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Submitted on
February 8, 2005
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"Give background personality, give it life."

Think about WHY in the world do you draw backgrounds?

Are you thinking you need to do better in drawing backgrounds because your art needs it to look better?

How do you treat backgrounds in your work? What is actually "backgrounds" to you??

Background by defination in art simply means, the picture plain in the back of the main subject.
So background can be "white" or "blank" that's still background in considering of the art elements.

But what "background" means to most of us, is "scenery" and "enviromental" drawing/painting behind the main "character" or "subject" on the picture.

There is a thing about the background's relationship and the characters (The main subject)....
when we are making a single image, don't we need to make sure the viewer see the "focal" point of the image which is the most interesting part?

Sometimes the background itself can be point blank, to help the focal point to stand out and retreat, that's still a "background."
However, most people who draw "scenery" backgrounds just treat the "scenery" and "enviroment" just as "backgrounds"...where in fact our activities in life are deeply influenced by our surroundings.
Most never thought to give life to the enviroment and make their personality support the main characters and elements in the work.  They are just "there" to boost the image quality, that's not right.

An enviroment, a building, a tree, a rock, has their personality, their history, their stories to tell!

And if all you are looking for is the "look" of them, even if you got the skills, you will only be scratching the surface of what this world has to offer. When you draw, or decide to draw them, look at them carefully, observe them, see what they want to tell you in their silence.

"A rock's voice is small." But nevertheless, powerful.

If you want to improve on your background, start from the smallest things... such as a rock, a small rock can tell you many things. How old is it? how is it formed? how is it broken? how far has it traveled? How hot, how cold does it get?

So it's important to put personality into them, sometimes they can overwhelm the characters if the artists don't know how to control details... just like drawing a big group of people and everyone is shining and colorful, people won't know where to look first... it's the same relationship between the background and the main subject... giving it personality doesn't mean it should always "stand out"

But giving it personality will automatically give them thoughtful details and life, and thus, with that knowledge in mind, you should improve with God's speed.
"Give Life, give it personality"

My teacher taught this to me when I was struggling... now I have finally obtained enough development into my "backgrounds" training I will share this with you guys. It worked for me, but it did take a few years.

Sometimes, concept and know the reason WHY you make things is what makes you improve, not skill, skill comes with concept.

Pardon my sorry-grammares, i tend to make them.
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Khaiya Featured By Owner May 24, 2008  Professional General Artist
Amazing... Truly.
This is something I've been struggling with for quite some time and I just dA-searched the word backgrounds, for I came to a realization as I started making more comics and pictures that characters floating around just doesn't do. However I keep making the comic page and then not adding backgrounds... hmmm... Even when I DO do backgrounds I feel as though perhaps I'm not giving them enough attention. You've sortof put what I had in the back of my head into words. I'm inspired to continue my practice, and for that I thank you.
Sayv-7 Featured By Owner Feb 13, 2008
great tutorial!! it's useful :D thank you so much for this!
clayscence Featured By Owner Jan 2, 2008  Professional Digital Artist
great tutorial! it helped me a lot :hug:
gatogirl12345 Featured By Owner Jun 1, 2007
The problem is that I start to a point that I skip the planning stage. Usually, I just go ahead and completely forget everything else! Why????
mayshing Featured By Owner Jun 3, 2007  Professional Filmographer
Forget planning, draw the backgrounds (scenery or items) like it's a character when you practice.
Then when you try to put them together, you will need some planning. For that, study the composition for a painting.
nellucnhoj Featured By Owner Jul 27, 2005  Professional Traditional Artist
I couldn't agree more May.

You've seen a fair few of my works so you probably know I don't dabble with backgrounds as much as I should. However, whenever I do decide to draw a background, I make sure I do it the absolute best I can. As you say, skill isn't everything, having an eye for detail and breathing a certain vitality and life into a picture is matter what style you draw in. I've seen many so- called 'professional' artists draw backgrounds that look nice and clean and shiny, yet they lack a certain something...

The little details are everything in a great pic. The viewer - no matter how 'artistic' or 'unartistic' they are - will always notice those details...even if they don't notice them, if you get what I mean :)
mayshing Featured By Owner Jul 29, 2005  Professional Filmographer
yes, i understand, everyone's got eyes for details, its just whether they can express it or not. ^_^
flinx Featured By Owner May 15, 2005  Professional Digital Artist
hey there:) just wanted to say thankyou for this piece. it was very inspirational:)

mayshing Featured By Owner May 15, 2005  Professional Filmographer
you are welcome. :)
kdeln Featured By Owner Feb 14, 2005  Professional Writer
Very good points to make, I definitely agree. If all an artist does is throw in every element they've learned, from tutorials & books etc, it won't necessarily make it good. I think it would be good to include some examples in this though, rather than just the theory, so that people know what sort of elements of a background would be complimenting, 'too much' or 'not enough'.
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