I think my ba­sic drawing is not too bad, but what can I do to work on my de­sign skills?

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An­ders Mer­son, US

An­swer Tony replies

I re­cently read an anec­dote about a pot­tery group that may or may not be true, but I think the mes­sage is. A pot­tery teacher split her stu­dents into two groups. One half would spend the en­tire se­mes­ter designing their per­fect pot, the other half would be graded on the num­ber of fin­ished pots they pro­duced. Once the fi­nal les­son was over, a com­pe­ti­tion was held to choose the best re­sults. Half the stu­dents turned in their ex­ten­sively re­searched pot de­signs, while the other half chose their favourite from the many they had made over the se­mes­ter. Af­ter vot­ing was over, it turned out that most of the pieces cho­sen were from the side that had made lots of pots.

The mes­sage is that ex­pe­ri­ence trumps re­search when you’re learn­ing a new skill. As­sum­ing that’s true, I think a good strat­egy for hon­ing your designer’s eye is to make lots of com­po­si­tions: noth­ing too com­pli­cated, just some­thing where you can ex­per­i­ment with two-di­men­sional shapes and ex­plore what you like.

You may not know who Pa­trick Nagel is, but he painted the al­bum cover for Rio by 80s-su­per­group Du­ran Du­ran. I think that his style of flat colours, clean lines and sim­ple shapes makes for a fun kind of stu­dent ex­er­cise. That, and it gives me a rea­son to draw the Nagel-style im­age of Bri­tish TV celebrity Sue Perkins that this world so des­per­ately needs. Fair warn­ing, a Google search for Nagel’s art may get a lit­tle saucy.

Be­low is a drawing where I’m us­ing fewer el­e­ments. I sug­gest at least try­ing a few where your goal is to use as few shapes as pos­si­ble.

Don’t stress about it, just have fun and cre­ate some­thing you like. It may sound crazy, but the more fun you have,

the more you’ll learn.

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