Open Art Education?

What if the only thing that prevented you from becoming a professional artist, or landing the job of your dreams was hard work? What if the knowledge you needed to accomplish your next art goal was freely available at no cost?


Sounds like utopia? Not that much.


For a long time, I've been thinking about a way to achieve this, and I finally found it. It is Open Art Education. It is at the same time a philosophy, a licensing and a sharing system and an economic model.

The idea behind open (art) education is to provide teaching resources like videos, texts, images and other digital files that are accessible at no-cost and openly licensed. In other words, educational content that you can freely use, modify, and share for any purpose.

As an example, imagine you're a teacher in Poland, and there's a great tutorial in French you'd like to share with your students. But you don't have the right to do so, because you only have one personal license and your students are not comfortable with French. Well, if this tutorial were openly licensed, you'd be free to record an audio translation, edit, remove and speed up parts of the tutorial you don't need and redistribute it to your students. The only constraint you'd have would be to credit the original author and share your modifications under the same license.

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Fundamentals of Concept Art - Part 1

In this blog post, I want to introduce the fundamentals of concept art. But before doing so, I want to define what concept art is. I took the definition from wikipedia and adapted it to my own understanding of the job:


Concept art is a discipline of visual arts which aims to develop and communicate an idea for use in films, video games, animation, comic books, or other media before it is put into the final product. 

Concept art involves a mix of problem solving, design, fine art and digital art. It is developed in several iterations to facilitate team interactions. The concept artist tries several designs based on an initial brief, which are filtered and refined in stages to narrow down the options. 

Concept art is not only used to develop the work, but also to show the project's progress to decision-making crews, clients and investors.


I know I probably nailed it enough, but note how this definition doesn't mention anything about the craft (that is the technique) of concept art. That's because craft and art are interlinked but different.

When it comes to concept art, the craft you choose is your own concern: You can sculpt in clay, in 3D or in synthetic wax. You can paint in gouache, digitally, use photobashing or paint over 3D. You can build worlds with miniatures and use photography. You can draw with pencils or charcoals. You can even do paper cuts or think of something completely crazy!

Here's my advice: Do not let the art industry shapes you, shape it. Be a creative asset for your employers, clients and colleagues, bring your own vision of the world.


So, let's move on to the fundamentals of concept art as I understand it.

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Art Hack #1: Thumbnails

I'm pleased to introduce you to a subset of The Art Hacker: Art Hack #.

Art Hack # will cover pragmatic techniques, ranging from day to day problem solving to broad creative tricks.

So, let's start with Thumbnails.

Thumbnailing consists in working at a very small size, ideally, half of your thumb finger if you're working on a sheet in front of you. This is an old and common technique, used by artists of various backgrounds, from industrial design to illustration, concept art and fine art. 


The main benefits of this technique is that it removes a lot of the complexity in the image creation process. In the mean time, by removing the importance of details, you're free to concentrate on the core element of all visual arts: composition (which I'll cover in a later blog post).

At this size, a dot can be either a horse, a vehicle or a rock, so this forces you to give a meaning to this shape using all the other layers of the pyramid of composition. Using abstraction, shapes, values, edges, dynamics, colors, lighting, mood, you build a context that will help the viewer to understand what this shape is.

Later, details will be there to hold a second read, to differentiate a horse from a pony, a monk from a knight, a hovercraft from a space cruiser. But if you can't explain to your viewer the broad meaning of each shape at thumb size, it is very unlikely that your painting will work.

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The one secret that lies behind Mastery

I'm sure you recognize this quote:

Please, come. Sit down. I imagine that right now you're feeling a bit like Alice, tumbling down the rabbit hole? Hm?

I can't think of a better parallel to illustrate the secret that lies behind the success of the greatest artists in history than the story of Neo's awakening.


Yes, there is a secret, known for millenniums. There is also an ideological matrix that can prevents us to see the simple truth behind mastery. Perhaps you already unveiled it, in which case you know what I'm talking about. But if you haven't yet, maybe that's because it is both obvious and well hidden. Thinking outside of art conventions requires much more than just trying to cheat at drawing and painting. The Art Hacker state of mind is about hacking in your own thinking and preconceptions in order to reach your art goals.

To hack in the matrix, Neo needs first to awaken his mind to its existence. Until he does it, every attempt to think outside of the box results in following rules erected by others to safeguard their interests.

In art too, people protect their interests. There's no art conspiracy though, mainly honest people whose goals might simply differ from yours.

Maybe your art school truly believes that drawing is the most fundamental skill to be a successful concept artist. If this is the core of their business, then it makes perfect sense. And as I said in a previous blog post, why not? If it works for you, then that's fine.

From my perspective though, it sounds a bit like saying: oranges are the core fundamental of jam. I agree that oranges make awesome jam. But I think the core fundamental of jam's mastery is an understanding of the chemical processes behind cooking fruits, sugar and pectin. And of course, a good taste, to avoid mixing the wrong species together, a developed smell and an eye for colors, so I can decide when I'm overcooking and burning fruit pigments.

I know from many comments and emails that, maybe, you still feel using anything else than drawing and painting is cheating, though you understand it's not. Well, I know what you feel.

When you've been told by so many trusted sources that this is the most fundamental skill, no surprise this is hard to swallow. It took me a while, a few months, to fully grasp the extent of what I'm going to explain below.

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Nine Thoughts about Hacking in your Art Education

I've been talking lately about the Art Hacker state of mind. I believe it can make the difference between getting stuck in the grey zone of the average starving artist or being successful in your art goals.

I want to share with you 9 key thoughts about Art Hacking that have been accompanying me during my art journey.

Be a holistic learner in an analytic mind

Holistic learning is basically when you don't try to learn but instead feed your center of interest of the moment. You usually don't try to label the activities you do as "learning" and even less as being math or history or science. You're just having fun with a topic you like.

Conventional learning is like trying to fill the floor of an empty room with boxes someone else gives you. You can't add another box until the current one is full and no spaces are allowed between boxes. So if they don't have the same size, you need first to figure the arrangement that makes them fit perfectly.

Holistic learning is more like throwing random things on the floor and start moving them around without thinking about it, and connect them with strands of wool when you feel it looks cool. Quickly, you start to have a huge web all over the place and you play to imagine path from one point to another.

Holistic learning is more efficient because once you start to have a few isolated webs, connecting them is easy and very fast at covering the floor.

The problem with holistic learning comes when you don't work on your analytical mind: You just keep connecting things that "looks cool" or without really thinking about it. It creates big knowledge holes in between webs strands that can become overwhelming. To avoid that, you can start to look at the mess and try to see patterns, decide where to throw the next things and then filling the gaps on demand gets easy.

To put it another way, try to learn a little about many things, then you will learn a lot about a few things when you need it.

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Four Master Art Hackers of their time

I'm sure you have a lot of questions about my latest blog post: How the hell Art Hacking exactly works? Well, I can't give you the one trick, because there's potentially 7 billions ways of achieving it. So, this stream of essays will dive into many aspects that I discovered by myself. I'm offering you to take the red pill, but how you choose to enjoy the trip through the rabbit hole entirely belongs to you.


Every day when I wake up I feel excited about art. Not about what I'm going to create, but about what I'm going to learn, because it's so wide, almost infinite and I know so little!

If you feel like you're struggling with your art, and are intimidated by all the talented artists out there, then you're not alone. I do too and I can completely relate to your fears and frustrations.


If it can help you to feel better, did you know that my drawing skills still sucks? Many people think that I "draw well" because I create "pretty pictures", but it's all the contrary. There's not one day where I don't struggle with my drawing and painting. And it requires a lot of tricks at many levels so it doesn't show in my final images.

All these tricks, I ended up calling them Art Hacking. As soon as I feel that something as to be done a certain way, I start to tweak, take shortcuts, invert steps, use a new tool, go back, try another solution, steal a trick from an awesome artist, paste a photo, create happy accidents and whatnot.

Art Hacking starts when you stop thinking that you are cheating and consider every possible way of achieving your art goal.

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Why Art Hacking is the most fundamental skill

When it comes to art fundamentals, there're a lot of various schools of thinking.


But overall, many teachers advocates you to work hard on drawing and painting, studying from life, copying from photography and old masters, working on your human anatomy, then animal anatomy, practice one, two and 3 points perspectives and then get back to drawing and painting again.

This is a loop that has educated generations of ultra talented artists and has proved how effective it is. So, why not stick with it?


Well, if this fails for you, there're several reasons that I'll cover later, why you might want to consider another approach. All the artists I know of and who are incredibly successful in the art industry have one thing in common: Art Hacking.


During all my childhood, I've been desperate to draw like a hero. Unfortunately, despite of my passionate daily drawing sessions, I stayed mediocre, though I can assure you it wasn't a question of perseverance: I really invested a lot of hours in drawing from 4 to 17. I eventually met some friends with incredible drawing skills who motivated me and pushed me forward, but no matter how hard I was trying, I was incapable of keeping up with them.

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Are you an Art Hacker?

I'm happy to welcome you to The Art Hacker!

In short, The Art Hacker is a free concept art oriented educational content sent by email and available on this blog. The Art Hacker takes the form of a stream of essays about art, creativity and how to hack them all.

The Art Hacker offers you to take the red pill with me and aims to explore how deep the rabbit hole goes.

Are you curious to know more about it? Stay tuned and don't miss my next email/blog post. A couple of things you can do right away:

  • Subscribe to The Art Hacker.
  • Head to the Facebook critique group and join a community of thousands of Art Hackers.
  • Share your thoughts in the comment section below!
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