It is important for serious students of art to understand basic artistic principles. The more of those principles we understand, the easier it becomes to optimize our own work, no matter what medium we use. And the greater appreciation we gain for the mastery of great artists we might otherwise overlook.
Although I do try to incorporate and discuss many of the principles in my classes, in conjunction with lessons on watercolor technique and during our subsequent coaching sessions, I can’t cover them all. The spectrum of artistic principles is far too broad to allow me to cover everything comprehensively in the few short class sessions that I teach in our community every winter.
A brief overview of the principles applying specifically to artistic composition is available in my ebook, Elements of Great Composition: A Quick Reference for Photographers and Other Visual Artists. Needless to say, there are many additional principles besides these that need to be learned, regarding use of color, creating the illusion of form, perspective, and so on.
Any self-taught artist who is serious about improving his or her work and learning to appreciate the finer aspects of art in general, would do well to seek out a comprehensive course that goes beyond the “tips” offered by many popular teachers for using a specific medium. It should provide both a firm foundation of artistic principles and at least an overview of the development of various artistic styles throughout history. I used the Virtual Art Academy, an online, self-paced course, to fill this gap in my own belated artistic education. It is just such a comprehensive program, and I have found the training invaluable for my own artistic development.
My point is that, as artists, we should be continually seeking out opportunities to learn many different aspects of art. These will gradually coalesce and contribute to a personal style by providing us more tools and information from which to draw as we strive to express our unique artistic vision.
As you settle into 2017 and envision the year unfolding ahead of you, challenge yourself to seek out some form of continuing education to both reinforce and extend your current understanding and level of mastery in whatever area your creative passions may be.