Trouble playing video? Watch here on YouTube.


Your artwork right now may have a huge imbalance to it. I’m not talking about color, value or composition.

And it’s this imbalance that keeps your audience from connecting with your work which ultimately drives interest in your work and sales.

The imbalance I’m talking about is between the objective and the subjective and I’m going to help you identify this imbalance in your work and give you some ideas on how to correct it.

“Two kinds of impulses go into the production of a work of art, the subjective and the objective. The subjective impulses spring from within your own consciousness, while the objective impulses come from the things outside yourself which you observe and draw.”

Kimon Nicoladies

From the book, The Natural Way to Draw by Kimon Nicolaides

What is objective drawing and painting?

Simple. Objective means a noun.

Tree, mountain, coffee cup, figure, phone. A person, place or thing.

Objectively focused art can be seen anywhere. It’s basically representational art. 

The objective is important. Especially when you want to reproduce on the canvas something you see. You have to train to know how to faithfully render those objects. It’s how all artists start out learning art. 

Take some time to think about the objects that you love to paint or draw. It’s important that you know your preference here as it’s half of the equation for all your art.

What is subjective drawing and painting?

These are feelings and experiences. Specifically YOUR feelings, your life, your experiences.

This is how you are connected to the noun. I could paint an image of my wife and it gives me great emotions but you look at it and say Meh, just some person in front of a knick knack shelf.

You experience the subjective in your life all the time! Before it was a picture of a loved one. Then they’re gone.

Now the picture becomes one of the most prized possessions.

A simple picture, object, becomes the doorway for your whole experience with that special person.

“If twenty students make twenty drawings from the same model, no two drawings will be identical and some will be vastly different from others. That is because the personality and experience of each student, which are subjective elements, enter into their drawing…”

Kimon Nicolaides

What feelings and experiences do you cherish most? This the second half of the equation and may be the most powerful.

How to combine the two in your art?

Many artists starting out are worried about content before skill. Other artists think about nothing but skill. 

“The subjective qualities are the qualities that make art, but they must begin somewhere. Though art cannot come from slavish copying based purely on external observation, neither can it come out of the artist’s mind alone. Something starts outside of the artist, though they may not even be conscious of it, and makes them want to create.”

Kimon Nicolaides

First you need to identify where you lean the most. 

Look at your art.

Are you too worried about slavishly copying what you see in front of you? Or are you not focusing on the skill of rendering what you see at all and purely focusing on capturing a feeling?

For the record neither is bad. It all depends on what you, the artist, wants to achieve. I’m speaking to artists like myself who want to represent something from reality but also want the viewer to be pulled into the work emotionally.

I personally feel that the height of amazing art is when it’s skillfully made and upon initial glance everyone can see the skill then on further inspection the viewer sees the deeper meaning behind the brush work. It’s like layers of an onion.

Too abstract and there is no way for most viewers to enter into the work easily, they need to read a description. 

Too focused on just reproducing what is seen and the viewer thinks, “Why not take a photograph?”.

Back to you. Are you reproducing a photograph? Or are you making art that is so esoteric that you have to write a paper to explain it?

“As one atom of oxygen and two atoms of hydrogen combine to make something that is neither hydrogen nor oxygen but a new thing — water — so a drawing is a new thing resulting from the activity within your mind and the outside stimulus of a model or an event.”

Kimon Nicolaides

Kimon Nicolaides

Here is how to balance the two.

Start with one. The object or the feeling. This always comes naturally. 

You may just love cars and want to draw them. But just rendering a car from a picture is something a computer can do much faster. 

What you gotta do is paint this car so everyone looks at it and gets an emotional reaction.

If you are emotionally moved by an epic mountain scene. 

Your job is to capture that emotion. But, you also need to pull apart the image to understand what makes it look epic and causes the emotion and then learn the skills to create the emotion.

You may be moved to tears by the look on a child’s face but ultimately to capture that in a painting you need to be able to draw it and reproduce the form well enough so that it is conveyed to your viewer. 

This is not an easy thing to do. Ultimately painting and drawing exactly what you see is easier. Painting and drawing a feeling is much harder. But you go through one to arrive at the other.

Whether you start out with the object or the feeling, constantly check in with both through the progression of the work. Ask yourself if you feel the emotion. No, then adjust it with better drawing or color. Does the object look correct? Yes, do you feel any emotion from it?

Through this you will go down paths of learning that you may have never tried before. Like looking at different lighting situations and what kind of emotion is communicated with each. 

Or seeing the joy on someone’s face and learning how the shape of the eyes, nose and mouth need to be drawn to show joy.

We need both, the subjective and objective to make truly great works of art and as long as you’re away from them and honestly questioning your work you will progress quickly.

Thank you for watching/reading. My purpose here is to help you become a better version of yourself. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to send me a message I reply personally to everyone.

Have a wonderful Week!

Other tools