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"Mastering the Canvas: Navigating the Pros and Cons of Being a Self-Taught Artist "

All of us wonder at times, can I call myself an artist if I'm self-taught? Well there's a process and it's different for everyone depending on the stage of life you are in and your age. Today I'm gearing this towards retirees or those that want to be prepared for when they do retire. If you're still raising a family or a young person, you have a choice between self-taught and taking the traditional method of becoming a trained artist by attending a university and obtaining a degree in fine art. Being a trained artist is also open to retirees if it is something you truly desire, but as we are an older group we can feel like there is not enough time left to pursue the traditional method of obtaining an art degree. Today I want to point out what can be the benefits of being a self-taught artist for retirees.

Now that I'm retired from my job and widowed, I'm not eager to go back to school for a formal education. You may not be either. When you're retired you know you only have so much time left and you just want to get onto painting, learning what you need to know to get the process of producing art started and learn along the way. For some, being retired may be the perfect time, especially if you live in close proximity to a university or college and like the idea of socializing with younger peers, then you should to go back to art school. If you're retired from work, no pressing obligations, an education may give you the vote of confidence you need to be able to hold a a degree in fine art in your hands. In today's world of communication, and being able to accomplish many of our goals through online training and online communities, a new world for marketing your artwork has opened bypassing galleries and their high commissions. Never has there been a better time to be a creative. I think there are questions you need to ask yourself so you have a clear path on your approach to becoming an artist, whether you choose self-taught or a structured art program with a degree at the end.

First of all why do you want to become an artist? What kind of artist do you want to be? Do you want to be able to sell at street fairs, craft show and maybe online or do you want to be a skilled fine artist that sells to art galleries? I think it depends on how much income you plan to make as an artist. Both can be achieved through a self-taught program. Look at the goal you are trying to accomplish and make your plan from plan from there.

Most of us learn as we go along hoping our skills will improve with time. So let's look at what the differences are between a self-taught artist and a trained artist.

We all know a self-taught artist is someone that did not receive a formal art education, developing the skills themselves. A self-taught artist develop skills by taking in person classes and joining local community painting groups for an exchange of information and like mindset that supports each other through their journeys. There are also online courses and online art groups to join, as will as paid online artist training through programs such as Patron and SkillShare. YouTube is another great source to explore different types of artist and the free training they provide. Watching different artist on YouTube is a great way to find out if landscape, portrait or abstract painting may be one of the painting styles you may like to pursue.

You may also need to explore and study art books, paint copies of the old masters, as well as study their techniques and enjoy trips to museums. Learn about the basics you need to study no matter what style of art you plan to base your art style on. Basics include drawing or sketching, color theory, light and shadow, design concept and perspective. The thing about being self-taught is you have to have the desire and self-discipline to take your learning to the level you are wishing to obtain.

So where to start? You can take an easy approach and wrap yourself in doodling, taking photos, take a beginning art class in painting you may be interested in learning about. Explore and take some time to play and see the kinds of art you are drawn to and start looking for a direction of study. If you find you don't like the art style you can always change direction as anything you may learn along the way will benefit you no matter what art style you eventually choose as your own.

Another question some of us ask is why do I want to learn to paint at this age? It's not like I can become a fine artist in the time I have left in my life. Maybe not but you can become an extremely good one if you have a desire, and would like to supplement your retirement income. Let's face it, once we retire most of us haven't planned fully what we are going to do with all that time. Having a hobby or a second career after retiring is an option for most of us. Life spans today are much longer and gives us the opportunity to have a second career and enjoy the extra income. Studies show we all need a little structure, as many of us suffer from depression and a sense of loss after retiring. The studies also show that art is good for fighting depression, anxiety, and is a great way to express yourself without words, process complex feelings, and find relief. If not as a second career, art is the perfect hobby especially if dealing with health issues. It gives a person the opportunity to have something to look forward to each day as they learn, paint and plan each painting. Painting strengthens your memory, recollection and sharpens your mind through conceptual visualization. The great thing is now you have the time to learn in your way and your time frame. Self-taught means you can explore art and tailor your learning to a specific style of art. In a university or college you have to not only be exposed to art basics but all areas of art and art history which may not interest you at this point of your life. Self-taught means you can explore and learn in your own way and time frame.

No matter what your age, the alternative to self-taught is a formal art education as a trained artist. This is a structured education organized with specialized instructions from qualified professionals. You have to attend classes in person at a university or college, go on field trips to museums, and art galleries while following a structured program of learning and doing the artwork required by your instructors. There is also projects and essays, examinations and tests. They also cover books and and class materials, studies and art history. The art student is also exposed to critiques of their work to help them improve their skills as well as learning not to repeat mistakes when learning techniques early on. This is something the self-taught artist has to get from art groups or paid instructors. There are professional artist who do critiques, you may have to pay for the critique, and is well worth your time and money to see what mistakes you are making and repeating. The big pay off of structured art education program is it is a "roadmap" to develop your skills at a faster pace than a self-taught artist. The down side of art school education is it is expensive. In my opinion, and being a self-taught artist, the hardest thing for a self-taught artist is having a roadmap, a plan of how you are going to educate yourself to become the educated self-taught artist you want to become.

When you start out the excitement of all the art styles, techniques, and mediums out there to explore lead you to want to try it all. After all you don't want to overlook anything that may be appealing to you. It's all about exploring what others are doing with their art, new art supplies to try, and how to set up some kind of art space. I probably spent 18 -24 months exploring it all and learning in different groups and online art classes. After all there is so much to explore and the question you first think about is why can't I explore it all? Well you can, but after awhile you can fill overwhelmed by it all, and you don't seem to be developing a style of your own and wondering why it's not happening for you. The answer lays in the difference between the art school program vs the self-taught artist. It occurred to me the things I was learning are the same things trained artist learn in their structured art programs at school. The big difference being I was learning in a different order and not exploring important subjects to the style of painting I wanted to accomplish. We all tend to learn the things that interest us and skip over parts we do not find interesting, but we still need to acknowledge these subjects to understand the particular style of art we want to pursue. In a structured art school program we are forced to study these subjects in order to get a degree. Heck you are tested on them so you willing to do them to continue the process the art instructors have set up for you. So maybe as a self-taught artist it would be a good idea of constructing a "learning roadmap" like a trained artist must follow in art school. This doesn't mean you have to learn everything a "trained artist" must learn. After exploring things for a while if you're really serious about becoming an artist you have to come up with a plan or a "learning roadmap" to learn the art skills that will push you forward in your artwork. The great thing about a self-taught learning roadmap is you don't have to learn about everything that you must learn in art school. In school art students must learn all the art styles, art history, and all the basic art skills, along with all the different art disciplines, so they may discover the direction to take their art work and develop their style. You just need to pick an art style you are interested in. You still need the basics art skill such as learning to sketch, if not drawing, color theory, perspective and design concepts in order to have the required skills to move forward in your technique and style. I know myself that at times I have had to back track and learn a basic art skill such as perspective, light and shadow, and cool and warm colors in order to move my art forward. So in constructing a "self-taught learning roadmap" for yourself be sure to get the basic art skills out of the way as not learning these skills may hold you back from becoming a really skilled artist. This is where the trained artist may learn their art styles faster because they are following a learning program structured by professional art instructors and must accomplish these basic art skills before moving forward into other art techniques. Once you have your basic art skills down, then move on to the art style you are interested in. So for myself after all the exploring I did, I began to follow really good professional artists from the "old masters" and then present day fine artist.. I noticed they all do have an art style and they all have perfected their art style through a style they have selected for themselves. They choose one style of art and perfect it before they move on to another style, if they ever move on from that one style. Look at Georgia O'Keefe, she was primarily all about flowers as her subject of art and developed her skills for painting beautiful flowers.

Some artist just do landscapes, some abstracts, and some intuitive or portraits. The point is pick something that excites you and learn and practice as much as you can, if you find it's not what you want, pick another style of artwork. This is what the first couple of years of a structured art education is along with basics art skills, learning about all the different art techniques to create their own style. So picking an art style for example landscapes, then learn as much as is possible about landscape painting. Then by practicing basic art skills, studying and take classes, and following landscape artist and learning the techniques of brushstrokes, colors and design concepts for landscapes, you will have the skills to produce amazing landscapes. You can do this with any style of art. The thing about self-taught is you have to have the desire and the self discipline to take your art and learning to the next level, especially if you want to feel confident when selling your artwork. Think about it. You don't have to go through an entire structured program in art school. You can become a very skilled artist in an art form you love to paint by just learning everything you can for that particular art form and practice it as much as possible. If this is not enough for you, you can then move on to the next art form you want to become an expert at and learn the skills you need for that kind of art. When all is said and done having a formal education does not ultimately determine your success anymore than being self-taught. A successful art career is determined by self discipline, determination, learning and commitment not to give up. There are many ways to customize a self-taught learning roadmap. Think about how you would like to structure your own roadmap.

So here is one way to do your self-taught learning roadmap?

  1. a solid understanding of basic art skills: a) drawing or sketching b) color theory c) design skills which include composition, perspective and anatomy if you're planning on painting faces or the human body.

  2. A knowledge of the fine arts. This can help point in the direction of how you want to develop your skills and the art style you may want to pursue. Study the "Old Masters" or if abstract is your thing, research the history of abstract art so you can understand the techniques and the artist how started the abstract art movement. You can do this for any style of art. You don't have to emerge yourself in all of art history just start with the art style that interests you.

  3. Plan for local art classes in the art style you're interested.

  4. Plan for online classes and courses through artist you admire. Many artist are on YouTube and also websites like and SkillShare.

  5. Plan for local art groups or online groups offer everything from social experience with other like minded people learning new art skills. Some groups and artist offer critiques of your artwork to help improve your skills. This is one of the things you miss being a self-taught artist. It may sound scary to have someone critique your work but can save you from repeating the same mistakes, such as in design concepts and color theory, over and over.

  6. Study art books that are the style of art that interest you.

  7. Plan your art goals. This is different for everyone depending on if you just want a hobby or want to sell your art. You may be someone that just wants to supplement your income each month making only a few hundred dollars. You don't need fine artist skills for this. You just need to be a good artist putting out quality work. There is a difference between producing fine art that sells for thousands of dollars and putting out decorative art for the mass public. Think about the price range of art you want to sell. If you want to sell in the thousands of dollars then the higher your skill level and knowledge must be. If your goal is to sell beautiful painted Christmas ornaments at holiday fairs, you only need enough skills and knowledge to achieve this goal. So where do you want to fit in? Both are achievable depending on your level of self discipline, time, and skill through practice. 8. If you're going to be selling your art you will want to learn about your local market if selling locally or if you're going to be selling online, you need to consider what kind of website you want or if you want to sell through a platform like Etsy. In today's world of technology there are so many ways to sell your art. Artist are no longer at the mercy of galleries. You do need to have some business and marketing skills if you're going to sell your art. You really need to understand how to sell. There are plenty of books on marketing and selling or you may have some skills from the job you retired from. Put these skills back to use. Learn to save all your receipts and do a cost sheet for each of your products so you know how much each item you produce cost. Then you can set a retail price for each item so you are making money. If you go back to my January 2024 blog I did a a business plan template for you and a cost sheets. You can load the cost sheets there if you don't know how to do one of your own. Be sure not to neglect learning some of these skills.

9.Last in pursuing an art career or even hobby, learn to embrace failure. Failure is your friend and the biggest lessons and sometimes biggest breakthroughs for advancing your art come from your failures.

Lastly don't stress out about being a self-taught artist. Having a degree in fine art does not guarantee you will have a job in art anymore than being self-taught. Many people with fine art degrees suffer from impostor syndrome as much as self taught. You can only be stopped from success if you let yourself be. Remember artist such as Vincent Van Gogh, Henri Rousseau, and Frida Kahlo were all self-taught artist and don't forget Grandma Moses was self taught and started her art career at the age of 78. There is room for all of us. Set your mind to your goal, make a plan and reach for your dreams.


How to Woodubend Guide

Have you tried Woodubend moldings or trims for your furniture projects, crafting or applying to just about any DIY project around your home. I carry a wide selection of Woodubend moldings and trims. All you need is a hair dryer, some glue and you can cut, paint, stain and apply to just about any object. Have a look at my demo to see how easy it is to work with. Woodubend and Posh Chalk also has a line of stencils and decoupage papers. Plus brushes and tools. Please check them out on my website. Here is your free Woodubend Guide for how to use Woodubend.

Download PDF • 574KB


Applying Woodubend to a Vintage Frame

Take an old frame, some Woodubend trim and molds add a little glue and make yourself a unique one of a kind frame for your artwork or family picture. Or how about applying to an outdated mirror? Oh the options!

Woodubend is made from wood fibers and pressed into molds creating the intricate patterns. Due to the unique production in

the cold state wood moldings have all the properties of wood. When heated Woodubend moldings become flexible so you can bend them and apply them to just about any surface. Heat is essential with these innovative wood molds, heat them up to make them pliable, apply wood glue to the molding and apply them to your surface. Don't worry, you won't distort the pattern when pressing the decorative wood molding onto the surface. You can heat Woodubend in numerous ways. The fastest way to heat your molding is to use a heat gun, keeping it moving in a circular motion. You can use hair dryer if you like, though it takes a little longer. It's important to keep your heat source moving in a circular motion without touching the Woodubend so it doesn't burn. An electric griddle is ideal to keep-your wood moldings warm while working on your project.

Woodubend molds and trims can be glued by using wood glue such as Titebond or Gorilla Glue for wood. Do not use a PVA glue or Super Glue.

Demo Project:

  1. I started with a vintage frame the old print still there.

2: Remove Staples and print.

3: Use Alcohol or your favorite cleaner to clean grease and old finish. Then a light sanding if needed. Let try.

4: I filled in crevices and gaps with Dixie Bell Mud in brown. Use whatever you like. Let dry then lightly sand.

5: I'll list the molds I used at the end but depending on your frame you may want to choose something else. My frame is on the small side. Corner molds also work well on frames. If you downloaded the user's guide you will note that you can use different heat sources to heat your pieces to make them bendable.

6: Once heated, I cut away the parts I did not want to use. Save the pieces because you can find other uses for them.

After you cut all your pieces, lightly sand if needed with a fine grit paper.

7: I added rose moldings for the center between pediments. Now you can reheat your molds, one at a time to glue them down.

8: You will heat the mold to make it bendable again. Add glue to the back then apply to the frame and press down to make contact with frame. Hold a few seconds to be sure it's set down where you want it. Notice I have made a white chalk mark where I wanted the center rose on both sides of frame.

9: Note make sure to remove any excess glue with a paper towel or baby wipe otherwise you will have to sand when dry.

Also you can paint or stain your molds before gluing down if you want.

10: Here are the finished moldings bonded to the frame. I"ll follow up later when I paint the frame and add a painting. The moldings I used are WUB 1644 (pediments) and the other is WUB328. If you are a DIYer and do garage sales or estate sales look for frames, old mirrors, glass bottles or jars to add moldings and trims then paint to update your finds. You can even add moldings to fresh pumpkins. If you do apply Woodubend moldings to Halloween pumpkins once you're done, you can remove the molds and reuse them on another project. I'll be doing more DIY projects in the future to inspire you in your

creative projects. Moldings are available on my website. Check them out.



I just bought a new book on Drawing by Brent Eviston. The Art & Science of Figure Drawing. Learn by observing and practicing the drawings that are in the book.

This is a little more advanced than his first book The Art & Science of Drawing that is good for someone just starting to learn. I may buy this one also. The Art & Science of Drawing is based on drawing shapes to achieve a realistic drawing. You can get a feel for his books by viewing his YouTube channel.


What I'm Working On

Everything at once it seems. I'm still putting the studio back together and one more cabinet to put together. Of course it's taking me longer than I expected but I'm going to have to stop everything else I think and concentrate on it. I want to have the studio done before March is here and be organized. I'm setting up work stations: an area for a wall easel, a large work table for doing collage and hand painted papers and some small art staging for pictures.. Then there is the framing and shipping station. I'm tired of digging for boxes and tape for mailing. I'm hoping that having separate work stations, I will be able to better control the mess. The only other concern is the storage of frames and canvases. It will be the last thing to tackle.

My other goal is to finish the stenciling on my front porch. It's been a long term project and I'm hoping the weather will start cooperating as it's been a little too cold to paint concrete. I'm creating my own little artist retreat with a little cottage as living space and a separate artist studio (the old detached garage) to manage all the creative mess.

(You can see in the background just a little more stenciling)

Lastly I'm finally starting to work on some of the project I have lined up to do this year. I'm starting out with some whimsy doing an abstract ladies series on canvas. I will get them up on my website as soon as I create a couple more. I have a few other projects planned for the year and I am excited to finish the studio cleanup and really get back to being creative. Once again this year, I'm planning on getting out of my comfort zone and tackle a new mixed media projects.

Hope the sun is shining bright on your creative projects.

Hugs my friends!


New on My Website

My tech guy is busy working on updating the look of my website. It's really looking good. Now it's time for me to start doing the photos for the revamp. If you're ever looking for someone to build you a Wix website give Issac Klien of Klien Designs a try. He does excellent work and is use to working with artist, so he can speak our language. It also helps he's married to an artist so he gets us.

I'm uploading a new shipment of Woodubend molds and trims plus Posh Chalk decoupage papers and their brushes and tools. Have a look at the mini trowels that are perfect for furniture and canvas work.

I was blessed last year to sell most of the art that I created so I'm trying to build my artwork back up but it will take a little time. Can't wait to get some new original art online. Here are a couple of the Posh Chalk and Woodubend molds available.


Inspirational Quote:

Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds that you plant.

by Robert Louis Stevenson


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