All you need to get started making art is a pen and paper. But once you’ve built up some practice and courage (it takes a lot of courage to continue to make ‘messy’ art and beginner art), you can start to try different drawing materials. This adds a whole new fun level of experimentation but one that can be overwhelming with possibilities and choice. Before you rush out and buy all the colours in all the different art supplies, remind yourself of your objective – to have fun. To enjoy the process of making something out of nothing. It’s easy to feel disheartened when the art doesn’t match the expectations in the mind but it can become magnified when money has been spent buying tools to help make ‘great’ art.
Carolyn Schlam in The Creative Path says “I encourage you to try many different media and just soak up all the fun and complexity of art making. Play and experimentation are essential components of our profession, and taking on new toys puts us in a playful mood.” The focus is on play and experimentation. Different media could mean whatever you’ve already got in your cupboards. They don’t have to be specifically art supplies as there are plenty of foods and household supplies that can work just as well. Things like painting with food colouring, beetroot juice or coffee. Making collages out of old packaging, magazines and leaflets. Or make patterns using everyday objects to. There’s so much you can get started with without having to leave the house. Don’t get caught up on using fancy supplies, instead focus on having fun exploring unconventional media that you can start using today.
The biggest challenge you face when making art is yourself. This is something Paul Klein discusses in his talk How to Succeed as an Artist: “There are no obstacles,.. the only obstacles that exist are obstacles we put in front of ourselves.” Can you identify any self-imposed obstacles you’ve created? Obstacles like “I don’t have time” (time can always be made), “I’m not good enough” (too high expectations) to “I don’t have the right art materials” (all you need is pen and paper to make art).
How can you get out of your own way and break through them? By giving yourself permission to spend time making art and to make messy art, bad art, to play and have fun making. Give permission to spend some time being creative without needing it to be productive or ‘valuable’ (i.e making sell-able art). The value is the fun. Break through self-imposed obstacles and open up to the possibility of becoming more creative.
Believing you’re not creative is the only mistake you can make when it comes to making art. We tend to think of art ‘mistakes’ as making a mess, drawing inaccurately or failing to reproduce the image in your head. But those mistakes are learning curves, unexpected lines for further experiments and the potential for messy fun. But believing you’re not creative limits the chance to explore your creativity further.
While children embrace the art making process with no thoughts around if they’re good or not, many adults firmly believe they can’t draw. But Graham Shaw in his TEDxHull talk argues “When people say they can’t draw I think it’s more to do with beliefs rather than talent and ability. So I think when you say you can’t draw, that’s just an illusion.” He suggest that you only need two things to draw: “One is have an open mind… and two, just be prepared to have a go.”
If you allowed yourself to explore your creativity, who knows what beliefs you might change for the better.
“How many other beliefs and limiting thoughts do we all carry around with us everyday? Beliefs that we could perhaps potential challenge and think differently about. And if we did challenge those beliefs and think differently about them, apart from drawing, what else would be possible for us all.” — Graham Shaw
Sometimes you’ll make art you like and will want to keep it and other times you’ll instantly want to throw it in the bin. It’s okay to feel that way but before you do throw anything out, consider using the rejected art as a starting point for new art.
Having a pile of rejected bin can be a helpful source to mine from. Why not use the art as a background, cut it up, tear bits off. draw over or reassemble to make something new. You don’t have to start with something ‘good’ to make something interesting. The fact the binned art was initially rejected may help lower your expectations to make anything ‘good’ and instead make unexpected art for the fun of it.
It’s a challenge to let go of wanting to be good at something new and making art is no exception. It’s a very human trait to want to make only ‘good’ art. Our ego doesn’t like it when we make ‘bad’ work and so it’s not surprising if you feel like giving up right away. Invariably this robs you of the potential of improvement, but most importantly it robs the experience of having fun with your creativity.
One way to help you keep making art is to purposely make ‘bad’ art. Label it as your messy, unruly, unperfected bad art practice so you can focus on enjoying the process. The quality of your work is irrelevant because you’re seeking to make an arty mess! Your ego may still pop up to question what you’re up to but if it says your art is no good, you can reply “that’s exactly the point so I’m doing great!” You’ll be less likely to feel defeated if you give yourself freedom to make mistakes with enthusiasm.
Debbie Millman in a Creative mornings talk said “I’m not that good. I’m just really unwilling to give up.” Giving up is far more disappointing than making something bad because making bad art takes courage and choosing to continue the process allows your creativity to develop and grow in ways you haven’t yet imagined.
I do have to step back, take a breather, and realize that it is just a project and not the end of the world if it’s not perfect.” – Mary Kate McDevitt
Deciding to try to make art for fun as an adult is a big step and overcoming the multiple hurdles you face before picking up a pencil is a huge victory. The lack of time, material or space can be hard enough, but overcoming the fear of not being ‘good’ at art and the guilt of not spending time productively can halt all creative endeavours.
Continuing to make art regardless of the above is an act of bravery. It takes determination to face the white page and put pen to paper and create from the unknown. But once you decide to do it and you get into the flow of making, the rest will take care of itself. All you have to do is turn up at the paper and be willing to make some marks. That’s it. Don’t over complicate it by having to make something worthy of being in a gallery, that’s not what making art is about. Art making is about having fun and enjoying the process.
Just make something. ANYTHING. Nobody is watching and nobody cares if it’s ‘bad’. How will you know how creative you really are if you never give yourself permission to make any art?
“Don’t give into your fears… If you do, you won’t be able to talk to your heart.” – Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
That frustrated feeling when you’re in a hurry, sat in traffic or forever waiting at a red light – being stuck and unable to move – is the same when you get emotionally stuck. Art-making can be a vulnerable process, especially when faced with a blank sheet of paper and believing you don’t have the skills to get started. But making art for yourself doesn’t require any skills and being a beginner means you’re open to more possibilities, essentially making you more creative. The fear of making ‘bad’ art will stop you from taking any action, but paradoxically, action (making art) is the solution to overcoming your fears.
Eckhart Tolle in The Power of Now asks “Is fear preventing you from taking action? Acknowledge the fear, watch it, take your attention into it, be fully present with it. Doing so cuts the link between the fear and your thinking. Danielle LaPorte advises us to “Stand outside of the story. Every fearful expectation has a big “story” behind it.”
Are you metaphorically sat in a traffic jam with your art-making. Is fear keeping you from getting started or making more art? Watch and notice what negative thoughts (stories) come up when you’re feeling discomfort but then take action anyway. The little voice of fear cannot thrive when you ignore its advice to stop and you immerse yourself in the process of making and start to enjoy yourself.