I started selling my artwork years ago. It was never a “business,” and I never dreamed that I’d have a blog, a website, a print shop, an online store, and be hired to create pieces for so many people across the world. If you had told me when I started that my work would be hanging in the homes of multiple professional athletes and musicians, I would have said you were insane! When I started selling my work, it was black and white pencil drawings – almost always portraits. They weren’t terribly detailed, and I could usually throw something together in a day or two. “Sure, I’ll draw your kid for $20.” So how did I go from $20, one-day portrait projects to taking custom commissions from celebrities and creating paintings that sell for anywhere from 10 to 100 times that amount? I grew and developed my skills. I increased my library of knowledge. I found things I wanted to learn how to do, I gave them a shot, and if I enjoyed it – I kept doing it! I refined my skills and I made them a part of my arsenal. But here’s the thing – not everything I’ve tried has turned out well. Some things I decided right away “were not for me.” Similarly, there were some things I enjoyed, but I was terrible at – so I waited to develop the talent before I offered them as one of my services. But no matter whether it was a skill I kept up or one that I ditched right away, the key for me was deciding I wanted to try it. Trying new things is so important. But of course, it can be intimidating. So here are five simple tips on how to try something new and ROCK IT!
1. Do Your Homework!
If there’s something I want to try, before I go crazy buying every material I can get my hands on in that section of the art store, my first stop is YouTube and my second is Amazon. YouTube is an incredible library of knowledge that can help you learn how to do just about anything! I will hop on for a few days and search for people who do what I want to do and have a few videos that cover my topic. For example, before I committed to buying my oil painting supplies, I watched a few videos on what you need to start, how much time you should plan to spend on a piece, and I learned some helpful tips, tricks and techniques. By watching a bunch of videos that show what the skill actually takes, I am able to decide that “yes, that seems like something I could do” or “you know what, it seemed like a good idea but I don’t think it’s for me.” Maybe it’s too time consuming, you need too much space, or the supplies are just too expensive. You’re never going to master any technique on the first try, but having an idea of whether or not it seems like something you’ll have the ability to do with practice is important! After I’ve watched a few videos, if I still feel like I want more education, I’ll get on Amazon and browse their selection of books. I still love physical books, and having them on hand is so helpful. Whether it’s an academic-styled book or just one put together by another artist full of their tips for creating and selling work, I’ll pick up a few and use those as additional reference to know what I need to pick up from the store. By doing all of this, it not only gets my mind going and encourages me, but it helps me avoid spending too much money on things I discover I don’t need. I mean do I really want to spend $400 on oil painting supplies if I know I won’t develop the skill? Of course not. So do your research first. See if what you want to do is realistic based on your free time, skills and your interest level.
2. Be a Student First!
Ok, so you’ve decided you want to give that new painting project a shot. You head off to the store with the list of things you need to get started. You pick up a huge, premium canvas, the top of the line brushes, all the accessories and tools you can find that your favorite YouTuber mentioned, and you pick up an assortment of artist level paints. Because the best materials mean your stuff will turn out the best, right? Well, while it may be true that quality materials will produce a higher quality and longer lasting product, you don’t necessarily want to jump right into the high price tag stuff on your first go! So one of my most helpful tips is to save your money and be a student first! Start with lower grade materials and develop your skills and technique. Find your style. Find what it is that makes you feel confident in your work. It could take you one sitting, or it could take you a full year. There’s no sense in playing around with the highest quality and most expensive materials if you have no idea what you’re doing! You may find out that you don’t even enjoy the project! Start with “student grade” materials. Develop your style and your voice. Refine your skills and then move on to the next level of materials. There is nothing wrong with student grade materials! This is what they are for: learning, testing, developing and experimenting. Take advantage of that!
3. Admit You’re Human and Be OK With It!
Let’s be real – that very first attempt at this new skill, whether painting, drawing, woodworking, knitting, whatever it may be, it is more than likely going to suck. You will probably look at it and think, “…whoa, that is not what it was supposed to look like. That was very different in my head.” But here’s the thing. That happens to everyone! Even the most talented artists have early pieces that they look back on and go “yikes.” In fact, every now and then, even after we’ve developed our skills we still end up with a few stinkers. We just don’t necessarily show them off! No matter how prepared, educated or inspired you are and no matter how clear the picture in your head might be, your first attempt at something new will probably not turn out the way you want it to. But hey, isn’t that the point of tips 1 and 2? We’re starting these new projects because we already know we’re interested. We did our research and we’re still excited. We are starting off with the less expensive “learning grade materials” because we are students of our new craft. We are not supposed to master things on our first try! Part of the fun of trying something new is seeing where you start and getting better with each attempt. If you realize that your first attempt is probably going to leave you a little disappointed, possibly embarrassed, but you’re still going to want to try again, you won’t have that feeling of “well, I suck, and I’m never doing this again!” You’re human! You are not a machine – and that is AWESOME!
4. LIVE the Experience!
So what do we do with that first attempt that was such a “huge fail?” Well, sometimes I will toss that first attempt and just laugh. But honestly, most of the time, I hang onto it. It’s kind of like taking a “before” photo when you start a new weight loss or workout program. It’s a way to look back where you started and see how far you’ve come. Something about that is very motivating. So take that first fail and stash it away somewhere. Come back to it later. But right now what you need to do is erase it from your mind and start something new. And this time, instead of worrying about the looks, I want you to focus on the process itself. Focus on your techniques. Focus on the feeling you get when you’re creating. Focus on all the reasons you wanted to take on this project in the first place! Think about relaxing – getting lost in the process. Pay more attention to being in the moment and the reasons why you create! As artists, crafters and creators, we tend to get lost in the expectations of the end result, and we lose sight of why we’re doing what we do! We create things because they make us feel good, am I right? They make us feel emotions, feel inspiration, and help us express feelings that sometimes words cannot. Focus on the feel, the process, the emotion. If it feels right – keep doing it, no matter what it looks like in the end! And remember that art is perfectly imperfect! That’s the point!
5. Get to WORK!
You can do all the research in the world, watch every YouTube video, listen to every lecture and learn everything there is to know about technique, supplies, brand names, other artists and the process, but if you never put those things into practice, you will have wasted your time. So get working! Just create! Do it! Watch a few videos, get some basic supplies and GO! Remember, as you get better, you learn more, you start taking tips and advice from others, you develop your style and you can add more to your pieces. You can always add more tools, try new textures and upgrade your materials. But you have to START in order to get to that point! So right now, think about that one thing you’ve always wanted to learn how to do. What is it? Is it drawing? Painting? Making jewelry? Designing clothing? Whatever it is, as soon as you finish reading this, get on YouTube. Get on Amazon. Search on Google and find out what it is you need to start, make a list, hit the store and get inspired to GET GOING! Then, I want you to take these tips and take the steps to put your inspiration into practice and get to working on building something you never could dream was possible. If it can happen for me, it can happen for you!