Thursday, August 26, 2010

10 things I've learned since my high school art class

      Okay folks, are you ready for this?

      Who else is gonna be brave and post some of their high school/older artwork?


      I dare you.

     Come on, who can back down from a dare? ;)

      When I was in high school I took every art class they offered. I had special permission from my art teacher to take the AP (advanced placement, if you pass it you earn college credit while still in high school) art test my junior year, and my senior year (at the time, which was about 13 years ago, they offered a general AP test and a drawing test). I was in heaven.

      For my portfolio I had to have a theme, and a common style to my work. This is what I came up with:

      Lots and lots of these paintings and drawings of people. Mostly girls in prom dresses, or at the beach, or putting on makeup, or kissing their boyfriends (yes, I was a typical fashion and boy crazed teenager. I admit it.) These were all done in watercolor with pen and ink details. They were so. much. fun.

     The emphasis was always more on the design, than it was the accuracy of the figure. I whipped out these little drawings, (mostly from my imagination or some fashion magazine) then painted the washes in. This is where I began to learn how to handle watercolor.

This is a sketch of a Native American, his head is close to his horse, not his girlfriend ;)

     My art teacher always said, that abstraction and design was preferred over realism, and that it was the one sure way to make your work stand out enough to the judges to get you to pass the test. So that's what I did, as much as I could. But I never felt like I was creating artwork that really said 'me'. I was just doing what I thought the judges wanted to see.

     It's taken me a long time to finally come to terms with painting the way I want to. And now, I feel happy about that. Here are ten things I know now that I wish I could go back and tell my 16 year old self.

1. There is no ONE way to make art. If someone tells you there is, they are wrong. It's that simple.

2. If you want to paint horses and puppies, then paint them. Don't paint something just because you think other people will like it. Paint what you like, and it will appeal to others as well. Images that come from the deepest desires of your heart will always touch other people too.

3. Not everyone is going to like what you paint. That's okay. Who cares? You like it, that's what matters.

4. You can teach yourself how to paint and draw the way you want to. It's a learnable skill. Practice, practice, practice. Study, learn, repeat.

5. Believe in yourself. If you don't, no one else will either.

6. The smell of instant coffee still reminds you of Mr. Crowther (your art teacher). And he was right about doing all those contour line drawings. Suck it up, do them, and be thankful.

7. Your first realistic portrait? 'Tis not beautiful. That's okay, try, try again. Learn from it what you can, don't get discouraged, and try again.

8. Don't give up. Not even when you think you suck. Because you don't.

9.  Prayer helps. A lot.

10. Your favorite watercolor brush is still a size 6. And also a ten. :)


  1. Crystal - Thanks for sharing some of your high school artwork with us. I really like the woman's face. It's a very interesting style. I don't think my high school artwork exists anymore, I'm sure it was thrown away a long time ago.

    BTW, I used your tips on painting portraits and think it's finally coming along. I posted it on my blog if you want to see how it turned out. Thank you for the advise!

  2. Great idea for a post! I'm intrigued and thinking about sharing some of mine as well. I'm learning quite a bit from you. Thanks so much for sharing!

  3. How nice of you to share this with all of us, Crystal. Sure wish I had taken art in high school. 9th grade was the last year I had any art classes. Didn't know I was intersted in art this much.

  4. High school was such a long time ago that I don't think about it too much but I do have a few things from that time. I might dig some out and post them, but they are pretty awful! Your high school works show definite promise and you have come a LONG way since then! There is maturity, economy, and thoughtfulness in what you produce now.

  5. I love this post. If I ever find any of my high school work I will post it. I agree that you have to paint what feels most like you. If you start to take into consideration what people want to buy or what judges might think, you lose yourself and the emotion that makes a painting. So brave to share this with us. Love it!!

  6. Thanks so much for sharing. You have some really good advise there! We all need to listen to that!

  7. Wow - you were GOOD in high school my dear! I really liked your advice. #6 especially resonated with me and brought a smile. You know, something one of my college painting teachers said really stuck with me (especially in college when you're exposed to all the cool artists whom you admire and want to emulate). It was a bit of a speech but it all boiled down to: to thine own self be true. Just like you've said : )

  8. Such a great post Crystal. Thank you for sharing your art from high school, you were very talented back then. Love the list of 10 things you have learned, lots of great wisdom there. Have a great day

  9. Your high school stufff was really wicked. It was so much design based.

    I do not have any of my high school work with me. That time we did not have digital cameras too. :(

    And your 10things list is actually very good. I guess point 3 and 5 are related. And that is one thing I find really hard to achieve.

  10. These watercolour drawings are fabulous! You were obviously always very creative.
    It's so true what you say about painting what you like, rather than what you feel you should. Almost everything on my blog which has come from my own head, people seem to really like, but things I have posted from my course people seem to like less. My tutor keeps telling me to use watercolours like oils and paint thickly, use it to draw my outlines, blah, blah... But if I wanted to paint like that, then I would be using oils!
    I did a still life painting using the paint quite thickly and it got some criticism from other bloggers. I appreciated their honesty though because it made me realise that my own instincts were right and that I should be doing things in my own way.
    Actually, you have given me an idea for a new post.... :0)

  11. what a great post. I enjoyed reading all of it.

  12. This post rings so true with me. I like your idea of posting your high school work!


Thanks so much for taking the time to leave a comment they really do mean so much to me! Because not all bloggers have their email enabled so I can reply directly through email I will try to reply here in the comments. If I don't please forgive me, life must have been hectic that day! :)) Huzzah!!

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