How to Get Started As an Artist

Artists may use many mediums to express themselves, and with practice, perseverance, and talent, art can be anything from a passionate hobby to a lucrative career.


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    Practice with various mediums. Art is created with an almost limitless variety of mediums, from oil paints to clay, from stone to electricity. Here are a few popular media used by artists.
    • Pencils and paper. Drawing is a fundamental art form, probably first practiced with a piece of charcoal or some colored clay on a cave wall. It is now a refined technique using a variety of paper and pencils.
    • Pen and Ink. Pen and ink is another form of drawing, using heavy rag paper or scratch board, and usually a nib pen and ink. It can be used to create dramatic contrasts, and exquisite detail.
    • Pastels. Pastel sticks are pigment mixed with very little binder and rolled to form sticks that resemble colored chalks. Only the cheapest student grade ones are dyed chalk. They can be used for drawing or painting on pastel paper, heavy sketch paper, watercolor paper or sanded pastel papers.
    • Oil Pastels. These sticks resemble crayons and range from very inexpensive children's oil pastels to artist grade oil pastels made with expensive pigments. Much more opaque than crayons, they work on paper, boards, wood, canvas, metal or almost any surface.
    • Watercolors, oils, and acrylic paints. These are vastly different media, grouped together only because they are familiar to most people, and are all used in what we know as "painting".
    • Ceramics. This media is clay, which can be hand shaped, formed in a mold, thrown on a potter's wheel, or sculpted by other means.
    • Sculpting with stone. This is a challenging and physically demanding technique. Modern technology has created tools for removing stone to form a shape, but traditionally it is done with a hammer and chisels.
    • Photography. A technique which is constantly in a state of change, with new technologies emerging continuously, from digital cameras and editing, to special effects filters and lighting.
    • Carving. Usually done with chisels and knives, this is a traditional art form that has also benefited from technology, with the emergence of die grinding tools for shaping, saws and shapers to duplicate images and remove large amounts of wood quickly, and glues and resins for refitting or laminating the work piece as it is worked.
      • There are many other media and simply too many techniques to cover them all in one article.
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    Experiment with the above techniques and materials, or others, to see which is more enjoyable and productive to you, as an individual.
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    Look at classes offered in your area, or even online. Many school districts offer art classes for students from elementary school through high school. Often these are elective courses beyond elementary school level, and if you are interested in art, try to work your school schedule to take all the art classes possible. Community Colleges and Universities sometime offer adult education classes in many art techniques.
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    Check for studio classes or private art teachers if no classes are available where you live. In former times, almost all artists began as apprentices to "Masters", those who had completed their own apprenticeships and were tradesmen in their craft. Now, some artists will offer apprenticeships to talented individuals who learn from their teacher as they do other studio work as payment.
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    Practice your medium. Keep a record or a portfolio of your work, whether it is in a sketchbook, an album, or with photographs of sculptures or carvings. This will enable you to see improvements, and establish a personal technique.
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    Work with your talents and skills when you have opportunity. If you have talent and develop skill as a painter or in drawing, you may get a chance to do some commission work making posters or signs for neighborhood businesses or events.
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    Watch for contests or art shows which feature the medium you work in. Shopping malls, community organizations, and other groups often sponsor "juried" showings of work, and invite members of the community to display, and sometimes sell, their work. This will be an opportunity to share ideas with other artists, and to see public reaction to your own work.
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    Don't be disappointed when every project is not a success. This is especially true of sculpture or ceramic projects, which may literally fall apart in during the creative process.
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    Look for inspiration everywhere you go. Be very observing and pay attention to the whole world around you! From the trees in your local park, to how their golden leaves glow in the natural light, the world is full of shapes, textures, images, colors, and forms, and many of what are regarded as masterpieces were created using a simple, not beautiful subject, and the talent of a dedicated artist.


  • Some people listen to music while working, because it helps them to keep working for longer and makes it easier to concentrate. Others say it is a bad idea because they consider it makes it harder concentrate on the work.
  • Draw your feelings like when you're sad, mad, or upset. Feelings of conflict can often lead to an interesting result, but it doesn't necessarily mean you have to make sad paintings to be interesting.
  • Purchase the highest quality art supplies you can afford in your chosen medium. They are usually easier to handle and since the color is more concentrated, they may last longer than cheap student versions. Also if a practice piece comes out well using artist grade supplies, you can sell it honestly instead of having to redo it with better materials. Ultimately, you should use the materials that you prefer and that suit you - they will work best for you and your work.


  • Never expect to sell every work you create. Art is a "demand" market, and so, it may be up to you to use creativity to create a demand for your work.
  • Some art media involve dangerous chemicals, or produce hazardous conditions. Dust from ceramics contain silicates, which can cause respiratory problems, and some paints contain heavy metals, which can be toxic upon digestion or respiration. Therefore, never eat or drink during a painting session. Wash your hands afterwards.
  • Don't sell works made with student grade supplies. They are often not light fast and within months or a couple of years may fade and look bad. Customers tell other customers about this and you can hurt your career.

Things You'll Need

  • Tools of your chosen medium, whether pencil and paper, paints and brushes, or cameras and lenses.

Article Info

Categories: Visual & Written Media