Deploy Your Visual Library to Succeed as an Artist

Feb, 2019

-By Animation Department of ICAT Design and Media College

Image credit: Istvan Danyi

A Visual Artist would go through three learning phases in his career. In the first one, he learns how to draw by mastering the fundamentals of creation, right from holding a pencil to using the digital Brush tool in Photoshop. In the second phase, he learns to implement his basics to create a unique and appealing composition of a given theme/subject. The third and final phase brings in the esteem art skill of deploying one’s visual library.
Visual library is the peripheral vision of an artist. In human beings, our peripheral vision helps us see the approaching objects in our surroundings — it's blurry but you know it's something and it’s there. It is similar in a visual library; you won't remember the objects as clear as in a photograph but you will surely know that there exists a part of the object that you can make or draw or research on to make your drawing/design look better. In other words, visual library is a library of visual cues a person has gathered throughout his lifetime, through observations, experience, travel, daily life and online mediums.



What the Visual Library Does?

Let’s consider an example of two people (not expert artists) working on a car design. Assume that one person designs a car without any reference and the other person does the same with various references that he had collected. Now the difference that you would find between their works will be: the one who did not use references would have come out with a basic design and the other would have exhibited better draftsmanship through more details and depth in the design. This is what references do with beginners. But as you grow as a professional and practice to tap your visual library, the visual library serves as your external reference.


Magical Transformations It Builds in an Artist

Though it is unarguable and true that as an artist you have to master perspective, colour and basic fundamentals of creation to have a head start in the process of creation, no one can deny that all the perspective, anatomy and colour that you learnt is still a part of your visual library and it exists as a visual memory. Practicing to use your visual library helps you access your inner brain that would have stored so many things you saw, heard and experienced in the past. It gives you lot more benefits, as listed below.


  • It improves your ability to recollect. And having good ability to recollect increases your brain to eye to hand coordination, making you a better draftsman.
  • It highly improves your confidence as an artist. Among beginners, you would have heard them saying, "I have so many ideas in my mind but I’m not able to get them on paper." This is because they do not tap the visual library, which causes delay, confusion and frustration in executing ideas.
  • It brings you out of the practice of copying a subject from a source and takes you to the next level of adding your own unique input to a design. It gives the ability to deconstruct objects and lets you design something that actually appeals to the audience/client/user.
  • It enables you to draw faster, and helps you erase the line between learning how draw something and thinking in terms of what has to be done to make your artwork look better, to finally groom as a professional designer.



Building the Visual Library

  • The best way to build your visual library is to observe things around you. Always have a watch of what is around you and the details in everything you see around. Once you start observing things around you, you are more capable of accurately drawing those things.
  • Other ways of improving your visual library is to keep collecting images/videos from different sources. Maybe it's an artwork you liked on social media or about some sort of object you just came across and gazed for a minute or two.  This will help you analyse what components the object has, the structure of the object, how an object moves and what part of the object makes it move — the overall design. Such analysis will help you retain the information for a long time.

However precise is your drawing/ technical skills, without a visual library that you have built with deep analysis of objects, you are still prone to create a design that lacks details and the ‘WOW’ factor.

  • Question yourself on how, what and why the things you see around you the way they are. Break down complicated objects/concepts into abstract ideas/shapes/labels.
  • Travel around to new places for you to get exposed to new objects and fresh ideas.
  • Keep updated about new trends in design.
Overall, tapping your visual library is a key to groom you as a skilled draftsman. Start working on it today!