6 Commonly Overlooked Steps To Becoming A Better Artist

Many people aim to better themselves in certain areas, and artists are no exception. No matter how far we come on our journey, there is always room for artistic improvement, some ideal we can only strive for. So, what are some practical but overlooked ways to improve artistically? 

  1. Observe nature
  2. Consume art
  3. Just do it
  4. Keep going through the awkward stage
  5. Focused practice 
  6. Remember creating art is not wasting time

So, let’s dive deeper into what I mean by each of these steps. 

Observe Nature

Taking time to observe nature is crucial to progressing as an artist. Even if you do not create realistic or “natural” art, observing light, contrast, proportion, perspective, angles, colors, and tones in nature will help your artistic eye. You can determine what draws you to a particular subject or item and use that to guide your artistic style. 

Do you really enjoy the high contrast of deep shadows on a sunny day? You can use that knowledge to add more contrast to your art. Are you more drawn to geometric patterns that you observe? Then include pattern play in your art. The examples are endless. 

Consume Art

Look at other people’s art, even styles you don’t prefer. And I don’t mean just glance at it. I mean study it and truly consume it. Look at the details and try to determine how it was completed. The act of reverse engineering a piece of art will help you learn what different techniques can achieve. 

Master studies are a common example of this strategy. Learning about how the masters created their masterpieces will allow you to implement some of the same strategies, the ones you like the best, into your own artwork.

Another example, I am not a fan of “modern” art per se, but I have learned a lot about composition, color, and contrast that I can use in my own art style. I am not trying to recreate any other artist’s style, but I am growing and learning from them. 

Looking at other mediums can also help grow your artistic style within your chosen medium. Sculpture or pottery designs can inform 2D art styles just as much as a painting or photograph. 

Just Do It

No, this isn’t about a fashion brand. Just do it means to jump in and try. I don’t mean practice (though that is obviously important). I mean to stop thinking about it and just put your art down. It might turn out crappy, like my first attempts at drawing portraits, but it might turn out great, like my first try painting a cactus.

My First Portrait (Attempt)
My First Cactus

I personally don’t like sitting and doing drills in my chosen medium of watercolor, so I don’t. There are plenty of people who advocate for extensive brush control, water control, and technique drills, and though I understand they have their place, there is nothing better than jumping in and learning through trial and error. 

So, my recommendation is just to jump in and create something. If it turns out awful, you learn from mistakes; if it turns out great, you learn from success. Either way, you are growing artistically. 

After you create something, you can analyze it and determine what you love about it and what you have learned from it. This will allow you to make great strides rapidly in your creative outcomes.

Keep Going Through the Awkward Stage

Don’t stop at the awkward stage in any artwork. EVERY SINGLE PIECE WILL HAVE AN AWKWARD STAGE. I don’t really think it matters what medium of art, every single one I have seen in practice, has had a weird stage. There is a time of limited clarity. The artist must see through that to the potential of the finished piece. 

The Awkward Stage
The Final Artwork

Now, sometimes that potential won’t come to fruition, but if you stop at the awkward stage it NEVER will. And I will point back to point two, just do it, and even if it doesn’t reach the outcome you desire, you will learn something from the process. 

Focused Practice

When you practice, focus on a single skill at a time. You won’t magically see all of the skills come together at one time, and you won’t suddenly be “good.” You will see progressive steps toward your goal, and if you break that down into one step at a time, one specific target at a time, you’ll get the gratification of completing a task or achieving a goal. 

Jordan Peterson, a famous psychologist, repeatedly states (in summary) that we need to be humble in our beginnings; we need to shoot at the lowest, sometimes trivial, target, and then we will see exponential growth. 

So, when you are creating, you may be able to pick out 17 mistakes that you made; the point here is to pick one, and only one, that you can work on. In your next creating session, focus on improving that one skill or preventing that one mistake. You will still likely make other mistakes, but if you focus on that one, you will be able to create a habit and improve that area in most, or all, of your future work

This practice can be isolated drills in your medium or incorporated into a completed artwork, but the key is maintaining the proper focus for that session. 

Here is an example of my 1 Week 100 Figures focused practice on linework. My primary focus was quick and expressive pen strokes to capture the figures.

Remember Creating Art is Not Wasting Time

It can be very challenging in our busy lives to remember that creative time is NOT wasted time. I find this hard sometimes because I feel like I should be doing the dishes, working on the lawn, going to work, or whatever—anything besides just sitting there for an hour painting. But after I do it, even when whatever I do turns out awful, I feel better. Don’t feel guilty for investing in some YOU time.

Now you know my tips for growing as an artist! Let’s jump in and put them into practice!

Now it is time for YOU to get Crafty with Ashy!

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Hi! I’m Ashy. I am a Christian, wife, mom, and physical therapist. I am also an amateur painter, baker, crocheter, and miscellaneous crafter. I hope to be able to share some of my enthusiasm for creating with you and to inspire YOU to begin, continue, or grow YOUR creative outlet!

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