I originally posted this on tumblr, but I thought it's worth sharing here too
Hey guys! So I was thinking about writing this entry for a while now but finally got around to it. Just a few thoughts on the topic of art, getting better and how I came to like what I draw. (Note: I don’t think I’m a particularly amazing artist, but I wanted to share this even if just to organise my own thoughts. It isn’t about having an art ego, but having art self-esteem.)
So, you’re an aspiring artist. You desperately want to be better, and spend hours drawing and browsing websites like dA, conceptart.org and tumblr for inspiration. Maybe you are following a bunch (or a lot, like me) artists on Facebook. If you can honestly say you feel good about your art (regardless of your level) then you might want to skip this entry. But if more often than not you look at pieces by other artists and start feeling down (”I will never get this good”, “they are so much younger than me…”, or similar thoughts go through your head) then I have a little bit of advice for you, which might help you. I struggled with this a LOT, there are still days I do a bit, but I can honestly say I came a very long way.
First of all, I need you to be really honest with yourself. When you say you are drawing, are you REALLY drawing and practicing? How many hours do you think? Try timing yourself, but only the time you actually spend drawing. Not “sketching while talking to people on Facebook”, or “drawing while browsing dA for <inspiration>”. Only those minutes that you are in Photoshop, or SAI or paint or looking down at your sketchbook. I thought I was drawing a lot. Then I checked and realised I didn’t at all, and man it felt bad to realise I was really lying to myself. Hold this thought, I will come back to it in a second.
Now, about looking at other people’s art to get inspiration. It does not work that way for everyone. Sure you might see someone’s design and be inspired by it, and suddenly feel like drawing because you have this great idea. But I know for sure that in my case it only made me feel worse. It came to a point that instead of drawing, I was spending HOURS on Facebook looking through other people’s art, wishing I could draw like this and thinking I was improving (”I’m analysing what they’re doing! See this shadow is here because…” Yeah, no.) And worse of all, of course when I put the pen down on paper it didn’t look so hot. Yet I just spend so much time looking at professional quality works so of course my own stuff seemed like rubbish in comparison. I got used to seeing works of highest quality.
My advice if you have this problem: stop looking at other people’s work. At all. Or at least be conscious about why you are doing it. Are you looking at works because you are getting enjoyment from it? Or are you comparing yourself? To get better you need to sit down and draw, and it will not look so great to begin with. No one’s work does. I mean it. Maybe you can’t go as far as me and delete Facebook altogether.
They say you need to spend 10,000 hours doing something to become professional at it (or something to that effect). Coming back to the question before, how much do you draw per day? Or week? Divide 10,000 by that, how long is it going to take? This is just numbers of course, but I assure you, those artists have spent really insane hours to get to where they are.
I know, I know. We all want to be there now or even yesterday, but it just doesn’t happen. You will have sprouts of growth in a span of a month and then you will feel like you aren’t improving for weeks on end. But suddenly something will click and once again you will improve. Art really is mostly about hard work. Maybe people with “talent” will need 8,000 hours to get there. But if they do have a real talent then it’s working hard above anything else.
So what if there is a 17 year old who is better than you? Them being good neither adds not subtracts from your skill. You’re still the same, age doesn’t matter. It’s just a number. You can also get there. Maybe not tomorrow but you really can, you only need to put your mind to it.
It took me a long time to realise that. I’m competitive by nature. And some competition is good. But when you spend half the weekend crying your eyes out over a painting you need to hand in and present, and your main worry is that other people are better than something is very wrong (might seem like an exaggeration but that’s me last year).
Once you stop comparing yourself and start drawing for yourself, you might see that you start liking your works. Sure, there is space to improve, there always will be. It might not objectively be the BEST WORK OUT THERE. It’s not about being full of yourself. It’s just being happy with something you drew. Not compared to others, just happy for yourself. And then you will improve more, once you draw for you. Look at other people’s work as a goal, not for comparison or competition.
Sorry if this is a long post. I know a lot of people struggle with their art self-esteem like I did and even if just one person reads this and will take something away from it then I will be incredibly happy. Keep drawing, you will get there!
Also, thank you to all the kind people who send me messages and look at my work. I hope it brings you enjoyment!