Written by Dionne Danney (@acompanyofn3rds)
Ladders and Moving Targets
Art is passion. For many artists, art is a way of life. Art similar to life requires balance. Balance, at times is challenging. For example, I wrestled with the title of this article. The original title was, “The Challenge of Being the Best”. However, the term “best” implies that I’m competing with others to be better than they are at something. Art is not a competition. Artists are not competitors in some coliseum where we fight each other to the death. We work together and collaborate. We accomplish achievements and advance the culture collectively.
My efforts in art and passion as well as in life are rooted in becoming better than I was yesterday. This is my path to greatness.
The path to being great can be represented by ladders and moving targets. Summoning the courage to approach the ladder is your first great achievement. So many in life have a yearning to do what they enjoy however never take a step towards their passion. They may think, “I’m not good enough” or that “No one will like or appreciate my efforts, my work or my art”. Neither matters when considering your passion and your art. The energy of passion and art is galvanized internally. The expression of passion and art is external. Take the step, approach the ladder and express your creativity.
After you’re on the ladder, climb. Practice your passion every day. Challenges such as Inktober are an excellent way to practice and improve. You can imagine each day as a rung on our proverbially, climb. Set goals, climb. Make it a mission to reach the top of a particular ladder, climb. At the top of the ladder is your target, greatness. When you reach the ladder’s top move the target higher. Grab yourself another ladder and climb. Some ladders will have broken rungs. This can be experienced as obstacle. Every obstacle is an opportunity to learn. Regardless whether you carefully make your way around obstacles or leap across them, keep climbing. Pursue your passion and keep being great.
Approaching the Ladder
People define professional in different ways. When you have decided mentally to dedicate personal resources, time, energy, etc to your craft, you are professional. You are professionally and officially becoming great.
Face the Fear of Criticism
A fear I had to personally realize and then face was criticism. Before revealing and releasing my art to the public, I had to understand this would open my creativity up to the scrutiny and critique of anyone who viewed my work. That thought alone was enough to make me apprehensive before posting pieces to social media. I had anxiety and butterflies waiting for comments and likes.
I faced and conquered this fear with persistence. After overcoming the initial fright of posting art, I had to keep climbing. Through consistently creating and posting art, I continued to build my courage. This helped to develop a thick skin so to speak. That’s needed to deal with negative and positive criticism.
After realizing the fear of criticism, I knew an effective method for conquering this emotion was to create challenges for myself. I started the sketch a day challenge. This meant I would sketch and post one piece every day. I did this challenge for 1 year. You know after about 1 week, I was over the fear of criticism.
You Are Your Biggest Critic
Oddly enough, after I had overcome the fear of criticism from others, I became my biggest critic. Oh man, I didn’t like almost everything that I had posted. Even if the critique of others was positive, I was still pointing out how each piece could have been better. It didn’t matter if the posts received great comments and emojis that were warm and fuzzy. I was still feeling as if something was unproportionate, the colors were off, the background was all wrong. Actually, I still do that, just nowhere near as much as I used to. However within that year challenge, I improved my skills, I learned new techniques and I met some awesome artists.
Climbing the ladder to being great is a challenge. No doubt about that. You’re going to have to face and deal with obstacles that attempt to obstruct your path. Some of us have impediments we must cope with effectively in order to be great.
Leap and Keep Climbing
While I remained my biggest critic, I still had other challenges to overcome. Pressure is another big one. During the sketch a day challenge, people began noticing my work. This was great. I felt good. Although, along with notoriety came suggestions and requests. I started feeling pressured to go in different directions with my art. Also, I started feeling obligated to my followers to produce something amazing every day.
While this pressure was leaning towards stressful, I refocused and realized that as far as my art is concerned I was only obligated to be great for me. From this perspective, I can more clearly view potential pressure as positive motivation. This motivation was a powerful force. It pushed me to make some leaps in areas of arting that I hadn’t previously considered. Experimenting with water colors, gouache, different types of markers and ink all started with my sketch a day challenge.
Know Your Weak Areas and Improve
Push yourself. Even though you’re receiving positive motivation externally, continue pushing yourself internally. You are your biggest critic and you are your biggest motivational force. Continue setting new targets of greatness, keep propping up new ladders and keep climbing.
Through pushing yourself, you’ll discover some area of initial difficulty. Good. Keep pushing and keep climbing. Some artists are going to have specific challenges. Whether it’s animals, facial expressions, hands, feet or any other part of anatomy, after you realize it’s an area where you can improve, work on it. Persistence and consistency is one of the best paths to self improvement.
An article about the challenges of becoming great wouldn’t be complete without mentioning budgeting.
Art supplies can be expensive. From Daniel Smith and Winsor & Newton to Copic and Pentel, some artists can find themselves weighing the idea of appetizers or sides for their entrée vs that new brush pen with the fine tip.
Speaking of tips, here are a few:
Keep an updated inventory.
It’s a good idea to know which art supplies you have on deck. Your inventory is useful for knowing if you have all the required materials to start a new project. Also, by knowing what materials you have, or don’t have or items you’re running low on, you can build a list of supplies you need to purchase.
Make a List
Prior to going to art supply stores make a list of items you plan to purchase. While this will not stop your inner artist from visiting each isle in the store, your list may help you curve the urge to impulse buy those shinny new markers that just so happen to be near the register.
Keep a Record
You can use your lists to help keep records of your purchases. Bonus tip, keep your receipts. In the event you have either transformed or will transform your profession into a business, keeping receipts is a good habit. Also knowing how much you spend is a major part of building and balancing a budget.
Artist Meet World
One of my biggest challenges as an artist and becoming great is dealing with personal creativity meeting public interests. Talk about pressure. As I mentioned earlier, during the sketch a day challenge some followers began asking me to create versions of their favorite characters in my style.
So a couple issues there; First, I didn’t even have a style. Really when I started the sketch a day challenge, I was just drawing and sketching. I had no particular order or process of selection for the pieces; I would just sketch out whatever came to mind that day in whatever way it flowed best for me. Second, I had concerns about creating a version of someone’s favorite character that fans of that character would not agree on.
While I do recognize that there is some merit to these types of suggestions and creating these types of pieces, that merit is overshadowed by the two issues mentioned above.
These types of requests and suggestions continued to be a major point of pressure for some time. However yet again I refocused and realized, it’s my personal interests that drive my creativity. There’s a plethora of popular characters that interests me. This is where public / personal interest and my creativity meet with fan art..
This article lays out my patch to becoming and being great. I challenge you to be great. If you’ve read this than you’re already awesome, keep climbing.
Dionne Danney (@acompanyofn3rds)