Common Problems & Solutions in Creating Visual Art

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Stephanie Przybylek

Stephanie has taught studio art and art history classes to audiences of all ages. She holds a master's degree in Art History.

Visual art refers to any artistic work meant to be appreciated visually. Explore common problems in drawing, painting, and printmaking as well as the solutions frequently employed by artists to solve these problems. Updated: 01/19/2022

What Is Visual Art?

Visual artists use different methods and materials to do their work, which is considered visual art. Visual arts is the term for a broad category of creative art activities that are meant to be seen. In other words, they're visual in form. This differentiates them from music or performing arts. Visual art includes a wide range of activities like painting, sculpture, photography, and ceramics. In this lesson, we'll concentrate on three areas: drawing, painting, and printmaking.

Visual arts include painting, drawing and printmaking.
visual arts media

Each discipline takes years to master and can be done with many materials. We can't cover everything that might happen, but let's look at each category in a bit more detail. We'll discuss a few common problems beginners might encounter along with possible solutions.

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  • 0:04 What is Visual Art?
  • 0:49 Problems in Drawing
  • 2:05 Problems in Painting
  • 3:34 Problems in Printmaking
  • 4:47 Lesson Summary
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Problems in Drawing

Drawing might seem straightforward, but it's harder than it looks. It's a process that uses a tool like a pencil or pen to leave a mark on a surface like paper. Let's say you're drawing an image in pencil, but it's too light and doesn't have the dark shadows you're trying to achieve. Try using a different pencil. Look for pencils with numbers on them like 2B, 3B, or 6B, where each number is darker than the last. These have softer leads, so they leave darker marks. Still not dark enough? Try a different drawing medium like charcoal, which is basically burnt wood sticks. Charcoal creates a very dark, rich line.

What if your lines are dark and dig into the paper in unattractive ways? In this case, you might be pressing too hard. Use less pressure on the pencil and allow your hand to move freely, varying the line from light to dark for a drawing with more interest.

Varying dark and light areas creates a more interesting drawing.
Pencil drawing

Here's another common problem: you're making a drawing, but can't get it right, so you erase it. Then, erase it again. The paper begins to wear out, with obvious areas where you've scrubbed it away. Try using thicker paper, or put down the eraser and instead do a series of quick gesture drawings to understand your subject. Erasers can become a crutch. Train your eye to see things without relying on erasing.

Problems in Painting

Artists also encounter problems when painting, and each paint medium has unique challenges. When painting, it helps to understand the medium you're using. Watercolor is water-soluble and transparent. You can apply it in thin washes or dry, brushy lines, but you can't rework it once it's on the paper. On the other hand, oil paint isn't water-soluble and dries slowly. It can be reworked for a long time and is excellent for thick paint applications and blending; but you can't rinse your brushes with water, and it might not be the best choice for quick sketches. Acrylics are water-soluble when wet but dry permanent. They can be used for both thin washes and thick applications of color, but they dry more quickly than oils.

Watercolors are transparent and work well for washes.
Watercolor painting

So, let's say you're using watercolors. As you paint, your paper bends and buckles. This is caused by two possible things: too much water and too thin paper. If you see excess water pooling in places, soak it up with a clean paint brush or with the edge of a paper towel. Also, make sure to use thick, good quality watercolor paper; it's designed to be absorbent and work well with this medium.

Here's another possible problem: you're using acrylic paint and trying to blend colors on the canvas, but they dry fast and you're not happy with the results. One solution is to use a substance in the acrylic paint called a retarder that slows the drying time and allows you to work with them longer; but if you really want to have a paint that stays wet and blends well, try oil paints.

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