Being an Artist: How to Improve Your Skills
Being an "Artist" is a state of mind: In order to become an artist one only has to call themselves an artist in their chosen field.
Being a good artist on the other hand is far more challenging; fraught with creative block, self-doubt and the ever-niggling thought of 'Am I any good?'
Firstly let me assure you; if you are having these thoughts then chances are that you are at least decent in your artistic choices, something apparent in that you understand that you can improve.
The real question is: How do you get this skill to show in your work?
Below I shall be going over several methods to improve your skills, as well as several different ways to use already inbuilt skills.
The first way is, of course, something that any artist will tell you upon being questioned; Practice, practice, practice!
This may sound trite and obvious, however there are many ways in which someone can practice their Art, from drawing in a sudden spark of inspiration and jotting down the idea to practicing drawing the thing in front of you at a particular moment: Every piece of Art you get down can and, most probably, will, improve your natural skills somehow.
Another way to improve is via comparison. An example of improving through comparison might be simply observing other's works and taking note of the nuances of their style, or watching someone else draw and noting particular techniques. Some even trace over another's drawing and take note of the ways in which the curves and lines align, allowing them to incorporate a particular style into their own work.
Artistic expression isn't something that you can turn off and on; many artists find themselves examining the different hues of the sunset, or the cracks and edges in a statue. Many artists will tell you that portrait drawing can help learn to draw people, however adapting different styles such as comic or manga, abstract or realistic, and many others, can help you to branch out into such different styles. An excellent technique I personally consider to be helpful is to draw a person realistically and then examine another artist's work, attempting to imitate their own nuances and artistry into your own pieces.
Being an artist isn't just drawing what you see though; being an artist is an expression of imagination. An excellent technique for this is to adapt real-life situations and movements into your passion.
Utilizing hand-to-eye co-ordination may allow you to draw crisper, smoother lines or improve your overall perception.
Exercising and taking note of the ways muscles move and stretch can assist in drawing human anatomy; My advice for this particular feat is to use a mirror alongside yourself and do multiple groups of exercises in order to record clearly just how your body changes when in motion.
Even simply taking in the sights around you can help, allowing you to take a breather from a particular piece and come at it with a fresh perspective.
Personally I like to use a certain technique called "Partial recollection" to assist in my artwork: Taking a whole picture, memory or sight and focusing on a singular aspect of this in order to improve in that particular area; it can be remembering a face and focusing on the lilt of the lips, or the curve of the jaw; even the specific shine of their eyes.
Another piece of advice for an Artist would be to improve your focus and memory as best you can; art is an expression of idea and imagination, therefore you must exercise your mind just as well as you might exercise your body.
If the imagination of an artist is their greatest tool, then a lack of imagination is their greatest safety hazard; many artists begin a piece of work with the full intent of finishing and being proud of the piece only to come to a screeching halt when they realize that they have underestimated the scope of the piece or cannot find inspiration to continue.
To improve your imagination consider taking multiple concepts and meshing them together, perhaps throwing ideas against the wall and then taking what's left and utilizing past concepts to improve them.
Another idea is to take past artwork and redraw it; this can show the clear improvement that you have gone through and allow you to feel a certain sense of pride and accomplishment that can allow you the inspiration to continue on.
A certain problem many artists face is changing the type of artwork they produce. Many times changing styles or types of art may appeal to you; more artwork will increase your output and exercise your imagination better, allowing you to create even better artwork, right?
Wrong. When you adapt to a certain style you may miss certain things that might seem obvious to others: I've interacted with many people that have drawn in a realistic style and attempted to begin drawing comic books or children's books, only to flounder as they realize that their artwork is too "complex" or "detailed" to fit among certain genres of work.
If you do decide to change styles and expand I always advise attempting to use your current style as a base: Change specific features and adapt them to suit the situation, ask others to critically examine them and for their opinions, in turn improving your own perception of your artwork in turn.
Another thing to note as an artist is that no other person will be as critical of your work as you. The person creating the art will always see the problems and errors of production that they had to work around, assuming others may spot such mistakes.
Most of the time problems even become exaggerated due to your own perception of others around you and your pride as a creator may be impacted as such: Do not allow your personal view of mistakes you couldn't correct to affect you, most probably the people viewing the piece aren't going to focus on a single aspect as you will, instead admiring the whole piece.
Even should someone notice the mistake, however, take their advice or criticism and use it to improve; everyone will have a different perception of a piece of work or a problem, and most will try to think of some way to solve it. Use this as only you can.
Finally, my last piece of advice to an aspiring artist is this: Don't stop.
Sometimes you may consider taking a break from your work, perhaps you might consider halting your practice because you're "Good enough". Those thoughts only lead to stagnation, don't fall into bad habits, as they will oft affect you far worse than any criticism ever could.