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Fundamentals of a Graphic Artist

If you look online today, you will find a plethora of self-proclaimed Graphic Artist professionals offering a slew of services. And while it may appear at first glance to be an advancement in the artistic world, in truth many of these individuals are doing the opposite. Why? Because they are not truly Graphic Artist but rather just proficient at using a software program. The fundamentals are lacking and therefore the professional standard diminishes. Yet, there are those of us who remain adamantly focused on the artistry of the Graphic Artist. Want to know if you are a true graphic artist? Here are some (for there are many things graphic artists need to know) of the key fundamentals which will set you apart from being a software user to being a graphic art professional.

Do you know the differences between pencil harnesses?

One of the first things that a graphic artist must be is an artist. This means that they need to understand how to draw, sketch, and conceptualize their ideas on paper. But pushing a pencil around on paper requires that you understand the different types of pencils available. Sure, you have the standard HB (no. 2) pencil, but you also have the 8B-2B, B, F, H, and 2H-6H.

For those who do not know, the B range of pencils is the “dark” pencils and the H is the softer pencils. The greater the number the darker or lighter the stroke will be. For example, a 6B will give you a nice dark line, great for shadows, while the 6H is a great pencil for laying down detail lines (should you not have a non-photogenic blue available).

How are your spaces?

Positive and negative space is a critical compositional element of graphic design. If you do not understand the difference between the two, then I would argue that you are not reaching your full potential as a graphic artist. In addition to the positive and negative space, the true graphic artist will also understand foreground, midground, and background very well. Combining these two things (the positive and negative space with the foreground, mid, and background) will enable you to make stunning art.

While it may be argued that the software programs allow for you to layer, therefore making somewhat of a stacked background to foreground layout, it can be countered that the software does not allow for positive and negative space. That is something you must learn on your own.

Keeping it in perspective

As with the layers within some software programs, certain software for graphic artists gives the perception of perspective. However, the user must understand the basics of perspective to properly cater to the “grid” to the right layout. The three most common perspectives used are one point, two points, and the third point.

Do you have a choice medium?

Perhaps the greatest indicator of whether a person is a professional graphic artist or just a software user is in the question above. Graphic artist (at least all the ones which I know) have an abundance of sketchbooks filled with ideas. They have pens, paints, markers, charcoal, clay, and all sorts of mediums that they use…for fun. And all these artists have a preference as to what they would dub as their medium of choice. Some prefer to work in watercolor, others in pastel, but make no mistake, a true artist will have a preference outside of a computer.

Are you tutorial dependent?

Graphic artist tends not to be dependent upon tutorials, as we like to spread our creative legs and work out problems from a non-linear perspective. While there is nothing wrong with occasionally looking to see how someone has created a particular piece of artwork, there is an issue with those who only use tutorials to mimic others. Artistry is about expression. Those who only use software and only mime what others have done are not creating, they are xeroxing.

How dependent are you upon your computer?

Finally, if you really wish to determine if you are a graphic artist or a software user, ask yourself how dependent you are, artistically, to your computer. How about if your Wacom or other such tablet should fail (and if you are not using a tablet, that should be an indicator of the amount of artistic focus)? Do you use the old Bristol board, or do you panic? Should you have a surge and the software become unavailable, would you still be able to function? If the answer is yes, then the chances are that you are a graphic artist.

What about game designers you may say. Even those who primarily focus on computer based graphic art use paper and pencil for conceptualization, storyboarding, character design and such. While there are various levels to be a graphic artist, just owning the software and having the ability to use it does not a graphic artist make.

How to turn yourself into a graphic artist

If you find that you are somewhat lacking in the graphic art department, do not worry. Just get back to the fundamentals. Draw, sketch, create, sculpt, and get creative. Not sure where to start? Use YouTube for assistance, check out a book at the library, or visit a museum. Get inspired, get creative, and unplug.

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