Advice for the artist: what I’ve learned so far

I have been asked many times for advice from artist friends, or artists I have mentored in the past. When someone came to me recently with the same request, I jumped at the chance to offer some of what I have learned over the years — and decided why not post it on here, in hopes that my advice it may help other artists out there.

The most important advice I have learned so far:

Create for you, not for everyone else.

Heart in Ishihara color blind test plate

Being an artist is rough at any age because we creative types crave affirmation and praise – sometimes to the point that when we don’t receive much, we start to doubt our own talent and self-worth. Don’t fall into that trap. You would not be creating art if you did not love it. Maybe you started because it offers stress relief. Maybe you started because it just came naturally. Think of those reasons when you start to get discouraged, then pick up a pencil, or pen, or whatever your tool of choice is, and just keep at it!


If you are unsure about something, learn.

20170703 TryingToAdult e1501268444220 300x263 - Advice for the artist: what I've learned so far

There will always be those who are more skilled or more talented. Don’t be discouraged by them – learn from them! This was a hard lesson for me, but it’s been a good one. Once I let go of my need to be “the best,” I actually began improving tenfold because the insecurity wasn’t holding me back.

Always strive to be better, but recognize the value in your own work. You have a style that is all your own. Embrace and nurture it. Definitely learn new things, but don’t try to be something you aren’t.


Surround yourself with positive people.

Steve likes to do this little thing where he pats my head and says, "There. There." like Disney's Baymax

If someone tells you that you can’t do something or that you’re no good, ignore them and try harder. Oh, and kick them to the curb. You do not need that kind of negativity (we usually do a much better job at being our own worst critic, anyway).


Figure out your personal brand.

young@art - illustrations and stories by Danaye L. Shiplett

This is important when you start marketing yourself. It’s important to think of you as a business and your artwork as the product it sells. How will people know what accounts are yours, that a site is yours? Not only by your unique art style, but also by how you market yourself. That means your “business” name, logo, color scheme, etc.

Many artists I know use their own name, which is the common thing to do. You can also make it more of a business-style name – for instance, my brand is [email protected]

If you are curious and want to know more, I wrote a blog post on this very piece of advice.


Building a following is a long, slow process.

advice for the artist

Trust me on this. It doesn’t mean that your art is no good, it just means that we as a society are over-saturated with – well, everything. Just keep at it. Engage your followers. Post as often as you can (but not too often! I’d say no more than once or twice a day) – and definitely look at the best days/times to post based on the social media platform. There are lots of resources that can help schedule posts in advance and whatnot.

Anyway, I hope that this helps! If you like, I’ve got lots of other resources on my site. And I’m always available if you have any questions, need a critique partner, or just want to chat about art.

Top picks for October: art tutorials

Top picks for October: art tutorials

how to draw aladdin (disney)

my entire childhood.

If you’re anything like me (and you probably are not, because I’m completely strange unique), then you like to find tutorials on the web and try them out. Or, you know, buy those Disney “How to Draw” books. Does anyone else remember those? Are those still a thing? I need to see if I still have mine. I’m pretty sure I got twenty.

(No, that wasn’t a reference to Little Mermaid. I swear.)

Ehem. Anyway, the point being, I love tutorials. And so, I’ve scoured the web for days on end (translation: I googled for about ten minutes) and found a list of art tutorials and projects that I love and want to try — and I hope you try them, too!

  • Tips for drawing backgrounds: I will be the first to admit that I hate drawing backgrounds. I don’t know why, but I do. So, that of course means that I should be practicing drawing backgrounds as much as possible because if it’s not something you love doing, you aren’t going to do it, then it’s going to suck, and then all your art is going to suck, and then you’re going to curl up in a ball and cry. So.
  • Step-by-Step Digital Painting Tutorial: Not only do I love this artist’s style, but the infographic-style of this tutorial is beautiful to look at and extremely thorough. I already follow several of her steps, so it will be easy for me to try this one out and tweak my current process!
  • 13 Short Guides That Will Make You a Color Expert: These articles are short and sweet, but jam-packed with great information!
  • Head over to Clementine Creative for a list of 12 watercolor tutorials that you can check out. (I, for one, want to strengthen my weak skill in watercolor. It’s a medium where you kind of have to let go — which I have a hard time with!!)
  • I love this extremely thorough guide on How to Draw Complex Folds and Ruffles in Fabric and Clothing. Nothing beats live reference material, and the first thing this article shows is photographed, real fabrics folded and bunched up to give you a truer sense of just how fabric works.

Talking about references… Looking at other artist’s work to help your skill along is never a bad thing (we all do it, and these tutorials are a great example). But, when at all possible, use live references (or at least photographs of live references).

Not only will you ensure that your style remains your own, you will also make sure you don’t inadvertently pick up any bad habits from other artists, either. (Sorry. We ALL have them.)

  • Along the same vein as clothing, shoes are something I am always trying to improve on. Well, feet and shoes. And I was going to look for a specific tutorial when I came across this link to a bazillion (okay maybe not quite that much, but close) tutorials and references on Pinterest. So, why try to invent the wheel?

Another aside on clothing: this book by John Peacock is amazing! I have one of its older siblings, but I may have to upgrade. It’s a great reference on different clothing styles throughout (most) of history.

  • One final tutorial on drawing figures – this article on Design Your Way has a ton of video tutorials on everything from eyes, to faces, to gesture drawing and poses.

You can also  view more art references and tutorials on my Pinterest board, Art Reference – I update fairly frequently.

So, about those tutorials… Seriously. Try them. And let me know how they are in the comments.

I’ll wait. 😉

(P.S. If you have Netflix, they now have the entire Bob Ross series available to stream. That man fostered my obsession with art at a very early age. And, c’mon. Bob Ross. I dare you to watch it and not laugh you @$$ off or end up in a good mood by the end!)

bobross

Supercharge your skills with nano sketching!

Supercharge your skills with nano sketching!

I have always stressed the importance of keeping a sketchbook. My studio at home is jam-packed full of sketchbooks – big ones, small ones, skinny ones, fat ones, (yes, this is sounding like a Dr. Seuss book…)

Karen Elaine’s idea of nano sketching, though. I admit I fell in love with this idea as soon as I read about it! Sketchbooks, minified! Sort of like flash fiction, only for art. And like flash fiction does for writing, nano sketching condenses your art into a small, confined area, which helps to tighten skills and sharpen focus.

So, what is a nano sketch?

Nano sketches are quick gesture drawings done with a pencil (no erasing) keeping the lines loose light and free.

Sounds pretty simple. We used to do exercises like this in art school. Sometimes we would have to look only at the subject and never down at the paper – you know, if you want to take this to an even more advanced level. Or are a bit of a masochist. Either way.

Nano sketches are quick and usually done in a public place.

Since the journals themselves tend to be so small, this makes sense. Think of the possibilities! I would love to take one of these on vacation with me and do sort of a sketch-journal about my experiences!

A real useful trick is to photograph your subject first so you have an image to refer to when things change (and they always do) and if you want to complete the sketch at a later time.

I love the above piece of advice. I almost never finish a sketch in time — and when I am drawing active scenes, it’s great to grab a shot of the instance for future reference. I don’t know about you, but it’s kind of difficult for me to sketch someone jumping in mid-air in the nanosecond it takes them to jump up and then hit the ground again.

If you can do that, you must be some sort of superhero, and you should be out fighting crime instead of sketching.

Making time for nano sketches every day is a quick and easy way to practice drawing and painting skills and to observe the world in an entirely different way. 

Challenge accepted!

Seriously, though, I have been trying to make it a goal to draw something daily. Even more so, to draw things I actually see (as opposed to things from my crazy ADHD mind) to help hone and refine my skills. Art is kind of like riding a bike. If you stop riding, you start to lose the basics and you don’t ride nearly as well as if you had ridden daily.

Or something like that. I’m bad at metaphors.

Anyway, I highly recommend you check this guest post out at Doodlewash! Karen goes into much more detail, and her sketches are lovely! (I mean, just look at that cat. So adorable!)

Scroll down to the end of the post for the link to the full article. And, enjoy!


nanosketch6 - Supercharge your skills with nano sketching!

Greetings, my name is Karen Elaine and I am an artist, author and teacher living in the mountains near Sedona, Arizona living with my husband and cat (follow me on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and visit my website!). I’m the author of Origami Card Craft and The Art of Kumomi as well as other books on paper crafting […]

via GUEST DOODLEWASH: Nano-Sketching by Karen Elaine — Doodlewash

Spark creativity with simple ways to find creative inspiration

Spark creativity with simple ways to find creative inspiration

Spark creativity with these simple tips…

These are just some of my favorite ways to spark creativity when I’ve my muse has all but deserted me — and they are certainly not the ONLY options! But, I think these tips are ones that most people can agree on.

What sorts of things do you do to spark creativity or get in a creative mindset? 🙂

Feel free to share the below infographic with a link to my site!

Ways to spark creativity

Seven reasons to keep a sketchbook

Seven reasons to keep a sketchbook

“Keep a notebook. Travel with it, eat with it, sleep with it. Slap into it every stray thought that flutters up into your brain. Cheap paper is less perishable than gray matter, and lead pencil markings endure longer than memory.”

Jack London

The importance of sketching: artists hear it all the time. (No? Just me?) We should sketch every chance we get, they say.

Well, they’re not wrong.

Think of sketching like riding a bike. It takes practice to gain enough skill to stay on the bike, even more so to get it to move forward. We must practice to learn to stop. We must practice to do wheelies. When we don’t practice, we lose the skills we have learned. They grow rusty. Harder to perform.

So, yes, sketching is important, and below I’ve outlined my top seven reasons to keep a sketchbook with you at all times and practice, practice, practice! (Why seven? Because I’m a rebel like that. Take that, number ten! I do what I want!)

  1. Sketchbooks are snapshots in time
    • Think of a sketchbook as a type of journal. Each time you sketch something in it, you are capturing – immortalizing – a moment in time. Journals do the same, just with words.
  2. Sketching reduces stress

    • I can’t speak for everyone, but when I start drawing, I tend to get lost in my own world. Everything around me fades. My worries melt away. I fall into a zen-like state where nothing exists but that very moment. And, when I finish, I feel at ease and I am filled with satisfaction.
  3. Sketching improves skill
    • Sketching, as mentioned above, allows us to practice and improve our skills. By sketching the things around us, we see the world with an artistic eye and a different perspective.
  4. Sketching fights boredom
    • Before the time of smart phones, I never left home without a book (or two or three), a sketchbook, and my pencils. Waiting at the doctor, standing in a line, waiting for class to start (though that one was a quite a while ago…), you would see me with my nose in a book or else feverishly drawing something in my sketchbook. The time always passed much quicker, then – and unlike with smart phones, I actually had something to show for it at the end. 🙂
  5. Sketchbooks store thoughts and ideas
    • I’ve actually got what I call a scratch-book in my purse at all times. It is sort of a sketchbook on steroids. I sketch, jot down ideas, mind-map (more on that at a later date). It helps me better organize my scatterbrained ideas.
  6. Sketching makes us think
    • Sketching opens me up to whole new ways of thinking. When I start drawing, I look at things in a different perspective and in a new light. I ask questions. These questions lead to ideas. I jot the ideas down on paper and sketch them out. So the cycle continues.
  7. Sketching allows us to truly experience the world around us
    • We have multiple senses for a reason. Use them. Never assume that because drawings and paintings are a visual medium that other senses don’t come into play. On the contrary. They evoke memory and personal experience. While a person may not actually smell a drawing of the sea, a well-done artwork will evoke a strong memory that transports the viewer into the scene. That is the power of experience.

What reasons do you have for keeping a sketchbook? Or, if you don’t draw, what sorts of tools do you use to experience the world around you? I’d love to hear them, so be sure to post them in the comments below!

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