The 5 things I wish I knew before becoming an artist.

Published by Armored Pencil on

I was 35y when I really started learning about creating art.

I had almost zero experience with art aside from doodling in my childhood and teenage years, where I was able to duplicate what I saw to some extend but did not have any clue on the fundamentals or complexity to a lot of it. Like shadows and light, or drawing faces… omg the soulless people.. so below are 5 things I wish I knew before becoming an artist.

I have no intention of becoming a professional artist, but I do want to make cool paintings that go with my stories.

I tried making digital art over the years even bought a tablet. But I could never grasp why I couldn’t create those amazing characters or concept art paintings, and stopped, bought more magazines, tried again and you guess it, stopped again. Until I began to take art more seriously and was fed up with coming up with amazing ideas but not way to visually create them at the end of 2019. So I started studying art rather than just doing it for fun.

I learned a lot of things along the way by stumbling and failing numerous times. Sometimes I was correct, and sometimes I was completely wrong.

5 Things I wish I knew before becoming an artist.

In this post, I’d like to share some of the most important concepts I’ve learned and wish I’d known before I started taking art seriously.

There are many things I wish I knew before becoming an artist, but this list of ‘5 things I wish I knew before becoming an artist’ is a must-read.

  1. Don’t ignore the fundamentals
  2. Quantity over quality
  3. Consistent practice is key
  4. Use references
  5. Don’t put yourself in a box

Let’s get started.


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1) Don’t ignore the fundamentals.

It’s natural to want to dive right into making the most visually appealing artwork, exploring, and having fun when you first start creating art.

Isn’t that what art is all about?

But you will struggle and ask yourself why it doesn’t look like you want it to. You can only get there if you have a solid foundation. This is where the fundamentals of art come into play.

They are responsible for the structure and professionalism of your artwork.

For a long time, I actively avoided learning the fundamentals of art because they were tedious ( and they truly are ). Who wants to spend all day drawing boxes in perspective?

I just wanted to make pretty pictures and wasn’t interested in the more technical aspects of art.

That mindset significantly slowed my progress.

While learning the fundamentals of art isn’t the most exciting aspect of it, it is critical for your progress and growth as an artist.

The sooner you realize this, the better.

Here are two good places to start for your art fundamentals Gvaat art fundamentals & draw a box

2) Put quantity ahead of quality.

We’ve already discussed the importance of practice in improving the quality of your artwork. The more you practice (without becoming exhausted), the better you will become.

This idea is related to prioritizing quantity over quality.

One of my favorite parables about creative work comes from David Bayles and Ted Orland’s book, Art & Fear

[A] ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality. His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the “quantity” group: fifty pound of pots rated an “A”, forty pounds a “B”, and so on. Those being graded on “quality”, however, needed to produce only one pot — albeit a perfect one — to get an “A”. Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work – and learning from their mistakes — the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.

David Bayles and Ted Orland’s book, Art & Fear

By emphasizing quantity over quality and producing a large volume of work, you:

  • Acquire experience
  • Determine your own strengths and weaknesses.
  • Create a body of work
  • Make more errors and learn from them.

You should not focus on creating the perfect artwork, especially at the start of your artistic journey. Focusing on creating more artwork rather than trying to create a flawless one allows you to learn and improve much more.

Don’t let perfectionism hold you back. Let’s continue with number 3 of the 5 things I wish I knew before becoming an artist.

3) Consistent practice is key.

Creating art is difficult, and continuing to do so is even more difficult.

As a result, many artists don’t produce as much or grow as much as then can. Creating art only when they feel like it, will slow them down. They won’t draw if they are not motivated to do so.

That is one of the most common pitfalls for any artist.

Only through consistent practice will you be able to improve the quality of your artwork and gain confidence in your abilities. So it’s critical that you do it on a regular basis.

Regular practice allows you to fine-tune your techniques and experiment with new ideas. Regular practice also aids in the development of muscle memory, which makes it easier to carry out ideas quickly and efficiently.

So don’t rely on your motivation to practice because it will ebb and flow.

If you consistently use your discipline to produce art, you will see improvements.

Want to improve your figure drawings and understanding of anatomy, then have a look at the course from Wingfox below.

4) Use references.

Everyone who begins to create art has the impression that they should not use references. However, you cannot learn without them. You can’t learn about the real world if you think you know the answer. It’s always more complicated and layered. Every great artist, present and past, learned by studying references such as models, nature, buildings, objects, various lighting, and so on.

If you’re just starting out and can’t even sketch from by looking at your reference and reproducing what you see, you can trace, but there are two major caveats. One, do not publish a drawing or painting in which you claim to have ‘drawn’ it. People will find out and will tell you that tracing is not done.

So, what is the second one, you may ask. It’s actually more important than the first because you won’t learn and grow as quickly as you would if you tried to eyeball the reference onto your medium. Yes, it will be more difficult, and you will make more mistakes, but you will learn faster and gain more experience. If you want to learn a bit more on that go read this – the gap.

Don’t be afraid to collect as many references as you can. Use them in all projects, but only a small portion of them. The face of another person, similar to a model’s pose. The lighting in one scene and the background in another. You get my point; using references will make it more realistic, while you will make it unique. So, where do you get these references from?

Well luckily we got you covered. Have a look at our references overview or if you are just starting and looking for fundamentals, our beginner drawing reference – forms will be available soon.

Now you know one more thing of the 5 things I wish I knew before becoming an artist. Let’s move on to the last one.

5) Don’t put yourself in a box.

That’s an odd thing to say. However, I see this a lot with new artists, and I even caught myself doing it and had to bring myself back to reality.

What exactly does this mean? You can admire other artists and admire their work, but you should not become envious or demotivated! You are on your own learning path and may not have had as much time to practice or learn as you would like.

Or perhaps this person has had an incredible mentor who has guided him for years, showing him his mistakes and how to learn from them. And here we are, thinking we will never be as good because our work pales in comparison to this 10-year-old younger artist.

You should never compare yourself to another artist, only to yourself! Even then, you’ll have on and off periods. This is the most important reason to keep every piece of art you make, even if it sucks. You can redraw it after some time has passed to see how much you have grown and learned. And it’s possible that it’ll never be on the same level as your favorite artists. They will continue to learn and grow, but you will also improve!

Continue to practice, learn, and grow! I have faith in you!

Categories: Inspiration


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