Ep 122 Things we Wish we’d Known as Beginner Artists

On today’s art podcast we are going to talk about the things we wish we had known when we were beginner artists. And hopefully, it might help some of our listeners who have just started out.

Ep 122 Things we Wish we’d Known as Beginner Artists

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So the first thing I wish, is that I had realised at a much earlier age, that art was the thing that I was going to enjoy and be good at.

If I had known, then I would have put so much more time into it, and much earlier on in my life.

The Internet wasn’t around back then, so there was no such thing as online art courses or anything, so I would’ve probably done a foundation course straight from school and that would’ve opened me up to all sorts of creative ideas.

I think, just finding my passion for it at a much earlier age would’ve been so good for me.

And I always think back to that lovely story that Andy J Pizza spoke about on our podcast… and it was the one about the penguin who felt lost amongst the seagulls. And I really related to that, because I was most definitely a penguin at school… But, if I’d have realised that, unlike the seagulls, I could fly too, but under the water and not in the air, then I would’ve realised I was just as good as everyone else, it’s just that i was good at the things they weren’t.

And if you want to hear the whole penguin story, I highly recommend listening to Andy tell it on episode 66. It’s a really heartwarming story.


Table of Contents

I wish I hadn’t got hung up on understanding all the nuances of perspective

I remember trying to read up about in in books and it all just seemed so complicated.

Then I realised that really all you need to so is just draw what you see. You can even just put a ruler on something or hold it out to see which way it slopes.

Sometimes we get too bogged down with rules which can stop use just having fun and drawing. When we were on holiday this year they had some big paintings on the walls of stylized quirky nautical scenes. The artist had deliberately ignored perspective to create a more fun illustrational look. I thought how clever it was that they had removed that headache for themselves too


I wish I had realised how important keeping a sketchbook is

And not just keeping a sketchbook, but I mean actually using it, and using it regularly!

I wish I’d realised that a sketchbook was about learning. It wasn’t about filling a book with perfect little drawings. And that, wobbly lines are far more characterful than straight ones!

I wish I’d realised how boring a straight line is and embraced the wobbly!

Embrace the wobbly bits!! I guess that’s something we have to learn with age whether we like it or not!

I wish I hadn’t waited so long to actually start drawing in it

I also wish that when I finally bought my first sketchbook, I hadn’t waited so long to actually start using it. I had it for 6 months before I finally did my first drawing because I was afraid to spoil it!

So, if I could start all over again, I would have challenged myself to fill a sketchbook page every day, or aim to fill a whole sketchbook a month for the first year. That way I’d have not only formed a really good habit, but I would have progressed a lot quicker as well.

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I wish I’d realised that it’s ok to experiment. experimenting is an important part of the progression.

When I was young I didn’t really think about experimenting with my art. Once I had learned to paint in watercolours that’s just what I did. It wasn’t surprising really that I got bored with that way of working. I wish I had thought about experimenting, but I thought that I could only copy realistic things that were either in front of me or in a photo.

Sometimes it takes someone or something like a challenge to open your mind to possibilities.


I wish I hadn’t tried to run before I could walk

I should have spent more time on simple drawing exercises instead of trying to produce a masterpiece from day one.

I wish I had realised how valuable even a five-minute sketch a day could be

I always used to think I needed at least an hour to even think about starting a drawing, but even just 5 or 10 minutes is plenty of time to do some really cool drawing exercises, like blind contour for instance. And sometimes those things teach us far more than a full-on drawing does.


I wish I’d known that challenges are a good form of discipline for someone like me who wanders

I remember the first time someone suggested I have a go at the 100 day challenge. This was before I was drawing by hand and I had been creating some digital stickynote cartoons. She suggested I should create a cartoon a day. I hated the thought of it. How on earth could I do 100 cartoons, but once I committed to it I did it, even though some days were hard. It stopped me seeking out the shiny object and helped me to focus.

I wish I’d more readily tried suggestions from other people

Now I don’t mean someone asking for me to draw their dog, but when someone suggests something for your benefit. For example several years ago Sandra suggested I draw more than one sketch on a page. Before that I hated the idea. But on holiday created some pages that were more like an art journal with multiple sketches and I really like those pages.

Artist Anna Zubarev also suggested I paint my version of the red queen. Again I didn’t like the idea at first, but was really happy with the result and I sold that NFT straight away.

Doing something someone else suggest can push you out of your comfort zone), just don’t do it if you feel it’s wrong.


I wish I had understood the term, draw what you see and not what you think you see, much earlier than I did

So what it means is instead of thinking… I need to draw that nose, I wouldn’t be looking at it as a nose at all, but I’d be looking at it as a series of curves and shadows instead. It’s about removing the label from what you’re looking at. Your shutting the left brain down and thinking from the right instead.

Drawing upside down is a great way of learning this lesson. So what you do, is you take a photo of something, turn it upside down, and draw from that. This confuses the brain and it’s forced to look at the shapes, rather than assume as it normally would. It’s a great training exercise for the right side of the brain.


I wish I’d realised I can create more abstract art rather than just copying

It’s a skill like anything else. Now what I mean by that is you tend to have a fixed idea on who you are as an artist –

for example when I was 16 I would have said I am an artist who paints street scenes in watercolour. The problem with that is it was all I thought I could do. If someone would have mentioned doing something more abstract I would have thought they were mad. And I wouldn’t have been comfortable doing it, but that’s only because I hadn’t done it before. Creating more abstract art is a skill like anything else.

I wish I’d embraced colour

When I was young I was scared to use colour in my work. I think it came from an offhand comment from my Mum who said I always prefer your pencil work to your colour. It wedged in my head and I think I decided I wasn’t good at it.


I wish I hadn’t rushed out and bought every single material that ever existed in an art store

I wasted so much money on stuff I simply didn’t need. If I went back to the beginning now, I would have invested in a good sketchbook and a selection of different pens and maybe a little watercolour set, but that would’ve been it.

There’s plenty of time to experiment with other things, but if you overwhelm yourself with so many art materials at the start, it’s too much, too overwhelming and if anything it’s stifles your progression.

So start with a small selection and add to it as you progress.


I wish I’d known to try a medium more than once before dismissing it

The thing with any medium is it has a learning curve and can be used in many different ways. So if you are going to try a new medium maybe set yourself a challenge using it or decide you will use it a few timed before dismissing it.

I didn’t think like fountain pens until I tried the Safari Calligraphy one where I could get a much wider range of lines. I didn’t think I liked charcoal until I started using it with Matt medium.


I wish I had stopped comparing myself to artists who had far more experience than I did

The artists who I compared myself to back then, were years ahead of me. I might be at that level now, but it has taken me years of practice to get there.

Of course, now I still look at artists who are more experienced than I am, but these days I don’t compare. I just use them as my inspiration to keep getting better.


I wish I’d realised that just because someone doesn’t like what you create, it doesn’t mean it’s not good

Your family or friends may not be the target market for your work. Art is very much about taste and you are never going to please everybody. And if you create art that is a little weird like me not everyone is going to like it.

I wish I’d sought out people who would encourage me

When I was younger I wish I had sought out people who had encouraged me to be creative and stretch myself artistically. It makes so much difference if people are doing arty things around you. That’s much easier to do now than it was back then.


I wish I hadn’t been so worried about what other people thought of my drawings

The lack of confidence I had in my work when I was a beginner, really held me back.

It stopped me from getting out there and drawing in public in case someone looked over my shoulder. These days I don’t care if that happens because the likelihood of them ever seeing me again is practically zero anyway.


I wish I had realised you are far more aware of your art mistakes than most other people will be

Unless you tell them most people won’t see that accidental blob of paint you placed in the wrong place. And if they do they will probably think it’s intentional, so don’t point it out to them.


I wish I had realised that in order to be a good artist, I had to get through being a bad one…

Even though it really wasn’t about being bad at all… It was simply about being a beginner!

And I wish I had understood back then, that no matter how long you work at it, all artists, no matter how experienced, will do bad drawings from time to time. A bad drawing does not make you a bad artist. In fact, that drawing only makes you a better artist because of course you would have learned something from it.

If you are constantly producing only great drawings, you are most likely not pushing yourself and by not pushing yourself you will most likely stay static.

And this is partly why I’m so passionate about what we do Tara, which is encouraging other people to accept themselves at the stage they are at right now, and just strive to get better.


I wish I’d understood that what you enjoy doing will change over time, don’t expect to like drawing the same thing when you are 50 as when you were 15

I think this is a big one for me, back when I was 15 I wouldn’t even have comprehended drawing abstract faces. But that is also how my taste in other peoples art changed too. When I was 15 I liked very traditional art Constable and Turner that sort of thing. Nowadays I prefer more loose and grungy work

I wish I’d realised I would find an art style that is right for me, it would just take a bit of work

I think you can speed up finding your art style, but it may still take a few iterations to get to a place where you feel happy. Even then your art style will constantly evolve and develop if you want to push yourself forward

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This week’s creative question

Q. You have $1000, which you can either spend on a piece of art, or buy art materials… Which would you do?

You have $1000, which you can either spend on a piece of art, or buy art materials… Which would you do?

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