This morning, I overslept, still woke up early enough to where I’m not leaving the door for work 20 minutes before my shift, but still enough that it caused a detriment to my morning routine.
Even so, I found that I had some extra time today than I did yesterday (and I did manage to get up at 5 yesterday) and I thought, “Great! I can actually get to painting my Caravaggio head study that I’ve been putting off the last three days.”
Then I stepped into my art studio.
I stepped into the studio, and it was dark, cold, and chilling.
I could possibly, I dunno, go turn on the lights (which are actually in an inconvenient place), put on warmer clothes, promise myself I’ll only paint for five minutes, then not, but nope! I’ve opted to go back into my slightly warmer living room and write a blog post instead with YouTube videos playing ensuring my distraction from what I’ve been put on this earth to do.
So many reasons to not paint. Just stay in bed, play on the computer, type up this blog entry hoping to talk myself into painting while this still time before I have to get ready to leave…
So, the theme of Day 2 of the Daily Dragons of June is “Fruit.” I didn’t have a particular idea in mind when I chose the theme, but as I was falling asleep last night, I was reminded of this uncanny coincidence that happened in my life last year.
When I was living in Italy, I was painting this:
I wasn’t influenced by anything, it was just an image that kind of came to me. When I got back home, my mother and I were having a conversation, and she was telling me how a few months prior, she was thinking about a friend who was getting married and kept getting deeper and deeper into debt adding on things to her wedding that weren’t really necessary. As my mother was falling asleep, these words came to her mind: “The Serpent wraps around her neck and whispers in her ear, “You deserve more.'”
Now, I didn’t tell her about the painting I was doing. I didn’t send her any pictures (because at the time it was very unfinished), and it wasn’t even on any social media. She didn’t even mention that anecdote to me until months later when I got back home. It was almost disturbing how we were on different sides of the world and essentially thinking the exact same thing at the same time.
I took this to mean that this is something very important. Kind of like how Eve couldn’t be content with the good things she had, she became convinced that she deserved more even if it meant death. At the same time, we seem to lack the ability to be content with what we have in love, we keep driving ourselves to misery just seeking more and more.
That’s what was on my mind morning. Oftentimes, it’s much more than “it would be nice if things were different,” but this idea that we deserve more than what we have now.
Also joining me in this challenge is the artist @art.foliage with this fun picture of a dragon squashing tomatoes! Please click the link to see more of art.foliage’s art on Instagram!
If you’re an artist and would like to do this challenge, here are the prompts below, be sure to put #DailyDragon so that I can find you and maybe feature you on here!
Happy Saturday! It’s been a beautiful morning here, and I hope your weekend is off to a great start as well!
Welcome to a challenge I’m going to call: Daily Dragon! (Just for this month though).
I had so much fun with MerMay, that for the month of June, I’m going to continue with the fantasy art theme: drrrrragons! I used to love drawing them all the time as a teenager. Lately, I’ve been thinking about what they meant on a spiritual level too: a huge monster so much bigger than you, but if you’re brave enough to stand up to it- and defeat it, you get lots of great treasure, but you have to be brave enough to stand up to it first… It’s been very appealing to me lately. .
I’m writing this more for myself. It seems like the more I pursue my art career, the more opportunities open up, and the more daunting it becomes. As I’ve said in the past, I’m personally struggling with a very odd Fear of Success (versus the fear of failure. Only instead of not trying because you’re afraid of failing, you don’t want to try because you’re afraid you’ll succeed and can’t handle it). but if you guys think this list is helpful to you too, then that makes me happy! Let’s all go through this journey together!
1. The Internet
Today is probably the best time ever in the history of art to become an artist and make money and recognition in your lifetime! Back in the olden days, you had to be lucky and make friends with a rich person who really really REALLY believed in your work enough to pay you a full salary to sponsor your work. Otherwise, in the less recent time, you had to push to get your art exhibited in galleries (I highly recommend you still go this route for reasons I will explain in a future blog post, but for now, let’s be excited about the internet) where you have to pay a fee for them to show your work and if you are lucky enough to sell any, most of that money will just go back to the gallery. Putting your art in galleries may actually LOSE you more money than you gain.
Now, you can post your art for free, and if you keep at fostering your social media presence, you will eventually gain a following which will put you in contact with people who want to buy your art. Yes, you do have to compete with other artists, but you may forget that this is not a zero-sum gain. Just because one artist gets a commission doesn’t mean you don’t get that commission. You can also make passive income by selling digital prints, eBooks, Patreon, and numerous other places. With the internet, it’s difficult to put all your eggs in one basket, and that’s a good thing!
2. Whatever You Love Doing: There’s a Niche for It
Art is one of the most frustrating things to go into as a profession because what’s “In” in the art world changes so drastically. When I brought my sketchbook to a Portland gallery, the gallery owner noted I did a lot of figure drawings, and those just weren’t “in” right now.
Read my previous point. If you build a following on the internet, it doesn’t matter. Someone will like what you’re doing.
Not only that, but there are infinite numbers of communities for what you’re doing. Even if what you’re doing is purely original, which is unlikely because humans are bad at being original, you will find a niche.
If you like painting waterscapes and fish, fishermen will probably want your art, if your faith is important to you, you automatically have an audience of people in your faith who are probably DYING for the kind of things you create, if you love painting cats and dogs, you have a lot of people out there who love their pets and would be delighted to have you paint a portrait of their beloved Sir Colonel Fluffikins III.
And yes, I know I sound like a broken record when I say “Do What You Love” but I mean it. If you’re working on something because you think that’s what’s “in” right now, you’re not going to care that much about it. When you try to sell it, you’re not going to have that same enthusiasm and conviction that makes people want to buy it (if you don’t care, why should I?), and you’re just going to be frustrated.
So, do what you love. It’s not as hard to find people interested as you might think.
3. You Don’t Even Need to Be Good- At Least, Not Right Away
I believed that before I had any business pursuing a career as an artist, I thought I had to be good. I don’t even know why I thought this, because there are many teenagers out there on the internet who are already making a living making videos of their art and pride themselves on how they’re learning, and simply want to be an amazing artist when they grow up- as they should!
The truth is, a good artist should always be learning. As a general rule of thumb, I found that no artist believes they’re really “good.”
Not only that, but look back at history. The most remembered artists of the 20th century didn’t create the most beautiful, realistic artwork, their expertise lay with creating a strong message behind the artwork, shaking hands with the right people, and marketing.
So, it doesn’t matter if you’re good, as long as you keep at it, love what you’re doing, and do the necessary research along the way, you’ll be fine. You may not get rich, but that’s not the goal, the goal is to be an artist and make enough to get by.
4. There’s Parts of it That Might Suck… Just Like the Job You’re Currently Working Now!
You’re smart enough to know that once someone becomes an artist, there’s a whole lot of challenges to face along the way and after the fact: keeping a business going, deadlines, customer relations, taxes, and there even might be viscous and jealous competing artists. This may be what’s keeping you from pursuing your dream as an artist, that these may be things you don’t want to deal with.
As opposed to be the job you might be working at now, you’re working for someone else, they may be malevolent and send you home every day with this feeling like you’re not worth anything, the work you’re doing is soul-killing and not doing any good for the world, maybe even making it worse, and it may be affecting your attitude, your family may find you unpleasant every time you come home from work, and things will only continue to get worse.
As opposed to working for yourself- you may not make as much money- but you’ll at least have the chance to do something you know is meaningful. You will come to the end of your life not having regretted doing what you really love.
5. Even If You Don’t Make it As an Artist, You Will STILL Pick Up Skills that Job Seekers Like
I do not advocate dropping everything and starving yourself to be an artist. It’s good to have a fallback plan. Take comfort in knowing that not only do you have one, but by following your dream, you will be even more equipped, proficient… and desired, in said fall back plan.
I actually want to write more on this topic, but one of the things that keeps me going, even though I’m still new, is all the skills I’m learning along the way to reaching my dream of being a stay-at-home artist.
I thought of the skills I was learning that jobs seekers wanted: utilizing social media through a business perspective, waking at 5 am to work on my art career before going to my 9-5 job, customer relations, setting and keeping deadlines, sales, photo editing, marketing, website development, etc. Many of these were not skills that I learned how to do in school or at other jobs, but they were skills that I learned while pursuing my own art career.
It’s easy to think that it may not be worth it in the end to become an artist professionally, that you’ll be spending so much time and money on art, no one will want to buy it, and it will all amount to nothing.
Even if you make art that nobody buys, you will learn many other skills and develop habits that will be attractive for future job seekers.
6. You Will Fail… A Lot
The reason why I personally don’t have a fear of failure anymore is because I I know I will fail… many many times.
You will fail to make the masterpiece you want, you will fail to make online sales, you will fail to get the number of followers/subscribers you want, you will enter that Call for Artists, and you will fail to get in. You will fail many many MANY times. And that’s okay. I know, it’s still discouraging when something doesn’t work out, but that’s part of the journey of becoming an artist.
With every failure, you will learn something, the next time you try something, you will approach it a wiser person.
It’s also satisfying to know that you are not a quitter. That the world is out to get you, and knocked you down so many times. Just to spite it, you got back up and kept going. Nothing will keep you down!
You are a warrior! You’re a lion! You’re a Viking!
You’re not afraid.
That tingling feeling in your nerves… that’s excitement. You’re going to go back out there and fight! Everyone will see how impassioned you are, and they will either cheer loudly with you and follow you to victory… or out of fear, they will get out of your way.
7. It Takes Time, but It’s So Worth It. And Fulfilling
Becoming an artist is not something that happens overnight. It takes a lot of time. You’ll find shortcuts along the way, but for now, what you have is a cute little baby snowball.
You keep packing a little snow here and there, and it’ll get bigger. You roll it down a hill, and it will start to spiral and get so big you don’t know what to do with it (which is why I’m writing this blog post right now).
I know that ever since I decided to dedicate a minimum of 30 minutes every day to my art, I go to my day job feeling happier and more fulfilled. I have a sense of purpose and understanding of who I am because of my ambitions and goals that I dedicate a little time every day too. I am more resilient, less anxious, and stronger because of the habits that I spent the last several months accumulating. Because I actively look for things in other peoples’ art that I like- and used my art to build a philosophy of focusing more on creating the world you love instead of tearing down the one you hate- I am much less introverted and enjoy being around people more.
I like the person I am. Especially since I decided that I was no longer going to be afraid to be the artist I want to be.
I’ve said this before in my post about becoming an artist if you haven’t even so much as drawn a stick figure. You will be more excited, more passionate, and have a much easier time if you like the thing you’re learning to paint. When you’re struggling somewhere along the way, you’ll be more motivated to learn how to get over that hurdle.
Now, it’s okay to change your mind every so often, especially if you’re just starting out, but as you keep getting better at art, and maybe even want to start it up as a business, you may find that it’s much better if you stick to one kind of thing. Your skills won’t be spread out across so many subjects, and potential clients generally like consistency.
2. Have the Right Kind of Materials
There are hobby grade and student grade paints and canvases, but, unless they’ve gotten much higher quality since I’ve written this, I strongly advise AGAINST using them. It’s better the invest in professional paints and canvases because they last much longer, are more smooth as you’re painting on the canvas, and you don’t have to use as much of it.
I mean it. When you use the cheap materials, you have to use a lot. Higher grade oil paints are actually much cheaper in the long run because you don’t have to use as much to get the results you want.
As for brands. I highly recommend Golden Colors or Gamblin. Gamblin especially is a highish mid-range brand and produce very good materials. Not only that but they are dedicated to conservation. They do a lot of good work with art conservators.
These Gamblin oil paints are less than $8.00 per tube.
This Gamsol paint thinner is oderless, nontoxic, and lasts a long time. You can pour it in a glass jar, wait, and the paint separates, then you pour it another jar and it’s clean again! I bought a gallon of this about a year ago, and I still have the half the bottle left. And I’ve been painting nearly every day too!
Lastly, you’ll want to get picture varnish. It preserves your painting, makes your colors more brilliant somehow (I don’t remember the science, it just does!), the colors become richer, the painting is shiner, and, no matter what your skill level, brings your up at to that classy-museum level brilliance. Don’t get attached to it though. If art restorers think your art is worth preserving decades down the line, they’ll probably remove it from your painting.
3. Learn Shadows
The best oil paintings, in my opinion, and human natures’ opinion, are those with an excellent use of contrast.
With the exception of Impressionism, but we’ll cover that here in a second.
This especially true today. On Instagram, the entirety of your art isn’t the first thing that get’s noticed. It’s the tiny thumbnail. So if the thumbnail doesn’t pop out, then not as many people are going to want to view it.
4. Have Some Understanding of Color Theory
This is especially important. If you don’t study a little color theory beforehand, you will probably find (if you haven’t already) that if you mix the wrong oil colors, they will look muddy, gray, and ugly. For now, you don’t want to do that. Maybe you’ll do it on purpose later on, but if you’re just starting out, please, for the love of God, go on YouTube, and watch a five minute video on color theory.
This goes beyond just learning the primary and secondary colors, I’m talking about hue, saturation, warm colors, cool colors, why some colors work together and some don’t.
In fact, this YouTube video actually helped my art exponentially. It’s 20 minutes long, and worth every minute (I actually need to watch it again):
5. Practice Every Day
The most important thing is to practice every day. Even just 20 minutes every day. 20 Minutes per day is 140 minutes a week which is 2 1/2 hours which means you can have a nice painting done in one week. A couple months later, you can have an entire portfolio to present to art galleries (or even your online gallery).