Here is 10 things I tell my students on the first day of class about building yourself up into being a artist. This is starting point, not a all encompassing list. Hope you find it helpful!
1. Never stop experimenting. When you stop trying new things your style will get stagnant. Developing your style never has an stopping point, you’re going to continue learning and changing–that is a good thing.
2. Don’t draw to please a particular person or audience. It is tempting to draw something you think the person viewing it will like. It starts with drawing to please a friend/family member, then a teacher, and then a wider audience online or in person. However, consider drawing to please yourself first, an audience will follow in time and you will face a lot less burn out down the line. You’ll be hired for this, work you made out of something you liked crafting–not something you forced yourself to craft. Don’t make art that makes you miserable.
3. Learn the basics. Get good at anatomy (human and animal), perspective, creating depth, lighting, etc–then break the rules you’ve learned. Work, no matter how abstract, pushed, and pulled is always stronger when informed by a mastery of the basics.
4. Practice working in ways that do not hurt your hand. Learn to draw with a relaxed hand and draw in long strokes. Both of these methods help prevent issues with your hand, wrist, and arm. I’ve never gotten carpal tunnel, and I draw on a daily basis, because I have learned how to treat my hand well. Your hand is your tool, if you wear it out there isn’t a new one you can just pick up. The best treatment for any possible physical issues is prevention.
5. Learn how to draw without erasing. It is scary and it is tough no doubt! However the best way to become more confident is through not erasing. There is a medium for everyone to try this out, whether it is pen or non-erasing colored pencils. If you want to ease yourself into this method try out Pentel red lead, it erases a bit–but overall will always leave a mark with every stroke you make. The importance of this is learning to not be afraid of mistakes.
6. Draw from life, from reference photos, and from imagination. This trio is important, combining all three is usually how you build great drawing skills. Drawing from life gives you the ability to capture small details that you’ll remember to put in when drawing from a reference photo, drawing from refs will give you the practice you’ll need to handle whatever subject so that one day you can draw it from your own imagination–see how that works?
7. You’re art isn’t completely unique and that is okay. I can’t emphasis how many people I know who have gotten so hung up on being something totally unique that they burn out fast and never make work again. Now, considering how much art is in the world there is no way that what you create will be 100% unique to you. That is fine, your personality in your work is more of what makes something yours than a “style”.
8. Figure out your work’s personality. On that note finding the personality of your art is important as you go into trying to build your own place in the art world. The personality of a piece is a combination of style, subject, color, shapes, lines, and maybe most important themes (yes subject and themes are different). This combo is what makes your art special. At a loss for where to start figuring out your own personality? Compile a list of 10 artists you love. Why do you love them? Is it the shapes of one artist that speak to you, the line work of another is beautiful, the themes of a third make you feel inspired? Now take the 10 things you love about those 10 artists and start applying them to your own work. This isn’t about copying these artists, it is about the inspiration. That line work you love in another artist’s piece is gunna look different in yours for example. Those themes from another artist, well when you take them on your life might inform them in a opposite way. In time your inspired work will evolve into something that is your own.
9. Talent is nice, persistence is more important. Someone may be naturally talented in some areas of art, however someone who is persistent in their craft is so much more likely to succeed. Effort, continued growth, and practice will add up to so much more in the long run than just skating by on “talent”.
10. Be a good person. Treat others with respect, learn about social issues, don’t be a creep, and use your art to help people. And this might mean you craft a piece about an important issue that changes thousands of lives, or you might just be creating to help yourself get through the day. Both are important, after all you are a person too and you should always be trying to help and be kind to yourself.