Thursday, January 16, 2014

Making Mistakes

Lots of new artists get fairly good at doing one kind of thing, like an animal or a character,  and then become hesitant to do anything different because it always "looks bad".  They learned how to draw by formula and now they find breaking away from that formula to be very difficult.  The long-term solution is to learn the basics and the underlying theory of what they're trying to do, and then practice until it works.  But in the short term they have to stop being afraid to make mistakes.

I hear a lot of "I want to get better at X but I'm afraid of ruining this drawing".  Well, here is what happened to me that eventually helped me escape this thought process.

I used to be awful at inking my work.  Really bad.  I wanted to make comics and desperately admired black and white art like Wendy Pini's but my own lines were feathered and uneven and I always made mistakes that "ruined" the drawing.

So whenever I made a picture that I thought was particularly nice, I would not ink it.  I would put it away in a drawer and save it for later, for when I got better.

A couple years later I came across all these pictures while cleaning out the drawer, and I realized that they weren't very good.  My skills had improved, but the pictures hadn't.  They were "ruined" in my eyes anyway, without me even getting the benefit of better inking skills.  I reworked some of these pictures and because I had improved my drafting skills, I was able to make a better picture in less time.

When I realized that I could always re-do the picture and improve it, the disappointment I felt at "ruining" a picture started seeming like a temporary frustration, which made it easier to deal with.  Instead of putting away an unfinished picture and thinking "I'll finish it when I'm better" I started putting away messed-up pictures and thinking "I'll redo it when I'm better."  Together with some other changes in my attitude towards art, I was able to experiment more and learn more quickly.

The lesson I learned was this: don't be afraid of screwing up.  You get infinite re-tries.  And as your skills improve you will find your old work to be less and less impressive, so there is very little point in trying to protect it at the expense of improving your skills.  Unless that picture has special sentimental value to you, go ahead and mess it up.

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