When It's Hard
|10 min read
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Xadrea's avatar
By Xadrea   |   Watch
145 66 10K (1 Today)
Published: September 12, 2014
Hi folks! I realized in my most recent round of blogs that I've been a little quick to tell you all to put on your grown up panties, but this one is going to be a little different. Making art can be one of the most exhilarating things you'll ever do, but (and this is from personal experience also) 80% of the time you're going to fail. You'll spill your ink all over that glorious drawing. Oil from your hands will permanently stain only the portion of paper that was meant to remain a snowy white. Your computer's hard drive will crash or all your image files (all the WIPs especially) will get corrupted. You'll try something new and it just won't work out the way you envisioned. These things are the parts that aren't really spoken about enough, and so when they happen to us we assume that we're doing something terribly wrong. I'm here to tell you that we all go through these things and there's always a solution!

:bulletred: When you're not improving

"Getting better" at doing anything or even just simply learning how to do something takes time. I can't really give you a frame of how much "time" it will take because everyone learns at a different pace. Yet, because of the way traditional school is set up, we're ingrained with the notion that after a specific set of things in a specific amount of time is introduced to us we should totally understand the concept being learned right? Wrong. It's a shame that the education system is just now grasping that, but we as artists can't push ourselves into that box either. So what do you do when you just aren't improving at something? Well for starters, be completely sure that you're stuck in a rut. It's very easy to feel as though you aren't getting better at something when you just haven't looked at the bigger picture. For example, many of us as tiny children were usually flabbergasted in seeing a real live baby and usually because we just could not believe that we were ever that small and helpless. In spite of being a little peanut yourself, there was a time you were an even tinier peanut, but that fact was not readily apparent to you until you saw a comparison. Likewise, comparing your artwork's progress over a period of time will indeed help you decide if you are in fact not improving at a skill. 

Now onto the tough part. What should you do if you really aren't improving? Sometimes it's as simple as changing a method of making. If painting general to specific does not work for you try reversing the process. If you're bored of still lifes and it is affecting the way you're learning to draw light and shadow, create a scene rather than a set up to draw! There is always a solution. However, it doesn't hurt to understand what your strengths and weaknesses are as an artist. Not all of us are meant to be gifted in the same ways and that is completely ok! I, for example, really love throwing. I can make simple forms and whatnot by I am by no means a master ceramicist. By all accounts I'm not even really that "good" at it :XD: I could feel bad about this, but I don't. Why? Because I know my strengths as an artist lie elsewhere. That doesn't mean that I won't throw, I'll always like it. It just means that I'm not putting all my energy there. 

:bulletred: When you have no support

It's pretty tough being alone, and for some of us that is an ever present reality. I was fortunate to have parents that were not only 100% supportive of my decision to study art, they were elated when I officially announced my choice. I came to find out that my situation is somewhat unique in comparison to the norm. I can't say that I know precisely what it is to be totally without familial support, but I do know what it's like to be lonely and feel alone in your pursuits in everyday life. One great way to combat the dark swelling ocean that is loneliness is to get connected on dA. I can't tell you how much starting my account on dA back in 2008 helped me as an artist feel more connected to like minded people and artwork. Of course, this is not a perfect way to remedy loneliness, but it can help tremendously. 

Another way to seek out support is to connect with whatever artist collectives, groups, centers, or clubs exist in your area. If none do, the internet, again, is your friend in this case because there are multitudes of places that artists gather online to do nothing more than talk. 

:bulletred: When your resources are limited

Man oh man have I been there! It seems monumentally unfair that the supplies we as artists need to create our work cost more than what even we can afford. This is when creativity comes into play big time. Keep this in mind: as long as you can seal it, you can paint on it. You can draw on whatever you like. You don't need Photoshop or Illustrator when there are a plethora of great digital programs available for FREE. I've seen people paint on everything from plywood scraps to old drawers (furniture). Can't afford artist grade pencils and pens? So what! Use those number 2s and ball point pens, they get the job done just as well and can help you develop new methods of making! Here are some quick fixes (or artist hacks if you will): 
  • Use rubber cement in the place of masking fluid
  • Mix flour, warm water, and salt together to make a durable clay that can be air dried or baked in the place of Sculpey
  • Use that same recipe to make a simple glue
  • Extend your acrylic paints with watered down white glue (school or PVA) in the place of acrylic mediums
  • Save pencil lead dust (easily gathered from your sharpener's collector) to use for quickly shading and toning drawings. You can do the same with charcoal dust and colored pencil dust. 
  • Use poster putty (like Blu-Tack) as self cleaning a kneaded eraser
  • If you're low on paint, use tea, coffee, juice, or even dirty paint water to paint with
  • Reuse tape easily by storing strips on a clean plastic surface (or a cloth like an apron if you're using the tape to secure paper while drawing)
  • Reuse paper towels that you clean your brushes with by allowing them to dry on a flat surface. Or better yet, use a cloth towel that you allow to fully dry in between painting sessions
  • Use thinned down white glue as a sealant for collage or acrylic paintings rather than varnish or medium

:bulletred: When the ideas just won't come

Also known as the dreaded ART BLOCK. It can often happen at the most inopportune times, especially when you're itching to make new art but have zero inspiration. Rather than force yourself to come up with an idea, one of the better things you can do is simple studies or explore with mediums. While you're at it, take the time that you feel uninspired to discover new artists or brush up on some art history. I know, it sounds lame, but trust me, it works! 

:bulletred: When you have too many ideas

Having too many ideas is just as crappy as having too few. Sometimes I have so many new ideas for paintings, drawings and stories that it feels like my head is going to explode. So how do you deal with it? A little bit at a time. Unfortunately humans only have 4 limbs and unless you've trained your feet to be as dexterous as your hands you can only use two of them. If you've got 20 ideas there's nothing stopping you from starting 20 projects and working on each a little bit at a time. Usually at any given time I have between 5 and 30 arty things going on. You'll finish some faster than others, some will be more successful than others, some may take years to fully realize. But doing this will relieve the pressure on your little artsy brain and help get out that nervous frustration. 

I'm by no means an expert in the writing field, but when I feel like writing more of the fanfics I work on and get ideas for them I talk to myself out loud, and sometimes I even record myself musing about things to write on my phone or laptop. I repeat the things over and over until I'm able to sit down and write about it. Keeps it fresh I suppose :lol: Again, I'm no expert, but that's what helps me and maybe it'll help you too!

:bulletred: When the feedback is negative

No matter what anyone on dA tells you, you do not under any circumstances have to accept someone's critique of your work. You are not obligated to take their advice. You are not required to agree with what they say. You do not have to use anything they tell you about your work. If someone calls you names for disagreeing with them about their critique of your work, ignore them. They weren't being helpful in the first place. 

Outside of critique, negative feedback can get very mean spirited and it's worth getting an idea of how you'll handle it when the time comes (and it will come). Refusing to entertain a person who is clearly trying to get a rise out of you through a snarky remark about your artwork is pretty much your number one, sure fire way to remove yourself from the situation. This is especially easy online, but it can get tricky in person. Simply not responding to someone's nasty remarks will work just as well in real life, but it requires a lot of self control. 

Remember, you're not alone! There's always someone who has gone through/is going through something and we can all help one another through it:hug:

:heart:Xadrea
Recommended Journals
Art and not giving up
Dear, deviantart fellow artists As artists we are constantly self-aware and seek for improvement and support. But there are times when it feels like everything falls apart, when things go wrong and doubts overwhelm us. But we have to stay strong and continue. Here are some of my thoughts about the topic and I hope that they might be helpful. No one likes to fail. Yet, when it happens, we learn so much. For example – my first “inspiring” journal series where such a failure. But I kept going, as I have always had. As long as I can motivate, help and inspire others, through my journals or art, that’s what keeps me go
Art and talent
Dear, deviantart fellow artists It is believed that talent is that "magical" ability that some people are born with. But sometimes, just being talented isn't enough, without hard work and persistence you won't go far. Here are some of my thoughts about the topic and I hope that they might be helpful. We all start from somewhere. (That's why I also don't delete my old deviations.) I never actually thought that I was "talented". About 3 years ago (when I also joined deviantart), I just decided that I want to pursue art as a career. I was really into photography at that time (whole 50 day sunset challenge and such), participated in as many
Do's and don'ts for flawless interaction
Not much to say about this. Just some basic tips and tricks for flawless interaction on DeviantArt WatchingDo :bulletyellow: Watch people when you honestly find them interesting. :bulletyellow: Watch your friends, even if they don't have amazing art. It helps you stay updated with their progress. :bulletyellow: Watch groups. They'll offer you a fine selection of art you're interested in, and will help you discover new (interesting) artists. :bulletyellow: Check the faves of people you watch. As you like their work, you might have similar tastes in art. Checking their faves might help you find cool art. :bulletyellow: Recommend art from peopl
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Comments (63)
wnarya's avatar
wnarya|Hobbyist General Artist
Thank you for this :3
Reply  ·  
Leanarda's avatar
Leanarda|Student Traditional Artist
Wow that hit home
Reply  ·  
delta-why's avatar
thank you for writing this. did i mention that i find all your posts inspirational and amazing? Hug 
Reply  ·  
vladimirsangel's avatar
vladimirsangel|Hobbyist Traditional Artist
On the "have too many ideas" thing, I have to say that the making notes (or sketches) thing is a godsend. I work fulltime and have a few hours only each day when I can do anything creative, so with the best will in the world I'm never going to keep up with my ideas factory. :D 

So I always carry my trusty moleskine and a pencil. That way, if inspiration strikes, I can make a note of the quote or idea, or I can do a very quick layout sketch of how the picture's going to look. When I get to it. In six years. :P 
Reply  ·  
Redcockatiel's avatar
Redcockatiel|Professional Traditional Artist
I will have to say my failure rate is about 10%. Though as artists go I am an oddball. I am confidant and comfortable with my work. So even trying  something new is just another creative out for me. But years ago it was 10% good and 90% bad. Patience is very important and not giving up. I have had no formal art education other then sleeping through high school art class. I didn't have much support in art my whole life and now not much has improved but I don't sweat it either. Oh and a good way to find low cost supplies is to check out flea markets , yard sales and thrift stores. I have found lots of good supplies at a fraction of the cost from other would be artists and crafters who gave up. But didn't want to throw out good supplies.
For artist block I tend to go back to doing familiar simple drawings such as animals mostly horses. I will draw a few because they are easy and quick. They keep my drawing hand exercised and relax my creative mind.(yeah I have a pretty big stack of those) And make great giveaways in case I find someone to gift to.
Negative critique! HOLY MOLY! Sadly this is going to be expected online and in person! I have gotten quite a number of  insults One of my own cousins called one of my drawings the ugliest thing she ever saw. Nowadays I find most bad comments on my work to be quite humorous. Though for budding artists this can be a major blow. And I despise people who have nothing good to say about someone who is trying to bring beauty and happiness to our world. I love all kinds of art myself and rarely ever snark another artist unless by attitude they warrant an insult.(Yes I have met some pretty snotty artists in person and occasionally let loose) 
This is a great article thanks for sharing and reminding us all that this is a hard but rewarding path that few choose to follow.
Reply  ·  
JorgeAndre's avatar
JorgeAndre|Student General Artist
Great article, man! It always keeps me surprised when I rediscover I'm not the only one who've got these problems. Thanks!
Reply  ·  
jenninn's avatar
This brings me comfort. :heart:
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Xadrea's avatar
Xadrea|Professional Traditional Artist
:hug: glad to help!
Reply  ·  
Manda-of-the-6's avatar
Manda-of-the-6|Student General Artist
Agreed.

I find when facing the dreaded artist's block, sometimes quick drawing (gestures) of stock photography poses not only helps be warm up my drawing skills but also can be used as a learning tool to improve on proportions (particularly when it comes to human anatomy).

On the other hand, when I'm struck with too many ideas, I find writing them down (as fully as I can explain them) helps not only remember that particular idea, but work through some of the challenges that you might encounter with making that piece of art or to realize early on if you really want to invest time in that piece.
Reply  ·  
Xadrea's avatar
Xadrea|Professional Traditional Artist
Yes! writing down ideas is just as helpful as starting a project (sometimes you really can't start something just yet because of time allowances and materials ^ ^)
Reply  ·  
Manda-of-the-6's avatar
Manda-of-the-6|Student General Artist
Absolutely!
Reply  ·  
PatheticCreature's avatar
Not only do I agree with the journal, I totally agree with what you wrote. I do the same ^^
Reply  ·  
Maydony's avatar
Maydony|Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Thank you so much for this article^^
Reply  ·  
Xadrea's avatar
Xadrea|Professional Traditional Artist
You're welcome:hug: Hope it helped you!
Reply  ·  
StrawhatDShaina's avatar
StrawhatDShaina|Hobbyist Traditional Artist
thank you :)
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Xadrea's avatar
Xadrea|Professional Traditional Artist
:heart: you're welcome!
Reply  ·  
WilhelmTheloniousF's avatar
WilhelmTheloniousF|Hobbyist General Artist
Great journal, it's very helpful since as I'm trying to do something new, I'm experiencing a little block.
Reply  ·  
Xadrea's avatar
Xadrea|Professional Traditional Artist
:hug: I hope that block budges out of the way for you soon ^ ^
Reply  ·  
WilhelmTheloniousF's avatar
WilhelmTheloniousF|Hobbyist General Artist
Thanks.
Reply  ·  
Enemom's avatar
Enemom|Hobbyist Writer
I like how you geared this towards traditional artists yet many of the concepts can apply to digital artists as well. 38) 
Reply  ·  
Xadrea's avatar
Xadrea|Professional Traditional Artist
I try to be as inclusive as possible when I'm giving out general advice ^ ^ I know digital artists, writers and photographers kind of get pushed out to the sidelines 
Reply  ·  
TamarViewStudio's avatar
It's always immensely helpful knowing someone is going through the same problems as you and you don't feel so alone. I'm probably in the art block/too many ideas/too impatient group. I have a tonne of ideas to do but because I don't allow myself enough time I end up getting really frustrated and that leads me to doing little to no work. I think a lot of the problems associated with art are mental blocks that you have to work through (unless it's cash flow problem!) and sometimes talking through the block with someone can help a lot.
Reply  ·  
Xadrea's avatar
Xadrea|Professional Traditional Artist
Yep! And we can get in our own way so bad at times! I think a lack of resources (or the means to get them) can actually lead to even more creativity at times if you have enough time and patience to play around with them ^ ^ 
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