5 Things Every Artist Needs

You know you're about to sell your soul, right?

February 25, 2011

Do you want to be an artist? That can mean so many things. Maybe you want to sketch on the weekends. Maybe you want to make a living in graphic design. Some people dream of writing a best-selling, critically acclaimed novel…

Well, guess what?

Talent and connections mean crap if you want to be an artist. Do you want to create something the world’s never seen before? I don’t care if you use acrylic or a camera. Every artist, every one, needs five basic things.


Art by ~MazeFall on deviantART

5) Budgeting Skills

If you’re serious about making it as an artist, be prepared to tighten your belt. A full-time job is nice and pays the bills, but if you’re willing to risk it all, be ready to take something less. Tutoring, classes at the local college, plasma donations, or anything at all that helps pay the bills and gives you the time to work is preferred to a 7 AM to 8 PM job. That kind of schedule is a killer on its own and you’re liable to burn out in just a month if you try to jam everything in.

Don’t be ashamed to taking a less time-consuming job, even if it means you make less. I can’t stress enough how much this is a FULL commitment and is probably an optional part of this list. If you have the drive to see it through until you finish that book or that series of paintings, this is the best thing you can do if you can manage it.


Fyuvix’s Workspace by =fyuvix on deviantART

4) Workspace

Plenty of writers and writing teachers (myself included) believe that you should be able to write or paint or draw no matter where you are. Don’t have your favorite camera? Use a disposable. Computer’s on the fritz? Pen and paper work just fine.

Well… that’s fine if you have no choice, but if you’re going to devote hours of your time per day to something, you need a space that’s your own.

It doesn’t even have to be a full room. It could be the kitchen table, but make the space personal. Listen to music. Have a few books with poems, artwork, or photographs handy if you need a little reference or inspiration. Make sure you’re comfortable.

Do anything and everything so the space is a place you wish to revisit over and over again. Take control.


Cooking by ~annafilip on deviantART

3) Cooking Skills

Thing you’re going to eat at fancy restaurants or sip coffee with likeminded misanthropes in some trendy coffee bar? Think again, Sparky.

Creating art takes time. I’m talking real time. Hours a day, months or even years at a time. While you may go out once in a while, you’re not getting your meals from a restaurant on a daily basis unless you have the cash handy and saved up. Likewise, don’t count on instant meals. Those things have so much salt in them that you’ll shoot your system before you can finish your masterpiece.

Learn to make the best of pasta, vegetables, chicken, and fish. Of course, there are other foods you can use, but make sure you get enough to keep you going.


Food critic by ~LilyanWilbury on deviantART

2) Two Critics

Orson Scott Card once wrote that every writer needs two critics: one who never lies and one who piles on nothing but praise.

Find someone who will shower you with praise. That someone could be a spouse, partner, child, whatever. Just find someone who will point out the great things about your work. The important thing, though, is to not pile on false praise. Find someone who will see the true good points in your work.

And the other critic? It should be someone who wants to kill you just to watch you die.

Seriously. Find someone who will find the most minute errors in your work, everything from a wayward piece of dust to a misplaced comma.

You want both because hearing the positive critic will make you receptive to the negative critic. You’ll find the mistakes in your work and not feel down because, well… you found the mistakes in your work.

There are two types of artists: those who cry at criticism and those who say they don’t cry at criticism.


Seven Virtues-Patience by ~AnimeFreak8755 on deviantART

1) Patience

Good work takes time. I won’t pretend I fully understand when a work is done. Frank Herbert once wrote that in the Dune universe, Arrakis taught the philosophy of the knife: you cut away until a work was complete.

Learn this basic trait. At some point, you’re no longer editing or honing your craft. You’re stalling.

Now to get to work.


struggling artist by ~OhBrightBlack on deviantART

Now that I’ve ruined art, let’s get some happy links to cheer you up.

  • I don’t like Apple products. I’ll admit that part of it comes from not being comfortable using them on a daily basis, but they’re just so… black box. But what if Apple made other things in life?
  • Okay, I’m a carnivore and know that meet comes from animals that must be killed… but do you really need a bullet that could take down a battle tank?! Look, if you need a gun that shoots an anti-tank round and you use it to hunt ducks, you’re about as hung as a Ken doll.
  • And finally, in what I can only describe as the greatest pice of television footage ever, Justin Beiber is shot and killed on CSI. Enjoy.

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