Make powerful art with Nicholas Wilton
Have you ever felt like an imposter next to other artists?
Or maybe you have an image in your mind or on paper of what you want to create but what comes out feels, blah?
Or maybe you feel stuck, you want to make art but you just can’t get going?
If this is you, read on.
Nicholas Wilton, full time artist and founder of Art2Life, shares his top tips when it comes to getting unstuck and making powerful art.
We also talk about how Nic approaches his own art and how this led to the creation of Art2Life and a 7 figure income!
So let’s get stuck in…
Nic, there’ll be lots of people here that have no idea who you are, so do you mind just sharing a little bit about how you got into art? How did you arrive at the destination you are at today with Art2Life?
Let me give you the quick, quick version. I’ve always made art and loved it. I went to art school for many years and was always doing art. I loved people so I found being in my studio by myself… well, it was hard. This was when I started to do these little workshops to get myself out of the studio.
At the time I was transitioning from illustration, which supported me early on but wasn’t my dream. I was successful at it but just never felt like it was what I wanted to say. Fine art was my fantasy dream. So in doing that I was learning how to make personal work.
It was these workshops that I was doing – I made some content up that I thought would be helpful, things I was learning at the time. Putting together years of going to art school and notes in the margins of sketchbooks. In doing this I developed something that when I was sharing it with others who were interested in making art in these beautiful places, people were finding them helpful. What I noticed was, this approach to creativity of what I was teaching was different. I was seeing how quickly people were progressing. I’d been struggling for years and I saw people that had been working in a very short time period start to make personal, authentic work and really enjoy it.
I was so surprised by how this was working. I thought “Wow! If you give people the information and you give it to them in a sequence, in a way that they understand it, they can really learn!” so I developed these principles and that was the beginning of Art2Life.
Can you share what some of those struggles were for you early on? What was holding you back as an artist and how did these principles end up helping you?
Well, I guess you guys will get this. I would sometimes be able to make something I really liked on Wednesday and then on a Thursday it would be terrible and I ruined the piece that I created on the Wednesday and then it would be horrible all through the weekend. Then Monday would come and it would get better again.
I’d question myself and really start to wonder what it was that I was doing differently on the days I was creating the work I loved as to the days that I wasn’t. I started to make notes. Was it something I’d eaten? Would exercising in the morning help with the endorphins?
But it wasn’t any of that. It was really to do with principles. It had to do with art fundamentals. Art making is so powerful and I’d never thought about it like this: If you want to cut down a big tree, you can use a nail file or a chainsaw but you don’t know the difference. Sometimes you’d use the chainsaw and it would be so quick and easy. Other times you’d use the nail and it wouldn’t work at all.
So within this there are visual principles around art making, around design value, colour, texture, risk and soul. All of these principles woven together allow you to move through the process of making art you enjoy whilst making something that is personal and authentic.
As an artist of 25 years, who on the surface, we look at going “Well, you’re amazing!” – Do you still feel that imposter syndrome sometimes when you see artwork, as other people do, or has that gone now?
I think the beautiful thing about us all as artists – it’s hard and it’s revealing. It makes you vulnerable but that is a nice humility of artists and I think this is good. But no, I’m not overflowing particularly with confidence and I make huge blunders. I work with a team of people and sometimes I say the wrong thing. The same is with my art making – I still do the same stupid things even though I teach the stuff!
Understand that your art making comes from within and practice on becoming yourself. There are always people ahead of you and there are always people behind you.
Let’s get under the surface of some of these blocks that people are having around procrastination.
So that’s huge! All the questions and challenges that come up with procrastination, most of them are not true and they have answers.
This idea that you’re wasting your time or you are limiting yourself, you can work around these pretty quickly and it is something that I work through with artists all the time. Most of the time it is down to a reframe and how you think about it. It’s like if you’re walking a certain speed and you need to travel a thousand miles. After ten days of walking you realise you’ll need to get a car to finish. That is a reframe and it can change everything!
When it comes to procrastination, you need to understand that with procrastination there is vulnerability. When doing something uncertain, vulnerability creeps in. So when making art from within, it doesn’t exist in the world yet, so it’s scary. We’re hardwired to love things that make us feel comfortable and are certain, but art needs uncertainty. It needs risks and that is what makes it so cool and wonderful. That vulnerability is going to stay but you need it.
When you start to make art, get into your studio time and have complete freedom. No one is expecting anything. You don’t have any responsibilities, bills to pay or kids to pick up. Just for 20 or 30 minutes a day, take the shackles off and treat it like a mini vacation. I am telling you, when you do this and let all the worries go, this is art making.
This idea that people have guilt over taking this time to create and make art, is something to reframe. You are allowing yourself to evolve as an artist and person. If you have kids, if you have people in your life, you have to be responsible for the gift of showing them what it looks like to evolve yourself, to show who you really are.
That’s the biggest, coolest thing you can do for anybody, you know? They love seeing it because it lets them know that it’s okay to do this. You guys, I think this is why we’re here to become more ourselves and to share our gifts with the world. It’s the coolest thing to do!
Tell us about your practice, Nic, and how you know where to draw the line between play and finished works.
Great question! Look, how I teach art (and we’ll be talking about this in the free workshop) has a lot to do with differences. In art, when we are being playful and we are trying things we haven’t done before, we’re not caring so much about what we’re making, we make amazing marks and cool things happen, but it can feel a bit messy.
If you just play all the time your life would just be playful and nothing else. What you then need to start understanding is the principles. These are academic things that can help you take aspects of what you’ve discovered in playing and how to bring an element into your work. You need to know how to switch between the two – going between being careful and being completely out of control. We all have that ability.
I’m a very sloppy, messy kind of an artist, but sometimes I really try to be controlling because it makes the messy stuff look so incredible. I’m showing you guys who I am. I’m not just a messy guy. I’m also careful, right? I can be super emotional and then I can be really stoic and really heroic and brave and not back down. I can be strong and I can own that fire and then I can be really insecure and terrified about what I’m doing. Those are the differences we need.
So really, the simple answer is you’re doing all of it all the time. You’re just switching back and forth. It’s incredible.
Let us know, Nic, about your free workshop!
The workshop starts on Feb 14th here in the United States – all available online. I’m really interested in making progress with you guys and we have a good few days to do it which is great. I have discovered from doing this for a few years, the best way to do it is how we’re doing it now!
So if you sign up, you get a link and it’ll be a lesson I’ve pre-recorded as clearly and as simply as I can. We go over the principles of value, design and colour. They’re three of the most powerful art making principles. They’re huge.
So you will get a lesson on the first day, then later in the day, four or five hours later, I go live and I probably spend an hour, hour and a half, sometimes more demonstrating, going deeper and answering questions. It’s really fun. Then you’re going to try some of this stuff on your work.
We do that all week and to be upfront – at the end of the week we talk about a program. We have a bunch of programs that Art2Life offers at the end and that’s something for people who want to go deeper. Most people just do the free workshop. We have thousands of people do it. It’s really, really cool and I love the progress that people make just doing this free workshop.
I mean, we have people that make huge realisations about their art during this workshop. That’s what it should do. You should be able to see things in a different way. This is about getting information that can transform.
We had the most amazing chat with Nic and I absolutely loved it. If you want to take part in the free workshop that Nic is offering, you can sign up here for more information: https://tellafriend.affiliatedash.com/a/a2lworkshop2022/unitedartspace
I am joining in on these workshops and I am so excited. I have done them before but I can’t wait to get stuck into this workshop again. It’s amazing and can really transform your mind and art!