10 things an aspiring artist should know – Lea Williams

10 things an aspiring artist should know

I’ve been creating art as my main job & income for over 5  years now (yes its totally possible to earn a wage from your art!) and more recently I’ve been doing more teaching and getting involved in helping some younger artists start their creative journey. I have put together my top ten bits of advice, either having learnt through own experiences or wisdom passed down to me by my peers & mentors. Quite often I wished someone would of told me all this at the beginning….

  1. You DON’T need university degrees and formal qualification to make art. I failed my art GCSE, not by a massive margin but enough to think I wasn’t good enough, enough for it for me question if I was making a right move heading to college. Take a look around social media, there are literally thousands of artists who have never studied art formally and they are smashing out AMAZING art, either in paid employment or making their way as self employed. There are of course advantages where a formal education can help propel you quicker to where you want and into certain artistic sectors but it really isn’t be be all and end all. Pay attention to your English, Maths and Science qualifications as a minimum. These you WILL need to guide you.
  2. Don’t take opinions personally. Very early on this journey I remember when I started doing portraits on converse, I had done loads, but this particular pair had been shared around quite a fair bit on social media and  I followed the trail. On the whole comments were positive, but there was 1 by a man who I didn’t know that had made quite a rude comment and compared the image to something rather uncomplimentary. I was devastated, until this point I had only really good comments, but, the reality was it was just someone’s opinion – everyone has them and is entitled to air them however they see fit – and that’s all it is, a snapshot inside someones head which conveys a thought at that time. You can also think about it this way, there are genre’s of music that we don’t all like or enjoy, it doesn’t make it bad it just means its not to everyone’s taste and that’s just fine. It’s better to true to yourself than trying to be something you’re not just to get approval or a positive comment/like/share etc. Opinions are like arseholes – everyone has one.
  3. Don’t compromise yourself.  There seems to be a trend for ‘controversial’ art, could be something of Trump or something equally high up in the world news that is garnering attention. Ask yourself before you get caught up in believing its what you need to do to get noticed – Does it fit within your own beliefs and values? What do you want to gain from it? Are you really creating something you WANT to just being a sheep and following the crowds? Go the long route – work HARD at what interests you, if you were be propelled to heady heights of being a ‘viral sensation’ on just 1 piece of work that was a stab in the dark, how can you maintain that level of work and continue to give people what they assume and expect of you as normal? Think about it… what is given is so easily taken away. Be consistent.
  4. Its normal to have ‘off’ days. Ever heard of writers block? the artistic equivalent is totally a thing too. I have gone weeks on end just simply not wanting  to create or ideas simply not forming. Embrace the time, watch films or read books, blog, go meet with friends and enjoy the time and don’t stress about it, otherwise you’ll build brick walls that get bigger and higher to overcome the next time it happens. Been there, painted the t-shirt.
  5. Buy the BEST materials you can afford. This does make a difference to your work and confidence. Paint, brushes, paper and canvas should be where you spend your cash – easels, boards you can source for peanuts on selling groups, ebay and charity shops, even frames to an extent can be up-cycled and create a wow factor. Don’t be drawn into purchasing from discount and pound shops as the quality is poor, and it WILL show in your work. And don’t rely on whats on Amazon – find a good local supplier – is cheaper overall too. This is a whole new blog of its own! trust me on this one….
  6. Don’t expect everyone to understand. My art is my entire world. I live and breathe it, its the first and last thing on my mind each day – there is nothing else in this universe I want to do, but now and again you’ll encounter people who simply cannot grasp the concept of turning it into a full paid up career… ‘Get a proper job, you know where you are with that….’ ‘you’ll NEVER make money!’ ‘urgh, messing around with paint isn’t a REAL career’ ‘What? you’re drawing THAT again? WHY?’ and the list goes on.. and on… and I still don’t listen to any of it.
  7. Practice, Practice, Practice. That really is how you get better. Even a few minutes a day, doodles, sketches, anything. It ALL counts, it counts because it keeps your mind thinking about what it is naturally going to do next, it keeps that desire alive, and it doesn’t stop there – suddenly you start to develop your own style, your signature and refine it each time you go to start again.
  8. Network and meet people. Working alone can become isolating, lonely and altough peace and quiet is rather lovely when you need to really concentrate on something, it really is VERY important to meet people both inside and outside the art world in person. The best way to get yourself started here is to get to know who runs your local independent art store, they have their pulses on what’s on in your local area and what groups meet up, there are lots of opportunities to meet other local artists and join in events. Don’t rely on social media for interacting with people all the time. The bigger your network of people, the bigger your opportunities to learn and grow become.
  9. You will doubt yourself. Being your own critic isn’t always a bad thing, I find that it drives me to improve and want to seek out how I can overcome obstacles. What you don’t want to do it get into the habit of trash talking yourself, being too critical isn’t going to do you any favours. It is totally normal to dislike your work, natural – sometimes pieces I have hugely disliked have been the most popular! On the flip side you’ll fall in love in some of your pieces and no-one else does. Weird, true and totally normal!
  10. Be YOU. This is the BEST piece of advice you can ever get. Just be yourself, with your work, with your opinions and your choices. The world is FULL of people trying to be like others, so do yourself a favour and follow your own path. Look at point 3 again. Think freely.  BELIEVE IN YOURSELF. There is only ever one go at this life. You’ve got this!