how to make real progress by stepping back
As an artist, I love starting myself on new projects. Starting is always fun, exciting and hopeful. The feeling of busting a door open and going for it is exhilarating. Keeping them going, however, isn't always as easy for me. After the initial excitement subsides, I feel a sense of frustration and struggle, usually because I don't know where to take the projects to the next level. A lot of the times, this turns into borden or self doubt, and then promptly ends in abandonment of the project - before it had a real chance of becoming something better. Then I find something new to start on. I realize that by doing this, I am not improving as an artist. I can't find my unique artistic style this way. Thinking about all the greatest artists I love, all of them seem to be associated with one or two unique topics. They explore the topics in thousands of ways, turning it upside down, then inside out, in order for their artistic expression to fully reveal itself. Such exploration makes them memorable, and I need to get myself to do the same. I need to stop the cycle of starting new projects and then abandon them shortly after. I am sure I am not alone in this, and I am begin to think this is an amateur mistake that could be costly to my growth - and yours too.
This realization happened when I was looking through my Instagram feed. I saw that I went through periods of trying one thing, then moving on to another, each time slight technique improvement, but my artistic style also appears confused and digressing. I lost my unique style that I had developed a long time ago. I wasn't even aware of it happening! It is amazing what we can discover by looking back once in a while, instead of always charging forward with blinders on. I imagine this applies to a lot of things in life and business - not just art. When we make a mistake however big or small, we need to take a step back and reexamine things. I think those discoveries are what will make us truly move forward in a meaningful way, hence my blog title for this month.
Then, I had an epiphany - why not go back to my old subjects and do them differently this time? I have been trying hard to look for my next artistic project, but to my frustration, nothing has materialized. This might seem obvious, but it is something that I have NEVER done before, even though I know other artists do. Taking a step back becomes essential in my artistic development. I decided to go back to something that I was doing a year ago, and I am going to do it with a whole new set of eyes and hands that I have trained in the past year.
If you read my April post, you know that I have been drawing and copying other illustrators' work in my sketchbook - to name a few here, James Jean, Olivier Menanteau (moon_mxtr), Camilla d"Errico, etc. My hand and my mind has grown because of it. I have always had an imagination problem. You know, that feeling when you open your sketchbook and have your pencils ready, but you stare at the blank page without knowing what to put down? Yeah, I have it all the time believe it or not. Ideas don't pour from me like many other artists do, but that doesn't stop me from trying. My copying exercise has opened my mind up to how other illustrators think. As if trying to get into their mind by way of their art, when I copy them, I get a tiny glimpse of that. Why they put certain details down, how they try to fill the blank areas with certain patterns, what poses they chose, etc. They are all so telling.
Putting all this together. I went back to my elongated figures as my subject and placed them in fantastical settings with strange creatures - all things I have recently learned and copied. I loved how it turned out. It was uniquely mine, but better and more interesting than before. I think I discovered a method to this madness - a learning cycle that works for me. My artistic journey isn't about pivoting, but expansive inclusion - picking up things along the way to add to my foundation. It is also a personal growth that I need. Most of the time in life, we have to suffer through the struggles and frustrations to reap the reward of finding the next level - in business, in relationships, in personal growth, and of course, in art. I am starting to welcome such process, and I can't wait to see how my art will turn out now!
Thanks for reading! Can this be applied to whatever you are doing? Please lease a comment and tell me about it. I would love to hear from you!