It’s uncanny, this phenomenon. And yet, it happens over and over again. No matter how many students come through The Mastery Program, no matter how long they’ve been painting before they come to us, time and time again—artist after artist—they all seem to have an inherent compulsion to smooth out their brushstrokes and obsessively blend everything.
There is something... vulnerable about letting yourself be seen. I mean really, truly seen. Sit and look deeply into the eyes of your significant other or your best friend for five minutes without looking away. One minute. Heck... even 30 seconds is often too much for most people without feeling completely uneasy and wanting to flee.
And yet... that's basically what's happening when you leave a bold brushstroke on the canvas without blending it or smoothing it out. You're just leaving this expressive, forward statement out in the open for anyone to see and cast judgment on.
You're laying yourself naked and bare on canvas — and that's terrifying.
It takes most people a lot of work to become confident enough to brazenly lay a bold brushstroke down... and LEAVE IT THERE.
It's like letting someone stare straight into your eyes... forever.
But it doesn't have to be terrifying. It doesn't have to be paralyzing. You CAN learn to be confident enough to be seen.
This all starts within you.
The drive to learn, the drive improve your skills, the drive to be a professional artist—this is the lifeblood that will propel you into the realm of influence you are destined for.
“That sounds great and all, but… where do I actually start?”
Okay, okay. Yes, it does start within you. But then what?
Well… that’s where skill-building comes in.
Here are five tips for growing your skills so you’ll be confident enough to be seen:
1. Learn the basics
If you’re a beginning artist, learning the basics is essential. No matter how long you’ve been painting, a refresher of the fundamentals can reconnect you with your craft and spark new inspiration. And when we say basics, we mean basics. Learning how to hold a pencil when drawing seems like the biggest DUH on the planet, but you'd be shocked to find how many longtime artists find out they've been holding a pencil wrong. Even revisiting fundamentals like cleaning your brushes or understanding the basic differences between paint binders can forge new bonds between you and your process that elicits new ideas. And with new ideas comes the confidence to step out of the box, be a little different, and dare to be yourself.
2. The 100 painting challenge
This one sounds daunting on the surface, but it's actually incredibly fun! The basic premise is to get a hundred small surfaces to work on (typically watercolor paper cut down to about a 5” x 7” to 8” x 10”-ish size), get a handful of fast-moving materials like acrylic inks, water-soluble graphite, alcohol inks, etc., and go nuts! Don't spend any more than about 3 minutes per painting. This fast-paced creative exercise won't give you enough time to think or get into that negative self-talk headspace. This challenge is great for when you're experiencing artist's block, wanting to try out new materials, or just wanting to shed some fears about your creativity. For a full explanation of the exercise, as well as smaller scale versions of it, you can read here.
3. Push yourself
Learning to be comfortable with being seen is directly connected to being willing to be vulnerable. Without vulnerability, the impact of your art won't go very far. Whether you're a beginner who just picked up paint for the first time today or a seasoned professional who's been painting for decades, vulnerability comes with the territory. And one of the quickest ways to get experience vulnerability in your studio is to push yourself out of your comfort zone.
Are you a watercolor landscape artist? Try a portrait in oils today. Are you an old masters' style traditional oil painter? Dive into the expressive world of collage! Basically… do something that makes you uncomfortable. Do something that turns your whole process upside down. You'll learn a little more about yourself and maybe — just maybe — be willing to push the boundaries a little more. Before you know it, you'll be letting the world see a different side of you!
4. Take advantage of free stuff
“There's no such thing as a free lunch.” Okay so, I don't know who originally said that, but they're probably right. Everything comes with a cost in some way — whether it be money, time, or… heck, even your sanity. But that doesn't mean that free stuff isn't worth it.
It's said that in the age of information, ignorance is a choice. With our modern world bringing a vast knowledge base of information right to our fingertips, there really isn't any reason for you to pass up on the plethora of art education available to you. Expand your horizons. Expand your knowledge base. Expand your toolkit. This will bring so much confidence in your creativity and artwork.
Sure, we know there's so many options out there for you to choose from. And we hope you take advantage of every opportunity to keep learning and growing, regardless of where. But we really wouldn't be doing our due diligence if we failed to mention that our institute offers regular free workshops in the Milan Art Community. And okay, okay… at the end of the workshop you'll hear the instructor regale you with how awesome our Mastery Program is. But that's not too much to ask, right? We don't think so. Bring the free lunch you got and learn all kinds of cool stuff with us!
5. The Mastery Program
Did you really think I was gonna mention The Mastery Program up there and not tell you about what it is? Of course not!
This article opened with the commentary on our Mastery Program students coming to us with a compulsion to smooth away the evidence of their uniqueness on canvas. But you know what happens by the time they graduate? They stop doing that.
They also START doing a lot of new things:
They start believing in themselves.
They start being bold.
They start taking control of their destiny.
They start being unafraid of who they are.
They start changing the world.
This one-year program is more than just an art curriculum. Students from all over the world learn how to draw, paint, express themselves, discover their true voice and identity, empower themselves to be entrepreneurs and self-marketers… they become professionals.
They learn how to unabashedly be seen.
And this all starts within you, with the first steps being the willingness to learn and grow your skillset. So, revisit some basics. Try something new. Step out of your comfort zone. Seize your destiny and don't let go.
Be seen and change the world.
Written by Julie Briggs