So what’s the biggest mistake I made as a beginning artist?
I cannot tell a lie; I made a LOT of mistakes as a beginning artist.
Some of the mistakes were the normal trial-and-error stuff every self-taught artist encounters. After all, if someone isn’t teaching you, helping you avoid certain pitfalls, you have to find them for yourself.
Things like learning that you always paint fat over lean with oils, and that if you don’t let paint dry thoroughly, it may not stick to the canvas.
And things like its okay to use oils over acrylics, but never use acrylics over oils.
Some of my mistakes were pretty big, and a lot of them were pretty tough to swallow. Red face and apology sort of mistakes.
Then there are the big mistakes.
The kind of mistakes that hindered my progress as an artist and could have torpedoed my chances of success altogether.
The Biggest Mistake I Made as a Beginning Artist
The biggest mistake I made as a beginning artist was wanting to be the next Somebody.
I admired Fred Stone‘s stunning racehorse art and thought if I could be just like him, I’d have it made.
Guy Coheleach was another. Back in the 70s, I came across a two-fold, full sheet brochure filled with images of his wildlife work. I carried that thing around for years, poring over those beautiful paintings and wishing I could paint like that.
There were other artists, too. They all inspired me to create great art, but they also tempted me to create art just like they were creating.
Is there anything wrong with admiring the work of more established artists?
Absolutely not. Established artists give new artists a visible goal to work toward. That’s always a good thing.
Established artists also have a lot to teach those coming along behind them (something I’m learning more about every day.)
The fact of the matter is that I often recommend to new artists that they find an artist working in the same medium, the same style, and producing the kind of work the new artist wants to produce. Students should then learn how that artist works, what tools they use, their methods, and everything else there is to learn.
So what’s the problem?
The problem for most beginning artists—yes, including me—is that they start wanting to be the next Fred Stone, Guy Coheleach, or whomever.
There will only ever be one Fred Stone or Guy Coheleach. No matter how good I get, it will not be me!
So instead of working to become the next incarnation of the artist you most admire, strive to become the best YOU you can be. Learn everything you can from your role model, but work toward developing your own style.
No, that won’t guarantee success, but you have a great opportunity to become the best you the world’s ever seen.
Try to be someone else, and the best you can hope for is second-best.