I made a commitment to myself the other day that I would focus more time on improving my skills in hopes of becoming a better artist. Through research and personal experience, I came up with the following. I hope you find this helpful. If you have anything you would like to add, please do so by leaving a comment below the article.
1) Figure out Your Purpose as an Artist
Ask yourself : “What exactly do I want to accomplish with my art”? Is it just a hobby? Do I want to create work to share with family and friends? Do I want to eventually sell my work? Do I want to find a career in the arts?
You could have more than one purpose of course. For me, the number one reason I create art is because I need to. It is more of a need for me than a want. I feel lost and empty without it. But I do hope to turn my creativity into some sort of business at some point. What is your purpose, your reason for creating?
2) Discover Your Weaknesses
What are your weaknesses as an artist? If you are an absolute beginner, then you probably don’t know yet, but if you have been working for while know you should have a good idea. Is your weakness color mixing? Is it drawing? Is it your brushwork? Whatever it may be, focus a good portion of your practice time on improving your weaknesses.
We artists have it pretty darn good these days. We have the entire world at our fingertips. There are so many places to visit online where you can socialize, get instant feedback on your artwork, take workshops, meet with other creative people, etc.
Here are just a few:
So visit the above links and find a group or community in your chosen field and start socializing. Post your artwork and ask for honest feedback. Comment on other work. Join local groups and physically meet with other Artists.
Keep a sketchbook handy and get into the habit of using it. It can be used to quickly scribble out ideas, or to record something from life. Follow this link for a great article on the importance of sketching.
5) Build your own Reference Library
Take photos of nature, people and objects. Search for images online and save everything to a folder on your computer, tablet or phone. But don’t just grab any old image online. I make certain to use only certain stock and public domain images where I have the necessary permissions. With any image that you use, make certain to read the usage guidelines. You may have to give the artist or photographer credit and rightly so.
Here are the sites that I use:
There are more sites like this I am sure. If you know of any, post them in the comments section below.
6) Explore Other Mediums
It is always a good idea to step outside of your comfort zone once in a while and try something new. So if you work primarily in pencil then try painting. If you are a painter, try working in pencil . You never know what kind of creative doors this will open for you.
7) Learn the Fundamentals
This is important. You should have, at the very least, a basic understanding of the fundamentals of art. Topics like color theory, perspective and value for instance, are essential to becoming a better artist.
To find free tutorials online that teach fundamentals, just go to a search engine like Google and type in “drawing fundamentals” or “acrylic painting fundamentals” or whatever your chosen medium is.
8) Get Rid of Distractions
Turn off the phone, TV, computer and close the door. Take a deep breath and clear your mind. Now get to work! .
Here are a few articles on getting rid of distractions:
9) Get Rid of Those Voices in your Head!
You know the kind I mean. The ones that are telling you that you have no talent, that you will never be any good, that this is impossible, that you will never make it as an artist, that you don’t have enough time, etc. These negative voices can do some serious damage if left unchecked. They can destroy your confidence and progress. I know it’s difficult. I struggle with these voices on a daily basis, but I am able to turn them off a lot quicker now. You do the same.
10) Making Mistakes
When you make a mistake (notice I said “when”, not “if”), embrace it. Mistakes are a good thing! Without mistakes, you will never learn. You will never know right from wrong, so don’t get discouraged or frustrated. Recognize your mistakes, your weaknesses and grow as an artist.
11) Learn how to see Like an Artist
- When you look at a particular subject that you plan on painting or drawing and you notice all the details and values, it can be rather intidmidating. A great way to simplify these details and values is to squint your eyes.
- Turn you reference photo upside down. Now, your reference photo becomes a collection of abstract shapes instead of a “nose” or “eyes”. When we see something familiar like a nose or an eye, we tend to paint or draw what we “think” the nose or eye should look like instead of the information that is actually there. (Click here for a free video from artist Noah Bradley on seeing and drawing.)
- Try negative space drawing or painting. This is when you paint or draw the areas “around” a particular subject instead of the actual subject. This is another great way to see the information that is actually there instead of what you “think” is there.
12) Look at Master Artwork
Actually, don’t just look at other artwork, copy it! Now when I say “copy”, I don’t want you to copy the work, call it your own and then sell it. No, that would be plagiarism and that is bad, very bad. Copy the work as a form of practice. You can learn a great deal by copying the masters. Things like composition and color theory for instance.
13) Keep a Clean Work Environment
You don’t have to keep your work area immaculate, but once a week, it is probably a good idea to get organized and tidy things up a bit.
14) Be Yourself
As I said earlier, copying is a great form of practice and it is fine to allow other artists to influence your work, but you shouldn’t mimic these artists in your own work. You need to let go and allow your own unique vision to shine through. Over time it will happen naturally. Here is a quote from Jackson Pollock that says it all:
“Painting is self-discovery. Every good artist paints what he is.”
– Jackson Pollock
15) Take a Break
You worked hard now go take a break! Seriously, put the pencils, pens and paint brushes down, leave your studio and do something else. This is especially helfpul when you are stuck on a particular piece of artwork. It really does help to view the art with fresh eyes.
16) Invest in Yourself
Google and YouTube can only take you so far as an artist. There will come a time when you will need to invest a bit of your hard earned cash into learning resources like books, online courses and DVD’s. It isn’t as expensive as you might think. In fact, some of the vendors I work with are constantly running specials. If you need help choosing the best learning resource for your particular situation, send me an email. I am happy to help.
Here are several learning resources that I recommend: (I only recommend products and services that I either own or have personally tested.)
17) Work Every Day
Be sure to spend some time each day practicing or creating art, even if it is for only 10 minutes. It is better to practice a little each day then 3 hours 1 day a week. Consistency is the key to success here.
18) Spontaneous Art
This is one of my favorite exercises that I perform at least once a week. I will turn on some music and start drawing or painting whatever flows out of my imagination. I have no particular idea or subject matter in mind. I don’t stop to correct anything or judge my work. I just create. You can do this with traditional mediums or on your computer or mobile device. You will be surprised what is in that beautiful brain of yours!
19) Find a Mentor
If you are experiencing difficulty in your artistic journey, it may help to find a mentor. Someone with experience to guide you and to help you find shortcuts to success. Someone to offer encouragement and support. Remember, every successful artist was at one point in your shoes, so never feel intimidated or afraid to approach or contact someone. More often than not, they will happily offer advice and guidance.
20) Stay Healthy!
If you want to continue creating art for years to come, then you need to take good care of your mind and body. Eat well, exercise and get a good night’s sleep. Listen to your body and take breaks if you experience any pain or discomfort. You’d be surprised what years of bad posture and holding a brush or pencil can do to your body.
Here are a handful of inspirational videos to help boost your confidence and get those creative juices flowing!