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How to Become an Artist

Sonal Panse,

How do you become an artist? Well, the same way you get to Stravinsky Hall (no, I do not mean Carnegie Hall) if you are a musician. You learn, you practice, you develop, and you keep evolving. Art is a way of life and being an artist is more about being in the process than reaching an end destination.

However, to keep things simple, I would make the following suggestions:

Educate yourself:

Attend a good art college and receive a thorough training in the basics. There are arguments, of course, about whether a formal art education is necessary or not, but I want to leave that topic for a later discussion. Right now, I'll say, if it is possible for you to go to an art school, don't miss the opportunity. Most of the Great Masters put in several years of learning in an atelier, and it can't particularly hurt you either.

Research art colleges online and check their accreditation; unless the course has been approved by the appropriate educational authorities or governing bodies in your country, your certification will be worth nothing in the job market. Visit the campus, talk to the art professors, and to former students about their experiences. If it is not possible for you to take full-time art classes, research and find out if there are any part-time courses or work-shops that you can attend. Just make sure, especially given that you're going to be spending a lot of your time and your money, that you learn from people who are capable and professional artists themselves.

It will also be a good idea to read as much as you can on art and art-related topics. Read on art, artists, art history, art genres, aesthetics, color theory, composition, design, art techniques, art materials, and the art market. Along with books and print magazines, make use of the quite extensive online resources. It has become almost de rigeur for many artists and most art museums to have online presences, and you can benefit from seeing their artwork, articles, blogs, art videos, and so on.

Read a lot on other topics as well. Expand your mind. After all, your mind is where your art springs from, and the more you are exposed to new ideas and new ways of doing things and new ways of looking at things, the more creative and flexible you will hopefully become yourself.

Practice art

Knowing the theoretical parts is fine and necessary, but getting proficient on the practical side is even more important. Walk the talk, as they say.

Start with the basics, which means learn to draw. This is the hard, frustrating part, and this is why you need a proper art training. Few people get the hand and eye coordination right at first go, and rarer still are the individuals who distinguish themselves all at once in their observation, lines, and rhythm. It'll take much practice before you're any good, and the key is to keep on practicing. There is no short-cut, and knowing how to draw is essential.

Once you know how to draw – which is part of knowing how to see, not just look – you'll find it easier to paint, sculpt, and so on. Easier, I said, not a piece of cake. You'll have to put a good amount of work in these areas as well – learning how to manipulate the media, learning about color relations, learning about effective composition, and much else - before you are able to create anything really worthwhile.

It will help to practice every single day. Try to sketch at least four pages daily. When you are comfortable with a pencil, draw with a pen, a brush, a charcoal stick, or a pastel. Work in as many different media as you can, and attempt different creative approaches. Don't worry about 'developing a style'. Concentrate on evolving and refining your technique, in depicting a given concept in a right way, and in ensuring that a picture is well-balanced in its space, and the style will generally take care of itself. Do a whole lot of work and build up a decent portfolio.