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What if I told you there was a way to not only observe your growth to celebrate it as an artist, but also a tool that would help you figure out what’s next in your learning journey? I observe a lot of resistance around something I call a pre-assessment or a baseline assessment. And yet, this tool can tell us so much about our art! So what is a baseline assessment? #drawingtips #howtodraw #drawinglessons #artiststrong #drawingforbeginners

What if I told you there was a way to not only observe your growth to celebrate it as an artist, but also a tool that would help you figure out what’s next in your learning journey?

Hi, my name is Carrie and here on Artist Strong I help artists build their skill and develop their unique voice. Today let’s dig into the question: how do you know if you’ve grown as an artist?

Inside my free mini course on building skill called Drawing Drills, as well inside my paid program Self-Taught to Self-Confident, I observe a lot of resistance around something I call a pre-assessment or a baseline assessment. And yet, this tool can tell us so much about our art! 

So what is a baseline assessment?

In education-speak we talk about something called a pre-assessment. It’s a quiz or test of sorts used to see what the student already knows BEFORE any new information or learning takes place. I’ve also heard it called a baseline assessment. 

The problem starts when people hear the word test or quiz. It can immediately have us thinking about being graded, evaluated, judged. And that sounds scary and bad.

Here’s the thing. Each time you scroll on Instagram, you are likely already doing those things. So many people tell me how they see other people’s art and feel not good enough, or insecure about their artistic choices.

But with a baseline assessment, you are actually comparing yourself to the person you NEED to compare yourself to in order to grow, learn and become a better artist: YOU.

Tell me, how else can you know how far you’ve come if you don’t know where you’ve started?

How do you create a baseline assessment?

There are a couple of ways you can create a baseline assessment for yourself. The easiest method is to draw or paint or make a piece of art you would normally create. Time how long it takes and note the date. Document, document, document. Then store that work away. Or at least your notes and an image of the work. That is your baseline artwork. 

How do you assess with a baseline assessment?

You have a couple of choices. Once you create your baseline assessment you can reflect on your artistic choices and application of technique and then consciously decide to practice something new for a few months…


OR…


You can just keep making art, without looking at or reflection on the baseline. Then you don’t look at the work again, and you keep going. Choose a timeframe, say 3 months from the date, and make another artwork. And THEN, when you have another assessment you can compare to, pull out your baseline for that reflection.

With either strategy, the idea is to return to the original image periodically and compare it to your most current art to help you see how far you’ve come.

I have a great example here from a student, Adele, inside Self-Taught to Self-Confident. Now in this circumstance I made students draw with a time limitation. While you don’t have to do that, timing my students helps me spot how they make decisions since they feel a bit rushed, so I can offer more quality feedback during the program.

Here is Adele’s pre-assessment:

In this drawing we see she didn’t have enough time to add much value, but did draw out the whole figure.

At the end of Self-Taught to Self-Confident, drawing the same image with the same amount of time produced this:

If you compare the drawings, it’s clear Adele has a stronger understanding of proportion, composition, and is beginning to play with value.

That’s what these assessments are all about. It’s not about a finished drawing or artwork to showcase to the world, it’s about collecting information to see what we’ve learned, and where we want to go moving forward.

Why Should You care about Assessment?

This is a powerful way to measure what you are learning when you take new classes, or begin a challenge, too. In art, we can do this really easily. Before any new class, activity, program, you can spend time creating a drawing or painting that acts as that baseline. And at the end of the lesson or class you can compare your last artwork with your baseline and observe what you’ve learned!

Of course, you don’t have to do this. And you could simply check in with artwork you make at the beginning and end of each year to see how far you’ve come in developing your skill, voice or an idea. The value in doing this is its an active decision to reflect on your art and take conscious steps forward.

I talk to so many artists who feel flummoxed or get frustrated when they plateau and feel stuck. And practicing reflection with periodic assessments can be a wonderful tool to help artists consciously think about their decisions as makers, what, why and how they do the things they do.

Let’s pause here a moment to thank today’s sponsor. This post from Artist Strong is brought to you by The Artist Strong Studio, our community of patrons who believe in and wish to support this community. You can become part of the Artist Strong Studio for a small monthly commitment as low as 1 dollar a month. To learn more visit https://www.patreon.com/ArtistStrong.

A special thank you to current patrons, I couldn’t do this work without your support.

Now it’s your turn: have you ever worked with a baseline assessment? How could you incorporate this into your practice to take your art to the next level? Tell me more in the comments below.

Thanks for watching and I’ll see you next time here on Artist Strong.