I've lost count of the instances where people have remarked, "I can't even manage a straight line!", in response to my inquiries about their engagement with painting, drawing, or other artistic pursuits. Their answer always puzzles me because to my understanding, most people are unable to draw straight lines, so what does that have to do with art making? A few weeks ago, I arranged an Instagram giveaway where I posed the question to entrants about their identification as artists. Again, I was confused when a significant number of individuals conveyed their deep appreciation for art but hesitated to label themselves as artists, due to their lack of "formal training". In this blog, let's explore what the term "formal art training" means, because IMHO, no such thing exists.
I hold a BFA degree, have several years of drawing and painting experience, and have even spent countless (grueling) hours in drafting classes. Despite this, I struggle to produce a straight line freehand and hesitate to call myself "formally" trained - at least not in the realm of art making. I attended the Art Institutes. Our freshman and sophomore years were spent exposing us to a plethora of artistic styles, extensive memorization of art history, and experimentation with various artistic mediums - no actual "training" on how to create art. In fact, throughout my entire time there, I consistently pondered the rationale behind assigning grades to our creations, considering the subjective nature of art.
Art making is a skill. And like any other skill, it must be practiced to get good at it. It's also an expression of an individual's mind, heart, and soul, which requires no practice to get good at. My undergrad years were about exposing me to other artists, in hopes of helping me figure out the type of artist I wanted to become – that’s all. No one can teach another person art making. They can only share techniques that have worked for them – which typically, have been influenced by observing someone else. For example, van Gogh was influenced by Millet, Monet, Gauguin. Picasso was influenced by van Gogh, Paul Cézanne, and Henri Rousseau. Basquiat was influenced by Picasso, Warhol and Twombly, etc. Therefore, to be “formally trained” in art making merely means studying and practicing art styles you admire, and then pairing those styles with your own unique personality. Of course, there are tips and tricks that can be employed to make artwork more appealing, based on what we know about the human brain, etc., but those "rules" or "tips" should only be employed when they resonate with an artist and prove to be a method that will assist in conveying the artist's message.
Artistic expression is a universal language that transcends boundaries, cultures, and backgrounds. It has the remarkable ability to empower, heal, and liberate the human spirit. Whether you consider yourself a seasoned artist or have never picked up a paintbrush, the act of creating art can be a transformative journey that brings joy, self-discovery, and a newfound sense of accomplishment. Given all of that, how can it be taught? The answer is, it can't. So, how do you go about "formally training" yourself to create art? The answer is, you don't, but there are a few suggestions I can provide that might ignite your motivation to embark on a journey of self-discovery and hopefully uncover the hidden artistic potential within you:
Unlock Your Imagination:
Creating art is an invitation to unleash your imagination. It's a space where there are no rules, no limits, and no expectations. How can there be? It’s yours. Allowing your mind to wander freely, embrace the whimsical, the surreal, and the extraordinary fuels creativity and fosters a sense of wonder.
Celebrate the Process, Not Just the Outcome:
I, personally, struggle with this one sometimes – especially when I forget to unlock my imagination 😊. This usually happens when I’m creating on a deadline or engaged in a commissioned piece. At those times, I have to remind myself that embarking on an artistic journey is about more than just the finished product, it’s about my self-expression. When you create, embrace the process of creation – the feel of the materials in your hands, the strokes of color on the canvas, the satisfaction of overcoming challenges. Every step of the creative process is an opportunity for growth, self-expression, and self-discovery.
Embrace Your Imperfection:
This is another one I’ve struggled with. As I've said a hundred times, I was an abused kid. And like most abused kids, I've struggled with perfection. Therefore, when I initially started painting, I would have to force myself to make mistakes, and learn to love them. It’s also why I don't do portraits anymore and embrace abstract where mistakes are celebrated. Art is a realm where imperfections are not only accepted but cherished. The beauty of art lies in its quirks and inconsistencies. By embracing imperfection, you free yourself from the constraints of perfectionism and open the door to authentic, unfiltered expression.
Express Your Emotions Beyond Words:
I wrote a post a few weeks ago entitled, “Let's Talk About the C Word” (link: https://www.conduit12fineart.com/post/let-s-talk-about-the-c-word-communication) In it, I wrote about the importance of communication through your work where I stated that the communication doesn't always have to be conscious. Art provides a safe space to express emotions that might be difficult to articulate with words alone. Whether it's joy, sorrow, confusion, or gratitude, art becomes a conduit for releasing and understanding complex feelings. Through your creations, you can tell your story without uttering a single word - even when you don't fully understand it.
Be Patient with Yourself:
Creating art is a journey that requires patience and resilience. Not every stroke will be perfect, and not every idea will materialize as you envision it. Personally, I throw away A LOT of canvases (I also paint over a lot of them with gesso to save on supplies – but that’s a topic for another blog 😊) because they don’t come out as I’d envisioned, or because they simply came out ugly (IMO). As Einstein said, “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new”. It’s only by persevering and embracing our mistakes as opportunities that we learn and grow.
Connect with Others:
I’ve learned so much from artists on IG and Facebook! Art has a unique ability to connect people across cultures and backgrounds. Sharing your creations with others can spark meaningful conversations and connections. Also, art workshops, classes, and collaborative projects provide opportunities to meet like-minded individuals who share your passion. Never stop learning!
Confront Your Creative Blocks:
I hope to do a blog on this topic soon because this is a biggie! We all encounter creative blocks at some point. I've found that a creative block can be a great way to prompt yourself to do a little more self-discovery. Usually, there's something causing a block that, once uncovered, and excavated, can lead to some pretty amazing work. If you encounter a block, consider it a moment to let your instincts guide you to a surprising breakthrough.
The journey of creating art is a personal and transformative one that offers a multitude of benefits. It's not about being a "professional", or “formally trained” artist, but rather about embracing your innate creativity, expressing yourself authentically, and exploring new horizons. Whether you're drawn to painting, drawing, sculpture, photography, or any other medium, the act of creating art has the potential to enrich your life in profound ways. So, go ahead and pick up that brush, gather your materials, and embark on a creative adventure that will not only change your perspective on art but also on yourself? Your inner artist is waiting to be discovered – take that first step and see where the journey takes you.
Until next time, keep those paintbrushes strokin'!