Why Your Art is Not Improving

I see this time and time again, frustrated new artists who can't understand why they aren't seeing the improved results they expect. If your artwork isn't getting better and failing to live up to your desired standards, it's possible you are committing one or more of the following:

1) Not Learning the Basics (!!!)

Just as you can't learn Algebra without first mastering basic Arithmetic, you can't create masterpieces without knowing the simple basics of art and drawing. This is the most important lesson to learn and why I listed it at the top. 

Learn color theory, pick a limited palette to create harmony in your work, practice value and shading, improve your drawing skills, learn the basics of composition, watch videos of master artists (not those gimmicky YT tutorials that promise "easy" results), check out books from the library, go to the museum, study art, observe art, and build up from those foundational levels to later expand off of. Learn the basics and never stop learning.    

2) You Lack Patience

When a piece of art is deliberately and skillfully rendered you can tell. You can tell that the artist took their time and paid attention to detail and the basic elements of art. This time and effort translate into a masterful piece of art. The new artist hasn't developed the skill of patience. They use a single layer of watercolor and call their work done. They don't go back in to add value, shading, or detail then complain that everything they paint looks flat. When I am asked to critique a new artist's work I repeatedly find myself saying "finish your work!" What a new artist calls "done" I call a base layer or an under-painting. Have patience and confidence to keep going and invest a little more time and energy into your work. 

3) You Repeat the Same Bad Habits 

Practice makes perfect. We've all heard it before. You want to become a better artist, practice. Yes, this is true, but your practice becomes wasted if all you are doing are practicing the same bad habits over and over. Some habits are easy fixes, like remembering to change your water more often and taking better care of your brushes. Others may take a bit longer to break, like adding details too early in the painting process or neglecting to step back and look at the whole picture. 

If I could pick one bad habit I would like to see new all artists break, it would be the habit of using too many colors. I know it can overwhelming when you buy watercolor paint sets that have as many as 36 or 48 different colors and you want to use them all. But using too many colors and failing to limit your palette creates a lack of harmony that is achieved by using complementary colors. 

4) Not Challenging Yourself 

So you got the hang of painting a pretty decent looking flower. Great. Now try to paint animals or a landscape. Try increasingly harder subject matter and challenge yourself to keep moving forward and improving your skill and techniques. And seriously, stay away from those easy YouTube tutorials. Those things will stunt your growth as an artist. Don't let a complicated subject matter intimidate you. Learning through trial and error is the best way to improve.  

5) Not Using the Right Tools

I don't see this as often, but I still see it enough to make this list. Artists not using the right tools for the job. Learn about the difference in brush type, size, and material. Use watercolor paper or some type of paper or surface designed or primed to work with water media.  If your paper buckles and your colors aren't blending maybe you aren't using paper designed to hold and absorb water. Do a little research before purchasing supplies and avoid the temptation to "buy all the things" when you should just be buying a few of the best things. The investment is well worth it.  

The good news is, these are all things that any new artist can learn and apply to their own art. You don't have to stay a mediocre artist and unhappy with your own results. If you have a true passion for art and creating you'll take the time to learn and improve. And in a few year's time, you will start to see a marked improvement. I promise. 

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