Habits for Artistic Success
Art can be a lifelong journey and our creative expression is constantly evolving. When our process starts to feel static or repetitive, we can quickly become bored or uninspired by what we produce. To develop your skills and continually grow as an artist, you can focus on improving in several areas: observation skills, technical skills, and practical skills. It’s amazing how adding a new skill to your repertoire can open up new possibilities. Although they are not exclusive, these tips on becoming a better artist can help you create in a more engaging and meaningful way.
Improve your Observation Skills
Perhaps the most important tool an artist can possess is a good sense of observation. More important than having the latest art supplies and cool gadgets, it is essential for an artist to possess a keen eye.
If you are a visual artist, the world we see is full of visual details that reveal both aesthetic harmony and disorder. Try to make these observations a part of your daily practice. For instance, make a mental note to yourself when you see a particular shade of blue in the sky that moves you or when you find yourself staring at a geometric pattern on the wallpaper in a doctor’s office which is somehow satisfying to look at. Art doesn’t only happen in the studio; being an artist involves observing the world as a work of art.
Another way of keeping your observations sharp is by studying the work of other artists, especially the great masters. Whenever I view an artwork, I examine how it was made and compare it to my own processes. For example, we can learn much about value, shape, form, composition, color theory, and application by studying the works of Michelangelo or Vincent van Gogh. How did they apply color? How did they show light and shadows in their works? How did they layout their composition? How did they imply perspective in their work? Once you pay attention to these details in their masterpieces, you can apply the same principles to evaluate your own work.
Are you following the same principles? If not, do you think by doing so you might improve upon your work? Remember, the objective here is not just to copy the masterpiece, but to use it to understand how the work was created and how the same rules can help you to create wonderful works and to grow as an artist.
Brush up on your Technical Skills
Another way to become a better artist is by mastering your technical skills. Observation skills allow us to “see” and imagine new things to create, but our technical skills give us the tools to translate our imaging into reality.
Take a look through your own portfolio, select a few pieces, and evaluate them with careful observation. Could this piece of art be improved upon? If you were to do it again, would you change anything? If so, where? Try not to use this self-critique as a source of frustration but rather as an opportunity to improve on the next work. Start by focusing on key areas where you could sharpen your technical skills to make the artwork better. For example, is your drawing in proportion? Are the colors vibrant and complimentary? Have you created an eye-catching composition?
Next, perform a self-inventory and ask yourself which abilities to you wish you had. Are there artworks you would like to create but lack the technical skills to make it the way you would like? Sometimes when we get stuck, it’s because we run into a technical barrier that we don’t know how to resolve. When this happens, we can mistake being in a creative rut for simply lacking a piece of knowledge that will help us take that next step forward in the work.
If there are aspects of your practice that aren’t yet developed, invest the time in taking courses to give yourself those new skills. If a lack of understanding of drawing, photographic lighting, animation, or video editing is holding you back, the good news is it’s easier than ever now through online courses and tutorials to bulk up on your artistic muscle and flex like a boss.
Put it into Practice
Sharpening your observation and technical skills as an artist can bring you a long way, but only if you put these techniques to practice. Practice doesn’t always make perfect, but it almost always makes better! Try to plan set times to create. When inspiration hits, it’s easy to jump into the action, but developing a regular routine around our creative practice will train our brains to maintain that creative juice, even when ideas run dry. Set aside a day in the week, or an hour in the day, or 5 minutes in the hour after you read this, and commit to this time in your schedule for as long as you can.
It is true that not every work you create is going to turn out to be a masterpiece, but by practicing regularly, you will gain efficiency and learn from your errors. We as artists can become quite critical of our own work. There are many drawings I tossed away simply because they did not appeal to me. But that was a mistake. When you begin a sketch, even if it does not come out to your satisfaction, keep it as a rough draft, and it will help you as you move to the next draft. Repeat this process until you feel satisfied. As with writing, art is created in stages. Keep from judging your work harshly because it hasn’t reached the final phase in one quick sweep. Be patient with your process and with yourself. Allow shortcomings to be a challenge rather than a discouragement and you’ll see dramatic improvements in no time.
These three areas of improvement, observation, technical improvement, and practice, can seem obvious, but they are very often overlooked. Give yourself the time, space, and skills you need you can improve your artwork and grow as an artist. Be fair and look at your work critically, but not to the point of losing the joy of creating. Learn from your mistakes and always try to remember why you created the art in the first place.