Are you making the majority of your art marketing efforts via social media and online platforms, nearly ever leaving the comfort of your own office/studio? Do you choose to ignore the possibility of first-handedly selling your work to people or businesses within your city because you find face to face interaction kind of intimidating? Have you avoided promoting yourself and your work amongst people who know you (friends, family, coworkers, etc.) because you are worried about what they may think?
“Everything you’ve ever wanted is on the other side of fear."
“Leadership requires five ingredients--brains, energy, determination, trust, and ethics. The key challenges today are in terms of the last two--trust and ethics."
In this post I will share a bit about where my mind has been in the past few months as I've started to build my art business. I'll also share the short term plans I've set that will help me start building a platform for future success, which includes reaching out to people I know as well as local businesses that could be interested in what I have to offer. Building relationships within your community is a vital part of being a freelancer or solopreneur, especially when starting out, and we should definitely make sure to invest time and effort into creating them, instead of focusing solely on the online world.
What I've Done So Far and Some of My Short-Term Plans
If you have already been following me for a bit, you probably already know that I made the jump from working full-time to starting my own art business quite recently. The time I have spent since resigning from my full-time teaching position until now has been absolutely amazing. I have been making art more than ever before and am finally on my way towards finding my artistic voice and style, which brings me a level of fulfillment unlike nothing I've ever felt. However, though this time of artistic exploration and self-discovery has brought me SO MANY positive emotions, there's also been some amount of anxiety and stress looming over my head because I knew since day one that I had no time to lose in regards to starting my business. Before leaving my last job (which I worked at for six years) I made sure to set myself up as best as I could financially speaking and am still working part-time in order to generate somewhat of an income. Nonetheless, the pressure is on, and I know that I have to keep moving and building something that will eventually start bringing in money.
There's been SO incredibly much to learn in SO many different areas! Though I feel that I have grown so much in the past few months, I know that this is just the tip of the iceberg. Some days, quite frankly, my brain feels like it's going to explode with all this information I have to wrap my head around. I WANT to be making art, but learning about the business aspects involved and promoting my work takes up A LOT of my time. Sometimes days go by in which I don't pick up my sketchbook or paintbrush. I quickly learned (and accepted) that creating great art and making sure to continuously work towards improving artistic skills is only a slice of the pie...a very complex pie. Building a business takes large amounts of courage, dedication, and I've found, being one's own cheerleader. If you don't believe in what you have to offer, remain focused on your work, and do something everyday to expand your reach, NOBODY else is going to do it for you. Though you are only one person, it is imperative that you do something every single day, whether it's online or off, to continue getting your name out there.
Read my blog post Self-Doubt as an Artist: How to Stay Confident and Keep Going.
I've been reading a lot and taking online courses, learning all I can about the many elements required to build an art business, from social media platforms (and what works well on each), the do's and don'ts of self-promotion, what to include in an effective website/portfolio, how to create sell-worthy products and opening online shops, shipping products, how to price artwork, TAXES AND ACCOUNTING, the legal aspects of being an artist, creating necessary documents for clients in order for projects to run as smoothly as possible...the list goes on and on. Self-promotion (and more specifically the face-to-face kind) seems to be one of the hardest things for many of us and it is what I wish to focus on today. However hard marketing your work and building connections may be for you, it's important to take the bull by the horns and realize that if you don't do it, nobody else is. Realize that, no matter how amazing your work may be, if you don't constantly work to put it out there and connect with others in positive, constructive ways, people will not want to engage with you.
All this said, I have to admit that most of my marketing efforts have been online and not at personal level. I have decided that I am going to start fixing this situation during this last part of 2017 and use this holiday season in which people have gifts to buy (and seem to be generally more happy) to reach out. First, I am going to make sure that family and friends know EXACTLY what it is I'm doing and what I can offer. Many of them SORT of have an idea but, truth be told, I've put in much more time and effort into learning from and connecting with others behind a computer screen than chatting face to face.
My plans are to start selling Christmas/holiday themed gift cards and greeting cards with original watercolor illustrations to family, friends and coworkers, as well as start offering commissions. I will also start selling some of my finished oil paintings in, at least, one local shop and start cold-emailing businesses. I have printed a stack of business cards and will work on creating postcards to send to agencies and editorials very soon. I am challenging myself to at least start with this during this last part of 2017 so that I can begin 2018 knowing I have already informed all those closest to me that I have quality products to offer. For some reason, I find it a lot harder to talk with my family about my passions and projects than with total strangers. Am I weird?
Local Connections: The Foundation for an Art Business
As artists, most of us tend to spend heaps of time working alone, which makes it even more important to schedule in time for social interaction. We ultimately create artwork for others to view and appreciate, and there's more of a chance that we'll be successful if we are able to orally communicate our ideas and talk about our artwork with self-confidence. Make no mistake, art friend, you are your best salesman/woman. Our art will not sell itself.
Now-a-days everyone seems to be online, and there's no denying that social media is a vital part of having any type of business. However, when we are just starting out, it is imperative that we build a solid platform of experience and connections to move forward. Once we have achieved a certain skill level and we are producing work consistently, we should begin communicating with the people around us (family, friends, coworkers, etc.). Chances are you already know a good amount of people that could find what you do useful in some way.
Don't ever feel foolish for starting small. Every business started somewhere! However, ALWAYS keep it professional. Always be kind, respectful, and act as a billboard for your brand. Yes, you are a brand! Remember, even when working for family or people who have known you for years, a client is a client, and your art should be valued because you have already put in a lot of time and effort to be where you are at. These smaller jobs will allow you to start building confidence in your artistic skills and you'll learn how to better manage your time as well as how to effectively communicate with clients. Moreover, you'll be able to start building that resumé that will attract bigger clients/projects in the future. Take advantage of the so called `Domino Effect´. It takes one great relationship to start a chain of opportunities. Keep at it and, I assure you, as your network and experience expand, bigger opportunities will arise.
Trust as an Essential Component of Building a Brand and Business
It is a personal project of mine to build a YouTube channel. It's happening! I've even recorded videos and have invested in a DSLR camera, tripod and an arm/mount that will allow me to record my art in process. Why? Not only has YouTube been an invaluable resource in my learning as I build my artistic skills and business, but I KNOW that it is probably the best type of platform out there that will allow my prospective clients to get to know me and trust in what I can offer. In my opinion, it is one of the best things artists can do now-a-days.
Think about it. Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook and even Twitter, are all awesome in their own way, but they are mostly curated images or very short videos and that's it. While YouTube videos are also highly edited and only show you a snippet of a person's life, the channels that have inspired me most of all are those created by artists and illustrators that try to keep it as real as possible, show how hard they are working to improve and how their life revolves around their work and clients/fans. By consistently sharing their life and passions with us, these YouTubers are able to develop in us a sense of trust. We feel like we know them. This, inevitably, creates fans, as well as diverse opportunities for jobs and events. I know that constantly recording and editing videos entails A TON of hard work, but building a channel and putting yourself out there in this way is, in my opinion, the next best thing after face-to-face marketing. It is a way in which you can start to develop trust in people all around the world!
There's true value in connecting with people at a personal level and building genuine relationships. In a world in which most of our communication takes place behind a computer screen or cell phone, we long for warm connection. We want real-ness and sincerity in this heavily edited/curated world. Furthermore, businesses look for professionals that show authenticity and integrity. If you don't have a solid list of past clients to vouch for you yet, the best way to show others that you can be trusted is by talking with them in person. Once you have that level of experience and solid proof you can be trusted, is when others will make the first move to reach out to YOU.
In my opinion, success is impossible without building solid relationships, and solid relationships require trust. Believe in yourself, work daily on building those relationships (both online and offline) and you will get there! Also remember that opportunities emerge from unexpected places!
Building solid relationships both online and offline is an essential part of starting (and maintaining) a successful business. Never be afraid to put yourself out there! Just think, what's the worst that can happen? Do what you can each and every single day to reach out to other human beings, whether they are people you can learn from or possible clients, always in positive ways. Please, PLEASE, put in time and effort to personally interact with others in your community and NEVER underestimate what you can get from a job that may seem small. Continue working hard on what you love, sharing, and always keep in mind how your skills can help others. In time, recognition and money will grow!
Thank you for reading and talk to you soon!
How to Effectively Use Other Artists' Work as Inspiration and a Great Method to Start Developing Your Own Artistic Style
Are you constantly trying to find inspiration by admiring other artists' work and find yourself copying more than you'd like? Do you feel like you are making no progress towards finding your own artistic style? Are you simply unable to produce as much original artwork as you'd like?
“Those who do not want to imitate anything, produce nothing."
In this post I will explain one of the methods I use to make sure I produce original artwork while getting inspired by other artists. This strategy is an amazing way to work towards finding and developing one's own artistic style. Plus, it's very fun!
The act of copying is a very delicate subject in the artistic field and just the word seems to put many of us on edge. I say, let's try to relax and admit that each one of us has been constantly inspired throughout his/her life by people, experiences, artwork (and by “artwork" I mean movies, music, theater, books, etc.), the environments we have lived in, advertising, and pretty much everything around us. Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, has a conscious or unconscious effect on us and, therefore, on the work we produce as artists.
We have all been influenced by a combination of different things and have different likes and dislikes. This is not to say that two different artists are never going to produce similar work. There are bound to be similarities amongst us in terms of technique and/or subject matter because there are only a certain amount of techniques and subjects to work with. However, if we put in the effort to discover ourselves as artists (what techniques/supplies we enjoy working with most, what our own distinctive abilities as well as areas of improvement are, what ideas we want to put out into the world, etc.), we will eventually get to a point at which our work will be a direct representation of ourselves. This is, in my opinion, what matters most and what I am personally working towards. At this point in my artistic journey I allow myself to admire and analyze other peoples' work, but make sure that the bulk of my time goes towards looking inwards and doing my best to apply what I have learned in my own way.
Having said all this, let's begin!
The Artist Mishmash Exercise
The purpose of this exercise is to start pinpointing specific characteristics of other artists' work that you are drawn to, whether it's related to subject type, technique used, general mood of the piece, etc. Afterwards, you will explore how to use characteristics found in different artists' work in one same piece!
To begin you will need a phone, computer, or any other device on which to search for existing artwork, a few pieces of blank paper and a pencil. Make a list of three artists that create work you greatly admire. If you have already created a Pinterest inspiration board like I have, go ahead an use it! If not, now is the time to investigate. I really recommend keeping it at only three and trying to select artists that produce very different types of artwork. Once you have finalized your list, and perhaps read a bit about each artist if you don't know about them already, analyze several of pieces of each, and write down four to five specific characteristics that you have found in each artist's work.
a) Henri Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901)
French artist Toulouse-Lautrec was both a painter and an illustrator. He is known for his provocative paintings and drawings depicting the decadent Parisian nightlife, that he was a part of himself. He created many posters and advertisements for nightclubs including the Moulin Rouge, and elevated advertising to a fine art status. He was a skilled Post-Impressionist painter that experimented with a variety of techniques and supplies. In his posters, he made use of bold, flat shapes of color.
Characteristics of his work I really like:
-Roughness/raw quality of his work in both subject and technique
-Bold use of color, perhaps unnatural at times
-Variety of mediums and substrates used in his sketches and paintings (charcoal, pastels, oils, lithographs, graphite, crayons, canvas, paper, cardboard, etc. )
-Hand-lettering in posters
b) Hannah Höch (1889-1978)
Höch was a German visual artist that is considered the pioneer of the photomontage technique. Her work transmitted deeply rooted social and political messages regarding issues that were occurring at the time (sexism, war, etc.). Though she also worked with oil paints, she is primarily known for her bold collages created with images taken from fashion magazines as well as illustrated journals. Her work conveyed strong, important messages, but were humorous at the same time.
Characteristics of her work I really like:
-Collage/photomontage technique (I think it's quite interesting how we can take bits and bobs of already existing images and create a whole new meaning for them by combining and rearranging them)
-Charged with deep meaning about political/social issues but humorous at the same time
-Incorporation of popular elements into artwork
c) Edward Hopper (1882-1967)
Hopper was an American artist that started his artistic career as an illustrator and turned into a fine artist later on. He is considered to be one of the most important realist painters of the twentieth century. His enigmatic artwork depicts the loneliness of modern urban life in America. The arrangement of elements within his compositions, as well as his amazing use of light/shadow and detail, create very visually striking pieces that very effectively create tension and emotion in the viewer.
Characteristics of his work I really like:
-Realist style but not literal copy (certain degree of interpretive rendering that makes artwork more expressive)
-Artwork tells a story or makes the audience think
-Use of color and contrast creates very striking imagery
-Feeling of mystery and solitude
Alright! Once you have your three artists, and you have listed a few characteristics of each person's work, start brainstorming ideas in which you could incorporate most of these into one same piece. Create several different sketches! You don't have to use ALL of the points you've written down, but make sure to at least use one characteristic of each artist.
Having trouble? Consider these tips.
-Start with the artist that uses subjects or styles that you have a bit of practice in already and then see how you can incorporate characteristics of the other two.
-Instead of wasting too much time thinking of the overall idea you want your drawing/painting to transmit, start drawing ONE object/person/animal/shape and add to it as you go. You'll start making connections between the elements you start adding.
-After you have learned a bit about your favorite artists, think of an idea that is personal to YOU and YOUR LIFE, and then think about how one particular artist might go about representing that particular idea.
Once you have selected an idea to work with, go ahead and start with your final piece! Remember, this is an exercise and is not meant to produce a finalized artwork. As with all types of explorations, try to have fun with it and not pressure yourself to create something perfect. If a great idea for a final piece, awesome! If not, at least you learned something new!
My final exploration piece:
After having sketched out a few different ideas, I selected one and created a composition in Photoshop using five different pictures. I used this (digital) collage as reference as I drew and painted. In this piece, I used a variety of supplies and techniques including watercolor pencils, Prismacolor Soft-Core pencils, Gamsol, watercolor paints, black gouache and even a bit of charcoal. Some areas in the painting are purposely made to look more realistic and polished than others. Finally, I did my best to create an image that propelled the viewer to think about and interpret what he/she is seeing.
Thank you so much for visiting and reading! I'd ABSOLUTELY LOVE it if you took a minute to comment below about what message/idea you took from my exploration piece! Let me know what you come up with yourself! Cheers, friends!
Does fear of failure and criticism constantly stop you from producing or sharing your art? Have you ever tried to create a specific art piece only to become increasingly frustrated with yourself after failing multiple times? Have you ever just wanted to give up creating art at all?
I am going to start out by saying that I am by no means the most confident person in the world. I struggle with bouts of insecurity as much as the next person. However, I vehemently believe that consistent hard work and dedication produces results. Thus, ANYBODY can be or achieve ANYTHING they set their hearts and minds to, whether it's becoming an artist, building a house or losing thirty pounds.
While I agree that it is necessary to be realistic in life and that a particular person's life situation might lead him or her to faster recognition or results, I 100% believe that consistent steps in the right direction, no matter how small, will eventually get you to where you want to be. Nothing truly rewarding in life comes easy, but keep in mind that the more difficult the climb, the more one grows along the way, and the greater the victory. Even if you aren't beaming with confidence 24/7 (which is completely normal), if you know what you want, are willing to prioritize your goals over everything else you have going on in life, and put in the consistent hard work, you'll get there. Period. You have to believe this in your bones.
This post is mostly for those who have found that art is their one true calling, wish it to ultimately be their way of making a living, and have been working at improving their skill for a considerable amount of time. If this is you, and you are seeking to pursue art professionally, you do have to acknowledge that it's not only going to be hard work to get there, but to keep creating consistently once you do. Artists need to have a natural curiosity and desire to challenge themselves, to be willing to make mistakes, and to constantly analyze their work in order to set new goals. We are also, many times, completely in charge of getting our names out there effectively in order to get clients and/or sell our work. All of this means believing in ourselves and what we have to offer. On top of everything else, we need to be able to take criticism constructively and not let it demotivate us.
For me, being an artist means to be inherently courageous. We need to be courageous to choose the artistic path in life while everyone around us tells us this isn't the “safe" route. We need to have the courage to believe in ourselves and our work in a sea of amazing and talented artists. We need to be brave enough to share our work and thought processes with the world which, in most cases, was created by us and us alone. We need to be brave enough to price on our work and take criticism. The list goes on and on. If you have already decided that you are going to be an artist and have been working at improving your skills for a while, it already means you are brave enough to have taken a challenging path.
Keep in mind that we are all human and it's normal to struggle with phases of insecurity and frustration every now and then. If you have come to know yourself well through whatever experiences life has put you through, and you have 100% concluded that NOTHING in the world brings you as much happiness as creating art (high five!), you need to find a way to manage the negative thoughts and feelings that may arise and find a way to keep going. Next, I will share a few strategies that help me stay happy and productive.
Key Ideas to Stay Happy & Productive as an Artist
1. Don't rush your process
Creating an amazing artwork takes time! The creative process can (and should) involve a phase of study and preparation before even starting a final piece. Do whatever practice you feel you need before starting with the final artwork! Resist going straight to the canvas, paper or whatever it may be. Enjoy the process of studying subjects and exploring supplies (sketchbooks are AMAZING for this!). Remember it's about the road and not the destination. For example, when I am preparing to paint a portrait, I first practice drawing (or even painting) individual facial elements that I know are difficult for me. I also make sure to sketch faces in the angle I am going for several times before actually starting my final painting. Something else that you can do is plan and prepare your color palette. Many things can be done to ensure an overall better outcome.
I have found, at times, I tend to get a bit anxious to finish my work after already having spent a considerable amount of time on it. This anxiety makes me do things too fast without actually thinking of what I am doing and many times I end up ruining a piece or simply not doing as best as I could because I tried to rush it. I need to remind myself that great work requires concentration and patience.
2. Work on Art Fundamentals and take classes
Being a professional artist requires becoming an expert on the Fundamentals of Art (Form, Color, Perspective, Composition, Value/Lighting, and even Anatomy). The more knowledgable and experienced you become in these basic topics, the more confident you will become overall. No matter what your subject or technique of choice is, keep making time to study and practice Art Fundamentals throughout your artistic journey. By doing this, you will feel more capable of taking on different subjects and compositions.
Look up resources online, buy books, invest in classes or workshops in your city! Being able to talk with professors and getting feedback from others is very useful. I also highly recommend continuing to develop your observational skills by using references and drawing from life. This will REALLY improve your work! I personally believe that, no matter how skilled an artist has become, he/she should always make time to study the basics.
3. Know when and who to share your work with
To be perfectly honest, I think beginner artists should wait a bit to start sharing work online. I think if someone is just starting out, he/she should first try getting feedback from people he/she knows at a personal level, perhaps family and friends. Afterwards, seek feedback from art or design professors or people more knowledgable in art that can actually critique your work. Start getting a feel for people's reactions to your art and how to deal with other peoples' criticism in positive ways so that you can actually grow from it. Following this natural process will ensure that your abilities are already at a specific level by the time you start putting yourself out there for the world to see, and you'll have developed a bit of confidence in yourself. I feel like the online world can be quite harsh and can be potentially discouraging to someone just starting out.
Once you feel more confident and have gained some knowledge about Art basics, by all means, start sharing! All kinds of art, whether its visual arts, music, literature, acting, etc., is meant to be appreciated by others. We create so that ultimately, our work can be seen. We create for an audience. Due to this, if we ever want to pursue an artistic career, the sooner we are able to put ourselves out there and open ourselves up to constructive criticism, the faster we will grow.
4. Learn how to take criticism constructively
As artists, we simply have learn to take criticism. This can be very hard because art is so personal and it takes a lot of energy to create. Harsh criticism can be hurtful and/or discouraging, no matter what point an artist is at. It is, therefore, imperative to develop a somewhat thick skin and/or positive coping mechanisms in order to move forward.
Accept that anyone who is willing to put him/herself out there is going to get criticized at one point or another. Not everyone will like you or what you do, nor is it your job to make everyone like you. The sooner you realize that it isn't your job to please everyone, the better. It is important to keep in mind who the comments are coming from. If you are being harshly criticized by someone who has absolutely no experience in what you are doing, take those comments with a grain of salt. Sometimes people are mean just to be mean and their actions/words say more about them than they do about your work. All this said, PLEASE learn to accept peoples' praise. Be proud of how far you've come and thank them for admiring your work!
5. Use other artists' work as inspiration but never compare yourself
As I mentioned before, every one of us is different. We all have different levels of expertise depending on the amount of time we've been at it, different likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses, and have lived/are living totally different life situations. No matter how much you try, your artwork will never look 100% like somebody else's. And you SHOULDN'T WANT it to look like somebody else's! The only thing you should be focusing on is on developing your own skill and style.
Don't get me wrong, admiring and getting inspiration from viewing other artists' work is perfectly fine as long as we are in a good headspace, but thinking you'll never be able to get to that level is damaging and unnecessary. Study other artists' work to start realizing what kind of styles you are drawn to and get specific ideas from them to apply in your own work. Don't try to copy unless it's for specific studies you will be keeping to yourself.
Never compare apples to oranges!
5. Kill the perfectionist inside you and turn into a curious explorer
In my blog post titled How I Killed My Perfectionist Demon and Why Perfectionism is the Worst I talk about the dangers of perfectionism. As with any other aspect of life, we should be striving for progress and not perfection in our work. Perfectionism and fear of failure are two of the greatest enemies of any creative being and can attack at any moment in the creative process, even when one is a skilled artist. Sometimes fear of failure attacks before even starting a piece, as we stand in front of an empty canvas or paper, totally intimidated by the blankness. Or maybe we begin an artwork happy and confident only to grow more and more frustrated with ourselves after making a few mistakes. Or it can even happen after we're done! Sometimes we finish our work and are perfectly happy with its outcome, only to come back to it a few days later to find that you don't like it very much anymore. All of these experiences are very normal. The point is not to let any of this stop you from keeping at it!
Realize nothing is EVER going to be perfect and there is ALWAYS going to be more progress to do. And even if you succeed at creating what you think is perfect NOW, I assure you, in a year from now you'll look back at it and notice all the ways that you could have done better. Your standards are going to keep moving higher and higher, which is great and means that you are holding yourself accountable and are moving forward. Keep exploring and producing large amounts of work. Never, EVER let fear paralyze you!
6. Prioritize your mental and physical health
As artists, we are generally passionate people and we love what we do, so it's common to be a bit obsessive when it comes to our work. At times, it's easy to forget about taking care of our minds and bodies. Some of us may even suffer from anxiety disorders or high levels of sensitivity, which make it even MORE important to check in with ourselves and be mindful of our well-being. It is imperative for us to assess whether our work rhythm is allowing us the time we need to rest and recalibrate. If it isn't, put serious consideration into how long you'll be able to keep this up. Going through super busy phases that have you working long hours is normal at times, but if you find this is always the case for you, you need to make necessary adjustments.
It is a priority of mine to make time for my own mental and physical health EVERY SINGLE DAY. The daily actions I take make me a happier and more productive person which, in turn, leads me to create better work. I want to continue making art until I am very, very old, and I hope this is a goal for you as well! Let's take care of ourselves!
7. Set feasible goals for yourself
It is important to constantly set goals for yourself. SMALL, SPECIFIC, and FEASIBLE goals. I personally have a tendency to want to to it all and get overwhelmed because my focus is completely scattered and end up doing only a portion of everything I wanted to do. I am working on being more realistic when setting my goals and on choosing specific subjects or techniques to practice in a particular amount of time. Be honest about your life situation and be kind to yourself when you are setting your goals. Make your plans and focus on achieving one thing at a time once they are set. With every success you'll become more experienced and confident in your skills and you'll be able to progress much faster. Don't forget to praise yourself for your achievements! Read about my methods for setting goals and planning my days in this post.
Remember that there will ALWAYS be to more learn, no matter how skilled you become as an artist. In a year from now you'll look back at your work and be able to tell how much you have improved. Then you'll set new standards for yourself and these will continue shifting throughout time.
8. Remember to always, ALWAYS stay positive
This is very important in all aspects of life. It is absolutely ESSENTIAL to face any type of challenge with an “I can do this" attitude. When you start something believing you will fail, you're probably going to fail. If you try to do something and don't succeed, try again tomorrow! If you ever feel a sense of frustration bubbling up inside of you, take a break and remember that every action causes a reaction, which means that if you are trying you are getting a little bit better each time, even if it doesn't seem like it. You have to know, deep within yourself, that you can do anything if you keep trying. Embrace failure and shift your mindset so that you start viewing mistakes as discoveries and milestones that you are moving past in order to become a talented artist.
I want to end this post by reminding you that everyone around you is scared and nervous to a certain degree. We're human and life is unpredictable and challenging. The fact that you have already put in the work of self-discovery to realize that art is this important to you sets you apart in a very positive way as is. Most people keep moving forward without ever giving thought to what it is they truly want in life and settle for what is easier and more practical. You didn't! This, to me, means you are already very courageous! Whatever fear or anxiety comes your way, channel it into positive actions that will help move you forward and don't ever give up.
Thanks for reading and have a great one!
“Creativity takes courage."
“Have no fear of perfection - you'll never reach it.”
“The greater the artist, the greater the doubt.
Perfect confidence is granted to the less talented
as a consolation prize."
“Criticism is something we can avoid easily by saying nothing,
doing nothing, and being nothing.”
Do you have any personal strategies that help you deal with negative feelings that pop up when you are working? Have you ever given up on creating art for a long period of time? I'd love to hear your thoughts! Leave a comment below.
Do you find yourself struggling to find ideas for new artwork? Is it hard for you to keep the momentum going in order to create large quantities of work? Do you frequently end up copying or building upon somebody's pre-existing artwork because you can't seem to think of ideas for yourself? Are you constantly wasting hours looking on Pinterest or Instagram for the PERFECT idea for your next artwork, just to end up creating nothing at all?
All of these worries and anxieties are quite normal for artists to have, especially when one is just starting out. So, firstly, let me just say that you are not alone and, more importantly, you are not less of an artist for experiencing these feelings. Secondly, let me tell you that you are being way to hard on yourself and that it is quite unrealistic to have high expectations for every single piece you create. In this blog post I will explain the mental approach that I have adopted towards creating art and how, by thinking this way, I have managed to keep a steady work flow and creativity blocks at bay. It's actually pretty simple.
I'm sure by now you have heard how, in ancient times, Greeks and Romans believed that creativity came from divine spirits outside and beyond the artist. At the risk of sounding like a control freak (and contradicting Elizabeth Gilbert), I think it is best to believe that WE ourselves have the power of controlling our inspiration levels. How can we possibly be in control of our inspiration, you ask? Well, it is less about waiting around for the PERFECT idea to come to you and more about taking care of yourself as a human being (this is more important that you might think), remaining open, shifting your mindset in order to be more appreciative of life moments, and consistently showing up to do the work (creativity is a muscle that has to be trained/strengthened).
I challenge you to be appreciative of the things around you (people, animals, objects) and to be more mindful of the feelings/thoughts that you are experiencing throughout the day. Pay attention. Be curious. Really observe and try to see things in different perspectives. Put yourself in other peoples' shoes. See the beauty in all things. Take notes. Turn yourself into an open channel. It is actually YOU that decides to turn the inspirational switch on. If you find you are unable to do this, there may be a chance that life has exhausted you and you have to make it a priority to take care of yourself before anything else. It's really incredible how much more productive we can be once we have committed to taking care of our mental and physical health.
I sincerely believe that remaining open, together with an intrinsic desire to improve personal skills and wanting to communicate important ideas to others, should give an artist more than enough fuel to continuously make art. Furthermore, there will always be room to improve artistic skills, whether it is through more technical studies or exploring new mediums/techniques. I have found that these explorations and studies always end up enhancing my work and they allow me to become more confident, which always opens up new possibilities. No matter how talented an artist is, there will ALWAYS be room to grow. What is important is to show up everyday with a desire to improve and progress, instead of waiting for a magical moment to happen.
In all the time I have been drawing and painting, inspiration has never hit me like a sudden lightning bolt. My best artwork so far has always been a result of a brainstorming process, chipping away at an idea, committing to it and allowing myself to enjoy the process. For me, the magical moment occurs after I have decided on an idea and have allowed myself to begin. I get into that magical zone while I draw or paint.
Finally, I want to remind you to take it easy on yourself. Always acknowledge your victories, however small they may be. Do your best to enjoy the process. Always remember this: It's the journey, not the destination.
Specific Ideas to Keep Your Art Flow Going
1. Stay healthy
Eat good food. Move more. Make time for your physical and mental well-being. This is the foundation for everything else. If you find you are simply unmotivated to make art, devote time to learning about other topics that interest you, whatever it may be. I find books and documentaries are awesome ways to get inspired.
2. Stop comparing yourself to others
Focus first on what YOU need to improve or the ideas that YOU want to transmit through your artwork. You can create inspirational Pinterest boards as much as you want, but always value your own work and respect the point you are in in your own journey. Remember that we tend to only see curated galleries of other artists' best pieces. Rarely do we see their failures and their struggles.
3. Make time for exploration
Try different mediums and styles. Pinpoint what it is about other peoples' work that you find intriguing (color, use of texture, line, etc.) and apply it in an artwork in your own way. Combine different drawing or painting supplies in one same piece. Deliberately try creating "ugly" artwork! Experiment with subjects that you have never attempted before. You never know if you don't try.
4. Talk to other human beings
It doesn't have to be about art! Ask questions and be interested. Really listen to what they have to say. Sometimes I think about what I have in common with others and what I can create that can resonate with him or her. Art is all about reflecting and connecting!
5. Create a work space that ignites your positive thoughts
Keep your studio organized. Add decorations that will help relax you and make you happy. I really believe that the environment that surrounds us impacts our mood and creativity.
6. Keep a sketchbook (or several)
If you are ever unmotivated, a sketchbook is able to provide a record for you to see how far you have come. They are also a great way to stay consistent. It is always an interesting exercise to re-work an old drawing or painting in a different way using the skills you have developed since then. Keep a small notebook to write ideas down in as they occur to you throughout the day. Read my post about why it is important to keep a sketchbook as an artist here.
7. Never fear perfection
Perfection is SO overrated! It is through taking risks that we grow. Nobody is perfect and there will always be room for improvement, no matter who you are. A perfectionist and ever-anxious state of mind will not lead you to create your best work. Read about the dangers of perfectionism in my blog post titled How I Killed My Perfectionist Demon and Why Perfectionism is the Worst.
8. Use your choice of literature, music, movies, photography, etc.
I find ALL kinds of art enjoyable and love using movies, music, literature and photography to get inspired. Think about what it is about that particular movie, song or book that resonates with you and create art based on those ideas/characters.
9. Make note of what you would like to improve and create plans/goals
Take 30 minutes each week to think about what specific skills you wish to improve (from technical drawing skills to specific techniques or media) and set goals for yourself. Just remember that these goals have to be feasible. Set limits for yourself so you don't get overwhelmed.
I leave you with this quote by amazing artist Chuck Close:
“The advice I like to give young artists, or really anybody who'll listen to me, is not to wait around for inspiration. Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself. Things occur to you. If you're sitting around trying to dream up a great art idea, you can sit there a long time before anything happens. But if you just get to work, something will occur to you and something else will occur to you and something else that you reject will push you in another direction. Inspiration is absolutely unnecessary and somehow deceptive. You feel like you need this great idea before you can get down to work, and I find that's almost never the case.”
Visit artist's website here.
“Time is the single most important resource that we have.
Every single minute we lose is never coming back.”
Have you ever found yourself getting irritated or anxious after not being able to work on what truly matters to you due to time-consuming “adult" obligations? Do you ever go to bed disappointed with yourself because you weren't able to create as much as you would have liked that day, week or month?
The past few months have been eye-opening for me in terms of realizing how important it is to prioritize tasks and create schedules for myself if I want to succeed as an artist/creative entrepreneur. I had been working for employers full-time for basically my entire career so far until last June, when I decided to resign from the Art Teaching position I had in the same school for five years. Currently, I am working for an employer only part-time teaching art and working on my own artistic projects the rest of the work day.
The first month or so after resigning, my husband and I had our hands full moving from our old apartment into the house we are living in today. After we were relatively settled in, and I felt like I had a decent work space set up (and the mental capacity to start this new phase in my career-gulp!), I began creating lists of both short and long-term goals that I wanted to accomplish. I knew from the start, that if I wanted to get anywhere as an artist, I would have to get serious, take matters into my own hands, and accomplish at least one thing every single day that would help me get closer and closer to my goal. I am lucky to have had those full-time job experiences which helped me develop a strong work ethic, organizational skills and an urgency to get things done.
It's been a struggle to fit everything I want to get done into one day, of course, as it probably is for most self-employed artists. Even though I consider myself relatively good at sticking to the commitments I have set for myself, it has been hard to remain disciplined working from home. It's been especially hard to focus on more business-related tasks because I am enjoying myself SO much as I finally have time to devote to my own artistic journey. During this time I have also learned that when one works from home, distractions are ever-present and that people who have never experienced being self-employed are prone to thinking that because you are working from home and doing your own thing, you must not be under pressure at all. Yeah, right!
Being the owner of a small business means managing accounting, inventory, marketing, finding time to network and create relationships with other artists/art enthusiasts, managing websites and social media, AND making awesome art. Not to mention, when one is self-employed, usually this means having to find different ways to diversify your income, which means juggling a bunch of things at once. Your level of success and income depends solely on you and the hustle you are willing to put in once you have defined your goals. As artists we are fully in charge of our own careers and, the sooner we realize that we are running a business and have to both learn to think strategically and follow through with decisive actions, the more successful we will become. For all this to happen, it is imperative that we learn to take control of our time.
Though I feel like my personal artistic journey is just beginning and I still have a lot to learn, I am happy to report that I have made decent progress towards my first set of goals, which included defining what it is that I want to offer, creating a cohesive online presence through my website and various art/creative platforms, growing an organic following on social media and to continue working hard at developing my artistic skills. I have managed to keep up with frequent posting on my main accounts (some daily, some weekly). I have also made it a priority to create blog posts twice a week and am continuously learning about SEO in order to reach a larger audience. I've learned SO incredibly much already and am progressing towards better time management, which I consider to be the foundation for everything else. Here are a few things that I have implemented myself and have allowed me to progress slowly but surely towards my objectives.
9 Useful Time Management Tips
1. Define your goals
“If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.” –Yogi Berra
First and foremost, you have to think about what is most important to you. Define what it is you want out of life at personal, career and family/social levels. These are all equally important. Who do you want to become? For me, it helps to think about the people I admire, even if they are not in the same field I am in professionally speaking. What is it about their personality that draws you to them? What kind of energy do they put out into the world? What would you say THEY prioritize? What steps do you think you have to take in order to become the version of yourself you want to become?
Once you know what you want in these three categories, set specific goals for each. Make sure these goals are measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. Personally, I never think more than a year in advance. I list my goals for the year (perhaps around 5) and flesh out more specific things to work on each month based on those goals.
2. Create a weekly schedules and daily to-do lists
“Create a definite plan for carrying out your desire and begin at once, whether you are ready or not, to put this plan into action.” –Napoleon Hill
After thinking about where you want to be at the end of the year and breaking that larger goal up into monthly tasks, you have to think about what specific actions you will have to take each week to make those monthly goals happen. Creating weekly schedules and daily bullet lists whenever necessary is extremely helpful. For me, they are essential in order to function on a day to day basis.
I am usually pretty strict about following my time-block schedule from Monday through Friday, but for the weekends I prefer to leave my days a bit more open and flexible by creating simple checklists of things I have to get done. By keeping things more flexible on Saturdays and Sundays, I am able to work around family gatherings, social commitments, or other special events. As long as I make sure to check off my to-do list items, I go to bed happy, knowing that I made some progress.
Creating daily to-do lists is especially helpful on more chaotic days that will be full of important and varied activities. When I know one of these days is coming up I create my to-do list, making sure to highlight the activities I need to prioritize. These bullet lists include appointments or errands that I didn't initially account for in my weekly scheduling. If I am not able to get through my daily to-do lists, which happens more often than I'd like, I take the next day as a new opportunity instead of beating myself up about it. Life happens and, though it is important to create plans, we also have to remain flexible and keep in mind things are always going to pop up.
The image below is what my ideal work week looks like. I really recommend creating a schedule using time blocks. However, I highly recommend you to modify your schedule's format depending on what works for you personally. Remember to include personal/self, work and family/social time in there! You can create a re-usable template either digitally or by hand, whatever floats your boat!
My Ideal Work Week:
3. Learn to say NO
“We must say "no" to what, in our heart, we don't want. We must say "no" to doing things out of obligation, thereby cheating those important to us of the purest expression of our love. We must say "no" to treating ourselves, our health, our needs as not as important as someone else's. We must say “no.” -Suzette R. Hinton
Remember, time is finite resource and every single minute that goes by is a minute you will not get back. Life is short and we have to make sure we are spending our valuable time doing activities that will get us closer to our goals and overall happiness.
Set your non-negotiables from the start and account for that time EVERY day. For example, for me, it is extremely important to have time to work out, enjoy home cooked meals, and to get decent rest every single day. These are things I need for my health and well-being. It is also a non-negotiable for me to have time to spend with my husband at the end of each work day and to have the opportunity to catch up with extended family or friends on weekends. These are things I need at a family/social level. It is imperative for you to make time for those special people in your life.
I will not take on projects or say `yes` to social gatherings that are not going to contribute to my goals in some way. These needs will obviously vary from person to person. Always keep in mind that your mental and physical well-being is just as important as anything else. I firmly believe that the better you take care of yourself, the better artist you will be. Not to mention, you will be able to create art for a longer time.
4. Identify personal time-wasters and cut down on distractions
“You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks."
We live in a world of constant distraction. If we aren't careful, we can waste entire days without being productive at all. You need to assess for yourself whether those activities that are taking away so much of your time are helping you get closer to your goal in any way. Be honest with yourself! If they aren't, cut them out. For example, if you find yourself stalking people on social media for hours on end, engaging in constant negative small-talk with so-called friends or other activities that will bring nothing positive to you, cut those activities out of your life. I personally am completely unapologetic about it. If you find this too hard, at least avoid doing it during times when you should be positive and focusing on your work.
Make sure you are using social media only for work-related tasks during the day so that you aren't trying to finish up important things late at night, when you should be resting in order to be fresh and productive the following day. Not resting properly will affect your work and productivity and will perhaps even throw your entire week off.
Schedule in times for non-art related tasks in a smart way so that you use your most productive hours for creative tasks. Instead of checking your email once every few hours, check and respond to emails once a day and make sure not to spend more than 30 mins on them. Make things like phone calls, errands, home chores, etc. all revolve around your production time as much as possible.
Keep your phone on silent during times that require special focus and attention and try to diminish multitasking. Studies have found that if you are trying to do several things at once, it is likely the outcomes of those things will be mediocre. Instead, set specific times for each task and focus on one thing at a time.
I really recommend setting aside some time at the end of each week to think about what your personal time-wasters are and when it is you find yourself getting sucked into them. Modify your schedule if at the end of the week you find something didn't work for you.
5. Keep studio/office, artwork and computer files organized
“For every minute spent organizing, an hour is earned." -Benjamin Franklin
A lot of time is wasted when we have to look for things. By keeping your work area, supplies and artwork organized you will not only be able to find whatever you need faster, but you will avoid lost/damaged work, accidents and a lot of anxiety. At the end of each workday, I like to spend a few minutes organizing my studio/office so that the next morning I am inspired to start right away.
As artists, our computers, phones and other devices collect a lot of reference image files, scanned artwork, etc. I recommend keeping these digital files organized and labelled appropriately. Being organized is especially important because, being self-employed, you will have to stay on top of several different sources of revenue and specific client projects. Not to mention, we are also responsible for keeping track of our monthly income and spending. It is very important to create a system for organizing receipts and invoices as well as contracts, client emails and other necessary documents. Create back-ups on a regular basis.
6. Set reminders and alarms throughout the day if necessary
“Work is a necessity for man. Man invented the alarm clock." -Pablo Picasso
If you're anything like me, time goes by fast when you are in the process of creation. Even though production time is extremely important, as business owners it is imperative for us to stay on top of many other things as well. I use my phone to set reminders and alarms on days in which I have to be somewhere at a specific time (appointments, meetings, classes, online workshops/webinars, etc.). For me, punctuality is essential in order to transmit professionalism and seriousness. It shows you respect other people's time and that you have your priorities in check. Also, each day can be very different as a self-employed creative and it can be a lot easier to forget things when you have no co-workers or bosses reminding you what you have to do and where you have to be. It's imperative that you set your own systems.
7. Assess and improve time management strategies
“Practice without improvement is meaningless." -Chuck Knox
At the end of each month, it is useful to sit down and think about what worked in your scheduling practice and what didn't. Maybe you find you are able to be more effective creatively in the morning, in which case you should consider scheduling in your art-production block earlier. You can leave tasks that require less critical thinking (responding to emails, posting on social media, etc.) at a later time. Or perhaps you do some research and find out you get more engagement when posting on social media at specific times, in which case you should not waste time on them at other moments of the day. Assessing your systems regularly will allow you to keep improving your productivity levels over time. Improvement is the name of the game when you are building a business!
8. Consider delegating tasks
“Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do." -Jessica Jackley
I am SO guilty of burning myself out after wanting to do everything alone! Because I am interested in a very wide variety of things, I get excited and want to learn/experiment with them first-handedly. I start new things when I already have a lot on my plate and perhaps even succeed at finishing everything on time, but my health takes a toll. I have to remind myself that the tasks that I set out to achieve have to be feasible.
One thing I have learned these past few months is how important it is to define goals and streamline systems in order to reach success sooner. There are things that you have to be willing to set aside if you want to become amazing at one specific thing.
Once your business takes off and/or you have the resources to get help, I suggest you do it. You can delegate the tasks that don't excite you as much like maintaining your website, cleaning your studio/office, scanning and organizing artwork, etc. This will allow you more time and energy to focus on producing artwork and this will allow you to develop artistically faster!
9. Be consistent and never forget to celebrate your accomplishments
“Happiness does not come from doing easy work but from the afterglow of satisfaction that comes after the achievement of a difficult task that demanded our best." -Theodore Isaac Rubin
We tend to focus on everything that we have yet to do and don't take a moment to realize how far we have come since we started. It wasn't until I started writing this blog post, for example, that I realized all of the things I have been able to do in only a couple of months! PLEASE TAKE A MOMENT TO PAT YOURSELF ON THE BACK FOR YOUR HARD WORK EVERY NOW AND THEN. Milestones are important and acknowledging them will encourage you to keep working hard towards your goals.
If you have done your absolute best every day, you ARE progressing and you should be proud of yourself. You should be proud of yourself for being brave enough to even take this entrepreneurial route and for working hard to create the life you want to live.
Finally, I want to encourage you to dream big and never let fear hold you back from achieving your dreams. You can get anywhere if you believe in yourself and set yourself up for success by learning, planning and being consistent. Don't let perfectionism, fear of failure, or criticism get in the way of something you truly want. Also, take it one step at a time! Remember that getting things done is better that not doing them at all. After all, growing a business is a learning process and we will be improving throughout the way. The important thing is to do our best on a daily basis and to never give up!
What are you greatest time-management challenges? How does your control of your time impact your work? I'd love to hear your answers!
I usually like having reference photos or real life objects in front of me to get inspired by when creating an artwork. Even though I am not particularly interested in taking the hyperrealist route, I use photographs because they remind me of details that I may or may not choose to include in my painting (or drawing), and might otherwise forget. I have found that, at times, it is these little details in photographs that my painting was lacking in order to become great. Perhaps when I become experienced enough as an artist I will have sufficient information stored in my mind to be able to paint anything without needing a reference, but I really doubt it. There are a lot of very experienced people out there that use reference photos and most of my favorite artists in history did as well. Having something to look at, even if you aren’t trying to create a perfect replica of it, is super useful.
This said, I have to admit that I am very much against tracing and even using grids (after you have arrived at a certain level of ability). I don’t even like to print out reference images, but prefer to work directly from my computer screen or from real life. Many artists recommend printing out the picture before starting a painting and working from it in order to ensure colors, values and proportions are true to the image. If you are going for something very realistic or simply believe it will be more comfortable for you, go ahead and print the image. I personally don’t because my style doesn't involve recreating images 100%. Even if it means my version of the reference will end up slightly distorted, have colors that may look a bit unnatural, or certain angles don’t completely make sense, I like this more because there is more of myself in my artwork. I view imperfections and deliberate modifications by the artist as good things. All of this is my opinion and my personal way of working. Finally, tracing doesn't help an artist exercise observational and drawing skills as much as drawing from life or from a separate image does. I really recommend not doing it after you have surpassed that initial level of drawing, no matter how hard it may be at first.
Getting back to photography, making time to take photos of the subjects you are most drawn to is incredibly important for an artist. In a previous post I talked about how sometimes it’s difficult to make time for this. I've shared links to sites that offer free quality photos that you can use to create artwork from and even sell (click here to go to this post). These sites are lifesavers for us who have a full or part time job aside from being artists and don't always have the time necessary to do an actual photo session. I don't think there is anything wrong in using photos that aren't ours in these cases, as long as we have permission to do so. I believe that using them to get daily practice in is SO much better than doing nothing at all. However, there is nothing as rewarding as creating an artwork completely on your own, from start to finish. Going though the process of brainstorming and visualization, finding the actual object(s) you want to shoot, sketching out composition ideas and arriving at the photo that you will later be using to create your artwork, may be a lot of work, but it is totally worth it at the end.
Photography is definitely an art form in itself and learning to take perfect photos takes a lot of learning and practice. I took my first Photography class when I was in High School and later on took a course in university in which we were still actually processing photos in dark rooms (man do I feel old)! It is important to know that simply taking a photo doesn't ensure that it will be able to be used for a drawing or painting. Things like resolution and lighting can make a photo extremely difficult to work with and even result in bad art. Below I am sharing a few key things to keep in mind when taking reference photos for your artwork. As artists, we should spend more time doing drawing and painting than taking photos, so we should make the process as simple but effective as possible.
Things to have in mind when taking reference photos for your art:
Here are a couple of good pictures I ended up with that I will definitely be using to create some paintings. Try not to get too hungry!
Thanks so much for reading! I hope this was helpful!
"You want to make an omelette? You've gotta break some eggs."
-Tyler Durden (Fight Club)
In today's post, I will be taking you through the process of preparing an old canvas painting in order to reuse it to make a new artwork! I am a firm believer in using what we have and in being as resourceful as possible in our explorations. Because, as most of you already know, us artists explore a WHOLE darn lot and we have to be smart about how we spend our money.
First and foremost, a bit about the original painting. This canvas was a part of an artwork composed of three separate panels (three long rectangles meant to be hung vertically side by side). The paintings around 35 years old. Probably more. Another important note is that these artworks seem to have been created using very thin applications of acrylic paint. It is definitely not oil. And they don’t have much texture to them at all. I took all of these points into consideration when I decided to use them in my explorations. I knew resurfacing them was going to be easy and that they presented good opportunities for me to work on a size and format I had never worked on before. My main point is, canvases with thickly applied paint or a lot of texture on them will probably require more work because more sanding will be required.
Secondly, I used regular Gesso I had at hand in order to resurface my canvas. There is a lot of debate whether or not it is ¨safe¨ to use oil paint on a canvas prepped with gesso. A lot of folks believe that it should not be done because it is just a recipe for cracking, peeling and an overall less durable painting. Other artists believe that a good quality Gesso can serve as base for practically any type of paint or medium. I think it is up to you to figure out if this will work for your specific type of artwork or not, and the only way of finding this out is through first-hand experimentation. Perhaps your just experimenting and learning like me, and aren't really looking to create a masterpiece that will be passed on from generation to generation. In this case, it doesn't really matter. Something you DO have to keep in mind is that if your goal is to resurface an old oil painting, a whole new set of rules apply. Regular Gesso cannot be used for this purpose. You would need an oil-specific ground and/or primer (I will not go into this process today because it is not something I have personally tried). So, once again, you CAN create an oil painting over traditional Gesso, but you CANNOT apply gesso over an oil painting. Are you with me?
I personally didn't worry much about creating an impeccable surface for this project because, as previously stated, I knew since the beginning that this was mostly an exploration for me. However, if it worries you, a solution is to apply Lindseed Oil prior to starting the painting process. Simply brush this all over the previously dried gesso and allow it to soak for about 24 hours. Afterwards, wipe off the canvas with a dry cloth and let the games begin! The idea is that the gesso will absorb some of this oil and it is less likely to make the painting crack later.
How to Reuse an Old Canvas Using Gesso:
You will need:
-Old canvas painting/print/pretty much whatever as long as it's not an oil painting
-Thick used up/cheap brush
-Glass containers for water
-Linseed oil (*Optional)
1. Wipe clean the old artwork. Make sure it is clear of dust and other particles.
2. Sandpaper the surface using light pressure and focusing on highly textured areas. Don’t fret so much about getting the surface super even if the painting has a lot of texture to it. Wipe surface using a cloth.
3. Apply first layer of Gesso as evenly as possible and allow to dry for a couple of hours. If your Gesso is too thick and this bothers you, you can add a bit of water to it. Make sure that first layer completely dries before continuing with the next step. If it feels damp to the touch, this means you should wait longer.
3. If you want to start off with a textured surface, simply apply a second layer of Gesso. If you don't want so much texture, sand your surface gently once more, wipe to remove particles, and apply second layer of Gesso (you can sand it once more after it dries).
At this point it should be ready to be painted on! But if you are still a bit nervous about not having a quality surface to work on, use the Linseed Oil suggestion I mentioned before. I will be trying this out on the next one!
To end this post, I would like to encourage you to always keep learning and not be afraid of devoting time to a process that might not produce the most amazing of artworks. Keep experimenting and be proud of yourself for simply going through a learning process. I firmly believe that the process matters more than the final outcome in both life AND our artistic journeys.
After I have devoted a solid amount of time into any artwork, I like to analyze it and make notes about what I learned throughout the process. In this case, here is what I wrote:
Here are a few little paintings I did last week in my efforts to step out of my comfort zone. I felt like it was time to challenge myself with new subjects that I don't usually choose to draw or paint. I think it is essential for artists to schedule in time every now and then for experimentation with different types of techniques, supplies and/or subjects because throughout these we are able not only to expand our abilities, but we are also able to learn about our own likes, dislikes and possible areas of opportunity. In my opinion, an artist should never stop learning and improving. We are creatives and most of us are innately curious creatures. We should use this curiosity to propel us to learn.
Here are my five suggestions to break out of an artistic rut:
1. Try drawing/painting an object, person, landscape (or whatever it is you usually create) in a different perspective. Do you always draw things from side view? Try doing a top view! Try doing extreme close-ups! It's impressive how much we can learn when we try to draw or paint a subject we've done a million times before, only in a different angle or arrangement!
2. Use different supplies to create your artwork. Do you usually create pencil drawings? Try a drawing with pens or charcoal sticks! Do you usually paint with watercolors? Try acrylics or gouache! You can even create a mixed-media artwork with a combination of supplies! You'll notice that in the boat and sofa studies I used my LePen Drawing pen which I had never used with watercolors before.
3. Pick a different subject all-together. Are you usually drawn to painting faces? Create a landscape or a still life piece! How can your current style translate into an artwork with a different kind of primary subject?
4. Plan and prepare a limited color palette that includes colors you wouldn't normally use. Take a look at the work you have created lately. Do you mostly use warm colors? Try using mostly cool (or vice versa)! Is there a specific color you usually leave out? Try creating a palette that includes it! Do you usually like a lot of color in your paintings? Try selecting a triad or analogous colors in the color wheel and only work with those! You can also try to select one color and use it as undertone for all the other colors you use in your painting.
5. Create Pinterest boards (or a folder in your computer) to collect artwork that calls to you for your own reference/inspiration. Check mine out here! You can then go back to it in times of experimentation and pinpoint specific things you'd like to try out. You feel attracted to these artworks for a reason! Try to target and make notes of specific characteristics you like (maybe it's the colors the artist used, the line work, how effectively emotions are transmitted, etc.) and try to implement it in your own original artwork.
Lastly, just do it! Don't sit there hours on end trying to decide. Just take action! And remember, these studies aren't meant to be masterpieces. It's more about what you learn during the process than the end product. I suggest trying your best to power through the drawing or painting so that your study reaches some form of conclusion. Make notes of what was difficult, what you have to make sure to do differently next time, or any new ideas that you'd like to try.
I leave you with a great quote by French artist Eugene Delacroix:
“The artist who aims at perfection in everything achieves it in nothing."
Are you an artist? Have you always known you wanted to dedicate your life to creating art? I didn't until quite recently.
I've been extremely creative since I was a little girl. Not only did I like to draw, but I also liked to do all sorts of DIY's, collaging and writing. I wrote A LOT. I kept journals, wrote short stories and also poetry in both English and Spanish. I've always had my head full of different ideas and never really paid any mind to doing things the way others around me did them. At an early age I already knew that life is too short to spend doing things that we don't really want to do.
That said, I've also always known that it takes hard work, determination and patience to get to where we want to be in life. Most of us have to be willing to ¨pay our dues¨ and do whatever it takes to eventually get there (within reason). Of course, before any of that happens, we have to find out what our life goals truly are and make sure that they are coming from within ourselves and not external factors that are pressuring us to be specific types of people. This journey, in itself, takes time and courage. It is not easy to find out what will truly make us happy. The lucky ones are able to figure out their goals early in life and start paving their road towards success early on, others take longer. We are all different. Personally, I had to experience a lot of different things before realizing that what truly makes me happy is to create art and to feel the confidence that I can make something of this gift that I have been given.
When I finished High School I decided Graphic Design would be the best option for me because, in my head, it was Art-related and I would have more of a chance to pursue steadier job opportunities as opposed to the Fine/Studio Arts Major. I have a wonderful mother who always supported my decisions and taught me that I could achieve anything that I put my mind and effort to, but I never really saw becoming a ¨Fine Artist¨ per se as a serious option for my future. I guess I bought into the whole ¨starving artist" mentality somehow and thought of it more as a hobby than something that could actually generate an income to life off of.
I maintained a scholarship while in university and went off to work at Graphic Design and Advertising agencies after graduation. I enjoyed it and learned A LOT from very talented people but eventually I started to feel like something was missing. Though I enjoy Graphic Design and will probably always do design work in some way, I discovered through those job experiences that I didn't want to spend all day in front of a computer. I wanted to experiment with supplies, get my hands dirty and create something from scratch. And though I firmly believe that the best Graphic Design work initiates with hand-drawn sketches, in day-to-day agency life the workload, tight timeframes, and the need to use pre-determined style guidelines doesn't allow for much experimentation and creation as I would have liked. So after a while I decided to resign and look for something that would make me happier, though I was completely lost at that point and had no idea what that might be. Sure, I sketched every now and then, but that was pretty much it. I don't regret choosing Graphic Design as a major. What I learned in university and these first Graphic Design jobs will forever be engrained in my head and will probably always influence my artwork in some way. Also, what I learned regarding design software and technology will only improve my work.
After resigning, I spent several months doing freelance work just to keep some money coming in and my portfolio fresh, but I was really confused as to what to do next. Part of me felt like I had wasted 6+ years (between my studies and first jobs) in a field that would end up draining me out. I had a little devil standing on my shoulder telling me that I was never going to find a job that would make me happy and I was simply going to have to accept that work is not meant to be enjoyed.
I was running out of the money I had saved up and, out of nowhere, came this opportunity to work as a First Grade Teacher's Assistant at a great private school. I went for it and I really enjoyed it. Later on in the year I became interested in the Art Teaching position and started learning more about what the job entailed. It seemed like a blast, but I surely didn't have the experience of organizing and managing a functional Art room for over 250 students at a time. A new campus of the same school was opening in a different part of the city and, with it, came the possibility of applying for the job. So I did and that is how I ended up in the position I was in for the last five years. I honestly lucked-out big time and thank my lucky stars for the opportunity I was given!
I quickly learned that teaching Art in a school environment is extremely difficult. I have posted about it before (read my post about Arts Advocacy in the School Environment/My Ideas for Effective Student Art Exhibits here and my post about The Dangers of Striving for Artistic Perfection here). Obviously, when you are teaching its more about what your students learn and experience during your classes that what you do personally, so you firstly have to love children and education. Between class planning, grading, meetings, professional developments, communicating with parents, and organizing/mounting student Art Exhibits, there is little time for anything else. When my work days ended I felt completely exhausted, but fulfilled. I felt like I was leaving something positive in others by using my own gifts and there's simply nothing like it. I was on my feet for most of the day, using my hands to experiment with a wide array of supplies and it seemed like my mind had to be working non-stop throughout the day to solve a million things at once in creative ways.
Throughout those five years I not only developed both personal and professional skills that are extremely valuable to have, but once more I got closer to what I really wanted to dedicate my life to. I was able to conclude that I enjoyed Art more than I enjoyed Graphic Design. Of course, the art I was making was mostly for class purposes or for school events and I did little to no art for myself probably until my last year teaching. During my first few years in the position I didn't have the usual teaching vacation periods because I was studying to get my Master in Education degree during times off from work (sometimes even simultaneously), so I didn't even have that. Most Art Teachers I got to know (especially school Art Teachers), stopped making Art for themselves because they simply didn't have time to between keeping up with job responsibilities and/or taking care of their families. All of these things started to bother me more and more.
At the end of the last school year I had made the decision to get serious about my art and that I wasn't going to approach it as a hobby or something secondary. I discovered that I adored teaching but, at a personal level, I NEEDED to make art for myself. I YEARNED to have the time to experiment with different techniques, improve my skills and find a personal art style that I could eventually share with the world. I KNEW that if I made time for this, I would not only be much happier, but I would also be able to offer a lot more to my students in the future. I knew that I had to make a decision about what to do soon, especially because I was already over 30.
And thus came my decision to resign from my wonderful full-time teaching position and only teach part time. It took me around 14 years of studies and jobs to discover what is important to me and what I need to do to be happy, but I realize that those years were not lost. I personally needed to go through that time of self-discovery. I also needed to build up those personal and professional skills that will help me pave the road towards success. I can honestly say that my true objectives in life became clear to me until recently and it isn't until now that I actually have the courage to ignore other people's expectations and dedicate my time/energy to becoming an artist.
There are people that live their whole lives and never pay any special attention to what they TRULY want. Many of us are too pressured by external factors (time, money, OTHER PEOPLE, difficult situations in our living environments, etc.) that we simply give in to the idea that life has to be lived a certain specific way. We ignore that little voice in our heads that asks ¨What if I had....?" every now and then, doing what is safe and what is expected. I am extremely thankful that I finally have discovered what makes me happy and that, after a lot of hard work (and perhaps some luck), I am in a position to be able to work towards my dreams.
Thank you for reading this extremely long and personal post. I'd LOVE to hear from you! Did you decide to go for a ¨safe¨ career choice due to external pressures? Was it always clear for you that you wanted to dedicate every available moment to make art and that you wanted to make a career of it? Are you an artist that is struggling to live from your art? Drop me a line and I'll write back!
Perfectionism is the worst! It almost killed me and I don't recommend it to ANYONE. You see, I am naturally kind of an obsessive person. I tend to put way too much of myself into everything I do to the point that I have ignored my own health and well-being until after I have completed tasks to the absolute best of my abilities. And I mean WHATEVER task, not only art-related. A couple of years ago, I didn't know how to say ¨no¨ and didn't stop working until I was completely spent, always striving for perfection. At one point I made myself extremely sick and ended up in the hospital for the first time in my life. This is one of the reasons why some time ago, I made a promise to myself to put my own priorities and health first, before anything or anyone else.
I think my little perfectionist demon was already alive somewhere inside of me, but studying Graphic Design also contributed to its growth. I remember the first semesters were extremely tough because professors took off points for nearly non-existent pencil/eraser marks, etc. So I learned that, to be a designer, I wasn't only expected to find super creative and highly effective visual solutions to problems, but also that they have to be presented in a professional and organized manner. Presentation, presentation, presentation! After graduating with a BA in Graphic Design, I worked in agencies and advertising firms for several years. I was surrounded by very talented people, many of which seemed to view minimalism and cleanliness as the way to go. I don't regret having studied Graphic Design at all and am extremely thankful for the amazing opportunities I was given to work at these companies. I learned A LOT both professionally as well as personally.
Then came a HUGE shift in my professional life in which I decided to take a position as Art Teacher in a school teaching around 250 students each semester. At the beginning, my mind kind of imploded. It is safe to say that neat freaks would not last in this kind of job. Trying to get 25 students at a time to advance their art projects in a period of 48 minutes (clean-up included), while also grading and managing behavior problems, is INSANE. Managing an Art classroom with no assistant at all and everything that comes with being an Art Teacher is very, very difficult. Perfectionism, cleanliness and neatness was simply not a priority. There is constant chaos going on, no real breaks to look forward to, and it is up to you (and only you) to make things work. I learned to let go of a lot of things or I simply wouldn't be able to get through the day. All of this while being patient and always well-mannered. You are an example for your students after all.
Many things have happened throughout these five years on this beautiful art-teaching rollercoaster. For one, I watched my perfectionist demon die slowly (which was ultimately a good thing). I learned that life is more about the journey than the destination and that we should value progress over perfection, ALWAYS. I learned that fear of failure only hinders our professional progress and that life is too short to spend in a constant state of worry/anxiety. This experience has helped me understand that I should acknowledge my fear and use this energy to move forward instead of letting it stop me. If we let fear stop us, we risk wasting our precious time on this Earth and not doing everything we are intended to do. I honestly can't think of a sadder thing.
In this time I have been teaching Art and exploring all sorts of traditional media (yay! mess!) I have also learned that I love Art and Illustration perhaps even more than I like Graphic Design. Throughout these years, I have drawn, painted and experimented with different types of media much more than I ever did before. I have discovered my passion for traditional media and working with my hands. I have found beauty in imperfection and in being human. Finally, I have learned that we should embrace life as an opportunity to progress towards who we want to be and what we want to create, always remembering (and not being ashamed of) the work we put in to get there.
Yesterday I attempted to paint a watercolor face and, after trying three times, I gave up and decided to go to sleep because I had an appointment in the morning I had to wake up early for.
Here are two of the three sketches I made on good watercolor paper which I then painted and ruined. At least I got in my face drawing practice for the day (silver lining!).
I'm usually a pretty stubborn person and think (maybe naively?) that I can accomplish whatever I set out to accomplish. However, when things simply don't turn out the way you want them to by the third try and two hours later all you have to show for yourself are three pieces of ripped, crumpled paper, it's easy to start second-guessing yourself and your abilities.
Yes, I got a little frustrated and mad at myself for wasting my good watercolor paper. Nonetheless, I took a breather and reminded myself that the time I put in was not wasted at all. In fact, I learned many things from my failures that I will be applying the next time I try this out again. I also reminded myself that, I cannot expect myself to create a masterpiece after having only dedicated a short amount of time to this particular technique applied to this particular subject. I reminded myself that every artist has his/her own strengths and weaknesses and that this is a good thing. This is what sets us apart from each other and gives us space to grow and explore. We are also human beings and every single day has its own set of variables which may be affecting us mentally and/or physically.
If you ever have what I call a ¨Bad Art Day¨, give yourself a break. This doesn't mean you are a bad artist or that you should stop altogether. Don't let yourself be consumed by your frustrations and take this as a sign to do other things that are important in life as well. You could clean/organize your workspace, play with your pet, get a workout in, prepare some healthy food, spend time with loved ones, watch a good movie, etc. All of these activities will affect your work in a positive way when you get back to it later.
As a creative, what brings me the most fulfillment is probably the act of producing something that started in my own brain and was made with my own hands. The sense of elation that I get from creating is something like a drug to me. I get obsessed with this feeling and wanting to improve in order to create even bigger and better things. I am also an introvert and have no problem spending my entire day indoors working, so I have to make an effort to stop and do something else. It is important to remind myself that I am not a machine and more areas of my life need attention. What's more, it is the experiences we have in life that bring us the strongest inspiration. Think of how much better your art would be if you dedicated time to your mind and body and actually made time to enjoy what life has to offer!
If you ever have a Bad Art Day, take a breather. This is normal. Don't be so hard on yourself and think of how far you have come. Nothing great comes easy and/or fast. If you are anything like me and you like constantly stepping up to challenges, congratulate yourself for even trying. Stepping our of your comfort zone is an act of bravery and will ultimately lead to growth. If you are putting in the work, trust that you are getting better and keep going after having taken a mental break. If you know in your heart that this is your passion, don't ever give up.
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