Craft Or Self-Expression, Which is More Important?

I ran into an old friend of mine—a jazz musician. We started discussing the relative merits of training for skill versus being expressive, and there is always a tension between these two.

On the one hand, honing your skills until your art becomes too “perfect” leads to dead and dull results if your work doesn’t also have something to say. On the other hand, if all you have is something to say, and you don’t work on your skills, you can not express yourself accurately.

I don’t play musical instruments. Do you think you want to hear me “express myself” through music? Probably not.

Writers need to be precise in their choice of words.

Moviemakers, too, use so, so many storytelling devices to help support the telling of the story! The production design, cinematography, acting, lighting, costume design, everything is designed with craft, to express the story well.

Artists, too, need to learn to be precise and accurate.

As Harold Speed said, “Art without craft is just self-expression.”

So, craft or self-expression: which of the two is more important?

The answer is that you need both. It’s a Yin and Yang thing. You need both. They keep each other in balance.

Practice fundamentals, but also, just have fun in your sketchbook after that.

My Favorite Drawing Exercises

If you feel like drawing, then check out my favorite drawing exercises!

Do these exercises

form studies to warm up, slow down, get into the right meditative state, and improve your draftsmanship skills.

Do these form studies

form studies to help you improve creating underdrawings, place things in space, practice doing perspective by sight.

Practice drawing from memory to fill your visual bank, ability to memorize, ability to visualize, ability to draw what you see in your imagination and your ability to see what is wrong with your drawings.

If you find it hard to create or maintain a creative habit, you can find some habit-related tips here.

Check out these pleasing, calm, art-related (mostly) podcasts to listen to while drawing. They have been automatically prepared for you to automatically binge-listen to so that you can start drawing.

Lastly, also make sure you have fun in your sketchbook after the hard practice! Here is one guide that can help you jog your creativity.

creativity exercise

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