How Do You Improve Your Artwork?

New Utrecht Avenue
2008, watercolor, 25 x 35. Private collection.

I need personal time in the studio to reflect, journal, and work. I experiment, draw, play, and entangle myself in the nitty-gritty of working on my own craft. It is never enough time, but it is something. Something I can look forward to and walk away from believing the growth has taken seed.

Besides practice, for many of us, reading books and articles, watching videos, attending workshops, or even enrolling in long-term schooling makes a big difference in our development. Finding time to join an art group, either live or online, can also lead to positive interaction with other artists, encouragement, and valuable peer critiques. In short, there is a myriad of resources that can help you grow in your art. How do you choose?

First, you need to develop a sense of the way you learn best. Many of us artists are visual learners, of course, but that could mean we learn best through video, book illustrations, or live classes. The material taught in a book that is recommended by one artist might work better for another artist in video form.

Second, you have to consider how much time and money you can invest. Live workshops are an ideal place to get intense trainingjust talk to anyone that went to Weekend with the Masters this year. But sometimes learning in the privacy of your own studio is better, especially if you are unable to travel or if you want to own the content to watch again and again. There is no better reason than that to purchase a workshop DVD. I’m excited to let you know, too, that we’ve just gotten some new DVDs in our store covering John Salminen’s watercolors and Craig Nelson's drawings. These DVDs offer detailed art instruction, demonstrations, and materials explanations. And they are inexpensive compared to venturing into a workshop.

Of course, there is nothing to compare to practicing your own artwork, but what better way to do that than with an expert in your own studio? And tell us, how do you prefer to improve your artwork?

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About Karyn

   My heart has always been in art and I spend the free time that I can painting.  Currently, I work in acrylics and I'm creating a series of abstract pieces.  But, I'm a materials collector and I've recently purchased some pan pastels, some new oil paints and watercolor pencils.

I no longer work for Artist Daily, so I won't be checking the site regularly and have no ability to remove posts or images.  Please contact the staff of Artist Daily or American Artist if you need help.

16 thoughts on “How Do You Improve Your Artwork?

  1. Karyn,

    Each time I re-watch one of my cherished videos, I catch something that went over my head during previous viewings.

    I do love attending workshops – love the people connections I make and getting personal help with my paintings, but I’m finding that watching videos works almost as well for me. I now have a collection of 2 dozen or so.

  2. Karyn,

    Trying to balance family time, studio time, administration/marketing time is hectic! For me, videos are wonderful, I can start and stop when I need to, and I can always work it in my schedule instead of the other way around. I do love attending outside art workshops, but it is extremely difficult, so reading, research and videos are working best for me now! I love building on my collection!

  3. After downloading the free ebook from you by Sandra Angelo, I tried her ideas.
    I found they really helped my so much.
    I went to her web site and have been working my way through her Drawing 101 course.
    It is just fabulous! I needed to fill in gaps in my drawing techniques, my ability to see, and my use of pencils/tools to help shading and general rendering.
    Also, by starting from the beginning [a very humbling experience] I have made much faster progress than if I started with later courses.
    Now I have ordered here Faces 101 course and Pets 101 course plus the related DVD’s.
    Thank you so much for featuring this artist and her teaching.
    I suggest you get her to write more articles for your magazines.

  4. Lori and Indigene, I think each has its own benefits. The DVD’s and videos are great to re-watch over and over on your own time frame; the books are terrific quick reference; but you don’t have to dust or store a workshop, and you come away with terrific and valuable information that often ties in what you have already learned, and either not quite completely understood or sheds a different light on it.

  5. How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice! I take photos of the subject I’m working on for reference. I visit galleries to see work of artists who do work I admire. I attend workshops, take painting classes, read books and go online to see what’s around… and then, like you Karyn, I try to spend time in the studio applying what I learn and observe. Also, I find that even when I’m stuck… working through your stuckness will lead to new discoveries and better results. So, my observation is that the answer to improving your artwork is doing lots and lots and lots of artwork.

    Very nice painting of New Utrecht Avenue, by the way. As a teenager, i lived on 51st and 14th, so I know the neighborhood well.

  6. Whenever I get stuck I try a different approach. As I worked in Graphite for a number Of years the concept of medium has resolved itself into one of space.For example the application of a thin layer of your medium whether it be graphite ,water , acrylic, oil ,egg ,casein or even pastel and then either building or subtracting to create dimensionality. With this in mind as well as warm/cool shifts, of light patterns hard lines versus soft ,darned near any aspect of the three dimensional world can emerge in two dimensions.

  7. Hello Karyn, your opening statement really describes myself also, it says a lot about how artists need the personal time to reflect and discover who they really are by working at our craft. I go out in the big world, watch other signature artists paint, write down notes and quick sketches to grab important tips. I read many books, go to museums, read blogs even of other artists. I do so many things, I start to spin my wheels too fast. Just this past weekend I worked at my community art gallery and discussed all the entered artwork with another artist and more artists came in to see their works and we talked over awards even more. I was talking so much and listening too, there were so many ideas people shared. It’s when you slow the grind down, go back to your studio and sift out everything that you soaked up, keep what’s special and apply it that feels so enlightening. I trust my own abilities and let the creative juices flow, but I do highly recommend learning new tools or techniques or even critiques by other established artists to help you grow. Oh yes, and draw, draw, draw, paint, paint, paint!

  8. I try to improve my work by 1) actually working at it, 2) looking at as much art as possible, from established masters to new work. I also discovered a great BBC series by art historian Simon Schama, called The Power of Art. It’s wonderfully done and makes you *really* think about art.

  9. I think brandspaman made the point that resonated with me most – practice, practice, practice! And when I’m not practicing, I study, study study! Books have been invaluable to me in my study of fine art technique, but I’ve also found that setting realistic goals (writing them down) and working on being more patient (not being satisfied until I know I’ve done my absolute best) is ultimately what has improved my work.

    Also, I second Kisu’s comment of looking at as much art as possible. When I’m sick and tired of practicing, a museum trip always inspires me to go back home and practice some more. By the way, Kisu, thanks for mentioning the Schama series. I’ve seen some of his historical pieces and have always loved them. I’ll definitely check that out!

  10. Taking courses with several artists that you aspire to is invaluable. Practicing what they preach as well as drawing everyday and painting everyday, going to museums, viewing old masters and modern day masters in good books and videos, there are many great magazines on the market today that also publish wonderful images of great works. The internet takes you to almost any artist site you would like to visit. Seeing great art is more accessible today than ever. But practice makes perfect.

  11. DanielH, your welcome! My 2 favorite episodes from the series are Rembrandt and Rothko–as apparently polar opposites as they may seem, they both struck a similar chord.

  12. I study an image and think about how to get the effect I’m interested in. Then I do it. And then I experiment. After getting the basics it seems that cogitating and experimenting work best for me. Rarely I will read a book – for example for the very first time I am approaching a medium. I don’t like videos because they move and there’s someone talking (which I find distracting and occasionally annoying).

    I am also a serendipitous artist in that I often let many aspects of a work tell me what it wants to do.

  13. Join art clubs and associations in your area. Or start one. Nothing beats the learning experiences of working with other artist, seeing their work and their methods. Sitting home alone and trying to learn is not only frustrating but boring as well. Visit the library and take out books and go to galleries often.

    The sad thing that happens to some artists is when thy feel they reach a certain status – like teaching, they stop taking workshops and they stop learning.

    Were involved in a discipline of constant evolution.

  14. I learn more by a workshop. But the cost sometimes is not permissable. So I resort to DVD’s. I am a Pastel artist and would appreciate more on thissubject.

  15. I honestly feel if you are going to post an image to a blog, that you put the name of the artist with it as well as the title and that it is in a private collection. I was very sure it was John Salminen’s work because his style is so recognizable.