What's working about your art? | SHW #6

What's working about your art? | SHW #6

This one’s going to be a pretty powerful one, so keep reading.

When we think of how to improve our art, most of us immediately turn to focusing on what isn’t working. Even masterful artists will tell you to focus on these things. They’ll tell you to look at some of your recent drawings, figure out what doesn’t look good, then work on improving your skills in those areas.

That strategy is okay. Looking at what isn’t working has it’s time and place, but I think we really sell ourselves short when we only focus on what’s not going well.

When we focus on what’s not working all the time, we train our brains to only notice the negative. When we do that, it’s hard to shut it off. Our brains will be constantly looking only at the negative and will often be completely blind to the positive.

This can lead us to delude ourselves into thinking we’re much worse off than we really are. It also prevents us from learning from all of the good we’re already doing but never realized, and it can even lead us down a path that isn’t right for us.

Lately, I’ve started to flip the script and ask myself, “What is working about my art?”

Before when I was focused on what wasn’t working, something that regularly came up for me was around rendering. I have always felt I struggled with rendering and showing form through light and shadow. I would focus a lot of energy on trying to improve that skill, but I never enjoyed the process and was making art I just didn’t want to be making.

A piece from December 2021. For me, despite all the rendering, the character looks very flat and uninteresting. I also find the rendering to be overdone and distracting in certain places.

But when I ask myself what is working, I’m able to see that I’m much more expressive with my line work and have an easier time communicating form in that way. When I show form through my lines, I don’t need to do it through light, shadow, and heavy rendering.

If I hadn’t focused on what was working about my art, I would have veered off in a direction I never wanted to go and would continue to feel frustrated about something I never wanted to be good at in the first place. Instead it was more helpful to look at what I was already doing well and figure out how I can apply more of that and continue down that path.

A piece I made this month (May 2022). I think the contrast and dynamism in the line work does a good job at capturing form and showing depth.

We all have our own strengths and weaknesses. If you’re really passionate about improving a particular weakness, that’s great! Do that if it’s what you really want.

But sometimes it’s not worth improving those things, especially when we don’t truly care about them and they’re not going to get us closer to our goals. So start from what’s already working for you and continue to branch out from there.

My wish to you this week — take some time to reflect on how much you’ve already grown as an artist and celebrate where you are right now. Then, pay attention to what’s working, double down on it, and keep going.

Have a great week, friends! Best wishes 💙

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