Artist advice

It has been far too long I know, but real life and other projects™ have been taking up a lot of my time and I sorely need more hours in the day. However, I am excited to say that work is now rolling ahead with Carl Homer’s The Last Bed & Breakfast so I can really start getting my hands into creating some mattes for the rest of the FX team to work with. Shifting from paint to photography presents a whole new set of challenges and I’m really looking forward to working with my favourite themes in a different medium.

For any other budding matte painters out there, I heartily endorse, which is full of good advice, resources and tutorials from a friendly community.

A friend recently retweeted some advice by Texan writer and artist Austin Kleon (do check out his newspaper blackout work, its great stuff) about being a writer/artist. Interesting stuff, but it really got me to thinking about the nature of advice for artists.

Personally, I blame the dead. Artists from the past present a great opportunity for seeing how easy it is to be an artist, with great projects interspersed with wild parties and riches. Even better are the stories of hardship – romantic journeys of hardship where the artist sacrifices food in order to buy paint. It is not the fault of these artists of course, or even of their biographers because its mostly our fault, its what we want to hear.

Its also why there are so many books and articles full of helpful advice on how to be creative. When we’re learning to be artists we read them all in the hopes of the magic advice that will make success happen and when we admit that we will never stop learning we read them to see if people have the same problems we do. Or at least I do. Just like dieters, the aspiring artist doesn’t want to hear what they are being told: you have to eat less. You have to work hard.

There is no magic wand to make art. No software, tutorial, class, pill or potion that will turn you from where you are now to where you want to be without having to work.

That might sound somewhat pessimistic but the truth is that art is hard work, or at least I find it to be. Its not hard work like digging coal or saving people from burning buildings, but it is time-consuming, put your heart on the line, daily practice hard.

The best advice I can ever give is that you should draw, sketch, shade, blind contour, doodle, smudge, play and imagine whenever you can. Draw in your sketchbook, on notebooks, on newspapers, receipts, timetables, takeaway menus or whatever else you have to hand. Draw with your best pencils, with crap pencils, with crayons, biros, highlighters, tipex, burnt matches, mud or anything else that seems like it can make a mark. Create everyday. Create great things and crap things and throw them away before anyone else sees them things. Draw the things that you love and the things that scare you (both emotionally and because they are hard to do), draw whatever you want or whatever is in front of you, but keep on drawing.

That’s my less than magic wand advice to anyone who reads this – Just. Keep. Working. Its hard, it requires practice and you’ll probably have to keep doing it until the day you decide that you don’t really want to make art anymore but keep on drawing.

Practise is Practice.


  1. I was very pleased to find your blog.I wanted to say thanks for your time and for this wonderful read!! I enjoyed every bit of it and I have you bookmarked to check out your new stuff so I shall be back soon.

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