This week I am writing about my somewhat haphazard journey toward becoming an artist and some lessons I have learned along the way. I also add a few insights from some famous artists that I feel provide a meaningful segue for my thoughts. A few months back when I was hosting an Artist opening show at Spin the Bottle Wine Company in Frederick, MD, one of the visitors to the wine shop asked me how I got my start as an artist. I answered that my mother had always encouraged me to make art and that she had enrolled me in a watercolor painting class at the age of nine. Since then I have taken many other art classes at the Howard County Center for the Arts (acrylic and watercolor), Howard Community College (drawing and photography), McDaniel College (graphic design, sculpture, drawing, and oil painting), and art classes with local artist Rebecca Pearl for watercolor, to name a few.
My journey has not been a straight path to overnight success. Instead, it has had many ups and downs, despite how things might look in my carefully timed and worded Facebook Posts and artist biographies that I write. For example, I don’t post artwork that I don’t like for the most part, and the ones I do post have often been reworked several times. Furthermore, the artworks that I show in galleries, coffee shops, etc., are examples of my best work, culled from unfinished works, experiments, and messes. In the words of poet Langston Hughes, “This life ain’t been no crystal stair.”
I can’t speak for the path of other artists, but after I graduated from McDaniel College with a bachelor’s degree in art, I struggled to find a path that would work for me. After graduation, I had to balance the realities of everyday realities such as student loan payments, with my dreams of being an exhibiting and teaching artist. My transition from being an art student in a creative bubble, to the world outside those walls, was not seamless. For instance, it was hard to deal with the isolation of being an artist without a group of creatives to cheer me on or encourage me when rejection inevitably came, in the form of rejection letters from Graduate Schools, such as Towson University, MICA, and James Madison University. There were also rejection letters from art galleries that rejected my artwork. At the time, I thought the only way to be an artist was to teach art or to exhibit my artwork in juried art shows.
During this time, I took classes in a variety of subjects other than art, trying to find out what I wanted to do with my life, such as history, social work, and graphic design. None of these seemed to “fit”, and I usually ended up returning to art again at some point, either by taking another art class or by making art on my own time on days off from work or in the evenings. I worked in customer service jobs as a library assistant, and hostess, and next, I work as a Receptionist at a Funeral Home. I have learned that there are many different ways to be an artist, whether it provides your livelihood or not. At present, I divide my time between working as a part-time Adjunct faculty art teacher and making art in my spare time. I’m constantly looking for new opportunities to exhibit my art or share my art with others on Instagram and Facebook, or at art festivals or coffee houses.
One of the most valuable lessons I have learned during my creative journey as an artist was to be careful with whom I showed my art and to carefully filter people’s comments about my art to see if they are helpful. I’ve had some bad critiques in the past and so I try to choose people who have my best interests at heart and who have some art training but are not pretentious or mercilessly blunt. Source: Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic, and 10 Life Lessons from History’s Most Famous Artists, Kim Smiley, 03/02/17.
And finally, another lesson that I am currently in the process of learning is that it takes a lot of time, sweat, and tears to perfect one’s craft as an artist. By no means does excellent work occur in and of itself. It takes years of practice and determination not to give up on practicing one’s art. For example, according to Kim Smiley, the Renaissance sculptor, painter, poet, and engineer, Michelangelo, knew that it took patience to create art, and likewise, Leonardo Da Vinci, states, “Art is never finished, only abandoned.” According to Smilet, artists should “go against the grain” of our modern culture to get everything done quicker, and instead take their time to create quality work and the patience to carry it out. One way that I am working on practicing my craft has been to challenge myself to draw a portrait a day, or as often as possible. Every time I create a portrait of a celebrity, changemaker, or another historical figure, I post the results on Instagram. So far I have created 91 line portraits out of the 100 I planned to make. It’s a work in progress. If you are interested in following my drawing challenge, 100 faces in 100 days, you can find me on Instagram as jsjsschmidt2, or you may view my website, www.artofschmidt.com, which has a link to my Instagram page and is updated each time I post a new drawing.
Author’s Note: This blog post is from my archives but the artwork is new, and it illustrates some of the new work I have been making in my art sketchbook. The goal for these works has been to try to re-do unsatisfactory artwork in these pages and complete the work as a series which different topics each month. This month my focus is on nature. I only started this project about a month ago, and have already learned so much about color, value, and composition!
And by the way, if you are looking for a fun class in which to practice your color mixing and drawing skills, you might enjoy my course: Beginning Pastels at Delaplaine Art Center. To learn more, click on this link: https://delaplaine.org/. I give detailed tutorials on topics such as how to mix color and create value scales to help you to create the artwork you will love! I teach the fundamentals of art such as line, shape, color, and value to give you the tools to make artwork both in my classroom and beyond! There is no grading or homework, so the pressure is off if you were thinking it was another academic type course. I try to teach you fundamentals in a fun and supportive environment.