Four Ps to Growing as an Artist

Hello Fellow Artists!

Every year I set several goals for myself, both personally and professionally.  As we were nearing the end of 2018, and I was reflecting on my year, I began to think about my personal goals for 2019.  What kept coming up for me over and over again was how much I wanted to continue to grow as an artist.  Running a family and a business can be so wonderful, but also takes time.  So, I realized that if I wanted to grow, I was going to have to let go of some things.  Beginning in January of this year, I just began to say no to things that were going to take up the time that I wanted to devote to painting.  I have seen significant growth in my art in the last year, and wanted to share some of the steps that I truly feel have contributed to this growth.  While there are many things I have done, I am trying to make this easy for you to remember, so I have narrowed my steps down to THE FOUR Ps.  I am also giving you a sneak peek into my process below!


I remember when I first returned to art!  I would spend hours on Pinterest perusing the amazing artwork of other artists!  I began creating boards of my favorites and studying them.  From the get go, I was drawn to contemporary portrait artists such as Michael Carson, Milt Kobayashi, Malcolm Liepke,  and Guy Denning, to name a few.  To this day, I would have to say that these four are probably still at the very top of my list of favorite artists.  Studying other artists is something that artists have done from the beginning of time.  If we are so lucky, we might even get the chance to study under some of our favorites.  Nevertheless, whatever you can or cannot do, studying various artists in this way can help give you some direction into your own art.



It can help you decide what you want to try, or where you may want to go next.  It can help you to discover new palettes to try, poses to draw, techniques to explore, etc.  Influence is key!  It is the way to help your art to grow and change.  When I am studying these artists, I might try to copy a painting on my own in my studio, to see if I can figure a color or technique out.  Then, I take what I discover, and add it to my tool belt so that I can then try it on my own, with my own reference photo.  That is what then makes it my own art, which is what I hope for in the end!


Do you remember the first time that you took an art class, whether it was online or in-person?  I do!  I remember how much fun it was and how extremely elated I felt after!  It was like I was on top of a mountain!  I wanted more!  I became completely and utterly consumed by art!  Each day I would rush to get my responsibilities done, and stay up for countless hours at night, just creating!  Eventually it became my job, and I soon realized that even something we can grow to love so much, can also become something that we dread.  While my business was doing well, I began to create what I thought others wanted me to, and less of what I really wanted to.  I had also forgotten what it felt like to just play!


So, in the middle of last year, I decided to put the camera away for a while, and play.  I played with my own images, different color palettes, various paint brushes, etc.  It was so important to do!  What happened from this "play" time was extraordinary really.  I saw my art progress in ways that I hadn't seen for some time!  It was fresh and new and exciting, which in turn really excited me!  I quickly realized, that I had to make time for play!  Play literally fuels our fire!  When our body is happy doing something, it wants more of it!  It has really helped me to become more prolific in my art than I have been in a really long time.



So, how do you play?  Create art just because!  Create for yourself without worrying what the rest of the world is thinking!  Explore styles, mediums, tools, etc.


Practice makes perfect!  We have all heard that at some point in our lives.  I remember playing the piano (my dad was my teacher).  I had to practice daily, with a lesson every Sunday.  It was a routine, a ritual, and I had to abide by it.  I may not have always liked it, but I did learn that when we are disciplined, and practice, it really pays off.  Thankfully as an adult I am able to choose what I want to practice and get better at.  At the same time, I also know that I have to make the time to practice if I want grow as an artist.  This doesn't mean that I need hours and hours of time every day.  Practice in art can be as simple as working in a journal, painting for thirty minutes, etc.



Be realistic with your schedule.  I know for my own schedule that I will have time to paint for a couple of hours Monday through Friday.  Knowing this, and setting this time aside for painting, has allowed me to actually have more time!  It has become a part of my routine.  Making this a part of my day has not only helped me to grow as an artist, but has also helped me to be more prolific.  I no longer have to worry about how much time I am going to have because I am making the time.  It has become a part of my weekly routine.


One thing that I always wanted was to work from my own images.  I truly felt that if I could create the entire piece from start to finish, something would change.  For me it was everything.  About a year ago, I took some pictures of various models for my online students to use in their own practice.  However, as inspiring as many of the images were, I wasn't being pulled in.  Around that same time, I was sitting with my oldest daughter in our home.  I was watching her play piano.  She turned around on the piano stool and began to play the ukelele.  I was so inspired by watching her there.  I was looking at her, as I had stared at many individuals on previous occasions.  You know what I am talking about.  When we see someone on the streets and we are so inspired by the individual that we want to paint him/her.  I got that same feeling when I was looking at my very own daughter.  It was then and there that I decided to take some photos of her to try to work from.


Around that same time, I was introduced to the app Enlight.  This app allowed me to manipulate my photos so that I could see color and shape better in my images.  This was a HUGE game changer!  Since then, every month or two, I take a new set of photos of my children, or others that are inspiring to me.  I play with the photos, and I look for one, or even a set to work from.  The most recent shoot allowed me to get many shots that I wanted to work from!


Along with taking my own photos and manipulating them, I have also been working with a limited palette.  I am trying to make my work easier, not harder.  Working from a limited palette has also been one of the very best things I have ever done for myself!  I could talk about palette for a long time and could write a whole blog on that alone!



The main point here, is having some sort of a plan is key!  I know that there is a time to play, but there is also time for a plan.  When we have a plan, the chances of success will be higher.  So my plan is my routine that I have found to work for me.  I have my wash that I do on my canvas, I grid, I use a notan, I do my underpainting, and then I paint.  As I am painting, I am constantly looking at my image.  I correct as I go, I don't wait for my painting to correct itself because that won't happen.  I also mix my paint and try it out on the side of the canvas before I go into the painting itself.  The point is, I have my plan and it works for me, so I keep using it.  As I grow as an artist, I adjust my plan so that it can adapt as I need it to.


Do you have a plan?  If not, do you think that you can create one that works for you?  Remember, I don't always use my plan!  When I am in practice mode, that is my chance to explore and experiment, with or without the plan.  Do you have a plan?  If not, do you think that you can create one that works for you?


Do you want to learn more about seeing the 4 Ps in action?  You can sign up now for my CREATE LIKE A MASTER class.  In this class I walk you step by step through choosing your photos, to manipulating them, to discovering your palette, and then finally to painting your piece.  It is a great process that has worked for me and many others!  I would love to have you join the class!  It is on sale through Friday along with most of the rest of our classes!

Connect with other creatives TODAY in our private Facebook Artist Community!  It is full of inspiration, support and encouragement....what every artist needs!  Silence your inner critic with the support of other artists!


Remember, this is just what has worked for me in my own journey!  If you can find anything in this that works for you awesome!  I would also love to hear what has worked for you in your own journey!





  1. pnasiopulos on April 16, 2019 at 12:38 PM

    Thanks for sharing insights into your journey. I so appreciate your wilingness to guide me down the path of least resistance and frustration. I also appreciate all the opportunities you provide to improve my skills and open my mind to tried and true methods as well as new ways of doing things.

    • Kara Bullock on April 16, 2019 at 1:23 PM

      I am happy that you find these readings and live videos so helpful! It helps me to find new and exciting ways to continue to share with you all so that I can keep encouraging and supporting!

  2. Pam Householder on April 16, 2019 at 1:09 PM

    Kara: I LOVE your FB group and am happy to be included there–thank you! I’ve been on the email list for your newsletter/blog and have looked at them each time I get an email. But, for some reason, today’s 4 P’s truly resonated with me! I’ve recently left a group I’d been a member of for years due to arguing, insults and accusations among the members that seemed to be instigated by the leaders. It was awful. But, I have been using my own reference work since then and feel that I’ve grown ten-fold in the process. Serendipity at work maybe?! I actually went back through years of old paintings and covered over tutorial art, or adjusted them enough to make each my own–or gave them away just so the canvases in my cupboard and on my walls is all me! I guess I’m currently putting together my “Plan” but didn’t realize it until this moment after reading your blog post. Thank you so much for all of this: watching your process video above felt like being in a one on one classroom–soooo helpful to me. Thank you again! xo

    • Kara Bullock on April 16, 2019 at 1:21 PM

      Hi Pam!

      I am so sorry that you had to experience such negativity in the last art group! Sometimes I think that people don’t really understand how to lead a group, or better yet, just how to be supportive and encouraging. I am excited that you are getting your plan together! Looking forward to seeing new work in our group! xo

  3. Emma Morley on April 16, 2019 at 2:49 PM

    Thank you Kara.
    I admire your work and appreciate your honesty and your recommendations as to how to overcome the struggle and grow as an artist, good, solid, straightforward advice….. Thank you.

    • Kara Bullock on April 16, 2019 at 4:08 PM

      Emma, I know how much I like “EASY” so when I break things down into steps like this, it makes it that much easier for me to see that it really isn’t that hard. I am glad this resonated with you! xo

  4. Ginette on April 16, 2019 at 4:06 PM

    Thank you so much Kara for this testimony, it gives me wings. I still look to much at Pinterest instead of playing  and being in action, pretending I don’t have time … Procrastinating create anxiety for me and I realise , reading to you, that we all have to experiment this scary step. Thank you to give us some tips and encouragements ! I noticed how much your grew up in your art, and I really appreciate that you share your experience.

    • Kara Bullock on April 16, 2019 at 4:30 PM

      Ginette, I think that looking at Pinterest is totally okay! We need inspiration for sure! However, we also have to make the time if we want to improve. Sometimes the amount of time we spend making up excuses takes away from the actual time we could have been creating. I am excited to see how you go about organizing your time. Less stress equals more creating. You can do it! xo

  5. Camille Simard on April 16, 2019 at 5:27 PM

    Kara I’m an old grand-mother who had forgotten how to practice her Art. Your honest recommendations have just given me the kick I needed, thank so very much; you are a great & precious tutor. You just put me back on the right track xo

    • Kara Bullock on April 16, 2019 at 7:23 PM

      Hi Camille! I am so happy to hear this! I think sometimes the simplest answer is right in front of us! We just need the reminders! I hope that this helps get you back on track! xo

  6. Cass on April 17, 2019 at 7:27 AM

    I thought of patience, practice, purpose and perseverance.

    • Kara Bullock on April 17, 2019 at 7:57 AM

      Hi Cass! Also great Ps to add!!! I think that they go along with what was shared for sure! xo

  7. Elizabeth Palmer on May 7, 2019 at 7:10 PM

    I had never heard of notan until reading your blog. I went on to YouTube to view more about it. Very interesting! I love hearing about new to me processes. Have you ever done this process in let’s Face it? Thanks I love your classes and your upbeat and authentic personality.

    • Kara Bullock on May 7, 2019 at 7:48 PM

      Hi Liz! I am glad you learned something new! Notans are super helpful and I almost always use them when I paint. I do believe that the process has been shared in past LFI class lessons. I think in LFI2018 for sure! Thank you for your compliments! I am happy you like my classes!


  8. Debbie on May 13, 2019 at 12:34 AM

    Thank you for sharing the great content. Very insightful and beneficial!

  9. Jen on May 14, 2019 at 2:12 PM

    Thank you so much for this article and a peek into your process. I’m inspired!!

    • Kara Bullock on May 16, 2019 at 10:43 AM

      Hi Jen! Thank you so much for reading! I am so happy you felt inspired!

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.