Being Self-Taught

December 13, 2018

"Self-taught" is a badge that I will be the first to admit that I wear with pride. However, I don't really believe that someone can be 100% self-taught. Our teachers may not even know that they are teaching us, but if you watch tutorials, observing someone's technique, perusing what styles have the optimal overall effect, you are taking lessons from someone else. However, that does not negate the fact that you took it upon yourself to start and continuously improve and develop your craft with no traditional schooling.

When I started drawing, it was mostly doodles in my notebooks, random sketches, also in notebooks, and a few henna designs... Also in a notebook. I used an ink pen that often bled through the paper, and the first time I drew a mandala, I used a bowl to create the circle. Now would also be a good time to mention that I had no idea what a mandala was. I simply liked the concept, the fact that the design itself was traditionally meant to be encompassed in a circular shape. Later, I discovered via Instagram a slew of artists of all ages, races, creeds, sexualities, and whatnot having the time of their lives creating art with the mandala design, and, in general, most of them seemed to be self taught. 

The thing is, I have always believed it possible for anyone to be an artist or have an artistic spark. The self taught artists that I have seen online and met in person prove that to me every day. We all have our lives and almost little to no time to dedicate to mastering a rather intricate and ancient art form, however, they say 'practice makes perfect', not 'practice every single day for the rest of your natural life or you will bring nothing but shame to your family name' (I watch too much Game of Thrones...). The point is that if you really and truly want to grasp this particular art form, even if you think that you do not have an artistic bone in your body, you can certainly do your best if you try as much as you can with what time you have. That's what I realized when I was first getting started. 

I like to experiment with new ideas, tricks, concepts, artistic mediums and whatnot as much as I possibly can, and especially when I was first perusing the endless void of Instagram, I found a lot of concepts that I wanted to try out. For this reason, I purchased a separate sketchbook, a 7 X11, from Michael's, and that is something I highly recommend to anyone wanting to venture into this art form, whether you are just starting out or if you've been doing this for a very long time. The allure of new designs is never ending, and you want to make sure you train your hand to those designs before putting them in your works. Think of it as a 'test tube' sketch book. You're experimenting in it, and it can be lots of fun even if it all turns into a mess!

Being self taught for me is a continuous journey. Don't expect it to ever end, because you are never not teaching yourself. I've been at this since 2014, and I am still learning, changing, experimenting, and figuring new designs and details out. I only just got into the acrylic paint hype a few months ago, and did not start using paint dots in my mandalas until 2016. The point is that you shouldn't expect too much of yourself in the process, because there is no right or wrong way to go about art in general. However you interpret it, whatever stage you are at, whether you are self taught or not, or what your comfort levels are, you are doing it right and you should keep going. 

You never know, you might find yourself in a place where you say "I'm glad I didn't quit on that!". Stay with it, they call it 'self taught' for a reason! You are teaching yourself a craft and that in itself is commendable. 

-xo, MP