Nicole writes: Does age have anything to do with your improvement as an artist? For example would you learn more slowly if your younger, or faster if your an adult/older? Thanks!

The only time I’ve seen age play a role in how fast someone learns is with young children. For some reason it seems like when they hit around 11 or 12 (some later), something just clicks in their brains and they can understand what you’re explaining with art. Oddly enough it’s the opposite with music, with the violin you want to start kids at around 4 years old…for some reason with art they do better a bit older. With the majority of children I’ve worked with, when I give them instructions on something that should take them at least 15 minutes to work on before they would be ready for the next step, they would spend 30 seconds to a minute then want help moving onto something else. There are always exceptions to everything, but for this reason I stopped teaching children under the age of 12 because. I made rare exceptions when seeing a younger prospect’s work, but they were very rare. I never found that working with a younger child up through their preteen years helped them to do better than another child who started at around 12.

Besides that, once the kids got to the point where they could follow directions well and work slowly on a project, I’ve not seen much difference between older or younger people in how fast they learn. There is that stupid phrase “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”… that people love to live by. It’s not accurate for dogs or people. I’ve seen people of all ages who learned slow and others in the same age group learn super fast. It all comes down to the individual and their personal motivations and desires.

There are some things that make a big difference in someone learning more quickly, and it all comes down to attitude.

  1. Artists who are patient and not overly critical of themselves learn faster than those who have a melt down every 20 minutes about every little mistake.
  2. Artists who obsessively draw/paint learn far faster than those who paint or draw once a week.
  3. Artists who study their reference photo before and during the artistic process progress faster than those who spend less time looking at that reference.
  4. Artists who decide to succeed do far better than those who are pretty sure they will never be as good as other artists.
  5. Artists who take the time to pinpoint mistakes in their own work, who really define what needs improvement learn FAR faster than those who just say “I don’t like it”.
  6. Artists who are problem solvers learn FAR FAR faster than those who look to others to fix their mistakes. For example, I will have artists come to me and complain they can’t get the water to blend smoothly. I ask how many times they tried and they respond with “well just this once, but I don’t like how it turned out”. JUST ONCE?! Just once and you decided to try to find someone else to solve the problem for you!? Until they start experimenting and making mistakes on their own (and not just one), those artists will not progress far at all. Even if I have the answer for them, they aren’t going to learn as much as having figured out more on their own. They won’t know WHY one way didn’t work when another did.