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So you want to be an Artist…

Not too long ago an old friend :” she’s not old but I am getting there ” reached out to me for advice for her daughter that wants to be an artist. My first reaction was                         ”             NOOOOOOOOOOOOO…… we cant stop here this is bat country!!!!!!!!!!!!      ”

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Just kidding 😛

I meant to get back with her quickly but life happened. So it occurred to me I could just write some things down here and theoretically it can help my friends daughter and some others contemplating this.

It’s a complicated thing the decision to go down the artist path. There are some basic questions you need to ask yourself and decisions to make.

3 main questions to address…

  • What kind of artist do you want to be?
  • Should you go to school?
  • Can you have a satisfied/ successful life doing this?

There are many more question to answer but I figure these 3 are pretty core to the issue. For the sake of my own sanity I will break this post into 3 sections dealing with those 3 basic questions.

What kind of artist do you want to be?

First of all it’s vital to understand just what is an artist. My opinion is that an artist is anyone that dedicates themselves to creative effort and seeks to explore that with all their energy. Art is all around us it’s in the clothes we wear, the products we use and of course it hangs on the wall at the museum and if your lucky your home… without art there are no movies or plays, music or books or video games.

Bruce Lee – Martial Artist

Art is the very essence of what makes us human. Sounds overblown but I truly believe this. An artist seeks perfection, there’s a reason they call a master of Kung Fu, a martial artist…

I will focus on the visual arts what I know best as it’s my own path but I assure you whether you want to write screenplays, or become the next a Lady GaGa a lot of this is the same.

In visual arts there two main paths with an infinity of sub categories and disciplines. But I think it’s all basically depends on where you fit on the spectrum between the two extremes.

One side is the full blown fine artist and the other is the engineer. In between those two extremes you find , illustrators and architects, painters and industrial designers. My own education was in the last one, industrial design specifically car design. I went to one of the highest rated / most competitive “expensive ” schools for that. I use what I learned there every day but I have rarely been asked to design a vehicle… I will have some ideas on education in the next post..

Think of it this way, fine art is created to serve itself, it can; and great art does, have meaning but it generally exist for its own purpose.

Andy Warhol – Fine Artist

Design is the use of art to solve a problem or provide a service. A car could just be a box on wheels but who would want it.

Fine car Design Vroom Vroom

Engineering is the combo of art and science. Most engineers would argue they aren’t artist but I beg to differ. Just look at an aircraft…

Form Follows Function

Honestly I think it’s not realistic to think you can know right away where you fit on this spectrum. I was attracted to my field because I have always loved cars and vehicles of any type boats planes whatever. But I also love buildings and great illustrations so I think it’s best to just start down the path and keep your mind open. You will quickly discover the things that attract you.

Part of this first phase of preparation is forming an idea of the type of artist you want to be. Everyone has natural inclinations. Listen to those signals as that’s probably what you will find easiest to master and most rewarding. You can always branch out and go after new subject areas and techniques later but for my advice go with your natural strengths first.

Part of what your doing in the beginning is learning to succeed. You want that feeling of accomplishment to happen because it will push you take on new challenges and grow your capabilities. I have known a number of really talented designers that started off in another area. Architects that became car designers, graphic artist that are now art directors for Disney and Universal theme parks. The artist path is long. Unlike many careers paths you are stronger the older you get so there’s time to develop and explore…

Research great artist and become inspired, understand that with rare exception the only thing separating them from their peers is practice and dedication. Go to museums art galleries, and exhibits. Look through the library art section, and of course use the internet. Never before have so many opportunities to learn about and be exposed to art existed…Humans have been creating art since we have been humans so there is a lot to see.Try to figure out what interest you most and realize whichever path you choose it’s going to take a lot of time and effort to master.. you’re whole life if your serious about it. Art as a career is not like many others in that you don’t just do a job and then have a life, the job is your art and the art is your life…

All journeys begin with one step…

If you are serious about art as a career I assume you want to make money. If you already have the money; good for you, life will be a lot easier. For Everybody else you need to be competitive to get the good jobs and that means a high skill set and a serious work ethic. Art is a business like any other the main difference being the product is your creativity and your ability to make that come to life. Competition is fierce and at this point global. Technology; especially computers, have changed how art is produced and for anything other then fine art you must master their use. But the computer is nothing more then a tool the artist uses.

My First Super Powerful Graphic Workstation circa 1995 500mb HD Whoo Hoo!

Your most powerful tool is your mind connected to your hand. I firmly believe all beginning artist need to draw by hand on paper. Whats paper? Ask your mom she will know 😛

Maurits Cornelis Escher,

Hands Drawing Hands – by MC Escher

It’s the first step, it’s where it all starts, the sketch is how you can quickly put down the idea of something in a way that other people can understand. Everything you see around you started life as a sketch… You draw by hand to teach your body and mind the skills you will use in all the other activities. It doesn’t matter what you draw on or with what, it just matters that you get what’s called mileage. The more you do something, the better you will get at it.

The First Designer

Draw anything and everything you see. Try to capture the essence of your subject and don’t worry if it’s not perfect. Trust that with time you will improve and this is all about the journey… carry a sketchbook or similar media with you and use it often. Another hidden benefit of this is that over time you can easily see your skills develop and of course it also makes you look super interesting in coffee shops 😛

the other fundamental skills include perspective, anatomy, color theory, rendering of form etc etc… it’s a rabbit hole but if you want to be an artist you need these basic tools to build on later.

And above all else believe in yourself and do not quit. Art is hard, sometimes painful and it’s incredibly tough to master but if you have the drive it can be a wonderful life…

More to follow

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