The Danger of Urgency

3 min read

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Andantonius's avatar
Journal time!! I apologize for the length of this post, but I think it's important for artists, especially newer artists, to consider. Hopefully it will be of some use to you in your artistic journey. :)

SO... ConceptArt has been sending out emails to promo their study programs with little snippets of advice, some of them are good but one of them that came the other day really irks me. The first thing on their list is, "Study with a sense of urgency"

Now... this is my opinion, but I've heard similar sentiments from many other artists and creators who I would consider, "successful" in their field. And, in my opinion, "Study with a sense of urgency" is the absolute worst advice anyone could give to a beginner.

Yes, you need to work hard. The arts are a competitive field, and you need to push yourself if you want to climb the ladder. BUT in all of your hard work beware of mind sets like:
-"If I don't get good fast my dream job will disappear."
-"When this artist was my age they were still twice as good as I am now, what's wrong with me?"
-"If I'm not drawing for 16 hours a day then I'm doomed to failure."
-"I've been drawing for years now, why is this still difficult?"

All of these are a sure fire way to kill your passion for art and drive yourself mad. I would know, I spent a lot of time trapped in them. There's an old adage that's corny and cliche but it's true: the journey is the destination. And as soon as you learn to appreciate that, you will be happy with your work. As a counterpoint to the above mind sets:

-If your dream job disappears, who cares? There are other jobs. There's pleasure to be had in all kinds of work, don't deny yourself happiness until you, "make it" with X company.
-Age doesn't matter, and you can't compare your journey with others. You just can't, it's too complex. You have no idea what situations lead to someone else's success, and you will never replicate it. So just do your own thing, the only thing that matters is that you're better now than you were yesterday.
-Quality over quantity. Drawing for 16 hours a day isn't healthy; you need to spend time on other things to refresh your brain. A few hours a day of high quality study time will always be better than bashing your head against a wall for 12 hours straight.
-Don't, "should" all over yourself. Graduated last year? That doesn't mean you, "should" be or have anything. The universe owes you nothing, so don't be disappointed when things don't go as you planned. Instead, work hard now so that when a good opportunity presents itself you're prepared for it.

In conclusion, urgency is (usually) an imaginary construct, assuming that there is extremely limited time / opportunity to achieve your dreams. This is a lie. There's plenty of work to be had, plenty of time to improve, plenty of opportunities to experiment, and plenty of joy and fulfillment to be had where you are right this second. Live in the moment, appreciate what you have, and enjoy the journey as you work for bigger and better.
© 2015 - 2021 Andantonius
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Jellcaps's avatar
Seeing the post about your new job reminded me of this post you made last year and I've put in my favorites. I still glance back at this every now and then as a reminder and can see you're definitely a man who loves by his own words. Sorry if this sounds mushy but seeing your progression is such a big motivator to me.
One of the best advice I've heard so far. Thank you!
RiverCatRa's avatar
Thank you for sharing this. It helps a lot now. Just thank you, sorry, I could not say all my thoughts in english (: 
alexrees's avatar
A burden off my mind. Thank you! Excellent post!
ViridRain's avatar
I agree with all you've said ! Thanks for this post ! :)
Jellcaps's avatar
Beautifully spoken
Thezz0's avatar
Thank you SO much, I really needed this at the moment. I've been struggling with a shoulder injury and panicking that I'm going to lose momentum/forget how to paint because I can't do it every day.
Also: I was invited to Exhibit some of my work at my old College (10 years after leaving) and it really made me think of all the things I haven't achieved yet. This helps. Thank you!!
Gookins's avatar
I always have a problem with rushing things, so thanks a lot for your insight!
Hunting-wolf's avatar
Thank you so much for sharing this!
Many of these thoughs is exaxctly why I'm getting stuck again and again with drawing.
Time to work on putting them away.
Zearthus's avatar
Thank you, always great to hear your thoughts. Once again, thanks for sharing. And didn't knew CA was sharing snippets advice. 
riazkhan's avatar
Relic-Angel's avatar
THANK YOU for putting this out there. :D I really needed the motivational boost.
monkeydoodles's avatar
Thank you for this.
AcidKraken's avatar
Thank you, I needed this
JulianDeLio's avatar
Really great post.
whatonearth's avatar
I unsubscribed when I got that email. I totally agree. I'm just a hobbyist but I fall into the same trap too where I think quality>enjoyment and it just sucks the joy out of the whole process. Thanks for posting.
fateforever's avatar
This is so true. Whenever I go through this, I just want to cry because of all the pressure. Thank you for posting this, I'll definitely share this with my classmates and beginner artists. :)
Strubey's avatar
YES. You describe what I feel excactly. Although sometimes it's hard when you think about the fact that you might not have the time you need. You might wake up tomorrow with cancer or have some sort of accident and then you'd wish you would have done something while you could. But I guess just because there is no way of knowing there is also no point in worrying..
captainwyndsor's avatar
Love this <3 thank you so much for writing it!
Elowly's avatar
Im at this trap at this moment (im old comparing to people around me- young and whi draws better, i dont spend enough time on practice, and, even when im drawing so long i cant grab many stuff) Thank you very much for brilliant and encouraging journal!
Penstray's avatar
First of all I'll begin by saying that maybe this applies differently for different people: some might work best under pressure and urgency, others can't. Personally I couldn't agree more, I've always felt more or less put upon and not worthy to pursue art because I can't dedicate those minimum of 12 hours daily. These constant statements sometimes bring me low, almost make me give up on art, instill in me wishes that aren't my own simply because I see people doing them and I somehow also think that's also what I should get to do if I want to make it etc. Especially the last one is really frustrating, because I see great artists really emphasizing just how you MUST work on AAA games, blockbuster Hollywood movies, attend big conventions and mingle with people in order to really be a pro in the fields of concept art and illustration. And imo and for me I've come to realize this isn't ok. I like to spend time in nature, I like to be by myself and not go to I donno what conventions to mingle, I don't particularly want to have a stressful schedule working on big name movies and the likes, and generally I want to have a full, yet tranquil life. Not one spent livin' the Hollywood way of doin' things, or even the adventurous one of a nearly-constant traveler.

Now I'm not saying people who say this necessarily speak for everyone, or even that they advise all to do it this way. But many of them do tend to always seem to give only this recipe for becoming a professional, well-known artist. They don't seem to think you can be just as good an artist by simply taking it one step at a time, enjoying other things as well, and not getting to trek the globe in order to attend most, if not all, the special art events in the industry, and makin' buddies with everyone. 

Anyway, in the end I think each makes his or her own life by choosing what's important for him/her. I'm just bummed at times that it has come to a crossroads where some people bash artists, and some artists in return bash the bashers and also enforce a strict set of "how to's" to become a "real" artist. In the end I think there are narrow-minded people in both camps, and from what I've seen the less vocal are the better artists, at least for me. People like John Howe for example, who no one can contest is a great artist, but never mingles too much with people and has, from what I reckon, a great and fulfilled personal life, with no need to put himself out there in an ostentatious manner.
Andantonius's avatar
Yeah, there's definitely a lot of strange mind sets about what makes you a, "successful." artist. Or even what makes you a, "professional" artist.

Fortunately art is a beautifully vague thing, you can do just about anything you want and as long as you're enjoying it then it's serving its purpose. For some people, they enjoy it more when they make a career out of it. For others that's not the case.

I think James Gurney is a good example of breaking out of the mold too; he's certainly had some success in the entertainment field, but nowadays it looks like he spends his time just out and about in towns and with animals, finding interesting little things to paint, and that's what brings him joy in art.
Penstray's avatar
I couldn't agree more with everything you said Jon. In the end I guess it's all about finding out what you yourself want, regardless of other people's expectations, recipes for a life well-lived and success that works for them and so on. Every information int he end must be critically filtered through each and every individual's personality.

And I'm with you about James Gurney. Hell, i didn't even know about the guy about a few months ago, though one of my fondest memories from adolescence is seeing the the TV miniseries and 13 episodes TV series of Dinotopia. However now that I found out about where Dinotopia originally started and what's it all about I'm looking forward to buy all the original books, I haven't been this excited by a book, much less a series of book, since I read everything written by Tolkien in the Middle-Earth universe and by Herbert in the "Dune" one. And indeed, James Gurney seems more like the travelling fine-artist type of artist nowadays than an entertainment, commercial one. I think it's great that he managed to bring his vision to life, make it successful and earning enough money from it to afterwards live comfortably and pursue his other interests in art. That really is something to admire and look up to, he's definitely one of my all-time favorite artists, entrepreneurs and persons. 
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