Where to start with art

Opium Tales paints a Mucha Girl

I’m going to let you in on something deeply personal.

I’m an extrovert. I’ve never had a problem performing music live. That’s my strength. I loved working a crowd back when I was in bands.

But art? I really struggled since it’s a more personal thing. It’s an alone thing and I don’t have a crowd to work.

So I started off quite shy about my art. Which, you’d think it would be the other way around. No, for me, there’s safety in the crowd. There’s no safety in being alone.

But I did know where to start with art. Because I did exactly what I did as a musician. Keep reading.

Start simple and get good at basics

Basics is where it all begins. That counts for anything. You want to learn a foreign language? First, learn to count to ten. Then add words.

For art, you learn to draw. Draw everything. If you have friends who will pose for you, draw them. If not, enroll in a figure drawing class.

But before we even get to drawing people, you draw lines and circles. You draw lines and circles over and over again since everything in the world is a line or a circle. Or some combination of both. Once you get good at lines and circles, everything else becomes easier.

Lines and circles are like scales to a musician. You see musicians warm up with scales before they perform somewhere.

Well, get really good at your lines and circles.

Copying your favorites will help when you start with art

For my style, I’ve studied primarily Gil Elvgren, because he’s my favorite of the pinup artists.

That’s the thing though. If you want to learn to play a musical instrument in a pop band, you learn covers. The same applies for art. You copy your favorites.

I’m currently copying Mucha for practice. Huge fan. I absolutely love Art Nouveau since I think it was one of the last good styles of high art.

So just like learning cover songs for musicians, draw then paint your favorite painters. You’ll find that you’ll learn really fast this way.

Now, I could do a carbon copy of this Mucha painting, but rather, I’m going to do a Mucha in my own style. So here one is. A fun exercise.

It’s totally up to you how much you want to copy your idols or how much you’ll mimic your idols in your own style. Just like your favorite bands when they do cover songs. Do they try to do a carbon copy of their favorites? Or do they play their favorites in their own styles?

Mucha’s just an example. For all I know, your favorite artist could be Matisse or Michelangelo. Which means paint them instead.

By copying your favorites, you’ll be able to pick up some of their techniques and also practice to their style. Which leads to…

Develop your own style

This takes time. Everyone’s a lot less original than they think they are. I developed my musical style by learning covers of everyone from Judas Priest, Prince, ABBA, Journey to Slayer. Yes, I can play a wide variety of music. But then again, I like a wide variety of music.

When I started getting more heavily into orchestration and Classical composition, I studied scores of Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, Brahms, Wagner, Mendelssohn, and Ravel.

The same concepts apply to painting. Paint a wide variety of painters that you like and you’ll end up developing your own style. We’re all a hodgepodge anyways of various flavors you’ve met throughout your life.

Our personalities reflect that as well. We steal a little here and a little there. Think about the sayings you’ve adopted over the years. Think about who you stole them from. Plus, you’ve probably made up a few yourself. That’s what I’m getting at.

The same applies to art. You take a little from here, a little from there, then sprinkle in a little of your own soul.

Practice every chance you get

Now the absolute most important thing of all – practice, practice, practice. First thing I do when I get out of bed – I grab my mechanical pencil and an eraser and just start drawing.

Develop a morning routine. This is especially important for when you want to start with art. By developing a morning routine, if you have a day job, you’ll already accomplish something towards your passion before you get to work. Your day will be that much better.

Imagine doing this for twenty years. Just imagine how awesome you will be at it!

Art is a long term process, my friend. It’s not at all overnight. There’s no such thing as an overnight success in anything. The saying goes that an overnight success means they busted ass for seven years preparing for that moment. Yes, seven years. And that’s because they for one busted ass, and for another, had a very strong support network.

So practice every chance you get. I don’t paint on vacation. Rather, I bring a drawing notebook. And I draw first thing in the morning and whenever we get downtime. Even on vacation. I love drawing.

And remember – to start with art

to start with art
Apply this to anything you want to accomplish

To start with art, you just have to get started. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Buy pencils and erasers and get to work. You’ll find the more time you spend doing your art, the faster you will improve.

I strongly think the word talent is a bunch of bullshit. All talent means is you have to put in 5% less work than the average Joe or Jane. Super talented folks have to put in 10% less work. You still have to put in the work.

And by the way, I’m no longer shy about my art since I’ve been getting better. I know I’ve developed my own style. Either you like it or you don’t. I don’t mind if someone doesn’t like it because we all have different tastes. For me though, I know it’s good. And my wife and both of my models think it’s good. And that’s all that matters.

By Roman

Pinup Artist. Composer. Writer.


  1. If you want to learn to paint a particular style or art genre, you need to study lots of art in that style/genre. Lots and lots and lots of art.

    I’m in the process of starting in abstract landscape having painted impressionistic landscapes for the past 5 or more years. image.google.com and pinterest.com are good sources.

    One exercise I use is to pick out one picture in the style/genre you want to learn, that you are in love with. Get a hard copy of it. Look at it morning, noon, and night time too. REALLY look at it for about 3-5 days. Then write down everything wrong or that you dislike with this painting. The pick out one painting of the style/genre you want to learn that you hate. Repeat the loving exercise but at the end write down everything that is right and you like/love about it. After these two exercises you should know a fair amount you chosen style/genre.

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