If you are wondering how to become an artist without going to art school, we have some things for you to consider. Firstly, there are three misconceptions about artists, that can leave you believing that becoming an artist is beyond your own reach:

  1. Artists are born with their talent
  2. A good artist must have had formal training
  3. They must have started drawing very young

Are Artists Born with their Talent?

The simple answer is, no. Nobody is born with talent. Mozart did not simply decide to play the piano one day and was instantly good! Talent comes simply from active learning, practice, perseverance and determination.

Can You Be an Artist, Without Going to Art School?

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study art on own

Absolutely! In fact, believe it or not, there are some good reasons not to go to art school, including the fact that it can actually hinder your development, rather than help. Being a self-taught artist does not make you any less of an artist than one who has had formal training, as long as you put enough time and effort into learning the techniques and skills required.

Successful Artists Without Degrees

There are many famous self-taught artists who changed the art world. They didn’t go to art school, but achieved great things. Van Gogh was almost entirely self-taught. And Frida Kahlo didn’t have any formal training at all.

Is it too late to be an artist?

Is it too late to become an artist? Absolutely not! It doesn’t matter if you are nine, or ninety! Anyone who wants to learn to draw, can. It’s about the time you put into it daily, rather than the number of years you have behind you. In fact, artists who started late in life include; Wassily Kandinsky had not so much as touched a paintbrush before the age of thirty. And Mary Delany was 68 before she began creating her art. These are just two examples of many, hugely successful and famous artists who started later in their life.

If you want to hear more on this subject, you might like to listen to these art podcast episodes:

is it too late to be an artist

So is art school worth it? Art School vs Self Taught

Speaking from personal experience, I am able to talk about both.

I did go to art school for a short while, however, I am largely a self-taught artist.

When I decided to enrol at art school, I imagined that I would primarily be learning the fundamental skills of drawing and painting. I was very wrong! Whilst I’m sure these skills would be one of the primary things taught at a prestigious and expensive art school in Florence, the majority of art schools these days, concentrate on something else altogether; breaking the rules! What I couldn’t understand is how I was meant to break the rules when they weren’t teaching me what those rules were in the first place. It just didn’t make sense to me at all.

Almost all of the focus was put on using your imagination and just ‘being loose.’

Well, though I was happy to try those things, what about actually learning to paint and draw first? When I questioned my tutor about it, his response was, that art school wasn’t about learning how to paint and draw like the masters. It was all about ‘being creative.’ That just wasn’t enough for me, so I left and decided I would teach myself. It took patience, self-discipline and determination, but I can tell you that I learned more in the first month of teaching myself than I learned in the first six months of art school.

But remember that this is my own personal experience of art school and this doesn’t mean it’s not for you. There are plenty of reasons why art school might be perfect for you, depending on the type of person you are.

The benefits of going to art school:

  • You have a structured learning program, which you must stick to
  • You have access to lots of different mediums
  • You are surrounded by other artists
  • You experience critique
  • You are encouraged to experiment with different styles
  • You are encouraged to use your imagination

art college students

Reasons not to go to art school:

  • You have to learn at someone else’s pace
  • You have to put time into learning styles/mediums that you are simply not interested in
  • You are heavily influenced by other artists, which can hinder you from developing your own unique style
  • You experience critique, which may simply be down to your tutors own style or taste
  • There is little emphasis on teaching the fundamentals of drawing and the techniques of painting
  • The main emphasis is put on using your imagination and being loose
  • There is little or no emphasis on teaching you how to market and sell your art
  • It is expensive

As you can see, interestingly, the reasons to go to art school can also be reasons not to, depending on how you look at it. In short, there is nothing you can learn at art school, that you can’t learn by studying art at home.

Ultimately though, whether you choose to go to art school or not, you should bear in mind, that going to art school, does not make you a good artist. And NOT going to art school doesn’t make you a bad one either.

How to Become An Artist Without Going to Art School

There is nothing you can learn at art school, that cannot be learned at home, with the right resources. By far, the most important thing you need to learn if you want to become a good artist is the fundamentals of drawing. Only once you have learned those basics, should you start to experiment with other mediums and styles. Without putting the time into learning the basic skills of drawing, you might as well build a house without the foundations. Even if you become a master at painting, lack of knowledge in perspective and other such art fundamentals will always be a giveaway to your lack of experience.

How to Study Art on Your Own

You might think that as long as you practice drawing often enough, you will get better. And, whilst to a certain extent this is true, unless you also put the time into ‘active learning,’ you will not improve as quickly as you could. So, what do we mean, by ‘active learning?’ Active learning is the time you spend doing things such as reading the best art books on learning how to draw or watching the best art tutorials online. By finding the right resources to study alongside your practical drawing, you will see results a lot more quickly than you would otherwise.

Resources for Beginner Artists

There are some great online resources for beginner artists, to help you learn to draw. Some are free and some are paid. The most important thing is to make sure you are learning from someone who actually knows what they are talking about! Be sure to look at reviews and the work of the artist themselves, certainly before investing any money.

Some Great Online Art Courses:

  • Self-Taught to Self-Confident online art programme, with Carrie Brummer. Sign up for a FREE masterclass here
  • Kara Bullock Art – A wide range of art courses from different artists.
  • Skillshare has a whole range of art courses for a small monthly fee. Get a free month of Premium Skillshare
  • If you’re interested in illustration or creating art from your imagination check out SVS Learn
  • Proko has some amazing free Youtube Tutorials and also some paid courses
  • Evolve, Online Art School. Learn Realistic Oil Painting techniques. Sign up for a FREE Webinar here.

realism oil painting class

Which Art Books should I choose?

Art tutorial books are a wonderful investment and they will always be there to refer to when you feel the need. But, they don’t all have to be tutorial books. You might like to include other books too, which include beautiful illustrations for inspiration.

Learn to Draw Books (Tutorial Books)

Have a listen to this podcast episode, where we talk about our own favourite art books:

How much drawing practice do I need each day?

In an ideal world, at least an hour a day, but of course that’s not always practical. The good news is, that less time, but more frequent is far more valuable than more time, less frequent. So, making 5 – 15 minutes to draw every day, will develop your drawing skills more quickly than practising for one or two hours once a week. Regular is key.

How to Find the Time to Learn to Draw

There is no such thing as time management. Time simply passes. Period.

The secret is to use it wisely. Here is a great podcast episode that will help you find ways to do just that:

We cover:

  • Apps to help cut the time you spend on social media
  • Fitting your creative pursuit into chunks of time
  • Pomodoro time management
  • Having your creative materials at hand
  • Getting up an hour earlier each day
  • Using time when you are waiting or break times for your art
  • How to schedule drawing time into your life

Can You Be a Professional Artist, Without Going to Art School?

professional artist

The bottom line is, you don’t need to go to Art School to be an Artist, professional or otherwise.

If you want to learn more about the pros and cons of going to art school, then check out this podcast episode, where we discuss this in more depth:

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