You want to be an artist but you don't know where to start. How do you get yourself noticed? And where do you even get ideas for what to make? You probably also suffer from impostor syndrome. Trust me, I've been through all of this, too - and I'm still going through it. I don't have any magic solutions for you because I'm in the same boat! But in the last couple of years - after I made a conscious decision to get serious with my art - I have learned some valuable lessons that I want to share with you.
1. Don't try to be perfect.
Have you heard the saying that perfectionism is a form of procrastination? I'd definitely agree with that. The amount of time I've spent on perfecting my drawings and leaving Instagram empty for weeks because I didn't have anything new to share, is nothing but procrastination. I'm not saying that working hard and producing your best work is bad. That's what you should do. But your best isn't perfect. You need to balance quality and quantity because you want to give your followers good work regularly (not once every two months!). That's when you're really doing your best.
My tip: Give yourself deadlines. Even if it's not a super strict one, something as simple as making a to-do list with artwork (or whatever else you make) that you want to complete by the end of this week or month can be enough incentive to crack on with the work. OR what I'm finding helpful these days is planning my Instagram feed far in advance because it pushes me to complete drawings so I have something to share. Plus, you learn best by doing - so as you create more art your skills will continue to improve.
2. Start now, it will make sense later.
If you're feeling stuck, confused or clueless about what you "should" be doing, simply start. Start with that painting you've been wanting to make and share it on social media. Then keep going, make another piece and share it. Create a basic website. Whatever you can think of just do that.
I started sharing my old artwork on Instagram, then I started drawing some new stuff, like my portraits of movie/TV characters as well as some commissioned work. I created a website and Facebook page and now I also have pages on Pinterest and Behance. I did this gradually and I've made lots of changes throughout, but now it all fits together nicely and I have some form of a brand identity for myself, an email-subscribers list and a vision for the future that can guide me forward.
My tip: Don't spend forever thinking about what to do, just start creating your content and doing what you love, set up some social media accounts to share your work and connect with people - eventually you'll start to see all the pieces come together and you'll know what works for you and what the next steps are.
3. Do the work and the ideas will come.
This relates to the previous point. In the past I've feared starting this journey "publicly" because I didn't know what I was going to make everyday for the next 10 years...what if I get stuck and never come up with anything to draw ever again?? Well, that's not going to happen. I first realized this when I was doing a commission for 30 caricatures for a group of graduating students. Before then I'd normally wait to draw until I thought of something I wanted to draw, which could take ages to happen. But during that time, every spare moment I had was spent drawing - and at the end my mind was racing. Not about the caricatures but about everything else I suddenly wanted to create! After I completed the commission I dedicated a lot more time to drawing each week. I began by doing those character drawings and anatomical drawings and eventually got ideas for other things to make. I've got pages upon pages of both good and bad ideas! Now I'm struggling to decide what to make first...
My tip: Listen to all the people who tell you to "do the work". Ideas don't usually just come out of thin air. As you create new artwork, even if it's just sketches, you'll start to see what works and what doesn't, what you enjoy doing and don't enjoy doing and that whole process sparks new ideas. Just like any other muscle in your body you need to train your creative muscle!
4. Invest in yourself.
In the past I've been afraid to spend any money on anything related to my art - even art supplies. I'll always find an excuse as to why I don't need it and ways I can work around it. And the same applies to time. I used to put my art last after everything else - including jobs that didn't benefit me in any way and didn't even pay that well. But - sometimes, it does pay off to spend a bit of money, and to give yourself time to really dig into something even if it may not seem all that important right now. As my art career moves forward I'm finding there's a bigger need for me to improve in certain areas. For example, my future goals require me to gain some new skills, so I'm currently considering spending a lot of time and money on a course. I've also just invested in a new laptop because I know I can't accomplish all the things I want to with my old one. And close to 2 years ago I went down from working full-time to part-time so I could use more of my time creating art and other content.
My tip: Invest in your future. I know it may seem risky but look at it this way: at least then you will have a chance of moving forward, if you don't you're guaranteed to stay stuck where you are now. It doesn't have to be anything big, but my advice is to write down the things you feel you need and visualize what your life will look like if a) you don't do/buy that thing and b) you DO buy/do that thing. Investing in yourself also helps keep you motivated to persevere because of the time or money you've spent.
5. IT TAKES TIME
I know it's different for some artists and it might be different for you. But for most artists getting established takes time. I have been making art all my life, but I only became more serious about my artwork about 2 years ago, at 23. I definitely see improvement, but I'm still only at the beginning. Most of this time has been spent creating art, finding my "identity" as an artist and figuring out how things work and what works for me. The business growth has only just begun and it's definitely not paying my bills yet. But - I do see things changing in the right direction, and that gives me hope.
My tip: Expect it to take time. If it doesn't, that's great. But if it does, be patient and stay persistent. If this is what you really want to do then a few years of hustle and hard work will be worth it in the end.
So, to make a long story short, here are the main takeaways: Do the work, start creating artwork and content without worrying about it being perfect. Create social media accounts or a website to share the work. As time goes your skills will improve, you will get more ideas and everything will start falling into place. And remember that things take time and you won't move forward unless you're willing to invest in yourself along the way, both in time and money.
These aren't brand new revelations and you have probably heard all of this before. But sometimes you need to experience things for yourself to believe them. These are all my honest experiences and I hope me sharing them will help at least one of you creatives out.
I will continue to share my experiences as a new creative here on my little blog, so stay tuned - to stay updated you can follow me on Instagram or subscribe to my newsletter (for additional news and freebies too!).