Being a self-taught artist has brought me both immense joy and overwhelming fear.
The joy stems from the freedom to learn my way and to create a style that is truly my own and that reflects who I am and the life I’ve had.
The fear seeps into those dark moments where I feel like a fraud or a failure. The moments when I compare myself to others and find my art lacking. Or when I put my art into the world and…crickets.
7 Tips for Being a Self-Taught Artist…
1) Be willing to make mistakes – This may be a no-brainer, but art is rarely a linear pursuit. You don’t start from A and end up at Z. Instead, it’s a series of steps and missteps that lead you to a darkness where you are convinced you are lost and creating total junk, only to end up where you never knew you would be. So, be willing to make mistakes, sometimes it’s those mistakes that lead you to the most beautiful discovery.
2) Passion is the most important – Passion will be the thing that ignites action in you. The idea that artists need to practice is 100% true, but without the passion driving you there won’t be many hours of practice. You’ll find yourself bored or doing other things instead. So, let the passion that grabs you and won’t let the thought or idea go. Those are the things to follow. Let those feelings, no matter how crazy they may seem, lead you to new discoveries.
3) Walk away when you hit the “meh” stage – You’ll know this stage when you get there. There’s a moment in every art piece where the artist looks at it and thinks, “What on earth is this and how the hell do I fix it?” That moment where you hate everything you’ve done and would much rather toss, burn or cover over the offending work is when you need to step back and return with fresh eyes. Pushing through has never worked for me, I always end up regretting it.
4) Provide your own structure and guidance – To be self-taught there must be a measure of structure to your learning. Without school to provide that structure, you are the one who must provide that piece of your art practice. Set up a schedule or deadlines to force the structure needed.
5) Choose your learning style – The beauty of being self-taught is having the freedom to choose how you get to learn. Are you a visual learner or more auditory? How do you learn best? Do you learn best from one-on-one training or at your own pace with an online class platform?
6) Check the self-doubt at the door – Self-doubt is a killer to creativity. Comparing ourselves to others is the fastest way to stir-up a fresh pot of self-doubt. This means that you need to accept that you are learning and there will always be someone more advanced than you, but that also means there is someone who is not yet where you are. Art is a journey and to believe that one day you’ll master it is the quickest way to self-doubt. Because in my humble opinion we never stop learning as artists.
“Give yourself permission to fail” – Theodore Roosevelt
7) Let yourself play – In my classes, I think I say, “just let yourself play” more than anything else. There is no right way to do anything. What speaks as true for me may not for you, so giving yourself the freedom to play and to try things is the best advice I could give. This one plays into #1 and #6.