So obviously, I'm not the best at maintaining a journal or blog of any kind that involves me doing anything but reblogging and posting some of my own stuff. I'm terrible at replies and communication in general, sorry.
But I wanted to make a journal about a mental shift I've had very recently when it comes to art. For myself, so I can go back and read it when shit is tough, but also for others. I don't have a large amount of watchers, but I'm very happy that I have each and every one of you! The fact that I have a few of you guys who keep showing up in my messages over and over again makes me so happy, and I do recognize your usernames every time I see them. You guys make my day like whoa, you've no idea. ANYWAY, sappyness aside if this can help anyone but myself, then that's really great!
First thing that's useful to know before I start is that I'm lazy. Immensely so. I'm the annoying sort of person that counts on stuff solving itself and I'll admit that it's not all that long since I was doing maybe 2 drawings a week and then complaining about why I didn't get better immediately. Impatience, laziness and procrastination does not a lovely combo make, sadly.
This had nothing to do with a lack of passion, mind you. I'd spend hours and days doing nothing but browsing art and tutorials in awe, more time than I spent actually drawing. I picked up a ton of useful tips along the way, but more often than not, I didn't really understand it or how to apply it to my art. I THOUGHT I did. But I didn't really.
Now I decided to start drawing more seriously and joined deviantart 10 years ago. I was a socially stunted 14-year-old and it was terrible. I fell into every single trap: tracing postures and making them into my own characters without referencing back, slapping watermarks all over my then-shitty art, placing it on a pedestal, and a whole lot more. But the worst was probably that I ultimately did it for attention. The first bad habits I shook off easily during my first years, but the need for attention was hounding over my shoulder at every second. When I started out, I solely did art of my own characters. I loved making characters, building up their stories and design and the worlds they lived in. When I realised that no one would give me the attention I wanted for it? I stopped. I stopped and in many ways, so did my creativity. I started doing solely fanart for those few extra favourites. I still made OCs for everything, but I stopped drawing them. Up until a month or so ago, 60% of my art was a huge "PLEASE LOOK AT ME", and it's immensely sad. Because I could not see the value in my own art, I depended on others to do it for me.
This little tangent here had a purpose, I swear. Remember what I said about my attitude towards improvement in art? Yeah, imagine that. This all added up to a terribly unhealthy relationship of my own making. It started invading all of my drawings. "Will this get me more attention?". 'But Anne, you just have to learn to draw for yourself and not others!'. No. See, that was part of my problem. Because I didn't draw for others at all. I did draw for me, but for the wrong reasons and for the wrong parts of me. Specifically the huge monster my need for attention had become.
When I did something I was truly proud of and had a huge sense of accomplishment over making and then posted it, the entire piece would be ruined for me if it didn't get enough faves or notes. So I started looking for mistakes. "I like this so why doesn't others?". I'd nitpick it to pieces, deduce that I was no good at all and end up hating it. I'd run back and draw similar stuff to what I got notes/faves for in hopes of replicating the process instead of focusing on moving forward. This eventually dragged back my pedestal mentality for a bit again. "you all liked these things so give these half-assed updates of a similar nature the same attention.".
When my mentality around art was near a fairly low point, I started art school. It was terrible. Now, it wasn't terrible for me as an artist, but as a person it was really devastating. The first year of the Illustration course at the school I'm going to is about one thing and one thing only: expanding. They wrestle you out of your comfort zone, make you draw things you don't want to draw and use tools you don't want to use. Getting positive feedback for the me I was then was like pulling teeth. I wanted the acknowledgement I was used to fanart giving me
, but from my tutors. No such thing though. So I stupidly resigned myself to "my tutors are stupid and I hate art school.".
By now this is getting pretty long, but don't worry, the point of enlightenment is coming up. So for nearly half a year I waded through assignments I didn't really like with mediocre feedback, and with the same unhealthy strategy as always: draw every now and then and expect the world in feedback. It went about as well as you can expect. I'd halfway given up. The tutors didn't like my work anyway, so what was the point? Then we started our final project of the year a month back and it could be anything we wanted. On a reflex, my mind went to "what can I make that's within my comfort zone but that I think will still please the tutors?". I knew this assignment was a long time coming and I'd been thinking about it for months already and I went through many ideas. It was all about making it deep and quirky and different and immensely abstract. That seemed to be what they liked yeah? I talked it over with some classmates. I pondered. And then came the start of my shift, when I realised that the grades for this year aren't going to count for my final degree, so as long as I passed I could do whatever I wanted.
Then came the question: what DID I want to do? The assignment was called "Locating Practice". All about what you wanted to specialize in. So I decided to just go with a graphic novel, which was almost as far into my own comfort zone as I could get. Just barely the minimum step below "headshots of characters facing slightly to the left". I worked on the script for a few weeks and had it done by easter. I fell into an easy rhythm. Working a bit every day. We didn't really have much time to work on it, which pushed me to not procrastinate. I researched a lot of animation and storytelling. Easter Vacation set in, and I had the house to myself.
Everyone has something that frees up their mind. For me, it was buying in enough food for a week, cleaning the flat (in the knowledge that it would still be clean when I came back), and essentially becoming a hermit. I got into the habit of working a bit every day, my surroundings blessedly free of distractions. I like to have background noise of my own choosing when I work, however, and when I grew tired of my playlist, I turned back to some of Sycra's videos on youtube. I'd watched his stuff before, but my attention span is fleeting and I'd just gone for his easy-fix videos. I went through some videos where he talked about his own relationship with art, which was very fascinating and I started watching his series "pointy chins", where I picked up the habit of doing ballpoint croquis from.
Like I've said earlier, everyone has their "thing" that makes them work. I'd heard the saying "fail. try again and fail better" many times, but like so many things it didn't quite reach through my head. In his series, Sycra talked about a lot of eye-opening things, and most importantly, he showed all of his failures. On the technical side, I learned a ton of things from it. I realised I'd been using shapes wrong all along, seeing them in 2D instead of 3D. And with that one principle finally applied correctly in my head, all the knowledge I'd accumulated over the years clicked in place, along with the realisation that I'd been scared of drawing all these years. I was scared because I didn't understand.
And instead of working on it and proving to myself that "yes I fucking suck, move on and suck less." I avoided it like the plague. If there was no proof that I sucked then no one could criticize me. With this new understanding of shapes, I could draw anything. And being able to tell myself "you can draw anything"
, did a lot to my mentality around drawing. I watched more videos, thought more about my mentality around art as a whole and did a massive amount of self reflection. By the time easter was up, my assignment had been more about discovering myself as an artist than working on the graphic novel. And that was okay. With this, I've gotten a whole new relationship and mentality with art and my own work ethic.
I continued thinking about it and I got to the point where I am now, where I realised my huge hunger for attention had consumed my entire progress in art and ironically just made things worse. At this point, art is entwined with my mind, dependent on and balanced with a whole bunch of other issues I have. My self confidence was nill and nothing and based solely on the "fake it till you make it" mentality, and I still have a long way to go. But as I was talking to betsib when I was writing this, I again came back to the attention part. I wasn't able to place value in my own work and so I needed others to do it for me. And it made sense really? It's hard to place value in your work when you can't place value in the one creating it
Art is an extension of an artist, and for good or ill it reflects yourself. I wanted attention and I wanted to be liked, so I reacted to compliments in the modest way and kept saying I didn't like my own work "but thank you for saying so". And in the end I said it so much that I believed it.
All of this probably seems like pretty elementary stuff to a lot of people, but in Norway where I was raised, we have this thing called "Janteloven" and it basically says "You mustn't think that you're something". This toxic culture looks with disdain on those that dare stick their head above the crowd and say "I'm fucking amazing". "Be great, but never think that you're great.". Couple this with social anxiety and lovely recurring depression and you're stuck dick deep in syrup. Struggling will only make you sink deeper.
It's sad that I had to think my way through art for 10 years before I realised that it was okay to think I was good at something, but coming out on the other end is like feeling a fresh breath of air across your face. A lot of this has been a road of self discovery, both in terms of art and my own mind, but I would not have been able to do it without Sycra's videos so please, please
go watch his videos and especially his pointy chins series. Had it not been for him I would never have been able to get to this point, nor be able to continue to pursue this further so that I might make a living from it. You can find him on youtube here: www.youtube.com/channel/UC5dyu…
I've also had some amazing friends to help me along the way and I want to thank them profusely for listening to me figuring myself and my own art out. Very often, talking about something helps you figure it out better, which was the purpose of this journal. So thank you Bets and Ingrid (and a few more, but they bore the brunt of it).
I meant to go more into the practice of art in this, but I guess the more mental parts of it jumped out more. I might do one more directed at how I started improving technically instead at some other points but if you all wanna discuss some philosophy around art and whatnot with me please do I will literally not shut up about this haha.