Recently I talked about becoming an artist (or writer or other type of creative person) when you currently have a full-time gig. I hear from so many of you that you’d like to quit your jobs and do “something creative.” I hear you.
I worked in the corporate world for 20 years before launching my freelance writing business. I hated my “regular” jobs mostly, but I’ll tell you, there was plenty to learn and grow from them. The work you’re doing now is never a waste of time. Everything you do builds on the next thing.
But if you’re not ready to quit your job and “become an artist” you can still do many things that will help you eventually make the transition. One of them is simply to continually learn. Learn about the art world, learn about running a creative business, learn and learn and learn. Never stop. Because this new world of creative entrepreneurs changes quickly and without continual learning you’ll never keep up.
One way I try to continually learn is to see what other artists are teaching. We all do things differently. We have different approaches to life, we paint differently, and we run our businesses differently. This is good. It shows you that you don’t have to fit into one mold and can tailor an art career to whatever works best for you and your family.
Learn From Other Artists
I enjoy taking ecourses from artists because it is easier to fit them into my schedule. Even when I basically know the subject matter that the artist is teaching, I try to see what I can learn from it. I study how they put an ecourse together, how they explain things, the ways they demonstrate their art process, and really just all of it. I put on my student hat and learn.
Lately, I’ve taken online classes from Juliette Crane, Kellie Day, and Alisa Burke. These three are wildly different artists and I enjoyed each ecourse I purchased. Remember that when you study from other artists, learn from them in the basics of what they teach so you can apply it specifically to your own art. Always take techniques and advice in the spirit of how it allows you to do your own thing. In other words, grasp the overall lesson but remain true to your style and message.
Join Arts Groups
I say this with caution, because not all arts groups are alike, but I still maintain that artists need friends and the best way to find them is in arts groups. This can be a good way to learn about art, specifically the vibe of what’s happening in your own city. I recently joined quite a few local groups and on the first meeting of one of them got to hear about Don Nedobek’s process, which was so inspiring and worthwhile.
If you’re intimidated by joining an in-person group, find an online group. Facebook has many. This way you can interact and get confidence talking about art and learning from others.
Read About the Greats
Art has changed and yet it hasn’t changed. While the greatest artists in history had a different go of things there is still a commonality there. So find out what made them curious and what motivated them. Recently I read Leonardo da Vinci, Van Gogh’s Letters: The Mind of the Artist in Paintings, Drawings, and Words, 1875-1890, and Recollections of Henri Rousseau (Lives of the Artists). Each inspired me for different reasons.
Read about artists you love and then read about some you don’t love. Read about how they decided to be artists, how they chose subject matter, and how they lived.
Learn the Business of Art
There is no doubt that if you want to be a successful artist, you have to learn the business of being a creative entrepreneur. Luckily, there are many resources in different forms to help you. Being successful as an artist today means running a profitable business. Otherwise, your art is a hobby. And that’s okay if that’s what you want. But for the many people who ask me about this, one way I manage my art business is simply to keep studying ways to be a successful entrepreneur.
I’ve taken Juliette Crane’s Business for Creatives ecourse, read Maria Brophy’s Art, Money, and Success book, read and studied Lilla Rogers book (books) and ecourses, and subscribed to the Artsy Shark newsletter. (And I was even featured there in an article!)
Always Be a Student
You’ll never be done learning because everything about the business of art has changed rapidly. The way we find and connect with buyers, technology, the types of paints and techniques… you need to keep up. Never feel like you know it all. Very often I will purposely take a class that I feel I do know a lot about because it will teach me that even if I am familiar with something doesn’t mean I know everything.
Recently I took Alisa Burke’s “Paint Your World” ecourse even though I have lots of experience painting on walls, creating murals, and painting furniture. I’ve done many of the projects she highlights, but I enjoyed this class because it was inspiring, there are always nuggets of information you can absorb, and seeing how another artist does something is never time wasted.
Sometimes I will purposely read about things I don’t understand at all, and other times I will gravitate towards classes and books that I’m more familiar with. I’m especially curious at this stage of my career about how other artists who are making a living this way bringing in money. I will study them.
Continually Learn So You Can Be an Original
One final note, that when you’re learning from other artists, you have to remain true to who you are. Just because you’re taking a class from a successful artist doesn’t mean you change your style or start doing things just like them. It means you learn from them so you can apply it to your art, your style, your story. You have to be yourself, uniquely you, otherwise it just doesn’t work.
The best way to be an original? Paint and sketch daily. Over and over again. When you are not inspired. When you don’t feel like it. This daily art practice will help you develop your own style, and once you do that, you’ll never paint like anyone else again. People always ask me about how to get your unique style and I’m telling you, painting almost daily for 50 years (yes!) has been the key. I paint to tell my story.
You can do the same. Continually learn so you can be the best artist you can be.