated, challenged, we want to get it done, small successes are celebrated and after 50 repetitions we eventually feel tired, bored and forget the meaning of the exercise and change to something else.

Repetitions are exhausting. Unfortunately.

But they bring us forward. That’s their job. That’s a blessing. We learn through them, so we need them.

Nevertheless, we have to give repetitions the chance to help us.

If we decide to do our repetitions, we have one thing to keep in mind: Wrong repetitions do not help, they hurt. That’s the curse.

If we repeat the same wrong process without realizing it, it becomes more and more internalized and a later correction becomes more and more difficult.

Therefore, it is important either to develop a very critical eye yourself or to get a good instructor by the side, which corrects one.