General Question

tinyfaery's avatar

How do I find my art?

Asked by tinyfaery (40254points) September 17th, 2011

My personality being what it is, and having received multiple scores on multiple tests (FWIW) stating to the effect I have an artist’s personality, I, nonetheless, have no art.

What I mean is I don’t have an artistic outlet in which I feel competent enough to express myself. As a child I danced, sang and acted, played 3 instruments (I had dreams of Broadway), but I have since forgotten everything. And I was never really talented at any of it. I was good, but not great. I’ve tried the fine arts, but I am not fine.

Problem is, I am a perfectionist. If I cannot pick up a skill quickly, I become frustrated and quit. I have already vowed to take piano lessons as soon as I find a new job, but I really don’t have that ear for music. I am going to do it just to prove to myself I can.

What I’m asking for is some sort of advice on how to find an art that’s right for me without having to put my ego on the line every time I try something new. How do I keep up with something when I have no skill? Maybe a book or some sort of class I can take.

Any personal advice or stories about your own artistic journey?

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22 Answers

Jude's avatar

Nikki and I read your question, and she’ll send you a FB message tomorrow.

augustlan's avatar

My advice would be to do something you think of as silly, at first. Something strictly for fun. If you like getting your hands dirty, finger painting or making a little bowl out of clay might get your juices flowing. If that’s not up your alley, maybe a silly little cross-stitch sampler. You could even play around with computers, making cool avatars. Try lots of different things, with no expectation of a successful outcome, just think of them as experiments. When you find one that you enjoy, do it again. Also, dance around your house. Preferably in your underwear.

wundayatta's avatar

The notion of skill and talent is utter nonsense. People don’t gain skills and “talents” without first practicing and practicing and practicing. Then everyone listens to them and tells them they are so talented. Of course they are. They worked at it!

You are unlikely to ever be talented unless you overcome two things. First, you must overcome this idea that you have to be talented or you will never get anywhere. Second, you have to overcome this idea that you can be instantly good at anything. You can’t.

I have taught several students and been actively involved with my children in their work. My son is very talented at the piano. Hey presto! Guess What? He’s 11 years old and he’s only been working at piano for oh… say… seven years! He damn well better be talented by now. We make him practice almost every day.

If he had practiced an hour or two a day instead of only 20 minutes, he’d be called a musical genius by now. But he didn’t. So he is merely talented. Had he never been told he had to play piano at all, he’d have a wooden ear.

People hear the word “talent” and think it is magic. It isn’t. It’s merely work. And mere work is all it will take for you to find your art. The trick is to stick to it and work at it every day. In order to do that, you need one of two things. Either you need a taskmaster (best when you are a child) or you need to love what you do.

So that’s basically your only choice. You must love what you do so much you will work an hour a day at it. Only, since you love it, it won’t be work. It’ll be play. What do you know? You’ll be playing!

As to how you find what you love? No secret about that. Try lots of things. Sooner or later one of them will call to you. Maybe I was lucky. My instrument called to me when I was 8. Now I have maybe seven instruments. I add new ones from time to time. Every week, one or another of them calls to me at different times during a gig. If it calls, I play it.

Sometimes none of them call, and I just sit there listening to everyone else until an instrument tells me it needs me to play it. Last night there were a couple of long times when no instrument called to me. It was weird. I was beginning to feel like something was wrong with me. But then, at the end, my recorder called and it was magic. Sublime magic.

gailcalled's avatar

I started by knitting a peculiar pot holder when I was eight, thanks to my maternal grandmother’s teaching skills.

Then over the years, I became a skilled knitter and crocheter, turning out yearly sweaters for five kids, a husband, my sister, my friends and some local doggies.

I sewed clothes for my daughter and me; I sewed curtains and slipcovers.

I learned to do decoupage, stencilling and decorative painting.

I refinished furniture.

I make elaborate hand-sewn quilts and had a business for about ten years, until it became apparent that I was earning about 25 cents an hour.

I made needlepoint chair seats, including coverings for 12 dining room chairs.

I made two 7’ x 9’ needlepoint rugs and one 9’ x 12’ that was so heavy to work with it left me looking like Quasimodo.

I crocheted a pair of bedspreads with #0 crochet hook.

Buttonstc's avatar

It seems that there are two directions you could take.

The first would involve anything along the lines of getting yourself out of your perfectionistic mindset. Things involving freedom of expression without any rigid boundaries where there is no “right way” or ” wrong way” to do things.

I’m thinking along the lines of taking acting classes, or joining an improv group (something along the lines of Second City or The Groundlings). Or take a course in Clowning and how to create your own Clown Character. There are various groups around the country who have seminars and courses for beginners and clown camps in summertime.

The other approach would be to find an art school guidance counselor who could give you options for art forms requiring a great deal of attention to detail and perfectionism. I can’t name any off the top of my head but I know that I’ve been to art fairs where I’ve seen items that took a great deal of perfectionism to create and I just marveled at it because trying to do something that elaborate would drive me bonkers.

But a Prof. or counselor at a professional Art School could give you very valuable input on which art forms might be right up your alley.

Personally, I’ve always been frustrated because I’ve never been able to draw accurately even if my life depended upon it but have always had a strong artistic bent.

I finally found out what worked for me kind of by accident when I was hunting for a part time job and stumbled into being a kids party clown. I discovered how much I enjoyed doing balloon sculpture and eventually face painting. It’s not for everybody I know but it suited me to a T. And the money isn’t so shabby either.

But just keep trying different things until you find what clicks for you. The main reason to get input from an Art prof. is that they would be aware of a much fuller range of options than the average person and mention something of which you were totally unaware even existed as an art form.

Good luck on your interesting journey of discovery. When you find what it is that clicks with you, I guarantee you’ll know. You just haven’t found it yet. But when you do, you’ll be amazed at how comfortable a fit it is. And it might not be limited to only one thing. Many artists have multiple areas of interest and skill.

XD's avatar

Someone’s $.02.

tinyfaery's avatar

I beg to differ, @wundayatta. I have an ear for pitch, so singing comes easily. I have rhythm and dance comes naturally. My hands are not deft and any tactile skill is difficult. My hand reach is very narrow and I have to work hard to play instruments.

Some people do have something about them that makes them uniquely suited toward an artistic pursuit. Some people can just draw, others have to learn to draw.

Earthgirl's avatar

TinyFairy I understand where you are coming from.You are drawn to expressing yourself creatively but your abilities, as they are currently, fall short of your ambitions. I have a somewhat similar situation myself. I have the same sort of perfectionistic streak but over the years I have learned to temper it. You will need to give yourself some slack and allow yourself to fail or fall short as you are learning things or else you may get too discouraged and quit. When you aren’t quite satisfied with what you have done, made, expressed, artistically, try to be content that by doing it, you learned something. Also, by doing it, you have perhaps gotten a step closer to discovering your true passion. By trying various things you will eventually find out where you have aptitudes that you can build on.

I like the link XD provided. When you have a vision of what you want to create, and you have high standards, you tend to be your own harshest critic. I can’t tell you how many drawings I crumpled and threw on the floor getting to my current level of ability. Somehow I didn’t give up in spite of the frustration. I still wish I were better at drawing and rendering but I recognize that I have improved enormously.

What I do is fashion drawing and not fine art. I have met designers who just jot off a quick sketch and it looks incredible. I know what you are saying about innate talent. It does seem to come easier to some people. I have put in a lot of years of practice and I know 15 year olds who draw better than I will ever be able to. Even so, I do agree with what Wundayatta said about not getting anywhere without putting in the time and the work. It isn’t magic but hopefully you will find what makes you happy creatively and then your passion for it will keep you going in spite of frustration along the way. Don’t be too hard on yourself and have fun with it as Augustlan says..
I highly recommend this book. It gives advice on unblocking your creative self.

MrPORCUPINE's avatar

Search your heart.

Jeruba's avatar

How about something that you could enter at the craft level and raise to art as you develop your skill and find your style? I’m thinking of such things as stained glass, ceramics, photography, glass blowing, and jewelry making. I have certainly seen things at craft fairs and in shops that showed great artistry as well as craftsmanship. Not all of them involve extremely fine motor skills or manual reach and strength.

Community colleges and adult education programs in my area offer classes in such things. Why not see if there are offerings near you and just try some things?

tinyfaery's avatar

I’m not crafty. I go into Michael’s and I’m lost.

I will try needlepoint. The slowness might creep me out a bit at first.

rooeytoo's avatar

I love watercolor because you insinuate and the viewer’s mind takes them to what they think the painting is. You do not have to be a greater drawer, you just have to have control over the medium. And that control itself is very personal. What is one person’s control is anothers dribblings. You can make beautiful mistakes as well.

I have been grooming dogs for show and pet for 35 years and a couple of years back I discovered that skill in sculpting a show dog’s hair translates into carving wood. I am a pretty good carver.

I think you just have to experiment until you find something your heart and your hands like to do. Then don’t judge it just do it.

dreamwolf's avatar

I had a group of 5 friends. We all played music together. Eventually stopped playing together, and moved on to art, business, and I stuck with music. One guy moves away completely and doesn’t do art anymore. A very talented friend, turned to study business accounting. Two guys just studied art, one graduated with a Bachelors in it already, other guy still working towards, I turned into an art major, but still do music. The business guy couldn’t hang and recently turned back to art. Of the 5 of us, one guy has his art credentials. He was the hardest working guy. Not to say that none of us are good at art, he just focused in school with it. The quitter had the most talent, but was a baby and quit everything so easily. You’re like him in that way, but like me in the sense that you’re acknowledging it. That takes guts. Figure out what you want to do, tackle it, and be the hardestworking guy on your team. That’s all that matters. Talent is irrelevant, its the human drive and will power that gets you out there. It doesn’t hurt to learn and keep and open mind at the same time however.

I think you might be an excellent Arts Reviewer in journalism. Since you know about different arts and dance and music. Journalism might be the path for you. Good luck!

Buttonstc's avatar

Talent is not irrelevant. That’s going too far just to make a point.

Mariah's avatar

I kinda agree with @wundayatta. You can certainly have qualities that make you more likely to be good at a certain skill, you can have natural inclinations towards certain skillls, but I think even the inclined are rarely very good right away, and most importantly, lacking the inclination does not necessarily make it impossible to become very good, with work.

When I was 13 I began to very badly want to be good at drawing, but I could hardly draw a straight line. But I started practicing drawing, lots of it, and now I’m a pretty decent draw-er.

I think some artforms are easier to get good at than others, so maybe you should start with one that doesn’t take a very long time to see results. I think drawing and playing instruments take a long time. Things like making jewelry and needlefelting don’t, imo.

Good luck!!

atch's avatar

Sounds to me you should be producing plays.

Response moderated (Writing Standards)
Davidocity's avatar

My advice:

(1) Make a list of all the things that you’ve ever enjoyed doing, those things that you could do for hours because you loved doing them. Spend about a week making this list. At the very least clues to your art will be found in it. More likely, your art will be found in this list.

(2) While talent is important, hard work and hours of practice are required for you to become proficient at anything. I’ve worked with some very talented people in my life, and I believe that their talent was mostly the result of hard work and passion for what they did. A good book to read on this subject is “Talent Is Overrated” by Geoff Colvin.

(3) Find a way to address your “ego” issue. In pursuing your art you shouldn’t have to put your ego on the line. If you wish to pursue your art with privacy, find a private teacher you feel comfortable with or pursue your art in total privacy. As noted in a previous comment, nearly all “talented” people have been working at their art for years. Don’t expect perfection, rather, focus on consistent effort and continual improvement.

(4) Finally, don’t spend too much time thinking about what your art is. Set a deadline, pick something and start doing it. Try many things until you find the one that gets you most excited. And remember, it takes time to become good at anything.

shrubbery's avatar

People are so willing to be amazed by art. As if it happens out of nowhere, and the fairies came down and bestowed their magic upon the little girl and her crayons. Or a strange metamorphosis—you spend a few years mastering your skills, hidden away in the dark, and then you step out as a fantastically shiny art butterfly and announce yourself to the world.

It just doesn’t happen that way. People don’t realize that the actual learning of art is right in front of them, and they can see it. It might be gradual, but it’s right there. And in fact, they’re supposed to see it, you know? That’s the point. That’s the cool thing about art. It’s not a product—it’s a process, and you get to watch it happen. You have front row seats to How the Artist Got So Good. That’s probably why artists tend to be a nervous or sensitive bunch, because it’s not like we can practice our dance steps and then perform a ballet for you or memorize our lines and then act a scene. Our practice is our performance, and we’re letting you see both.

People ask, “How did you learn to draw?” And I’m like, “You’re looking at it.” Every drawing I make is how I learn to draw. Drawings I did a year ago aren’t as good as ones I did yesterday. And drawings I do tomorrow will be better. No artist ever says, “Okay, I’ve gotten this good, and that’s good enough, so I think I’ll stop learning and just draw at this skill level from here on out.”

That’s impossible to do.

Said by one of the most amazing artists I know.

rooeytoo's avatar

So @tinyfaery – what are you doing after all this fantastic advice and suggestions???

tinyfaery's avatar

Well, I just got The Artist’s Way, so I’ll start reading that. I’ve also been planning my fall garden. We’ll see.

rooeytoo's avatar

That’s a good start, keep us posted!

My summer bucket garden is going well. We are in a rental house with lawn and rain forest type garden, no room for any veg. So I bought cheap plastic buckets, cut the bottom out, sat them on the lawn, filled half way with potting soil and planted in them. They get watered when the lawn does and the roots of the plants can go as deep as they want. It is working well, have been picking cherry tomatoes and snake beans already!

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