Five Steps to Unlock Your Inner Artist
by Michael J. Orr
Most of us have had that one friend who, straight out of the womb, could sketch an entire landscape so well that you felt like you could walk into it. Or, we have a friend who is just so crafty and creative that they did all of the cool Pinterest type stuff years before the Internet was even around. While it has been scientifically proven that individual people have varying levels of spatial awareness and right-brain/left-brain dominance, does that mean we aren’t capable of being artistic? Or does it mean that we’ve never spent much energy on developing those abilities? At 49, I still can’t draw a straight line. But, I’m willing to try.
Whether it was the jealous pangs of comparing our younger selves with the people mentioned above or simply that we started our lives—families, education, careers—most of us never threw ourselves into trying to develop our artistic abilities. Instead, we defined ourselves by our family roles, jobs, socio-economic status, philanthropy, etc. But it is never too late to change that definition. But how? Here are five steps to identifying your interests and starting your journey:
1. Explore Your options
If you don’t have an immediate “I’m gonna try X” moment, then one of the best ways to figure out where in the wide, wide world of art to start is to simply see what others are doing. Go to local craft shows, museums, and galleries. Browse Pinterest, craft pages, and art store websites like Michaels.com, benfranklin-crafts.com, or HobbyLobby.com. If you think that you may want to learn about stained glass, then check out old churches and really examine the minor details. When you see something (or more than one something) that makes you go “Wow!” you have the beginnings of your path. Think about your vision. If you decide that you want to learn to paint, what do you see in your mind’s eye? Do you see creating murals on buildings or taking an easel and canvas out to the seashore? Do you see yourself painting portraits or fruit bowls? Getting a feel for what your goals are will help you figure out how to launch your journey.
Before you go out and spend a fortune on all the best supplies to get your studio set up, go try some of the things that interest you. Many local craft stores or galleries have “wine and paint” classes. Take a friend and go see if you get some enjoyment out of it. You will likely have fun regardless of the quality of your first project. If you want to learn to decoupage, seek out your nearest Michael’s store for classes or check YouTube (there are currently over 59,000 videos under “Decoupage for Beginners”). If you are interested in sculpting, pottery, or stained glass then try to find someone in your network who does what you want to do. Again, YouTube is an amazing resource for learning almost anything.
3. Learn the Basics
Sure, you can just walk outside and decide to paint or draw whatever you want. However, like any other skill, there are tips and tricks that can significantly speed your progress on this journey. Usually the best way to learn these are to take a more formal course, whether through your local community college, university, YMCA, or art store. If your vision has you doing charcoal drawing of people in motion, take a figure-drawing class. Ultimately, unless you choose a very obscure art form, there will be resources nearby that can help. Find them, sign up, and commit to giving it one term. This commitment is an important step, as the early learning curve can be steep, but if you push through and gain a tiny bit of knowledge and technique, it will ignite the flame of confidence.
4. Experiment with Your Craft
Michelangelo’s first sculpture was not David, and Vincent van Gogh did not start with Starry Night. There is a learning curve. The classes will teach you some important techniques, but they will also want you to do things in a certain way for each project. In order to branch out and determine or define your own style, it takes setting aside time for you to just create (in whatever medium you have chosen). Many will be laughable failures, but don’t be discouraged. Many of us have shut down our creative side for decades to focus on practical things, so it does take some time to reopen that spiritual connection. Take baby steps, but schedule time specifically for practicing your art outside of your coursework.
- Follow Rule 62
The short version of the story is that founders of a new support group were meeting to come up with rules for the group. Everybody had a rule or a clause that was important to them, and it soon became clear that if all of these were enacted nobody would qualify to join. When they got to Rule 62, someone stood up and said, “Don’t take yourself so damn seriously.” All the other rules went away, and Rule 62 lives on.
Have fun with this journey! Yes, it will take work, but don’t beat yourself up about where you are on your journey. Enjoy the ride. Don’t take yourself or your art so seriously. A hobby should bring you peace and a sense of accomplishment. If it doesn’t, then find a new hobby.
Photo credit: Sharon McCutcheon @mccutcheonphoto
Michael J. Orr is a #1 Bestselling Author, Freelance Writer, Speaker, and Entrepreneur based in Southern Idaho. His new book, KILL the Bucket List: Start Living Your Dreams is now available. He also wrote the #1 Best Seller, BURN SCAR (under the pseudonym T.J. Tao).