When we start a new journey, career or hobby, there are so many unknowns. Most frustratingly, you don't know what you don't know until you dive into it full force. While I love learning and figuring things out, there are some things that I reeeeally wish I'd known before I started my artistic career. In case you find yourself in the same position, I've prepared a list of the 12 things I wish I'd known as a beginner artist, with the hope that these points will resonate with some of you 👇
1. Start Sooner
First of all, the biggest regret of starting out for me was not starting sooner. That’s a lot to say because I jumped in pretty quickly. When I’ve asked other creative entrepreneurs, their answers are along the same lines. This is because if we’re thinking about starting, it usually means we’re ready to start. What holds us back is our confusion about direction. How are we going to start when we have no idea what steps to take and what direction to go? So rather than sitting in the “I don’t know if it’s the right time stage,” it’s now time to equip yourself with the resources and knowledge that you need in order to take the right path so you can achieve your goals. It’s easier said than done, for sure, but that’s why The Flock exists! The resources here will get you well on your way.
2. Embrace the Beginning
Secondly, I wish that I would have held on a little tighter and longer to my art process while I was growing and building my “empire.” The reason for this is because I feel that exploration is the part that brings the most joy. Learning new techniques and skills should be embraced because there’s no feeling like when you hands show that they’re capable grasping new information. The art you create will evolve ever so quickly as you experiment, so revisiting those stages during that process will allow you to expand on style choices and essentially play a bit more.
3. There Is a Place for You
The creative industry is a saturated market. There are no longer any original ideas. There aren’t many original techniques left to discover either. I’m not saying there aren’t at all, it’s just not common to come across something with real, true originality. Here’s where I contradict myself... Each person that approaches an idea or a technique does it in a very particular way because they are the only one inside of their head and powering the movement in their hands. No matter how similar, nobody will ever produce exactly what you will. That makes you just as special as the most well known big names out there. The rest comes down to your hustle, your networking efforts, etc.
⭐ If this is resonating with you, grab my full guide here to keep a cute reminder of all the things we artists get hung up so easily.
4. You Will Hear “No” A Lot
If you seek to collaborate or design with a company or brand, you’ll hear "no" and you just need to accept that it’s a part of the process. It doesn’t mean they don’t like it, it could just not be the right fit for them in general or even just at that time. More than hearing no, you won’t hear anything back at all. Don’t let this stifle you. Just keep putting yourself out there. Commitment is everything.
5. Set Boundaries, Darn It
Piggy-backing on the previous... Under no circumstances whatsoever should you spend more than 30 minutes at a time mindlessly scrolling Instagram or Pinterest. This leads to comparison, and comparison leads to the death of creativity. It’s a nasty cycle and I promise you, at one point or another, you’ll feel it and get caught in its demotivating trap. If you can limit yourself to the amount of time spent on these “inspirational” feeds, you just might get inspiration from it instead of having that inspiration turn into comparison.
6. This Is Going to Be a Long, Hard Journey
Creativity pulls out vulnerability and mindfulness, and that can show up differently than we expect. It opens doors that we didn’t know were there, it closes others, it guides us in a deeply personal way. Whatever you want to accomplish along your journey, there will be a struggle. If there’s anything I’ll ever say about what I wish I would have known when I started, it would have been that even though it’s going to be tough, it’s going to change your life for the better. You will grow in ways that you never thought you could (not to mention that with practice you art is gonna look killer). It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
7. Be Open to Criticism
WOW this was a hard one for me. I got used to working in my happy little safe space with no one to tell me how to do anything. The minute I landed a big project, I got a lot of requests for revisions. When I read those emails, I subconsciously read them like they had a rude, judgy, condescending tone and I’d feel VERY reactive. When I was working on my book (with the most kind and patient editor EVER, I might add), I remember getting so frustrated that I’d go off on a rant and I wouldn’t let it go. I finally had my wife read over an email that I just couldn’t get over, and she laughed at how ridiculous I was being because the email wasn’t anything I was making it out to be. She reread it in a normal tone (not the one that I assigned in my head), and I felt so much relief. I had a good laugh, too. It was then that I realized that we were a team working toward the same goals, and that criticism truly is incredibly productive. Note: This doesn’t mean that it’s always correct, but it does mean that we should be openminded.
8. There’s No Right or Wrong Way
Sure, while there are rules we learn for technique, they are rules placed to achieve a specific result. Unless you’re set on that result, you can really do as you please with what you have. Are you out to win an award for best realistic-looking art? Some of you may be, and that’s absolutely wonderful and you should embrace each and every rule to get you there. But if you’re not, don’t try to create a photograph. Try to explore your unique creativity.
9. Choosing Art As a Career Also Means Being a Business Owner
And that’s 90% of it. There are weeks that go by that I don’t touch art supplies. It’s quite difficult to take on so much while maintaining a balance. It’s easy to get lost in overwhelm and confusion. I highly recommend hiring an assistant before you think it’s time. If you wait too long, you’ll feel like you’re drowning and it’ll take extra time to train them of your processes, which will take even more time away from what you need to be doing. The expense is worth it. Time is money.
10. Don’t Choose to Pursue Art for the Sake of Making Money
This isn’t actually something that I struggled with since I solely created art for myself because it brought me joy. BUT I have come across a mentee or two who have expressed that money is what they were after. If you’re not focusing on the process of creating and you’re only looking at the end result (which you hope to be dollar signs), it comes through in your art. Since art is so personal, it comes across in the energy you put into it so it won’t catch as much interest. Seriously, it’s wild how it works. Art is a highly competitive field so you don’t want that kind of energy associated with what you do.
11. Make as Many Pieces as Possible
The more you practice, the more you loosen up and begin to explore. It’s easy to sit around thinking about creating and how you’ll create and what you’ll create and how to make it different. But unless you’re actually in the flow, none of that will organically come out. Your style will form the more you create.
12. Don’t Be Ruled by Your Goals
Setting goals is an excellent practice that I encourage highly. But when we don’t meet our goals, it’s easy to stop completely and move on to something else. Sometimes though, despite your best efforts, we have goals that we don’t meet. It’s part of the deal in creativity or it’s part of the deal in just plain life. And guess what? That’s ok. Try again tomorrow.
Want to come back to these later as a reminder to yourself?