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Yes, you can actually make art. Here’s how.

Monica Karpinski

Monica Karpinski

Adult Learning Editor, IDP Connect

First published on March 16,2018 Amended on April 03,2018

To outsiders, the art can seem as enigmatic as it is elite. Between seas of berets, finely mixed pigments and meticulously applied gauche, we might feel the closest we’ll be to ‘getting it’ is the distance between us and the wall of an art gallery. But before you relegate yourself to sad sketches of stick figures, remember that creating art is a process, and requires skills that can both be taught and learned. You only need to figure out how to get your head in the game.

Whilst there’s no distinct, one-size-fits-all template for the creative process, there are key points during the journey at which any artist experiences some kind of pit stop. And whether you’re a fool for Art Deco, are itching to create a Pop Art style screen print or are feeling particularly adventurous (stained glass work, anyone?), there are virtually endless ways you can tickle your innermost creative fancy. From conception to just dried oil on canvas, here at Floodlight we’ve pinned down the most important (and troublesome!) steps in creating a masterpiece to show you that making art is really not so scary.

relaxing on grass

1. Relax

Breathe, it’s okay: getting started is always the hardest and most intimidating step of tackling something new. But the good news is that once it’s over, it’s a breeze. Mind blank? Ideas seldom come when they’re called, so at first try teaching yourself to relax and let your mind wander. Ideas also hardly ever surface fully-formed, and may come in the form of an unexplained emotion, thought or even an impression. For example, after lying on your sofa for a while, you might be struck by the hazy tinge your curtains make with your wallpaper.

Don’t stress if nothing comes at once, just focus on getting yourself into that loose, open frame of mind and eventually, we promise, you’ll feel something. This, O pilgrims, is a little thing we like to call inspiration. And, contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t always feel like you’re being struck by lightning: it can be as small as a wave of unexplained happiness, curiosity or concern. It only matters that you let yourself feel it, and remain aware of how it feels.

Learn about art

2. There’s no such thing as ‘good’

Forget ‘good’. In fact, forget ‘bad’ while you’re at it. It might sound cheesy, but at the start of the creative process there’s nothing that matters except your ideas and how you’re able to coax them out. Anything you put on a page, canvas or fashion from clay, should be taken as pure expression, and instrumental in helping you figure out what it is you’d like your artwork to say. Art is only ‘good’ in how well it communicates what you’d like it to.

Once struck by inspiration, try to get out exactly what you’re feeling in any way, shape or form possible. Your starting point can be anything from a scribble to a haiku, so long as it gets your mind rolling. This is the beauty of the creative process: it needs to start on your terms, and help get you on the way to expressing whatever abstract ideas are swimming around in your subconscious.

You’ll find that at this initial, experimental stage, you’ll often go into a kind of trance-like state as you doodle, colour or ponder. This is good. It means you’re concentrating.

Art supplies

3. Pick your poison

Do you like the rough smear given off by crayons, or are you drawn to the smooth finish of watercolour painting? Whatever your prospective poison, you’ll never know which medium is best for you until you dig your heels in and give it a go.

Every single aspect of your artwork will strike a different impression in the person taking it in, which is something every artist must consider when putting together their pieces. Should you express yourself via colour, or would you rather make a moody masterpiece that focuses on nuances of light and shadow? The easiest and perhaps only way to do this is via trial and error.

In the same loose frame of mind as before, take a look at different effects you can create with different materials and see how each makes you feel. Does a section of bright red oil pastel make you feel strongly? What about some finely draw lead crosshatches? Go with whichever you react best to. 

Learn to draw

4. Get it straight

Now that your ideas are out and partially formed, you’re in the position to start making decisions about what sort of message you want your work to communicate. Now that you’ve pinned down exactly how you felt whilst making your work, you need to figure out how to get that message out and across to others. This message is what your work is ‘about’.

Against the results of your experiments and idea generation sessions, sit down and try to definitely decide what it is your work is ‘about’. We found that explaining our ideas to someone else was a great way to get our heads around what we were actually trying to say. We’ve also heard that writing things down works pretty well, too. Once you’re got a firm, definite idea of what you’d like your work to say, and which sorts of materials appeal most to you, you’re ready to get going on the final version.  

contemporary art

5. Do it!

You heard us: take the plunge and get creating!

Art doesn’t need to be a divisive buzzword between those who’ve ‘got it’ and those who ‘don’t’. Now that your confidence is in check and you’re bursting with inspiration, why not learn how to champion painting, drawing, watercolour or even mosaic and see what you’ll come up with?  

Monica Karpinski

Monica Karpinski

Adult Learning Editor, IDP Connect

Monica Karpinski received her BA (Media and Communications) and Diploma in Modern Languages (French) from the University of Melbourne, Australia. An art and culture aficionado, in her spare time Monica enjoys film, reading and writing about art.

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