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Submitted on
November 29, 2012


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Being in touch with your weaknesses is important in order to grow as an artist, but are you so hung up on what you can’t do well that it’s holding you back? I'm not talking about the intermittent (or frequent) attacks of complete blockage, or even lack of inspiration, but full out pity parties.

I’ve seen far too many people on dA who post exercise after exercise, writing in the artist comments that once again they’ve failed, they’ve read hundreds of books, studied the masters for so many years, and they still cannot draw a photorealist rending of a man’s head. First of all let me say that I highly respect “self taught” artists and I’m not discouraging anyone who chooses (or must) go that route. However, setting realistic goals and finding your niche is extremely important. Let me say this: not everyone will be able to paint like a Baroque period artist! But that doesn't mean you can't be a painter, it just means that your work will be different. For example, I learned how to throw about a year ago. I initially thought "oh yeah, this will be easy for me." Psch, yeah right. It took nearly a year for me to get decent at making coffee mugs and jars. Now if I had stayed feeling bad about my lopsided teacups, I probably wouldn't have been able to make this: Small Jar by Xadrea

Second, jealously against other artists who work in the way that you want to won’t do any good either. Sure, we've all done it. That little green eyed guy pops out from under bed and plops himself in your lap while you browse the dA galleries. Listen, being a tad envious from time to time is a fabulous motivator to up the ante in your own work...but if you're reduced to a pile of ashes or in the shower with a half gallon of ice cream when that green eyed guy comes around you may just have a problem.

So now you may be asking, well then what do I do? First of all, be honest. If you notice yourself making invitations for a pity party STOP DROP AND ROLL. I'm serious. Step 1, stop it; debasing your work, skills, materials, education, ect. Step 2, drop what you're doing; sometimes the thing that isn't working should be walked away from. You want to draw a photorealistic head? Focus on getting the features in the correct proportion before you even begin to get that far. You need a foundation to grow from first (no matter what medium you're working with). Step 3, roll. Once you've identified your issue make a DOABLE plan to begin either reconfiguring your learning process, or start making work you actually enjoy.

It's highly important to be at least 75% satisfied with your work as a whole. The other 25% should be open for critique, alterations and growth. Still on the fence? Think about this: if you are truly interested in "getting better" at being an artist, you should have a more optimistic approach to your initial skill set. So put away those invitations and decorations, I'm not coming to your pity party. Instead, celebrate what gains you've made since you began your growth as an artist.
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Deliciousbutdeadly Featured By Owner Sep 7, 2013  Student General Artist
Hi, this really hit home for me. I had a really rough experience in a art class a couple years back that shook me up artistically. Even after all that time I still have that issue of remembering all the negative feelings, making me afraid to even try. I find your journal post very profound and I'm going to try to read it every time I feel bad. Thanks so much for the insight! 
DoubleLeggy Featured By Owner Nov 30, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
Honestly, being on deviantART and looking at particular tumblrs made me a bit over-critical of my own art, which is both good and bad in ways. I always want to improve, but recently I supposed I've become somewhat of a "professional" since for the time being I essentially draw for a living. At that point, critiquing yourself is better left on an anonymous blog or kept to yourself. Otherwise you won't get hired, even. So whining about it on dA too often is a pretty unhealthy habit.

So yeah, not whining publicly doesn't mean you can't try to improve still. Whining sometimes really does just seem like fishing for compliments, as opposed to asking for actual, honest critique. And I can't thank you enough for mentioning how jealousy gets you nowhere. With the phrase "ur just jelous" getting abused to a point of where it's laughed at now, people seem to forget that jealousy IS real, and when acted out a certain way is very cruel not only to the jealous person, but if they attack the one whom they're jealous of. It's just stupid.
DragonReine Featured By Owner Nov 30, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
An excellent blog post. A healthy level of self-criticism, IMO, is necessary to push oneself to improve. It becomes unfortunate when some people go into a downward spiral of doubt and self-pity.

A friend of mine, for example, is a talented jewellery maker. She keeps complaining about having to "compete" with people who make and sell cheap jewellery, however, despite the fact that her hand-wrought jewellery is made out of precious metals and stones and therefore belong in a whole different price bracket from the cheapish plastic jewellery she considers competition. And then she proceeds to complain about having to "sell" her products to others :no: A rather perplexing point-of-view, given that her intention is to sell her jewellery, but she refuses to work on marketing her product. No marketing = no views = no interest = no sales. She's kind of a permanent wet-blanket, in that regard, and it's actually depressing to listen to her when she goes into these spiels.
BlakkFox Featured By Owner Nov 30, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
I think my biggest block that I hit while on my road to being an artist was the ever-tormenting 'it's not unique enough.'
And hell, I STILL worry on that; but that little sentence really got to me so badly years ago, that it actually stifled my creativity.
I tried drawing something and I could never get it finished because I erased it.
Or trashed it before it was done.
Or never started that piece, because I was so worried that others would judge me based on its' lack of creativity.

Because in my mind, nothing would ever be good enough; because you can't satisfy everyone.
If someone likes something, another will dislike it.
And the fact that my work would not pull in people in droves (like I apparently saw here on DA with the popular artists), I was an obvious failure as an artist.
I was doing something wrong.

So after a very hard look at myself and what I really wanted to accomplish in my artistic career, I took to studying in college for art.
I took the anatomy classes and the animation classes, which built my skills as an artist.
But my 'style' was still not there...because I worried that I wasn't being original.
Until I started drawing some Pokemon for a forum. (I've adored pokemon since I was in the 4th grade)
Let me tell you, THAT was difficult to do.
Because I got alot of people telling me that drawing other peoples' intellectual property is a HUGE no-no in the industry; that it's worthless in a portfolio.
That I'm wasting my time and talent.
That I'm being unoriginal and just wanting attention by drawing 'popular anime stuff.'

But that's not true.
I've always loved pokemon; the anime inspired me to be an animator ever since I was a child, and I hold the whole thing very close to me.
So really, I'm just drawing things that I love.
When I realized that people are just attacking me because of their bitter (and misinformed) ways of looking at art, I stopped worrying about being 'original.'
I stopped worrying so much about how much 'skill' my work shows.

Sure, I still aim high; I want to be able to paint with the skills those people I admire have, but I don't want to BE THEM.
I want to develop my art in my own way.
You don't have to draw like DaVinci or Donatello to be a successful or even happy artist.
I'm comfortable in my abilities and own imagination.
I recognize my strengths and my weaknesses equally...and don't dwell on my weaknesses as much.
Instead, it's better to analyze them and see WHY it's not working. (and it's not because you're just a failure at life)
And then come up with another way to do it.

In my experience, there's never a dead end, even when it looks that way.
But art is not a race. It's a path to self-discovery and improvement.
Of inspiring others and having others inspire you.
Of a community that shares something that not many others do.
Art is a fantastic realm to live in.
I'll never leave.~

Thanks for the article; I agree.
jane-beata Featured By Owner Nov 29, 2012  Professional Traditional Artist
Great motivation, I'm sure it will help to a lot of people! I really enjoy your articles, Xadrea (:

Sir-Drago Featured By Owner Nov 29, 2012
Though I don't draw anymore, I agree with you and I want to thank you for giving inspiration to those who haven't left the "road" =) :rose:
Nikuwicca Featured By Owner Nov 29, 2012  Hobbyist
in november last year, i decided that i would try an improve my drawing skills....and actually take it
a bit more seriously....since then.....i've improved alot in a year....suure...i'm far from where i wanna be.
but i think i'll get there....i mean...i'm always improving ( slowly but surely, i get better^^ )
i WAS making stick figures not too long ago xD .... and digital drawing was a whole new concept
in february this year.

and i WAS really negative with my own drawings...always saying it's crap and i suck and...myeh^^'
but not so much anymore....i just draw...and enjoy it....being that hard on yourself is just tiring...
this year...i've learned alot, and i don't wanna stop.

end note: this doesn't mean that people shouldn't be allowed to be strict with themselves either...
Xadrea Featured By Owner Nov 29, 2012  Professional Traditional Artist
Good for you! Looking back is always a good reminder of progress over time! And yes, being strict is not bad either. Everything in moderation is pretty much the bottom line. Understand your weaknesses, form a plan to improve, enjoy your strengths, and you should be all set!
Ishrie Featured By Owner Nov 29, 2012
I disagree with almost all of this.

Saying that everyone who is dissatisfied with their work is fishing for pity/compliments is bullshit. So is telling people to give up and do something else if they haven't gotten the results they want. People have a right to judge their own work and to decide the direction in which they want their work to go. If someone tried to draw a realistic head, failed, and then admitted as much in the deviation page, why is this a bad thing? If anything, letting others know which areas you're struggling in is helpful, because it allows people to center their critiques in a way that benefits the artist most. Not everyone is happy with what they do. Sometimes people are legitimately bad at things. Getting upset with an artist for admitting that they are legitimately bad at something is ridiculous.

It's fair enough if you simply don't want to read those comments, but the rational decision there is to stop watching the artist, not to demand that they stop assessing their own work truthfully. Likewise, assuming that the only reason they leave those comments is to get their own "pity party" is self-centered and entitled; you are asserting that your attention/pity is such a valuable resource that strangers on the internet are vying for it. Even if the artist's assessment of their work isn't accurate, your argument erases legitimate issues the artist might be facing, such as depression or low self-esteem, by assuming that they're faking it for your attention.

Is it unprofessional to insult your own work? Yes, incredibly so. There's almost no way that would stand in a professional setting, and artists who are aspiring to become professionals would do well to kick the habit. But not all artists on dA want to do art for a living. Likewise, assuming that every single person who has ever been openly dissatisfied with their work is a part of an elaborate ruse to gain precious attention from strangers on the internet is laughable.
Xadrea Featured By Owner Nov 29, 2012  Professional Traditional Artist
First of all please re read the first sentence in the blog ;) This is clearly not about those who are trying to get feedback for their work, or really interested in improvement. This is for the folk that allow their own negative feelings toward their work it jealously of other artists impede their progress. I did not mention professionals because most of the people on DA are not using art as their career choice. I have come across people coming to this group for help saying they've studied for this many years and still cannot draw like DaVinci. The odd thing about those types is that they are usually do wrapped up in their perceived inabilities they become stuck and occasionally regress and atrophy.

Also I don't understand why you're somehow trying to make this about my ego? I'm here to help, and it's not for my benefit, it's for yours. If I see patterns of behavior that I believe are bad for our patients, I speak on them.
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