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How To Become An Artist
For Would-Be Artists

Sorry for any errors on the tips & how to pages. I'm doing this fast.

My secret, subconscious way to becoming artistic

I learned this when I went to speedreading classes. Before we speed read a book, we turn the book upside down, and as our left hand holds the book, our right hand diagonally passed over each page from the upper right to the lower left. The theory was that the eyes naturally follow the moving object--the hand and fingers, while our subconscious sees the words and messages without letting the conscious mind take over.

I do this with art books. I turn the art book upside down and allow my subconscious mind to see the pictures without letting the conscious mind fixate.

Do this yourself. Do it alone where no one who does not understand what you're up to will see you. You can also do it as a group. You must avoid becoming self-conscious. If you're at a library, do it where no one can see you.

You'll be surprised to find out your art has improved.

Do you know about negative space?

Negative space is the area around the subject. If you draw a flower, your viewers would also want to see how you treat the negative space, the area around the flower.

My best example is when you look at a Spider-Man comic book. You see Spider-Man but the artist has also spent a lot of time on drawing the buildings and street scenes behind Spider-Man. If you were a comic book artist, the company will hire you not just because you can draw human beings in costume, but how you treat the background, which is the negative space.

Doing the above upside down quick viewing exercise can help you with the negative space problem. Do it for now without seeking an explanation because I myself can't explain it fully.

What I learned from the high-end galleries

I discovered that there are three locations to appreciate an artist.

First is what everyone does: go to a museum. The museums provide one or two representative pieces of work by each artist they have. This is not you. You need to go through a lot before you end up in a museum, but I would suggest that you go to a museum once in a while and maybe visualize your art being there.

Second, is what most fellow artists hate doing: Go to a commercial or noncommercial gallery showing a series of works by an artist. Artists apply to be represented by galleries, and most get rejected, even if their work is excellent.

I hung out at the expensive galleries around 2007. This is a long story, but for this discussion, I want to tell you that usually, when an artist has a show at the galleries, the pieces have a degree of similarity and repetition. The collection is representative of a period, or a slice in time, in the life of the artist. For example, between 1900 and 1904, Pablo Picasso produced paintings that were predominantly blue. This became his famous "Blue Period."

The third way to view art is by visiting the artist's home or studio. This is the most interesting and most humbling way, in my opinion, because the artist at work would have finished and unfinished works, drafts, drawings, rejected art, used and unused paint brushes, books, the favorite coffee cups, alcohol, the studio itself, a dog or a cat, a great conversation and everything else that add up to the visitor's experience.

This is where most of us are situated. This can make people appreciate the works of even the most unknown artist. If you're new to being an artist, you might consider receiving investors, art collectors, fellow artists, writers and others who can help you.

The 101st is always better than the first

Art is like writing and playing a musical instrument. You get better with practice. Don't expect the first work to be good.

What fantasy and science fiction trading cards have taught me

I once collected fantasy and science fiction trading cards. A set usually has 90 finely detailed, full-color cards. Kids supposedly traded them among each other, while adults like me bought an entire sealed box. Each sealed box usually has 36 sealed, opaque packs, and each pack has 10 random cards. A full set usually has 90 cards and a few more even rarer cards.

If you're a kid, you would buy a few single sealed packs. You would not know what cards you get, so it's a gamble. The idea is to meet friends and trade the cards amongst each other with the hope of completing a set of 90 cards.

The manufacturers make sure that a box with the 36 packs will always produced about 4 sets of 90 plus a few of the chase cards. This way, you as a kid with limited budget can still have a chance at completing a set by returning to the same store.

Here are four lessons I learned from trading cards. First, if the science fiction or fantasy artist can produce 90 original paintings for the set, then so can other artists. Second, there has to be enough art to circulate so enough people can talk about and trade them. Third, there has to be enough art to produce an acceptable art book. Fourth, is consistency. All the cards have a certain degree of uniformity.

What I learned from music lessons

I got a memorable tip from watching a dvd on how to play the guitar. The instructor said, if you learn a guitar technique, do two things. First, keep practicing that technique that you've learned. Second, devote time to learn new ones. It's tempting to only do the first over and over, especially when you show it to people, because you get praised and validation for it, but you have to keep learning new techniques.

Why you should realy pursue art now before you become a hateful bitch

In 1996, I found myself in local media for an artistic statement. I had 2 television interviews, one radio interview, two social events and was featured in at least 4 printed media. My artistic statement was: In Asia there is this traditional belief that if you make 1000 origami paper cranes, your wish will come true. I attached the AIDS ribbon to the beak of the crane because I wish for a cure. This was my honest reaction and contribution to having had 4 friends die of HIV/AIDS-related complications.

One day during that month of recent appearances, I was at the cafe section of a Borders Bookstore. As I saw with my books and coffee, I was approached by someone whom I was not totally friends with. He nervously asked me if I can advise him on what to do because he wanted to pursue art AND become a famous artist.

To cut the story short, he was a highly paid respiratory therapist, who wanted to pursue art, and was seeing a psychiatrist for his depression. He said he was wondering if I get nervous garnering media attention and being on television.

He said he wanted to become a famous artist himself.

I told him I just do what I feel is a step in the right direction for my art, but I also pace myself to keep my sanity.

Here was someone who made a lot of money, who saw a psychiatrist to convince him to be happy as a highly paid respiratory therapist and to forget art.

I'm advising you to pursue your art now because if you want to wait until you see me succeed before you make your move, it might be too late for you. This person, after 21 years, has stuck to his profession, which is good too, but I wonder what else I could have told him then and what I would have told him then if I knew then what I know now.

I can tell you that I continue to struggle, but I'm doing what I love--art, writing, coming up with ideas, branding myself and reaching out to you. Art is not a happy spot. Only the successful can afford to see a psychiatrist. Pursue art now, be ready for ups and downs and a lot of internal and external pressure, and pace yourself to keep your sanity.

I want to tell you that I have seen this person through the years. He has adjust his nervousness with dislike and hate. He doesn't have a good disposition to begin with, but if you're going to be hateful, spiteful and envious, at least be in the zone where you want to be, pursuing your dream. I may not be successful (yet) or rich, but there is something I'm doing he hates. Brace yourself if you pursue art now.

My two "desperate calls for help" from a yellow page ad

Yellow page ads last for a year. Around 1999-2000, I had myself listed under "Artists - Fine Art" for a year. I just wanted to assert myself, and be able to call myself an artist, at least for a year. I got a couple of art commissions, so that was good.

What was even better was when two artists, on separate occasions, called.

The first one asked for advise. He said he wanted to become established as an artist and wanted to know how I was able to establish myself. I told him the honest truth: anyone can claim to be an artist and place a yellow page ad like I did. I said it was just an exercise in asserting myself.

The second one was bad. The guy was crying on the phone and said he was going crazy, because he said he felt so much "pressure for being creative." He said he wanted to pursue art, but he was "going crazy for it." Then he asked me, how can I "handle all the pressure from being creative."

This incident rattled me that afternoon. The man's demeanor was as if he was in an emergency situation, hoping I would provide a cure. I told him to just slow down and keep his creativity at a manageable pace. I told him to call me back if he wanted to. He never called back. His call startled me so much that I didn't know what more to tell him at that moment. I was young as well, I cannot be a good mentor.

In retrospect, he may had really been going crazy. It occurred to me that I could had asked to take a look at his art, but he might think I had a break for him. I was living in downtown Chicago, less than a mile from the Art Institute of Chicago and its adjacent school. Someone there would have more wherewithal to give would-be artists advice. The problem was, even I would not begin to bring my own art there. The guy was going crazier by the minute.

I had a crazy dominatrix for a neighbor

I once had a dominatrix for a neighbor who lived two doors down. Before you get any ideas, I can let you know that my neighbor did not look like one. I'm trying to be politically correct here. One other neighbor told me what she did. Long story short, she was a dominatrix, and I didn't want any involvement with her. I was also told that she was a little off in the mental department.

One day, she knocked on my door. She introduced herself to me, and told me she heard that I was an artist. She said she was as well, and that her psychiatrist had been encouraging her to apply at the Art Institute. I said that's good for her and the school is famous for producing artists.

She also proceeded to show me her arm all wrapped in gauze, looking like a mummy. She said she had shingles, and it hurt like hell. I had chicken pox when I was 23. I dreaded the fact that I too might develop shingles in my adult life. I had not read about shingles too much, so looking at her really sad, frumpy state, I wanted to tell her I was busy.

Then I got curious and asked her if she would like to show me her art. I told myself that shingles really isn't contagious to me because I already had chicken pox. I followed her to her unit and went in.

I saw a couple of empty boxes of adult toys on the floor and a black strappy getup hanging on a wall. Oh my God.

She searched for her art and show me her drawings. I'm sorry to break the bubble, but she showed me a poster board with sticklike drawings mixed in with "therapy words" like "recovery," "alcohol," "overcome my challenges," "art," "Art Institute of Chicago," and many more.

I once again had an "Oh my God" moment as she showed me that posterboard and another smaller bond paper with the same flavor of art. I asked her if she painted. She said she can paint, and she will get to it soon.

There was no sway I would discourage her from pursuing art. I heard her back someone's door a few times, shouting some nasty swear words. However, I can encourage her.

I told her I can give her some brushes. They were at my place, I just needed to look for them. I excused myself and headed out of her place. I went home and locked my door. I opened my box of paint brushes and gave her about 8 different sized brushes. I went back to her, knocked on her door and handed them to her. She smiled and was very thankful. I wished her the best and went back to my place.

Here is the funny part. My experiences with people seemed to lend itself to a story about me and my neighbors. Guess who would be in it? Maybe there's hope for her to become an artist. No need to go to school. She needs encouragement. Some people don't need a lot of encouragement and training. She would need a lot. I hope she is okay. Maybe one day I'll be able to afford to give her more brushes and paints.

I have learned to appreciate art. There really is no ugly art, and even ugly art is art. It's very subjective. The reason an artist becomes collectible is if someone else says so and is willing to keep the art. I believe that someone will always find appreciation and value for someone else's art.

The crazy pair

I'm typing this section at the nearby Target store, at the tables where people can sit down and eat. I'm at the farthest table from the Starbucks counter. By mentioning this story about the crazy couple, I'm paying tribute to them. They had paper, pencils and watercolors and they painted works that looked like paint drips. They pretty much had the same style. They splashed watercolor on paper, stood back to study their works, and the man, who seemed to be the leader of the two, rotated the paper to judge which upright position provided a sense of balance and stability. I had seen them admire the balance, look at each other and the work, and give each other nods of approval at their art.

The man was the vocal one. The woman never spoke. All they did were random splashes, drips and lines, after which they either return to the work, add a few more randomness, stand back, admire the work, and return or finish the paper with a nod to each other.

I finally approached them and talked to the guy. They were Russian. Once again, it was to me an exercise in finding relevance to their art. I told the man they should show their works to a gallery who exclusively sold works by Russian artists. They might suddenly get represented, or they could get some encouragement on where to take their art in order to become commercial.

I saw them at Target for a few months, but they were eventually told that they could not use the tables for their art. It was messy, they were at the same location everyday, and they obviously were not buying anything.

The poster I cannot forget

There was a printout taped on a street level glass window of an office. I was waiting for a bus. It was a picture of 4 girls and their dad. The message under the picture said something like, "Please help us. Our dad has cancer and we don't want him to die. We need money to send him to the hospital." There there was an email address and a phone number.

It occurred to me that the children can make their art collectible by making sure they also publish books of their art. Their art books can look like storybooks if they decide to do so. They can also entertain scarcity.

The soldier I cannot forget

At another time, I was on the bus. Across the street was a man dressed in his army uniform, looking really neat. This was in Chicago. I noticed his right hand was missing. Where he was walking was a building that had a lot of government outreach offices and nonprofit groups. In my mind, it occurred to me that if he painted, there will be people who will purchase art and books by veterans. This would still not be a "handout," because the man, and any artist can opt to follow a price increase schedule and still announce scarcity.

Why crazy people are my examples

I want to think that my idea of marketing art can be used by everyone.

If crazy people can use it, then so can the saner ones.

If poor people can use it, then so can the more financially stable.

If would-be artists can use it, then so can the more skilled artists.

If I hope three children can make money to send their dad who has cancer to the hospital, then the more established artist can use it.

If I hope a veteran who lost a hand can become an artist, then others can become one too.

Established artists in galleries can use this. All they need to do is let their contacts know that they have plans to increase prices as soon as a certain number gets sold. They can also tell their contacts that they have plans to publish their art in book form.

If the galleries and artists are established, then there is no need to convince them to do anything. I'm opening this idea to become available to those who could really use some money.

I cannot put a ceiling on anyone's art. I believe the smaller groups will adjust themselves. Investors will know whom to invest in. Book writers, authors, editors, ghost writers, book designers, graphic artists, photographers will decide whom they will concentrate on.