Most people who aim to become artists begin their journey by studying technique. They research and practice drawing techniques like shading, perspective, and anatomy from books, video tutorials, and classes.
This is how I began my artistic path as well. My journey seriously began in a high school art class, where I focused almost exclusively for a year on learning how to shade correctly with a pencil. I got it eventually, I guess.
Winning the Battles or Winning the War
That way of learning—that path to becoming an artist—will improve your technical skill. I’m not denying that. But focusing on and improving your technical skill is just one step on a lifelong journey. It’s just one arm of a trail that sprawls out in all different directions.
That technical path is the path that wins battles. You learn how to draw something in a certain way, one battle at a time, blindly following a commander—your teacher.
I’m not trying to harp on art education. I teach art too. But I’m not here to teach you how to win drawing battles. I could care less about how to “correctly” draw a hand.
You have to win battles to win the war, yes. But there are plenty of other people out there teaching the methods to win battles. And I trust you can learn all that on your own. You don’t need me to win those battles.
I’m here to teach you how to win the war. How to become an artist. I want to zoom out and help you focus not on the individual battles, but on the entire war. To focus not on how to draw individual things and specific techniques, but on the overall journey to finding yourself as an artist.
I want to help you find your style and voice so you can blaze into any battle, and draw anything confidently, not just one battle or one thing.
The 5 Elements Necessary to be an Artist
Learning to become an artist is much deeper than just “how-to-draw” tutorials. I believe an artist has five core elements, all of which must be researched, practiced and developed to be able to make art in our own unique way.
- Visual Language: Being able to use lines, shapes, and color to communicate
- Productivity + Discipline: Being able to form and keep a creative habit to produce a large amount of work
- Creativity + Imagination: Being able to come up with original ideas
- Self-Awareness and Expression: Being able to reflect on, learn about, and express ourselves
- Community: Being able to find and accept positivity, encouragement, and constructive feedback
The Shift from Battles to War
In my courses and in these essays, I focus on creativity, expression, and voice because that shift in thinking—from aiming to win the battles to aiming to win the war—has had the biggest impact on my art, and my life as an artist.
I don’t aim to teach you how to be a brilliant, technically trained artist. I’m not really a brilliant, technically trained artist either. Instead, I aim to teach you practical techniques to discover your creative self, explore your inner thoughts, and discover and develop your unique style.
“Part of the creative process is exploring our thoughts, letting our guard down, and laying ourselves on the line, as we try to work through these things. Chris Ware once said in an interview that ‘art is not merely a set of skills but a form of thinking’; it has taken me years to fully grasp the implications of this statement.” –Ivan Brunetti, cartoonist
Thanks for reading this week’s essay—let me know what you think by commenting below!
Now let’s charge into drawing!