"I'm not an artist!" 😩 (Yes, you are)

Forum friends, when browsing all the beautiful mail art you post, it pains me to see comments such as:

“I don’t have that kind of talent.”
"I’ll never be as good as [insert name here]."
"I’ll leave mail art to the real artists."

I am not a professional artist, nor do I have a fine arts degree, but I have taken enough art classes to assume brazenly that I know what I’m talking about, so I am here to tell you: all of you self-proclaimed “non-artists” are underestimating yourselves, and it must be stopped!

Of course, perhaps you just don’t want to make mail art, and that’s okay. It can be time consuming, and you must take care of yourselves first. And maybe you have other interests. But as for those of you who do want to make mail art, I don’t want to hear another word about how you “can’t make art.” Not everyone is destined to be a great artist, but that does not mean that you cannot make great art. :triumph:

“Art is what you can get away with,” said Warhol, who painted soup cans and bananas. He was right.

I propose we compile ideas and inspiration here that will convince aspiring mail artists that they can, in fact, make mail art. Maybe there is a medium that requires no prerequisite skill. Maybe you have a few “secret” tips and tricks for making a good composition. Put them here!

To get started, here is a picture that makes me laugh:


The style? Primitive. The creator? Jon-Michael Frank, who has had his absurd and nihilistic cartoons featured in national publications in the US. He is a professional artist, and although you can safely say that this is not a photo-realistic portrayal of a blowfish, I doubt you can say it doesn’t make you smile just a little. If I received a similar image on a postcard, it would be an instant favorite.

And here’s a small tip if you don’t think you can draw: Repetition of simple shapes is often very attractive. Here is an example:

This is a printed fabric from a well-known company. Would I like a dress made out of this? Yes, please. Could you make a similar design yourself on paper, using a ruler, a pen, and a Q-tip/cotton bud dipped in paint and stamped along the lines? Absolutely. Would it make a fan of contemporary art postcards very happy? I think so!

Just because it’s easy doesn’t mean it’s not art. So, mail artists, let’s see/hear your ideas! (Do remember to credit artists whose work you post, both as a courtesy to them, and so we can find out more about their work!) :sparkling_heart:


I’ve seen so many people saying this :roll_eyes:
Well I don’t have an art degree either and to be honest, the art classes in my school were pretty useless for learning how to draw.
And drawing is nothing more than practice. 10 years ago I couldn’t draw the things I draw today and I’m still learning.
So just sit down an doodle something, don’t like it? Throw it away and doodle some more :woman_shrugging:t2:

But maybe you don’t want to draw a picture, maybe you want to tell some jokes or want to say something.
Why don’t you try a comic style? Can’t draw comics? Yes you can.
I personally like Sarah Andersen

Look how simple the drawing is.

There is this comic artist in Germany called erzählmirnix.
Want to see one of her comics?

Stick-figures drawn in Paint! She is, by the way, quiet popular.
Another one called islieb is also well known

And there are so many more possibilities.
Use some old magazine and make a collage.
Use some old pieces of fabric and sew some collage on your card.

I’ve seen knitted and crocheted cards.

Maybe try some handlettering

Draw some squares and color them in. Use stamps or whatever.
You maybe not an artist, but you certainly can do some art.


These are all fantastic examples! (I love Sarah Andersen, too.)

Another comment I hear from people is, “I can barely draw a stick figure!” Well, who ever said you had to draw anything besides a stick figure? xkcd is wildly popular, and is nothing but stick figures and text.

And how about fingerprint creatures?

You can make just about anything with an ink pad, your finger, and some simple pen marks.


Here’s a very impressive video how to start drawing from the number 66… :smiley:


Every human being is an artist, a freedom being, called to participate in transforming and reshaping the conditions, thinking and structures that shape and inform our lives.
Joseph Beuys


This. A great deal of people seem to think drawing/art is magic, a talent you are born with.
It’s not. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been asked ‘how do you _____ so well’, rolled my eyes, and said 'practice.'
Cause yes, while some are more artistically inclined, every single artist has spent hours and hours messing up and trying again.

I think art is overwhelming for many people because it looks simple or easy but once you try you realize how difficult it can actually be. Even simple comics or art takes time to conceptualize or think out sometimes.

I think if you want to get into art or try art, you should just do that. Just start. Get any spare paper, or better yet a notebook, and just doodle! You gotta start somewhere.
It’s like seeing neat handwriting and going ‘wow I could never write like that’ well, yes, you never will cause you never tried to practice neater handwriting??

Don’t even get me started on ‘I can’t try art yet because I don’t have (specific expensive art supply brand item) yet.’
If you keep practicing even a $1 set of watercolors from Crayola will turn into masterpieces. Pen and pencil is enough. Seriously one of the things that boggles my mind.
More expensive does not equal better art.

Sorry if this came off like a rant this hits close to my heart, being the artsy friend in my group lol.

My final thoughts are, if you wanna art, art.
Most of us, or people around you, are going to love it and be very supportive!
If you don’t know where to start, look at art you want to emulate and start from there.
Heck, even doodle circles or dots like suggested earlier.
Any start is a good start. Keep all your art so you can see your progress years later.
If you dislike what you’re making its actually good because that means your eye for art is improving.
Okay I’ll stop I can’t seem to end my thoughts :sweat_smile:


My husband once said he’d like to draw, but he can’t. He wanted to draw photorealistic pictures. I said it takes time and a lot of practice. But he said, he is too impatient.
So many people don’t want to invest time to learn a new skill, just because it’s not perfect when they start.
This drives me mad :face_with_symbols_over_mouth:
Two years ago I learned how to crochet, I still throw away pieces because the didn’t came out as I wanted

There are indeed a lot of overly expensive supplies out there. But let me tell you, for my digital art, I bought the cheapest graphic tablet available. I’ve talked to people who draw amezing pictures using a mouse.
I recently bought the cheapest but still good colored pencils, because I wantet to improve my colored drawings. I simply can’t afford 200€ for 70 colored pencils. Those supplies are for professional artists, people who earn their money with art.
If you want to learn go ahead and use whatever you have at home.

For the where to start part. When I was younger I used to copy pictures of other artists. Not to display them as my own art, just for practice. I found this a lot easier than using a photograph as reference.
For my digital art, I just opened my graphic programm and doodled around, tried all the buttons and functions. I never watched a tutorial for the programm. Try and error and try again.


Yes. This and “it must be nice to have time to draw.”

It’s a feedback loop - you work on it, it sucks, you keep working, you get better. You make time for it by not doing other things because you want to put in the time to get better.

By the same token, it’s okay if someone doesn’t want to invest the time required to get better at drawing. But that’s what it is - a choice.

I would like to be able to play the guitar, as sort of a generalized wish. But I don’t currently see anything in my life I’d want to sacrifice the time I spend doing to play the guitar instead.

Ah yes, the “I can’t take good photos because I only have a phone” argument. The best camera is the one you have with you, and the best art supplies is the ones you have access to. Of course you can outgrow your supplies, but you’ll know when that happens. Give me expensive oil paints and you’re not going to get anything better out of me than you would with the cheap ones. :wink:


Haha! Same for me and pastels!
I agree with the instrument comment too.
Art is much more manageable than an instrument too, in my opinion. Learning music alone would take me so long I have great respect for anyone who can play any instrument well.


That’s not the only reason, is it?
I agree with @saintursula A day has only so many hours. You can’t learn everything under the sun. If someone doesn’t want to learn to draw, good for them, I’m sure they have their eyes set on a different goal.
It is only annoying for me if they lament that they can’t draw. Because… why? If it bothers you, just learn it, put your ass on a chair, take a pencil and start. If you don’t want to do that, it’s clearly not very important to you? In any case, please stop the pointless moaning :joy:

But this topic is about the fact that you don’t have to actually learn how to draw in order to draw. You can hold a pen? Nice, draw some scribbly lines like a pre-schooler and whoops, look at that, you just drew something! It’s not about drawing like an artist, it’s about having the courage to send what you made even if there is stuff out there that looks better in your opinion. But it’s not always about how nice it looks and how many years you needed to achieve this smooth motor control to draw a line exactly like you envisioned it. It’s about creativity, and creativity is often spontaneous, just do whatever you want, take a heart, because

:grin: :+1:

If you can hold a pen or brush or if you have a technology that let’s you draw on a computer through your brain waves or whatever, then you can draw, too.

(Love this topic by the way)


Very true. And I guess that’s what I’m saying about the feedback loop … the first thing doesn’t always come out the way you envisioned it. Do another one in that case. :slightly_smiling_face:

But also, don’t forget that sometimes you think what you did needs improvement, but other people think it looks great. No one out there sees the vision you had in your head that you’re comparing it to!


Of course not, it’s one reason.
In my husbands case, he really wanted to express himself artistically. But he didn’t felt confident enough to draw, because he thaught he is not good enough. He finally learned to play the piano.
It’s my impression that many people who say “I wish I could draw” don’t actually want to draw, they just want to possess the skill.

But you and @saintursula are right, time is a crucial factor.
There are so many things I’d like to learn. I’d like to learn diving, a new language, improve the skills I already possess. Do I have the time? No, not at the moment. Do I complain about it? You bet I do :joy:

That’s so true :pleading_face:
The picture in my head is alway so much better, than on the paper. But the day will come, when I reach the skills and draw a picture like I imagined it.


And in the vein of “you don’t have to be an Artist with a capital A”, Hyperbole and a Half (Allie Brosh).


As a person that draws and does crafts I always had from others the attitude “you are so lucky, im useless” as if it was given from above and i never did anything to improve it. I know it is not as easy for everyone but i always use the argument of art when people criticise me because i dont drive. (im afraid and lazy to learn although it is useful, freeing etc etc)
I tell them that “if you refuse to try art because you are not good at it or because you think it is a talent, stop harassing me for something that requires a lot more responsibility and knowledge”. At least making a “bad work of art” wont kill anyone or cost you 2000euros. Not driving well on the other hand…

that being said simple cut shapes glued on a black/white/monochromatic card can be art too (i have 2 decorating my walls)


I agree very much with your sentiments, Feuerstuhl.
It’s like the concept of modern art quote I see often.

I could do that + Yeah, but you didn’t = Modern Art

Think you can’t draw? Paint?
Some examples of art that has sold for millions.

My point is just express yourself!
If it makes you happy and you want to be creative go for it.

Also I loved the number thing from @Nordbaer
Have you all see the birds made from ‘2’?
In Japan there are faces made from the alphabet.
Like this:

Edit: @melimar those framed pieces are lovely!


One of the things adults forget how to do or have little time for is PLAY. And that’s what a lot of art making is - just play, joyful play.

We also need to remember to turn off those critical inner voices - don’t worry about how it looks to anyone but you - make art for yourself. That said, we often pick up that critical voice from our parents or from school days - very quickly in school people are taught not to sing so loud or at all in the choir or that their art is not the best. So give yourself a break & TELL THOSE VOICES TO BE QUIET.

Making art of all kinds (handbuilding with clay, woodturning, felting, stitch meditations, copper enamelling, printmaking, painting & drawing etc) helped get me through a very challenging work period when my work environment was quite toxic. It saved me having something I could lose myself in & be completely absorbed with & have some fun. I did this a lot by taking community classes (not so possible now, but there are lots of free classes & videos online if you want to learn, never mind some affordable paid ones too)

One suggestion for DRAWING is to do a 5 minute sketch daily or more often if you can & make the sketch no bigger than 2" X 2" - just something small you can complete in a short amount of time & then repeat, repeat, repeat. You will be amazing how you improve in a very short time.

A resource I like to share is Twyla Tharp’s book The Creative Habit: Learn It & Use It For Life for a variety of exercises on creativity - it has been translated into Spanish, Russian, Korean, Thai, Japanese, Simple & Complex Chinese


Thanks for all the replies, everyone! Keep the confidence-boosting encouragement coming! :raised_hands:

Many of you have (correctly) stated that producing accurate, representational illustrations requires loads of practice, every day if possible. But remember: drawing is only one art form, and art does not have to be representational, anyway.

I submit that you can draw/paint/photograph/stitch something good right now, even without a long-term commitment to a rigid diet of daily practice. (Although if you do wish to be a scientific illustrator, I’m afraid there’s no way around the strict regimen–sorry.)

Here are some pictures I took of images that I find especially charming; all of them were made by people who are likely busy doing other things besides making art. And yet, they have made art.

What’s for sale at the plant nursery? Catnip, of course!

Have you ever been this happy to be next to a dumpster?

When I ordered a take-out container of deviled eggs, I did not expect the Egg Devil himself.

The existence of this fat bear that my husband drew on his office whiteboard was brief, but adorable.

If you can make even the most basic shapes, you can make a pizza.

DJ Carrot is in the house (courtesy of my nephew) to tell you that inanimate objects with faces are generally a crowd-pleaser.

By all means, practice makes perfect. But don’t let your current lack of experience make you think you can’t make someone smile right now.


I love these paper collages. :heart_eyes: That’s exactly what I mean: simple shape + repetition + interesting arrangement = beautiful! :dizzy:

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I love stickman-style comics. And simple graphics in general. The fingerprint monsters are so cute! :heart:
It makes me uneasy when artists start comparing themselves to others, as if it’s a competition. I know many people draw better than me, so what? ‘Real artists’ won’t draw (for free :grinning:) my ideas, express my emotions.
Maybe I can compare drawing to cooking (which I find super complicated). Even if I’m not a chef, I can make a sandwich :slight_smile: I can’t make a fancy cake, especially on the first try. (And I’m afraid of driving, too, @melimar)
I don’t even strive for photorealism, but I was told so many times that I should improve and study numerous tutorials that I got the impression that to some people the quality of the drawing is more important than its plot. I don’t want to agree with that. Why don’t just enjoy drawing without being a professional? When you enjoy your hobby you invest some time in it and the skill improves eventually.
(Tutorials are really useful though. A bit of theory + a lot of practice helps much. But I’m lazy and not ambitious, I draw in the same style again and again :))

Funny thing, I have no visual imagination (and extremely bad visual memory&face recognition) but I never thought it could be an obstacle for drawing. When I discussed it with an acquaintance, I was surprised that he didn’t try drawing because of this. Maybe, on the contrary, lacking any image in my head saved me from disappointment :upside_down_face: I’m happy I can create an image (no matter how good) at least on paper.


I’m 20 and I’m an artist! Well, illustratior and cartoon artist. :slight_smile: It also took me many years to practice and be satisfied with my work. And so you can too! Even when you’re younger or older. Take your time! Watch tutorials and look at others artist’s work to find your own style. You can do anything :))) !

Some of my works: