How to Become an Artist: 3 Ways to Express Vulnerability in Your Art

Photo caption: Learning how to improve your art means learning how to be vulnerable as an artist. Photo and artwork courtesy of the Milan Art Institute. 

By now, most people who are familiar with the Milan Art Institute and our Mastery Program know that it’s a place where artists learn how to become an artist, more specifically, how to become a professional artist. 

It’s also important to say that those who join our ranks as students do so because they want to improve as artists. As such, they’re mentally prepared to spend hours in front of their easels, painting and drawing, sometimes far into the night to get their work done. 

Such is the life of an art school student at times, and certainly, it’s the life that many professional artists lead after they leave art school. 

What some art students may not expect is being told that they must learn how to be vulnerable. To truly be a successful artist and to truly find and improve their art style, they must dive deep into some scary feelings sometimes. 

Really, they can’t learn how to be an artist without taking this critical step.

But ironically, it’s when artists are courageous enough to tap into their vulnerability, they also tap into the healing power of art for themselves and the people who view their art. 

So, just what is vulnerability and how can it help artists like you to learn how to become an artist who has the power and the internal strength to change the world with their art? 

Here’s what you need to know about this critical skill.

What Is Vulnerability?

In a Forbes article, 

author and researcher Brene Brown defined vulnerability as “uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.”

The challenge that many people face is that they have never been taught how to manage the feelings they have that arise when they feel vulnerable nor have they learned how to manage emotional risk. 

As a result, they never allow themselves to be vulnerable around others. 

Video caption: The Power of Vulnerability | Brené Brown

The Healing Power of Art Comes Down to Vulnerability

However, shutting down vulnerability means shutting out opportunity, something that artists can’t afford to do. According to Milan Art Institute founder, Elli Milan, being vulnerable as an artist is what brings about transformation, not just in the artist, but also in the art collector. 

“When you are open and transparent and that light is shining in you,” Elli says, “it creates an opportunity for the people that experience your artwork to also receive that light and that healing and that wholeness.”

Part of the difficulty that people face when it comes to being vulnerable is perception. As Brene Brown put it, “The difficult thing is that vulnerability is the first thing I look for in you and the last thing I’m willing to show you. In you, it’s courage and daring. In me, it’s weakness.”

But it isn’t the weakness it seems to be. Our vulnerability and authenticity resonate with collectors, not the walls we put up.

As Elli points out, “What other professions are there out there where their heart is seen every day? [as it is in art?] I think that’s why artists are so peculiar in such a beautiful way. We’re very strange people. We make a living from exposing our heart. We make a living from being transparent.”

It’s also the connection between mind and body that art allows you to make that makes art so healing. Unlike other healing modalities, like meditation or exercise, which only work parts of us, art works all of us. And just like exercise makes us powerful eventually, so, too, does art, the most powerful art being the art that’s also the most vulnerable. 

But it’s the fear of being vulnerable that stops us from becoming the artist we’ve always wanted to be. Becoming a professional artist isn’t just about making perfect paintings. 

It’s about allowing your vulnerability and the strength of heart that it takes to be so vulnerable to shine through in every piece you make. 

What Stops Us From Being Vulnerable?

It, again, goes back to perception. We are afraid of what other people think, and so we don’t show our vulnerable sides to others. Yet, it is in that vulnerability that the true warrior artist comes to the fore. It is in expressing these feelings on canvas that we learn how to become a professional artist, an artist of note and influence.

Elli puts it this way. “You are basically saying: I don’t care too much about what you think. I’m not worried about your opinion of me. I am going to step into my strength. I’m going to be the best person I can be. I’m going to allow myself to receive healing and wholeness in these areas that I’ve been hurt and wounded, and when I’m overcoming them, I’m going to share my victory.”

How to Allow Your Vulnerability to Shine Through in Your Art

Fortunately, Elli has some practical advice on how to be more vulnerable in your art. She says:

  1. Don’t blend all those brushstrokes. The tendency to blend away brushstrokes blends away your vulnerability on canvas. It is through those brushstrokes that the viewer knows how you were feeling when you created the piece. 
    The collector can see if you placed a delicate stroke or an angry stroke or a calm stroke. “Don’t cover your brushstrokes,” Elli says. “Let them be seen.”
  1. Allow your art to tell a story. As Elli reminds us, everyone has a story. You have a story. Your collector has a story. Often, it’s because you share a similar story with your collectors that your work resonates with them. 
    “You might just think you’re painting a landscape or a pretty vase of flowers, but those flowers have a story,” she says. “ Those flowers are you. Those flowers speak life. It’s in the brushstrokes. It’s in the colors you choose. It’s the way you lay down that paint.”
  1. Let your art be a bridge between you and the collector. Be the light your collector needs to see, that you need to see. Things like pain and trauma can only hide in the dark. Painting them brings out your power. 
    As an article on the Psychology Today website put it, “Art builds safe, meditative, imaginative spaces,” where you can break free of trauma and heartbreak. 

If you’d like to hear more about Elli’s thoughts on tapping into your vulnerability as an artist, log into your Art Club account. If you don’t yet belong to Milan Art Institute’s Art Club, you can get a FREE trial membership by clicking on this link

Read More Below About How to Become an Artist

How to Become a Professional Artist: Art Dealers vs Self Promotion 

Improving Your Taste: Why Getting Better at Drawing or Painting Isn’t Enough

Why Study Art? A Case for Arts Integration and Visual Literacy

More Articles

Get useful articles every other week!