How, exactly, can creating art help someone deal with negative emotions such as anxiety and stress? What happens in an art therapy session? Why are holistic, comprehensive approaches for managing inner turmoil more effective than treatments that only revolve around talking or taking medication?
As an artist sharing content online, I've made it a priority to not only share helpful tips and tutorials that help others progress their technical skills, but also articles and videos providing insights and habits I've set in place that have allowed me to improve my mindset and wellbeing.
Our physical and mental health permeate, quite literally, into all areas of our lives (personal, professional, interpersonal).
Plus, being an artist can not only be incredibly challenging in a variety of ways, but lonely too.
In the past, I've shared how I've struggled with Generalized Anxiety Disorder since my teenage years and how, since making my mental/physical wellbeing a priority and started embracing more positive practices and routines, I've become way happier, as well as more focused and energized.
This, of course, has helped me be a lot more productive, which has led to much greater success with my art creation and business overall.
Alongside my art creation and everything I do revolving around my business, I'm constantly reading, researching and putting to use new information that I feel could help me improve my life, as a working artist and educator, even more.
And I'll keep sharing with you guys, in hopes that some of you may find it helpful too.
Because of the current worldwide pandemic, its negative effects on our economies and the social injustices/inequalities that are becoming more and more evident, a lot of us are struggling with negative emotions such as worry and overwhelm at a deeper level than we normally would.
This is why I'm incredibly happy to be sharing an article written for us by professional writer, Patrick Bailey, who has studied the fields of mental health and addiction for years.
Patrick's article helps clarify what happens during an art therapy session and why creative activities are such a great way to cope with negative emotions.
This information is enlightening even for those of us who don't struggle with severe mental illnesses.
Without much further ado, let's get into his article!
10. An Easel
As a painter myself, I have a variety of easels. I enjoy standing when I'm creating my larger pieces, but a desk easel like this one is absolutely perfect for smaller and more relaxing works to enjoy on weekend mornings. Switching from one easel to another is a great way to reset my mind from a piece I'm creating for selling purposes, and one I'm creating for myself.
This easel is sleek, sturdy, and is perfectly sized, even for beginner artists working in a small studio.
Do you need to go to art school to become a highly-skilled and successful artist? What experiences do art schools provide that being self-taught doesn't? As a beginner artist going down the self-taught route, what can I do to ensure steady artistic progress and get to a point at which I'll be able to actually sell my work?
Throughout the years, I've had the honor of meeting many successful artists both online and offline. Some of them did go to art school and some of them didn't.
There are highly successful artists who didn't go to university at all and took up low-paying/low-stress jobs until they advanced their skills enough and started making an income from their art sales.
There are artists who reach success later on in life, after having completed university studies and years of working in a completely different field.
There are others who did attend art school only to realize it was a total waste of time, as they had to learn all of the techniques they were personally interested in, on their own.
There are others who did go to an amazing art school that allowed them to advance their skills immensely in an inspiring and challenging learning environment, and also created great contacts that helped them fast-forward their careers post-graduation.
Finally, I've met people who went to art school and created breathtaking work, but gave up and started on a different path after they realized that making a consistent income from art involves learning about sales and marketing, as well as being willing to push past their comfort zones.
The scenarios are really never-ending, and there is no right or wrong way to go about it.
Every artist has to forge his/her own path, depending on his/her own goals, as well as the situation they are personally in.
You need to define what success means to you personally.
Does it mean being able to create artwork your proud to share, but not necessarily earning an income from? Perhaps just a side-income?
Does it mean getting your artwork shown and sold by popular galleries?
Do you want to get known on an international level and sell on your own terms?
Does it mean earning enough of an income through art sales that you're able to live comfortably? If so, what does living comfortably for you actually entail? How much of an income would you have to be making each month in order to live that way?
Today, I'll be sharing the five key things that successful self-taught artists do since the beginning of their journeys, which enable them to make faster progress in both their cold artistic skills, as well as their confidence and ability to share and speak professionally about their art.
But first, I'd like to clarify a couple of things.
I personally did go to art school. I was lucky to be given a scholarship and was able to attend a great university through which I learned from experienced professors not only in the Graphic Design field, but also from artists teaching (very basic) drawing, painting, silk-screening and photography.
It was through university courses that I learned about Art Fundamentals, how to talk about art, experienced what it's like to create an original project from scratch and pushed myself to see a piece through until completion, which is so, incredibly important.
I leaned about the importance of sticking to deadlines, managing multiple projects simultaneously and experienced what it's like to get my work critiqued by skilled professors who literally tore my work down in front of large groups (eeek!).
This said, in terms of painting, which is how I make the majority of my income now-a-days, I'm mostly self-taught.
And though I'm thankful for having the opportunity to go to art school, based on my experience post-graduation, as well as what I've gathered from other artists who've I've had the chance of meeting, it's definitely not necessary to have an art degree in order to become successful.
Especially because, in today's world, we're able to experience and learn all of these things art schools offer through the internet. More specifically, through blog posts, video tutorials, courses offered by skilled artists who are willing to share their techniques and knowledge, and online communities.
This said, having all of this information and possibilities at our fingertips can often be confusing and overwhelming, especially when we're just getting started.
Many beginners don't know where to start or skip over fundamentals, just to be disappointed with their creations or with the fact that no one is liking/buying their work after they've put very little time and effort in.
Before getting into the tips, I want to briefly explain what being "self-taught" means to me, as there are different opinions on what this entails.
To be perfectly honest, I don't feel there's such a thing as a 100% self-taught artist.
Reason being, whoever is serious about improving in any field, will most likely be taking it upon themselves to look for material to learn from, whether it's books, videos or classes. These resources were, of course, put together by someone else and as consumers of such content, we're getting directly or indirectly influenced by them in some shape, way or form.
Most of us, even started drawing by copying other artists' work. In a sense, we were learning from other artists even back then, as we were replicating those shapes, lines, colors, etc.
Throughout our lives we've all been influenced by artists around us and were exposed to all kinds of art that were created in or before our time. And the artists who created that work were also influenced by artists around them and art that came before their time.
We're all influenced by others, whether we want to admit it or not. This goes for people who've been to art school or haven't been to art school.
We're all a wonderful mishmash created by the culture we've been brought up in, the people who've been around us throughout our lives, and the different kinds of art (design, music, literature, cinema, etc.) that have impacted us in the point and time we've been living.
For the sake of this post, however, I'll explain what I would personally consider to be a self-taught artist.
In my opinion, being a self-taught artist implies not attending art school, or any kind of academy in which a full art curriculum has been laid down for you to follow over a relatively long period of time.
A self-taught artist, for the most part, decides on his/her goals, searches for resources and learning material (whether it's books, workshops, classes, figure-drawing sessions, online courses, etc.) and goes through his/her own self-imposed "curriculum", so to speak.
Though an artist that did attend art school still has to continue doing all of these things after having obtained his/her degree in order to continue improving (the learning never stops), a self-taught artist didn't go through that initial "formal" training. *That formal training could have been amazing, or it could have been useless.
In my opinion, taking a workshop a couple of times a year, or following individual tutorials online, doesn't really count as formal or in-depth training (unless one takes a very complete course through which you're able to obtain direct feedback from the instructor).
Most likely, one-off workshops or stand-alone video tutorials will not lead to steady or significant progress unless the artist actually prioritizes his/her work enough to continue working consistently and complementing those classes or tutorials with other resources in a coherent way, depending on his/her current skill level and goals.
Short workshops or week-long art retreats are super fun, but usually, students are basically copying the instructor's techniques and are not taught Art Fundamentals, which are what will allow them to create original, visually pleasing compositions from scratch.
I know because I've taught those workshops. Because there's a very small amount of time, the instructor ends up giving his/her students the fish, instead of teaching them to fish for themselves.
The instructor's goal is (usually) to give you a taste of what creating art is like, and to facilitate an experience that will enable you to have a quick art win (oftentimes something pretty that you can take home). It's not to encourage you to find your own style or give you the tools necessary for you to make significant progress in your journey on an individual level.
Short workshops and video tutorials don't allow for adequate feedback on part of the instructor or deep conversations amongst students, which are key in order to improve at a deeper level. Oftentimes we're unable to see our own mistakes when we're just getting started. Not to mention, it's incredibly important to get used to sharing and talking about both our art, as well as art created by others.
Next, I'll be sharing five key things you can do to ensure you're getting the most out of the resources offered by the Internet and make faster, meaningful progress as an artist.
5 Tips for Beginner, Self-Taught Artists
1. Don't ignore Art Fundamentals
Something I often see in beginners that fail to cover the basics, is that they're unable to create certain effects their looking to create, or end up very frustrated because their artworks don't turn out the way they see them in their heads and have no idea why this is.
Learning about Elements and Principles of Art, as well as Composition, Perspective, Anatomy Basics, etc., will enable you to create original, visually pleasing, powerful artwork on your own, without having to depend on other artists' work as inspiration.
The successful self-taught artists I've met made it a point to learn the basics and continue improving upon fundamentals as their journey moves forward. They understand that it's important to have a solid base to jump off from.
Learn them for free, pay for a course, do whatever you'd like, but never underestimate the importance of learning the basics. This will set you up for success and the knowledge you'll gain will permeate into everything you do and any kind of artwork you choose to create.
2. Embrace exploration and enjoy the journey
Oftentimes, beginners only give importance to the end-product and make very little time for studies and explorations. They jump straight to the canvas and/or judge their worth as an artist by how well the product turned out, ignoring the growth and self-discovery that can come throughout the creative process.
Successful artists, formally trained or not, understand that getting great at drawing or painting takes time and dedication, just like any other learned skill. They understand that there are gradual steps to follow, and that by learning certain skills first, and gaining confidence incrementally, they will be facilitating more complex tasks for themselves.
It's mind-boggling to me how many times I've had people reach out saying they're ready to draw someone's portrait in full-likeness when they haven't even taken time to learn basic facial proportions or have practiced drawing techniques that will enable them to recreate three-dimensional form and skin/hair textures.
While it's true that we have access to an immense amount of information online, most beginners don't know where to start and get lost because they aren't aware of the sequence they should be learning topics in, or how to break complex compositions or subjects apart in order to study them separately and ensure greater success.
*This is why I offer one-on-one, individualized classes via Skype designed around your own current skill level and goals. These classes allow me to fully focus on my students individually and I'm able to offer in-depth feedback, as well as provide specific assignments that help them stay consistent and make much faster progress. *Email me to learn about my rates and availabilities. Spots are filling up fast!
3. Join some kind of artist group or community and try to obtain (constructive) feedback from artists that are a bit farther ahead than you are
As artists, spending time around like-minded creatives is essential in order to stay motivated and consistent. There's a large part of an artist's work that gets done in isolation, but we ultimately create art to share it with the world.
A local or online group/community will help you stay consistent, which is absolutely key if what you're looking for is meaningful progress. The Internet provides us with many different options to join art communities via membership sites, Facebook groups and online forums.
This said, the more public these groups are, the less likely you are to gain constructive feedback and support in a timely manner. Also, the more likely you are to come across people who will be very harsh in their judgements or comments, which can be detrimental for the beginner.
If you're looking to advance your skills for free, just make sure that you're taking your time to look for communities that are positive, constructive and inspiring.
As an email subscriber, you have free access to my closed Facebook group, Art in Harmony. This is an incredible community full of positive, engaged artists of all levels and mediums that are looking to help and inspire each other. I'm also there several times a week providing art challenges, drawing and painting tips, and inspiration. Join me and over 1,500 artists from around the world by becoming an email insider here.
Though it's very easy to share your work through social media channels and groups, and even get a few likes here and there, it's not that easy to get actual constructive feedback from artists that are further along in their journeys.
It's also through both obtaining and giving constructive feedback, that we improve and are able to practice our communicational skills. To become a professional and make consistent art sales in the future, we need to become better at talking about our work.
Why? Because the whole idea of "I'm letting my art talk for itself", will just get you so far.
Your audience needs to be able to connect with you. If they don't connect with you, the artist behind the work, you'll have trouble building an audience and making consistent sales.
4. Stay consistent and stay focused on your goal
Arguably, being a self-taught artist requires more discipline than being formally trained, as you need to establish deadlines and working times for yourself from the very beginning. It is entirely up to you to hold yourself accountable and stay consistent.
It's important to understand that, as with all learned skills, becoming great requires consistency and patience. Though some artists may have been incredibly fortunate to have parents or family-members who were artists themselves and were thus able to develop certain sensibilities and skills at a very young age, none of us are born knowing how to draw or paint.
This is actually a good thing! It means anyone can learn to draw or paint.
This said, I know how hard it can be to make time for your art as a busy adult. Even as a full-time working artist, there are tons of things that need to get done and get in the way of actually creating art.
Whatever situation you're personally in ("regular" full-time job, kids, etc.), accept it fully, remain grateful and create practical, realistic goals for yourself. Commit to them.
It doesn't matter if you only have a short amount of time each day to work on your art. What matters is staying consistent over time and not giving up. Even a few 20-30 minute sketches several times a week will help you make progress.
In my blog post/YouTube video How to Make Time for Your Art as a Busy Person, I share the specific things I did to improve my artistic skills while I was still working at my last "regular", highly-demanding teaching position.
Remember there will never be a perfect time to do anything. If you want to succeed at the goals you set for yourself, it's going to be up to you to make them a priority.
5. Realize how far you've come and stay positive
As artists, we're often our own worst critics. It's easy to forget how far we've come since we started. It's important to acknowledge every-single-piece as a step in the right direction. Even if the outcome wasn't what you expected it to be, you're still moving closer to your goal.
If you keep going, in a few months you'll be lightyears away from the version of you who never got started at all. Lightyears.
Imagine the artist you can be a year from now if you commit and push forward.
I 100% believe that working on maintaining a positive mindset is an essential part of being a successful artist and being able to keep that success going over time.
During the actual creative process, remaining positive and believing in yourself is going to make it much more likely for you to actually succeed. If you think you can't do something, you probably won't be able to do it. The mind is a very powerful thing.
Remaining positive is also incredibly important throughout the tasks we do after or in between the creation of art, such as applying for art shows or galleries, sharing our work via social media, responding to feedback, selling our work, communicating with clients when working on commissions, etc.
The more you're able to stay positive in these kinds of situations, the more likely you are to be seen as a professional and reach sustained success.
A while back I shared a blog post/YouTube video in which I explain all the things I make sure to do on a weekly basis to ensure I stay healthy and productive as an artist. Read it here.
Finally, always believe in yourself and celebrate each and every little victory. Most importantly, celebrate yourself.
Though you may not feel like it right now, you are an artist and you are capable of doing whatever you set your mind to.
Thank you so much for reading! I hope you found this helpful. I wish you tons of progress and enjoyment in your journey.
Links To Useful Sites
My Artwork For Sale
Painting With Oils
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