I know from reading emails and answering your questions that there are a lot of new artists in my audience. So I thought it would be a good idea to share a few basic tips for new artists; the sort of things I wish someone had told me decades ago!
This is a post filled with technical colored pencil tips like how to blend and how to layer, or what paper is best. Instead of that, I want to share tips for successfully living the artist’s life. You know, those things that artists talk about once in a while, but that most beginners don’t immediately discover for themselves. You know; life stuff.
Tips for New Artists
1. Be prepared to persevere.
The real secret to success is getting up one more time than you’re knocked down, plain and simple. What works in life works in art, too. When a drawing doesn’t turn out the way you wanted, don’t give up. Get a new sheet of paper, more pencils, and make another drawing. The more you draw, the better you’ll get.
I guarantee it.
2. Develop a thick skin.
From the first piece of art you make to the last, there will be critics.
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.
3. Learn to learn from criticism.
Some of the criticism may be warranted, so you can’t automatically discard it all, but learn to be gracious.
Analyze criticism at face value and glean the comments that will improve your skills as an artist, and in dealing with people (and let’s face it, most of us like nothing better than to shut ourselves up and make art!)
4. Draw (or paint) 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 both and know they are not true.
The best way to be an artist is to make art as often as you can. Whether you feel like it or not. Whether you have the time or not. Even if it’s just a few minutes to doodle 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 made art.
5. Set goals.
You’re probably as tired of hearing this as I used to be. Get over it. I had to and when I did, I learned just how valuable goals can be. And easy.
Start small. A sketch a day, maybe.
If a time goal works better, set a time goal. Just make sure you’re drawing for that five or ten or 60 minutes each day and not doing Facebook or the on-line crossword puzzle. They DO NOT count as making art.
I’m sorry to report that one of my favorite activities (browsing Pixabay) also doesn’t count as making art!
6. Develop a system to monitor goals.
Try a calendar with big squares. Jot a few words about what you did each day.
Or try a white board list, or even a text document or piece of paper.
Decide on your goal for the week or month, then decide what you need to do each day to reach that goal. For each day you make art, record the amount of time you spent or what you drew. You’ll be surprised how quickly it adds up.
7. Don’t let your goals rule you.
You may be thinking this is a contradiction. It’s not. Life happens. There will be some days when, despite your best planning and intentions, you just can’t draw or paint. Don’t let it stress you out.
That’s part of the reason I like weekly and monthly goals in addition to daily goals. If you miss a day, you can make it up somewhere else and the weekly or monthly goals provide the incentive to do so.
8. Have fun.
Whether you make art for personal pleasure or as a livelihood, have fun.
For some, making art will become like a job that requires you to treat it like a job, maintaining regular hours and behaving like your own employee. Try not to lose sight of the joy of art. The reason it drew you in the first place. Take time to nurture that, to grow it as you grow your career or hobby.
You won’t regret it.
There are Eight Life Tips for New Artists.
They work for those of us who have been making art for a while, too, because sometimes we forget them.
If you’d like more tips like these, you might be interested in reading 5 Tips for New & Emerging Artists, which I wrote for EmptyEasel.
Good advice Carrie. I have learned all this too. Thank you for sharing.
Thank you, Gail!
The “rules” are different for folks who make art for fun than for folks who want to earn a living. These tips are good for both, vital to those who want to make money but not as necessary for those who just want to learn and have fun.
You’re right, Jana! There is a world of difference between creating art for fun and creating for a living.
Thank you for those great advices.
Carrie, this is a great article. I so agree! Thank you for the tips.