Thursday, 29 April 2010

5 Art Tips

5 Tips for making art that makes you happy.

So I am the first to exclaim that there is no such thing as 'right' or 'wrong' art, nor is there 'good' or 'bad' art, there isn't even 'beautiful' or 'ugly' art. These are all subjective judgements which hold no inherent definitive 'truth' within them. Art is never just ugly or beautiful as that is merely the business of whoever is looking at the piece of art (eye of the beholder and all that jazz). To one person a particular piece of art is beautiful to another it might be dull and uninteresting. But perhaps I am stating the obvious here.

My point is; there is no right or wrong in art, anything goes. In May of 1961 Italian artist Piero Manzoni sold his shit (and I don't mean this metaphorically, nope it was his actual poo or poop) in a tin ("Merda d'artista") as 'art' and in October 2008, tin #083 (he had created 90 tins) was offered for sale at Sotheby's with an estimate of GBP 50-70,000. Clearly, in the eye of one beholder, that shit was super hot! ;)

So we're probably all agreed that there is no definitive truth about what makes art good or bad or beautiful or ugly. And art isn't really about that, the judgements & labels, nope, it isn't.

What is making art about then? Well, to me, making art is about the beautiful process of expression and creation and getting in touch with your inner world and then externalising it. Making art, is about feeling the excitement of materialising that which wasn't before you did what you did. And it's about making yourself feel happy, inspired, excited, peaceful, awed and giddy. Sometimes art is about healing, sometimes it's about expression, sometimes it's about making statements, sometimes it's about reaching out.

It is an emotional, tactile and spiritual process designed to lift you up. It's wonderful if it also makes others happy, and if someone experiences your piece of art as beautiful that may make you even happier, but the primary purpose of art is to make you happy!

The following 5 art tips have helped me make art that made me happy.

Perhaps they'll help you make art that makes you happy too! :D x (These tips are also not definitive or 'set in stone', but I've noticed they've helped me enjoy my art more and more over the years!)

1. Consider your composition.

Yup, I know it sounds boring but composition can really make a difference to how your brain perceives a piece of art. One of the 'rules' (don't like that word but that's how they refer to it) that is quite helpful with this is the 'rule of thirds'.

The rule of thirds is a compositional rule that divides your art space into 9 equal parts. The idea is to place the elements of interest in your piece of art along the lines drawn (see figure below) or right by the tension points (see the crosses).

For instance, this composition is a lot less interesting (not so happy making to most brains);

than for instance this one;

When your brain perceives a piece of art that follows the rule of thirds it will have a happier/ more interesting experience than if the rule isn't followed (that said; sometimes when this rule is broken, electric awesomeness ensues and your brain goes ecstatic! ;)). So DO play with this and see what happens for you.

2. Use your negative space effectively.

By negative space I mean those parts of your piece that don't contain the main focal points (ie: the background). This concept really builds on the rules of thirds in that it incorporates ideas of composition as well as using all space (including the background) effectively.

An example of using negative space in such a way that is (for me) less happy making;

this one might seem obvious, but I have seen a lot of people do this; draw/ paint 1 very small focal element, place it in the middle of the page, rather low too, and then are left with a huge amount of background/ negative space to fill. When I look at a piece of art like that, it doesn't quite inspire me (or make me happy) unless it was done very purposefully and the artist had a real intention to make all the negative space stand out. (ie: the background might be even more significant than the main focal element).

If you do want to use just mostly 1 main focal element, make sure not to leave out too much negative space, unless you have a specific purpose for it. (For instance; you may have a spectacular mixed media background in mind or you may want to create a beautiful night sky). If the background is in itself a significant part of the piece, then by all means make your other main element as tiny as possible, but if you want your character to be the main focus of your piece; avoid too much negative space.

If your painting only has 1 main focal element, use up most of your canvas, like so;

see how little negative space is left?

If you have several main focal elements, aim to work with the rule of thirds and also avoid too much negative background space by adding in other interesting elements, an example;

3. Give care and attention to details of your art work.

In the past I have often created a piece on which I had worked for hours if not days, only to find myself unhappy with it at the end. I could never quite figure out why until I realised that only one part of my painting had been given the love, care and attention that the whole piece needed. I often would get so immersed in painting the face, body, clothing of a person, only to finish off the background, the corners, perhaps hands or small elements in the background very sloppily. No love, no care, no attention to the detail of my painting. Even though the main focal element may have looked exactly as I had intended, shiny, purdy, making me happy, there was something missing in the overall piece.

Give care & attention to every inch of your painting. The final piece will feel so much more finished & loved and it will make you much happier.

Note: I am not saying: add a lot of detail to your painting. I am saying; pay attention to every detail of your painting. There may not be much detail in it, but DO pay careful attention to that which IS in it. Make sure to spend as much time on small (seemingly insignificant) parts of your painting as you would on the seemingly more significant parts!

4. Consider your colour choices.

Ok, I must admit, pleasing colour combinations come quite naturally to me. But there have been times when a painting irked me, and I couldn't for the life of me figure out why until I realised that; composition was pleasing, detail was great, negative space sorted, but eugh the colours!

Three tips on how to choose colour combinations that bring harmony to your piece:

5. Send a message/ tell a story.

I enjoy bringing depth and meaning to my art. Luckily, most art, whatever has been created, can usually spark someone's imagination, even the simplest still-life or static portrait. But isn't it so much more fulfilling if you've reached deep inside of you, searched your soul, dug deep and connected with that inner longing or yearning that wanted to tell a story or convey a passionate message? Yep yep, for me it is! :-)

It is this final 'touch' that makes me feel most satisfied when finishing a piece. I could be telling a story to children about three girls have a teaparty with cupcakes, or I can be conveying the tender love one feels when embarking upon motherhood. I may express what needs are met or unmet in delicate brush strokes or I may be reaching out to angels and asking for support and hope.

This is where the artist is also the poet, the healer, the goddess and the universe.

Send a message, sing a song, whisper a poem, tell your story.

angels are always with you

Hope you enjoyed these 5 art tips!

If you don't follow any of the above rules and your art already makes you uber happy; then obviously; IGNORE everything I said! :-) All that matters is that your art makes YOU happy! :) But if you're not always that happy with your art, consider a few of these tips and see how you go. :) Remember that you are awesome all the way! ♥

If you want to learn more from me, you can buy my art workshops HERE.

Follow me on twitter HERE.

Tam x

self 2


  1. Great info Tam, I'll be sure to use it in the collage i am working on.

  2. I saw one of Piero Manzoni's cans in Naples... I thought it was a massive joke on the museum's expense. Can't believe people would pay money for it! Oh well. Like you said, art is art.
    The great thing about mastering these rules is then you know what rules to break.

  3. This is a great lesson!!! Thank you for posting it! :)

  4. I love it SO MUCH !! Thanks, Tam. I've shared it on my facebook as well !
    ^__________^ <3<3<3

  5. Great advise, Tam. Thanks so much!

  6. yes Tam...

    art is all the steps and tips in your post..and more! it really does come from deep within.

    it is an inner vision that we 'skillfully' or 'unskillfully' bring to others!

    my tip...make your mark! for your own benefit...and for the benefit of others that will come to look upon your art and feel something in turn!

    ciao bella
    creative carmelina

  7. Like it a lot, thanks :)

  8. Thank you! This helps!
    PS. You look stunning in that photo!

  9. @pat; thank you!! hope it'll make a difference! xoxo

    @khat-fish; i know what you mean! crazy eh! but i think "art" like that is "art" because of the 'shock value' (similar to all the damien hirst stuff i suppose!). and yes! breaking the rules; soooo important! :) x

  10. @heather, regina, stacey-ann & sioux, thanks so much you guys! glad you enjoyed the tips! :) oxoox

  11. @carmelina; indeed, make your mark! :-) developing your own style is a great way of really putting yourself into your art! thank you for coming round. oxox

  12. @liu; thanks so much!

    @melissa; ooooh, thank you so much! i like the pic a lot too! hugs! x

  13. Thanks for the tips. I so often paint from my intuition and let my inner self guide me that I forget about all the things I learned in school years ago about composition and color. It is good to revisit these ideas and think about them, so thank you so much for the reminder!

  14. Hi Tam!
    Thank you so much for these awesome tips - I really struggle with composition and colour so this is excellent. Have bookmarked and will be referring back aplenty! xx

  15. @lindy; you're welcome! i also tend to paint from intuition more so than guidelines but i find that when i'm unhappy with my painting it's often because one of the above is 'off'. thanks for dropping by! oxox

    @erin; you're welcome erin!! glad to help! xoox

  16. Thank you so much. It's really nicely explained, simple and makes me fell like... Creating !

  17. Great read, thanks for a through and interesting article. Oh, and inspirational too. :-)

  18. @sofiah; you're welcome, happy to help! :D and yay, if it makes you feeling like creating that is an extra bonus! :D

    @iHanna; well *gasp* hello guru of the art world, thank you for dropping by and leaving your mark on my blog. glad you enjoyed the article :D xoxox


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