Back in the 1800s, a child knew what their lifelong profession would be fairly early in life. It was determined either by upbringing or early signs of talent in a specific field.
It then took years of formal training for a person to hone their fated craft before they could actually sell their wares to the public.
But those days are long gone. Now, everyone has some say in what their profession will be.
And becoming a professional no longer requires formal training in many cases.
In particular, this applies to the arts in contemporary society. Since the dawn of the internet, people have begun to use online resources to become experts, rather than relying on costly and time-consuming formal education.
Here’s how to become an artist without going to art school to get you started on your path to success.
Study Up on Your Own
Becoming an artist depends heavily on personal growth. Your art will change as you change. It’s a symbiotic relationship and one that we’ve seen play out again and again over the centuries.
This is why you need to give yourself plenty of time to explore your own artistic interests before setting out to become a prolific artist yourself.
Start by familiarizing yourself with art history over the course of the history of humankind. If a particular era or style stands out to you, dig a little deeper and maybe even find some books that discuss this period of history in detail.
Try to find new contemporary artists as often as possible, always keeping an eye out for artists who seem to be doing work that resonates with you on a personal level.
Make Artist Friends
It may be hard to believe in this moment, but you’re likely not the only person who’s trying to become an artist by informal means.
You’ll also find that the artistic community really is just that: a community.
But tapping into that community can be difficult at first. It requires a significant amount of effort on your part to track down and meet up with fellow artists.
Try looking into meetup apps that organize groups based on mutual interests. From there, you can simply make plans to attend a meetup event in your area, where you can introduce yourself to like-minded individuals.
Once you’ve made some artists friends, you won’t be beholden to meetup groups any longer. You can just hang out with your artist friends whenever you’re all available.
Try setting up a weekly coffee shop gathering or dinner party.
You’ll soon find that having friends who are professional or student artists will help give you a different perspective on your own work as well as theirs.
Since artistic work depends so heavily on perspective, both literal and psychological, broadening your own perspective on the world itself will help you expand the perspective of your work.
Friends who are artists can also be a wonderful source of feedback. Show them your work on a semi-regular basis and ask them to give honest, brutal critiques of the piece.
These comments may seem harsh at first and might be difficult to hear, but receiving outside opinions on work that has only been personal up to that point can be one of the best ways to make your work better.
Go to Museums
Local museums are an excellent resource for personal art education. If you live in a mid-size to large city, then there are likely several art museums nearby.
Be sure to look into the specialization of each museum. Some museums may focus on the art of classical antiquity. Others may only include contemporary and modern artwork in their collections.
If you’re of student age, you may even be able to get into these museums for free.
Once you’re inside, consider taking a guided tour. You may not want to at first, but the expertise and knowledge of museum tour guides can be a major asset when it comes to understanding the historical context of a specific work of art.
After you’ve been told the intentions of the artist, you can work on formulating your own interpretations of the work and how they hold up in the modern day.
Give Yourself Time to Brainstorm
It may seem counterintuitive at first, but giving yourself plenty of time to do nothing at all can be a great way to come up with fresh ideas.
The famed surrealist painter Salvador Dali had his own specific method for accessing ideas from his subconscious.
Dali would try to fall asleep on a couch, with one arm hanging over the edge, holding a ball or heavy metal object. Underneath the hand holding the object, he would place a metal cooking pan.
When he would first start to fall asleep, his subconscious awakening in the process, his hand would lose its grip, dropping the object into the metal cooking pan.
The resulting sound would wake him back up, and he would try to remember the surreal images that had been floating around in his head a moment before.
You certainly don’t have to use this exact method, but the story serves as a reminder of how important it can be to limit your conscious thought and just let your brain come up with ideas on its own.
You’ll be surprised how often your brain is working to come up with no ideas, without any prompting from you.
Hone Your Craft
Above all else, you should focus on mastering the basic skills involved with the creation of visual arts.
Realistic sketching may not be your idea for a finished product, but wrapping your mind around the basics of artistic work can make it that much easier in the future to break all the rules and make work that speaks to your personal artistic style.
Look for basic tutorials online that run through simple drawing and painting techniques.
Commit several hours each week, at least, to practicing basic sketching and painting methods. It may seem dull at first, but these skills will last you through a lifetime of creative work.