Yesterday, I began writing about what I’ve observed in terms of artistic growth and development in my own career as well as from the perspective of an instructor. I talked about the importance of learning the basics and as a beginner, not being in a hurry to get “somewhere”, to take the time to hone basic drawing, composition and color skills and learn how to use your chosen medium properly.
Let’s say you’ve done that and are now at the point where you are ready to get to the next stage. What comes next is a period of analysis where you look at the work you’ve done in your beginner level courses to determine:
- what you do best
- what you need to improve
- what interests you most (subject, medium, style, concept, etc.)
What you do best vs. what you need to improve
It is a good idea to get some objective input on this from an instructor or other experienced/knowledgable artist or critic whom you trust. The point is to help you identify the strengths in your work so that you can focus and build upon them, as well as the areas that need further study and improvement. For example, you might find that you have excellent drawing skills and an understanding of form and value, proportion, perspective, etc.–but you have difficulty working with color. Being aware of this enables you to take steps to improve such as additional courses in color theory, working with a limited a palette, etc. Not knowing will leave you frustrated and unsure of why you are not getting the results you want. So find a good advisor and listen to what they have to say. Learn to look at your work objectively and without emotion–acknowledge your strengths and make the most of them, acknowledge the problem areas and do something to improve your understanding of the challenges you are having and how to address them.
What interests you most
This is the fun part! Look at your work and try to figure out what aspects of it you truly enjoy:
- Do you favor one medium over others?
- Do you find you are attracted to a specific subject?
- Do you enjoy solving visual problems with composition?
- Do you like working with color or do you prefer a monochromatic approach?
- Do you enjoy drawing?
- Do you like working with collage, mixed media, found objects or other non-traditional approaches?
- What types of artwork do you yourself like to look at?
- Who are your favorite artists?
Once you’ve identified the things that inspire you, focus on them to begin building a portfolio. The portfolio will evolve over time, but it is a good thing to begin thinking about early on as it will help you to stay on track and avoid frustration. Choose your courses based on the areas that interest you most. Try to find an instructor whose work you like and whose teaching methods are in alignment with the way you learn. At this point, you should try to find courses that are designed for intermediate artists–you want to be in a course that will challenge you and not be too easy, otherwise you won’t grow. Try an independent study course if one is available in your medium of choice. Take workshops with artists whose work you admire, but don’t fall into the trap of becoming a “disciple”. Learn from your mentors but always be sure to develop your own style and stay on your own course.
Tomorrow: Turning professional–are you really sure you want to do this?