How to Be an Artist, When You Can’t Draw or Paint

How to Be an Artist, When You Can’t Draw or Paint!

Fifth grade art class. I was only 10 when I got my first painful drawing critique.

I thought I would dazzle my art teacher by drawing from memory a photo I had seen in one of the classroom’s art books.

Well, he wasn’t exactly dazzled. In fact, he made it a point to tell me, in front of the whole classroom,  that I should do my own creative work and not try to copy the work of artists far more skilled than I.

It was embarrassing to say the least. We are all so sensitive about our artistic skills, always wondering if we are “good”.

Artists are their own toughest critics. Our egos are so fragile.

That one comment really put a damper on my desire to draw or paint. Obviously, my childhood ego was bruised. More importantly, I was conflicted now. Isn’t modeling those who are successful the quickest path to success?

I understood the teacher’s point right away. Copying is NOT good. But it took me nearly ten years to figure out that while his point was accurate, his delivery was incomplete.

I had to figure out on my own that trying to duplicate another’s work stroke-for-stroke is bad (plagiarism or copyright infringement). But it IS OK to model what they have done and use the techniques you discover to create your own UNIQUE work.

Great art all shares similar qualities in it’s use of light and shadow and proportion and color. It can be drawing, painting, or photography.

I don’t know if I ever could have developed my drawing or painting skills if I had stuck with it. But what I do know, is all I could ever muster were very elemental sketch drawings and very amateurish paintings. Curse that traitor hand of mine that can’t translate sight onto paper!

Luckily, digital photography came along.

I had been into film photography back in high school, but the cost of film and darkroom equipment prevented me from really exploring the creative side of photography. I was taking snapshots, not something that could be confused with art.

Digital photography changed all that. With the potential to take 1000’s of photos for free without film, I was now free to explore and try new things. Editing programs like Photoshop allowed me to really take my photos to the next level. A level that COULD be confused with art. In fact, numerous first prize finishes in International Photo Competitions confirmed that many of my photos were in fact art.

Glorious day!

Now, some 40 years later, while the admonition from my art teacher still echos in my brain (saving me countless dollars in legal bills!) I no longer look to copy, but to create. And I do.

Digital photography and editing programs like Photoshop (there are also free editing programs available at,, allow even the most frustrated artist to finally develop and share the creative spirit that dwells within us all.

If you have always been all thumbs when in comes to pens and pencils, brushes and clay, why not give digital photography a try?

We all desire to leave our mark on this world. Digital photography, especially with all the neat new automatic features on modern cameras, is probably the easiest, most fool-proof (AND FUN!) way  to leave a lasting legacy of your artistic expression.

Photo editing with Photoshop offers allows your creativity to run wild, even turning so-so pictures into fine art that folks would pay big bucks for.

Plus, getting out and taking photos is GOOD FOR YOUR HEALTH!

If you’re just getting started, my new audio CD, “YOUR F-STOP GUIDE TO FITNESS” explains more about the great health benefits of photography and offers some great tips to get you started on a lifetime of successful artist expression. also has great tips and resources to quickly develop your skills without fancy equipment. also has a number of great tips and resources to help you finally release the artist within.

(The award winning photo at top was a Photoshop composite of two so-so photos…a photo of my traitor arm NOT painting…and the dancer I photographed in a parade).