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I have no art 'goals' :(
5mo
Dan B
So, today is one of those days on the rollercoaster of artistic endeavour where I ponder the big questions... Where am I headed, what does it all mean, why am I at this point again? Here's the problem: I love drawing, I'm also starting to really enjoy digital drawing (no wasted paper, no paint fumes, no materials down the drain or in the bin). I understand the fundamentals and I'd say I'm between beginner and intermediate in 'skill.' But. I don't know where I want to end up and I struggle with thinking up 'bigger' ideas and goals. To make it worse I then see all the amazing ideas others create and get depressed. I love insects, creatures, comics, robots, sci-fi, fantasy, cyberpunk, birds, dinosaurs, anti-heroes, landscapes, nature, video game characters/worlds and more, but I have no idea which of those I want to dive fully into with my art, and because they cover such a diverse array of art discipline and style I have no idea where to focus other than wanting to be able to draw it all really well :/ I also don't 'compose' drawings because I'm always just drawing 'things' rather than ideas/concepts. Because of this, I sit here 'stuck,' not knowing what to learn next or how to structure my learning. I want to do projects (as Stan has mentioned a lot lately as an incredibly useful learning tool), but I don't know what of. I just sit there sketching insects and other things, but with nothing going over 30 minutes and rarely 'properly' finished. I thankfully just found Alex Huneycutt's (radiorunner on reddit) 'solo artist curriculum' mentioned in this thread (https://www.proko.com/community/topics/self-study-systems-for-art) which I think I will follow to continue to build skills and practice, but I don't know how i would tailor it as I don't have goals to tailor it towards. I would love some advice or shared experience with insights? Thanks!
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Crystal Blue  (she/her)
Thank you so much for sharing this, I don’t have any advice but I struggle with the same things almost exactly. Nice to know I’m not alone.
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Fioretin
Hmm…If I may, the way it is for me is that there are intrinsic goals and extrinsic goals. Intrinsic goals are things that come from inside you, like a love or passion for something. Extrinsic goals, on the other hand, are sources of motivation from outside you, such as money. Most people value intrinsic goal over extrinsic, and I do understand that there is a reason for that. After all, with intrinsic goal, you can keep doing the things that you like even if you face hurdles, and you derive more pleasure from it than if you’re doing it purely for money. Plus, art is a field that’s deeply tied to one’s passions and interest, so if you don’t have a love for art, then it doesn’t make much sense to study it seriously, no? That said, I think having an extrinsic goal can be useful too. It’s like… Imagine that you’re on the road. Your intrinsic motivator (i.e. your love for art), is the fuel that keeps your car moving. If you only have that intrinsic motivation (i.e. love), then you’re bound to go somewhere, but you probably won’t know where you’re heading until you get there. That, it seems to me, is your problem. You have a lot of passion for art, and that’s really great! It means that you have an endless fuel for your ‘car’. The problem is that you don’t have a destination in mind, so it feels like you’re driving aimlessly on and on… My advice is that perhaps you can pick an extrinsic goal. It doesn’t have to be anything grand like ‘I want to have a million followers on Instagram’ or ‘I want to create something that can change someone’s life’. It can be something small like ‘I want to make enough money with my art to live comfortably’, or even something like ‘I want to earn enough to clear my debts’. This goal also doesn’t have to be permanent. If you feel like that extrinsic goal no longer fits or you’ve already achieved it, then feel free to change it to another one. Like, if you’re on a journey and you decide to change destination while on the road. For example, my extrinsic goal is very simple: I want to earn enough to get a certain character I like from a gacha game. It is, admittedly, a shallow and childish reason… but what does it matter? It doesn’t harm myself or others, and in fact it’s what keeps me going and doing my daily Art Diary. The reason itself may be small and meaningless in the grand scheme of things, but that’s okay. It’s enough to have a reason; any reason. Intrinsic goals/motivators such as love for art is very important (because you can’t really do much in this field without it), but it’s also helpful to have an extrinsic goal too. Having an extrinsic goal (at least to me), is like having a destination for your journey, while your intrinsic motivator is the endless fuel for your car. Once you have both, then I’m sure you can reach new heights! ^_^ So is there something that you want? Like a job you want to get, or a sort of life that you envision? Or maybe it can be material things, like getting enough money for a game or a house? It may help to think about things you desire outside of art too. One exercise I found helpful is to think of yourself 10 or 20 years from now. What sort of life do you think you’ll be living then? What sort of life do you WANT to live by that time? Um, anyway, sorry if it’s a bit too long. I hope this helps! Hope you have a nice day, and good luck! :D
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Dan B
These are great insights, thanks! I definitely need to come up with some extrinsic goals (side rant: I hate gamification - i.e. extrinsic motivation - as a substitute for encouraging intrinsic motivation!) as a sense of having milestones. I honestly don't know at the moment what my 10-20 year goals are. I think once I've developed a bit more and grow in experience (I'm in my 40's, so starting a bit late. Well actually, I rekindled a childhood love of drawing recently after a 25 year gap...) I'll have an idea of whether I want to turn it into something profitable and where that might be (teaching, selling art, merch, something else!). I'm going to keep your ideas in mind as I progress so I can build towards those goals.
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Harmony Steel
Hi Dan :) We've definately all been there! I'm going to recommend you watch two videos I found recently which are all about NOT leaving your comfort zone, and the practical ways in which you can still improve within that comfort zone: Learn to Draw Better Faster: NEVER leave your comfort zone!  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FqZhb5hRs5g AngryMikko - Comfort zone is not the opposite of growth https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jkf3Vza1rfE You already know that you love to draw, and you enjoy drawing insects, so you could start there within your comfort zone and slowly build from there. Something else I'm reading in all your posts in this thread is how disheartened you feel when you see other artists work and compare your own to theirs, and again we've all been there - it's hard not to compare our skills to others. However it's not healthy or helpful. You are you, your artwork is unique to you, and you'd be much better off putting that time and energy you spend comparing your work to other artists into improving and enjoying your own artwork. Another thing I'd suggest is to take joy in the process! e.g. do you like to draw, then ink the drawing, then paint over the top? If yes you know you can apply that process to every artwork you create and then you can get into the "flow" state faster because you're not worrying about the process - basically your tools and methods are getting OUT of the way of your creativity which is the ideal approach. Figure out a process that works for you, document it step by step, and then follow it until it becomes second nature. Something else that has really helped me has been learning about my subjects. So for example I love to paint animals, and I also love studying them, learning about them, and writing all that down, then I can add that information along with my drawings and paintings of that animal. Pick a new animal, rinse, repeat :) So you could do this with all different kinds of wasps, bees, crickets, moths, whatever interests you. Sketch them in different poses and under different light. Sketch their body parts close up and jot down the latin names for them (very Natural History approach without the crazy attention to detail). If you aren't already doing so try to draw every single day, for at least 45 mins if possible. There is something weird that happens in our brains when we do that, I don't understand it, but it's like the more we practice something the more we want to practice it, and vice versa. So try to make at least 45 to 60 mins a day, and more time on weekends, if you can just to sit down and sketch. You could also use this time to work on a larger piece. I do this all the time, I get up every day at 6am and I draw/paint on my ipad until around 7am and each day I do a little bit more work on a larger artwork so with a bit of extra time added on the weekend I can have a good quality finished piece completed almost every week. Another idea is to keep a digital scrapbook of ideas that inspire you. They may be other people's work, reference photos, images with interesting light shapes or shadows, then when you feel stuck go to your scrapbook and pick something that jumps out at you and maybe create your own version or use it as the starting point for a new piece. You may never publish that piece, but that's fine, it's kept you drawing and it's provided you with important practice time to improve your skills. And finally, try not to worry so much about posting your work online or especially about what others think. There's a ton of negative pressure in doing that and it can lead to toxic productivity. Do any of these ideas help?
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Dan B
I love those Ethan Becker videos :D Thanks for the feedback, some really useful ideas there. I do generally get 30-60 minutes to practice, most days, usually at night. I think I'd like to get better at colour, but instead of being all over the place with my thoughts there I'll just try and build them on my comfort with insects/wasps. Scrapbook is a great idea to save those inspirations for later. I'm not really worried about having others like my work, I find it most useful to post online because it adds a bit of accountability to my practice, which I do have a habit of not staying focused with (i.e. the 100 heads challenge I did). I'm about to post up on doing Figuary, but rather than spam a thread for a month I think I'll just upload the images and after the first post do a summary post at the end (art journal feature soon I hope!). What I've also found is that just posting frustrations/moments of doubt and getting feedback is very useful for getting perspective and refocusing. Like standing back from your artwork for a minute to get the bigger picture :) Thanks!
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Serena Marenco
You don't need to have a goal at this point in your training, you draw what you want, how you want. Whether an interest will be predominant time will tell but there is absolutely no reason to focus on one thing, in fact it is better to be able to do several things rather than just one. Gallerists always ask for the same thing but, right now, are you interested in what a gallerist wants? By the way, if you are starting to work digitally you are out of their league. Don't worry, drawing should be a pleasure rather than a burden. :)
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Dan B
Thanks Serena. Thinking more on this issue I feel my problem with doing several things at once is I feel I'm just practicing 'comfortable' things and not pushing myself, because I hesitate to move the 'wrong' area forward and waste effort. I'm not worried at all about creating things others want or creating a portfolio for 'getting into the industry' (lucky with an interest in drawing wasps :p ), but it also leaves me with less resources to study (not so many insect master artists or anatomy sources...) and less incentive to push harder. I do enjoy drawing, but I feel I've been drawing on a plateau for a while and frustration is growing. I hope this solo curriculum thing helps because I also suck at structured learning and bounce around a lot. If I can follow this I can hopefully build on my fundamentals consistently to open up broader capabilities later with projects to test the learning along the way. Coincidentally, it was looking at some of your amazing animal drawings here the other day that both inspired me (I'd love to draw animals like that!) and deflated me in seeing how far away I am...
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Peter Anton
Yeah, my guess is you're missing a sense of purpose. You don't know why you're doing art. For example: I'm a teacher, and my purpose is inspiring and educating my students. In order to do that, I need a deep understanding of the concepts I intend to teach them. So what's your purpose? What's the impact you want to have had on the world when you are lying on your deathbed? I'd recommend finding some Brendan Burchard youtube videos on purpose and seeking clarity. His book "High Performance Habits" is also great
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Dan B
Thanks Peter. In one sense, yes I am missing the broader sense of purpose. I just want to do 'better' art, but the immense amount of work to get there makes me feel if I could slim down my direction I might get there faster... Going by the feedback here perhaps I should just take a step back and keep enjoying the process, the 'better' art will come in time. In terms of impact, I'd just like to create art that I enjoy seeing and if I try and sell it at some point, I'd be glad someone is interested :) I have no intention to 'work in the industry,' though teaching to beginners might be of interest later on. I'll check out Brendan Burchard, thanks.
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Yiming Wu
Hi Dan... I think we are facing the same problem, which is kinda like "I think I can do this but I can also do that and doing any one of them doesn't really full fill a desire" kid of stage... I'm not a very structural learner, mostly I'm all over the place. In my opinion if you are not in a place where you have to get to a certain level for job or any that kind of thing, it's cool to jump around, that's how you make new discoveries. Currently, my mindset is more towards a kind of "observer", this is not to draw in a strictly observational way, but to approach a drawing (e.g. a design of a composition, or structure) in an "observer" kind of viewpoint or attitude. This may not quite describe it but think it as if you are trying to "capture" a moment instead of trying to "describe". The difference is subtle but also quite substantial if you think about it. I'm not fully converted my mind over this, but I now categorize my drawing into two separate categories, one is for "I really want to capture what the feel a specific scenario provides", and another is for "sensational stimulation", which includes all the traditionally "cool" stuff like mecha, porn, whatever stuff. This way I can work better without one disturbing another. About the "finished" thing... Well if you find yourself out of things to do, maybe draw bigger, and try to capture as many details as you can LOL. You can never run out of it XD. And it's not necessary to sit and do it in one go, in fact a lot of drawings can't be done that way or your eyes are gonna quit half way. A good thing about doing some bigger practices is that you can do it in stages spread across several days, then each time you approach it you get a fresher view. The down side of this is that you get fewer "times of doing a piece", which when you are trying to do a study of some kind of colour or composition may not be a good thing, those might require you to adjust and start over quickly. I like your insects... You can do some bigger and more detailed ones, I'm sure you can do a lot of great work as you can use your own photo references for them.
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Dan B
Definitely a problem I share; quite unstructured and not planned ahead! I think that solo curriculum thing will give me focus to build overall quality while I experiment. If I get you right on being an 'observer,' you are talking about capturing inspiration, impact and ideas, rather than taking a recording of reality. I've just realised thinking on your comment that I tend not to actually look at things that way, I'm always trying to observe and measure to 'get it right' rather than letting the composition of the idea it has created inspire the drawing. I'm going to work on that! The 'bigger' thing is one of the prompts for this. When I draw bigger all my flaws come out and it's deflating. I know this is normal and a struggle for all artists, but it is especially harsh if I think about drawing something not so practiced. I also feel I'll be wasting my time (and paper!) on bigger pieces that don't turn out, which is silly but I can't help it... I feel that as I'm in the building on fundamentals phase I'm not up to bigger finished pieces yet. I guess I just have to stop the hesitation, but I don't think it'll be easy. With the insects I just struggle with where to 'place' them. I can't figure out what kind of world I want them to be in as I find just leaves and flowers a bit boring... I'd like to integrate them into something more fantasy, sci-fi, cyberpunk, etc, but of course that means learning other things and I'm back to the problem of being all over the place :) Thanks for the response, I'm taking a lot on board.
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