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How to Become an Artist Fast (If You’ve Never Even Drawn a Stick Figure Before)

Everybody seems to have this misconception that in order to be a real “artist,” you have to have this god-like talent. Some people are artists, and some aren’t.

Full disclosure, this post covers primarily drawing

That’s not true at all! It really doesn’t take much to develop a drawing skill that will impress your friends and loved ones- maybe your social media followers if you want to get ambitious.

And think about it: Many artists who are “successful” aren’t exactly Raphaels or Da Vincis. Most of them are cartoonists who know what kind of drawings make people happy and have fantastic marketing and social media skills as well as artistic talent. So there you go! No excuse to not start being the artist you want to be!

I want to share my personal quick tricks to get you started as an artist right away. If you want to work towards becoming as good as Cesar Santos, that’s up to you- but today we’re going to do a few quick and easy things.

The first thing I highly recommend is a sketchbook. I found a cute, tiny one for you here for less than $7 at the time of writing this blog post. Starting off with some regular computer paper is fine too.

1. Write what your favorite thing is.

In your little sketchbook, and write down what your favorite thing is. Do you really like horses? Write that down. Classical art teachers might have you start “Beginning Drawing” with landscapes or random shapes.

If you’re not interested in landscapes or spheres, but you really love mermaids, you may get bored really quickly of the former. So, think about what YOU really like. If studying those other things will help you get there- great! If not, don’t worry about it. Like I said, this list is just to help you get started quickly.

2. Find that Favorite thing in a Cartoon Style.

Everybody loves cartoons! Chances are, whatever you love drawing, there is a cartoon version of it somewhere. Go online and find clipart, or if you like people, anime, or a 2D Disney style would be a fun and great place to start.

After you find that cartoon style, it would be a good idea to draw what you see. Maybe even start with a few blind drawings to get your hands and eyes warmed up.

Pictured above: Easy to Draw Dolphin

There’s also a ton of great videos on YouTube that teach you how to draw cartoon versions of anything. If you have daughters or little sisters, or just like drawing… for example… ballerinas, general, here is a 10 minute how-to-draw a cartoon ballerina video. For very early beginners, I highly recommend the YouTube channel Draw So Cute. She gives very easy-to-follow advice on how to draw a cartoon version of just about anything.

If you’ve tried drawing this and are still struggling I recommend printing out your subject, then trace a few times. This will help the muscles in your hand remember how to draw the various curves and lines of what you want to draw. Here’s some tracing paper for less than $5.00. Make sure to draw your subject on your own though! Nobody is impressed by a tracer!

3. Draw in that Style Every Day for a Few Days

Of course, learning to draw quickly doesn’t necessarily mean “immediate.” Ideally, I should be telling you to draw every day until you kick the bucket. That’s not reasonable. I can barely draw every day- let alone a brand new beginner like yourself! I would recommend, at least starting out, trying to draw for 30 minutes per day. It’s easy to find the time.

It may not even take you five days. I’ve known many adults in their 40’s who were able to pick up cartooning immediately.

Five days is a good number though. One day let’s you suck at it, two days lets you suck at it, you should be getting the hang of your new cartoon style by day 3, and day 5, you should have created something that your friends will be impressed with- especially if you’re only starting out! Remember: The reason why most people can’t draw is because they’ve never started. If you’ve drawn Betty Boop for five days, you can still draw Betty Boop much better than 70% of people.

4. Color*

This is optional, but if you really want to impress people (especially yourself), add color. Seriously. I’ve been looking at my numbers, and more people respond to colored artworks more so than my usual daily black and white sketchbook drawings. People love colors! You can invest in some good colored pencils, get Photoshop (Gimp is free if you’re not swimming in cash or have access to a college computer), or you can get some nice watercolors- which is nice for relaxation.

5. Congratulations! You can Draw!

Ta-da!

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Fear of Success

So, we all know about the fear of failure. I feel like too many of us are too afraid to put the work in to whatever our dream is- not because we’re lazy, exactly, well, maybe that’s part of it, but there’s this crippling fear of failure, rejection, essentially that you won’t succeed in whatever you’re doing. I can’t tell you how many Calls for Artists I didn’t participate in because I thought, “Oh, they won’t accept me anyway.”

But what about the opposite?

The fear of success?

What about the fear of achieving your goal only to find that you can’t handle it?

Personally, I’ve had a couple of instances where my art was accepted for exhibition, but I didn’t tell anybody about it. I’m not even sure why. I just didn’t.

There are so many easy things I feel like I could do with this website to better present my artwork: clean it up, have a separate section where I show art I’ve sold/exhibited/gave as gifts, but I’m afraid of doing that too.

I think whenever you’re trying to start something new, learn a new skill, improve a skill or whatever, it’s just as important to consider why you don’t want to succeed instead of why you don’t want to fail.

When I was trying to improve my attention to detail for work, I found that I had this very subtle feeling of resistance. There was a part of me that didn’t want to improve. So, I more or less had a conservation with that part of my brain, it was like splitting myself in two people: The rational me, and the “inner child” me that didn’t like change or anything that would equate to growing up. So, I wrote a list of ten reasons I didn’t want to improve, then ten rebuttal answers. That made the process so much easier. I don’t know how much this exactly improved my attention to detail, but after that, I didn’t feel any resistance.

Yesterday evening, I found a new trick that would get more Instagram followers- which is essentially following more people who follow the pages you like. I added on to this strategy by liking five art pieces of other peoples’ stuff and commenting on at least one thing. I didn’t know how big of an impact that would make- just thought I’d try it out. I woke up this morning to find I had 15 new followers overnight- that’s about how many I get per week. I know 15 isn’t a big number, but it is compared to my usual weekly followers.

In that moment, I felt like a dog who was chasing a car then finally caught it.

I’ve thought about my art journey over the past year, and I’ve been told my whole life that being an artist, that it’s a hyper competitive field and that it would never go anywhere without a backup career- I don’t remember who in my life said that, but that’s what I believed. This past year though, I found that the opposite is true. The more I put myself out there, the more shows I sign up for, the more active I am on Instagram I get more and more successful- even if it’s just a little bit at a time.

I now have 200 followers on Instagram, I’ve been exhibited in four shows, and I’ve even sold artwork.

I’ve been trying to build my following to help my art business for a while, but this huge jump is making that “what if I succeed and can’t handle it” anxiety set in.

  1. What if I get a lot of followers who want to buy my artwork, see that there’s practically nothing in my Etsy shop, then leave?
  2. What if I get more requests for commissions than I can handle?
  3. What if the quality of my artwork falters due to increase in demand?
  4. I love art so much, what if doing this as a regular job causes burnout and I end up hating it?
  5. What if I’m successful for a while, but then suddenly stop?
  6. What if my tendency to work on something at full blast, then my tendency for complacency and burnout sets in that ruins everything I’ve worked so hard for?
  7. What if this causes me to only paint one specific thing? What if this prevents me from experimenting, or improving since people will want to buy only one type of art from me?

Well. As of now, I can only think of 7. Time for the rebuttal!

  1. Getting a lot of followers going to your Etsy shop will probably encourage you to post more listings and be more active on Etsy. Once you make a couple of a sales, that will build momentum to keep going.
  2. That’s silly. You can have a limited number of commissions. You also probably won’t get “more commissions than you can handle” for a long time.
  3. That’s a real possibility, another real possibility is the quality of your art will increase since you will have no choice but to keep working on art, practicing, and getting better.
  4. Again, another likely possibility. The reality is though that most people don’t like their jobs they didn’t go to school for or get passionate about. At least this would be a job that you know has a lot of meaning.
  5. Like you suddenly stop making money? Or your following stagnates? As long as you keep doing what you’re doing, that won’t happen.
  6. Yes, you have done that in the past: work on something at full blast, freak out, then burn everything, but you have been doing that less and less once you decided you were going to keep doing what you love instead of what’s “popular” and especially since you started competing with the person you were yesterday, AND especially since you adopted the “long game” philosophy where sometimes you’re ahead, and sometimes you’re behind.
  7. That would suck. But it would be very much like how your life is right now. You’re working a 9-5 job doing something that you didn’t go to school for, and you’re spending your mornings and free time building your art business and your following. If art did become your 9-5 job, then the time you would have spent trying to make that dream happen would instead be experimenting and working on other art.

Sometimes, we just need to treat ourselves as someone we’re caring for. We need to realize that the people most responsible for holding us back is ourselves- we then need to listen to ourselves: honestly listen to our fears, then in kind, give ourselves a little bit of encouragement and reassurance that no matter what, everything will be fine.