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.
There are still some spots available for my upcoming, Continuing Landscapes in Pastel at the Delaplaine Art Center. If you are an oil painter or love to work in color, but would like to try out a new medium, this might be a great course for you.
Or, if you want to work in a more forgiving art medium than watercolor, pastel could be the perfect choice for you! It’s a wonderful medium that combines all the characteristics of drawing which is generally a dry media, with the painterly characteristics of color and texture, such as oil painting, but in contrast, pastels have no drying time.
Working in soft pastels also doesn’t require a full complement of art supplies, such as pallets, brushes, or water jars. Instead, you can get started with just some soft pastels, erasers, pastel pencils, and pastel paper to begin your creative journey. Easy to set up and easy to clean up. No brushes or palettes to clean! And it’s so easy to correct your mistakes, with a kneaded eraser. What could be better? Here’s a sneak peek at some of the projects we will work on colorful meadows, fall scenes, and even a mixed media garden landscape. Please visit: https://delaplaine.org/ to sign up or learn more about this wonderful course!
In my experience as an artist and teacher, I have learned how important it is to incorporate a wide range of value in my own artwork and art demonstrations. Test the truth of this insight by joining my art course, Continuing Landscapes at the Delaplaine art center this July! We will start with pastel techniques, and then work our way through the elements of art, such as value and color, etc. to build successful landscape pastel paintings. To learn more, visit https://delaplaine.org/.
This summer I am teaching two great art courses at the Delaplaine Art Center in Frederick, MD! The first course begins on June 22nd, and it’s called, Drawing into Calm: A mixed media survey course. In this course, you will learn how to work in a variety of media from watercolor and pen to acrylic and pastel. We will explore which media are compatible, such as watercolor and ink pen, and gain inspiration from a variety of famous artists, such as Monet, Paul Klee, and Odilon Redon, among others! It’s a course that is perfect for beginner artists and will explore both drawing demonstrations and painting demonstrations, as well as collages. If you want to try new media or love art history, this might be the perfect course for you! Visit the Delaplaine website at: https://delaplaine.org/, to register or learn more.
The other course I am teaching is called, Continuing Landscapes in Pastel, and it’s perfect for experienced pastel artists who would like to learn more about color and value in the context of the four seasons. This course is geared toward more experienced artists who have some drawing experience. The four seasons, summer, autumn, winter, and spring will provide a context for exploring the elements of art, value, and color, such as using cool colors like blue or violet to depict snow, and warmer color palettes to illustrate fall foliage. Both courses are designed for adults. To learn more, visit https://delaplaine.org/instruction/classes-workshops/.
The good news is that my art courses at the Delaplaine are filling up! And, the good news for you is that there are a few more spots left! The three courses I will be teaching are Classic Drawing, a beginner drawing course, Drawing into Calm: A Mixed Media survey course, and Landscapes in Pastel: The Four Seasons.
The drawing course is great for those who have always wanted to draw but did not know where to begin, and I will teach you four different drawing modalities such as contour drawing, and using shapes to construct forms. With so many options, you are bound to find a method that brings you excellent results!
The next two courses, Drawing into Calm and Continuing Landscapes are a bit more advanced. In the former, we will study a variety of different art media such s watercolor, pastel, collage, and much more! It’s a veritable buffet of art media to try each week with lessons on collage and painting with subject matter that includes, animals and landscape. You will learn what media works best together in combinations that you wouldn’t have imagined, such as wax resist and collage!
And in the course of the landscape, we will explore a variety of light and color effects such as filtered light to imitate the qualities of the four seasons, such as spring, summer, fall, and winter! Soft pastel is perfect for those who love to paint, but don’t want to wait for it to dry! The elements of art, such as color, shape, form, and value will inform each lesson, and you’ll learn valuable skills such as how to mix colors to get the exact color you want! To learn more, visit https://delaplaine.org/instruction/classes-workshops/. Thanks for stopping by!
My beginner drawing course is now officially full! I am so excited, but there are still some open spots in my mixed media survey course, Drawing into Calm, and Continuing Landscapes, The Four Seasons. To learn more, visit http://www.delaplaine.org. Here are some photos of the artwork I plan to demonstrate for these courses, to give you a sneak preview!
If you are a creative type or if you like to make things, you have probably encountered the moment when the finished product you imagined, does not live up to your expectations. Creative types such as musicians, composers, producers, dancers, writers, artists, photographers, cooks, and makers of all types, can probably tell you what it feels like to hit a wall with a project, how it felt, and what they did to navigate that feeling of utter frustration. As an artist, I have experienced this frustration more times than I can count. Some paintings and drawings are simply learning projects and are difficult to salvage, while others can be fixed.
I know it’s been said that you learn more from your mistakes than your successes, but when I get to a point in a painting or drawing and I realize that the painting or drawing doesn’t look right, it can be really frustrating. I start doubting myself, feel like giving up, or doing something that I am not good at, like cooking or cleaning because I know that I am not good at these things, so my expectations of success in these domains are much lower than for painting or drawing since I have no training in cookery or housekeeping. Since I know I am not a good cook, if it doesn’t turn out so well, it’s a waste of ingredients but I don’t feel as emotionally attached to the outcome as I would to a painting or drawing.
I recently read a forum question on the website, Wet Canvas.com, and the question of the day was,” When should I stop working on a painting? I was intrigued by the question, and wondered how other artists dealt with paintings that can “look like a dog’s breakfast.” I read about a variety of solutions suggested by artists who had hit the wall creatively. Some were familiar to me, like my tendency to put the painting away and stop looking at it for a few days, weeks, months, or even longer. Others were not as familiar such as putting the painting somewhere where you can see it, such as on an easel in a living room, and then taking time to look at it from time to time to diagnose the problem. Another favorite technique is to write a list of things I want to change in the painting, be it the drawing, colors, value, edges, etc. In my case, some of the artwork I have abandoned was started about two years ago, and I am just now starting to look at the sketches and Photoshop files.
This week I took some time to work some more on my acrylic painting, Waiting: Creative Block. I realized that there were several things bothering me about it. The colors and values, and composition were some of the biggest glaring errors. I am realizing there are many reasons why this painting series of poetry illustration works have been abandoned. One of which was being too busy with other things to give the series the proper amount of time it requires to get things right, such as the composition and the drawing. Since I dropped out of the Social Work program at Frederick Community College, I do have more time to work on paintings.
And since I have deliberately looked at my schedule e and started marking studio days on the calendar, I have more “intentional “time. But I am also realizing just how hard this series is, as I am making some paintings almost entirely from scratch by combining different photo references in Photoshop and then drawing and painting them, with this technique, I do not have the luxury of working from reference photos already taken. I have to look for source material and then combine it to make it my own. This project is highlighting areas of weakness in me as an artist, and one of them is composition. I have a tendency to put everything in the middle and don’t often use more unconventional compositional styles. I want to change that and start looking to master artworks to try and broaden my skills in this area.
Another great way to improve your painting skills is to draw, yes draw. Regularly and in a sketchbook if you can, as much as you can so that you can practice things like composition, color, proportions, etc. It can also help you see patterns in your work, such as a favorite subject you return to, or a color palette. A sketchbook is also a great place to try out a variety of art media since it doesn’t feel as precious as a large painting can sometimes feel. This week I am featuring photos from my old sketchbook to show just how diverse you can be in art media. I include mixed-media collages and colored pencil drawings. The sky really is the limit with sketchbooks!
Have you ever wondered what makes the four seasons so unique? Find out by taking my pastel class, The Four Seasons at the Delaplaine Art Center this April! Pastel is a very forgiving art medium that allows you to combine the qualities of painting and drawing with vibrant color! Best of all, no drying time is required and few supplies are needed to get started! To learn more, visit http://www.delaplaine.org.
Artists: What kind of Artist Are You-Amateur, Hobbyist, or Professional?
Pictured is a work in progress, which I plan to use to advertise my upcoming mixed media narrative course at the Adams County Arts Council in Gettysburg, PA.
This is an example of a final project for my Classic Drawing course, which focuses on teaching beginners the fundamentals of drawing, such as line, shape, and form as well as shading techniques to simulate a variety of textures in still life. I will be offering this course in April at the Delaplaine Art Center April! Visit: https://delaplaine.org/class/?id=22-4-DR02 to learn more!
Here is a photo of a mixed media piece from my course, Drawing Calm: A mixed Media survey, which will be offered again at the Delaplaine Art Center in April of this year. Click on the link to learn more: https://delaplaine.org/class/?id=22-4-DR03
This is a sample of the demonstrations which I plan to teach in my Continuing Landscapes course at the Delaplaine Art Center in Frederick, MD this April! Click here to learn more: https://delaplaine.org/class/?id=22-4-DR04.
Why I decided to Write about Artist Types
It’s been a while since I last posted on this blog, and I have debated off and on within myself, whether to continue blogging about the series I started in May called and famous failures. However, at the end of the day, I decided that I would switch gears and write about a more arts-based topic. Instead, I decided to examine the topic of different artist types and the pros and cons of each type. It’s my belief that there is no superior type of artist, and that it is all about what type works best for you. However, I do think that it takes a very unique person to be able to combine the roles of both artist and entrepreneur.
In my opinion, such individuals must be extremely dedicated to making art their life’s work, no matter what it takes, or how much time they have to invest in learning their craft and other business skills to make a profit. On the contrary, not every artist has that sort of drive or wants their art to be consumed by the public as a commodity. Perhaps for some, art is an outlet for their feelings and experiences and they would rather keep that private, which is perfectly fine. Meanwhile, there are other artists who find themselves somewhere in the middle between hobbyists and amateur artists. These artists, sometimes called, “double jobbers,” want to take their art to a more professional level, but also work a day job, such as the British artist described in the article, “The Double Jobbers, Making a Living into eh Arts, by Kathy B. Sweeney, posted on The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2012/jul/29/living-working-in-the-arts. Consequently, they are not pressured to make a living from their art.
On the other hand, there are artists who cannot imagine doing anything else with their lives and spend almost all of their time marketing and making their artwork, such as Elizabeth St. Hillaire, Kelly Wynne, and many others. The three types of artists which I will discuss in this blog post are hobbyist, amateur, and professional artists, along with the pros and cons of each type.
Why is it important to know what type of artist you are?
I picked this topic because I have been wrestling with the question about what category I fall into as an artist: Amateur, Hobbyist, or Professional? In my opinion, it’s important to know which category of artist you fall into because there are specific actions that you need to take if you want to go beyond making artwork for pleasure and start making it with a business mindset. According to the author, Alyson Stanfield, who wrote the art business book, I’d Rather Be in the Studio, it is not enough just to make art, you need to learn about how to market and sell your art, as well as to sharpen your artistic skills and creating a specific body of work that showcases your unique style as n artist. (Sources: Artwork Archive, “Alyson Stanfield Shares Her 10 Best Marketing Tips,” https://www.artworkarchive.com/blog/alyson-stanfield-shares-her-10-best-art-marketing-tips, accessed on 06/14/18, and Alyson Stanfield, I’d Rather Be in the Studio!, preface, pg. 1, 2008, Pentas Press, Golden. Colorado, and Aletta de Wal, “Hobbyist, Amateur or Profefessional Artist: Which Are You?” http://emptyeasel.com/2011/02/01/hobbyist-amateur-or-professional-artist-which-are-you, accessed on June 6, 2018. )
My Journey as an Emerging Artist
After my father died in 2011, I realized that I wanted to make the most of the time I had left. I wanted to live without regrets about pursuing art to the highest extent possible. For as long as I can remember, it has been my dream to be an artist. In fact, my grandmother reported in her scrapbook that I began drawing at the age of 3. When I first started making art with the intention of selling it, back in 2011, my catalyst for making art was that I needed an avenue to express my grief.
Deciding what level of involvement in art that I want to have in my life has modified my choices and informed my decisions about my career, how I spend my time, and how I spend my money. I’ve gone from being a wide-eyed dreamer of a someday art career, as an art student, who lived amongst the bubble of the art community, to living life after college with all its startling reality. This world I now live in includes: bills, student loan debt, working as much as I can on my art while balancing a night job, experiencing frequent rejections for art shows, and feeling unrelenting and crushing self-doubt about my abilities as an artist. I feel I have been drifting without many purposes in my quest to be a professional artist, and it’s making me wonder whether this is the life I really want.
Making the Jump from Hobbyist Artist to Amateur Artist
In more recent years, I have really stepped up my activity to bring my art to a more professional level, such as: creating profit and loss sheets in Excel, designing an art catalog of inventory, launching an artist website, blogging about art, participating in more frequent art shows, hosting studio sale events at my home, producing custom art, and starting commerce shops on Etsy and Red Bubble, etc. However, all of this activity has been challenging and sometimes disappointing. It seems to me that no matter how hard I try, I am still struggling to sell my art consistently. I have also made efforts to connect with people on a personal level through writing blog posts, and producing artist newsletters.
However, I am still not making a profit, and instead, I find myself falling into debt to pay for framing, art supplies, and marketing expenses. Even more importantly, I feel I have lost the joy of making art in the midst of all this business-related activity. Consequently, I’ve had severe doubts about whether I want to be a professional artist, because of the amount of work, time, emotion, skill, and unflagging confidence a professional artist must have to survive. I wonder, are any other artists are struggling with this situation? And I’m also asking myself, do I really want to be a professional artist, or not? If not, then what type of artist do I want to be?
Since writing this post, I am now adding a new dimension to my identity as an artist, as a teaching artist, and I now teach art classes at Delaplaine Art Center, Frederick Community College, and the Adams County Arts Council. This new role, which I began in 2019, has informed my studio practice in a way that challenges me to keep learning new skills, and techniques so that I have fresh new content to offer my students and to inspire my own personal work, which is becoming more and more content-based, i.e. art that is meant to be a personal expression of my thoughts, memories, poems that inspire, etc. My favorite new place to continue my education as an artist and teacher is youtube, which is chock full of free art tutorials, such as The Virtual Instructor, Rapid Fire Art, and my favorite pastel artist, Karen Margulis, to name a few! To learn more about my current class offerings in pastel, mixed media, and drawing, please visit www.delaplaine.org. I am also working on a new art course about mixed media narratives at the Adams County Arts Council. I will update that information as soon as it becomes available.
What are some Specific Types of Artists?
To investigate and to define the different types of artists that anyone can be, I read an article entitled, “Hobbyist, Amateur, or Professional Artist-Which are you?” written by Aletta de Wall on the website, Empty Easel, at http://emptyeasel.com/2011/02/01hobbyist-amateur-or-professional-artist-which-are-you. The author, De Wall, states that there are three categories of artists and they are: Hobbyist, Amateur, and Professional and that each type is distinctly different. (Source: ibid)
The Hobby Artist
For example, hobby artists are not trying to make a living from their art, and they may only make art when the creative bug bites. (Source: ibid) In addition, hobby artists may study for many years and hone their craft by taking classes and workshops, but they may not ever receive the recognition that their work deserves because they are not taking actions that would promote their art effectively, such as having a business or marketing plan. (Source: ibid) On the other hand, an advantage of being a hobby artist is that there is no pressure on them to cater to a specific audience or make a profit, so they are free to experiment with a variety of media and subject matter and styles and techniques. They may also have more time to make art because there is no imperative to make a profit and engage in business-related activities such as marketing, bookkeeping, or sales.
The Amateur Artist
Another category of artist types is an amateur artist. This type of artist has started to play with the idea of making their art into a profession. (Source: ibid) Perhaps they have started to think that they need to start selling their art to help foot the bill for their art supplies and to start being able to deduct their art expenses from taxes. (Source: ibid) An important distinction between hobby artists and amateurs is that amateurs are willing to give up their personal time in order to learn how to sell their art and create new works. (Source: ibid) However, they may be uncertain about how to turn their passion into a viable business. (Source: ibid)
The Professional Artist
Finally, the last category of artists that this article discussed is professional artists. This type of artist is distinguished from the other two types of hobby artists and amateur artists because they consider art to be their profession. (Source: ibid, and Drew Kimble, “9 Warning Signs of an Amateur Artist,” https://skinnyartist.com/9-warning-signs-of-an-amateur-artist, accessed on June 7, 2018. )
These types of artists want to make a profit from their art, build a following, and continue to build their business skills at the same time. They have an intense level of dedication for their art and are willing to sacrifice time, money, sleep, and do whatever it takes to make a profit. (Source: ibid, and Drew Kimble) They might work another day job to help support their business or eventually quit their day job when they are able so that they can devote more time to making art and learning how to sell it.
Other activities that they engage in are: making studio time a daily habit, applying for grants, writing artist newsletters, submitting their artwork for review at galleries and art fairs, writing business plans, extending their knowledge of effective business practices by attending art business workshops, etc. (Source: ibid, and Hayley Roberts, “Twelve Things No One Ever Tells You About Being An Artist,” The Huffington Post, https://www.huffingtonpost.com/hayleyroberst/twleve-things-no-one-tell.html. accessed on June 7, 2018.) They also promote their artwork online and offline through social media, their artist website, and in real-life artist events, such as art gallery openings, art festivals, etc. (Source: ibid)Some may also make a living by teaching their craft to others. (Source: Aletta De Wal, “Hobbyist, Amateur, or Professional Artist-Which are you?”, and Hayley Roberts, “Twelve Things No One Ever Tells You About Being An Artist,” ) .
These artists may receive more recognition for their artwork, but they may also experience more criticism and rejection than the two other types because they are more aggressively pursuing art gallery representation, etc. In addition, they may have less time for making artwork because they have to balance making art with business-related duties. Furthermore, they may struggle to sell their art or make consistent income and they may face stiff competition from other artists because it is such a saturated field. It is a long road for these artists towards building a following and making a success from their art, but they are dedicated for the long haul. (Source: Drew Kimble, “9 Warning Signs of an Amateur Artist,” https://skinnyartist.com/9-warning-signs-of-an-amateur-artist, accessed on June 7, 2018. )
What about You? What Type of Artist are you?
So what about you, reader? What type of artist are you? I would love to hear about your dreams and hopes with regard to making art. Thanks for taking the time to stop by and read this. Next week, I will be talking about this topic of artist types in more detail, with a slight twist. The twist will be a more in-depth look at what it really means to be a professional artist and why it has been traditionally so difficult to be successful in this field.