Question Sticker Series: My Thoughts on Accuracy

Question: "What are your biggest struggles or fears when it comes to making art?"

Reply: "That my sketch and pencil work don't look good and aren't accurate"

Let's Talk About Accuracy

Reading this reply, I feel like there are two separate items that need to be addressed. The first is concern about whether or not something is "good" which denotes some level of judgment or evaluation. The second is more about a technical skill relative to an expected outcome. While I will touch on what is "good" in terms of art and also on comparison, I think that these subjects are worthy of an entire blog post by themselves, so this discussion will focus mainly on accuracy.

The Importance of Accuracy

I think accuracy is something that most artists consider in their work. I would even go so far as to say that it is a skill where most artists show room for improvement, myself included. My sketches are never 100% accurate (and my paintings are never perfect, ever! Regardless of how you may interpret them, I promise they are full of mistakes). If I really wanted a sketch or drawing to be very precise I would have to devote considerably more time to it. So instead of 15-20 minutes, it would take me more like 5-10 hours (I don't know about you, but I do not have the time or the patience for that lol).

Not Always Necessary

In most cases, particularly with organic subjects (like trees or fruit), I find that a general approximation works just fine (no one knows the difference unless you show your reference right next to your sketch). So in this way, accuracy is of relative importance. You need to determine what level of accuracy is needed for the type of artwork you want to make. I think a high level of precision is only necessary when photo-realism is your goal or with things like recognizable portraits and scientific/botanical type drawings.

Approximate

When sketching, I just approximate things based on relative scale and placement within the composition. I am as they say, "eyeballing it". When painting landscapes, no one knows if I moved the tree a bit to the right and if they do notice, they don't know whether or not this was intentional. I will often shift things slightly or remove objects to suit my purpose and aesthetic. Staying 100% true to your reference is not always necessary or, depending on the circumstance, even desirable.

Practice

Everything else aside, accuracy comes down to practice and understanding the basic underlying principles of drawing. Things like relative proportions, perspective, scale, measuring angles, composition, and other rules of thumb. Another big part of drawing is just teaching the eye to see and observe rather than following what your brain thinks something looks like. The more you practice the more these things will develop. However, the most important takeaway from all of this is that accuracy is a skill that can be learned and improved upon.

Master the Basics

Drawing is the foundation for painting (even for the cartoonist or abstract painter). If this skill is underdeveloped, it will show in your work. Be patient. Be dedicated. Practice... Everyday. It is well worth the effort. It doesn't matter how well you can render shadows and match colors if your underdrawing is super wonky it will be noticeable. You have to develop the whole artist package and that means developing proficiency in multiple skill areas. Being an artist is a highly multi-faceted thing.

A Few Things to Keep in Mind:

  1. There is a big difference between self-criticism and self-evaluation just as there is a big difference between constructive criticism and harsh judgementalism. It is good to evaluate your work and see where you have done well and where you can improve. It is not helpful to always focus on the negative aspects of your artwork and ignore the positive ones (or to never stop and see how far you have come). There is something to be learned from every painting or piece of art you make.
  2. Let go of perfectionism. Perfect is a word we use for an idealized thing or situation which quite frankly, most often does not exist in reality. Making art (and life for that matter) is not about being perfect.
  3. Have realistic expectations for your work. No one becomes a master overnight. Art is a life long journey, enjoy the process.
  4. Do your best to avoid comparing your art to other people's work. This is a mistake that will only create jealousy or feelings of discouragement. Everyone has to start somewhere. You don't know how much practice and time another artist has put in to get where they are. We all have to work with what we have in this moment.
  5. Art is not some unspoken competition. The purpose of making art is not to be the best, it is for the joy of creating and self-expression. Do it for the process, not the end result.
  6. Remember that what is "good" when it comes to art is completely subjective. What I think is good, another person may think is crap and vice versa. The phrase "beauty is in the eye of the beholder" really rings true when it comes to art. "Good" is a matter of opinion. Everyone has an opinion, but you don't have to listen to it or take it to heart.
  7. There are numerous drawing techniques to help with accuracy, such as using your pencil to measure angles or creating grids. Learning a few of these simple tricks can make a big difference in your work.
  8. Develop a sketching practice. Try to sketch for 15 minutes everyday. It doesn't have to be good and you don't have to show anyone your work. But consistently putting in the time will make a difference. I have seen this in my own art practice over the course of the past several years.

Final Thoughts

Don't give up!!! Believe it or not, I gave up on art for a while because at a certain point I realized my art would never be as accurate (or as instantaneous) as a photograph. I thought that I could never compete with a camera, so why bother? It took me years, but I finally realized that the point of creating art is much deeper and more profound than just attempting to be a human camera. You are not a machine and no one but you can make your art.

1 thought on “Question Sticker Series: My Thoughts on Accuracy

  1. Reply
    hell - March 5, 2020

    This blog was… how do I say it? Relevant!!
    Finally I’ve found something which helped me. Thank you!

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