Your Art Curriculum - Set yourself goals

The Michaelangelo quote on the far right, below, says it all.

We can't achieve our goals if we never define them and put into place a pattern of learning and implementation of new information.

If you have decided to be the director of your own drawing and painting course, take a look at this suggested basic curriculum and start a plan which includes short, medium and long term creative goals for yourself.

Drawing Foundation Skills

Composition and Design

Specific Drawing Skills

Value, Contrast, Light and Shade

Colour Made Easy - mixing, colour relationships, etc

Painting Media Knowledge

Specific subject knowledge eg. landscapes, figures, abstract design, still life

Art History (See some useful links below)

Print an example of a Port Art Curriculum Planner, make your own

Drawing Foundation Skills


Whether you want to paint, sculpt, etch or just excel at drawing, the ability to develop the connection between your hand, eye and brain is essential to enable what you see and interpret to come out how you would like on the paper, canvas etc.

The best ways to do this include looking at and trying various techniques, both left and right brain approaches, of perceiving and physically translating imagery and ideas. The Drawing Foundation Course covers several options to try. (not everyone is right brain dominant, so some techniques can be learned to accurately record what you want without necessarily having the gift of 'a good eye'). Some of the most hailed contemporary artists were highly creative and successful without being the best at drawing by eye.

Composition and Design


Regardless of subject, everyone needs to learn about compositional arrangement and the elements and principles of design, unless you want to be stuck painting in a room with photos and images of other artists' creative efforts to copy. Imagine a song with no rhythm, no climax, no originality, no meaning.This is what it is like using technical drawing and painting  skills to copy objects or other's compositions endlessly. Not creative at all.

There would be very little lasting joy. (although I copied old masters works as a teenager to learn techniques, it was rewarding for a while to feel as though the skills were developing, but it wasn't until my own creativity and desire to express my own concepts and compositions was unleashed that the true excitement and fulfilment started to come.

Specific drawing skills ie. figure, landscape, perspective

Once you have a basic set of drawing materials and some  techniques to try, some defined goals to achieve, it is always a matter of practice makes perfect just as with any skill. Many students start with still life objects and set goals of making things look 3D, symmetrical, transparent, reflective, etc.



Figures are a common attempted first drawing subject but the challenge that results often scares students off after their first attempts. Studying the basics of human anatomy is the key that is missing for most who don't succeed. You don't need to learn all of the latin names of every bone, muscle and tendon, but familiarising yourself with the structures under each body section as you tackle one at a time will totally revolutionise your results when trying to make a figure look convincing. Of course learning the 'average' proportions from stick figure onwards and practicing them over and over works treat as well to guide you.


This is a very broad, popular subject that has many sub-categories, but as well as basic drawing skills and compositional arrangement and design, learning aerial perspective and linear perspective is going to be required if you want to really achieve great scenes, whether it be water, skies, bush, street scenes, rocks, desert etc.


This subject is considered the ultimate theme by some and yet terribly unappealing to others. The fact is, the best training we can have to hone our compositional arrangement and design skills, colour relationships, value, contrast, light and shade and even paint application techniques is actually still life. Tried and tested throughout time, even if you don't love the thought of it, it is still worth travelling practically through this territory (even if just in graphite or charcoal) for the broad skills you will acquire.

Value, Contrast, Light and Shade


Have you ever noticed that many beginner painter's works look drab and flat? Sometimes it is because they have not studied value, contrast, light and shade. A carefully planned range of values and value relationships is incorporated into the compositional plan of a well developed artist, and depending on the subject, can be one of the most influential factors in the overall design. 

Colour Made Easy - mixing, colour relationships, etc


This is another area that trips up learners and can be a long term shortcoming if not addressed early on. Understanding colour relationships and mastering colour mixing is vital, regardless of the painting medium. Looking for information on colour can be very confusing for a student of painting as there are conflicting explanations out there. Port Art's Colour module has both easy to understand theory and practical sections to guide you toward confidence with colour mixing and colour relationships.

Painting Media 

A thorough knowledge of your chosen medium or media is needed to get the most out of your efforts, eg. their unique behaviours, do's and do nots, paint application techniques, advantages, disadvantages etc.


There are specific medium courses, eg. oils, watercolour, acrylic and mixed media, that introduce and explain the differences and demonstrate how to use the specific medium . Most of the practical projects are demonstrated in artist quality acrylics, the oil painting and watercolour painting courses have their own specific projects, but most projects can be adapted to several media. Start by reading the sections on brushes and acrylic media.

Art History 

While not instrumental in the making of a great artist, the study of those who passed before us can be highly instructional, inspiring and also reassuring when you are seeking to build your own font of creativity.

There are some wonderful sites created by international museums and galleries that share a wealth of art history, you can get lost out there, but it is worth the journey.

Other areas for learning

Today we have more access to information than ever before. 

The issue is to be discerning regarding where your information comes from. Here is a list of some more trusted DIY learning avenues:

- art books (the library is free) and Amazon has many at discounted prices.
- as mentioned above, the learning resources of national and international museums and galleries offer a great deal
- all types of online art forums where one can get critical feedback from the art community of the world (take everything with a grain of salt)
- attending conventions, lectures, and  creative demos to observe, ask questions, and get feed back from professionals
- private internships with artists



© Port Art Gallery 2016