“Every child is an artist,” Pablo Picasso once said. “The problem is staying an artist when you grow up.”
He was right.
Creativity lies within all of us. It’s that innate sense of wonder and curiosity that resides in every individual that allows us to dream up new ideas and to see what’s beyond our physical surroundings. As children, all we want to do is to express our creative outbursts—drawing and painting, or dancing and reveling in the art of movement. Over time, we may take photography classes, learn watercolor painting techniques, or strive to understand the importance of composition in art.
Unfortunately, as Picasso said, remaining an artist as you grow up is a challenge. Along the way, we’re told we aren’t good enough, or we allow other priorities to dominate our time. But regardless of skill level, artistic expression can be a daily benefit in all our lives, and pursuing your creative impulses should be a lifelong journey. Opportunity awaits you at every stage, from finger painting as a child to expressing creativity in the workplace.
“You don’t need the book deal, you don’t need an agent, you don’t need any of that,” says Danielle Krysa, the artist and author behind Skillshare Original Creative Breakthrough: 8 Exercises to Power Your Creativity, Confidence, and Career. “Just be creative.” Maybe you’re already a working actress. Or perhaps you’re a corporate attorney who likes to dabble in creative photography during your free time. Creative exploration can lead you to your most significant accomplishments. Some adults might choose art as an outlet to blow off steam, while others make art a career. Whatever the case may be for you, embrace it. Make art a regular part of your day.
Pursuing Art in the Digital Age
Online learning offers endless possibilities for continuing your art education. Now, you can be anywhere in the world and learn about complementary colors or how to use a camera. Online art classes, exhibits, and discussions are all just a few clicks away, and many creative skills can be taught to you by experts for little investment other than your time.
Social media platforms like Instagram, Behance, and TikTok can all nurture artists of varying styles, creating communities that can go on to influence thousands of followers. These digital spaces allow makers to benefit from immediate feedback that they might not have received mere decades ago. Now, more than ever, the world has become your showcase. And the Internet doesn’t just provide us with the platforms to learn—it gives us access to the physical tools we need, too. Materials that might have once been out of your geographical reach can now be delivered via services like Amazon Prime.
And if that one perfect-for-you art form doesn’t come to mind right away, relax. Creativity is a subjective label that bends to almost any definition. Once you learn the basics of one art form, you can choose to further your experience in that area or apply those lessons to another discipline. The accessibility of online learning provides you the chance to get acquainted with any of the art you want to explore.
The Healing Power of Art
Even if you don’t work in a creative field, art can increase your productivity and happiness both at work and at home. You might not believe it, but art can heal. Expressing yourself is thought to boost mental performance, helping you to remember critical details throughout the day. Take notice of how your mind changes when you start taking a design course. Do you start to notice patterns in everyday objects? That’s creativity’s effect on your brain.
Your true artistic voice can only be silenced by your own insecurities. Indulge in your creativity. Enhance your skills through consistent practice. Stay motivated by surrounding yourself with the works of others in your space. Don’t be afraid to be inspired, either—sometimes, you might find yourself influenced by an unlikely person or artform. If you consider yourself a budding photographer, you might still find yourself moved by an unusual drawing or painting. From there, you could combine mediums—like camera lens work with a pen and paper—or look for similar patterns and colors in your photography work.
The road to discovering who we are as creative individuals is meant to be long and winding. Even if you think you know your calling, it can change in a moment. Our interests are always expanding and evolving. Thankfully, with art you can always continue to explore. By making creativity a lifelong pursuit, you’ll keep your brain active and engaged with the world. After all, the power of art is one of the world’s most influential entities.
Find Your Creative “Aha” Moment
Join artist and author Danielle Krysa as she coaches students to embrace their weirdness, build a visual vocabulary, and develop regular creative habits.
How Exposure to Different Methods Can Develop Your Craft
Learning the fundamentals of art is essential to expressing the ideas in your head. Sure, you can create quality work without the basics, but usually, it takes a solid foundation to generate sustained success and contentment in your creative work.
But don’t let that intimidate you. Instead, make the most of this part of your journey as a creative. Immersing yourself in a craft—whether it’s your life’s work or an interesting detour—helps you to ultimately take ownership of your preferred medium. As you go along, you are sure to find yourself gravitating to particular niches and styles that inspire your creations. You never know where this approach could take you.
For some, exploring specific styles within a broader art form will open the door to a niche that becomes a lifelong passion. In other cases, exploring your medium may lead to additional revelations that steer you to new platforms. With tech advancing at a rapid pace, artists of varying genres are pursuing graphic design, web development, and other new creative avenues—and building lucrative careers. You won’t know what creative projects you will enjoy until you try something new, so don’t be afraid to test out a discipline that’s outside of your comfort zone.
Driving Change Through Art
Today, art goes well beyond paper and canvas. Artists like Banksy have used public sites and even war-torn regions to display images meant to inspire social change; Shepard Fairey used his artistic expression and optimism to create Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign poster, one of the most iconic political images in recent memory. And digital illustration allows creators to reach millions of new viewers online.
Storytelling is essential to all art, regardless of which medium you choose, and when it comes to stories that drive social change, artists across the board are in the mix. From viral videos to eye-catching logos, imagery is being used across the world to cultivate ideas and spark change.
Art teaches us to study and analyze the world around us. From tiny specks of dust to the way a person’s face changes when they’re angry—and even to the social unrest driving political movements—important narratives can be easier to understand with art. By studying the basics, you open your eyes, ears, and mind to what’s out there. You’d be surprised how much art changes you; you often don’t notice it until it’s already in full effect.
“For me, a great way to get inspired is to get informed,” says illustrator Nikkolas Smith, who shares his creative process in the Skillshare Original course Artivism: Create Inspiring Art for Change. “The more facts you have, the more inspiration you’re going to have to create clever visuals that really help people to see exactly what that problem is.”
When your creative muscles are strong, you are much more capable of telling the story you want to tell. Developing artistic capabilities can open up new worlds, bringing about a change in your daily life whether you notice it right away or not. By taking classes and practicing your craft, you can begin to analyze the world around you. From words to videos to the patterns around us every day, creatives take notice of their environments even when they’re not working.
Drive Social Change Through Art
Join Nikkolas Smith in his Skillshare Original course Artivism: Create Inspiring Art for Change.
Choosing Your Medium
Regardless of your route, you’ll arrive at creative freedom when you find your personal style. If you feel stuck, start by emulating your favorite artists. Consider which aspects of their work intrigue you, and go from there. You may be surprised by how quickly your mind leads you to a visual style that expresses your vision.
To find your medium, leave no stone unturned when it comes to education and inspiration. Take classes, speak to your peers, and read books. The self discovery process is all about getting your brain moving. Learn about complementary colors and composition. Take online art classes on how to draw flowers. You may find yourself loving nature sketches. Or, you could develop a newfound love of digital photography. You never know where a class on drawing cute animals or a video editing could take you.
Picking the right skill to practice might be easy for you. But for others it could be the toughest choice they make for art. Consider starting with a field you’re familiar with. If you’ve always liked sketching, or enjoyed art museum trips as a kid, illustration might be a good place to begin. But if this is your first plunge into expressing yourself creatively, have no fear.
Say you’re choosing between a general art course and a specific class on photographing jewelry. Both pique your interest, but you only have time for one. How do you decide? Consider practical questions, such as:
- How will practice and classes fit into your daily schedule?
- What is the cost of classes and materials?
- What benefits will you take from these classes—personal and professional?
- Does it involve any extra setup?
After weighing factors like these, you might find that it makes more sense to invest your time in art courses for now over photography, or vice-versa. It really comes down to what suits your life best.
In other cases, you may find yourself on two opposite ends of the visual medium spectrum. Both options appeal to you as you continue to broaden your horizons. Think about the benefits of studying each medium. For example, you may love surrealist painting, but also see the benefit in learning how to use a camera for headshots and product photography as a side hustle. Painting abstract and otherworldly images is excellent, but the professional benefit of showcasing people and images in their best light appeals to you as well. Both options present gains you’d like to make as an artist, and you can do both. It just takes some time. Figure out which makes the most sense for you immediately, and prioritize your learning.
Or, you may love making movies and the artistic, cynical nature of noir films. But you also enjoy shooting for television, which adheres to a more rigid set of rules. In this case, each project you work on can vary: Just focus on the project at hand and what you’re learning. You might continue to engage in a variety of genres, or you might find that you prefer the shorter days of filming that come with multi-camera television productions—or that you wish to focus the visual storytelling of single cameras art films, despite longer days on set.
Whether it is through your artistic expression or your own schedule, consider all options. You may have a firm idea of what you want your end result to be, but sometimes, getting there means having to decide on what works best for you in the immediate moment. If you explore all that’s appealing to you, you will continue to develop multiple means of expressing yourself. Consider the following popular disciplines.
Drawing, Painting, and Character Art
The worlds of drawing and watercolor are immense. Technical prowess defines illustration and watercolor—It’s the sort of medium where you learn all the rules so you can creatively break them.
Illustrating children’s storybooks is an excellent example of how stories can come alive with the right imagery. In art, the expression of a character tells the story for the artist. Creating characters within a space may appear easy, but it takes skill to articulate correctly. Depending on the story and the artist, the images may be traditional, like a pen-and-ink Sunday newspaper comic. But they may also be on the cutting edge of digitally rendered cartoons. Once you understand the rules, you can begin to modify them to your liking. One classic example is Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes comic strip, which helped change the traditional Sunday newspaper format with innovative illustrations and layouts.
Beyond comics, painting techniques—like watercolor—can be a beautiful and challenging discipline to practice. Today, everything from wall art to tattoos can feature vivid watercolor images.You’ll find that watercolor often works best when supported by the structure of drawings. Taking classes and tutorials about watercolors, illustrations and other techniques not only advance you—they also improve your stories and characters. By learning the basics of that or any art form, you will begin to appreciate and understand the techniques of all art. Studying, learning, and applying your new skills will help you create characters with the depth needed for an incredible tale.
Today, access to photography has never been easier. Technology today allows for the photographer to learn the fundamentals and develop their eye for the medium before ever investing in a camera: In fact, many photographers now recommend that beginners start out on their smartphones, opening the door for millions of users around the world to try out the medium before ever investing in expensive tools.
Like painting and illustration, photography offers a variety of styles and opportunities in which to immerse yourself. Creative photographers come in all shapes and sizes, but whether you’re working with portraits, commercial clients, the abstract, or so much more, your photography skills come from training and practice. It takes a firm grasp of camera settings, composition, lighting, and other basics to produce high-quality photography.
As you begin your photo lessons, you may find yourself timid and overwhelmed. Sure, you’re getting better acquainted with white balance and ISO settings, but how do you apply those basic concepts into your work? Practicing with still-life is a great place to start. With inanimate objects, you won’t feel pressured or rushed, and can experiment to get the best photo possible. Once you feel more confident executing on fundamentals, your growth will continue through practical application and collaboration.
Yes, despite what you might think, photography as a medium is incredibly collaborative—particularly in portrait photography. Capturing your subject in just the right light, pose, and emotional mindset is key to telling their story, and a great photographer understands how to make subjects comfortable and at ease in front of the lens. You can’t expect good photos with an uneasy subject or a rushed, stressful atmosphere. (Well, you can, but we wouldn’t recommend it.) Capturing the human spirit in photography takes friendly assurance.
But interacting with your subject isn’t the only way that collaboration can come into play for photographers. If you have a team for your shoots, the fundamentals of teamwork should come into play:
- Use clear, friendly communication.
- Be reliable.
- Finish work on time.
- Thank people for their work.
Try sharing your work online, too: Photography is a classic hobby loved by millions, and you’d be surprised at how many helpful and supportive voices you might come across when posting your latest work.
Through practice, time, and interaction with other photographers, your personal brand and portfolio will develop. Your individual styles and interests will evolve as time moves on. Some methods may stick over time, while others will be creative bursts that stimulate you for just a few years. In photography, there’s always something more to learn—and it might change the way you see the world around you.
Learn DSLR Photography
Get acquainted with your camera and learn photography basics with photographer Justin Bridges in the Skillshare Original course Fundamentals of DSLR Photography.
Graphic Design and Branding
Picture the ads you see on TV, the highway, and online. What are some of the iconic companies you know? What visuals bring those companies to mind? Now, think of some of the ads from your childhood. You still remember some of those decades-old spots vividly, right? That’s the power of creative branding and logo creation.
Working for brands and businesses is an enticing field that can pay lucratively—if you know what you’re doing. In addition to being a formidable career path, graphic designers are often in a position to shape the world around us. It’s your responsibility to make the lasting image, so you can create that connection with the audience. You have to walk a fine line between creativity and expression in order to shape an idea for mass consumption, so it’s no wonder that businesses are willing to shell out large sums for the right creative minds.
Designing logos is an interesting lesson. Often, you’ll find that a logo is put together with simple shapes. However, the complexity of landing on the final solution can be a challenge for creatives the world over: It takes recognition of shapes, colors and other elements. You have to develop a keen eye and open mind to conceive of the kinds of ideas that end up becoming iconic logos. It’s a skill that can become beneficial in non-creative settings, too, as it improves your ability to work through math problems and puzzles.
Design is an integral part of our everyday lives, from branding to city planning. It relies on many of the analytical skills we use during the workday with a creative twist. Even when the end results appear simple, it takes immense prowess to arrive at the precise solution and make the work seem so easy.
Try Your Hand at Branding
Jeff Staple, founder of Staple Design, shares advice for building a brand from scratch in his Skillshare Original, The Staples of Branding.
Choosing the Right Materials
Knowing the right tools to use on a project is just as important as understanding your medium. A painter knows to use a soft, round brush when they need a fine point. A seasoned photographer might bring a fisheye lens to a portrait shoot, and the scene will begin to look very different. For someone studying illustration, the right paper, pencils, and erasers can bring a work to life.
Pencils and Other Illustrating Tools
Choosing the right drawing tools can only come from trial and error—like every field, immersing yourself in drawing and illustration will help you understand it best. Grab as many pencils, papers and blending sticks you can. Try your hand, literally, at every pencil from 9H to 9B. Discover the properties each tool brings to the paper and how they interact. The hard and soft qualities of each will come through as you experiment with different combinations.
Once you have a grasp on your pencils, explore blending sticks and erasers. You’ll see that an untrained artist can make a mess with both of these items, but soon enough, you’ll find yourself dabbling in charcoal, inks and the standard graphite. This will help round out your tools as well as style preferences. Don’t forget to consider your paper, too. The surface you draw on can be just as essential as the tools you use on it.
Trial and error not only helps you learn, but it also builds your tools. Over time, as you learn the ins and outs of the illustration, you’ll assemble the materials you need and prefer. Your pencil case will become the equivalent of a handyperson’s toolbox. Instead of hammers and nails, yours might consist of:
- Mechanical pencils
- Graphite pencils H through B
- Pencil sharpener
- Flat eraser
- Kneaded eraser
- A variety of blending sticks
- Various types of paper textures
Keep practicing and trying new tools until you land on the ones that work for you.
Painting Tools and Watercolors
When pursuing watercolor, you’ll need to know the different brushes, papers, paints and more that go into a well-executed piece. That also includes techniques you won’t come across in other art forms. Did you know you’ll need a multi-chamber pot to clean your brushes? Yes, to make sure your brush stays clean and your canvas’s colors don’t get muddied, you’ll need to separate your colors during the cleaning process. By doing so, you’ll maintain fresh brushes that won’t cause errors on the paper.
When choosing your watercolor tools, you’ll also want to consider an array of brushes, fluids and papers. The shapes and sizes of brushes alone give you options, but when you consider the way hair type changes a brush, you’ll find yourself exploring even more of the intricacies of watercolor. Some brushes can cost more than $1000, so choose wisely.
The hair that makes up your brush should be scrutinized for its resilience and performance: Your brush should be able to retain the right amount of paint without going limp during use. You can go for the elite, expensive brushes, like sable, or go for less expensive hair alternatives. These include other animals, synthetic fibers, and blends.
You’ll also have a choice between round and flat brush shapes. While most choose round for its versatility, you’ll find the flat especially useful when creating a straight edge. But that’s not where the options end. Flat brushes come in three different types, and each one serves their own purpose. You’ll eventually develop your own personal taste, and likely land on a default brush of your choosing. Before doing so, sample a variety of them.
Each tool helps bring out a different aspect of watercolor. Choosing one tool over the other creates a different effect that makes your work of art change. To understand the essentials of watercolor takes practice and a firm grasp of how each tool reacts. Without it, your brush could hold too much paint and sag when all you need is a fine, straight edge. To ensure that you never run into a lack of needed supplies, make sure your kit includes:
- Multiple paints
- Multiple containers of water for washing brushes
- A paint palette
- Masking fluids
- Papers of varying weights
Each style and technique calls for you to use a specific tool in your kit. It’s always best to be prepared. You never know when you could begin learning your next exciting watercolor endeavor.
Cameras, Lenses, and Photography Tools
Photographers need to stay informed about the latest technology, too. As the tools of the trade rapidly advance, it’s crucial to read up on what’s needed for each shoot. Every project is different. Depending on the work, you could find yourself in need of various lenses, lights, or reflectors.
Will you be using natural light, or is the scene pitch black? How about distance? Will anything be moving? The answer to each of these questions represents a factor that determines what gear you’ll tote along with you. It’s key to stay as up to date as you can afford. With technology continually moving forward, your go-to piece of equipment for shooting in the dark could quickly be outdated while another option revolutionizes your field.
Still, some items belong in your pack for virtually any shoot:
- Camera body
- Macro and distance lenses
- Folding reflectors
- Travel lights
- A tripod that fits the camera body
- Camera case
- Spare charged batteries and SD card
Knowing the basics and the materials you need helps put you on the path to mastering photography. You don’t need the best materials to start out. That will come in time. For now, get started on your phone and master the basics. Then, focus on getting a new camera. There are loads of reading materials and supplies for beginners out there, so consider gradually scaling your kit to ideal levels—you’re just starting out, so there’s no need to rush out and buy everything.
Whether you’re tackling photography for the first time or considering a future in painting, work on your basics in the beginning, and gradually start to think outside the box. There’s no harm in experimenting—it can be as simple as changing your camera’s angle or using a different type of pencil. Try various tools and elements to find your voice, and you’ll inevitably turn out some incredible creations.
How to Find Your Muse
Think of your brain as a dry log resting in a fireplace. Each time you see or speak about art, you’re striking the flint. Eventually, a spark will arrive that will ignite your passion.
If you’re like most people, the key to finding a muse is to surround yourself with the kind of art you want to create. Go to art shows and galleries, speak to creatives in the field, and talk to others online. See and speak about the art as much as you possibly can. Compare two or more wildly different artists within the same medium. Ask yourself how one portrait photographer got their work to look so different from another person’s. Analyze the details and ask yourself questions—sometimes, you can even ask the artists themselves.
Go beyond the medium and look at different styles, like realism or cartoons. What stands out? What would you do differently? What would you like to see? Don’t be afraid to go beyond your art form, either. Explore logos and designs, go watch a dance routine, or witness an actor bare their soul on stage. Any of these could be your next great inspiration.
To tell your story, it’s essential to discover what you want to say. Sometimes it may come easily, but other times you’ll have to search places you may never have been before. To find the inspiration that sparks your art’s most profound purpose, you’ll have to discover your own muse.
Discover Your Unique Style
Dabble in digital art and find new sources of inspiration in Laci Jordan’s Skillshare Original, Digital Illustration for All: Discover, Cultivate and Share Your Unique Personal Style.
Our everyday lives benefit immensely from the effect the arts have on us. Creating art relieves stress, fosters happiness and contentment, and allows anyone to express their emotions. As your creative journey continues, you will continue to find new ways to tell your story.
There’s no better time to begin your endeavors than today. Not sure what to choose? Don’t worry! Pick something that interests you and dive in to see if it’s right for you. If it isn’t, try something else. Remember that your art can span so many styles, including logo design, photography, filmmaking, dancing, painting, sculpting, and more.
Discover what works with your voice, and immerse yourself in that medium. You never know how your passion can evolve into a well-paying side hustle or a rewarding hobby.
When your mind is continuously chasing a creative idea, you become more productive—after all, a creative is always on the lookout for the next great idea. Art helps provide positive aspects to both our personal and professional lives. It can drive our happiness as well as our success. The opportunity to turn your passion into an income stream is stronger than it has ever been, and there’s no better time to start learning than today.
Featured image by Justin Bridges.