I'm an artist, and so are you! (Even if you don't know it yet)
Art. Crafts. Making things in general. I love them almost to a point of obsession. I'm a multi-media artist, meaning I make many different types of art using many different types of supplies. I'm also a hairstylist by day, which is another realm I get to play in creatively. When I talk about my creative lifestyle, I hear the same conversation all the time. “Megan, how did you get to be so artistic? You're so creative! I don't have a creative bone in my body.” And I tell you what, I don't believe a word of it. Maybe you had a bad day in 3rd grade painting, or you tried to knit a scarf that looked more like something your cat knit it than you did. Maybe you've just never been introduced properly to the vast world of arts and crafts, where everybody can find something that they just love to do.
Well, here I am. I'm here to introduce you to that wonderful world, and after you finish this article, I challenge you to take me up on my artsy-crafty invitation and join the fun! Here's ten things you can do to get started:
Forget the “I'm not artistic” nonsense.
My husband said it best the other day. “We're all born artists, we just forget.” I believe that art is more an action than a product. The art is in the doing, in the creating, and this action of creation is something of which we are all capable. The resulting piece of art or craft is a terrific bonus, but it really is the journey through the creation of a piece of work that gives it value. In other words, just getting in there and doing something makes it art!
Don't take “being an artist” too seriously. Have fun with it!
Certainly there will always be people who study the arts exclusively, and people who devote their lives to the furthering of the arts. However, that doesn't mean that every person who wants to try an art or a craft is held to the same standards. In most cases, you are your worst, and sometimes only critic! Going back to our last point, the creation process is just as important, if not more so, than the physical object you end up with afterward. Sometimes the most fun you will have on a project will be the worst results you produce. And from this, you have more knowledge and skill to bring to your next project. As you learn more, and with practice, the final results will improve as well. Meanwhile, be excited that you are creating something that is uniquely your own.
Find your craft.
First thing is first: not every style of art may be up your alley. Then again, you might be like me and not be able to narrow it down at all. My solution? Give them all a shot. The important point here is that you're not going to know what types of arts and crafts you're going to like until you try! And hey, if painting isn't your thing, maybe you'll like cross stitch. Too tedious for you? Maybe you'll like making fun things out of plastic fuse beads. Into recycling? Make altered-art books or recycled jewelry. People who like to work with their hands may like knitting, crochet, polymer clay, sculpting, or ceramics. Like to play with fire? Try glass blowing or metalworking. How about taking a class in graphic design or print making? Maybe it's as simple as covering ordinary objects in glitter. Your craft-of-choice could be as complex as weaving a panel of beads to create a beautiful design. The possibilities are broad, and this list is only a short push in the right direction. I'd even suggest that those of you who have a specific craft that you enjoy to branch out and try something new. Think about the prospect of bringing alternate ways of thinking to your current favorite medium. It's always great to broaden the horizons.
Buy a kit.
So you've decided to try something new. Congratulations! I applaud you in taking the first step to opening your artist's eyes again. Now that we've got that out of the way, what's next? You're going to need supplies. But where should you look? How do you know what exactly you're going to need? Are there specific tools required that you're going to need in order to complete your project? It's a lot to think about! And if you'd rather get into the fun part and skip some of the time it takes to research, locate, and purchase all the items you need to try out a new craft, a kit is immensely helpful. Not only do you have everything you'll need for your project right in front of you, but you'll most likely also receive detailed instructions and suggestions for use. Another good thing to note is that kits often come with a sampling of supplies, so if you decide you hate resin casting after the first series of pours, you don't have a gallon of casting epoxy sitting in your closet for the rest of your life. You can make informed decisions on which brand you like best before spending money on large amounts of supplies.
Set up your artist's environment.
Now that you've got your supplies, you're going to need a work space. Find a space you can claim for as long as your project needs to be out. This means if you require both working and drying time, for example, you've got to allow time for both. Things that need to remain untouched, such as casting resin, yarn dying, or paintings, should be out of the way of small hands and paws.
Begin by choosing a work-surface location. I work at one of three primary locations: my coffee table in my living room, my dining room table, or the desk in my office. When working at my coffee table, I sit on the floor or on a cushion, and it's just the right height for beading, clay work, or as a matter of fact, typing this article. I can also watch a movie with my husband if the craft I'm doing doesn't require 100% of my visual attention. My dining room table is great for painting while using my table top easel, beading, scrapbooking, or any other craft that requires a lot of supply real-estate. My desk is mainly used for sewing, but it's also pretty multi-purpose when it's not mid-summer. Boy it gets hot in there mid-summer.
Clear your work area completely, including the floor around your desk or table if you're working on one. If your craft requires it, drop cloth your area to protect furniture and flooring. Keep a clear walking space to the sink and garbage. Have a little trash can for any scraps nearby, and keep a roll of paper towels handy to wipe up any accidental spills. If your craft requires safety equipment such as gloves, a mask, protective glasses, or a handy fire extinguisher, prepare these as well. Better to prep safe every time than not be ready if there is actually an accident of any kind.
Lay out your supplies for the phase of the project you're working on. If your project has more than one phase, such as a construction phase and then a painting phase, only lay out the supplies you currently need to avoid clutter. It's a shame to spill expensive paint or knock over a container of beads because it was just laying around. Place tools in easy to reach locations, and don't forget to leave yourself some empty surface space in front of where you'll be sitting or standing so that you can work. If you use a beading mat or a cutting board, or anything of the like, lay it out in this location. Make sure your current supplies are all visible and easy to reach.
The time has come! It's your time to shine! You've got your supplies, everything looks nice and tidy, and now we get to actually work with our materials. If this is your first time working with a specific type of chemical or product, make sure you read all the instructions and safety precautions first. It's best to work in a ventilated area if you're working with any chemicals or paints.
Use examples as a jumping-off point to create your own works of art. Play with techniques, color combinations, and different usages than what may be considered conventional use. Don't be discouraged if it doesn't work out the first time. If it's not a challenge, you're not really learning anything. Embrace your mistakes as methods of learning, and try again with your newly-acquired knowledge.
Pretend you're a kid again.
Kids know Grandma doesn't really have hot pink hair. (Well, my grandmas sure didn't at least.) But if they want to draw Grandma with Day Glow Pink hair, they're gonna go ahead and do it. If they draw a line and it isn't in the right spot, they don't get upset. They just draw over it. If they want to draw a B52 bomber swimming with the San Francisco Giants through a rainbow colored stream of glitter, they'll go ahead and do that too. If they want to sculpt an elephant with three legs, that's great! Once, when my brother was a kid, he painted a little ceramic duck with freckles on his beak. I think they may have even been blue freckles. We sure didn't stop him, and it was actually really cute!
Your painting doesn't have to look like anything in specific. Your bracelet can still be a little off and be functionally worn. A scarf with a few dropped stitches is still going to keep your neck warm. And dang it, if you want Grandma to have hot pink hair, go ahead and give it to her. You might find it to be a little liberating.
Take inspiration from life.
Now that you've had a little time to play with your supplies, it's time to allow yourself to develop some artistic style. A great way to get started is to take inspiration from things you look at every day. Pay attention to things on your drive to work that you can incorporate into your art. Look around your house for interesting concepts or designs. Take a walk in nature to collect supplies for your next project, or just to refresh and inspire you. Walk around downtown, or in an industrial neighborhood. There's so much out there that your art can mimic.
Also, there's a lot to be said for looking at other people's art. Use the collective artist's community to learn new techniques and to get fresh ideas. Use this interaction with other artists to help you open up to new possibilities in your own work. Go to a gallery, get active on a forum, look at photo groups, and continue finding new subject matter to keep you thinking about something new.
Give yourself time for art.
I think of art as not only a necessity, but for many people like myself it's also cheap therapy. I get a break from working, I get time to work through any issues I'm having, I get to spend some time alone but still being productive, and I get to do something I enjoy. If I'm having an especially creative day I get the satisfaction of feeling unique and original. Plus, I usually end up with something pretty cool when I'm done.
Art takes practice. Not only do you need to allow time for yourself and art, but you need to allow time to improve your skills. For best results (and sanity levels) I make time for art no less than every other day. Though honestly, now that I'm back in my art classes for the semester, I get a dose of art pretty much every day. Your personal requirements may not need as much time devoted to art, but I recommend at least setting aside an hour two times a week to start. You can adjust your art schedule as necessary, but this will give you enough time while you get going.
Join the club!
You've found a craft. You're even getting pretty good at it. You've read forums on-line, you've found several books, and you're even thinking about your art or craft while you should be working. Now, go share the love! Find some new friends who share in your new found love. Look for meet-ups or clubs in your area where people get together and make or talk about art in a social setting. Hold a Craft-In. Make cocktails and appetizers and throw a scrapbooking party for your girlfriends, or bake muffins and go embroider or paint with the people at your local retirement home. Get your guy friends to come over and print some funky new t-shirts with funny sayings. Teach your husband to weave with a weavette so he can help you make him a blanket. (Hey, it was his idea!) Heck, call your mother-in-law and find out what her favorite craft is, and spend a little bonding time doing something enjoyable.
Art is amazing because it is neither individual or social. Or maybe it's both. You can create work singularly and have entire control, or you can work with a group and be proud of the way people come together to create something beautiful. Art is fun, exciting, stimulating, and can tie people together. It can also be a great way to self-discover and grow.
I hope that I've been able to show you a few ways to discover your inner artist, if you don't know that part of you already. I also hope that if you are an artist already, you remind yourself often of the powerful skill you practice as you make your journey. Art is a journey, and what a colorful one at that!