• Shawn Dell Joyce artist

Biggest Mistake that Artists Make...

I teach art, and that is one of the greatest blessings in my life; to see someone grasp the basics then develop their own style and voice growing through painting over the years.

Notice I didn't say "instantly" I said "over the years."


That's because the biggest mistake any artist can make is putting the expectation on themselves that they SHOULD BE instantly good! Why on earth would anyone "should on" themselves like that? We wouldn't expect a toddler to run a marathon or dance ballet, so why would you expect to be instantly great at something the first time you do it?


Our "Sip and Paint" culture has geared us to think that if you aren't immediately good at then you will never be, or that you have to be "born with it" which is equal b.s. and results in people just giving up after the first class or painting.



Please, wad up that idea like failed self portrait and throw it in the garbage!


Instead, celebrate the struggle! I learn so much more from failing at a painting than I do at succeeding. Think about it. Edison once said that he learned 4,999 ways to not make a lightbulb before he succeeded. My mentor told me that the first 5,000 paintings didnt count. I'm on #4863.


One of my students using a color wheel to mix color during a painting exercise in my beginning acrylic class

Great painting is all about the process and not about the final product. This is the hardest concept for most beginners to grasp because we all want instant gratification. Instead of stepping up to the easel and expecting to produce a polished saleable artwork, let yourself struggle through learning the elements of art and painting techniques.


Having a strong foundation in the basics will allow your style to develop and emerge, your voice to be heard clearly, and your work will really sing! But it takes time, and alot of paint and canvas will become collateral damage along the way.


Basics include how to draw (line, shape, form), how to discern and capture values, how to mix color and use color temperature and color theory to make harmonious paintings, how to use brushes and tools like knives, sponges, etc. There are many techniques like alla prima, subtractive, impasto etc. Its important to struggle through these tools, techniques and concepts to have a working grasp of what IS your style and what ISN'T.


Value sketch, color as value charts, and color study from my Beginning Pastel class

Most of the time, I have learned this the hard way (ie: not through YouTube tutorials or watching others, but actually doing it). Get your hands dirty and do it. Do it often, every day if possible. But make sure you learn the basics from a professional and save yourself years of "trial and failure" learning things the hard way. Find a teacher or mentor to work will who will take you through the tools, techniques and concepts of painting in a clear way, and work with that teacher(s) until you feel strong enough to work on your own. Make sure you "google" that mentor and see their work and accomplishments. I urge you, if you are taking a class from me, or thinking of it, please google me now!


In the classes I teach, I try to balance the skill building with confidence building during the course of the class. Most of what we learn will be done as exercises with a few good paintings coming out of a 6 week class. I teach in nonprofit art schools so it has to be fun and educational, but in accredited colleges art classes are often all about studies and not about polished paintings. In Renaissance times, artist's apprentices often started with color mixing exercises that would take several years to complete.


This is a typical beginning acrylic painting set up. The lesson in this painting is Subtractive Painting techniques and using a fan brush to get all the different edges of the clouds, palm, waves, etc. The reference photo is my sample painting.

If you are interested in classes, please go to the classes page on my website and see what I have coming up. Classes start next week at Dunedin Fine Art Center and Beach Art Center!

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