"If you can walk, you can DANCE, If you can talk, you can SING." African saying

For Beginners Only
© 2000 Nita Leland

It may seem hard to believe, but almost anyone can be an artist. It depends largely on the goals you set and how hard you apply yourself. There may be many paths to the same goal.

Formal fine arts schooling appeals to some. Exposure to many disciplines is a great benefit and helps a student decide on a medium. Contact with other art students stimulates effort and competition. Still, not everyone can deal with the pressure of grades or a structured format. If you're older, the idea of going back to school is scary. What can you do if you itch to try your hand at art?

The secret is to begin--anywhere.

Thirty years ago my husband gave me watercolor paints for my birthday. I played with my paints for a couple of months, then decided to seek a fine arts degree. At the Dayton Art Institute I applied for admission to the degree program, expecting to register for day classes, while my four children were in school. I was told day classes were for serious students only.

But that didn't stop me.

I signed up for an informal class at the YMCA. It was a great way to start. I learned fundamentals: wash, dry brush, line, and value contrast. And no grades to worry about! Painting was fun. The compulsion to become an artist grabbed me. I surrendered without a struggle and set out to increase my understanding and develop my skills. I explored museums and galleries, read books and magazines, took more than fifty workshops in painting and drawing. I couldn't get enough of it.

Self-taught artists like me find a few hazards in the do-it-yourself program. Sometimes we become too single-minded about a particular medium or style. We risk weak development of important skills, and frequently suffer from lack of confidence. Every difficulty can be overcome. Anyone with normal mental and physical capabilities can master art skills. I'm serious! Anyone can do it.

Find the instructor or school that suits you best. You have lots of choices: art centers, private classes, adult classes at area schools, community colleges, universities, to name a few.

Like the characters in the Wizard of Oz, you already have inside you what it takes to reach artistic goals. You don't have to have a certificate to prove it, you only need your determination to follow through and learn the skills required for success. Oh....and, most important, lots of practice. You become an artist when you realize that your art education never ends.

And it's never too late to begin.

For more motivational ideas read The New Creative Artist.

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