How To Get Started As An Artist - What's Holding you Back?
Among the saddest words I ever hear are these: "I always wanted to be an artist, but..." Then, all the reasons - or excuses - follow.
"I could never find the time."
Well, of course not! Time isn't something that gets lost, swept under the bed or shoved in a closet and forgotten, waiting for you to find it. Time is something you have to make. Does that sound crazy? You may think so, if you figure there are only so many hours in the day and they're all taken up. Yet, how much time do we waste, just looking for things? A few simple changes can net extra hours - for Art.
[These tips come from someone who was the world's champ at being disorganised. Until she decided to become an artist. While working a full-time job and mothering a six-year-old boy. The PR photo shows me starting as a professional.]
TIP Always put keys, spectacles and such in one spot. Keep an attractive bowl near the front door and empty your pockets into it as soon as you get home. Later, you'll transfer the items to where they belong. It's a good idea to choose a smallish bowl without any lid, so you won't be tempted to let things pile up.
TIP Go through your wardrobe, linen closet and kitchen cupboards. Pull out all those clothes you haven't worn for years, the fancy linens you got as wedding gifts and never use, the gadgets and utensils that haven't seen the light of day since you acquired them. Be ruthless! Clean anything that needs it, pack it all up, and send it to your favourite charity. Now, you have space to keep everything in plain sight, easily found and ready when needed.
"I haven't got anywhere to paint."
Sure, it's frustrating to have to clear away your painting stuff when the family wants to eat at the table. Maybe you got caught up in your art and didn't leave time to clean your brushes. Next day, they're unusable. In any case, children, spouse or visitors kept interrupting as you tried to work. It's discouraging. Maybe enough to make you give up. Don't.
TIP Look around and you will find a place to work in peace. It must be out of the way of routine family activities. (My first studio was a section of the side verandah.) Here, you can keep all your paints and tools handy. Your work can sit undisturbed until the next session. From the day you set it up, call this place your Studio and make it clear to all your friends and family that it is off-limits while you're at work.
"I could never fit it in with my day job."
Many of the greatest painters, writers, composers work only four hours a day. They say that's the limit for sustained, creative concentration. But they put in those four hours every day. That's the key. Can you make four hours a day to develop your art?
TIP Imagine what you could achieve with four hours saved by not watching television in the evening! The news can be absorbed better, at your own pace, from a newspaper during your lunch break. There's one hour. The movie can be taped to watch at the weekend. There's another two hours. All those "current affairs" and talk shows are little more than gossip, so you could gain at least an hour more.
You may not be willing to forego your evenings in front of the tube and that's fair enough. But puhleez, don't talk to me about commitment.
"My family doesn't take it seriously."
Can you truly blame them? You've been a wage slave/ brain surgeon/ housewife/ rock star for most of your life. People are used to seeing you that way. I have to tell you: No words you can say will convince them of your new commitment. Only actions will do it.
When your loved ones see your careful preparations, when they watch your daily dedication to your new ambition, despite that you may still be putting in the same hours at your "day job," they'll come around. I know this to be true. I've lived it.
"I've never had any proper art training."
Neither had I, at the time I committed to a life as an artist. Following are the essential three facts you need to know:
1. No amount of training can make you an artist. That comes from within your Self. But you must acquire the skills that will allow you to make art that connects with its audience.
2. Painting is a craft and you must do your apprenticeship. (Unless, that is, your ambition is to make what I call "linoleum designs." In that case, you need no more training or knowledge than a monkey dripping colours from a can.)
3. The one thing you don't need is a university or art college course that is heavy on Art History but light on practical information. It may fit you to pass exams. It won't teach you to make art.
TIP As in many fields of life, books can be your teachers. Check the local library and newsagent for books and magazines for artists. Search the Net for artist websites that offer tips and advice.
TIP: Check out these information-rich sites:
If you do have access to a good Teacher - treasure him/her forever! But leave when you know you've absorbed all you can. That's when your real work begins. Respect for your teachers will cause you to paint just the way they do. It's inevitable. Your job now is to discover how you want to paint. So you have to get teacher out of your head.
Another thing: If it were possible for you to read every book written about, say, Rembrandt, it would not teach you to paint like Rembrandt. Anyway, the world doesn't need another Rembrandt. What we want is the new and unique eye you have as an artist. Just think how many artists have painted the "Madonna and Child" down the centuries. Yet, everyone one of them saw the subject differently.
One of the best ways to train your eye is to haunt the galleries. Not only the museums and public galleries, but also the private ones that show the work of living artists, acclaimed or as yet unknown. Seeing lots of art is the best way to discover how and what you, personally, do not want to paint. It helps define your own goals.
Private gallery staff can quickly spot the aspiring artist. (One big give-away is to peer closely, studying the brushwork.) Some will ignore or disdain you, knowing the student is seldom a buyer. But many will treat your queries with kindly patience. Be grateful. And keep your ears open; you can learn a lot from these folk.
A word of caution: Don't talk yourself up to gallery folk. After all, you and your art are still "unknown quantities." And words don't work. Any gallery director has met plenty of fellows who talked a great game but couldn't deliver the goods. Later - much later - when you're ready to show in a gallery, you'll arrive with your portfolio. It speaks for you. Art is one area where "bulldust" can't disguise incompetence.
(There is one field where "bulldust" prevails. But we're talking here about the real world, not that of the modern Art Establishment.)
To sum up:
- Get organised - eliminate the time-wasters.
- Establish a place to work - your Studio.
- Set a regular time for painting - and stick to it.
- Learn all you can - from whatever sources.
- Train your eye - see a lot of art.
- Discover your own unique take on art.
A last word:
As long as you live, you'll remain a Student. A real Master will tell you that he/she has only enough knowledge to realise how little they know, how much is still to be learned. It's humbling, but exciting too. Please don't let it discourage you from starting, and continuing, this Journey. The best morale-booster I know is to realise that deleting prefix and suffix from the word discouragement leaves you with courage. And we all have that, waiting deep inside for when we need it.© Dorothy Gauvin