Living a creative life is the dream.
Who doesn’t want to spend their days contemplating the next concept, getting their hands dirty as they make art, and earning from it all at the same time?
We understand that even those with great potential can still feel daunted to cross that line and be an artist by profession if they didn’t go to an art school.
Hence, we decided to share with you the techniques on how to become an artist without going to art school.
The Pros and Cons of Going to Art School
Before we dive deeper, allow us first to share with you the pros and cons of going to an art school.
Is it really worth it, or is it possible to succeed as an artist without going to art school?
Let’s also talk about the main differences that you should consider before deciding on being a self-taught artist.
1. Learning Opportunities
Before anything else, you will find that the most significant difference has got to be learning opportunities.
Whether you admit it to yourself or not, nothing beats learning from a master with a set program that you can follow.
After all, one of the main challenges that self-teaching presents is that most of us don’t even know where or how to start.
Aside from that, learning from an art school also gives you the opportunity to meet other artists, especially visiting artists who have already set their mark in the field.
The inspiration and practical life lessons you’ll get from their own experiences are invaluable.
The main benefit of following a set curriculum by going to an art school can also be its biggest downside.
This is especially true if you are the type of creative person who doesn’t want to go with the flow but instead creates his own flow.
On the flip side, this is what we love about self-teaching.
You have full control of the area of art that you want to master and the pace you want to go.
3. Cost and Materials
Finally, here’s the main culprit why a lot of people opt to teach themselves to be an artist.
Going to an art school can be quite an investment.
Then again, you will also have to spend on materials when you are self-teaching.
In fact, you will probably go through more art materials in your trial-and-error process compared to what you’re going to spend with a little more guidance.
The Masters Who Were Self-Taught
So, what do you think?
Given the factors presented above, is self-teaching to be an artist for you?
You also can’t deny the fact that one can only teach himself so much.
Without proper guidance, is it really possible to become a master?
The answer is yes.
In fact, for added inspiration, here are some of our favorite masters who were self-taught:
Vincent Van Gogh
One of the most influential artists of our time is Vincent Van Gogh.
It was known that even as a young boy, Gogh simply didn’t thrive in a controlled environment.
Hence, he discovered his unique style on his own, which was heavily inspired by Japanese printmaking techniques.
Frida had a promising future in the field of medicine, that is until this was put into a halt when she suffered heavy injuries from a non-fatal vehicular accident.
To make use of her time while convalescing, she decided to practice her art skills, considering a possible career in medical illustration.
This practice led her to refine her iconic style in self-portraiture.
Finally, here is a favorite that proves it is never too late to start tapping on your inner artist.
Henri served as a clerk for most of his adult life and only began painting seriously at the age of 40.
There are definitely a lot of other masters out there that were voraciously self-taught.
They consumed art as if their lives depended on it and practiced their now-iconic styles with fervor.
The three that we have mentioned above are simply our personal favorites.
How to Become an Artist Without Going to Art School
Once you have determined that self-teaching is for you and that you have enough inspiration to look back in, we can now move on to the exciting part.
Below, we are going to share with you the ways on how to become an artist without going to art school.
1. Teach Yourself the Fundamentals
The lack of an established curriculum does not mean that you can start from anywhere you want.
Remember, one needs to learn how to walk first before he can even think of learning how to drive.
In this case, that means you need to master the fundamentals of art first.
These are the different elements and principles of art, composition, anatomy, and more.
There are a lot of basic art lessons that you can access online for free.
You simply need to get a good grasp of the basics before starting your first masterpiece.
2. Value the Art of Practice
Even the basics of art, such as drawing an anatomically correct human figure, can be quite challenging without practice.
That is why we suggest that you take each activity or art lesson seriously.
Then, never stop practicing until you’ve developed a kind of muscle memory of it.
Once you think you have gotten a little bit better in one art activity, try to switch it up by removing your reference picture, or by setting a time limit.
For instance, if you can now sketch a nice human figure with proper proportions in 30 minutes with the use of a reference picture, try doing the activity without a reference picture.
Better yet, why not try speed drawing it within five minutes or less?
You are not required to produce a perfect sketch, and you’re not expected to.
However, these added limits to your practice will push you to put your newly acquired skills to work.
3. Don’t Forget to Document
One of the biggest hurdles in teaching yourself how to draw or paint is demotivation.
There are times when you feel like you’re not making any progress, even after months upon months of practice.
This is the reason why proper documentation is crucial.
Those who use an art journal or a bound sketchbook for practicing only need to refer to their past works for reference.
However, if you are fond of drawing on different unbound pages and surfaces, you might need a proper system to keep track of your progress.
Take pictures of your work and put them in a separate folder in your computer, labeled with the date when you’ve finished each piece.
In this way, you will have a visual reminder of how far you’ve grown.
Believe us, there’s nothing more motivating than seeing your progress.
It can be challenging to catch the small improved details each day.
Still, the difference between your first piece and your latest piece after months of self-teaching should be drastic and satisfying.
4. Learn How to Overcome Frustration
That being said, while comparing your current self to your previous one can be quite satisfying, do not expect to get the same results when comparing yourself with other people.
Having an art influencer to look up to and follow is well and good. In fact, you can choose to monitor the progress of another person on the same journey as you.
However, it should not be to the extent that you’re finding yourself constantly comparing your progress with theirs.
You need to understand that each person progresses at a different rate.
Some may experience a long plateau then suddenly skips two levels up upon moments of inspiration. While others may develop at small baby steps each day.
Keeping this in mind is the first step towards overcoming frustration, which is a big hurdle from pushing forward and growing as an artist.
5. Join an Art Community
Joining an art community is a great way to improve your skills when self-teaching to be an artist.
One of the perks of enrolling at an art school, after all, is having a mentor that’s constantly providing you with constructive criticism on how to improve your work.
Fortunately, you don’t really need to enroll to get this valuable insight.
Believe us when we tell you that there will be a time in your process when you will reach a standstill, and you don’t know how else to proceed.
Fortunately, you’ll be able to get the much-needed advice from your art peers online.
6. Continue Growing
Finally, the last step is to just keep growing.
Never stop practicing because the moment you do is the time when you stop improving.
As long as an artist keeps his hands active, he will never stop developing and refining his skill, and this includes even the best masters.
Useful Art Drills to Practice On
We get it.
Even with all the tips we’ve shared with you above, we still haven’t provided you with a solid place to begin your journey at.
Thus, here are three art drills that you can practice every day as you figure your way through the complex world of art:
1. Practice breaking down various objects into basic shapes.
The first drill that we recommend you practice on is to train your eyes to break down complex objects into simple shapes and then draw them.
You don’t need any reference pictures.
Just sitting down in a cluttered space of your home is enough.
With your pencil and sketch pad at your lap, try to draw the different objects you see around you in their most basic shapes.
This will train you toward learning how to create outlines for your more complex works later on.
2. Practice drawing one object a hundred times.
Having difficulties drawing a specific subject?
Draw it a hundred times.
Don’t just draw it from a single angle, though.
Instead, try to draw it from different perspectives.
Experiment as much as you can.
This will force your eyes to be more attentive to detail and see objects from an artist’s point of view.
This will also help build your muscle memory when it comes to drawing that subject.
3. Follow 30-day art prompts.
Now that you have mastered your waterloo, what about everything else?
It can be difficult to constantly think outside of the box and come up with a new subject to draw each day.
Why don’t you spare your mind the hassle and follow 30-day art prompts instead?
In fact, there are artist social media influencers that launch monthly challenges that you can join together with other people.
You can either follow it actively by posting your own works online and following the required posting guidelines and hashtags or follow privately by completing the prompts on your own.
We recommend checking out other people’s works, though, and trying to copy what they have done.
As long as you’re doing this to practice your creative muscles and you’re not posting their work online claiming it as your own, you’re safe.
Finally, these tips are not limited to drawing.
You can practice these drills using any medium that you want—digital, paint, clay.
If there’s one thing that we’d want you to take away from this, it’s that it is possible to be an artist even if you don’t go to an art school.
The path ahead will be hard and filled with challenges, and there will be times when you’ll feel demotivated and frustrated.
There will be more than a few times when you will feel that you just want to throw in the towel and just give up…but don’t.
These moments are part of the process.
Just keep the tips we have shared with you in mind and practice, practice, practice.
We are sure that one day, you’ll be one of the next up-and-coming artists that the world will take notice of and follow.
After being told in high school that she was so bad at art that she should switch to another subject, Deby didn’t paint again for 35 years. Then a stroke released a new wave of creativity and she began exploring with dot painting, abstract and eventually acrylic pouring, and at last the joy of working with color returned. You don’t need ‘talent’ to be an acrylic pouring artist – just enthusiasm, some basic instruction, and a willingness to try, fail and try again. Paint along with her and learn from her many mistakes, and you’ll soon make great art together.