Photo by Austin Chan from Unsplash
Just last weekend I had a visit from my cousins and was drawing with the 8 year-old. It was fun to show her some of the techniques I’ve learned over the years and she was enjoying the idea of being able to recreate a drawing I did when I was in around 8th or 9th grade. She, however, was struggling and getting discouraged because she didn’t draw at the same level I did and didn’t want to keep drawing. First thing, it’s heartbreaking watching an 8 year-old decide she doesn’t want to draw because she isn’t as good as you, but it’s a place every creative has been. Discouraged that you can never be as good as some of the people you look up to and feeling like you should throw in the towel.
I think all of us have been in that dark place, and if you’re here chances are you’re still there or you’re looking for a way out of it. So what am I going to tell you that can make everything better? That you will improve, you have improved, and you will continue to improve. Don’t believe me? Take a look back at some of the first things you’ve created and compare them to the stuff you’re doing now.
In terms of continuing to improve, it’s easy. You just have to keep putting in the mileage so-to-speak on whatever it is you do. If you’re a designer, do daily exercises to practice creating projects. Make them up for yourself or use a client generator; whether for logos or general projects or even highly specific areas. Getting that practice will help you work through problems and sharpen your problem solving and hone your skills. It’ll help give you the confidence you need to work through roadblocks and it’ll help you gain portfolio pieces (always a plus).
If your an illustrator or fine artist, daily sketches are gonna help you. It’ll turn a lot of sketching into muscle memory and you’ll end up creating things that you didn’t think you could. It’ll also naturally cause you to explore your overall style so you’ll find what makes you happiest in your sketches. If the thing you like to draw is people, timed figure sketching is going to be so helpful. There are plenty of reference sites you can use to speed sketch. Use the internet to it’s full advantage people!
Painters will have a harder time getting in mileage because your medium is just more challenging, but you can do it too. Smaller painting exercises everyday, base sketching if that’s what you struggle with, etc. etc. Digital painters too, although it’s easier to cycle through digital paintings because you don’t have to buy paints every so often.
Point is over time with a lot of practice you’ll get so much better. If you don’t believe me do a 30-day challenge. Challenge yourself to work on one thing everyday for 30 days, then take a look at how much you’ve improved by the end. But also notice that you most likely built a habit, so you’ll continue to improve without feeling like you’re putting in dedicated effort to it.
It seems small, and it seems like it’s not gonna work. Being a creative is a vicious cycle of feeling like you’re not good enough and working really hard to improve all the time. And as cheesy as it sounds, it will get better.