Starting My Art Journey
May 08, 2018
Dear Allyson,

On your podcast with Duncan Trussell, I was inspired to hear you speak about the path of an artist. I have been trying to get my artistic journey started with little success and have identified two problems. One is that I am just too busy right now to make art a priority. An upcoming job change will offer more time for artistic pursuits.

The second is that I am not quite sure where to start. I have zero technical skill or training and most of what I make is laborious and sloppy, but I am not intimidated by my lack of skill. However, of course I would like to improve the quality of my work. Recently, when I have a flash of inspiration, I write down the concept for what I'd like to draw. Then, I have been looking up images of individual objects on the internet and trying to draw them first in pencil, so that I have plenty of room for mistakes. Then I go over and fill things in later. However, this style precludes me from taking images from the inside of my skull and onto the paper. This was my inspiration to start making art; I had these images popping up in my imagination and I felt tortured by my inability to share them with the world.

Should I just keep making art this way and wait for things to naturally evolve?

Should I try to take some lessons or practice doing some specific practices to try and hone my skills?

What is the best way for me to start honing my artistic skills if I would eventually like to be making some more visually respectable art?

Although sometimes I have flashes of spontaneous inspiration, how can I come up with something to make if I am feeling unsure of what to make? I'd also like to get into painting but feel a bit intimidated about taking on multiple disciplines at my basic level of experience.

I hope this is not an overwhelming number of questions. I wanted to reach out to start a line of communication. I am hoping to visit CoSM. You and Alex are such down-to-earth, inspirational models of what I strive to be. Your model of inclusivity is so refreshing. I want to express my gratitude for your message. Duncan talked about people who struggle to find a community where they can share their ideologies and lifestyle. That is the way I feel much of the time. Hearing you speak and spread your message warms my heart and keeps me from feeling alone. I appreciate everything you do.

Thank you,
Alex
Ask Allyson Image
Dear Alex,

Great questions!

Alex recommends: “Carry a sketchbook and a good pen.” Alex is never without his hard cover black sketchbook and I have a small moleskin in my bag with me at all times. We both have many drawings of water glasses and ketchup bottles drawn while waiting for food in a restaurant. Like playing an instrument or improving at yoga, regular practice rapidly offers encouraging rewards.

You described your process of finding resource imagery from the internet to articulate the visual elements of your picture. This process, which you've developed intuitively, is a great direction for beginning a painting. In fact, while you are waiting for that job change with more time allocated for your creative life, why not collect these pictures, even print them out, blow them up or shrink them down on the copier, cut them out and collage them into a composition that pleases you. It’s a great way to start designing your multi-dimensional mental picture within a finite two-dimensional plane. To cultivate your unique style, trust your instincts. What comes naturally to you, calls you and may seem too easy. We mistakenly think finding our artistic uniqueness is supposed to be hard when discovery actually lies in waiting for us to unveil our true self. Realizing our authentic style is a treasure hunt that offers great joy. Creative discontent and persistence evolves our inner visions into satisfying depictions of a private world. When it looks laborious and sloppy, start it over. Rework the same idea ten times and discover all along the way.

Consider when you’d most like to make art. Also think about where you would feel best making art, a space that doesn’t have to be all cleaned up when the session ends, a place to easily return and start a new work or revisit a drawing in progress, a place you’d love to sit comfortably and vision. Like any practice, art requires time and space. Keep it simple but treat yourself to the best materials you can afford, materials that attract you. Excellent brushes, a great art surface — quality paper, canvas, painting panel -- with your favorite colors — pencils, paint, pastels... — are all essential. Have your ideas and sketches ready in an attractive location.

Joining a class gifts you the time and space to jumpstart and immerse into your artist self. Each year we teach a five day workshop at Omega Institute, one of the most wonderful retreat centers on the planet. This year the class happens from June 24-29. [eomega.org] The workshop is for artists at EVERY LEVEL of experience. Some of the greatest Visionary Artists we know met us at that class. Some of the beginners from that class have taken on art as a spiritual practice, some have even become professionals.

One Sunday each month, we lead a 4-hour, two-part sample art class at CoSM that we call Art Church, each month dedicated to a spiritual/creative theme. This month, the theme is “The History of Visionary Art.” It would be wonderful to meet you and see you drawing at a CoSM Art Church.

In loving service,
Allyson
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