• malcolm jarvis

It’s Never Too Late to Become an Artist

If you’ve always wanted to be an artist, why not start off the new year by making this an achievable goal, or better yet, your New Year’s resolution? It’s never too late to start making art so give in to your passion, find the right inspiration and dive right in.

Getting Started

Twenty years ago, I decided to pursue my dream and take the leap to finally become a full-time artist. I had trained at art school but the precarious life of a professional artist did not sit well with marriage and a mortgage so I pursued a career in London advertising agencies then in management training with a major international conglomerate.

For some years, as a management trainer, I taught adults but it wasn’t until I started teaching painting that I ran into adults with so many doubts and insecurities about learning.

For most adults, going to art school is not an option, nor would it be the right option unless the goal is to become a professional artist or perhaps an art teacher. Fortunately, there are so many other opportunities to learn to paint. There are council run adult education classes or leisure learning classes. You might prefer to go on a painting holiday and/or painting workshop or perhaps on-line painting classes would be your best choice. Locally you may find a regular class run by a professional artist or an art group or club that offers demonstrations by visiting artists. The trick is finding what - and who - works for you.

In the meantime I suggest you just.....

Start copying

Do what? Copy? I can hear the cries of horror and a few expletives from those amateur and professional artists who believe copying is beneath them (even though I guarantee every one of them has copied something at sometime).

As children, we learn by copying. We learn to write by copying down the alphabet. We learn our multiplication tables. We learn to spell. We learn by pretending to be our heroes. Musicians learn to play by practicing scales. Painters learn to paint by reproducing masterpieces.

Start copying what you love. Copy, copy, copy, copy. At the end of the copy you will find yourself.”

Yohji Yamamoto

Copying is how the old masters usually learned their craft, through apprenticeships that had them copying works and styles of their mentors closely. It’s a valid way to learn. It’s not plagiarism - plagiarism is trying to pass someone else’s work off as your own. Copying is about finding out how the artist worked.

But, first you have to figure out who to copy. Second, you have to figure out what to copy.

Who to copy is easy. You copy the artists I call your artist heroes - the people you love, the people you’re inspired by, the people you’d like to be.

What to copy is a little bit trickier. Don’t just copy the style, try to experience the thinking behind the style. You don’t want to look like your heroes, you want to ‘see’ like your heroes. The reason to copy your heroes and their style is so that you might somehow get a glimpse into their minds. That’s what you really want - to become familiar with their way of looking at the world. If you just imitate somebody’s work without understanding where they are coming from, your work will never be anything more than a rip-off.

So, copy your artist heroes and remember what Mark Twain said:

“It is better to take what does not belong to you than to let it lie around neglected!





I'm Malcolm, a painter, tutor, lecturer and workshop instructor living in South Norfolk.

My years of painting experience have taught me to loosen-up, let go of fear and paint spontaneously.

My philosophy is ‘less is more’.

  • Fewer brushes for livelier, quicker painting.

  • Fewer paints for easy, straightforward colour mixing.

  • Fewer techniques for optimal results.​

But that doesn’t mean I ignore the basic fundamentals and principles upon which I believe all good painting should be based: shape, value, colour, edges and centre of interest.

​These foundations underpin all my work. If you want to paint portraits, abstracts, still life or landscapes, the same foundations apply; they will give you a solid basis for anything you choose to paint, regardless of subject or medium.

It is my intention to talk about these fundamentals in a straight-forward, no-nonsense, jargon-free way in this blog and to encourage you incorporate them into your work.

Thank you for visiting!

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