Arts and Entertainment

How to Become a Famous Artist

Your dream of becoming a famous artist may not be as far-fetched as it might seem: child prodigy Sir John Everett Millais was one of the founders of the Pre-Raphaelite movement, and won a silver medal at the Society of Arts at age nine. Also, Pablo Picasso, co-founder of the Cubist movement, was regarded as a boy genius. Even today, young artists such as Akiane Kramarik are heralded as prodigies. If you have what it takes, your name may be destined to be remembered throughout the ages.

Practice. Being called by the muse is a wonderful thing, without a doubt, but without the technical abilities to realize your vision, you won’t get very far. Whatever your chosen medium or media, become an expert in every part of it.

  • Set aside an hour or more each day to devote to nothing but practicing your technique.
  • Focus especially on those areas that are the weakest for you, but build your strengths as well.
  • Take advantage of the communities and resources that you can find. Artist supply manufacturers, and art stores themselves, often have free literature, tutorials, videos, and websites that are loaded with tips, techniques, and more.
  • Some stores even offer weekend training seminars, where you can not only pick up some new skills, you’ll also meet other artists.

Work on the things you love. Choose one subject that is meaningful to you and that you want to be able to draw well.

  • Start with a still life, or a photo that’s yours, in public domain, or that you have permission to use. Draw or paint that same photo over and over, using different approaches—paint, pencil, abstract, realism—whatever moves you.
  • Build up from easy subjects, like a rubber ball or a rectangular block, to more complicated, difficult subject, like a rose, a clear glass marble or a shiny metal bowl. And try to get the details right: the curves of a petal, the clarity of the glass, or reflections so good that Escher would be impressed! Each of them will improve your ability to draw in general.
  • Practice timed gesture drawing. Pick your subject, set your timer for two or three minutes, start drawing, then stop when the timer goes off, even if the drawing isn’t finished.
  • Set the timer again and start over. Doing 10 three minute drawings will give you more skill than taking half an hour to draw the same thing in detail.

Vary the art tools you use. Start off with a pencil, then go to charcoal, colored pencils, pastels, paint, whatever interests you. Never fear trying new tools or techniques.

  • When trying an expensive new medium, visit Dick Blick or Jerry’s Artarama and email them for samples. Many types of art suppliers make sample sized products or the company will send out just one stick or a small piece of the expensive paper or canvas for you to test before deciding what to buy.
  • This gives you a chance to try it first and see if you like it. Try more than one brand—the samples are usually not the same color and you can find out which brand to invest in by those trials.

Get critiqued by family and friends. Make it clear you want a real opinion, not just a biased, “I love you so everything you do is wonderful” opinion. If they think it’s good, then you’re on the right track! If they don’t, you’re still on the right track: if several people think your technique is great, but your subject matter leaves something to be desired, that’s an opportunity for self-reflection and to learn something.

  • Don’t confuse critique with personal criticism, especially if the critic is somebody who is not interested in seeing you become an artist.

Look outside your circle for opinions. Look for critique from people who draw better than you do. Make friends online with real artists whose work you admire. Compliment them and ask intelligent questions about their techniques. You’ll rapidly find that many artists enjoy teaching beginners and will be happy to share what they’ve learned.

  • As you learn more, reach out to those who are just starting. You will learn more every time you explain and demonstrate what you already know. It’s very common for teachers to learn from their students!

Learn to accept compliments gracefully. When friends and family members love everything you draw and think it’s wonderful, or your mum was putting your childhood scribblings up on the fridge from the time you were two (and believes you’ll be Picasso someday), relax and enjoy that as support.

  • The better you get at art, the easier it is for people to compliment you and call you talented.
  • Compliments can sometimes be critiques, and those are very valuable! Should an artist whose work you admire give you a compliment such as, “I love the colors in this,” this means they are not only nice enough to compliment you on your work, but have taken the time to understand and appreciate the choices you made.

Develop a strong personal style. Do this by learning to paint and draw your favorite subjects in all the ways that every painter you like best has done them. The more you learn technique and understand your own passions, the more your own style will emerge.

  • Having a personal style is a combination of learning to draw and paint well in your favorite mediums while consistently paying the most attention to your favorite subjects.
  • You will become a specialist, a “brand of one” at a certain intermediate level of competence. Mastering a subject and a medium comes later, at the point when you could do it easily without thinking at all about how you do it, yet always have consistent results.