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  1. #1
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    "Newbie" artist w/intense self criticism - what do you do?

    Hey,

    Though I've been occasionally lurking for a little bit, I'm new so apologies if I'm posting in the wrong forum. I've looked around and this seems like the best place, so I'm very sorry if it isn't.

    I'm not a very competent artist - I've been drawing for several years, but not as often as I can - perhaps a handful of times a month. I only actually started using references last year and started doing practice sketches, so I have a long way to go and I feel like a total newbie suddenly because of it.

    But my problem is that I loathe every single line I draw to the point where it totally sucks out the enjoyment I get from drawing.

    A couple of months ago I started drawing completely random things for the hell of it, and because I had no attachment to the end result I had a great time and, ironically, improved quite a lot. But as soon as I actively tried to get better, I started hating everything I produced again. I'd love to start a sketchbook and actively seek out criticism, but to be honest, I'm afraid it'll only make me worse when it comes to enjoyment levels.

    What do you recommend? What have other people's experience been when it comes to this, is there any advice? Is it a simple matter of attitude adjustment, or do I bite the bullet and ask for concrit anyway? Is it acceptable to ask for concrit on a piece which you don't feel is perfect? (To be honest - if I kept adjusting a piece and fixing mistakes, I don't think I'd ever fix it, but I don't know how common that is as I've only recently started caring about doing the best I can do.)

    How do you approach it?

    Again - very sorry if this isn't an appropriate thread, or location for such a thread. I'd very much appreciate feedback.

    Last edited by Umbravita; June 23rd, 2010 at 06:15 AM. Reason: Adding stuff.
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  3. #2
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    Try to turn self criticism into something positive. Don't feel put down by it. Think instead "ok, so this was bad, let's do it better the next time." And then I think you'll see progress. Also make sure not to put yourself down just because you can, you know. Don't think "i suck" think "I might not be very good today but one day I'll do great things"

    Oh. And just have fun. I don't think anyone's ever super happy about everything they do. But the main reason you should be doing art is because you enjoy it. Developing your skills and getting better is just a part of it.

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  4. #3
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    At the risk of sounding like I'm giving a smart arse answer; just keep going, that's all you can do. I think there are three possibilities when you sit down to do a picture. 1) You think it sucks because it doesn't hit the mark you were hoping for. 2) Feel satisified with it, but in time will come to see more flaws with it. 3) You don't finish it.

    If you draw enough crappy pictures eventually you won't care, you'll just accept them and try and figure out how to improve. It becomes second nature. Nobody has to see the work if you aren't ready to show it, but you have to keep drawing and painting.

    I have no definitive answer on criticism. Nearly all I've learnt has come from self-analysis and examining the work of professional artists who I like and educating myself as much I can on techniques and theories with books, and I'm still nowhere near becoming a great artist.

    If you can be proactive in critiquing your own work and learning things, then I guess having people check out your work isn't so important.

    Good luck.

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  5. #4
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    I suffer similarly so I can relate. What keeps me going is analyzing what is wrong with the drawing.

    Try this...
    Next time you sit down to draw, do it as you always do. However once you are done, change your mindset and now think of your drawing as a first draft. Evaluate waht is wrong with it. So you hate it? Why do you hate it? Write everything down... (hands are too big, buildings don't match perspective, lines are too timid, etc). Now you have a working list to begin a redraw, or if you work digitally, repair. Rinse repeat.

    This exercise should hopefully get you out of the "I suck, I should just quit." mentality and into something more constructive. Not to mention it will help you build a proper workflow.

    Good luck!

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  6. #5
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    As Winston Churchill said, "If you are going through Hell, keep going"

    Look, part of learning to draw is acceptance of your faults. But, with that you must also strive to understand them and learn from them.

    A good example for you: I just got done with a painting class. I got a B overall which is good. I saw lots of progress which is, again, good. But...I still suck at painting. I got to the point in that class where I dreaded the first mark I made on any canvas. It was, almost, parilizing. So...I started out putting in a little wash on the background. Why? Because then the canvas is already ruined and now I'm free to do with it what I want.

    We are all our own worst critics, period. You have to, eventually, give up a portion of that, or it will erode away any progress you have made, regardless of talent.

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  8. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Umbravita View Post
    Is it acceptable to ask for concrit on a piece which you don't feel is perfect? (To be honest - if I kept adjusting a piece and fixing mistakes, I don't think I'd ever fix it, but I don't know how common that is as I've only recently started caring about doing the best I can do.)
    So, you could ask for crits on a piece you know isn't perfect, and get advice on how to fix it. Or, you could ask for crits on a piece that you think is perfect (whatever the hell that means), and have people tell you everything that's still wrong with it. Which do you think is harder on the ego?

    As you've already proven to yourself, the answer is to STOP WORRYING SO MUCH AND DO IT. Everybody sucks when they start. Everybody sucks from time to time, no matter how much experience they have. You have permission to suck. What you don't have is permission to make yourself miserable. If you don't enjoy drawing, then don't do it. If you do enjoy it, then enjoy doing your sucky drawings, and over time they will suck less and less.


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  10. #7
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    "A couple of months ago I started drawing completely random things for the hell of it, and because I had no attachment to the end result I had a great time and, ironically, improved quite a lot. But as soon as I actively tried to get better, I started hating everything I produced again. I'd love to start a sketchbook and actively seek out criticism, but to be honest, I'm afraid it'll only make me worse when it comes to enjoyment levels."

    Then why don't you start producing things you love? After a few months or years you'll likely realize that you're bored or you want more challenge and then you'll be receptive to learning more. It's like the old saw where the guy says "doctor it hurts when I do this!" and the doctor replies "then stop doing that!"

    Okay, sure, some ways of getting there are more efficient than others but what's the point of fast-tracking yourself to a career or hobby you'll loathe?

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  11. #8
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    Your comments about being happy with what you're doing when you're just laying down lines and drawing randomly, and then being unhappy with your attempts to actually improve actually describe a pretty common experience. The fact is, when you learn a new skill, you won't be good at it right away. This is true, and we all experience it. Drawing is a skill, physically and mentally, and in fact it covers a lot of little skills (quality of line, perspective, form, weight, solidity, colour theory, tone, etc.), none of which you'll be good at right away. So when you start to study how to draw, you lose a bit of confidence because you're put into that situation where you're learning a new skill.

    This is why the "just keep going" advice is exactly right, because as you keep going, you learn more about those skills that you're developing. And as you go, you'll have little jumps forward, and you'll build skill and eventually become happier with your work. I go through it a great deal, and I find if you go into it knowing that you have to go through a certain progression in the first place, it's a lot less depressing.

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  12. #9
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    Thumbs up

    The advice from Elwell is great (and bad-ass too, as usual).
    Every now and then, I'm experiencing the same kind of feeling the OP is feeling.

    And Umbravita, pls do a search for the "Fuck yeah" thread (yes, the title contains the words "Fuck yeah"). Read the 1st post in that thread and all your woes will be cured for the time being. When the woes come, read that thread again.

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  13. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Elwell View Post
    Everybody sucks when they start. Everybody sucks from time to time, no matter how much experience they have. You have permission to suck. What you don't have is permission to make yourself miserable.
    Elwell...I'm stealing this for my signature....Because no truer words have been written....and you said it so well.

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  14. #11
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    Alright, so I'm gonna risk sounding like a fanboy but..

    I remember feeling intensely self critical all the time and still on occasion I feel like I'm my own biggest critic.. guess its a perfectionist mindset that takes over..

    Anyways, I remember being at one of the workshops and everyone telling me I had to watch Marko do a drawing. "It's like he's tracing" they said.. "I dunno how he just draws without having any kind of finding lines."

    So I watched Marko draw - and hands down - dude just busts out his figures and characters with what looks like no effort. It's something else. It gives you this perception that maybe there is some "god given" skill that only the really good artists have. That someone at that skill level never had to work hard to get there.

    So we're all outside smoking and I asked Marko "So dude, did you always just draw like this or what?"

    And he kind of laughed and said "Nah my first drawings looked like shit."

    Then he went on and told his story of how he worked his ass off drawing as a teenager while all the other kids were doing the normal high school routine.


    That made everything so much simpler.. your first drawings are gonna look like shit. Because they are. And you might as well suck it up. Instead of getting all attached to some idea that every piece is a masterpiece, you need to focus on seeing your work as it really is. Challenge yourself to grow and focus on small areas of improvement. The more you can face up to new processes that throw you out of your comfort zone, the better you'll be. And its all up to you to set the pace.

    Eventually you will distance yourself more from your stuff and it'll be a lot easier to both accept the flaws in your work and do something about it.

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  15. #12
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    I feel this way if I compare my work to the works of others. I do my best to simply improve my own abilities while learning from others.

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  16. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Elwell View Post
    So, you could ask for crits on a piece you know isn't perfect, and get advice on how to fix it. Or, you could ask for crits on a piece that you think is perfect (whatever the hell that means), and have people tell you everything that's still wrong with it. Which do you think is harder on the ego?

    As you've already proven to yourself, the answer is to STOP WORRYING SO MUCH AND DO IT. Everybody sucks when they start. Everybody sucks from time to time, no matter how much experience they have. You have permission to suck. What you don't have is permission to make yourself miserable. If you don't enjoy drawing, then don't do it. If you do enjoy it, then enjoy doing your sucky drawings, and over time they will suck less and less.
    Aww, youse a broken record!






    "Everything must serve the idea. The means used to convey the idea should be the simplest and clear. Just what is required. No extra images. To me this is a universal principle of art. Saying as much as possible with a minimum of means."
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