How to Approach Learning Art as an Adult

posted by Chris Valentine

Humans of any age crave outlets for expression. But whereas children are encouraged to experiment with various mediums and forms, the average adult tends to feel the opposite – their curiosity stifled and their range of options limited.

When you are young, there is a sense of discovery in art – after all, you are literally learning to draw as you create drawings. The medium, as the creation itself, feels new and exhilarating. How do adults reclaim that sense of wonderment and discovery? How do adults set aside what they have been told about their art (for instance, “oh, you’re not very good at drawing”) and renew their enthusiasm for artistic creation?

In this article, let’s walk through a few different ways you as an adult can approach learning art.

Access a Sense of Novelty

Adults don’t try many things that are completely new. Sure, you will uncork a Syrah instead of your usual Merlot, but at the end of the day they are both still wines, variants of a usual experience. But imagine you were to try something new. Imagine, for instance, that you tried axe throwing for the first time, that new sport everyone’s talking about; you learn how much fun axe throwing is and then axe throwing is all you can think about.

In many ways, novelty breeds the kind of enthusiasm you need to make art. Try to approach your art the same way you might approach a totally new sport like axe throwing – with vim, vigour and an eagerness to learn.

Find Like-Minded People

Classes are important not only for honing your technical skills but also for meeting like-minded people at a similar station in life. Talk freely with people about art. The more you talk seriously about art, the more you will legitimize the practice – before long, you can view less as a hobby, and more as a serious intellectual and creative endeavour.

Rope in Your Personal Experiences

Children may have an unbridled sense of wonder on their side, but you have experience. You have an entire ocean’s worth of personal joy, hurt, love and loss from which to draw. Don’t be afraid to allow your personal experiences into your art – they are what make you unique, and they will ultimately be what make your art unique.

Embrace Your Idiosyncrasies

You meet these people often: they say, “I can’t draw,” or “I can’t paint”. Well, everyone can draw and paint, even elephants! Perhaps you don’t think you can draw well, according to conventional notions of technical quality, but you might have an idiosyncratic way of drawing or painting that people find evocative. Embrace the way you approach things, even if they aren’t conventionally beautiful. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t also learn technical form – it’s an important component of art – but don’t lose your idiosyncrasies in the process.

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