5 tried and tested tips to teach yourself a new art style

On this episode of the Art with Soul podcast, I share some tips and ideas to help you teach yourself to paint in a new-to-you art style. We discuss actionable tips, mindset hacks, and more on this episode, so pull up a chair and listen in! This episode is in celebration of the release of my first collection of abstract paintings called Sands of Time. You’ll find a written transcript of the episode {edited for readability} + additional links and resources below.

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This is the second part of my 2-part podcast celebrating my Sands of Time collection. On the previous episode, we focused on creating art in a series. Today, let’s talk about what it takes to become a self-taught artist!

5 of my tried and tested tips to teach yourself a new art style

These tips will work for you if you’ve already got an established art practice. When you’re just starting out on your art journey, I think it is important to seek out some teachers, and really get the hand holding and resources you need to understand all of the nitty-gritties that go into creating art – techniques, art basics, the intricacies of using your supplies, and more. Perhaps that is a conversation for another time.

For now, let’s focus on how you can teach yourself a new painting style!

1. Understand how you like to paint

First things first, you need to get clear about how, exactly, you like to paint. Not what – how. Do you tend to sketch out an idea before you start painting? Do you use reference images in your art? Maybe you have a certain method to your painting practice – using certain supplies or techniques in a particular manner or order. Or maybe you approach your art more intuitively?

Knowing this will help you immensely when you’re teaching yourself to paint in a new style.

As an example, I approach my art intuitively. I rarely know what I’m going to paint, and I don’t rely on particular techniques or rules when it comes to creating art. I tend to simply fly by the seat of my pants while painting, allowing how I feel in the moment to dictate my color choices, tools, and mark making. This approach is also how I taught myself abstracts.

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

The reason this is important is because you’re going to need to do some reading about the art style you’re teaching yourself. My suggestion would be to get not more than two books to begin with, because what you really need is the basic information on the style, not an overwhelming number of ideas and techniques. Those can sometimes bog you down. What you need to do is to understand and then, importantly, implement the ideas and techniques in the ways that work best for you.

For example, when I was learning how to paint abstracts, I focused on reading about the elements of abstract – composition, line, color – and just let it all percolate, so I could pull on it in a more intuitive manner. Trying to follow the lesson demonstrations in the books simply didn’t work for me – but that may be different for you, depending on how you approach your art. Which is why knowing how you like to paint is the most important tip that I can give you.

Also read: Finding my unique abstract language

2. Maintain beginner’s mind

When you’re teaching yourself how to paint, your paintings may not work initially and you are inevitably going to make art that you hate. If you’re a self-taught artist like me, your inner critic is going to come out strongly, trying to convince you that you never really knew how to paint in the first place, that all your paintings so far were just a fluke.

Maintaining beginner’s mind helps you to deal with the inner critic much more effectively, and also to tune it out more easily. Also make sure to continue to paint in your regular style as well. It’s easy to get completely engrossed in learning a new style, but coming back to what you know well from time to time helps to ease any self-doubts that may arise when you’re still trying to teach yourself a new form of painting.

Also read: How to silence your inner critic and create fearlessly

3. Gather inspiration

How to teach yourself art - gather inspiration - pinterest screen shot

Pinterest – and to an extent Instagram – are excellent places to look for paintings that appeal strongly to you. I would encourage you to set up a secret Pinterest board to gather inspiration.

Look for the paintings that really appeal to you – even if they are in colors or mediums that you don’t generally use. At this stage, it’s all about that visual instinct and the pull towards the paintings that delight you.

I do recommend Pinterest over Instagram for this, because it’s much easier to follow the visual trail on Pinterest. It’s also really easy to put everything together on one board so that you can look at that visual eye candy in one place without having to scroll from image to image.

This is going to be very important when it comes to the next tip.

4. Steal like an Artist!

experiment with mark making
Photo by RF._.studio from Pexels

Once you have a nice collection of around 20-30 images that you love, spend some time observing what about each of those paintings appeals to you. It may be the use of color, or composition, or the way in which the painting tells you a story, or the movement or line work…

Make some notes, and then go look at some of your art.

Are there elements that you noted that you already use in your work?

For instance, when I was teaching myself abstracts, I realized that my abstract language had a significant overlap with my intuitive painting language. There were elements in the abstract paintings that appealed to me that were already present in my intuitive work – layers, drips, color fields. And then there were elements that I had to learn to find my own style and language with.

Once you have made a note of your observations, get out a cheapie sketchbook and start experimenting and playing with different elements – especially the ones that are new to you.

For me, one of the most difficult elements was abstract lines and mark making. Although I do use these elements in my intuitive paintings, they tend to get lost within the layers of paint, or inform different figurative elements in my paintings. When it came to abstracts, lines and mark making are very much part of the main feature – that was something that was very new to me. I ended up with pages and pages covered in all kinds of lines and marks, until I found how my hand moves and what kinds of lines I like.

That’s what you need to do too, with the elements that are new to you.

5. Make some art

How to teach yourself art - make art in a series - a collection of some of my abstract paintings

The final tip I have for you is to consider working on a few small paintings. The objective isn’t really to have frameable art, or even finished art, but to really explore your colors, tools and marks. Experiment with different ways of combining all of the elements together to create the work that speaks to you…that feels like an authentic expression of who you are.

Also, it is best to do this step after you have spent some time with the other tips first. This step is what gives a final thrust to your self-taught artist journey.

It can also take a bit of trial and error and require quite a bit of motivation and doing. But spending some time to simply play with everything that you have learnt, and to put it all into practice is key to developing and learning a new painting style.

One way to stay on track with this is to set it up like a challenge – perhaps a 30-day art challenge? Or maybe consider doing the 100 day challenge – it’s an excellent way to dive deep into an art style and really start to develop it.

I hope that these tips will help you on your own journey to teach yourself art! If you have any questions or anything else to add, or if you have a suggestion for a future podcast episode, please let me know in the comments.

If you enjoyed this episode of the podcast, please consider leaving a review and rating on iTunes, or share it with your friends. If you mention the podcast on Instagram, do tag me at moderngypsy.in.

This is the final episode of Season 1 of the Art with Soul podcast. I will be taking a short Christmas and New Year break, and will return with Season 2 of the Podcast on 15 January. Until then, wishing you and your loved ones a wonderful holiday season! 

Posted in The Art with Soul Podcast.

I’m an artist and art educator, podcaster, tarot reader, and writer. I share my discoveries along the path to inspire you to live a more creative, soul-centered life. Receive my love letters for more of my musings on life and creativity. P.S. I love Instagram - join me there?

5 Comments

  1. These are good tips, Shinjini!
    I want to learn water colour painting, or even acrylic. I haven’t worked in these two styles and am quite intimidated by them. Last week, I created a water colour abstract painting. It came out SO BAD!! ;P Hehehe!But I was ready for it, so I added some zentangle designs to it to make it more tolerable.
    But, I will use the tips you shared here to teach myself this style.
    Thanks a ton!

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