Art by Danny Gregory

One of the tricks to getting better at making art is looking at art. Every museum is a great art school. And the teachers hang in rows along the walls, just waiting to instruct you. While tourists take hasty snaps with their phones, sit down with your sketchbook — and class begins.

Many of the Sketchbook Skool fakulty make regular visits to study in museums. Jonathan Twingley drew every sculpture in the Picasso show at the MOMA and every Rembrandt in the Frick. Tommy Kane draws armor at the Met and stuffed hyenas at the AMNH. Veronica Lawlor got special access to study Rembrandt drawings up close, as we all remember from her wonderful klass in Seeing.

Recently, I had a couple of questions about composition — so I asked Vermeer. I was flummoxed by how to draw horse hooves, so I had Leonardo show me. My boy Cézanne taught me how reflected light changes the color of an orange.

Pick out an artist who’s tackled your favorite subject. A Van Gogh still life, a Picasso portrait, a Turner sunset. Get comfortable and go deep. Don’t worry if people look over your shoulder while you draw. You’re there to learn.

Don’t set out to make a perfect copy of the paintings you admire. You’re not a forger. Just look at a revealing detail and note down the most important things, in quick sketches, and words too, if you like. Even the best reproductions don’t reveal half of what you’ll discover by standing in front of a great work of art and seeing how it was made, in the flesh. Get real close and study the brush strokes, the layers, the ways colors interact. Take the work apart and see how it’s built — and you’ll be a step closer to making a masterpiece of your own.

If you’re not yet sure what kind of art you like, or how to navigate seeing art in museums and galleries, I suggest you think about joining one of our newest kourses, How Art Can Make You Happy.

Danny Gregory, Co-Founder of Sketchbook Skool

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