Advice to Young Artists

It’s show season and I’ve been thinking about all that I’ve learned since I started in this artly life I’ve lived.

I’ve been an artist of some sort all my life. I’ve been sewing for about 55 years or more. I started out making clothes for my imaginary “Little Ratties” who were my friends after I saw Cinderella at the theater. This was it’s very first showing. Yeah, I’m that old.




I’ve made jewelry for over 20 years. I’ve been a writer for a while now–since before I started making jewelry. I wrote my first poem in second grade.  I’ve learned a lot along the way so for this post I thought I would pass along some things I’ve learned along the way. I hope they help someone.

Advice to Young Artists

  • Don’t give up. You will have many failures. We all have. No one rides a bicycle without training wheels on the first try. Michelangelo didn’t carve the David his first time sculpting. You will have bad days, weeks, months, and maybe even years. Do not give up. If you love your medium, keep at it.
  • Don’t compare your work to other people’s work. Your work is always going to be different. You may learn things faster or slower than others, but that is just what you do. Be content with it.
  • Don’t mistake your first efforts for fine art. Your first art pieces will seem either like garbage or the best thing in the world to you. Keep working for a year and you will look back on your first tries and see how far you’ve come. You may even be a little embarrassed. I’m not saying to keep them hidden. Get opinions from people you respect. Take their advice if it makes sense to you. If someone wants to buy one, sell it, then go and get more supplies.
  • Use the best supplies (not necessarily the most expensive) that you can afford.
  • You will be obsessed with your new art. Other people are not. If you find yourself talking about it and dominating the conversation, stop. Just stop. Your work should speak for itself.
  • If you take a class, don’t hog the teacher or the equipment. Other students paid to learn too. You are no more important than they are.
  • If you take a class, ask questions, learn about the equipment and get to know the other students. You can make some lasting friendships and maybe find some collaborators. Good things come from good relationships.
  • If you take a class, DO NOT copy your teacher’s (or anyone else’s) work. Copying is easy, but not creative. You are not a Xerox machine. These people have spent many hours, years–decades even–perfecting their art and techniques and have graciously offered to teach you some of what they know. Let them have their own thing. Do YOUR own thing. Use the techniques you learn in a new way and/or with other materials.
  • If you find a shop in which to sell, don’t copy the other members of that shop. MAYBE you can make similar things and sell them in another town. Maybe. Make sure that they don’t sell in the same place before you do. Artists are very possessive of their style. Don’t copy. See above.
  • As you get better at your craft, be understanding of younger artists. Try to be patient with their enthusiasm and transgressions. Remember, you were a beginner once too.

Author: denise

I have done beadwork for over 25 years and got so interested in jewelry design that I took two metalwork classes at Arrowmont School of Arts & Crafts in Gatlinburg, Tennessee from wonderful teachers were Deborah Lynn Gold and Marjorie Simon. I recently took a soutache jewelry class from Amee K. Sweet-McNamara at White Fox Beads in Knoxville which was pretty incredible, too. Love working with the soutache. I can't choose a favorite medium. I love sculptural work and adore forming and fabricating metals, but three-dimensional beadwork is great too. Lately I've gone back to sewing and refashioning cast-off clothing–mostly men's shirts, into girls' clothing. I also enjoy making handbags and wallets. They are really fun to put together–like a puzzle.