The Meaning Behind Self-Taught

Finished FlamingosSo, technically no, I did not go to school for this. However, I can not sit here and say that I am self-taught. I think most artists use “self-taught” as a quicker way of saying “I did not go to school for this, but I have learned from many others along the way.”

Specifically, for me, I learned faces from my mother, hands and feet from the many illustrators at Walt Disney, and birds from my grandmother. I’ve always loved thick, bold lines, bright colors and the 2D-ness of 60’s comic book art. I’m quite certain, more recently, I’ve picked up color suggestions from Andy Warhol.

One thing I did teach myself was body proportion. I had no one else to draw so I would prop up a big mirror and draw myself from it. (It actually helped me work through some body image issues I was having as well.) I was a teenager then, but you might notice that I kept that image in the back of my head. You might notice that a lot of the girls I paint have thin limbs.

[Side story: I did come very close to being an art major in college. It was on my application. But when I went in for my interview with the Dean of the Art Department, the Dean from the Theatre Department was interviewing another student next to me and I couldn’t stop listening to what they were saying…. Anyway, you should have seen the “portfolio” I sent in with my application to the Art Department! It was basically a bunch of drawings on papers – some wall paper, some wrapping paper – paper-clipped together. It was a mess. I was surprised to be accepted at all.]

My point is that we all pick up things from other artists along the way. Whether that artist is Oscar de la Renta or an architect or an unknown graffiti artist or your very own mother. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked at a building or a dress or another artist’s piece and thought, “That! Can I do that? Can I incorporate that feeling or that line or that boldness into my own work?”

❤ Liz Kelly Zook



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