How to improve for beginner artist or at any stage in our artistic journey?
I don’t think there is a particularly best medium for an artist to start with, its all about your personal preference , what you have available and your budget. So what ever medium is your inspiration to start these are the things that have helped me the most to improve.
‘If people knew how hard I work to gain my mastery. It wouldn’t seem so wonderful at all.’ Michelangelo
There are no real short cuts to improving as a artist. Spending time creating will be the single most important part of whether you improve. As my Art teacher told me ‘Time on the brush’ is always the answer to, how do I get better? So for me consistent weekly practice and making sure I stick to this even when I felt unmotivated was the fastest way I improved. That’s not to say you can’t have a break , I’ll certainly be having some down time over the holidays. Just look at how consistent you are over a month or year, keep a studio diary.
You will get better each time you paint or draw. In order for the techniques you have learnt to stick you must spend the time practicing, like learning to swim you have to get in the water! I often make lots of mistakes, many paintings ending in disaster but these are often the times I have learnt the most. Making mistakes and understanding why or how to change this become the building blocks of learning. Painting and drawing is continual problem solving sometimes it is a challenge.
Don’t give up or avoid the difficult bits. I am guilty of this. I always dreamed of painting in oils but whenever I had a go it never went the way I wanted. My excuse was its just too difficult, I haven’t been taught, its too messy and I’m not a good enough artist. Yet I still looked at oil paintings in the galleries and longed to be able to create paintings with so much life and depth. So I booked myself on a course and when I got back I practiced consistently and by the time I got to my 100 painting I could look back with a sense of pride at what I had achieved. I still have a long way to go and lots of things I want to do better but I know I will be able to achieve them in time.
Learn the fundamentals
Finding out about the materials and techniques can often resolve some of my questions and give inspiration. There are many free resources available on the internet articles or videos so it doesn’t have to be expensive. Art supply stockist have great information and videos on how to use their materials which are really informative. There are some great art books which focus on the materials and techniques for every type of medium. A short course or workshop could also be a great way to build your skills especially as you will be practicing the techniques under expert guidance. I took a short 3 day course ‘Simply Oils’ at the Norfolk Painting School which was the start of my journey with oils.
Photographs from a Lewis Noble course in 2020.
Courses and workshops also allow you to meet other budding artists who will be on the same journey as you. Its great to talk about art and share ideas, failures and successes with like minded people. Its great to create art with others, to watch others painting and drawing can give you so much. How do they hold their brush? What consistency is their paint? What other tools do they use?
‘Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.’ Scott Adams
Experimenting is about having fun and playing with the materials to see what you can do and the effects which can be created. If you do this with a foundation of the main techniques you can create your own style and make your work individual. Its amazing what you can create if you just let go, do things that you think shouldn’t work and you may uncover something very unique.
I try to have a few experimental painting on the go that I play with and try new ideas. Often it doesn’t turn out as expected and I wipe or sand the canvas down and then have another go, sometimes I like the sanded canvas and that sparks another fresh idea. I love painting over old paintings and having the image show through creating a shadowy image underneath.
Learning from other artists
Looking at others artists work first hand is so valuable way to improve for beginner artists. So make a plan to visit a gallery, art fair or go to an open studio event. The important thing is to actually see the work close up, it will look so different from a digital image. You will see how the artist has made the marks and the layering of colours and you will learn so much from just looking. If you get to meet the artist in person you can ask all those questions and find out so much about the techniques and ideas they use.
I went through a phase of constantly comparing my work to others especially when scrolling through social media. I could quickly become disheartened and feel like giving up. We can all be very self critical, we need to be kinder to ourselves and realise all artists started somewhere and if we give up we will never realise our dreams. Remember that often the artists we admire are further on in the journey. We are often admiring techniques which have taken many hours of practice but if we maintain our consistent practice we’ll get there as well.
So please be kind to yourself. You will become a good artist. The journey or process is more important than the destination! Remember tomorrow is another day.
More than anything draw and paint what makes you happy and practice!