View Full Version : learning the "why" and not the "how"

05-09-2013, 11:13 AM
Hello painters!

I know the net is full of tutorials and videos about "How to..." - how to draw this, how to paint that. But for beginners this is really useless. Why? Because you can see only the "how" and not the "why". Watching other people paint does not make you a better painter, especially when you get no explanation why he/she does things this or that way.

Let me give you an exaple from another kind of art - music:
You want to learn to play piano. Of course you can now watch hundreds of videos of people playing the piano. But do you learn to play it this way? Do you learn anything about music that way? NO! Maybe, if you have fast eyes, you can remember how the keys are pressed in a special song, so you can play it. But then you still have no idea of what you are doing. You need some theory to learn about music, some chord theory, scales, modes, rhythm. Then, and only then, you can become a piano player.

But now back to painting. I my opinion it is exactly the same here. Without some theory in your mind, you can watch hundreds of videos of people painting, but you will still not learn how to paint, because you do not really understand what you see. Maybe you can copy them after a while, but you cannot develop your own art.

Ok, so long story short: Who knows some good painting theory tutorials, where beginners can learn some basics and theory about painting, so that you really understand what you have to do when you want to paint something. I think the "how" comes with time and practise. How to shade with a pencil, how to use the knife to get smooth blending and so on. The "why" is much more important. Why do I shade this area, why to I use these colors and blend them together, why do I use thin strokes here and thick strokes there, and so on.

Thanks in advance for all your input!


05-10-2013, 03:40 AM
Your remarks are well taken. I am a traditional painter as well as a digital painter and what I have learned over the years, "the whys" have server me well in regards to my digital painting as well. But there is a difference, the digital painter must master the software they are using as well as the traditional methods such as perspective, color theory, 3d effect and so on.

I would highly suggest taking a traditional painting class either online or locally. I have studied with many painters in my life and I learned more in 3 years from one online instructor than all of them together. WetCanvas forum offers online classes with Johannes Vloothuis. His approach is different but he explains the whys so well and gets you thinking differently.

My approach to digital painting is about the how to's but also the why's because this is the way we learn best. And how we learn to recognize our mistakes and to correct them. Just an opinion but hope it helps just a bit. Here is a great link that was put together by Johannes regarding the rules of painting which I think may be of some use to you.

Landscape Composition Rules (http://www.wetcanvas.com/Articles/Johannes_Vloothuis/120/index.html)

Kind regard,
Karen Bonaker
Instructor, Digital Art Academy
Corel Painter Master