4 Tips for Beginner Artists

Today, I want to share 4 tips for beginner artists. These tips are some of the lessons I’ve learned over the years, but that I wish I’d known from the start.

You see, I’ve been an artist for a long time. Long enough to have learned many lessons that come only with experience.

Long enough to also know that there are many things I could have learned from other artists had I known where to find those artists (I started before the days of the internet.)

Most of those tips have less to do with art than with attitude. They’re the sorts of things we all need to be reminded of periodically.

4 Tips for Beginner Artists

1. Be prepared to persevere.

I don’t know about you, but when I started painting, I thought all I had to do was paint the portraits and get them in front of people. They’d sell themselves and they’d sell themselves quickly. I’d be an overnight success.

4 Tips for Beginner Artists

The selling part is a discussion for another time (if you’re interested in that, let me know. There’s lots to share.)

The overnight part? Let’s just say I’ve been painting and drawing for over forty years and I’m still waiting for the overnight success.

Making art is not easy, even when you love what you’re doing. Building a livelihood around it is even less easy. Even when it’s your passion.

The real secret to success is getting up one more time than you’re knocked down, plain and simple. The world doesn’t owe you a living. Neither do the people around you. You may be the most talented artist since Rembrandt, but even he persevered.

Keep going. Be persistent.

Don’t.

Give.

Up.

2. Develop a thick skin. 

From the first drawing you draw to the last, there will be critics. You will have to learn to deal with people who criticize your work, your methods, your marketing—probably even you. They are as much a fact of life as the sun rising in the east. Learn not to internalize it.

beginning artist

How? Ah, that’s the hard part, isn’t it.

The thing I did that helped me most in this area was deciding with myself what I wanted to paint, how I wanted to paint, and for whom I wanted to paint.

Once those things were settled in my own mind, the criticisms that came because I was painting horses or painting them too realistically or painting for clients didn’t matter. Sure, they still sometimes stung—especially those delivered by artists whose work I admired but whose vision was different than mine. But they didn’t sting as much.

You may need to make the same decisions.

Then go forward with confidence.

3. Learn to learn from criticism.

Some of the criticism may be warranted, so you can’t automatically discard it all. When an artist whose vision was similar to mine commented negatively on something I’d done, I paid more attention. Maybe they were right.

4 Tips for Beginner Artists

If a client had a complaint, I definitely paid attention. After all, they were paying me for my artistic skill. If they weren’t happy, neither was I.

But I still had to learn to be gracious.

I also had to learn to analyze those criticisms at face value and glean from them the information that helped me. Especially the comments that improved my skills in dealing with people (and let’s face it, most of us like nothing better than to shut ourselves up in our studios and make art.) Toward that end, I asked myself the following questions:

In other words, I looked for ways to learn, and to improve my artistic craft.

That’s what you should do, too, Make every legitimate criticism an opportunity to learn and grow.

Ignore the spewing, hostile, and rude comments and criticisms.

4. Draw every day. 

Don’t fall into the habit of thinking you need to wait for inspiration to strike before you make art.

Don’t accept the lie that you need large chunks of time, either.

I’ve lived long enough to have lived through both attitudes. I now know they are not true.

The best way to be an artist is to be an artist.

Every day.

Whether you feel like it or not. Whether you have the time or not.

Even if it’s just a few minutes to sketch on a napkin, make use of it. Nothing is more discouraging than waking up one morning and realizing it’s been a year since the last time you drew something.

beginning artist

Those are My Top 4 Tips for Beginner Artists

These are only four of the lessons I’ve learned over the years and which I wished I’d known at the start.

But they are the four most important in my opinion.

I will be sharing more tips over the next few weeks, so stay tuned.

And if you’re a long-time artist and would like to share lessons you’ve learned, leave your tips in the comments below.

12 Replies to “4 Tips for Beginner Artists”

  1. All of these suggestions are valid. For me, I try to concentrate on working on some stage of a work, or multiple works, at least six days a week. I don’t put in 40 hours, but I do get something done every week.

    1. Theresa,

      You have a great system worked out.

      40 hours a week sounds like a great amount of time and when I went full-time, that’s what I expected to do. But it didn’t take long to realize that I couldn’t be creative 40 hours a week. I’d always hit a wall, so to speak, at three or four hours of painting or drawing. After that, everything shut down. So I scaled back expectations to an hour or two of painting or drawing, then spending the rest of the day on other things.

      Like blogging (which is creative in it’s own right).

      It’s also always good to take a day off and rest yourself once a week.

      Thanks for reading and joining the discussion!

      Carrie

  2. Hello Carrie, great advice and thanks for sharing your personal experiences.
    Everything you wrote; I said “yep, that’s me” but the part about setting a system to monitor goals really hit home. So many times I think I just haven’t had any time to paint today then realize that I had painted for 3 hrs. first thing in the early (4:00 am) morning!
    One thing about criticism; I know it’s not pleasant to hear someone nit pick your hard work, but try to train yourself to remember it’s just their opinion. Listen to what they have to say. . . . .you just might get some excellent information!!!!
    Have a great weekend,
    Cheers,
    Bev

    1. Bev,

      LOL, I started writing my painting time on a calendar years ago for the same reason you mentioned. I never thought I was doing anything until I looked at that calendar!

      Yes, yes, yes! You make an excellent point about criticism; one that totally escaped me. Comments are always just someone else’s opinion. Even a skilled and admired artist has opinions and unless they’re sharing technical information, they are just sharing their opinion. That’s why it was so helpful to me to decide what I wanted to paint and how I wanted to paint it. That decision grounded my work and gave me a point of reference by which to evaluate criticism.

      Thanks for adding that!

      Carrie

  3. Thank you Carrie for the wonderful tips! I by no means am an artist… but in my older years have an inspiration to create..Your work is absolutely gorgeous! Have a great day and many thank yous!!

  4. I’m a older pencil artist but I LOVe it
    Your suggestions are so helpful
    A whole back you said to keep your work and revisit to see how you are doing. I’ve been doing this it really helps me see the progression. It is such a blessing.i always look forward to your emails

    1. Sharon,

      I’m glad you found my suggestions useful.

      Keeping old drawings and paintings is a great way to see how far you’ve progressed. I have two very old paintings (1979 and 1981) on display where I see them every day. They are a great encouragement when I think something current is no good.

      Carrie

  5. Hi
    The main thing you are contributing to me is inspiration. I think that your art is fantastic. The funny part is that I can put a mark on paper just like you…..except it doesn’t look as good. It’s the inspiration part that keeps me going. My (good 🙂 ) friends keep encouraging me and telling me that I’m better than I was a month ago. I also know an extraordinary artist–she keeps encouraging me as too. My art looks much the same to me as time goes by (there are mistakes) but I guess what you are teaching, in addition to technique, is to look at what’s right instead. That makes a big difference.
    For some reason I am drawn (?) to pen-and-ink. Unfortunately it is very unforgiving.
    Thank you
    Theo

    1. Theo,

      Thank you for your very kind words!

      It can be difficult to see progress from one drawing to the next. So compare a recent drawing with one of your earliest drawings. That’s more likely to show significant improvement.

      There are times when it seems like you’re just plodding along and not making much progress, then all of a sudden, your work takes a big leap forward. That happened to me. All the plodding is necessary, because that lays the foundation for possible big leaps forward.

      You’re absolutely right about pen-and-ink. I admire those who can do it, but it’s nothing short of frustrating for me!

      Thank you again and best wishes,

      Carrie

  6. I suffered a stroke in 2014. I am left handed and lost use of my left side, hand, arm and leg. I previously lost the use of my right hand and arm in 2004. It has taken several years to regain the ability draw. I enjoy your lessons and insights. They are very helpful, especially when dealing with negative criticism.

    Because of your encouragement to struggling artists, I have renewed my passion for making homemade greeting cards.

    I am 70 years old and striving to be young at heart. Thank you.

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