How to self-study basic art principles? 9 minutes
Design Random

How to self-study basic art principles? 9 minutes

Christian Bunyan joins Dribbble to share his path in learning about art on a modest budget. Add to that the understanding of the unexpected benefits of mastering the basics from developing your visual thinking skills, design capabilities, and more.

Illustrated by Anaz

About the author: My name is Christian Bunyan. I have been in the media industry since 2001 as an independent as well as cooperating with international advertising agencies. I combine Digital Marketing with design and copywriter; and spend an amazing amount of money on things that are only relevant to your daily work. You can connect more with me at

Having come to terms with the fact that there will always be an almost infinite number of artists better than you, the desire for status and praise fades.
The work itself and it is enough.

First of all, why should one learn the basic principles of art?

I ask this question because many people do not find it necessary. I spent many years at creative agencies, which prioritized simpler and more graphical illustrations. Complicated styles are dismissed as ‘boring’.

And platforms like pages Dribbble is full of excellent non-traditional works, so you may not see the need for learning basic art principles anymore. That is okay.

But below I will tell you some of the reasons why I want to learn about them.

Creative Corner by Ranganath Krishnamani

Some challenges for my goals:

  1. Limited budget. I just quit my job to be a freelancer.
  2. Time is limited. My four-year-old son needs eight million butter sandwiches every day!

Only these two points prove that having a three-year degree at a genuine school is not feasible.

I love Youtube, but it’s not enough.

I can’t remember exactly what I saw (because it was 10 years ago), but here are the people I want to introduce you to today:

Note: most of these channels focus on concept art. However, their advice may apply to countless cases.

  • Ethan Becker: Ethan works in animation which means he has to paint fast. Ethan’s advice is therefore often simple and practical. He also swings his knife around and threatens people, which is far more comical than you imagine.

  • Marco Bucci: Marco is one of my teachers; His YouTube channel is a great place to start with more complex art theories. Like Marco’s personality, his videos are very friendly and insightful.

  • Proko: Painter Stan Prokopenko teaches anatomy. If you hear the word ‘brachialis’ and imagine a weird dinosaur, this is the place for you to enlighten yourself.

Youtube has helped me through this difficult period with a number of personal projects. But for a while, I needed more than that.

Illustrator drawn by SAM JI for Shakuro

Study more, study forever

There are many impressive online art schools. Such as Learn Squared, Schoolism, CG Spectrum – this list can last forever. In the past, I used to like spending time in the most seemingly structured environment: live classes, deadlines, personal feedback and semester-based learning system. (semester-based); It’s like a different version of a real life school.

I also want a realistic form of art education. No meandering. It takes only a ‘toolbox’ for me to do brainstorming on a page (or screen).

I choose concept art because it is as effective as I would like it to be: Hollywood’s constant demands that the field be in good working order.

Basics of concept art is the art platform.

Despite its emphasis on technology, concept art often go back to the past. Rodin, Rembrandt, The Golden Age of Illustration, nine famous Disney painters (Disney’s Nine Old Men), and (most often) are John Singer Sargent. It took me a week to truly overcome the original preconception that online schools were not a form of inferior education.

I spent over a year at CGMA, which stands for Computer Graphics Master Academy. Two courses per semester. CGMA is really awesome. It was also one of the harshest learning environments I went through, perhaps the most difficult.

A few brief examples of what I have learned:

  • Perspective. Like in high school, what I learned was a one-point and two-point perspective. But at the same time, how do you set up a curved grid to create a vertically wobbly perspective like the opening of the Akira movie?
  • A picture is not a drawing. Is this not so obvious? But it was not like that to me before. I used to think that paintings were strokes filled with color. The main difference is that drawing means thinking in contours, and painting requires thinking in shapes.
  • The ellipse. And block box. And conical. And the circles. And more ellipses. I have a meter-tall stack of papers next to my desk, mostly filled with third grade geometry lessons. Primitive things are the most basic art platform, from which all other things are made.

warming up by Pako

Unexpected benefits

Learning concept art not yet turned me into one concept artist, but it offers several other benefits:

  • I became a better creator. Concept art has helped me develop my design skills as much as the year that I was trained in Graphic Design. The reason is because concept art Design things that don’t exist, but look like they could happen. When you plan and create a character in 3D, the layout becomes less difficult.
  • Communication. I can provide more constructive feedback. For example, I can analyze a scene and explain why it works or not, rather than just saying “it’s great” or “this scene doesn’t look right.”

There are also slightly less practical benefits:

  • Concept art is a way to study everything. Architecture, fashion, zoology, technical knowledge, cinema. How a gun works. How can a mammoth move. Each project depends on references and research (written as well as visual documentation).
  • The observation. You seem to have an x-ray vision, or at least a particularly detailed look. Some of the shadows are indeed purple, just as my instructors have said. A trunk structure is most visible through half-tones (Appearance of the object by dots). The folds of clothes tell us how clothes surround the body. All are true; I just have to learn to see them.

Design Critique – XING


I agree for the arts education. However, while online art schools are cheaper than actual schools, they are actually expensive. Each CGMA course costs an average of $ 699!

This means I have to start acting like an adult again. At the same time, I still want to continue learning, so my solution is to find mentors who offer open suggestions.

At the moment, this means bothering a talented person like Marco Bucci (mentioned above). For a few hundred dollars, Marco provided hours to give me personal advice as well as help editing the works. It was my ultimate luxury: having videos showing me how to make my work less boring.
Once you have gained familiarity with the basics, a mentor is a must have.

In the end, why should you learn basic art principles?

Because of all of the above.
And above all, they are quite difficult. Really hard. But those difficult things are often the most rewarding.

Aside from those fancy words, the study of basic art principles is quite odd (at least for me). It leads to the ability to further promote intrinsic motivation.

Having come to terms with the fact that there will always be an almost infinite number of artists better than you, the desire for status and praise fades. The work itself and it is enough.


Translation: Le Lin
Source: dribbble

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