In the Art Journaling 101 series of articles, I’ve emphasized the importance of quantity, the expectation of failure, and embracing your unique style. In addition to these things, it is always a good idea to make room for growth.
After sketching for a while, you will begin discovering tools and techniques that really work for you. Your skills will develop and capturing ideas on paper will become easier. You may even start to like a lot of your artwork and be totally content with the work you are producing. This is great!
However, I have seen many folks stop here — fingers pointing at Self. For example, I have mastered a few lettering styles that I really love, and I’m tempted to avoid learning any others. These styles work for me, they are easily adaptable, and they are quick to do at home or in the field.
That’s probably a sign that it’s time for a challenge. (Hence the dip pen reminder in the photo above. Calligraphy is currently on my list!)
Please don’t misunderstand me… there is nothing wrong with contentment, but there is something wrong with stagnation. High Renaissance master Michelangelo Buonarroti, the painter of the Sistine Chapel and the carver of David, once wrote:
The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.
So I encourage you to challenge yourself. In the beginning, the challenge may be how to hold a dip pen or accomplish a uniform wash, but as time goes by, you may have to search for ways to grow as an artist.
And this is where the fun really begins!
When I first began sketching and painting, I had trouble working away from a desk. I admired others who enjoyed field sketching or plein air painting, but I did not. I constantly forgot tools. I couldn’t get comfortable. It was awkward when others stopped to watch (and still is). My subject kept moving. Etc etc etc.
I preferred to snap a photo and then return home to study my subject in the safety and comfort of my living room. However, I discovered that this didn’t always work well for me, so I became determined to learn how to be a better field sketcher.
My determination is now paying off, but it took some adjustment. I had to greatly simplify my sketching kit and order some duplicate supplies (which did not simplify my budget!). I also had to learn to sketch faster (aka relax) and observe more quickly.
I discovered that learning this new skill of sketching in the wild has made me a better artist overall. Not only am I sketching more because I’m no longer limited to my desk, but I’m also learning how to see things as they are, not how I think they should be or how they appear in my photos.
Surprisingly, I also discovered a new joy! Now I love field sketching and am constantly looking for moments to steal away, sketchbook in hand, to a quiet place outdoors.
Below are five ideas on how to make room for growth.
Change sketching locations often.
Just like in my self-directed field sketching challenge, changing locations where you sketch or paint always results in new challenges. Simply moving your desk can make a difference and give a new vantage point or different lighting experience. Try sketching in new situations like on a train (movement!) or in the rain (fun watercolor experimentation!). Take advantage of small, quiet moments throughout your day to sketch wherever you are.
Constantly try new tools.
Whenever my budget allows, I invest in a few, new art supplies. By doing this, I’ve not only discovered some tools that I love, but I’ve also learned new techniques by using things that aren’t familiar to me. If something doesn’t work for me, I can easily donate, share, or resell it.
Interact with other artists.
Not only do I live in a very rural area but I’m also a work-at-home, homeschooling mama. At this stage of my life interacting with other artists online works best with me. Even though I haven’t met many of my “friends” in person, these relationships have made a huge impact in my life! Seeing other artists’ work along with how they do things has been a huge inspiration and challenge. I look forward to the day when I can participate even more with fellow artists.
Take (or teach) a class.
Classes can be a great way to expand your skills or learn new ones, and I’m not only referring to art classes. Sure, art classes are great but even a class like martial arts or creative writing can grant new skills that can be used in artistic endeavors. Many activities share characteristics similar to art like observation, dedication and focus and can challenge us to get outside of our comfort zone — which is where growth occurs!
Also, have you ever considered teaching? You may not know much about sketching or painting or lettering, but there is always someone who is more of a beginner than you! As a longtime teacher, I have discovered that the best way to learn something is to share my passion with others. Teaching certainly keeps me on my toes and greatly challenges me as an artist and a mom!
Practice quietness and stillness.
In our highly interactive and achievement-focused world, these aren’t traits that are often encouraged. As Einstein is quoted, "The monotony and solitude of a quiet life stimulates the creative mind.” He was a genius, by the way, so I assume he knew what he was talking about. :) I often take a walk down to a quiet place and sit, no sketching or texting or bird identification books allowed. It is amazing what I see and hear (and learn) when I take the time to be still.
These are just a few ideas but there are plenty of other ways to grow as an artist, so enjoy exploring them to the fullest! Thank you so much for joining me here at Scratchmade Journal through this learning process. To see all of the articles in the Art Journaling 101 series, scroll through the links below.