10 Top Tips To Become a Better Artist

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  08 August 2009
Smile Lunatique ( Robert Chang)

Your top ten blew my mind with how technical and yet eloquently it was stated.

My only problem is I find that I may fall into the latter class of artist, which profoundly absorbs my time and strength.

I want to become noticed and the best at creating 3dstills with precision, but only for a hobby. Last year I had what you called a breaking point. I was creating artwork for someone and I had to repeatedly keep doing the work over and over again. This one piece took a years worth of time from start to finish. Last August I had a mental break and everytime I did anything creative I had a panick attack, the room would spin, my heart would pound like a heart attack, I would feel faint and then dizzy like I was going to pass out.

Then the disorder lead to other aspects of my life, being in social places.

After about a year of just creating art for just pure enjoyment I have gotten my mind, body, and spirit back on track. I wish I had a stronger ego, I wish I had thicker skin, but I don't.

I do enter my art everytime for Exotique and Expose, only to get rejection, so I have come to accept that I suppose. I want to eventually get to the point of acceptance for Ballistic publishing. I have to start somewhere and I am glad that I came accross your pointers.

Thank you for your guidance and wisdom.

Last edited by hfrymark : 08 August 2009 at 02:49 PM.
 
  08 August 2009
Heather - Sometimes, we allow the world to destroy something we love. A child may love the act of drawing a crayon drawing, and he's happy until he shows it to a critical adult, who tells him that the sky looks wrong, the trees are the wrong color, and that blob in the corner does not look like a dog at all. All of a sudden, a once enjoyable experienced has been turned into one of frustration and anguish and disappointment--even embarrassment.

And that begs the question--do we create for ourselves or do we create for others?

Some people are perfectly fine creating for themselves. They feel no real need for the approval of others, and they have no interest in doing commercial work that will be scrutinized by a client or a boss. They may not even show their work to friends. Simply being immersed in their own little happy world is enough. Those a bit more adventurous might share their work with others, enter their works in competitions, show them to galleries to inquire about representation. In cases like that, the general level of anxiety is still lower than doing commercial work, because either your work is considered good enough to warrant praise and attention, or it isn't. Your livelihood does not depend on others' perception of your work.

Once you decide to become a commercial artist, it gets harder. When people need to depend on your consistent excellence of quality and professionalism for deadline sensitive commercial projects, they will scrutinize your work and your conduct with a microscope. Some people can't handle that kind of scrutiny, and when they are faced with it, all the joy they used to feel about doing what they enjoyed has now become an unpleasant experience. Some people never get used to it, and it stays a nightmare until they decide they've had enough and refuse to be involved in commercial art ever again. They take some time to recover and return to doing art simply for the love of it, and accept that they would rather do something else for a living instead of killing their love for doing art again. Then there are those who either recover from the initial stress and get used to it, or never felt it to begin with--they simply took to the commercial world like fish to water. Either way, they eventually come to relish the challenge and the thrill of participating in commercial projects that reaches a wide audience--some of the projects even puts their name in spotlights. They see dealing with commercial projects and its potential issues as problem-solving and are not fazed by any of it. Annoying at times, but never crippling or disheartening. Some even do personal works in their free time away from commercial projects to regain some of that private sense of joy that does not involve clients and bosses.

So, as you can see, when I talked about personality traits in relationship to one's potential to become a good artist, it also applies to what kind of an artist one would become. A good artist does not automatically = a commercial artist. Someone who only creates privately can still be a good artist, as could someone who doesn't do artwork professionally, but shares his work with the rest of the world via online or other means. There are many different ways to be an artist, and I think it would be a tragedy if we only accept commercial works as the sole measuring stick of who is or isn't a good artist.

Last edited by Lunatique : 08 August 2009 at 02:55 AM.
 
  08 August 2009
Thumbs up

You are so wise Robert and I rather enjoy reading your posts as they are very insightful and inspiring.

Thank you for posting. I gained knowledge and a new perspective on my art and I will continue to grow and learn as much as I can about my endeavours.

As you so eloquently stated "A good artist does not automatically = a commercial artist. Someone who only creates privately can still be a good artist, as could someone who doesn't do artwork professionally, but shares his work with the rest of the world via online or other means. There are many different ways to be an artist, and I think it would be a tragedy if we only accept commercial works as the sole measuring stick of who is or isn't a good artist."

So with that seed of knowledge I will continue, thanks.

I feel sometimes I need new perspective in order to regain control.
 
  10 October 2009
Originally Posted by hfrymark: Your top ten blew my mind with how technical and yet eloquently it was stated.

My only problem is I find that I may fall into the latter class of artist, which profoundly absorbs my time and strength.

I want to become noticed and the best at creating 3dstills with precision, but only for a hobby. Last year I had what you called a breaking point. I was creating artwork for someone and I had to repeatedly keep doing the work over and over again. This one piece took a years worth of time from start to finish. Last August I had a mental break and everytime I did anything creative I had a panick attack, the room would spin, my heart would pound like a heart attack, I would feel faint and then dizzy like I was going to pass out.

Then the disorder lead to other aspects of my life, being in social places.

After about a year of just creating art for just pure enjoyment I have gotten my mind, body, and spirit back on track. I wish I had a stronger ego, I wish I had thicker skin, but I don't.

I do enter my art everytime for Exotique and Expose, only to get rejection, so I have come to accept that I suppose. I want to eventually get to the point of acceptance for Ballistic publishing. I have to start somewhere and I am glad that I came accross your pointers.

Thank you for your guidance and wisdom.


heather, think about this: it's not fair that something you love brings out the worst of you.

your sensitivity is not a weakness: as a artist, you have the ability to see the structure of things. when you are walking in the streets, you can see the perspective lines, the folds of clothes, the lighthing on a particular surface... and it's something that isn't limited to material objects. you can observe the structure of things in life, in people, in feelings, in reasonings, because art isn't something you simply "make", art is your way to see things in general. it's only yours. creating art is the only thing that no one can ever take away from you (not even you), it's your personal integrity. if someone asks you to make something, it should be because s/he wants something yours and nothing else. if at a certain point you feel a project is unappealing for whatever reason, no way you are bound to do it anyway. social anxiety comes when you do something that's not yours anymore. instead it's the artist that puts in motion a commercial chain, not the opposite.

on the other hand, try to understand what weak points were touched by that event. did you accept a job that didn't really suite you? did you pick a job without fully understanding first what kind of work they wanted? did you have a problem with deadlines and organization? did you have a problem with criticism or unapproval?
you should use that ability "to see structures" to clearly observe your own flaws (being them on the "human" part or the "technical" part). you should be the first judge of yourself. if you aren't honest with yourself who will? do that gradually and serenely. don't live it as negative. rejection and criticism are some of the most natural things a person has to live with.
when i was a young girl i was kinda obsessive with seeking criticism. i would show my artwork to a person and say "find flaws!". i can remember that when my mom, not being expert of art, said that she couldn't find flaws, i would go mad and say "just invent them then!" (poor mom ^^; lol). it was kinda crazy... but somehow it had its own logic.
why did it have logic? because what makes us feel good is not praise itself, it's that making art makes us a better person. the purpose of pointing out your own limits is to go beyond them. "noes" are a positive helping hand, open a wonderful world of possibilities, guide us through it, force us to enrich ourselves with the research of new inputs and new abilities.

^__^
 
  10 October 2009
Thumbs up

cricchio,

Thank you for your words of wisdom, at a point today when I really needed them most.

As artists we do tend to see everything differently, I know I do. I try to put forth my heart and soul in every aspect of my life, and I hope that when people see what I do or my artwork they truly see the real me and all of the hard work I put into things.


Your words made me think and forever changed my way of looking at things.


Again many thanks.
 
  11 November 2009
Originally Posted by Lunatique: My top 10 tips would be:

1) Buckle down and really learn the foundations (composition, perspective, anatomy/figure, color theory, values/lighting...etc). You cannot really call yourself a competent artist until you have done so. Ideally you should not only learn them, but master them, and when you do, you're not merely competent, but confident and authoritative as well.

2) Break out of tunnel vision. If you are obsessed with anime/manga, or superhero comics, or any kind of specific style and have not been exposed to or have explored fully other art movements, styles, cultures, and time periods, then you need to become more well-rounded. Tunnel-vision is creatively crippling and it breeds imitation and homogenized artists who can't think outside the established box. Cross pollinating and hybridizing various art styles and influences is the healthiest and most creatively interesting.

3) Don't be a mindless artist. Think about why you are creating. Is your only interest to make "cool shit" and "hot babes"? Do you even have something to say as a human being living in a complex society? Is everything about your creative works completely disposable and meaningless? I'm not saying we have to be "deep" all the time, but if you are producing works that have absolutely no meaning even to yourself and only serving the basest level of gratification, never involving the higher motivations like intellect or emotions, then maybe it's time to dig a little deeper. You have a soul--use it.

4) Don't slavishly copy reality--we invented the camera for that. Being an artist is about interpreting the world around us, expressing ideas and emotions, telling visual stories...etc. If your commercial job as an artist is to reproduce reality, then well, a job is a job. But if you have aspirations beyond a day job, then really think about how you want to approach your personal works. As artists we have the power to stylize, exaggerate, simplify, selectively detail, idealize, use abstract and surreal approaches--it would be a shame to not utilized those powers.

5) Surface polish is the last on the list of things a growing artist should care about. How clean and tight your render the surface, how expressive and organic your brushwork is, whether to use clean lines or sketchy lines...etc--they are all simply options you can pick and choose as you wish, and often different subject matters will use different surface treatments. More than anything, it's the underlying structure and foundation knowledge that needs to be strong--the surface polish is really an ongoing experiment, and it's always changing and evolving. A good artist should be able to utilize all kinds of surface polish approaches effectively, not just locked into one and knowing nothing else. If your underlying foundation is strong, then almost any surface treatment will work with it, but if your underlying foundation is weak, no surface treatment will save it. You know the saying "You can't polish turd..."?

6) Do not simply practice hard--you must also practice smart. Don't run around in circles thinking merely filling up sketchbooks aimlessly is all it takes. Plan your growth with milestones. Set clear goals. Be resourceful and know how and where to acquire knowledge. Target your weaknesses and don't dwell on things you can already do in your sleep--train on the things you can't yet do and learn to do them well. Push yourself and explore your limits, then break those limits. Learn and grow with a clear focus--know exactly why you are doing what you're doing at any given moment, and know exactly how it will help you learn and grow. Don't just draw and paint mindlessly--think about what you're doing and analyze, observe, deconstruct, and recognize the structures and patterns--be it the scientific physical laws of our world (light, shadows, colors, stress and compression points of fabric...etc), or creative approaches that yield the most effective results (utilizing contrast in color, values, and shapes, varying edge qualities..etc).

7) Have realistic expectations; Rome was not built in a day. It takes years of working hard and working smart to get good. Filling up a sketchbook or two means nothing in the grand scheme of things. Artists don't just draw a few dozen heads and then get it right--they draw hundreds and thousands over the years, decades, and they don't do it mindlessly--they are studying the underlying structure of the human head and the affected surface by different facial expressions. And that's just the head.

8) Learn to take criticism. To be an artist and living among other people means you will get comments about your work, and if you cannot take criticism you will be miserable. Instead of being miserable, you should see criticism as valuable arsenal for your growth. When nobody bothers commenting is when you should be worried, because your work is not able to elicit any response from another human being, which means you are neither getting helpful criticism to help you grow, nor getting feedback on what people like about it. When you get both negative and positive comments, be grateful, be gracious, and keep an open mind. A bruised ego is an ego that's being conditioned to be stronger and more open-minded. If you cannot see beyond your bruised ego, you will become crippled by it. Also keep in mind that sometimes you don't get feedback because you are simply still too early in your growth, where everything you do is wrong, so it's very hard to give feedback on specific points other than "keep learning your foundations." When that happens, buckle down and strengthen your foundations for a while and you'll automatically see improvements.

9) Be a well-rounded person. If you know how to draw and paint well but have no life experience, your work will suffer. Learn about the world we live in. History, politics, religion, economics, science, literature, music, photography, film...etc. You'd be surprised how the world is interconnected and so many things have direct or indirect relationships with each other beyond your initial understanding. The more insight you have about the world we live in, the better artist you will be. Have healthy relationships with other people--family, friends, lovers. They often form the core of your emotional expression as a human being and as an artist. An intellectually and emotionally sterile or vacant person will have very little to offer as an artist.

10) You may or may not be suited to become a good artist. There are all kinds of personality types, and not all are suited to become a good artist. If you are impatient, cannot sit still, lose focus quickly, easily frustrated, lack motivation, lack ambition, cannot take negative criticism, wants only instant gratification and not willing to pay your dues...etc, then you probably won't fare well as an artist. This goes the same for many other human endeavors--not only the creative ones.

Human beings are not created equal physically or mentally, and we have different potentials and different degrees of natural inclination for certain endeavors. Whether you have the natural inclination to be good at art may or may not dictate whether you'll become a good artist--it's your willingness to learn and excel and your ability to persevere through hardship that is the most important. More than anything, you must be able to enjoy the process of learning and growing. If you are hating every step of the way, then maybe you love the idea of being an artist but your personality dictates you are not suited to actually be an artist. Remember, wanting something and being suited for it are often not the same thing.

It's like how some people watch dancers on stage and wish they can do it, and they love shaking their ass to the beat--they feel good doing that. But once they look into actually becoming a competent or professional dancer, they lose the will to go on because the demanding physical training and the relentless pursuit for perfection that pushes their body and mind to the breaking point is way too exhausting for their personality to deal with. In other words, they have the desire but not the personality for it. It's those that enjoy the demanding training and whose passion extends beyond merely the desire, but also embrace the demanding training and pushes on through pain and exhaustion to triumph over the odds--they are the ones who end up on stage. Becoming a good artist is very much the same. You must embrace the entire journey, through frustration, failures, sore eyes and cramping hands, long periods of no apparent progress, self-doubt and self-loathing, insecurities, envy and jealousy over others' talents and achievements, and so on, to finally emerge as someone that others will look up to and label as a "good artist."

You have to not only have the desire but also the ability to persevere, or else remain a fan, a hobbyist, or pick something else that's more suited to your personality. This is not necessarily a bad thing, because you may actually end up a happier person by remaining a fan of good artists instead of trying to become one yourself, as being a fan does not require you to make sacrifices or go through years of anguish and frustration only to feel like a failure and nowhere near your goal. No one can tell you whether you can stick it out. You won't even know until you have reached your breaking point. Some people get a couple of years under their belt and have started to get competent, but not yet good enough, and then they stop for whatever reasons. Some people get a few weeks into it and decide it's not as fun as they thought it would be. Some even get very close at becoming a good artist and then they stop because they feel they've had enough, or they have focused their attention on other endeavors in life. There is no right or wrong in any of this--your life's journey is your own, and as long as you feel fulfilled as a human being, you're on the right track (well, unless your fulfillment involves harming others).

So yeah, that's pretty much my top 10 tips to becoming a good artist. Just about everything on the list is interchangeable with other endeavors in life. I really believe it to be true because I have gone through the journey to teaching myself to excel at multiple creative endeavors (art, writing, music, photography...etc), and those 10 tips apply to every one of them. Becoming good at something is not the end-all, be-all goal--it merely opens one of the doors to a life of fulfillment, and the journey continues well beyond merely becoming good at something. Once you become good at something, you try to master it, and on the journey to mastering something, you realize it's only a part of your entire life's journey that includes everything else in life--your growth as a human being--emotionally, intellectually, spiritually, and the journey goes on until you die. Maybe it continues in the afterlife, but we won't know until we get there.




As many others I really have to thank you for this post, and the original author also. I'm studing animation at an art school, I have to say that all of this is really new for me, but you helped me to start making up my mind and keep all of that negative ideas apart. I really enjoy doing this, and since 8 weeks ago I can say that i have improved, and that is motivating me a lot.

By the way, I saw your webpage, really impressive all the work you have done at your age, I enjoyed specially the music and the paintings. If you don't mind the question: for how long have you been playing and painting?
 
  11 November 2009
Originally Posted by nkr10: As many others I really have to thank you for this post, and the original author also. I'm studing animation at an art school, I have to say that all of this is really new for me, but you helped me to start making up my mind and keep all of that negative ideas apart. I really enjoy doing this, and since 8 weeks ago I can say that i have improved, and that is motivating me a lot.

By the way, I saw your webpage, really impressive all the work you have done at your age, I enjoyed specially the music and the paintings. If you don't mind the question: for how long have you been playing and painting?


I'm glad you can get something meaningful out it. Helping others is the most fulfilling thing for me besides creating and learning, so it makes me happy when I make a difference in other people's lives.

I've been drawing all my life, but only got serious about it around puberty. I never wanted to be just an artist though, even if art had been the main focus of my career (not by choice but simply logistics). I place a higher importance on storytelling and music than I do art.

As for music, I started very late. I didn't really start until I was about 18. I had messed around on a guitar playing some simple chords before that, and plinked on little toy keyboards, but that's just messing around. It was in my 18th year that I actually saved up enough money to buy a rig that allowed me to compose/arrange/record my own music, and I never looked back. I wish I had formal training and started young like all those musical prodigies, but my parents were not supportive of anything I did, so I had to be self-taught in everything I do.
 
  11 November 2009
Originally Posted by Lunatique: I'm glad you can get something meaningful out it. Helping others is the most fulfilling thing for me besides creating and learning, so it makes me happy when I make a difference in other people's lives.

I've been drawing all my life, but only got serious about it around puberty. I never wanted to be just an artist though, even if art had been the main focus of my career (not by choice but simply logistics). I place a higher importance on storytelling and music than I do art.

As for music, I started very late. I didn't really start until I was about 18. I had messed around on a guitar playing some simple chords before that, and plinked on little toy keyboards, but that's just messing around. It was in my 18th year that I actually saved up enough money to buy a rig that allowed me to compose/arrange/record my own music, and I never looked back. I wish I had formal training and started young like all those musical prodigies, but my parents were not supportive of anything I did, so I had to be self-taught in everything I do.



And even with that "late" starting you are doing it great with the music and I saw you sold one of your compositiong to a famous singer din't you?, I also think I started late in the music (15) but I really enjoy it, and I think after animation I will have some serious studies in music, at least audio engeenering. Thank you again, and keep doing that great job and inspiring younger artists.
 
  12 December 2009
my thoughts and questions

Hi all,

I'm new to this forum, and just happened to come across this useful and insightful thread.
Do we create art for ourselves or others? I found that a very thought-provoking question.

For me, I spent my growing years engaged in drawing. From colouring books, to doodling, to creating my own characters and finally to drawing comic strips. Was i creating art because I enjoyed it or was it for others? Sadly, I found that as I was progressing through the years, I did it more for the latter. Praise spurred me on to do more while criticism held me back. And a few years back, I gave up any interest in it when I hit a setback. It was only recently when I realised I had given up but was still doodling subconsciously that I decided art is and still is a medium in which I express myelf. Not for anyone else, but for the sake of putting my ideas into realisable forms.

I would like to restart my process of engaging in art again, with a particular interest in creating stories be it in a single piece of drawing or a graphic novel style. Basically, creating art as a means of sharing my ideas with others. But the question is, where should I start right now? I have many years of mindless doodling, but no formal training:(
 
  12 December 2009
Jasmine - I think you'll find your answer right here in the Art T&T forum. Just take a look at some of the recent threads here, since others have asked the exact same questions recently.
 
  12 December 2009
2 new lists....

Its great to see that this forum has continued on and been added to. It is really gratifying to know that some of my tips have been helpful and that my original list has had a postive reponse. If I were to rewrite my list now, it would be very different.

With such a positve response, I have wanted to write something since but have been stumped to know what to talk about, what I could offer. Then, a couple of days ago, I realised how driven I was and how I mange to get so much done in such a limited time frame.

In the next couple of weeks/months, I will be reworking my original list of how to become a better artist and I will be releasing a list on how to become more productive and to stay focused. Hopefully, the two lists will compliment each other.

I just wanted to share this info and see what the response to it was.
__________________

Lloyd Harvey
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www.lloydharvey.co.uk
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  12 December 2009
Okay, I admit it. I can't draw. (So, I envy every single one of you, albeit in the nicest possible way.) You have a gift, subsequently extended by "a helluva lot of hard work."

What I to do, and fail to do ... you guys and gals just ... do!



(Dammit.)

A very interesting thing happened to me recently, though. I took on a collaborator. "Couldn't pay him, but couldn't finish." Needed help. Needed things that I had been trying to do by myself, but which I could only do, well, "half-assed." And I guess I was "too damn proud to admit it." Or maybe, a little-bit scared that, if I could not do everything, there was no value in anything I was setting-out to do (within this frame-of-endeavor, that is).

Maybe I was just being a horses-ass who didn't want to have to share the copyright.

It was an epiphany. There are things that I have become "very good at." Things that I guess I "have a knack for," even though I can't draw a storyboard to save my pet parakeet. And even though I have some sort of self-tutored "knack" for these things, I have only managed to scramble up to the point where I'm confronted with seeing just how much I don't know.

The second epiphany, I guess, is to realize that perhaps everyone in any field of professional endeavor confronts this. You're not in this alone. You don't have to be. Even if you can be "a one-person band," you could be both hurting yourself and frustrating yourself. Sure, drive yourself forward relentlessly in pursuit of this unattainable goddess named "perfection." But, think of yourself as part of a greater whole. Create, or become part of, a team. (You will never reach the goddess. No one does. But she will smile at you, now and then.)

It works. Better. Much.

Last edited by sundialsvc4 : 12 December 2009 at 02:30 PM.
 
  12 December 2009
Originally Posted by Lunatique: Jasmine - I think you'll find your answer right here in the Art T&T forum. Just take a look at some of the recent threads here, since others have asked the exact same questions recently.


Alright, thanks!
 
  12 December 2009
Originally Posted by sundialsvc4: Okay, I admit it. I can't draw. (So, I envy every single one of you, albeit in the nicest possible way.) You have a gift, subsequently extended by "a helluva lot of hard work."

What I to do, and fail to do ... you guys and gals just ... do!

in my opinion this is a wrong myth. i have never believed in things like "gift", "natural talent"... etc.
what makes a artist a good artist is, as said, practicing a lot and practicing smart. if we really want to talk about a gift, then the only gift is passion for art. a good artist is just a person that has loved what s/he does for years. =)

Quote: A very interesting thing happened to me recently, though. I took on a collaborator. "Couldn't pay him, but couldn't finish." Needed help. Needed things that I had been trying to do by myself, but which I could only do, well, "half-assed." And I guess I was "too damn proud to admit it." Or maybe, a little-bit scared that, if I could not do everything, there was no value in anything I was setting-out to do (within this frame-of-endeavor, that is).

Maybe I was just being a horses-ass who didn't want to have to share the copyright.

wanting to do all by myself instead, is one of the things that mostly has made me improve. but i guess everyone has their own way.
maybe that what "enlightened" you is facing confrontation with another artist, which is a very important thing too. another artist can teach you something, but can also show you their own limits. i guess that seeing that makes you less scared towards your own limits and lets you live art more serenely.
sure being a "solo" can bring frustration and pain at times but i think they both are part of a natural process of growth. on the other hand, the happiness you gain in the end makes it worth it. it's like a never ending love story.
the important thing in this is to not be too withdrawn. i noticed that only when i am with other artists, and share my art and my soul with them, i instinctively feel like i'm in my "natural element".
 
  12 December 2009
I just updated my top ten tips with revisions (in the original post) to be more concise (except tip #10, which I think requires the extensive elaboration). ImagineFX magazine contacted me about my top ten tips, and they will be publishing them along with the additional comments and insights they requested from me.
 
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