As an Artist, How Do You Know When to Accept Advice?

Whether or not to follow a suggestion is a tricky thing, especially for an artist. Without a doubt, there are people who have more experience than you do, and they can give you a lot of pointers that can save you time and steer you in a better direction. At the same time, though, art is a highly subjective process, and if you listen to too many suggestions, you risk losing track of what makes art so fascinating: creating it is a wonderful way to discover what makes you unique.

If you are an artist or want to delve into it, one of the most important pieces of advice I have is that you balance trusting your intuition with trying new things, experimenting, and going outside of your comfort zone. Take, for example, what I encountered when I was first starting out. When I was younger, I went to art classes much like anyone does. I knew, unsurprisingly now, that I wanted to draw portraits. My teachers encouraged me to try painting, collages, and pretty much everything else except drawing pictures of people’s faces. None of it interested me, and it wasn’t long before I felt frustrated in those classes. When I was finally able to draw portraits, I was energized and threw myself into each one.

Was the advice of any of my teachers “bad”? Were they flat-out wrong? Not necessarily. A lot of good can come from experimenting with different mediums, especially for children. I do believe that it’s beneficial for young artists to familiarize themselves with painting, sketching, sculpting, and other mediums so that they can build different skills. I think, even so, that it’s very important that you stay true to why you want to be an artist in the first place. If you are drawn to something like I was, stick with it even if you get well-meaning advice that will lead you in a different direction.

Remember: don’t follow all suggestions from those who are more experienced. It may work for them, but it might not be the right fit for you. This is where confidence and maturity come in, I think. Young artists are often told that they need to look to the masters and learn from them. They can do that, of course. Trouble, however, can come when they place themselves in too much subservience to the experts of their time instead of knowing themselves, politely rejecting the advice of these masters when appropriate, and staying true to their visions. 

Sometimes you really do just have to go with your gut. I am where I am today, truthfully, because I ignored the advice of many well-established artists who wanted me to be more like them. I could get into the psychology of that and talk about why they wanted me to emulate them, perhaps because of their egos, but my point is this: because I ignored their suggestions, I ended up doing something entirely unique in this world. That’s not easy to do when there are millions of talented artists around the globe who work so hard to make their creative visions tangible. “Be yourself” has rarely been truer than in the art world. Having the ability to balance pushing limits with staying true to what you’re passionate about is super-important. 

In the end, which advice you take and which you reject will always come down to what your artistic instinct is telling you. Stay open to learning new techniques and remain humble, as no one likes an arrogant artist no matter how great their work may be. What goes on your canvas or into your sculpture, of course, will always be determined by you, the artist.

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