Drawing Techniques that Minimize Hand Stress

Drawing Techniques that Minimize Hand Stress

Lets talk about drawing techniques that minimize hand stress.

Sometime ago, I answered a reader question asking for ways to minimize hand pain. That article listed some of my favorite drawing tips.

A few weeks ago, I expanded on that topic by sharing a couple of art products that help reduce hand stress.

Today, I want to focus on drawing techniques that will help you if drawing creates hand discomfort.

As I mentioned in each of those previous posts, the best way to manage hand pain or discomfort is to avoid it. Frequent breaks are the best way to prevent hand stress.

For example, if you can comfortably draw for 30 minutes, then set a timer for 25 minutes. When it goes off, take a break. I like AS Timer and use it often. It’s a free app you can download and install easily. It is Mac-based, however, so if you use a PC, you’ll have to find a PC-based alternative.

And if you like really simple gadgets, an egg timer or alarm clock is perfect.

Drawing Techniques that Minimize Hand Stress

Simple changes in method and technique often help minimize hand stress, pain, fatigue, and discomfort. Hopefully, that’s your experience. But even if simple changes don’t give you much relief, they are a good place to begin looking for solutions to hand stress.

Use Different Types of Strokes

Change up the type of strokes you use. Work with circular strokes for a while, then switch to directional strokes. You still need to take breaks, but changing the type of stroke changes the motions you make with your hand. This simple change helps avoid the discomfort that results from sustained, repetitive motions.

Also, if you usually stroke with the pencil moving away from you, try stroking with the pencil moving toward you.

Change the Way You Hold the Pencil

Most of us hold the pencil in a normal hand writing position most of the time.

But you can also hold the pencil nearly vertical and make most of the same types of strokes. You’ll also have more control.

Or you can hold the pencil in a more horizontal position and draw with the side of the pencil. This is especially useful if you need to use very light pressure for part of the drawing.

You can also rotate through these different ways to hold your pencil. That gives your hand and fingers a bit more variety, and that can be key in preventing tired or sore hands.

Change the Angle of Your Desk, Easel, or Drawing Board

If you work at a drawing table, change the angle of the table top if you can. If you work on a drawing board, put it in a different position.

You might even try working with a drawing board in your lap.

This works much the same as changing how you hold your pencil. The biggest difference however, is that it affects your arm more than your hands.

Work Standing

Working while standing up puts you at a different level relative to your drawing table or easel. Consequently, your hands and arms are at a different angle, too.

A standing desk, a drafting table, or an easel are great ways to work on art and stay on your feet.

Bonus: You keep the rest of you in better shape, too, since you move around more when standing. At least I do!

Those are My Suggestions for Drawing Techniques that Minimize Hand Stress

These things have helped reduce discomfort in my hand. I hope they work for you, too, but they may not. If they don’t, keep looking. There are other techniques that might work for you.

We all need to be more mindful in how we draw. The best way to avoid hand and wrist pain is to find ways to prevent it.

There are many reasons you might be dealing with hand and wrist pain. The best first step is consulting your doctor to find out why, then treating that underlying problem.

I make no claims on medical knowledge. I’m not doctor! These are just a few things I’ve found myself doing to get through long work sessions.

4 Tips for Beginner Artists

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.

Art Products that Minimize Hand Stress

Art Products that Minimize Hand Stress

Sometime ago, I answered a reader question asking for ways to minimize hand pain. That article listed some of my favorite drawing tips. Today, I’d like to share some art products that minimize hand stress.

As I mentioned in that previous post, the best way to manage hand pain or discomfort is to avoid it. Frequent breaks are the best prevention. If you can comfortably draw for 30 minutes, then set a timer for 25 minutes. When it goes off, take a break. I like AS Timer and use it often. It’s a free app you can download and install easily. The only drawback is that it’s Mac-based.

There are also free PC-based timing apps, as well as many online apps.

If you like old-fashioned solutions, an egg timer works great!

Now let’s get to those art products!

Art Products that Minimize Hand Stress

Sanded Pastel Paper

I know what you’re thinking: Sanded pastel paper will make drawing more difficult.

That’s what I used to think, too, but it isn’t true. Believe it or not, the drawings I’ve completed on sanded pastel paper have been finished more quickly and with less stress than similar drawings on regular drawing paper.

I’ve also observed (in hindsight,) that I don’t notice my hand aching as much. The fact is that my brain and eyes tire faster than my hands when I draw on sanded pastel paper.

One reason sanded pastel paper is so easy on the hands is that it produces pigment dust. You can blend the dust into the paper with a brush or paper blending stump.

This blending method also extends the use of the pencils, and reduces the amount of pressure required to fill the tooth. That reduces the number of pencil strokes needed to finish a drawing and that reduces overall stress to hands and fingers.

PanPastels

PanPastels are a form of pastel packaged in small, lidded containers. Apply them with any of the sponge application tools shown below, or with ordinary make-up sponges.

They’re perfect for creating plain or blurred backgrounds quickly, and many artists also use them for under painting.

I’ve written two posts about how to use PanPastels (and how other artists use them) on the store blog. How to Use PanPastels and Colored Pencils and Using PanPastels Under Colored Pencil.

Brush & Pencil Powder Blender

Brush & Pencil makes an excellent blending product called Powder Blender. Powder Blender blends colored pencil more quickly and completely than anything else I’ve ever seen. You can use it alone, or in combination with Brush & Pencil’s texture fixative.

Purchase products individually or as part of a kit from Brush & Pencil. Some of the individual products are also available through Dick Blick.

Art Products that Minimize Hand Stress

These are three of products I’ve either used personally, or other artists use to minimize hand stress. They aren’t the only three available. I’ve also used watercolor, watercolor pencils, and India ink to speed up the drawing process. If you don’t mind mixed-media art, these are great ways to reduce hand and wrist pain.

Hand stress or discomfort has many causes. If your hand or wrist pain is persistent, your best first step is consulting your doctor. Find out if there’s a medical cause, then treat that underlying problem.

How to Get Started Drawing

How to Get Started Drawing

Every artist begins somewhere. Not every artist started at the same time in life or with the same mediums, but the journey often starts the same way: With basic drawing.

I’ve answered a lot of art questions over the years on this blog and in other places. Rarely does anyone ask how to get started. I don’t know why that is. Perhaps most people assume they know how to begin. I know it was never a question for me, but I was drawing before I was old enough to ask why.

Or even how.

But any time you think about starting something new, it is important to have a least a basic idea of how to begin. That’s the purpose of this post.

The suggestions I’m about to make are very basic, but hopefully they will be helpful to those of you who are thinking about starting with colored pencils.

I’ll also provide a few links to other articles that are a bit more in-depth for those who want more specific information.

Of course, if you have questions, you’re welcome to ask them either in the comments below or more directly by sending me an email. I’m always happy to answer questions and chat by email.

How to Get Started Drawing

The first thing you need to get started drawing is the desire. Without the desire to draw, it doesn’t matter how good your tools are or how many you buy. You won’t get very far.

The truth is that drawing isn’t something you can pick up overnight. Yes, it is easier for some than others, but all of us have to practice to get good at drawing. Even once you become good at it, you have to draw to remain good.

All of that drawing requires a certain amount of desire.

But since you’re reading this post, I’m guessing you have the desire.

Choose Your Medium

Since this blog is all about colored pencils, you may think this question is a bit daft. After all, what else would you draw with but colored pencils?

I’ve drawn with graphite, charcoal, conte crayon, Crayola crayons, and even ball-point pens. Any of those mediums are suitable for creating fine art. What’s more, all of them are also perfect for new artists. Most of them are inexpensive, capable to creating value and drawing intricate detail.

So the first step is for you to decide what you want to start drawing with.

How to Get Started Drawing

If you’re like I was back when I first started, I didn’t want to mess around with graphite or anything else. I went straight for the colored pencils. That’s a perfectly natural decision if colored pencil drawing is what you want to learn.

But there’s also nothing wrong with deciding to begin with something less expensive and simpler.

A lot depends on where you are, how much you have to spend, and what’s available to you. I’ve heard of people who start drawing with a stick in the dirt. Why not? It’s not permanent, but you can learn to draw that way.

Remember, everything you learn about drawing accurately with graphite, charcoal, conte, pen, or any other tool transfers to drawing with colored pencils.

You can also always try other drawing mediums if your first choice doesn’t work out.

So don’t bypass this step because it doesn’t seem important.

Choose Your Tools

Once you’ve decided on the medium, it’s time to look at the tools that are available. As I mentioned above, you can start drawing with a stick and some dirt, but most of us want something a bit more permanent. And convenient!

All you really need, however, is paper and a drawing tool. Depending on the drawing tool, you may also need a sharpener, but those three things are enough to make a beginning.

Learn Everything You Can

If you’re just getting started drawing these days, you have a treasure trove of learning opportunities as close as your internet connection. Choose from free video tutorials on YouTube, paid videos through Patreon, Teachable, Craftsy, and a number of other options.

Many artists also produce and publish downloadable PDF and print tutorials. I have my own collection of tutorials for all levels at my store, Colored Pencil Tutorials. There are books, blogs, teaching websites, and online courses to suit every budget and style.

So how do you find the right teaching method and teacher for you? Look for an artist who does the kind of work you want to do in a style you like. It’s also helpful if they draw similar subjects to what you draw, but that’s not as important. All methods work for every subject for someone.

How to Get Started Drawing

Practice, Practice, Practice

Did I mention practice?

Nothing helps you learn a new skill faster than using it as you learn. Or rather, learning it by doing it. I remember learning how to use a computer the first time. It went much more smoothly when I was able to use a computer in my spare time.

Drawing is the same way. So watch those videos and do those tutorials, but also draw for yourself. Fun stuff. Difficult stuff. Whatever catches your attention.

That’s How I’d Get Started Drawing If I were Beginning Today

Do you remember I mentioned some links? Here they are.

On this blog, you can find a list of the best posts about getting started with colored pencil.

There is a nearly-free resource at Colored Pencil Tutorials that is a downloadable shopping list for you if you’re ready to buy colored pencils and accessories, but don’t know where to start.

The main thing is to start where you are. If all you can get is a number two lead pencil and typing paper, then do that. It’s far better to make that kind of start, than to wait until you have everything available and never start.

The Things Artists Tell Themselves

The Things Artists Tell Themselves

Today, I want to talk about the things artists tell themselves. Those preconceived notions that hold us back.

Self-imposed limitations.

Let me explain by using myself as an example.

The Things Artists Tell Themselves

I spent over forty years drawing and painting portraits of horses. I was confident doing head studies, full body portraits, and action scenes. There wasn’t a horse I didn’t feel capable of drawing.

But put a rider in the saddle or add a buggy or carriage, and I was a bundle of insecurity!

In reality, I should have been able to draw the person or equipment with the same confidence with which I drew the horse. I had the skill to draw horses, so there was no reason I couldn’t also draw people or equipment.

The same methods work for drawing people that work for drawing horses. There was no reason I couldn’t draw people.

Except….

I told myself I couldn’t do it.

So I avoided drawing people or equipment whenever possible. When I had to include a person or a buggy or whatever, I struggled.

The Big Lie

In novel writing, one of the things the novelist must decide is what lie each character believes. Often referred to as The Big Lie, this belief keeps the character from achieving a goal.

The Big Lie might be something the person heard as a child. It may be the result of a failure or misunderstanding. The character may realize it’s a lie, but more often, it’s subconscious.

Artists are the same way. Actually every person is that way. There is something I believe about myself that’s not true, and there’s something you believe about yourself that’s not true.

As I get older, I can more clearly see my Big Lie was that I couldn’t draw people or technical things. I’ve done both, now. I know I can draw people, and I can draw technical subjects.

They are more difficult because I’m not familiar with them, but when I apply the same skills that help me draw horses to these other subjects, I can draw them.

Big lies apply to what we think we can draw and what we think we can’t draw.

They apply to what we think we can and cannot accomplish with our art. They also apply to turning hobbies into businesses, or any other worthwhile endeavor.

What’s the Solution?

My husband has cited Henry Ford to me often enough that I sometimes hate the quote I used below. But it is true. That’s another thing I’m learning as I get older (and hopefully wiser.)

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.”
― Henry Ford

Whether I think or can, or think I can’t, I’m right.

And so are you.

The solution is two-fold and both parts can be difficult. Very difficult.

The first step is to be totally honest with yourself and identify the Big Lie you believe about yourself or about your ability. Get past the things that are skills you have yet to acquire.

For example, if you believe you can’t shade smooth color, that’s a skill you can acquire with time and practice.

But if you believe you can’t learn to shade smooth color, that’s a lie you’re telling yourself.

Do you see the difference?

Back to my example, I believed I couldn’t draw people or equipment and that was a lie. I proved it was a lie by drawing people and equipment.

The truth was I didn’t have the skill or determination to draw those things. Another truth was that I didn’t want to try drawing them because they were hard.

So ask yourself the following questions and fill in the blanks as they fit you.

I believe I can’t draw ___________________.

I believe I can’t draw ___________________, but I can learn how.

The first is the lie. The second is the truth and a plan of action.

If you don’t think you believe any Big Lies, then you’re either miles ahead of the rest of us or….

…maybe that’s the Big Lie you believe about yourself.

Think about it.

The Things Artists Tell Themselves

I decided to publish this post today because I’ve learned over years of blogging that if I struggle with something, some of my readers also struggle with it.

Self imposed obstacles and the things artists tell themselves (that aren’t true,) are some of the biggest hurdles we have to get over if we really want to succeed.

And I hope you do want to succeed.

Dealing with Hand Pain While Drawing

Dealing with Hand Pain while Drawing

Do you experience hand pain while drawing? You’re not alone.

When I work sitting down, I often get a bit of tingling in my right arm. It doesn’t matter whether I’m typing or drawing. I think it’s because my elbow rests against my hip and cuts off circulation.

It’s not major pain. It’s not even really pain at all. But it is a nuisance.

So I’ve found ways to alleviate the problem or avoid it altogether.

Today, I’d like to share a few of them with you.

Dealing with Hand Pain While Drawing

Shorter Working Sessions

Keeping working sessions short (usually 15 or 20 minutes) is the most helpful thing I’ve done. It’s also the most difficult to implement, because it’s so difficult to stop when once I get into the zone!

But limiting drawing sessions to half an hour or less eases the stress on hands and fingers. Even if you don’t actually leave your drawing table when you lay down your pencils.

For example, when I’m writing a tutorial, I work on the drawing long enough to finish a step. Then I describe in writing what I just did. The motions required and the muscles used for those two activities are so different that typing is like taking a break from drawing, and drawing is like taking a break from writing.

Granted, if arthritis or some other physical condition is the cause of your pain, typing or doing something similar will not help.

But short drawing sessions will at least keep you from overworking those hand and finger muscles.

Dealing with Hand Pain While Drawing

Changing the Way You Hold the Pencil

Another easy way to relieve minor hand pain is to change the way you hold the pencil while you draw.

All of us have a “normal” grip. That is, a way to hold the pencil that’s easy, comfortable, and normal. My normal grip is holding the pencil at about 45 degrees to the surface of the paper.

But that does get tiring on my hand, especially if the pencil is very short or if I’m doing detail work.

Changing the way I hold my pencil changes the way I use my hand muscles. For example, a vertical grip (shown below) uses muscles differently than my normal grip. Holding the pencil in a more horizontal position and using the side of the pencil uses those muscles differently.

So rotating through two or three different pencil grips could provide all the relief you need for hand pain or discomfort.

Working at an Easel or Standing Desk

For the type of hand discomfort I sometimes deal with, working standing up is a great help.

For one thing, my arms are extended to one degree or another whether I’m standing at an easel or drafting table.

Working while standing also keeps me a little more active no matter how long I work, because I’m always shifting my feet around or moving from side to side. It’s also easier to walk a few steps to retrieve something (or just walk to a window and look outside) if I’m standing than if I’m sitting. I guess I’m lazier than I thought!

Hand Strengthening Exercises

The root cause of hand pain is sometimes as simple as adjusting to a new activity. If that’s the case, simple exercises to strengthen the hand muscles may be all that’s required.

My favorite is using a small rubber ball just big enough to fit into the palm of your hand. Whenever you have idle time, work the ball by turning it and squeezing it in your hand. It won’t take long before you start to feel the difference in hand strength. When I had cellulitis in both hands a few years ago, I was given a series of exercises to do with something called Thera-Putty. A rubber ball works just as well.

The nice thing about this type of exercise is that you can do it anywhere and at almost any time.

And it won’t be long before you notice improved grip and better muscle stamina in your hands.

For more easy hand and finger exercises, read 10 Ways to Exercises Hands and Fingers from WebMD.

Dealing with Hand Pain While Drawing

If hand pain is persistent or severe, your best bet is to check with your physician. He or she can properly diagnose the problem and provide specific treatments, including hand exercises, to help the specific problem.

Overcoming New Artist Fears

Overcoming New Artist Fears

I want to thank the reader who asked the question for today’s post. She wants to know about overcoming new artist fears. Something all of us deal with at one time or another. Here’s her question.

I’m a beginner colored pencil artist stuck in beginner mode mostly due to “beginner fear”. I LOVE horses and landscapes, so I have enjoyed your blog very much.

After many years of owning horses, my body no longer lets me do that kind of activity, so I’ve turned to art. I even purchased your black horse tutorial but I’m terrified to try it. So I practice on things I’m less interested in, if that makes any sense.

I would love to hear from you and learn how to draw horses as well as you. Can you please offer your expertise on learning to draw horses in colored pencil? Did you have this kind of paralyzing fear when you first started? Thanks for any help.

Celeste

Overcoming New Artist Fears

First of all, thank you for your question, Celeste. I understand completely what you’re experiencing. The fact of the matter is that I chuckled out loud when I got to your last question. I STILL sometimes deal with this kind of paralyzing fear!

I actually think this difficulty could more accurately be called “new project fear.” Every artist experiences this moment of doubt or hesitation at least once. Some of us experience more than just once in a while.

Overcoming New Artist Fears

I understand working on “unimportant projects” before doing what I really want to do. Believe it or not, that’s a good way to get started.

You can consider those projects to be basic training if you like. You can also consider them warm-up exercises.

When you do projects like this, you’re getting more familiar with the pencils and paper, you’re learning what layering is all about, and you’re probably even learning what works and what doesn’t work.

After you’ve done a few of these, you’ll find the “real projects” far less scary.

A Personal Example

I recently finished a portrait that took a long time to do. Part of the reason for that was that I was using Pastelmat for the first time for a paid portrait. I didn’t know what to expect.

So I started a second portrait, which was my “test portrait.” Before trying any new technique on the paid portrait, I tried it first on the test portrait. Then, after I gained confidence, I worked on the paid portrait.

When I finished and delivered the paid portrait, I repurposed the test portrait. It will eventually become a landscape.

So keep doing those sorts of projects until you’re comfortable with using colored pencils.

Transitioning to Tutorials

Once you’ve gained confidence with the pencils, transition into that tutorial by practicing parts of it. I like drawing manes and forelocks, so that’s often what I’d practice. But there is no forelock and not much mane on this tutorial, so you might try some other part of the horse. One of the ears, maybe, or the eye.

That blue ribbon under the head would also be a great practice piece.

If you decide to do practice pieces from the tutorial, do them small. 4×6 inches is a great size for studies. You can finish them more quickly than larger pieces. They’re also easier to let go of if they don’t turn out.

And if they do turn out, you’ve gained confidence!

Learning to Draw Horses & Landscapes

As for learning to draw horses and landscapes like I do, that’s no more complicated than making lots of drawings. My art didn’t always look like it looks now. It took lots of drawings, some of which were downright ugly!

Don’t be afraid to make ugly art. Every piece you finish (whether it turns out or not) helps you improve.

Overcoming Those New Artist Fears

Uncertainty is normal whenever you start something new. Making the first mark on a new piece of paper seems intimidating at first. You will get past that.

Start drawing, then keep drawing. Studies, full images, everything.

When you get ready, you can also study with someone whose work you admire, whether it’s mine or someone else’s. I give one-to-one classes by email (you can learn more about them here.)

A couple of my favorite horse artists teach on Patreon. Bonny Snowdon and Lisa Ann Watkins are excellent horse artists and both teach on Patreon.

The most important part is making the start and you’ve already done that. So sit back and enjoy the process!

You won’t be sorry.

Colored Pencil Tips for New Artists

Sometime ago, I wrote a post sharing 8 things I wished I’d known when I started as an artist. Those tips apply to all forms of art, so today, I want to share specific colored pencil tips for new artists.

As with most things, when you first begin, the world is at your feet. The sky’s the limit! Colored pencils are the best art medium ever and you’re going to create great art from the start.

Then reality hits.

You’re much better equipped for that reality if you remember these eight things.

Colored Pencil Tips for New Artists

1. Colored Pencils are S-L-O-W!!!

New products are being developed all the time that can speed up the drawing process for colored pencil artists. Watercolor pencils. Sanded art papers. Great new blending tools.

But colored pencils are still a naturally slow medium, and if you prefer traditional colored pencils on traditional papers, expect to spend hours and hours on each piece.

Colored Pencil Tips for New Artists

Especially if you prefer producing realistic work. Take your time and enjoy the process.

2. Not All Colored Pencils are the Same

Aside from variations in labeling and exterior treatment, most colored pencils look the same. Yes, some are round and some are octagonal. Most are wood-encased, and others have no casing at all. And they all look like pencils!

But they don’t all perform the same way. A set of cheap pencils purchased at the local craft store do not perform the same as a set of high quality pencils purchase from a dedicated art supply store.

To keep frustration levels to a minimum, start with the best pencils you can afford.

3. You Don’t Need a Full Set of Pencils

Despite all those lovely, beautiful, enticing colors, you can make a good start with just a few colors. Small sets force you to learn how to layer colors to mix new colors. You may not like all the new colors you make. I can just about guarantee you’ll hate a lot of them.

But that’s all right. Most artists learn more from their mistakes, than from the things that go right.

Smaller sets are also less expensive. If you make a few drawings, then decide you prefer another medium, you can give that small set away without guilt. Or regret!

4. Sharp is Good, but Not Always Best

You won’t have to watch many videos or do many tutorials to start hearing how important sharp pencils are. For many applications, that is true.

But dull and even blunt pencils are also useful in some applications. Try them for putting thin, nearly transparent color into larger areas.

Colored Pencil Tips for New Artists

5. You Don’t Need Solvents to Get Smooth Color

For years, colored pencil artists created wonderful works of art using nothing but pencils and paper.

Then someone discovered colored pencil layers could be dissolved and blended with solvents. Solvents allowed color to “soak” into the paper and fill in the tooth of the paper without damaging the tooth.

That meant artists could add more layers, get smoother color, finish faster, and even work larger.

That doesn’t mean you have to solvents. A lot of artists prefer the way their work looks if they don’t use solvents.

So if you don’t like the look of solvent-blended color, or are allergic to solvents, don’t worry! You can still make great art the old-fashioned way.

6. You Don’t Need Fancy Tools

There are a lot of new tools, gadgets, devices, and other accessories for the colored pencil artist in today’s market. All of them are useful to someone.

Most of them are fun to try.

Some of them may even help you.

But beginners don’t really need them. As a matter of fact, adding tools to your toolbox before you know how to make the pencils and paper work together causes confusion and maybe frustration.

7. Experiment!

Don’t be afraid to make bad art. All of us have done it!

Colored Pencil Tips for New Artists

When you wonder if two colors work together, the best way to find out is to try them together. If they do, great!

If they don’t, then you’ve learned something not to do.

8. Have fun.

I can’t mention this often enough.

That’s because it’s so easy to get caught up in the creative process that you forget to have fun. Especially after you’ve been drawing for a while and you really want to improve.

The best way to improve is to do a lot of drawings. The best way to do a lot of drawings is to have fun with every drawing.

Those are My Tips Colored Pencil Tips for New Artists

Keep them in mind as you begin exploring your colored pencils and your art journey will get off to a much better start.

They also work for those of us who have been making art for a while.

Sometimes we forget!

Is Using Only One Art Medium Limiting?

Today’s post is the result of one of those reader questions that’s too good not to publish. Chris wrote to me and asked a couple of excellent questions, including is using only one art medium limiting for the artist.

Hi Carrie,

I’m an artist who mostly works on realism with ballpoint pen on paper.  I’ve seen you’ve worked with oils alongside your colored-pencils. Do you see a bias towards your oil work versus your colored-pencil work? Do your clients prefer works on canvas as opposed to your works on paper?

I’ve been thinking about establishing myself as a portrait artist and wonder if I should be taking on a different medium (oil painting?) instead of sticking to pen on paper. Am I limiting myself? Thank you for taking the time to read this.

Chris

Chris,

Thank you for your email and for your question. You presented more than one good question, so I’m going to answer them individually.

Is Using Only One Art Medium Limiting

Is Using Only One Art Medium Limiting?

A lot of artists work their entire in one medium and/or one subject. A lot of other artists work in a lot of different mediums and paint whatever draws their attention.

There are “limitations” to both choices.

The artist who works in only one medium is limited in that he or she has decided not to take advantage of some of the benefits of other mediums. However, there’s lots of time learn everything there is to learn about their chosen medium and to get the most out of it.

The artist who works in more than one medium has the opportunity to learn about more than one medium and to take advantage of the benefits of each medium, but they may not have the time to explore each medium to it’s fullest.

In other words, there is no right or wrong answer to your question.

How you decide the answer to this question for yourself is by finding the things you most enjoy drawing and the medium that gives you the most satisfaction.

Image by ch1310 from Pixabay

If you enjoy drawing portraits with pen and ink, then that’s what you should do. Explore the medium as much as you can and find out what’s possible with it. Look for pen-and-ink artists on YouTube and see what they’re doing that could improve your work.

The only thing I suggest is that if you’re planning to sell your work, find inks that are archival. I don’t honestly know how long-lasting the inks used in ball point pens are. My gut reaction is that they’re not archival, so that’s something you’d need to find out.

Also use the best paper you can afford. Using an archival medium on paper that yellows over time is also damaging to your work.

Bias Between Oils and Colored Pencils

You also asked about biases toward one medium or the other.

Some of my portrait clients liked oil portraits better and some liked colored pencil portraits. The bulk of portrait work was in oils, but I used oils exclusively for twenty years. Once I added colored pencil work, I did a lot of portraits both mediums.

Whenever you decide to use two or more mediums, it’s inevitable that you’ll gain fans of each medium. Most of them appreciate all of your work, but when it comes time to buy, most people have favorites.

The most obvious bias was either internal (I considered my colored pencil work to be less valuable than my oil paintings) or in the art world. Some galleries still will not accept colored pencil artwork under any circumstances, but I believe they are getting fewer and fewer in number.

I hope that answers your questions. Thank you again for writing, and for your great questions!

Art Selling Myths (And Why not to Believe Them)

Time to talk about a few art selling myths, and why you shouldn’t believe them.

A few weeks ago, a reader asked me about selling art. She wanted to know specifically if I’d noticed oil paintings selling better than colored pencil pieces or vice versa.

That post got me thinking about some of the common myths we artists tend to believe about selling art. Since understanding what doesn’t work is just as important as knowing what does work, sharing a few art selling myths is a great place to begin a discussion on selling art.

And before you start thinking this is an academic discussion, let me assure you I’ve wrestled will each one of these myths for years. Some of them are still a struggle. So I speak from personal experience.

Why You Shouldn't Believe These Art Selling Myths

There are a lot of art selling myths in circulation, so I’m going to focus on the five that gave me the most trouble.

I’ll also offer a suggestion or two to help you overcome each one.

Art Selling Myths

Myth #1: If you make it, someone will buy it.

This is the field of dreams syndrome. Remember that movie? Throughout the story, the lead character, Ray Kinsella (played by Kevin Costner) was told all he had to do was build a baseball field, and players would come.

He did and they did, stepping out from rows of corn like magic.

A lot of artists seem to be of the same mindset. I know I thought that way for years. All I had to do was make art and people would flock to buy it.

The problem is, it never worked. It didn’t matter how many paintings I painted, most of them languished in the studio (or under the bed, since I painted in a corner of my bedroom for years.)

It still doesn’t work. In most cases, art does not sell itself.

Not even if you put it on social media.

Art Selling Myth #1: If you make it, someone will buy it. Otherwise known as the Field of Dreams mindset.
Image by WhiskerFlowers from Pixabay

What to Do

This is a mindset problem, so the only way to deal with it is changing your mindset.

How do you do that?

Experience changed my mindset. Years of painting without marketing or selling eventually taught me the importance of marketing. That time wasn’t wasted because I continued making art and my art improved.

But if you can sit yourself down and reason out the link between marketing and selling, you’ll be yards ahead of the game. Hopefully a lot sooner than I was!

Myth #2: If my art isn’t selling, it’s because it’s not good enough.

I suppose it’s natural to reach this conclusion if you believe the first myth. After all, if art sells itself and your art isn’t selling, it must be because it isn’t good enough.

It makes sense, but it isn’t true. All you have to do is look at the sales records for places like Christy’s to see that art that looks bad to you (meaning you don’t like it,) sells all the time. Sometimes for a ton of money.

Even art that’s technically bad—that is, poorly drawn, poorly rendered, created with non-archival materials and so on—can and does often sell. Sometime for a lot of money.

What’s my point? You may not think your artwork is good enough, but someone else will. All you have to do is find them and that’s called marketing!

What to Do

This, too, is a mindset problem. Every artist I know has moments of thinking their work isn’t good enough. Some of us (yes, me) never think our work is good enough.

But we are usually our own worst critic, and the solution is the same as the solution to Myth #1.

Just.

Stop it.

The fact of the matter is that your art IS good enough to sell to someone somewhere.

Myth #3: If I follow the trends, I’ll sell art.

No, no, no, no, a thousand times, no.

Unless you can create complete works of art in a day (or perhaps several of them a day,) you’ll never be able to take advantage of trends. You just won’t be fast enough.

Sure, you’ll gain skills you wouldn’t have otherwise gained, but you’ll also gain a ton of art that can’t be given away.

What’s worse, you’ll end up with a collection of art that fits no particular style. Your work will not have a common thread. It will be all over the place.

And that makes marketing very difficult.

What to Do

If you tend to chase trends in art, the first thing to do is stop it!

Figure out what you’re most interested in drawing, how you most enjoy drawing, and what motivates you most.

Then draw those subjects in those ways and have fun. People who see your work will come to recognize it, and sooner or later your work will begin to attract people who like the same type of work.

And if you must dabble with trends, make sure to incorporate something recognizable into the trend-following artwork. Something that connects it to the other pieces.

In other words, stop following the herd.

Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

Myth #4: Marketing takes only a few minutes a day.

Oh, how I wish this was true!

Do you know, when I’m doing marketing right, I spend at least half of my day marketing?

The percentage is actually higher, because there’s a lot more to marketing than just, well, marketing. There’s all the business administration that goes with it.

So when I consider bookkeeping, order fulfillment, correspondence, inventory control (someone has to buy art supplies,) and all the rest, 80-90% of my time is spent on marketing or marketing-related things.

Granted, not all those things are directly related to marketing, and you might not consider some of them “business” because they’re fun. But they still factor into the equation on some level, so must be considered.

What to Do

The best remedy for this myth is intentionally setting aside time to market every week. It doesn’t matter whether you market day-by-day or week-by-week. It is important to get into the marketing habit early.

Also pay attention to the types of marketing that work best for you and spend most of your marketing time there. Take email lists, for example. It’s a proven fact that the people on your mailing list are far more likely to buy from you than almost any other group you might imagine. It makes more sense to work on building your mailing list then your Facebook following.

Know which marketing activities yield the best results, then make those activities priority.

Image by annca from Pixabay

Myth #5: I can market without spending money.

Isn’t that what social media is for? Free marketing?

Well, yes.

Sort of.

You can promote your work on social media and get sales. But if your percentages are the same as general percentages, you won’t make many sales.

According to the studies I’ve read, only about 1% of your social media followers actually buy something from you. Of the people who make purchases through social media, they appear to be more likely to buy small things or services. Things like coloring pages, collectibles, or courses.

There are also services you can use with a blog or website that allow you to sell without spending money. I use Easy Digital Downloads to sell and deliver tutorials, for example. It does what I need it to do.

For now.

But it does take money to make money, and if you really want to do marketing right, you will need to spend money sooner or later.

What to Do

If you’re like 99.9% of artists, you’ll be working on a shoestring budget when you begin marketing. That’s normal!

So make use of those “free” marketing tools like social media and word of mouth.

But get rid of the notion that you can market forever without spending money by starting to set aside money for paid marketing opportunities. Start now.

It doesn’t have to be a lot of money either. A few pennies set aside out of every dollar accumulate faster than you might think.

Art Selling Myth #5
Image by Olya Adamovich from Pixabay

There’s nothing quite so liberating as finding a paid marketing opportunity for which you already have money set aside. Money that doesn’t have to come out of the household budget.

5 Art Selling Myths that Don’t Have to Hold You Captive

Which of those art selling myths is holding you back? Identify it, then overcome it. Start with the solutions I suggested, but don’t stop there.

Work at changing how you deal with any of these problems or any of the many other marketing myths currently in circulation. Yes, it’s hard work, but you won’t be sorry.