Bold title, yes? The most important art advice you’ll ever receive?
I know what you might be thinking . . . really, Jaime?
But hold up.
How can I say I have the most important art advice? Well, it’s because it actually doesn’t come from me.
It comes from you.
YOU are the artist. You are the one who draws the drawing, paints the portrait, creates the artwork. Without you, there would be no art . . . none of your art, anyway.
The Danger in Listening to Others
So why do we let everyone else tell us what works best, what skills we need, what path we need to follow?
Why do we get so caught up in listening to what others think is best for us?
How come we never listen to the one person – you – whose opinion matters most?
Well, I’ll just come right out and say it: fear.
That little whisper that says I’m not good enough.
Those doubts: What if nobody likes or buys my art?
Sure, there are some people that are totally confident in their ability and creativity. If that’s you, congratulations! You can probably stop reading now. But if you’re like most of us you might have spent years . . . years! . . . talking yourself out of your need to pursue art with all those familiar, tired excuses.
- job pressures,
- family pressures,
- not creative enough,
- not talented enough.
It’s so easy to let those things hold you back from doing what you dream of.
“Follow Your Dreams” is a Double Edged Sword
Want to know why? Because even though you dream about and hope for your “being an artist” life to come true, that doesn’t hide the fact that this shit is hard.
Yup, it’s hard work. Little baby artists don’t just arrive out of the womb with their wee little paintbrushes, berets and tiny mustaches to be declared artists for life.
No, us artists don’t stride forward in life filled with belief and talent. In fact, it’s often the opposite.
We spend years doing other things.
We’ve packed away our supplies or leave them to gather dust for months.
We don’t spend money because “it’s just a hobby.”
There is a creative drive that exists within us, but some of us listen to that drive and some of us ignore it, hoping it will go away and leave us alone already.
Being an artist is weird, hard and slow. You can’t just decide one day to be an artist, and tomorrow start cranking out masterpieces.
I Let Other People Tell Me Art Wasn’t an Option For Me
You have to take yourself and your art seriously, even if it feels like other people in your life don’t support you or even downright discourage you.
Growing up, I loved art but I never seriously considered it a career option. My family subtly discouraged me from pursuing it, and I picked up on the beliefs they held and came to hold many of those beliefs myself. The myth of the starving artist . . . the idea that doing art wasn’t a real career . . . These were real reasons to my family, because they had grown up in a time when the expectation was for them to work at a full-time job (with benefits and retirement) so they could pay for a home and provide for their family.
I knew the expectation for me was to do good in school, get into a good college, get a “regular” job. I did all this, and for a while it worked but I soon came to realize I hated my career choices, hated my job, and felt like I was only doing what was expected of me. It didn’t feel good, or like I even really had a choice.
I had always snuck art in somehow, and it took me a long time to realize why – because it’s what I loved to do. I took art classes in high school, minored in art in college, and tried to do art on the side for many years.
The Most Important Art Advice
The most important art advice I can give is what I wish someone had told me all those years ago:
Take yourself and your art seriously and learn the things you need to improve your art.
I wish someone had told me it was okay to hang onto my dream of being an artist.
And also that it was okay to still have this dream even though people in my life didn’t support it.
If you find yourself dealing with unsupportive people and need some solid advice for how to handle it, this is a great article from Tiny Budda on that very subject: 7 Things to Remember When People Don’t Support You.
I wish someone had told me to take my creative interests seriously and get the skills I needed.
I could have spent the last twenty years learning and improving instead of being crippled by self doubt and feeling unsupported by the people closest to me.
I was not confident in my talent, skills, or ability as an artist and it took me far too long to find ways to learn what I needed to know.
It’s true that you can’t build a great house without a blueprint – how the hell will you know the structure is sound?
How could I become a great artist without understanding and practicing drawing, materials and how to use them, and the accepted “rules” of composition, color, perspective, light and shadow?
So, the most important art advice I have for you isn’t about what art school to attend, or what gallery to try to get into.
It’s about taking yourself and your art seriously despite any odds you may have stacked against you. It may seem slow and frustrating at times. You may (probably will) feel discouraged. You’ll want to give up at certain points.
But keep going. Keep learning, keep improving.
YOU are the artist.
Looking for more important art advice from an artist who’s lived it? Check out What It’s Really Like to Be an Artist
I’d love to hear from you in the comments. Did you ever go through a time when you felt discouraged about your art? Did you have (possibly well meaning) people who tried to steer you away from art? How did you get through it?
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