take style workshops or don't?

Ah... the great debate! Attend workshops and classes designed to teach you someone else's painting and art style or choose instead to find your own style?

What a terribly blunt way to introduce myself and my beliefs with you, and I apologize for the abruptness of this introduction while I'm going to continue anyway!

I think the real issue is choosing between only ever making pretty things that you enjoy and that reflect only your personal tastes or creating things that are a part of yourself and that reflect your moods and thoughts and ideas, however briefly, as physical forms of art.

There are so many style workshops and online classes and books available that often I get invited to take and buy and attend at least three a week. Because I also follow all of my favorite artists on Bloglovin, I see a great many of their posts about the different classes that they are developing, offering and making videos of for sale.

I'm a bit of a purist, though and will admit that I will likely never offer a style workshop or attend one.

Give me a good old fashioned journal crafting session, a how-to or step-by-step skills and techniques class any day and I'm there first, notebook and supplies in hand like the good little Hermione that I am.

I am still developing my own style and enjoy having a distinct style that belongs to me as much as I enjoy encouraging others to revel in their own gifts and develop their own style through experimentation and repetition. Most of the artists that I most admire have been doodling, painting, drawing and playing in their chosen mediums for a lifetime while some of us are just discovering that we might just be able to do this thing called art.

With so many incredible artists out there making money doing what we're all loving doing, the temptation to duplicate what you see is great, and while you're learning it is natural to try different lines and color combinations that your favorite artist has used with so much success. There is nothing wrong with that and I would never discourage that type of learning. I would also caution that for every piece you make from all of the same supplies and colors and papers and textures and by the exact same process developed by someone else there is a danger of neglecting to learn the why and how of what it is that you're doing.

My three tips to learning and developing similar skills to the folks that you admire are easy and deceptively fun and adaptive to learning your own style at the same time.

1. Google is a terrible teacher. Learn how to let Google inspire you instead.

If you have a particular artist or style that you like, search on Google and look at the images that you get. Most of the best artists out there have settled into a specific style, even to the point of having their own products, tools and methods that they use for every project. A lot of them are being paid to use those tools and products by a third party company. And those artists are being copied, almost to the line, by folks who admire their style so much that they want to play with it, too.

Identify the specific elements that belong to that particular artist or style by comparing the different pieces of art and then close or shrink your browser window. Now draw it, paint it, doodle it, sculpt it, string it or build it without looking... and don't cheat! Let your intuition guide you as you go and accept that you're going to do it differently.

It's called being inspired by something or someone. You completely own the outcome and it will feel good even if you have a few learning experiences when you go back and compare to your idol or to the images you'd chosen as examples. Make a note of the things you would do differently and CLOSE THE BROWSER before you do it again!

2. Youtube is OnDemand TV not a class. Only watch what is really answering your questions.

Not everyone recording tutorials and videos on Youtube is really a teacher and not every teacher managed to impart anything to you while you were in school. Like learning to be inspired by the images and artists that you love most, learn to be aware of the type of learner that you are and find the tutorials that best guide you.

Do you need to see it more than hear it? Do you need someone to talk you through every step and you can surf email or other things so long as you can listen to the content? Are you going to need to get the measurements and cut all the pieces and assemble them while you watch so that your hands remember the steps because your eyes and ears are just insufficient tools for the job without your hands?

Some of my favorites will NOT be yours, and some of the tutorials out there online are so good that everyone refers to them over and over. Watch the video all the way through and then make some notes if you're looking for help with a specific project. Go back through the video to clarify certain things or steps or processes after you have determined it is going to be helpful to you. This will save you SO much time. Don't be afraid to stop someone after a few minutes, they don't know you were watching. You're not offending them by deciding that their teaching style isn't working for you. See if there's another link along the side that is more helpful to you or try rewording and searching again.

3. Start at the beginning. The journey is worth every cent and you'll invent your own methods along the way, which is priceless.

None of the artists you most admire started out where they are today. Every one of them had skills that they seemed to be born with and others that they have struggled to gain through many obstacles. Just like you, they had things they'd never seen and had to figure out on their own and other things that they just seemed to understand at first glance.

The beauty of our current art world is that the grungier, messier and more worked a thing is the cooler and funkier it can be, too. It is to your benefit to take your time and start at the beginning. If all you have is crayons and bic pens to make art with, go full tilt with both. (I'll tell you... hair driers and irons bring your art to a whole new level when you're using just crayon and bic pens!) Experiment. Can you color with pen under the crayon and make scratch art just like when you color with crayon or paint over crayon? Can you draw without a pencil and eraser first?

Do you absolutely love the look of the Boho Chic ribbon and fiber wrap bracelets and can't figure out how to knot it or wrap it just like the sexiest thing you've ever seen on Pinterest? Try them both on the same bracelet... tie it the other way next time if you don't like the look of it... it's ok if what you have is torn strips of t-shirt and some old gingham cloth from another project and the one you're looking at is silk and fuzzy fiber. Keep going until you like the outcome and move your way up as you can.

The best lesson is also the hardest. If you can like what you're making with the stuff you already have then you're going to understand more about how to make projects like the ones that are inspiring you when you get to them. It sounds overly simple and I wouldn't lie to you. I have some techniques that I still use my own work arounds for instead of the materials and tools that I learned from watching Youtube or asking how a particular look was achieved.

So... do you take a style workshop or do you look for the technique and skill workshops instead?

Everyone is different and everyone has a different reason for wanting to create. It's a choice you have to make for yourself. I will always choose the route that allows me to explore new options without having to carefully follow someone else's methods because this is art and I create methods and procedures that must be adhered to in the real world. Here is where I live instead of following the lines.

My tutorials are not exact... my lessons are not guided by a list of brands and specific colors and links to sites where you can buy my stamps or newest line of glimmer mists. I want to inspire you to find your own wings and not just color outside of the lines but fly away and color everything to your own palate as you go. I encourage you to tell me when something I share gives you an idea and you take it another direction to create something related and wholly your own. I want to see it! Art is personal and subjective and if I can only ever inspire you to determine what it means to you then I feel I'll have done my job.

peace... and if not peaceful then joyous and full of experimentation and exploration anyway!

EDIT: So now that I've taken a number of workshops wrapped tightly around style… I can honestly say that these tips come more and more to mind the more I do it. I love learning new techniques and I struggle to hold on to what makes my artwork mine. Practice with the web closed. It helps. LOL

Tim Burton-ish after some practice on my own


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