Today I'm going to share with you my best tips for emerging artists. The tips I wish I'd known when I became an artist because not knowing them got me stuck without improving for 2 years! *gasp*. Read on friend, this is your golden ticket to the fast track to improvement.
Hey, you, my dearest growing artist. You are meant to be an artist. No matter what your parents say. What your friends say. Or what that magic 8 ball said when you put all your hopes into it only to be told to “ask again later”.
You've got what it takes to be an artist. And you’d better remind yourself every day because your path won’t be easy.
It'll be very challenging. But I can assure you it'll also be very rewarding if you push through.
My own journey was tough. It started shortly after I had enrolled in a Biology degree at University. With my mother refusing to let me drop out to attend an art school instead.
There were moments I felt like giving up. But I didn’t. Art meant too much to me to let it go.
You will face similar obstacles in your way. Your parents may not think art is the path you need to follow. That it’s not a real job. That you should focus on living in the "real world", study a "real degree" and get a "real job".
Don’t fall for it. You need to follow your dreams. If it makes you jump out of bed with the biggest smile on your face, how is that not worth pursuing?
You have permission to achieve your dream life. You have what it takes.
Now I just want to give you my top 5 tips for artists to help you get to the finish line faster.
Tip #1 - Make artist friends as soon as you can!
I wasn’t lucky to have any "real life" friends that were artists. It often felt lonely not having someone going through the same with me. Someone who 'got it'.
It wasn’t until I joined deviantART that I started meeting other artists and connecting with them.
Making artist friends allowed me to:
- Feel less lonely in my journey as an artist
- Give and receive encouragement from someone who had the same goals as I did
- Get constructive feedback on my art without feeling hurt or getting defensive since I knew they were trying to help, not insult me
- Bounce ideas off of them and collab with them to create new works
I’m still very close to all my virtual artist friends and I couldn’t be more proud to see how far we’ve all come.
Get yourself some artist friends. Thank yourself later.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to others online. Don’t think they’ll see you as a weirdo, they’re probably craving to connect with others just as much.
If you don’t want to be too direct, you can start by leaving thoughtful comments on their art and the relationship will flow naturally from that.
Tip #2 - Invest in good art programs and drawing tablets early on
Don't wait until you're "good enough". This is one of the most important tips in this post. Listen up, invest in proper tools if you want to improve faster, or at least not sabotage your growth with crappy tools.
I will say this as many times as it takes. The tools don’t make the artist but the wrong tools can BREAK the artist.
I know from experience. I had a terrible tablet when I first started painting digitally. Let’s just say my drawing tablet didn’t live up to its name. It couldn’t draw a straight line to save its life.
I was drawing in anime style back then so you can imagine how drawing wobbly lines isn’t compatible with drawing anime.
So I started painting semi-realistically. But after two years, when my tablet broke down, I took a good hard look at my art.
I'd barely improved anything in 2 years!
So, I decided it was high time I stopped wasting time. I decided to focus on anime art only and invested in a high quality tablet: my Wacom Intuos 4 (current model here ; affiliate link).
It wasn’t easy finding the funds. I had some help from my mother, who was happy to support my “hobby” so long as I continued to get good grades in my biology degree.
As such, this one change helped me improve my art more in less than a year than I had in the previous 2 years combined.
Image on the left is my "starting point" when I finally decided to stick to anime styleand started using a Wacom tablet. The one in the middle is my art improvement after one year drawing just in anime style and with a glorious tablet. And, finally, the last image is what I consider to be one of my best artworks of all time. Look at the difference that decision made in my art!
Invest in the right tools early on. Don’t wait until you “get good” because that may be exactly the reason why you’re not good enough yet.
If you’re sure you want to be a digital artist, invest in proper tools! It’s not an expense, it’s an investment. It will pay for itself in the future, trust me.
My tablet cost me $350 but I was able to improve my art and start selling commissions. Now I can make that amount with each artwork I sell. I’ve made over five figures thanks to investing $350 in a good tablet.
Are your tools or lack of tools keeping you from achieveing your full potential?
Meet “2 years from now” you. What do you want to be telling your past self?
- I invested in the tools I needed and my art has improved tenfold! Don’t think twice, get a good tablet, you won’t regret it!
- I chose not to invest in a tablet. You couldn’t tell the difference between your art and mine. I feel like I’ve wasted 2 years. Maybe I’m not cut out to be an artist after all.
It’s your choice. If I could go back in time, I’d tell myself to buy a good tablet from the get-go. You can make more money but you can’t make more time. Choose wisely.
Tip #3 - track your progress by keeping records of your milestones and achievements
How many times have you thought that you weren’t improving or that your efforts weren’t paying off?
Well, the truth is, you are improving and your efforts are paying off. The key is knowing what to look for to check if you’ve moved forward.
We only notice movement when we have a reference point. Like when you’re in a car and you know you’re moving because you can see the scenery blurring as you drive by?
That’s what happens with art. If you don’t have a point to reference back to, you won’t know if you’re moving or not.
That’s why I want to encourage you to write down every single thing, as unimportant as it may seem, into a journal or notebook.
Write everything down:
- Did you create something better than usual?
- Got a super sweet comment on your art?
- Participated in a contest and won something?
- Did you make a new friend?
- Got a new tool or program?
- Learned a new cool technique?
- Did someone try to get you down and you handled it with class?
Why is this important? Because it’ll help you keep track of your progress over time and have a source of inspiration for the days you feel down.
Whenever you feel like you’re stuck, or like you can’t possibly handle a new challenge, look through the content of your notebook.
You’ll see all your wins. All the challenges you faced and overcame. The improvement in your art over time.
You’ll feel like you can do anything you set your mind to. And you can.
Tip #4 - Mind your mindset - Protect your mental health
You’ll face many challenges along your way. Many will be external, caused by other people.
But, even more of them will be internal, caused by your mind and your negative thought patterns. The stereotype of the troubled artist is more than that.
You may face mental health roadblocks along your way and you need to address them head on. Don’t let them grow bigger thinking they’ll solve themselves. They won't.
Give your mental health as much care as you give your physical health or even better, as much as you give your favourite laptop or smartphone.
One of the main issues you’ll face is the thought that your art sucks. Nothing you create will ever satisfy you because you’re not letting yourself do it.
Your brain is pulling the strings to make you hate your art and it.is.dangerous.
That negativity spreads to all areas of your life and it will harm you.
Strive to stop it. Work on your mindset. Stop your negative thought patterns. Try to find the silver lining in everything. Give yourself credit even for the things that look bad.
You’re trying your best and that’s a major win. Add it to your milestone notebook.
Keep a healthy mindset on your art and on your life. You deserve it.
You're almost done! On to the last tip for emerging artists and it's a biggie!
Tip #5 - Take care of your body - It's your greatest asset
Mens sana in corpore sano. Healthy mind in a healthy body. Take good care of your mind but also of your body.
When I first started drawing I couldn’t draw for longer than an hour without getting bored to the core. But after a few years, I was spending up to 10 hours drawing straight without pausing.
This is awful! Don’t do this! ❌
It will hurt your body a lot and it may not look like it because you’re probably young still. But it will take a toll on you once you get older.
I didn't care about this way back when and now I have cervical issues that cause me headaches that last for days as a result.
Furthermore, you'll be at risk of suffering from back pain, headaches caused by cervical pain, difficulty moving but also struggling to sit for short periods of time…
And, let’s not forget artists’ worst nightmare: carpal tunnel syndrome.
Your hands are your greatest asset as an artist. Take good care of them!
One way to protect your hands is by not forcing them to work for extended periods of time. Take breaks. Do exercises to keep your wrists healthy. Don’t do repetitive movements all the time.
If you develop carpal tunnel syndrome, or repetitive strain injury, you’ll be in a lot of pain.
You’ll need surgery or injections in your wrists. And you will need to stop drawing for long periods of time.
It’s not fun!
Take good care of your body, for your own sake. Go for walks, stretch your body, take breaks often and don’t overexert yourself.
I know you probably don’t have much time to draw so when you do, you want to cram it all in a few hours but that’s going to hurt you. Take it easy.
Over to you!
Those are my top 5 tips for emerging artists! What was your biggest takeaway? Do you want to see more of my recommendations?
If you could go back in time and tell yourself something in regards to art, what would it be? Why?
How do you want to be 2 years from now? Let me know in the comment section!