(This post is a continuation of my previous post, which you can read here)
Every artist, be they a writer, painter, dancer, or musician, starts out in the same place. One day you decide to try something new, and mostly, you just really hope you aren’t terrible at it. Some of us may even be under pre-conceived notions that we ARE terrible at it. I write, I sing, I draw, I dance, I photograph, I do countless of creative things, but I never used to paint. One day I decided to try something new. I started by borrowing my friend’s paint set and eventually loved the medium so much I bought one of my own. With starting something new always comes comparison. I looked at other artist’s work and envied their talent. I tried to paint landscapes and people and found myself hating my work. I would storm away from my painting and criticize myself: “Why do I call myself an artist when I suck?” “Why do I think I have any talent?” “I can’t paint. I can’t do anything” and so on and so forth.
While I was painting today, I realized something. I was so caught up in being like other artists. Instead of taking a step back and trying out different painting styles, I gave up and discouraged myself. I may not be able to paint people or objects well, but I found a love for abstract art. When I tried painting portraits, I wasn’t enjoying myself; when I just let my inner creativity flow onto the canvas, I feel free. There is no right or wrong way to do art. Art isn’t a formula or calculation. Art is expression.
Do you want to pick up a creative hobby? Are you struggling with figuring out who you are as an artist? Are you feeling stuck?
1). Give It Your Best Effort
Do you want to be an artist? The first thing to do is try. Every day. Doodle during meetings. Make art when you get home. Make art with your friends. Keep a sketchbook (or a blog!). Write something every day whether it be a sentence, a paragraph, or a blurb. Take pictures of everything. Take a million pictures of one thing.
If you put in the time, you WILL improve. I used to roll my eyes when people told me to practice, but it’s definitely the most important advice I’ve ever gotten.
2) Get Inspired and Experiment
Gathering inspiration from other artists is key to learning. Look at lots of art! Some people are afraid of copying other artists. Don’t be. Just remember there’s a difference between copying and being inspired. Experimented with different styles for a while. Read through your favorite poets’ work and then try to imitate their styles. Once you find a style you like, twist it. Blend in your own elements and ideas so that it became something unique, something that is yours and not just an imitation of someone else’s style. For example, I love Jackson Pollock’s splatter effects and Pablo Picasso’s use of color. When I paint, I play around with my use of color, sometimes only using blue shades for example. By doing this, I am being inspiring by Picasso by playing around with color, but I am not copying his work.
You don’t have to make art to sell. You can make art to grow as an artist. Try a new medium, practice a new style, copy a favorite historical work, enlarge or decrease the size, or use a color outside of your normal palette range. You are making art just for you. No one else has to see it. If you do copy another person’s work, have some respect and don’t try to pass off copies as original work.
Also, as you become more confident with your way of doing things, it might be a good choice to step way back from other people’s work and comparison’s with other artists. I regularly feel crazed with jealousy about other people’s painting skills and brilliant ideas. When I focus on my own process and ideas, the work I produce is so much fresher!
3) Take a break
It’s difficult to evaluate progress while you’re in the throes of production. Know when it’s time to take a step back, get away and return with fresh eyes.
After you have taken a break, look at your work critically to figure out your strengths and weaknesses. What do you like? Not like?
5) Stop Comparing Yourself
Some people have been at it way longer than you have. This one is especially good to remember, for me, when I am comparing myself to other artists. Some of my absolute favorite artists have ten+ years more experience than I do. I look at their work and melt into drooly puddles of envy. Then I slap myself to my senses and remember they have spent that much more time building their craft, networking, and researching. Everyone starts at the bottom. This applies to any career or skill.
Slowly, I am coming to realize that it’s better to compare myself against… myself. Is my art better than last year? Yes!
Whether you want to become the next Vincent Van Gogh, Ansel Adams, or Edgar Allan Poe, practice makes perfect. And once you think you’ve reached perfect, you can never stop improving.