For the better part of my life, I have struggled when people ask me what I intended to be when I got older. Sometimes I answered “writer”, and I’ve already achieved that. Other times I answered “artist”, which I’ve also tucked into my cap. For the longest time reconciling these two strong skills has been a challenge but as I approach the end of my undergraduate career, one thing has become obvious: the two are not mutually exclusive.
Both studio art and writing have their own separate skillsets, but there are tools of the trade that can help either the aspiring painter or upcoming poet improve their work, or lessen their struggle.
Practice and study often.
No good work comes for free, and this includes our own. I say this at risk of sounding like a broken record, but I cannot stress this advice enough. Writing and art are both skills that will improve more and more as you continue to practice them- so make it an active habit!
Write as often as you can. Read to find your inspiration. Even if it isn’t your best work, every little bit of experience is helping you to find your flaws and learn from old mistakes. I have spent the past two months learning to track my daily writing, and I’ve already started to see improvements. Find a schedule that works best for you, or lack thereof, perhaps.
The same goes for art. Every piece you create will be a new lesson, or an example to look back on and learn from. Keep track of all of your work- either with a running sketchbook, a collection of drawings and paintings, or storing dozens of Photoshop documents. Just make sure that you keep it. It will be there to show you how far you’ve come and what you still have to learn.
Be as precise as possible.
In my experience with both writing and art, you can never be specific enough. Details will always be misinterpreted by someone- it’s a fact of life with creative fields. But, the more specific you attempt to be in the creation process, the better your chances for those details and emotions to come across to your audience.
For writing, drafts and notes are your best friends. Keep notes on all of the pieces you work on, and know what story you intend to write before you even take to the typewriter. The more you know about the characters, the world, and the events, the more will come across to your audience as you write. Even with short pieces it doesn’t do any harm to know more than you need too. Just also be careful to only include those details which become necessary.
The same can easily apply to art, in more than one way. Knowing how precise, or imprecise you intend to be can make or break the piece you’re working on. If you study the basis of anatomy, color, line, shape- art theory in general- you can know precisely what you need and don’t need in your pieces to convey the emotions you want. Inspiration never hurts either, and multiple drafts can help you fine tune the finished product more than if it were done in one sitting.
Many creative individuals I know, myself included, are all known to be easily discouraged. Sometimes we don’t see ourselves progressing as quickly as we want to. We see something in our work that we aren’t happy with but all the practice in the world doesn’t seem to make any improvements.
With all creative projects, like I said before, nothing ever turns out the way we really intend for it to go on the first try. Sometimes you will write something or start a drawing that just doesn’t click. Take the time to look at that piece and pick it apart slowly- find out what makes it tick, scrap the things that get in the way, and salvage what makes it worth saving. It is a long and laborious process, but it will always improve the final product. Even if it takes two, or three, or thirteen edits, it will be worth it.
Remind yourself that these skills both take time to perfect. They take dozens of years to master. As long as you keep improving you will see your changes- you just need to be patient and do what you do.
Whether you are trying to create your own series of paintings, or find the courage to finally submit to a journal like OAR, confidence is everything. If you do all of these tips above, and put every bit of your heart into something (sometimes until it makes you physically ill to look at), you should remember that you have something to be proud of. Regardless of where you are be confident in your work and do your absolute best.
– Melissa Klein