Top 10 Ways To Grow As An Artist

Work In Progress - Haida Gwaii
“The Portal :: Work In Progress – Gwaii Haanas Collection” ©2012 Janice Tanton. Oil on canvas. 72″x96″.

1. Ignore Every Single “Non-Artist” Authority.

Whether or not it’s your best gallery owner, jurors, grant authorities, your greatest collector, your mother, your spouse or your kids. Ultimately, you need to ignore what they say. Unless they are artists – ignore their opinion on the work. Good…or bad.

If they’re not creating, they’re not in the same zone you are regarding your growth as an artist. Be pure in your mission to create. You are the expert on you and you alone.

2. Eyes On The Prize :: Surround Yourself with Talent Better Than Your Own.

Take stock of your skills. With a critical eye, review where you are weak. Take workshops, study and apprentice with artists who are better than you are. Read art books, watch demo videos. Learn from them. If you enjoy an artist’s vision – tell them. Open up a dialogue and engage! If you’re a realist – check out American Painting Video Magazine which profiles some of the best contemporary realists.

3. Be Authentic and Transparent.

Put it all out there with confidence. If you don’t know something, admit it. If you do – share it. This requires a lot of bravery. Go for it. No one ever grew from being fearful. Let it go. You’ll still be standing tomorrow.

4. Create A Habit To Create.

Make stuff. Lots of it. If it’s not finished, who cares. Just make it. Surround yourself with a lot of work in progress. Have a dozen pieces on the go at once and commit to paint every day for 6-8 week periods or longer. Build it up until you are creating something every day.

5. Boot “Failure” and “Success” OFF the Island.

Ignore them. There is no place for failure or success in the life of the creative. In fact, there’s little space for quantitative measurement of either. There is only the act of creation – the process. Draw from everything you know, let it all go and make something new…without thinking. Don’t judge it – either way. There is no “good” or “bad”. There is just the thing you make.

6. Focus On The Process – Never The Outcome.

Enjoy every moment process in the creation of your work. From the second you wake and pour a coffee to head to the studio, you are creating. Consider that. Enjoy each step – don’t rush until you’re ready to go to the next step. Consider every action of “make” a beautiful, complete moment of creation in itself. Don’t think about the outcome. Just do.

7. Never Apologize.

Be pure in every statement of your work, from the action of the brushstroke to the articulation of the piece. Never “excuse”. If you are honest in your art-making in each step, you’ll learn, create and grow beyond your wildest dreams.

8. Get The Heck Out of Dodge!

Seriously – get out of town! Take a trip far away from your hometown and studio. Visit museums, art galleries and libraries. Find a culture completely different from your own and be curious. Ask questions – learn and challenge your own beliefs. Pick something so different from your “regular beat” that it scares you.

9. Share. Share. Share.

Share everything you know  – no matter what the topic – with everyone who will listen. You’ll learn, in return. Share your failures. Share surprise, success, your birthday, your family…share it all. It’s in sharing our stories, we discover our commonalities and our differences. This is the stuff “art” is made from!

10. Define Your Space. Raise Your Capital.

That means physical, emotional, social, psychological and financial space that will allow you to do 3 1-9. Set yourself up for success by having enough capital to totally commit yourself to your work in all these areas. If you’re looking for a helper, check out Alyson B. Stanfield. Lots of incredible art business advice and workshops here! Need help with your blog? Contact the amazing Kim Bruce. She just saved this blogpost for me!


Got any further ideas or resources? Remember #9 – Share, share share!


Folks Who Inspire:

Jerry Fresia – Authentic Impressionism
Alyson B. Stanfield –
Kim Bruce –
Scott Waddell
Grand Central Academy
Jacob Collins
Bo Bartlett


This Post Has 12 Comments

  1. Sherri

    Great list!

  2. Thomayne Galleries

    Thank you for this. One of the best blog posts I have read in ages. I am going to take it away with me an ponder it for a while 😉

    1. Janice Tanton

      Thank you so much for your comment! I’m pleased you enjoyed it.

    2. Janice Tanton

      Thanks for your comment. So glad you found something useful from it.

  3. Info

    Wowwww…. Amazing list and so true..
    Best wishes from India

  4. imran

    i like art

  5. Leena

    I disagree with you on the “ignore what they say – ignore their opinion” part. It makes the sharing rather lopsided if the persons you are sharing with are going to be ignored just because they are not artists. What are they? They are the people who give their precious time to look at your art and it may be that they care. About you, your art. As an artist, if indeed I am one, I do not want to live in a bubble of artists, valuing the eyes of artists above the eyes of others. Surely, if only artists appreciated one’s work, there would probably not be much to appreciate. I exhibited my work last year and received the most annoying pieces of advice (have you ever considered…do this…do that) from people who did not seem to know much, and some very constructive and painful critique from a fellow artist, and of course comments from parents (use more colour!). I did not like it. Some of it was not intelligent. But it would have been ignorant of me to ignore what they shared with me. Every single piece of it could be used for my own benefit, if only I let go of the annoyance and the stings of pain. I sieved through it to find the gems, what was essential and true whether I LIKED it or not, and used it to improve myself. Use black paper instead of cream? Hell no, never. Use more colour! Ok… I thought there was enough… actually I could use more colour. And now I am better at what I do. And those “non-artists” are the ones I want to impress, just as Hagia Sofia impresses hoards of non-artists every day of the tourist season.

  6. Zaozianlia

    Please elaborate the last point: create your space, physical emotional, psychological financial…and raise your capital, what capital you’re talking of!

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