how to train to be a better artist

Having a Growth Mindset as an Artist

For some reason we give ourselves the permission to try new things and grow in our capabilities in them as a child that we don't as we grow older, even if we're trying to acquire a wholly new skill set. It's madness to think that simply by virtue of your age you're entitled to some virtuoso talent at a novel, new experience. There are two mindsets, one that's fixed and believes that your abilities are innate and then there's a growth mindset. I'm convinced that having a growth mindset for artists is the only way to be. Times and artistic tastes are going to change. Your work and how to best distribute it are going to change. To reject these truisms is to be at war with reality.

 

 

I certainly believe that people have predispositions to being skilled at a given task, what we would call talent, but it's routinely born-out in athletics and the arts, that those that are naturally gifted and strive to be the top of their craft frequently are. Innate talent can only take you so far and such individuals are likely to plateau without the disciplined work that's prerequisite to become a true master of one's craft.

 

If there's skill that you think would enrich your life for being adept at it, I'd urge you to take that child-like approach of the enjoyment of the activity regardless of the outcome and to work through it to the best of your present skills. Think back to most things you may have tried in your childhood and you'll likely have produced nowhere remotely near professional results, whether that was drawing, coloring, or whatever creative expression you attempted early on, but you likely enjoyed making the art making process and maybe you were lucky enough to have some kind adults lie and praise what you were making. When attempting new art forms as an adult, after a multitude of tries, fifty, one-hundred, then you would have some grounds to honestly determine the effectiveness of your efforts because while your critical eye may be honed as an adult, your muscle memory for a new task is often just developing.

 

For all the myriad of ways you can spend your time developing new capabilities, there comes a time when you need to narrow-in and focus on an array of abilities that are the most worthwhile and fulfilling to you. You could learn how to code and make custom websites, but if just creating a website through a templated site such as this Squarespace blog you're currently reading accomplishes the vast majority of what you want it to do, then the choice is fairly obvious. While you can likely learn how to do a great many things, at some point you're going to have to pick and lane, a focus, and prioritize what capacities help reach your goals from that perspective. The number of distractions that you can find are infinite and many creatives find some amount of constraints to be liberating in their ability to focus on the important tasks at hand as opposed to the infinite canvas stretched-out in all directions.

 

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Make Better Art By Caring Less? 🎨

Is it possible to make better art by caring less? In my latest video, that's exactly the thesis I posit. As with any craft- playing music, dance, or the visual arts, once you get a firm handle on your rudimentary skills, you can accomplish greater works by not putting too much pressure or importance on any one individual work. If you're thinking beyond being in the moment of what you're doing in the present, you're hindering your ability to reach a flow state.

 

Watch Make Better Art By Caring Less

 

Flow State: In positive psychologyflow, also known colloquially as being in the zone, is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does, and a resulting loss in one's sense of space and time.

 

When I was younger, in art school and earlier, I'd often be paralyzed by the potential of things "going wrong" in a piece, which was an impediment to artistic growth. Had I adopted this Stoic-like philosophy of "is this the condition I so feared?" much earlier in my art-life, I'd likely be happier for it. Not to spend too much time on roads less traveled because on some level I wasn't ready to receive this life lesson, but within the last few years, I've become ready and that's ok too, to borrow another bit of immortal wisdom, "When the student is readythe teacher will appear.", and to a large extent that teacher was time and experience.

Let's put the number of works of art you're likely to make over the course of your life-time into perspective- let's say a given artist will average 1.5 pieces of art in a month, that's 18 completed artworks per year. Now let's say you'll have at least 40 productive years of making art- with that number of works and that time-frame, that's 720 finished artworks... and these are all using fairly modest estimates- there are plenty of artists that can and do complete 2-4 works of art in a month. Bearing that in mind, is the piece your working on right now all that significant in the grand scheme of things? If you let go and create without fear, it could be. It could be one of a handful of pieces of art that you're known for, but this becomes far less likely when you create in a state of fear and anxiety about the artwork's outcome. Hold-out for judgement on the outcome until your piece of art's completed.

Making art should be about making the best possible thing you're capable of creating in the stage you're at in your artistic journey at that moment. If you need to make bold changes, a drastic change in drawing, tone, or contrast, make it and go forward boldly, leave open that space for growth. And even if you fall flat on your face in the attempt, chances are, you've learned something that you can carry onto future artistic endeavors.