Seven Qualities of a Self-taught Artist

One of my paper plate touch-up palettes. (Keeping this one!)

1. Gets excited over and over again to pick up crayon and paper, brushes, clay, pie dough, or anything one can use to “make things.”  Considers art stores even better than candy stores.

2. Keeps on thinking or doodling when a classroom teacher is not inspiring. Takes away bits of useable info from instructors and then runs own race.

3. Learns to create in any environment at any time without getting hung up on circumstance. Kitchen tables are popular work places, but if armed with a sketchbook, so are buses, parks, coffee shops and the back row of art history class or church.

4. Learns to multi-task: can draw or paint while filtering any sort of background “noise,” including people speaking, music, tv, or kids yelling at the beach. Filtering allows the artist to digest sounds according to importance and keep painting or creating at the same time.

5. Artist learns to stand back and evaluate what he or she created. This means saving past work, both successful and a few “baddies” so there is a record of one’s progression.

6. Finds healthy ways to deal with frustration, like: practicing “hitting the basket” with a crumpled up lousy drawing, keeping a file of rejection letters for a future burning party when a good letter comes at last. Asking for a hug from someone you are close to. “…try, try again” is an old saying for a good reason. Humor balances out disappointment for them.

7. Never tires of looking at art, all kinds, in books, galleries, museums, shops and in unusual places. Realizes that inspiration comes at any place and any time, and is ready to jot down ideas or run to paint as soon as possible!

If any of these qualities describes you, then you are in good company. There are many painters who have said they learned far more on their own than at various art departments of colleges and institutions, myself included. This doesn’t mean that a degree in art is meaningless. It just means that one’s real education takes place wherever you are when you open your eyes in the morning a face a new day, filled with possibilities. Ready, set, go!


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