How to Become a Better Artist, Faster - Learn The Best Practices of Great Artists | Jordan Eastwood | Skillshare

How to Become a Better Artist, Faster - Learn The Best Practices of Great Artists

Jordan Eastwood, Artist

How to Become a Better Artist, Faster - Learn The Best Practices of Great Artists

Jordan Eastwood, Artist

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8 Lessons (30m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Quantity Over Quality

    • 3. Focused Work

    • 4. Your Ideal Artist

    • 5. Getting Feedback

    • 6. Finding your Inspiration

    • 7. Working for Creativity

    • 8. Epilogue

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About This Class


Would you like to become a better artist, faster? 

For most artists, whether you’re just starting out or you are far into your career, there is always a shortage of time. During my first years as an artist, I was often finding myself rushed, without really getting anywhere, and not knowing where to go next.

This class will help teach you practices that I have studied and collected over those few years, following in the footsteps of old great masters, and prolific modern artists. These practices have allowed me to more effectively use what time I have on creating my art and to ensure that any new lessons or mediums can be learned swiftly and productively. 

Key lessons include:

  • Making a lot of art
  • Breaking down the artist you want to be
  • How to find and use inspiration
  • Working for your creativity

Remember to work alongside the videos using the class projects! They will help affirm these lessons to memory, and are the first step in setting up these practices long term.

Whether you’re just beginning your creative career, and you are looking for somewhere to start, or you are an intermediate level artist, who feels they are stagnating, dying to grow and to reach some level of stability, then I think you’re going to get a lot out of this class.

Make sure you take a look at the Fine Art section on the Skillshare main page to reinforce this learning with other great videos, and look out for my future class showcasing how to improve your figure drawing!

Meet Your Teacher

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Jordan Eastwood




I'm Jordan, and I am a full time artist living in Devon in the UK. I work mainly with figures, using pastels, charcoal and sculpture to tease out the thoughts and feelings of the subject and represent them expressively.

I'm working on a series of Skillshare videos to share my experiences of growing as a new artist and to help you 'Become a Better Artist, faster.'

If you're interested, please do follow my profile, and if you have any suggestions for videos you'd like to see, send me a message! 

If you'd like to keep up to date and see my most recent work, follow my instagram, or check out my website!

See full profile

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1. Introduction: I think everybody would like to become a better artist. To be able to better represent the work in your head, to communicate your ideas, and to create work that truly moves people. Well, what if I told you there are a number of practices that you can learn which almost all successful artists have in common? My name is Jordan Eastwood, and I'm a full-time artist from Devon in the UK. I work mainly with pastels creating expressive figures and portraits, but I work in other mediums too, including charcoal and sculpture. Over the last four years, I've made great efforts to learn and to teach myself the right lessons so that I can go from someone who had no real sense of purpose as an artist to an artist who regularly sells, has a consistent catalog of artwork, and someone who makes art that I can be proud of. In this series of videos, we're going to look at a number of tips and strategies to ensure that every second that you can spare to spend on your art is effective. I think back to when I was just beginning my career in art, and I remember often feeling confused about what to do next and where to go. That's the reason I've made these videos so that you can have the head start that every artist should get. Whether you're just beginning your creative career and you're looking for somewhere to start or you're an intermediate level artist who feels they are stagnating, dying to grow and to reach some level of stability, then I think these videos are for you. 2. Quantity Over Quality: The first lesson may seem obvious, but it's probably one of the most important factors when you're a beginner; the more work you create, the better you will get. Whether you paint or draw or sculpt, if you're trying to improve, you should be aiming to create a few new works a week. Most importantly, trying to spread it out evenly over the days. Even if it's for less than an hour or so each day, all those separate sessions, are going to quickly add up. Obviously, with some mediums, each finished piece might take longer than with the others, but not every piece should be a grand 100 percent finished one anyway, especially early on. Now you may think, "Well, I don't really have time this week, so I'll just make up for it by doing one big block on the weekend, seven hours all in one go." While that may seem like an okay thing to do, it's really not. There are plenty of times in the past where I've slipped away from daily working and back to trying to fit it into large blocks of work when I can and I can tell you is worse for a number of reasons. Number one, is you're not giving yourself time to reflect on each piece of work. When you're working on something for a long period of time, you can get bogged down in the details or in one specific area of the artwork, as a result of that, you can easily lose sight of the big picture. If you give yourself some time away from it, even if it's only one night's sleep, you can come back to that work with a degree of separation and then you'll be able to more effectively critique your own work as a result. Back when I was a student studying neuroscience, the consensus was that sleep helps affirm short-term memories into long-term memories, which is going to help you make sure that what you have learned that session stays in your head. Obviously, it's a bit more complex than that, but it's a very basic summary. Then the number two reason why you shouldn't work in long blocks is that sooner or later you're going to burn out. I think that a lot of people who don't make art may not realize how tiring it can really be. There have been times where, in the worst cases, I've sat there and concentrated on a piece for 12 hours or more without a break, and by the end of it, you're exhausted, obviously. Working like that is going to make it less likely that tomorrow's work is effective and focused, or even worse, you may not feel like working at all. Obviously, everyone needs a break to recharge and that's absolutely fine. Everyone needs days off. Rest is very, very important. But working to a schedule will allow you to consistently create art, get enough rest, and build good habits, and those things are what are going to make you a better artist in the long run. Shorter but more frequent work is definitely best. I think a lot of artists pride themselves on being perfectionists and while this can be an invaluable skill, it can actually really hinder the amount of work you produce. What a lot of hugely successful artists have in common, is that by the end of their career they have thousands of artworks. Most people will only know of a few famous pieces, maybe, for each artist, but artists like Van Gogh or Picasso were creating new work constantly. When you think about it, it does make sense. Logically if you produce more work, you've increased your odds for one of those pieces being fantastic. Imagine you have an artist and you give him a year to work on whatever he wants. Now in one timeline, let's say he produces 50 artworks and in another, he produces 10. The odds of one of those works being the best leans in favor of the timeline where he made 50 pieces. You may say that, "Well, when he made just 10, he obviously could have put a lot more time into each work, so maybe on average, they're all of a higher quality." But the thing is in the 50-piece scenario, not only has he created more pieces, but he would also have learned more about his medium, his own process, and he would have evolved his ideas at a much faster rate, allowing him to explore many more ideas freely. Those are things that will lead to better artwork, not just the time invested. I think that many artists initially think that you need to spend longer thinking about a piece of work and the longer you spend, the better it will be, or maybe that it's best to wait for inspiration to strike. But when do you stop? In reality, no one truly knows what is going to end up resonating with an audience especially early on in your career. The piece that you slave over and dream about and spent 100 hours on could be a total flop and the piece that you finished in a single afternoon, on a whim could be a huge success. If you're a beginner or even an intermediate artist, you will learn much more from taking two drawings to 80 percent of completion than spending the same amount of time taking one drawing to 100 percent. Finishing that last 20 percent of drawing is proportionally going to take you as long as that first 80 percent, and that might be surprising, but it's quite true. Now, I do want to say that when you're aiming to create great pieces of work, maybe to go in exhibitions or something, you can absolutely take it to 100 percent and you should be, but this can't be every artwork, especially if you're learning. If it helps, you can give yourself a loose structure, say, for every great work you want to produce, you need to do a few accompanying pieces. If you go back and look at my work, you'll see that it often comes in threes. I actually do more than three pieces for each series. The first drawing that I post may actually be the third or fourth in the series. This allows me to warm up and get better understanding of what I'm trying to do with it. On top of that, it's fantastic practice. Now I don't always post my practices and that's a personal choice and if you'd like to, you absolutely should, it's just my method of creating more artwork. You don't have to do it exactly like I do, but you need to get into the habit of creating lots of work and making sure you're not being too precious about every piece. In summary, draw every day, try to stick to a schedule, increase your quantity of drawings, and try not to be precious about every single drawing, not all of them have to be 100 percent. Some people may recommend things like the 100-day drawing challenge for increasing your quantity. While, in principle, it's a good idea, it might not help you grow as efficiently as possible. These challenges can be really good for motivation, but keep in mind that unless you do one that is really suited to you and your style, you might not be drawing what you want to draw and your work is not going to be as focused, and you won't develop as well. 3. Focused Work: Now I've stressed how important the quantity of work is. I also want to stress how important it is that this work is focused. It's okay sometimes if you want to doodle or just draw without thinking, but those pieces are not going to be the ones that you're going to learn a lot from. Ideally, you should be working towards a goal and have it in mind with each drawing or series. You can have many goals. some can be short-term, for example, say you want to get better at drawing hands, maybe you find some inspiration, watch a quick lesson and plan small drawing series, maybe five drawings, with some of them being main pieces. They could be mid-term goals like developing a more consistent series of work for our portfolio, or they could even be long-term goals like wanting to learn or develop a totally new medium from scratch. You can compliment your existing skills so far in the future you can create your dream exhibition. I found that there are a couple of things to keep in mind that are going to help ensure your work is focused. One of these things is to always be learning, but make sure it's from the right places. It's not a great idea to learn randomly. Although that being said, you can find great lessons that apply to your work from anywhere all over the place. As I've said before, having a goal-oriented approach to learning is going to ensure that you can develop much faster. Something that's been very valuable for me is learning a new medium to complement my main one. At the beginning of last year, I decided to learn about sculpting, and I loved it. Initially, I felt that I took to it quite quickly, mainly because of my observational skills that I had from practicing pastels. What I didn't necessarily expect was the huge impact that it would have on my pastel work. Obviously, sculpting requires you to see figures very three-dimensionally in a similar way to live drawing. It helps you better analyze and get more information from the subject you're working with. I felt it helped me place my subjects onto the page but giving it a real sense of space. Secondly, you want a lot of your learning to come from experts and not to be totally self-led. Learning on your own is fantastic. I totally recommend it, but I know from experience that it will take you far longer than learning from someone who has been through it themselves. By balancing learning by doing and learning from an expert, you are going to forge your own path and also avoid lots of common mistakes. I recommend that you watch many lessons as long as they're relevant to your work. Watching a lesson won't take forever. You should try and fit it into your schedule. Try and watch a few lessons each week or even each day if you can manage it. In the future, you'll have a much better idea of what you need and when. But a schedule can help you develop the habit in the first place. In terms of which lessons you should be going for, learning more about your medium is a very obvious one, but you're also probably going to want to learn about marketing or website design. You can start to think about creating your own personal place for your work. Obviously nowadays it's much easier to create a website so some good design principles is going to help you create a unique design that complements your work and help it stand out. Other than that, as I've said above, try and look at beginner videos for new mediums that might interest you. In summary, for focused work, think about your goals, long and short-term. Learn in order to fulfill those goals and learn from experts. Try and think about the kind of artist that you want to be and look for lessons to help with that. That actually brings us onto our next section. 4. Your Ideal Artist: One of the easiest ways you can keep yourself and your learning goal oriented is to break down exactly what kind of artist you want to be. One of the reasons I wanted to learn sculpture in the first place was because in my head for my future ideal exhibitions, I would love to be able to complement my drawings with large sculpted centerpieces or even small accompaniments. Think about what you want to say with your work. Do you have a message that you want to tell or maybe you want to be able to represent specific ideas or an aesthetic to a high standard? How would that future ideal you be able to achieve those things? What would that artist have to know? It's important that while you think of these things, that you strive to be very optimistic, think big. If you're too pessimistic, then the likelihood is that you'll stop before you even give yourself a chance to succeed. These ideal plans are going to put you on the track to becoming the best artists that you can be. We're going to start simply, I want you to grab a piece of paper and at the top of the page, I want you to list all the things that your ideal successful artist is. I'll do mine as an example. Starting simply, I'd like to be able to work on bigger pieces that can dominate a whole space. Create spaces that feel like you've entered another world just from the power of the artwork. I'd love to do that with sculpture too, and maybe in the future create a whole garden. Another is that I'd like to have more stability in terms of income and one day work towards having a nice house out in the countryside or something. I'd also love to be able to help others through artwork. Myself have struggled with mental health issues in the past, and I found that creating this have helped me have a sense of purpose again. It would be fantastic if I could work towards making a charity that does the same for others one day. As you can see, some of these goals are a lot more optimistic than the others. But the important thing is that working towards these ideals is better than just learning without purpose. The first step is knowing what you want. Now we need to look at these ideas and think about how we can break them down. Some will be easier than others, and that's great. Also having a mix of short and long-term goals is perfect, it's exactly what you want. If we look at making bigger pieces, well, what do I need? It might require me to get bigger art space. Maybe look at some different materials that could support large artwork. It might also require things like more detailed references than the ones I use now. Something else I could do is look at how other artists create their big pieces. When you list it all out like this, there is really not much you have to do. How can I create more intense pieces that suck you in and really dominate a room? Well, I could look at things that I find intense and think about the way they are intense. For my work, it could be more accurately displaying subtle emotions or things that the subject might be feeling, or it could link back to the size of the work. How may I get more stability? Well, I think that this is something artist often struggle with, but I should think about getting more diverse income from different sources. Maybe your art could be adapted and sold on mass, on websites like Red Bubble or you can venture into teaching if you're confident you have something valuable to share. How might you get into teaching? Well, like myself, perhaps by making content online. What I'm trying to show is that even if some of these ideas seem massive, they can always be broken down and taken one step at a time. It's very true that some of these problems won't be easy in reality, but this is easy to do and it prepares you. You'll be in a much better place tomorrow than you are now having done this. You'll be heading in the right direction and you'll be doing it purposefully. In a year's time or less, you might feel completely different about the artists that you want to be and that's absolutely fine. None of it was wasted because each thing you've learned helped you get to where you are now. Without that, you might not have had the foresight to go in the new direction that you want to go in. Build that knowledge foundation and work towards your ideal self. 5. Getting Feedback: In a way, you are your most important critic. It's very important that you critic your own work, but try to find a balance between being kind and harsh. Make a list of pros and cons for the drawing, but don't get too hung up on it because you can always just make a lot more drawings. Take the pros and bring them to the next piece and look at the cons and see what you can learn to make them better. Ask yourself the question, would I buy this work? Sometimes it can be quite easy to be precious about your work, and because of your connection with it, you're inevitably going to be giving it more depth and value than someone else might be seeing it for the first time. I'm guilty of this, and you may be too, but it's something you have to push past. Try and imagine yourself seeing it for the first time without the pretense or knowledge of the work. You could hang it up as if it were in a gallery. It could really help your perspective and stay you back to creating work that you love. A lot of this series so far has been focused on what you can do personally to improve your work. This next part involves getting help from others. It's necessary that you put your work out there and allow feedback to come in. This is something that I personally really struggle with for a number of reasons. I do find it difficult to reach out to other artists, superiors, or even my audience sometimes. I find myself thinking, why would these people care about what my work is like? They have their own things going on. How do I know that they'll be telling the truth about my work? But the thing is, people generally aren't like that, as long as you don't ask the world of them. The feedback you'll learn is so much more valuable, and the more you do it, the easier it will get. Even if you disagree with your critics, don't take it personally and try and make it constructive. There's a reason why they said what they did, even if it's not directly to do with you and your work. Obviously, some people are going to be more helpful than others, and if someone ever needs your advice, you should aim to be kind and yet constructive. It's vital that you are evaluating the feedback you get from different people. Some of these people, their opinion is not going to be as valuable as another person just because of what they know. For example, no one else in my family has really studied or practiced art. If I ask them what they think of a drawing, I have to take that into consideration. It's going to be an opinion from someone who might not appreciate contemporary or challenging art as much as another artist might. Maybe whoever you ask isn't the right audience, but you should try and ask yourself why they aren't the right audience, and you should try and find out if there are any useful nuggets of wisdom in their view. Trying to touch yourself from the potential feeling of anger or frustration when someone criticizes your work. Focus on the fact that it's all in the service of you creating great work. Regardless of what people think, you have to create art that you want to make, you have to enjoy your work. When you care about the work you create, you'll be able to see the difference in quality, and on top of that, you'll be itching to make more. You're not going to want to work on something that doesn't excite or inspire you. If you love it, you'll be able to put more time into it, and you will last much longer. The longer you can work at something you love, the higher the chance you're going to make something that is really good. 6. Finding your Inspiration: There are going to be a lot of times when you feel like your well of ideas has run dry and you have no clue what to do next or even if your own style or medium is right for you. You have to work for your inspiration. Creativity is something I'm going to go into more detail in the next section. But for now, don't be afraid of looking for inspiration to help you along, especially at the start of your career. Sometimes you'll hear people say that you have to be totally original and you shouldn't ever be emulating other artists because you're effectively stealing their work or ideas, and when there are definitely artists out there that do plagiarize, most artists I know have been inspired by many artworks and artists that came before them. I can't think of a single one that hasn't been. Today, the best songwriters, filmmakers, and even game designers have all been inspired or influenced by something or someone else. Why should traditional be any different from those things? All art is built upon something. Whether it be life experience, education, or the works of other artists that resonate with you. It could even be natural beauty like landscapes or the human form. You absorb an idea, digest it, and then you represent it and that becomes art. The further, into your career you go the more important it's going to be to develop your own style. But while you're still learning, you should feel free to study and learn from other artists. However, if you do ever emulate or copy another artist's work, you need to be very clear that that's what you're doing. Especially if you're posting it on social media. Artists work for years to hone their style and it can be very upsetting to see others taking the work and passing it off as their own, even if that wasn't their intention. During those dry spots of ideas, there are things that you can do to help kick-start yourself. One of the things I have found useful is to build a catalog of lots of artwork or images that inspire you. When I decided to try and take art seriously, I didn't really know what kind of artist I wanted to be. You can see that if you go back to the start of my career on my Instagram, I haven't even sat down and analyzed what I really, really liked. The styles and subject matters of my work were really inconsistent and there were points where I was just totally dissatisfied with my work. So that led me to look online for things that inspire me, and I actually found P-interest helpful for this. For every artwork that you like, there is a whole page of suggested images that are similar to it. As I was building a board of these inspirations, I noticed a pattern emerging. The work generally had a strong emphasis on values and very expressive depictions of figures and portraits with usually only one or two subjects, not a lot of background information. Funny enough, if you look at my work now, you can see that most of them take a lot of those poxes. Building a catalog of inspiration helped me find the direction I wanted to go in and it will help you as well. The second tip actually counters the first one slightly. In my early days, a lot of my time was spent in front of a computer screen and you can spend all day doing it and not actually get anything done. In the working for creativity section, I'm going to go over a few exercises that will help you control and focus this kind of work. But there's another small tip that I want to slip in here. More recently, I've realized the importance of getting out into the world to try and find original things that strike inspiration in you. Stepping away from the computer helped me detach myself from those constant comparisons that I would make between myself and other artists. Sometimes that slight envious feeling can be a great fuel for some new work. But more often than not, it's going to bring you down, so it's important to get out there and be inspired in totally new ways. The most important thing you have to do once you've collected a lot of inspiration is to analyze why they're inspirational. Other common elements in each of the images, do they elicit a specific emotion in you? Once you identify that, you'll be a lot closer to knowing the artwork that you'd love to create, and you'll be a much better critique of your own work as well. Something you want to be careful with is to try and get inspiration from many different artists to try and transform it and make it your own work. A bad artist copies, but a great one innovates. That's a quite well-known quote from TS Eliot dive butchered. The takeaways are to build that catalog. Try and identify why those images inspire you and to allow yourself to grow into your own style. There are a few points that I'd like to add onto the end of this section. Your true style isn't something that you always choose. It's likely going to be a combination of what your brain loves, and while your hands will want to make. Your style is going to evolve as you grow, and it's important that at some point you try and aim to grow without being too influenced by other artists. But that's going to come with your confidence in your ability. 7. Working for Creativity: This video is all about creativity, how you can cultivate it, and the importance of trusting your own sense of it. I read a book a few years ago called Creative Confidence, is written by David and Tom Kelley. It's a brilliant book. Its main lesson is that creativity is not a fixed human trait and should not necessarily be associated with just being artistic. Everybody can be creative. Some people as they get older, think that the creativity that they had as a child is gone. But in reality it works a lot more like a muscle. It's something that you have to work for and that's my main point here. Even though the book is loosely aimed at more traditional working professionals in business and things like that, the lessons apply to everyone, even artists. You have to work through your own ideas. The ones that seem to come out of nowhere or maybe come to us in a dream may make for a great story, but in reality it almost never happens. The majority of successful artists will spend a lot of time working for the ideas and developing them into good artwork. There are a number of different ways to do it. I might go back to my past work and see how I can take it further. Or I could look at my inspiration catalog that we put together. I could start by making a note to read some philosophy that might inspire me, and then try and sketch out some representations. Sometimes I work on my reference photos in an editor to see what kind of distortions or effects I can get and then work into my pastel paintings. The trouble is is that you can spend a lot of time doing this and not really get anywhere. To try and structure it, there's a quick exercise that you can do to get your brain working and to ensure that you're not wasting too much time. Look at some inspiration and pick a topic that you like. Give yourself a limited time, maybe 10 minutes and sketch out and write down as many random or new or silly ideas, anything, for my inspiration that you can. Don't get stuck on specific ideas. Just keep writing them down and moving on. Then review them afterwards and if there are any that seem interesting, spend another 10 minutes developing those into something more. First time that you do this, it's going to go badly. You feel like you can't think of anything or that the idea is that just not good enough. But you're training your brain to be more creative and to find out ideas of nothing, so keep trying. After you have the ideas, you can be as selective as you like and you should really only work on the ideas that you like. 8. Epilogue: So that's it. That's all the tips and practices that you need to help kicks-tart your art career and make you a better artist faster. In the beginning, there will always be people telling you not to do art, or that the art you're making is not going to sell. But at the end of the day, there is more to art than just selling. Why do you want to make the things that you do? It doesn't matter if the reason seems small or if you want to shoot for the moon. If you have a desire to make something great, then do it. That in itself is a success. When all is said and done, there are always going to be great artists in the world. Can you make your mark on the world with your work? Maybe it doesn't feel that way now, but if you care enough, work hard and structure yourself, you can get there. Many artists have before, you get to decide if one of those artists is going to be you. Congratulations for making it through the class. Now you can get out there and put these habits into practice. Don't forget to complete the class projects and make sure you share any work you create in the project gallery. It can be a fantastic way for you to find pace and to allow yourself to give feedback to one another, and on top of that, I'd love to see your work. I can't wait to see how these practices and habits help you all become better artists. Thank you for watching this class and good luck.