Education of an Artist

Story Time:

When I was in high school, I had the mistaken idea that once I was done with college, I wouldn’t have to go to worry about getting an education anymore.  I even questioned the value of college because I wanted to be an artist.  Oh, what I didn’t know.  Forty years later, I’m still working on my education.  Happily.

Self Taught Artist:

My friend Sandra Neary recently published a blog post about being a self taught artist.  My circumstances are similar to hers.  I like to say my art education is “self guided”;  I am responsible for my own art education.  I select what I will learn, how I will learn it, and when I will have a learning experience.  I use books, classes and work to guide my learning.

I would suggest that being a self taught artist has its challenges.  How do you know what classes you need?  What do you need to learn how to do?

Personal Insight:

I’d like to share what I have learned.

  • Focus on learning the basics or fundamentals first.  They are the building blocks upon which everything else is learned.  How do you know what the fundamentals are?  Look at experienced artist in the medium of your choosing.  What do they do every time they work?
  • Learn your materials.  For example, a watercolor artist needs to know the strengths, limitations and uses of the different kinds of paints, papers and brushes.
  • Use a combination of workshops, classes, books and time spent with brush in hand to educate yourself.
  • Allow yourself room to explore, fail, and learn some more.  Eventually, you’ll be more targeted or directed in what you want to learn.  You will know what you want to work on.

The funny thing I’ve learned is that I’m still a “student” along side being an experienced artist.  Education is a lifelong process.  The more I learn, the more I see I want to learn.

About the Painting:

The painting posted is one of my new acrylic still life paintings.  I’ve been studying how to draw and paint using the classic, academic approach.  The instructor is artist Sarah Burns.  It is a different way of working when compared with my stylized approach.  What I like is that I’m learning things about drawing and seeing that I didn’t know before.  The painting is done practicing the lessons I’ve learned from Sarah.


To summarize, the best part about being self taught artist is that I’m responsible for my own art education.  And, the learning is an on-going process.

Post Script:

I almost didn’t publish this blog post.  For some reason, I’ve been hesitant in writing and posting blog articles.  I have seven draft blog articles.  Finally, one has to say publish and move on!  Doubt can paralyze.   I do recommend reading Sandra’s blog post.  Maybe you’ll have a thought or two about your own education!

Acrylic over Watercolor 9x7 2015 d'Arches 300lb CP Watercolor Paper
Acrylic over Watercolor
d’Arches 300lb CP Watercolor Paper



14 thoughts on “Education of an Artist”

  1. I am astonished and humbled that I inspired an artist like yourself! The concept of a lifetime of learning is what I was struggling to talk about. And now I see another side to it – what if we become “famous”, known for a particular media, style, etc.? How easy it would be to get “trapped” by that!


    1. Hi Peggy,

      Good post—very good follow up to Sandra Neary’s earlier blog post. As to Sandra’s comment about being “trapped” in a particular style (becoming famous for it), I refer everyone to a column by the late Robert Genn entitled “Choose Your Rut Wisely” (I’m sure you can look it up on the Painter’s Keys website). The trick I think is to keep learning, and keep growing/changing your style of painting. Being known for one style can indeed be a trap if an artist isn’t careful!

      1. Hi Liz, Thank you for your comment. On the one hand, I can not imagine ever being able to investigate everything you can learn about one style or approach to creating art. On the other hand, sometimes the impulse to learn something different is too deep to ignore. Another thing I think about is “evolution”. We learn, grow, evolve and then perhaps, the different styles merge to form our own concept. Or something.

        I think I read the letter you speak of, though I couldn’t find it.

    2. Hi Sandra, You have much to offer; I don’t think its a surprise that your thoughts are inspiring! I sometimes have a fear about being trapped into one style, though I was just thinking that may be pre-mature. I am still find so much to learn. Did you see the NWWS article on Judy Morris in their June newsletter? Your comment reminded me of the article. What struck me was how much she has evolved and matured over the years. Yet, she has stayed pretty much in the same genre.

      The thought of being famous makes me smile. I think of it as a double edged sword. 🙂

  2. Peggy, I am glad you posted this, and hope you’ll post the others! Your voice is important to the discourse. I’m enjoying watching your explorations of a more traditional approach, and love to see that as successful as you are, you are open to being a life-long learner. Kudos 🙂

    1. Hi Ruth, thanks for the comment. Isn’t creating art an exciting journey? The more I learn, the more I’m humbled and the more I’m open to learning more. Perhaps its a search for excellence…just thinking! Thanks!

  3. Dear Peggy?
    I love your attitude in relation to life and learning. I try to do it the same way. Remember our high school days. And your skillful father. And everyone else in your beautiful family.
    Creative processes and techniques are so interesting to learn from. Thank you for letting us taket part./Ethel

    1. Hi Ethel! Its wonderful to hear from you. I just noticed that you have a website. WONDERFUL! I do remember high school and the work that you did. I’m glad to see you are continuing your artistic work! I love you watercolor paintings!

  4. Hi Peggy,
    Thank you so much for this post! I have a similar history to yours. I was interested in creating art at a very early age, and wanted to be an artist. With no support from my family to pursue my “hobby”, I got an education in a medical support profession. I worked for forty years in this profession and liked it. I continued to draw, and over thirty years ago started taking watercolor classes. Workshops, university art classes and community college classes have followed. Now that I have retired, I paint as much as I can, working on my “brush miles” as one professor put it, still learning, and hoping I have many years ahead in order to practice my art.
    Wishing you continued joy and success in your art journey,

  5. Regarding – Education of an artist – you inspire others that you may never meet. As the net is a technical marvel that is leveling the educational choke point world-wide … between not knowing and knowing … that the artist is not alone.

    1. Thank you for your comment Elizabeth! Speaking of inspiration, I took a look at your website, Focus, Point, Shape. I was impressed. I looked at some of your articles. I’ll be back!

      I appreciate your insight about the net as technical marvel – it is amazing to be in touch with people from around the globe.

      Again, thank you!

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