How to Become an Artist Without Going to Art School

Inspirational figures quote that if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life. If you’ve always loved making art, you may have wondered how to monetize your passion and feel that way about your job too.

Whether you want to make a little something off your creations or you’re trying to become an artist full time, there are a few steps to get you in the right direction. None of them include plunking down a small fortune on art school.

Reasons Why Art School May Be Unnecessary

Let’s start with your first burning question. Is art school necessary to achieve your artistic dreams? After all, it exists for a reason, and plenty of artists attend art school. While there are plenty of good reasons people go to art school, it certainly is not necessary.

1 – Hiring an Artist is Largely Portfolio Based

Art is a career where your portfolio will matter more than your certification in getting hired. If someone wants to hire an illustrator, they will need to see your illustrations as proof of skill.

While your portfolio reflects your style and skill, and art school can absolutely help with your training, you can train yourself.

2 – You Can Target Your Training

Art school will give you broader art skills. If you’re looking to become something more specific than an illustrator, you should consider looking up jobs that you want online. You can try out freelance work for a personalized job search field.

Most places will list exactly what skills, materials, or digital programs they will expect you to know. Make sure these are the skills you focus on learning and can demonstrate in a portfolio.

For example, if you search for “concept artists,” you will see if your top companies want 3D skills, character design, or animation skills. Some may only require 2D art examples. Provide portfolio pieces that reflect what your desired job is asking for.

If you would like to sell prints of your artwork rather than work for a company, you need things to sell. Art school doesn’t always permit freedom with what you make, so go forth and create.

3 – Tuition Expenses

Even if you want to get into a very specialized artistic discipline, such as something that requires many tools like jewelry-making or woodworking, you can get yourself started with online tutorials or a single class at an art school.

Attending college as an art major or at a specialized art school can be hugely expensive and time-consuming.

4 – Art School Doesn’t Make Artists

Maybe you’ve looked around at professional artists, and you feel very far behind. Perhaps you think that they have more talent or are well-versed in more techniques.

The truth is, art school doesn’t give you skills. It gives you space to practice and grow and work hard on new skills.

Going to art school means you’re paying to be dedicated to your craft. If you’re working on your art skills all day, every day, of course, you’ll improve. However, it is work. It’s not always fun. Fortunately, you’ll also have access to professionals and other students giving you pointers, feedback, and criticism.

While this is all worthwhile if you want to be an artist, all of this is doable yourself. Practice when you can, post your work on social media to elicit feedback, and find online or in-person groups that offer collaboration and critique.

How to Learn the Basics

You need to know the rules to break them, so learning the basic concepts of art, drawing and design is a fundamental building block on which to build your skill set. Many people want to develop their art style right away, but if you can’t accurately get things from your head to the page, you won’t be able to do that, and fundamentals help you with that process.

Practice Practice Practice

If you want to develop an exaggerated cartoon style or even go completely abstract, you still need to know how to draw basic things. You need to understand how to translate what’s in your head to paper, digital, or otherwise. You can’t know how to do that without learning the rules of drawing.

Ideally, you should set aside an hour a day for drawing practice, perhaps using an Art Prompt Generator to find inspiration. That may not be feasible for everyone, but if you’re serious about the improvement, you should do it as frequently as you possibly can.

Explore Mediums

You need to know how to make different materials do what you want. There are, for example, different rules for using watercolors vs. acrylic paint. You should try out other things to see what suits you best. This flexibility will also help develop your style and expand the range in your portfolio.

If you are looking to expand your art mediums, perhaps you will find our Art Supplies Buying Guides useful, such as the Best Gold Leaf Paint, Best Brushes for Gouache and Best Tempera Paint.

Use the Internet

Try free online tutorials. Search for a Drawing 101 course. There will be hundreds of thousands. You can also use this time to figure out your learning style as well as land on your preferred art style. Some people will learn best by drawing from a reference, while others will find step-by-step tutorials to be the most helpful breakdown. If you’re just starting, try everything.

How to Find Inspiration for Your Art

Go to museums. There are so many different styles, techniques, and mediums you can’t possibly know them all unless you look around.

Attend local street fairs or other places where you might find artists selling their work. What kinds of things do they make and sell? How many sizes do they offer of one print? You may see something you haven’t thought of.

Look up #art and #artists and related tags on social media and find things that speak to you. Pinterest and Instagram are two of the more popular social media platforms for visual arts (Shameless Plug: Triangulation has a pretty cool Pinterest page with lots of different artists to check out).

Doing this will help you narrow down what you would like to work on and help you find even more tips and tricks. A lot of artists are excited to share their workflow, studio setup, and favorite tools. So if you see people whose work you enjoy, learn from them.

Getting Noticed as an Artist – How to Promote Yourself

Create a social media account (or several). Have at least one place that you dedicate specifically to your work. You can have separate accounts for finished jobs that you’re hoping to sell or want employers to see, and another for personal projects and practice pieces.

Though you don’t need to separate the two, it can help grow your audience and keep you organized. Finished work can be treated as a marketplace and found by people looking to buy a piece.

If you have another that art enthusiasts can stumble upon, you build twice the audience and can direct people to each. Having more of an Internet presence means your work will be easier to find.

No Art School? No Problem

There is a lot of work that goes into becoming an artist. If it’s something you want to pursue, the steps themselves are basic:

  • Practice everyday
  • Find your medium(s)
  • Get feedback
  • Seek inspiration
  • Share your work with the world

When you’re asking yourself how to become an artist without going to art school, the process can be challenging. However, with dedication, practice, and inspiration, you can make your dreams come true.

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