Ask the Art Prof: How Can I Tell if I’m Skilled Enough as a Visual Artist?

Scratchboard Project

“I think this would be the most important question that I’d ask a professional in animation, digital design, video games or movie development. How can I tell if I’m skilled enough to focus on the career to get this kind of job? And, do you think I can do it?”

In my opinion, it’s nearly impossible to evaluate your skills all by yourself.  This is a natural part of the creative process; all of us who work in the visual arts have difficulty getting outside of our own heads and seeing our work objectively. I know that for me after working on a piece for several hours that everything looks the same to me and I can’t figure out by myself what needs to happen next.  This is why you need to seek the opinions of industry professionals and other art students to help you figure this out.

If you’re in a degree program, it’s a simple matter of requesting a  more extensive conversation with one of your teachers who works in the industry. But what if you don’t have that?  I would recommend searching online for artists who are working in the fields you’re interested in, as well as students who are enrolled in BFA programs. Analyze their portfolios and ask yourself what it is that they’re doing that you think makes their work successful. Compare your work to theirs and honestly ask yourself whether you think you can hold a candle to what they’re doing.  If the answer is no, then you need to work harder. If the answer is yes, the only way to truly find out if you can get the job is to apply.

Gesture Drawing

To answer your second question, I truly believe that if you make the decision to do it, it can indeed happen if you are willing to back up that decision with a monstrous work ethic, iron clad tenacity, and a complete and utter dedication. Never underestimate the power of working hard; I went to art school at RISD with many people who were ridiculously talented, but who were lazy and never went anywhere with their careers.  On the other hand, I also went to school with many people who worked incredibly hard, who persevered in the most grueling circumstances, and who went on to have very successful careers.

I can guarantee to you that there will be blood, sweat and tears along the way if you commit yourself like this. A serious investment has to be made from the very beginning. Even when things get tough, you have to be willing to push through the obstacles and keep going. If that sounds like something you are willing to dedicate yourself to, then the answer is yes, you can do it.


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Portfolio Video Critiques for Art Students & Artists
Prof Clara Lieu offers 30 minute video critiques on 8-20 artworks for students working on a portfolio for art school admission, and for artists of any age working on their artwork. Watch a sample below, and get more info here.


ART DARES
Every month, we assign a topic for you to respond to with an artwork. We give out prizes in several categories, and post select submissions on our Instagram  and other sites throughout the month. Use #artprofwip and Prof Clara Lieu might just stop by and give you some feedback! We have a special prize for art teachers who assign the Art Dare to one of their classes. More info is here.


Ask the Art Prof Live was a weekly live video broadcast on our Facebook page where Prof Clara Lieu provided professional advice for art students and professional artists. Ask the Art Prof began as a written column in 2013 and was featured in the Huffington Post from 2013-2015.  See the full archive of columns here. Prof Lieu discussed being an artist today, art technique & materials, work strategies for artists, career advice, teaching art, and more.


Related Videos
Youtube Playlist: Video Critiques on Art School Admissions Portfolios
Youtube Playlist:  How to Draw a Portrait with Charcoal and Cross-Hatching
Youtube Playlist:  Crit Quickies, 1 min. critiques on artworks


Related articles
“How do you find your own individual style?”
“How do artists manage to get their soul out into images?”
“How do you develop an idea from a sketch to a finished work?”
“How do you make an art piece more rich with details that will catch the eye?”
“How do you learn the basics?”
“Is it bad to start another piece of art before finishing another one?”
“How do you work in a series?”
“When and how should you use photo references to draw?”
“How do you know when to stop working?”

3 thoughts on “Ask the Art Prof: How Can I Tell if I’m Skilled Enough as a Visual Artist?

  1. I “overwork” each and every painting i do. I call it done, then work another 20 hours on say, a few edges or some blend area. I think i know when it’ll be right, and certainly know it’s not right “enough”, so i continue, mostly dabbling till it falls or not falls into place. I struggle very very hard with my work, but i’m not satisfied by far with almost all of my work. Can you give me advice on this? I’ve heard “dont’ fiddle”, but isn’t hard work, experimenting continuously such a bad thing??
    Pat

  2. For me it’s like….I really DON’T know, but despite that I still landed some jobs here and there. Currently working on actually finding out my style….let’s see what comes after that – I guess getting as good as possible! 🙂

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