Why Artists Depend On Others to Guide Their Art

(And why they shouldn’t.)

If you have ever dreamed of making art, selling your art, or even if you have already successfully sold art, the question “What should I make?” will pop into your head. All creative people experience a loss or lack of direction at some point. Even after four years of making art full-time, I still have those moments. It’s part of the creative process, but trying to solve your lack of direction by asking others for guidance can be detrimental to your creative development.

It is far too easy to lose yourself when you open the door to any and all guidance, advice, critiques, etc.. Believe me, everyone has opinions, but not everyone has your artistic intentions and interests in mind when they share them.

Like today, my adorable six year old niece was watching me draw. I asked her “What do you think?” and she stood there with an unenthused look on her face and replied “Why do you only know how to draw swirls?” (Reasonable question, as my work has been swirly AF lately.)

“I can draw other things, but this is what I like drawing right now,” I said. She still wore a critical expression, and posed a slightly crushing followup question.

“When will you stop drawing swirls?” I couldn’t help but laugh, while pretending I wasn’t crying a little on the inside 😉

Clearly, my niece isn’t impressed, but that’s okay. Now imagine that conversation with an adult. I’ve had many conversations like this, and even though it’s not explicit verbal rejection, questions can be loaded, and all non-verbal cues can point to disapproval of your current direction. We’ve probably all been there in some way. Someone asks an innocent sounding question and suddenly your mind is filled with “OMG, you hate it! I suck! Why am I doing this?! Nobody is going to like this!”

I mean–no–I’ve never gone down that thought spiral before… *definite sarcasm*

We artists can be sensitive creatures. Any whiff of negative feedback can make us question everything we are doing, and accept guidance from outsiders. This guidance can sometimes result in losing touch with our own creative vision, and that’s where I have a problem.

Why do artists depend on outside opinions?

In order to prevent being swayed, or pushed away from your own creative authenticity, it’s important to look at why this happens in the first place.

1. You lack confidence in your art or abilities.

We all have to start somewhere, and in the beginning of creative explorations, few of us have built-in confidence that we know what we are doing. We ask our friends, families, and partners “Do you think this is good?” And we crave their validation as fuel to move us forward. This isn’t necessarily bad if you are talking to someone who knows how to provide the right feedback to keep you moving forward, but asking the wrong person can trigger the negative thought spiral above.

Over time, you will build internal confidence. (I wrote a blog post years ago on this matter.) Until then, be careful where you seek feedback on your art.

2. You are focused on selling art more than creating art.

I get it, you want to make a sale. This makes it tempting to look at artists around you who are selling a certain kind of art and think you should follow the same aesthetic. And it makes the suggestions from friends and family to paint what they saw on Pinterest or at a craft fair sound like a good idea–but you need to check in with yourself and determine what kind of art you actually want to make.

If you find yourself accepting guidance from others on what they think will sell, then you need to revisit why you are creating in the first place.

3. You haven’t found your style or direction yet.

Maybe you’re confident in your abilities, but you still don’t really know what kind of art you should focus on. Asking people around you what they want to see is okay if it encourages you to try new things and naturally find a style, but be careful that those ideas don’t override your own desires.

Whose opinions should you trust?

I want to be clear, I am not saying that you shouldn’t listen to anyone when it comes to your art. External feedback is really important when you are exploring your creativity. Instead of trusting everyone has valid input about your art, I just encourage you to select people who can understand how your mind works.

If you are looking to others to help assess your work, I suggest making them read this post about how to critique art. Critiquing doesn’t come naturally to people, but this post will help get artists and non-artists into the right mindset.

If you want to create art for others, then having someone tell you exactly what kind of art they want is welcomed. Let’s say you are doing contracting work, commissions, illustrations, or anything that involves bringing a client’s vision to life, then accepting guidance and giving up a good amount of control of the end product is expected.

When you just want to create, or find your own creative voice, then outside opinions will likely just distract you from your goal.

So–

What should you Make?

Make the art that you want to make. Other people cannot tell you what art is hiding inside of you. They don’t know, and sometimes even you don’t know, but that’s a journey you’ll have to take on your own. Finding your direction requires playfulness, time, and patience. Before you ask others for guidance, get your art supplies and try new things. See where that takes you. You don’t need anyone’s approval but your own.

Only you know what kind of art you should make. If you don’t have the answers now, you will find them over time.

If I internalized my little niece’s displeasure at my repetitive swirls, I’d probably be drawing rainbow unicorns and dancing donuts with sprinkles on them right now to make her happy. As fun as that would be, it’s a bit of a departure from what I love doing. (Though, outside of my work day, I will rainbow unicorn the sh*t out of my art. Maybe even add some glitter!)

Next time someone tells you to draw a barn near a wheat field instead of naked lady with a body full of tattoos, or a poured abstract acrylic piece–ask yourself if they are trying to help you find your authentic creative voice, or if they want you to make art that conforms to their personal ideals.

Trust the guidance of those who want to nurture the creativity that’s already within you.

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Thanks so much for reading, and I hope this was helpful. You probably know by now that I am here to help artist’s with these posts. And, if you need help with your online branding, Instagram account, or just want a creative accountability coach, then check out my consulting services. You can easily add a session to my online calendar now.

Read more about my consulting services and book an appointment today.

Please leave questions and comments below while commenting is open or reach out to me directly through Instagram or email. I’d love to hear from you! Make sure to sign up for my email list below to never miss a blog post. New posts are published every week (kind of). And if you’d like to see more content like this in the future, consider becoming a Patron of mine! (See details below.)

-Kelly

@messyeverafter


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Further Reading:

Replacement Paint Pen Applicator Tips

*Links contained in this post are affiliate links for Amazon and/or Dick Blick and I will earn a commission if you make a purchase at no additional cost to you. These commissions help fund more content like this, so thank you!

Have you tried the Fineline Precision Applicator?

This paint pen is the product I recommend most, and I always get questions about it. I’ve written about it too many times to count, and I’ve seen so many of you give it a try (yay!!), but you’ve run into an issue. I get this comment a lot:

“Why are your tips shorter than mine?”

I don’t know why the bottles that I got had shorter tips. Maybe it was an early run and the company decided to switch to the longer tips later. But I hear you, the shorter tips seem easier to use.

I explained it in this Instagram post a few months ago:

View this post on Instagram

Answer to your common question: "why are your fineliner tips shorter than the ones I ordered?" • • If you follow the links in my FAQs page and buy the fineline precision applicators I recommend, you likely will get bottles with 1" tips. But when I got these new slim fineline applicators, they came with 1/2" tips. They don't appear to give a choice when ordering or show any sort of differentiation in packaging. BUT, fear not! I use both and both work great with practice. I mainly use my original 1/2" tipped bottle, but the first fineline applicators I ever used had the 1" tip and I used those for months before switching to the slim bottle. • • The last video I posted shows me using the 1/2" tip, and for kicks I grabbed my 1" tip to see if I lost dexterity. As you can see, I did not. I have experimented with cutting my longer tips down by putting a wire in the tip for stability and snipping with a wire cutters, but since the tip can collapse, I would recommend not doing that unless you don't mind the possibility of ruining a tip for good. I've had one successful trim and one failed trim. Haha so I don't like those odds. • Moral of the story: these bottles take time to adjust to if you are switching from paint markers or pens. Whether it's a 1/2" tip or a 1" tip, your line work will not look perfect right away. Be patient, and be cautious with the wire cutters! • • Any questions? 😁 #messyeverafter

A post shared by Mea • Kelly Marie (@messyeverafter) on

I would still encourage you to use the 1″ tips if you have them, but I don’t know why I hadn’t researched this much earlier. Why not try to find replacement 1/2″ tips instead of cutting tips myself or suffering through the longer 1″ tips? Silly me.

Finally, I did some hunting on Amazon a few weeks ago, and I added a couple of items to my cart, but I never got around to actually clicking buy.

After yet another “Why is your tip shorter than mine?” comment, I finally clicked buy. This morning, I eagerly waited for the mail to arrive so I could test out my new purchase. Seconds after confirming the tips fit my bottles perfectly, I started this post. You all must know about these!

Products I use:

First of all, you’ll need a Fineline Applicator. The tips used are “Luer Lock” tips that can be removed, cleaned, and replaced. I usually get the 20 gauge, but the gauge doesn’t matter anymore now that I found replacement tips.

  • Fineline Applicators 1 oz 20 Gauge (3 Per Pack) (Amazon)
  • Fineline Applicators 1 oz 18 Gauge (3 Per Pack) (Amazon)

I found two products that looked like they would work, but I couldn’t be sure until I had them in my hands. The applicator pens don’t say “Luer Lock Cap”, so I was staring at my applicator tips and comparing it to different luer lock needles and giving a big ole shrug when I clicked buy. “Maybe it will work! Maybe I’m about to waste $12.”

This is the product I bought, and the tips 100% work on these bottles:

  • Brostown 120Pcs 1/2″ Industrial Liquid Dispenser Needle -Luer Lock (Amazon)

This product contains 10 different tip sizes from 14 gauge to 30 gauge, with 12 pieces per size. All contained in a cute little plastic case! Heck yes!

And I didn’t try these tips, but they were the other option on my list of potential products. I went with the other pack because of quantity:

  • 0.5 inch Unsterilized Synthetical Dispensing Needle with Blunt Tip Luer Lock – 10 Different Sizes,50 PCS (Amazon)

Should you buy a pack of replacement tips?

Again, I still think the 1″ tips work great, but I understand the desire to experiment with the shorter ones. If I were given a choice, I’d pick the 1/2″ tips. But, what else should you consider before buying seperate tips?

Replacement Tip Pros
  • You can try different sizes and experiment with different mediums. I tried the 30 gauge tip with India ink and it has potential. (But read this post for a better ink option.)
  • If your tips clog, dry, and become unusable, you can just swap out for a new one!
  • You can have the shorter tips without having to cut them.
  • The price isn’t crazy. You can spend $9-$13 on a pack of new tips that will last for a long time.
Replacement Tip Cons
  • The wire cap won’t fit into all of the different gauges. You may need to remove tips for storage or replace it with the original gauged tip. You can also find different gauged wires and make your own improvised cap. (Moral of the story, keep a wire in the tip or clean it out after each use. Don’t let paint sit in the tips.)
  • Maybe the price? It’s under $20, but it’s still money that could be spent on something else.

***

There you have it! A new solution to a problem I should have researched long ago! Sorry about that…haha! Let me know if you give these replacement tips a try! I’m excited to play with the rest of the sizes.

If you enjoy learning about the supplies I use in the studio and want to know more, let me know through Instagram or Email, or consider becoming a Patron of mine to support more content like this. Now go get messy and share your creation on Instagram using #messyeverafter!

-Kelly

SUPPORT MESSY EVER AFTER ON PATREON:

A lot of artists don’t like to share their secrets, but I’m an open book. If you enjoy the content I create and the advice I give to other creators, please consider becoming Patron of mine on Patreon. Pledging as little as $1 a month supports this content and my career as an artist.

Further Reading:

The Last Drawing Pen You’ll Ever Need

*Links contained in this post are affiliate links for Amazon and/or Dick Blick and I will earn a commission if you make a purchase at no additional cost to you. These commissions help fund more content like this, so thank you!

Fine Line Pens for Illustrating and Doodling

Let’s talk about pens. It is a sad moment when you are mid-doodle and your $3 Micron Pen starts to run out of juice. I can’t tell you how many pens I have gone through over the years, but it starts to add up quickly even if you are just a hobby artist.

As a frugal artist, I have never been satisfied with single use paint pens/markers or drawing pens. I like products that last forever, and I am super excited that I found this product. Just like the paint pen I frequently recommend, I found a drawing pen that is refillable, precise, and versatile.

I can’t see myself buying any other pen for a long time. Well–except for all the other sizes of this particular pen…

Rotring Isograph Technical Drawing Pen

This isn’t a new product. Rotring has been around for decades, but I only discovered these pens in 2019. I believe these have been marketed mostly to architects and technical drafters, but I think more artists would love them.

I bought the .25mm Rotring Isograph pen and filled the reservoir with some India ink I already had in my studio, and my goodness is this pen amazing. I used to buy Micron .005 pens (Amazon), but I felt like the ink was a precious resource and my pens would dry up too quickly from all of my doodling. They are great pens, but when I’m afraid of running out of ink, I feel like it gets in the way of my creative process.

Enter the Rotring Isograph Pen, and my fears disappeared. When ink starts to run low, you just open the pen, fill the reservoir, and go back to drawing. Sweet, sweet creative freedom. Now I won’t be chucking single use pens in the garbage can after a few drawings.

Products I use:

Pen Pros
  • Very precise
  • Pen reservoir is refillable
  • Pen is easy to dismantle, clean, and refill
  • You can customize the colors and inks used
  • Comes in a variety of sizes
  • So far I haven’t encountered any ink burps or pen explosions.
Pen Cons
  • Not cheap. These pens are a bit expensive initially. The .25mm pen I bought was around $25, but it pays for itself after a few refills if you factor in how many single use pens you’d go through over a few months.
See how I use it here:

***

Let me know if you give this pen a try! It has become one of my new studio favorites!

If you enjoy learning about the supplies I use in the studio and want to know more, let me know through Instagram or Email, or consider becoming a Patron of mine to support more content like this. Now go get messy and share your creation on Instagram using #messyeverafter!

-Kelly

SUPPORT MESSY EVER AFTER ON PATREON:

A lot of artists don’t like to share their secrets, but I’m an open book. If you enjoy the content I create and the advice I give to other creators, please consider becoming Patron of mine on Patreon. Pledging as little as $1 a month supports this content and my career as an artist.

Further Reading: