In today’s art podcast we are going to talk about the most important skills an artist can have. And you might think the most important skills are things that revolve around knowing how to draw and paint! But there are so many more skills you need to work on if you want to be a successful artist. Being good at what you do, isn’t enough.
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An artist needs the ability to make decisions
And I think, one of the most important skills you need, is the the ability to make decisions.
In the studio, a bad decision is better than no decision at all. If you find yourself unable to make a decision then that leads to procrastination, which for an artist is the ultimate enemy!
For a start, making a decision that you are going to do something today, that moves you forward in some way.
So, for example the other day I made that decision that I would contact the Gallery to see if they would be interested in showing some of my work. Now, whether they had said yes, or no, it was still a positive move and something I could cross off my list. Now, everything that happens from thereon, stems from that one decision I made to send them an email.
Another important decision that will move you forward, is to decide to start something! Start anything! If you don’t know what to work on next, then that should be your next decision.
Like I said earlier, a bad decision is better than no decision at all. No decision means nothing is happening and you are just at a stand still.
Once you have decided what you’re going to paint, you need to make a decision to go in to the studio and start. Give yourself a deadline if it helps… Or make a decision as to what time you will be in the studio by.
We could do an entire episode on the importance of being decisive, but I would say it’s one of the top things we need to be good at.
Self discipline for an artist
There is so much self discipline involve with art, especially if you want to take it seriously. Getting to grips with a medium or subject and honing your craft takes time and dedication.
Of course if you want to sell your art there is also the self discipline that comes with showing up on social media on a regular basis.
Artist’s time management skills
Artist’s time management skills are very much linked with discipline. This is so important especially if you a fitting your art into small amounts of time. Setting time aside for making your art, means you actually spend time on it. If you put it in a calendar you are far more likely to stick to it.
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You need to have some organisational skills
For example you can’t work with clarity an artist if your studio is in a mess and your materials are all over the place.
And it’s not enough to just turn up in your studio without a clear idea of what you’re planning to do. I find that if I don’t know what my aim is for that day, then I jump around doing bits of everything and end up getting nothing done.
So, what I try to do the night before a studio day is figure out a goal for the day ahead.
So, my goal might be to come up with a new set-up and take lots of reference photos.
Last Saturday, my goal was to get to my set-ups drawn out on the two canvases.
The following day, my goal was to get the main background tone down on both.
I also had it in my mind to take a couple of short videos for my intagram reel.
If you can get some kind of a weekly routine going, that would be ideal.
So, use certain days to do certain things. So maybe set aside a couple of hours just to concentrate on social media content and other marketing stuff, like blogging, that kid of thing, and specific days for being actively creative.
You also need to be able to stay focused and avoid distractions, which can be really tricky.. We actually did a whole episode on how to stay focussed on your art, and that was episode number 118. And in that episode, as well as sharing lots of general tips on staying focussed, we also shared some really useful apps to help you avoid distractions. So, if you have trouble in that area, that episode is well worth a listen.
Basic knowledge of your materials
There are so many possible materials we can choose as artists. Once you have experimented and know the type of thing you like. You need to spend a little time working with that medium and learning what it can do and its limitations.
You also need a level of compositional skills
And I’m not just talking about the usual rule of thirds. There is so much more to it than that.
You need to be able to look at the overall shape of your composition and aim for something that leads your eyes around the canvas.
I also like to look for a pattern of light and dark tones across the canvas and the same applies to colour. I want to make sure that there is a balance across the whole image.
These are skills that come with practice and you learn over time. But they are really important to grasp.
As artists we all need to have imagination. Even if don’t think you have imagination I can guarantee that you do. We made a whole episode on this –
You will be surprised the small creative decisions you make even without being aware of it.
Being brave and open to experimentation
To get better as artists we need to be prepared to experiment and try new things so our art can progress and we don’t get stuck in a rut. We also need to be brave as artists sometimes. This could be in the form of daring to try something even though it could ruin a painting or it could be reaching out to a gallery like Sandra did.
Knowing when to stop
This is another important one. When is a piece of art finished?
I think it was Van Gogh who once said, a painting is never finished, it’s merely abandoned.
There is nothing that will kill a piece of art more than one that’s been overworked.
The way I know when to stop, is the moment the brushstokes stop making a difference for better or for worse, that’s when I put the brush down.
The problem is, once you’ve over-worked it, it’s very hard to pull it back, so it’s better to practice restraint, than do that.
As artists if we want to sell our work we need marketing skills. We need to be able to talk up our work and sell ourselves. Now I don’t mind sharing that I am trying to get better at this. I am trying to learn how to market myself. Like many artists I don’t find it that easy to talk about my work. If you have this problem we made an episode all about it
Being able to write about your work is important too
But also take the time to check your grammar and spelling too. Particularly if you’re writing an email to a gallery or something.
Not everyone is good at that, but these days spell checkers make it a lot easier for people who find that side of things more difficult. Just take the extra time to make sure what you’ve written makes sense.
As artists we need some basic technical skills
While you don’t need to be a computer whizz some basic computer skills can be really useful for an artist. This could include being able to put together a basic website or scan or photograph artwork to make prints
Social media skills
Social media skills are really important for an artist if you want to sell your work. Short videos are becoming increasingly necessary to get seen on all the platforms. Most platforms like Instagram and Tiktok give you the ability to record and edit simple videos within their apps.
You also need reasonable photography skills.
This really matters if you’re putting your work up on a website. A poor photo is not going to sell a painting. So take the time to find your way around your camera. And YouTube is a great place to find some really simple tips and tricks to get really good art photos with even just a smart phone. Everyone can use one of those!
The same applies for social media too. You see some gorgeous photos on social media and by people who you can tell really take their time to get a nice shot. So, be a bit imaginitive if you can, so you stand out from the rest.
As artists we also need the skill of being open to criticism and other people’s ideas. Now sometimes these can be useful and helpful and move us forward in the direction we want. However we also need to be thick skinned and try and ignore the criticism that doesn’t serve us.
Basic accounting skills
Once you start selling you need to keep track of all sales and expenses and declare it as income for tax purposes. You can either get an accountant to do this for you or learn how to do it yourself.
The ability to say no
I have learned this the hard way. I used to find it really hard to say no to art commissions, because at the end of the day, you know it’s a sale, but to be honest, the stress that sometimes comes with it, is just not worth it! I only take on a commission these days if I really want it, but I won’t take it on if it puts the pressure on and I certainly won’t give them a completion date!
Also, this sounds mean, but if you’re selling your art, you’re not obliged to sell it cheap to people you know. Yes, if if it’s your Mum, Dad or Sister, then of course that’s different, but otherwise, if someone asks you do do them a ‘quick sketch’ then you shouldn’t feel like you can’t charge a reasonable price to do it. And you shouldn’t feel obliged to give it to them cheap.
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This week’s creative question
Q. If you could ask Santa to bring you one Art related item down the chimney this Christmas what would it be and why?
The best answers will be read out on a future podcast.
You can Tweet us your answers @KickCreatives or let us know in the Facebook Group, which by the way if you haven’t already joined, I highly recommend that you do! We will put the question up there and also on the Facebook page… and of course, on our Instagram page @kickinthecreatives.
If you have any suggestions for the podcast or our challenges please feel free to get in touch.