As I'm contemplating putting up a blog again, I'm reading down through some of the very old posts and cringing at my own writing. I'm thinking of taking them down. But that would go against one of my own philosophies, namely that imperfection and failure aren't to be feared.
See, every artist hates their own artwork, especially if it's not recent. It has nothing to do with a lack of confidence, but because as an artist learns and grows, their taste improves, and their ability to see the mistakes in their own work and remember their own shortcomings becomes stronger. Those old pieces are still important stepping stones that helped the artist get to where they are now, even if they're... regrettable.
Therefore, while I'd love to delete every previous blog posts, erase every terrible artwork I've ever put online, and make myself look like I popped into the earth fully-formed and perfect in every way, that's just not true, and there's no use in hiding that fact.
So hey. If you want to read my old, terrible blog posts, be my guest. I'll probably hate this one in a few months, too. And that's okay ;)
On the left is a drawing I made when I was a young, anime-loving kid armed with Sakura Micron pens and no sense of contrast. But I did have a pretty solid understanding of human anatomy and form to have drawn that with no reference, so pat on the back Little Me. On the right is a reinterpretation sketch that I did this year. It was a quick one, but still shows how much I've learned in terms of composition and how to dress a character and frame a scene.
It's funny how looking back at old work can also give me a sense of pride in my young self. Despite the flaws, I can also see strong skills and solid abilities in an early state. It makes me with I could go back in time and pat myself on the back. But it also makes me feel a little uncomfortable. With the history laid out before me, it's easy to see periods where I improved quickly or really grasped and practiced a technique or principle that I may be rusty in today. Am I still improving fast enough and well enough? I don't have the advantage of hindsight for what I do today just yet. Am I where I "should be?" Have I fallen "behind?" Is my work good enough?
I think so. And I don't think so. Being an artist - nah, a human - is to be full of contradictions.
Looking back at old work and hating it, or looking at current work and doubting its value, makes me think about what I've learned about failure in the past few years. I used to be terrified of it. I was unused to failure and so badly prepared for it when it did happen that every small failure seemed unbearably painful. Then after graduating, I lost a job (no fault of my own, thankfully), failed to start and keep a business alive, became depressed and unable to succeed at the highly-scheduled life I had given myself, moved to a city that I hated living in, felt isolated from everything I had ever known and loved, and almost got to a point where I felt that life would forever and always be a huge failure and I should just get used to feeling sad and lonely forever. It was when I started to embrace that failure was a learning experience and had value that I began to take chances again, even knowing they might lead to more failure, and found myself in a better place.
In the course of a year, I moved to a great town, got a new job with wonderful people, found some new friends, had some new adventures, and now that I've settled in, I feel more confident in myself and my work than I probably ever have. I'm used to failure. I embrace failure. Every failure teaches me how to be better the next time.
In the upcoming couple of years I have a lot of plans, and I know for sure that some of them will fail, but I'm going to try anyway. I'm going to work hard for the golden nugget of success that will eventually come. I've already found a couple and am building my little dragon hoard of golden success nuggets even now.
I have a lot more I could say about this topic, but this blog is long enough now, so I will let you go back to browsing the 'net or thinking of hiring me to do a portrait of your puppy. Go make it a good day :)
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"You'll never stumble on the unexpected if you stick only to the familiar." -Ed Catmull