Pursuit of Natural

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Art Better: Skills Management for the Self-Taught Artist

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Skills management provides some structure and formalization to the learning process when you are a self-taught artist. It is a self-assessment technique that you can return to again and again as you develop and it will help you find answers to the question “How do I get better?”

Because not everything you might think to study is actually relevant to your goals as an artist, it’s important to understand those goals and the steps that will help you develop with those goals in mind. Here, I’ll briefly outline how skills management helps to do that.

Write Your Artistic Skills

Write out your skills and don’t be stingy. Color, shape, hands, cats, patterns, Photoshop, flowers, grayscale—all of it counts. Anything you can honestly sit down and create with clarity and purpose is a skill.

When you write out your skills, the list will act as your baseline to build on. It tells you where you are right now. As it grows over time, it can also act as encouragement.

Write What You Want to Do Artistically

Write what you want to do but aren’t good at yet. If you can maybe draw something that is recognizable as eyes, but they don’t look as realistic as you’d like, then you list that here. If you can whip up a cartoon figure but you don’t really have a consistent process or understanding for your style of cartoon, list that here, as well. This can be project-specific, too, such as a collection of watercolor images for a children’s book you always wanted to do.

The purpose of writing this list is to give yourself some direction. It tells you where you want to go. These must be personal goals. If you want to draw realistic portraits like your favorite artist, it can help to research their work as an example. But if you aren’t really interested in portraiture, you need to make that distinction.

Research, specifically, what it is they do that you want to do, such as rendering in fine detail, texture, and light and shadow. You’ll need to study those and not necessarily how to draw a portrait.

Identify Artistic Skill Gaps

Identifying skill gaps is not as obvious as it sounds. It’s not anything and everything you don’t know how to do. A skill gap is the gap between your individual skills and the skills that a project requires. Put another way, not knowing how to ride a horse is not a skill gap unless you want to be a horseracing jockey.

To find your skill gap compare your list of artistic abilities with the list of things you want to do artistically but aren’t good at yet. If you want to create watercolor images for a children’s book but you haven’t worked with watercolor, you aren’t good at choosing vibrant colors, you could be better at drawing animals, and you don’t have a fun style that would appeal to children, those are your skill gaps.

Identifying skill gaps will help you research these missing steps, study relevant examples, and focus on improving towards your specific destination. It takes the guesswork out of “Why does my work suck?” and gives you more guidance on “How do I get better?”


Dont forget to reassess and update your lists as you progress. Skills management is something you do throughout your journey. If you learned something, take a second to like this post! ❤ If you want to see more of my art, follow me on Instagram (IG: pursuitofnatural). 🌈 And if you’re new here, click that follow button for more articles on natural hair, art, and self-care.

Author: pursuitofnatural

I'm an illustrator! The Pursuit of Natural started as a blog on the hijinks, lowjinks, and lessons learned from going natural, and it's my home base for all things art, natural hair, and more.

One thought on “Art Better: Skills Management for the Self-Taught Artist

  1. Pingback: Art Better: On Being Prolific | Pursuit of Natural

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