I recently asked artists about the most valuable lessons they have learned regarding making art or about being artists. Specifically I wanted to learn what other artists consider to be the most valuable insights, whether they learned it in books, art school, from other artists or on their own own.
I received hundreds of responses. Here are some of my favorite gems that artists in all fields generously shared.
Make art, lots of it. Good or bad, it's always a learning experience. ~Susan Rhodes
Learn from others, but make what you create your own. Find a teacher who leads not directs. Don't over plan ... let it evolve. For me, often the most creative outcomes are the result of not planning the outcome. Create daily. ~Jann Glisson
Work through failures and criticism never giving up, believe in yourself. Realize that all art is unique and we won't be like anyone else. ~Suzanne Raudsep
All of my art, all of it, could be captioned, "Hey, look what I was just staring at!" It is totally and truly about my experience of looking, looking, and looking some more. No thinking. No problem solving. No struggle. I use a limited palette which I have used for years. I use paper and brushes which are also old friends. Now I am simply full of gratitude for eyesight, the only tool that still mystifies me. ~Bobbie Herron
The most valuable thing I learned was from a book my Calligraphy teacher gave me called "Zen and the Art of Archery." It maintains one doesn't become good at anything ( including art) unless one practices every day for a minimum of 10 years! ~Martha Bredwell
I used to tear up and destroy my art when I was done with it if I wasn't 100% satisfied. I had a very dear teacher and mentor tell me that I shouldn't destroy my art, I should keep it to look back on and see how much I have grown as an artist. I have done that since. Now I can look back and laugh at my past mistakes and smile at how much I have improved. It is great to see growth and have a way to measure it. ~Bronwyn Kenna
Become a child again and just do what feels good and don't worry about your inner critic! ~Linda Johnson
An English professor in college taught me two lessons I'll never forget:
1) never assume your answer is the most right, or it will stop you from looking for better answers
2) learn your trade, fine, but walk the world to find your story. ~Ren Cummins
"Art is in the eye of the beholder." Don't sweat the small stuff. Keep at it. Perfection is impossible. Squint. And enjoy the ride. ~William C. Leek
In art as in all things, there is no such thing as a mistake. It's a learning experience. ~Mickey Galbreth
The imperfections are what make it interesting! ~Sheila Henderson
Find a good teacher and/or support group. Learn technique. Take risks. Don't take yourself too seriously but be kind to yourself. Learn what you love about the art. ~Rhonda Gardner
Don't be afraid to challenge yourself and get out of your comfort zone. Find your own style. Most of all Have Fun! ~Evelyn Redfield
From calligraphy I learned about design – that is, proportion, balance and how to lay out a page in pleasing ways, as well as paying attention to shapes and line. From sketching and painting I have learned (am still learning!) about truly looking and really seeing. ~Yvonne Frindle
1. Erasing is alright.
2. Don't ever compare your work to another persons work.
3. You have to keep doing it even when you don't feel like it.
4. QUIT BUYING NEW MEDIUMS.
5. People can see when your heart is in your art and when it's not.
6. You will always be learning.
7. Your workspace needs to feel really good.
8. Stop giving your art away and sell it.
9. Keep your goals to a point that they don't overwhelm you and drown you.
10. Last but not least: You ARE your own worst critic ...by far ... stop listening to that voice that is absolutely negative and destructive.
Hear constructive and creativeness in your heart. ~Stacy Jenschke
I wasn't a beginner in watercolor when I attended a workshop of Tony van Hasselt. But with him I learned all I needed to know. Composition, tonalité, gradation, balance, depth, dominance, focal point. And planning, always PLANNING. One of his mottos "failing to plan is planning to fail". It was only after this workshop that I really began painting. It was no longer a hit and miss because I knew what to do. And after that it was practice, practice, practice.......... trying to be a better painter. Now, after so many years, I have arrived at another level. One that I'am not quite comfortable with yet: expressing my feelings. ~Leny Van den Berg
Never underestimate the value of learning from mistakes. It's never too late! Frustrated by parents and school, I'm now having fun at the age of 70. ~Susie Thompson
The most valuable thing I've learned (am still learning) is patience. ~Terry Shepardson
1. Keep learning from wherever you can...you will never know it all
2. Share your knowledge of what you've learnt no matter how small
3. Don't be too controlling with watercolors - allow for space so that it can flow a bit and create it's own interesting details
4. Invest in some good quality paint and get to know it better
5. Challenge, but be very kind to yourself. ~Lorna Pauls
Stop thinking and DO IT! All the reading, studying, taking classes, in the shower ideas are all fine and great...but if you never make the time or prioritize it you will never create anything beyond a thought. And you will never learn practically what works for you and what does not. Do not allow fear of imperfection to stop you! ~Rachel Marlatt Donner
In watercolors, understand and master the paint-to-water ratio. After that, it's all downhill! ~Virgil Carter
Make a list of ten reasons you want to paint. When you are frustrated, read those reasons. Painting helped me develop my right brain which made my whole life and the life of those around me better. Painting outdoors has allowed me to see so much more of what is there... ~Alice Thompson Crapo
- the importance of focusing on improving process rather perfecting the end products
- that expensive tools and materials are not a short cut to good art - it takes time, patience, forgiveness and lots of mistakes
- how to tap into your mood, subconscious and feelings to express yourself through media
- expressing movement in still life compositions
- how the picture extends beyone the frame rather than being confined by its borders (think: Anthony Green)
- the importance of broad, bold strokes in sketching
- how to ruin a good drawing by trying too hard
- using the right media for the composition
- the rules, examples of how they are broken by art masters but also how they have chosen to adhere to at least one to keep the image appealing
- the rules that have to be broken in order for the image to make sense
- understanding physics and geometry in art ~Joshua Rainbird
Learn to say "thank you" when people compliment your artwork. Do not compare your work to others. Be bold. Use more paint. It's only water. It's only paper. Enjoy, enjoy, ENJOY!!! ~Berdine Bagger
Sometimes you need to ' switch off ' when you paint and let it just do it's thing ... it's never too late to start and also never too early to start. ~Maureen King
I switch off; it's fun to find myself in another world with no worries. It's great 'distraction' therapy. ~Susie Thompson
Any art form, be it drawing or dance or music, improves your ability to observe. The more we work the better we become. In case of visual arts our eyes become better in obeserving details, in music, our ears or throats do. But by practice we become better artists. ~Nirmal Sharma
NEVER throw any paintings away. Keep them and revisit them later. The "fix" or finish often comes to you when you look with fresh eyes. ~Shoey Shoemaker
From a quilting class I learned not to think too much - just do. Don't worry about doing it right. Just do it. ~Susan Alderson
From blind contour drawing I have learned to draw what I actually see, rather than what I think I ought to be seeing. ~Ali Watson
Studying anatomy, breaking the body down into shapes and drawing loosely. ~Justin Z. Neal
Thank you to all who contributed. These insights have been great to compile. I hope you all enjoy!