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

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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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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!






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    I think you may be unhappy because you’re expecting too much too soon when you’re doing a piece deliberately to see improvement. When you take notice as much it allows you to do more and for more time to pass and for an improvement to actually take place.

    Don’t think of a practice piece as a piece where you are supposed to be able to do something better, think of it in terms of learning something. If you can walk away from the session having learnt something new or having re-enforced something then it’s a victory. It’s a victory even if the practice piece isn’t particularly pleasing or the effects don’t show up immediately. Consider practice pieces as you do them random drawing for the hell of it. They aren’t supposed to be perfect or anything like that. They are small stepping stones along the way, tools to help you learn.

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    When I feel like that, I try to use my negativity as motivation. There's a way to be a pessimist and still use it for good!

    I try to think about other people to keep myself going. Like I think about all of the people who don't believe in me or who don't support me when I say that art is really what I want to do, and I think about how good it will feel to succeed on my own and prove them wrong by getting awesome. That way, even if I fail or feel bad about my art, I'm so bitter and jaded that I have to keep going just to prove them wrong!

    Or I think about all of the talented people and how I'm not one of them, but I think about working hard so that some day I can be as good as somebody with talent. My struggles will be worth it/I can feel proud of myself knowing that I had to put a lot of time and effort into getting somewhere even if other people may not have had to do as much.

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    Honestly, we all keep improving. You never get to a point where you can sit down and be like "Well, hey, I've done all I can do in the improving department."

    But I get what you mean, there are days when every line you put on the paper makes you want to stab yourself in the eye with a pencil. Just try not to be too hard on yourself. Look at your drawings and try to see what you don't like about, what parts look wrong, and try to correct it the next time. I have horrible self confidence, but I use that because I don't want to be shitty the rest of my life. So I'm trying to reach a point where my lack of confidence stops. >:o

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  20. #17
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    Oh, wow - I really didn't expect so many responses! Thank you, all of you!

    I didn't ever consider that, well, everyone goes through it, as self centered as it sounds - I'd met artists who seemed to hate their work but never seemed paralysed like I often feel. Knowing I'm not alone has lent a lot of comfort and I feel like I can tackle it a lot easier this time. While I've talked with other artists I've never really talked to them about art and this forum's great for that.

    In the past I'd drawn so sparsely I cared more about the results than if I'd just drawn a lot, and that, I'm pretty sure now, is exactly why I got stuck. Then I'd get discouraged from drawing more and then you have a naaaaasty cycle. Like Mike said - there wasn't any distance. And if I practice more and more eventually I'll get to that distance and I'll, perhaps, be able to improve without agonising over every single line.

    Don’t think of a practice piece as a piece where you are supposed to be able to do something better, think of it in terms of learning something. If you can walk away from the session having learnt something new or having re-enforced something then it’s a victory. It’s a victory even if the practice piece isn’t particularly pleasing or the effects don’t show up immediately. Consider practice pieces as you do them random drawing for the hell of it. They aren’t supposed to be perfect or anything like that. They are small stepping stones along the way, tools to help you learn.
    Thank you so much - I really needed to hear that as well.

    I'm going to get back to work and work more on improving my attitude than my art, and just enjoy myself for now. I'll get it one day - I'll just take my time when it comes to improving. I'll be okay.

    (Also, the "Fuck yeah" thread? Epic win. Thanks Xeon!)

    Funnily enough, Elwell - I did think I hated drawing enough to stop, once. Thought that'd solve all my problems. Ended up picking my tablet pen back up and realising that nope, drawing wasn't the problem.

    Again - thanks all. I'm keeping this page (and the "Fuck Yeah" thread) bookmarked, especially for browsing again when the self criticism gets a bit much.

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  21. #18
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    It's so late but whatever...
    I'm in a somewhat similar situation... "Normal" little artists start to draw when little and creative and don't have useless worries about the whole thing...
    And there's me who started drawing very late (because I stopped at 7 because I sucked. I always was a perfectionist... maths went so much better without effort), practice little, party because drawing seems so damn complicated, I don't even know where to start...
    And on top of that, my fav topic is the human body and face And I have a good eye for spotting anatomical flaws. It means I won't be pleased with a single figure of mine for very long...
    I usually feel blocked and struggled a lot, instead of having fun my hedonist self should. My results are best when I'm having fun anyway.
    I'm far from breaking my own wall but I realized a few things so I have a few thoughts... Maybe you will find something useful for you, I hope so.
    I used imperative but it's just a form...

    Do lots of little sketches, doodle a lot, take it easy... Don't let your critic say a word, just do them... My linework is much better when I don't really expect me to be somewhat good. No pressure, I can have a better time and the results show that. Maybe not, but still it's a good practice.
    {I should follow this advice... *sigh*}

    Don't overvalue the one longer piece you're working on. I mean, many people tend to avoid to restart drawing stuff after putting so much time and effort into it, having some nice partial results... It's that awesome eye, a rare miracle, why should it be gone because the head would be much better tilted...? Well it was a practice, it may be sacrificed. If I can't repeat that awesome eye, it's not a reason to be so proud of it anyway...
    {I can do it now, yay... A nice something isn't a sacred unmovable piece anymore!}

    Like the fact you have a strict self critic. Imagine you produce crap/heavily flawed stuff and you don't even know it's bad... My inner critic is very harsh and cruel, my self confidence is in ruins so I know what I'm talking about... Still, it's useful...

    But artist newbies/wannabes needs praises too. They're like tender plants, sunshine and water is important I can see my good points (they're few and it's after years anyway... my self critic loves pointing at the bad ones much more )... I dunno, maybe it's good to have someone to say nice things... A honest one with good critic skills, not that 'awesome, have my babies' stuff on DA or on Tegaki E
    {start an SB and I will crit you More nicely than I do with myself }

    You may think others have it oh so more easier but it's not always so. Even if it looks like that from their results. And if they're really good and quick, it's practice - and sometimes talent/useful skills too but life is like that. We have to use what we have

    Enjoy you're still a beginner and you may draw whatever you wish, it will be something you aren't good enough yet... there's so much room for improvement for you, quick improvement is realistic
    {I hope it doesn't sound silly, the thought isn't IMO}

    So, draw what you really enjoys... I made the mistake to draw studies, you know, boring heads and whatnot. Even if I love human parts and it's a joy to see even good sketches... My own studies aren't fun. That's work.
    A sexy character of mine (or of someone else) with a specific expression... That sparkles my interest

    Sometimes do something new, it may be a refreshing experience.

    But drawing what you can best can be a nice warm fuzzy feeling when you are insecure...

    When making a longer drawing, don't play with it for long without looking at the whole thing... It's so disheartening when you realize you did it AGAIN: it's a somewhat rendered thing with some slight but apparent basic flow and you need to redraw it.
    {I always do it }

    and so on, and so forth...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Umbravita View Post
    What do you recommend? What have other people's experience been when it comes to this, is there any advice?
    Welcome to the club. I have been drawing for more than twenty years, and I still hate everything I draw. ;-)

    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.)
    I share this reluctance too, because on boards like this one criticism can be very blunt, to put it mildly, and that can indeed take much of one's enjoyment out of it. I have also noticed over the years that when I ask for a crit I often get conflicting advice from various people, or I get good advice but find I can't work out how to put it in practice, and so on. Still, it can sometimes help one to see a drawing with new eyes, if you have had a few solid artists let fly at it.

    As for fixing mistakes, I have always had that same problem: I get to a point where I make the drawing worse rather than better, and where I am also frankly sick of it. Then I leave it as is, try to learn from it what I can and make the next drawing. And the next. And the next. (I have found working in ballpoint pen quite liberating: you can't erase any mistakes, so you can't sit and pick at the damn thing for days on end - you HAVE to let it go after a while.)

    But actually getting good at it? No luck so far, but I'm sure (as I have been for twenty years now) that one of these days I'm going to produce something half decent... ;-)

    In summary: it's okay to be vehemently self-critical. Artists who are not, are artists who never progress much. Doesn't make it any easier on the ego though. I guess that's the price one pays for giving a shit.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Xeon_OND View Post
    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.
    Now my curiosity is piqued, but how on earth does one find that thread? When I do a search for that phrase, it returns literally hundreds of threads - it would take me a a week to look through them all!

    A further bit of advice to Umbravita occurred to me: keep your drawings. Put them in a box, or if you work only digitally, put them all in a folder somewhere. After a year or two, look through them. I know from experience, and in her books Betty Edwards confirms this, that as you progress, a weird sort of amnesia sets in. You can't remember anymore what your earlier drawings looked like, and you become convinced you have made no progress at all - until you take a look at your work from a year or two earlier.

    Mind you, I have noticed another thing when I do that: I occasionally notice that I stumbled upon something useful ten years ago, and then forgot about it! Thus looking over your own older work can often be very useful.

    One of my big regrets in life is that what with having moved around and so on, I lost almost all my older work, so I now have nothing from my youth, or my initial serious attempts some two decades ago.

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    Everyone goes through the "Man, I SUCK and I HATE this piece of art!" phases. I just recently participated in the ChOW here on conceptart and I loathe the painting I submitted. I am actually relieved no one has voted for it hahahaha it's that bad.

    But I think you're putting too much pressure on yourself. Improving styles and art abilities is a slow and laborious process. Just relax and have fun, easier said than done.

    Maybe aim for drawing bad art and you'll surprise yourself! Can't hurt lol.

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    Quote Originally Posted by brianvds View Post
    Now my curiosity is piqued, but how on earth does one find that thread? When I do a search for that phrase, it returns literally hundreds of threads - it would take me a a week to look through them all!
    The famous "Fuck Yeah!" thread:
    http://www.conceptart.org/forums/sho...d.php?t=135551

    Sticky with links to a lot of motivational threads:
    http://conceptart.org/forums/showthread.php?t=138102



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    Quote Originally Posted by QueenGwenevere View Post
    The famous "Fuck Yeah!" thread:
    http://www.conceptart.org/forums/sho...d.php?t=135551

    Sticky with links to a lot of motivational threads:
    http://conceptart.org/forums/showthread.php?t=138102

    Thanks - now I'm also up to date on the fine art of motivational profanity. :-D

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