Aug 7, 2013

100 Heads in 100 Days #72 - Top 11 Tips for aspiring artists

Here's the deal: I've been drawing for a long time. I'm only just now starting to get along that career path to being a successful artist and I have a long way to go. I have read a lot of books on the subject, and know a thing or two about striving for success and the hurdles that can get in the way of achieving that (I'm sure I still have many to encounter yet).

But I want to impart some wisdom I have accumulated up to this point. It might be useful to some people starting out, or perhaps those of you who are struggling to gain momentum. Maybe I have no right doing something like this. Maybe I do. I think it's important to point out that it is not advice given by somebody who has made it in the artistic world, this is advice from somebody who is on the same level as many aspiring artists. This is where I am coming from. I'm an amateur freelance illustrator, the words I say here are from that perspective. Hopefully one day I'll be able to write another advice post from the perspective of a professional artist. But until that time, here's what I've got to say from the level I am at right now.

Here are my...


  1. One of the biggest difficulties I found when I started to get serious about being an artist was that I could visualise my work as it could potentially be. The problem was, I sucked at the time. That was frustrating. There were huge holes in my knowledge that showed in my work. The solution is to use that vision of how good you know you can be and set it as a goal. That goal may take a very long time to reach, and it's definitely not something that should be rushed. You can't expect to get there overnight, nor should you. Don't get upset when you can't draw as well as you want, treat it as a journey of growth and skill development. It is a great thing to watch your work improve through hard work and intelligent approach.
  2. There are many things you will have to do that you actually don't know how to do. My advice in this situation is simple: learn by doing. Art is all about discovering new things and growing, even if it doesn't feel like you are sometimes. It is amazing how learning one thing, be it a technique or new medium, will influence the things you already know. It all relates, I promise.
  3. Be smart when you are creating. Think about what you are doing as you are doing it, and why you are doing it. It's very easy to just draw on autopilot, even then some great results can be achieved. But to be consistently good takes thought and concentration. Any piece will bring up a million different design questions, and if you're not concentrating on all of them, things are going to slip through and your work will suffer. A good trick is to ask yourself why you are putting that line down, or mixing in that colour. If you don't have a good answer, then why are you doing it?
  4. Don't fear the things you think you suck at. Sucking is just another word for not knowing how to do something in most cases. Do you think you suck at drawing hands? Or is it just because you don't know how to draw hands?  Don't be afraid of hands. They are just another thing that needs to be learned how to do. Look at the things you think you are good at. Were you always good at them? Or, like everything else, did you have to learn how to do them? The difficult things are only that, they are difficult, not impossible. It's all a skill to be learned, nothing more.
  5. Talent only goes so far. Talent is what sets the great apart from the good, but even the great spent hundreds of hours adding skill to their talent. There's just no two ways about it, you're going to have to put in the time too. 
  6. The sooner you get serious about being an artist, the sooner you will be one. Those hundreds of hours you are going to have to do are not going to reduce until you get to work on them. This is one of the big secrets of the game- The people you see that are making great careers out of their fantastic art aren't there because they won a lottery ticket. They worked at it every day. If you want to be one of them, don't delay another minute.
  7. Setting goals is a good idea. Make big ones and small ones. Set yourself realistic deadlines for your own projects. Push yourself, but don't break yourself. The sooner you get into the system of knowing what it takes to meet deadlines, the better your career will be.
  8. Don't think of creating your art as a chore, or even as a special treat for yourself, just make it a part of your daily routine. Make it so that you don't even have to think about it, just go to it. If you're one of those artists that has to be 'in the mood' or 'set up and ready to go' before you start being artistic, you're going to struggle. Make it second nature, make it something that is a natural part of your day, regardless of outside influence or internal desire. You just have to do it.
  9. Seek inspiration everywhere. If you're, say, a comic artist, the worst thing you could do is look solely at comics. To be a great comic artist, you need to know how to draw everything, and well. Don't learn anatomy from comics, learn it from real anatomy. Manipulate it to your style however you wish, but it has to have a source in reality. Look at something you think is cool and analyse why you think it is cool. Once you start to train your eyes to look at something from an analytical perspective, your work will improve. Most importantly, learn from the bottom up. Structure is far more important than any subsequent layer. You have to get it right at the start or all of the things you add to it will be based on a bad foundation.
  10. Finally, stay positive. It's easy to get down in the dumps because your art isn't coming out the way you want it to. This is going to happen for the rest of your career. Get used to it. The trick is to roll with the punches and power on through. Even if the piece still turns out sucky, it's a valuable lesson on a long line of valuable lessons. Learn from it and grow. Once you get into a routine of persevering, you'll find that less of your work is sucky. You'll still do sucky art, but you'll learn how to fix it and become a more professional artist.
I'm going to add one more tip to this list, as I feel it is perhaps the most important of them all.
  •  Finish what you start. The people working as artists today, be they a painter with work in galleries, a children's book illustrator with stuff on the shelves, or whatever, they got there by completing pieces. You won't go to a gallery and see a painting with half of the canvas still blank, nor will you pick up a children's book and discover that only the first half of the book has illustrations, the rest of it being blank. These professionals got to where they are by completing pieces and developing portfolios which were then sent out to gain work. You're never going to find a publisher or gallery owner that is going to hire you based on your sketchbook and half-finished pieces in you portfolio. Finish the work. Make it look as good as you can. Then move on to the next one. Finish that one. Make it good. Move on again. Keep on creating your art, but finish what you start.
So there you go. These are probably rules that everybody already knows, but sometimes it helps to hear other people say it and in different words. You'll notice that I made no promises as to doing X and Y will lead to instant employment, because that just isn't the case. There's no trick, unless hard work and intelligent approach is a trick, which it is in a way, I guess, a really elaborate and time-consuming trick. But it's the only trick in town, you only have that choice, so get to it.

End of advice. 

100 Heads in 100 Days #72
A Gnoblin
This is a Gnoblin. They are wicked little beings that are born of a Gnome mother and a Goblin Father. They aren't very common, thankfully, as they are pure evil and best avoided.

Me Fact #72
I'm nutty about conifer trees. I love the variety of them, the fact that they remain green all year round. There is nothing that reminds me of Rien Poortvliet more than snow on a conifer branch. 
Pine cones are cool too.

1 comment:

christian said...

He definitely looks like he does not play well with others.