Generally speaking, to become an artist means to hone your skillset, and develop a style of work that’s uniquely you. As you do, your ideas will evolve and change, as well as the techniques you use to express them. As an artist, you also have to find a balance between disciplined training and free exploration. As you experiment, you’ll discover what kind of art appeals to you—surrealism, impressionism, realism—and what medium or genres of art you want to focus on.
You can draw on rock, metal, foam-core, coffee cups, labels, sidewalks, walls, plants, or any other surface to explore your artistic ideas. Once you get a feel for what kinds of shapes and marks appeal to you, decorate these surfaces with whatever you like: a few lines of words, symbols, or patterns that reflect your artistic vision and taste. Try drawing on the back of a book to see how it looks. Then, draw on some other material to test how the different materials affect your work and if you can create the same type of art on each.
Once you find your artistic voice, delve into the history of the art form you’re interested in and how it evolved. You may find that certain styles or movements inspired other types of art, and you’ll also be able to learn more about the original goals of artists from each period of history. For example, Toni Morrison’s books changed the course of American literature, but she was also an activist and a Black woman editor who promoted groundbreaking authors like Gayl Jones and Toni Cade Bambara.
The term “artist” was originally used to describe people who practiced a particular creative craft or trade, such as sculpting or woodworking. But today, it describes anyone who makes creative works that are informed by imagination. According to Howard Becker, a sociologist who studied creative production communities, an artist is someone who can make a unique contribution that has value and meaning.
A true artist can make a work that has a positive impact on society. Art can raise awareness of social injustice, promote cultural understanding, or inspire action. It can break down cultural, political, and economic barriers, and provide a level playing field for discourse and expression.
The best art is timeless and transcendent, but to achieve that level of significance, an artist must be able to convey what they want to say in the most honest way possible. It takes more than skill or talent to do that. It takes a lot of time, effort, and perseverance. And it takes a lot of courage to express what you’re thinking and feeling even when it goes against the grain, or even offends other people. That’s what separates true artists from everyone else. That’s why they’re worth preserving.