I followed an artist who recently deleted his tumblr account. The last thing he posted was a rant about how everyone was getting better at art and he didn’t feel like he was getting any good. His art was nice and you could tell he put a lot of effort into it, but it apparently wasn’t enough for him.
Some people tried to console him or give him advice, but he’d just lash out at them. It’s sad, but on some level I really related to him. I love drawing and I like my art, but I don’t have any delusions of how awesome it is. It just is what it is - some people like it and I’m okay with that.
The problem is, I couldn’t think of anything to say to this guy. He didn’t need cheering up. He needed something I was able to find for myself: a reason to struggle.
This isn’t just true for art. It’s something you face when you decide you want to become good at anything. Learning the process is easy, but perfecting it is something else entirely. The two years since I decided to start working digitally have been the most tiresome - yet more rewarding years I’ve ever spent drawing.
At no point did I ever feel like I was good at it. In fact, I still don’t. I literally approach every drawing with a sense of reluctance and uncertainty. And when I finish, all I can see are errors. The thing is, I see more errors now than I did a year ago. I see them earlier in the process and I fix them faster and faster each time. Sometimes my drawing sessions feel like a job as I dive in fixing mistakes here and there.
And it makes me feel like I’ll never be any good. But I keep going because I know it isn’t true. As long as you keep going, improvement is inevitable. You have to keep trying.
One day you’ll be drawing something. Mentally swearing at yourself for how much you got wrong. Facepalming because you can’t get a certain detail just right. But you keep drawing until you finish it. And when it’s done you might shake your head in discouragement… or you might compare it to something you drew before and realize just how far you’ve come. And that feels good.
Maybe people will see your drawing and critique it and point out things they like and dislike. Maybe other people will look at it and just adore it. And that feels good.
Maybe you’ll realize that everything you struggled with a few months ago is suddenly really easy now. And that feels good.
Maybe you’ll draw something abstract, but a total stranger will see it and totally get what you’re trying to say or offer a new interpretation that you didn’t see before. That feels good too.
These are just a few of the aspects of art that feel good. But improving yourself? Learning new techniques? Competing with others to make yourself better? That’s work. It’s more like exercise. One day you can run a mile, then two, then ten. When you can run ten miles, running 5 doesn’t seem like such a big deal. But it’s a lot of work getting to that point.
And that’s pretty much all I can say. I wish I would’ve said it earlier before the guy closed his account. I’m not even sure it would’ve made a difference.
Anyway.. I’ve got some work to do…