When I went to the craft store 5 years ago to buy my first set of Copic markers, I didn't know what I was jumping into. I was excited to try a new thing. I was mesmerized by all the pretty colors available in these markers. I was also scolded by my husband for seemingly buying the entire store. Nevertheless, I had no idea what that first purchase would do to me and how it would ultimately transform me into an artist. Now looking back there are a few things I really wish I had known that day to help me make better decisions or simply not fall into frustrating pitfalls. So today I will give some advice to my beginner self in hopes it will help you on your artistic journey.
1. The first thing I want my beginner self to know - buying everything you see a YouTuber own is not necessary. I have fallen for that so many times. You believe that the YouTuber makes amazing work, so for me to do it, all I need are the exact materials they are using. I must figure out the paper they used or the specific color of marker or even down to the exact pencil sharpener they used. I cannot tell you how many times I have paused a video to switch to Amazon to order what I just saw. Yes, slap the "sucker" sticker on my forehead because I deserved it then. I blindly ordered everything I saw assuming I needed it without any research or even looking in my own supplies to see if I had something similar. Here is what I learned - it is how you use the supplies that matter not having the exact supplies. Take paper for instance, there are papers that work better for me when I do different things like when I am doing a colored pencil only project, I like to use Strathmore toned paper, but that is certainly not the only paper that is good for colored pencils. It's how I use the pencils that matter. If I burnish or use light layers etc. different paper will act differently. So, hey beginner self - stop buying everything and learn how to get the best out of the supplies you already own. Practice your techniques on different papers and find what one you enjoy using and stick with it. Otherwise, you will end up with a closet full of paper you don't ever use.
2. I also wish someone would have explained that taking classes was just as important as the work you do outside of classes. In the beginning I was taking lots of classes because I wanted to learn everything. I saw a class with beautiful realism I had to take that online class. I saw another that taught you how to create portraits in colored pencils - I had to take that class too. I had enrolled in so many classes that I had and overwhelming number of projects to work on. I was just excited to make a bunch of pretty things. Here is the deal - you need to give yourself time to learn the techniques taught in every class. That means sometimes you need to re-watch class videos two or three times. It means you may need to do the project a couple of times to ensure you learned the techniques properly. In essence I am saying that you need to practice what you learned and let it really sink in. I understand the feeling of wanting to create something pretty (everyday) so working on the same project over and over is super boring but focusing on the techniques you learned on a new project will reinforce what you have learned. This way when you take your next class you are confident to take a new step to build on your skills.
3. Lastly, the one more thing I wish I knew when I started, failing is part of the growing process. I started being creative when I was a little girl singing in the church choir. It was ingrained in me at a young age that each performance had to be perfect. We had to hit every note on pitch and on cue without fail. Yes, I practiced my songs then, but I didn't see it that way I just knew I would be in trouble if I hit the wrong note, so I was always anxious every Sunday morning focused on being perfect. I grew up thinking artists only create perfect art because everything I saw in the art world looked perfect to me. Yeah, I know now, that was bad logic for me to believe but I did. What I have learned recently is that failing is a normal part of growth. Don't get me wrong it is disappointing to fail on a project. It's how you handle the failure which will determine how much you grow. My beginner self would make a mistake, maybe use the wrong color, or put too much ink in an area etc., then I would get so upset with myself I would crumple up the whole project and toss it out. One day I missed the garbage can and a few weeks later found that crumpled paper behind it. I uncrumpled the paper and looked at my failed projected with fresh eyes. I saw that this could be fixed - I mean it was really bad, but I saw a way to make it better. After I made a few adjustments I realized that practically everything is fixable. Maybe it will not turn out exactly as you had in mind, but you can make it beautiful. Now when I start to fail on a project, I don’t toss it into the garbage, I decide I am going to get something out of it, and I start by studying what went wrong. Now I don't see failures I see learning sessions that are showing me what not to do in the future.
Well, I could go on for hours talking to my beginner self. But those are my top three things I think she would have been thankful to know as she was buying those first markers in the store. I also want her to know she is about to embark on the most exciting adventure she has ever been on. She will meet some incredible people who will influence her and inspire her every day. Although I know she will be upset along the way as she falls into a few pitfalls but in the end, she will have the time of her life.
What's happening in the Corner . . .
Did you make a New Year's resolution to put coloring back into your life? But now you aren't sure where to start. Why not join with fellow colorers as we focus our attention on creating more realism in our projects as we put the "value" of color into our practice as we start the new year.
If you are reading this after we moved on to the next technique, you can find the Work-at-Your-Own-Pace Practice for Value here.
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