Becoming a better version of yourself isn’t hard. It doesn’t require countless hours without a purpose. It requires guidance, perseverance, and intelligence.
Countless are the occasions where I found myself trying to find an answer to this question. Sometimes it was me asking it, but in general, many of my co-workers and students would ask me this. How can I be a better artist?
To answer this question, I’ve put together a short checklist that will help any artist out there grow.
Surround yourself with people that aren’t afraid to tell you the truth, even if it hurts.
It’s common to see people accepting only positive feedback on their work. People that only tell you how good you are but won’t open their mouths when something’s not right are doing you no favors at all.
We all love to hear how nice our work is, how everyone likes it, etc. This is great. It will help you decide what people might like, but you need a different type of feedback to grow.
During many job interviews, I’ve been asked to criticize my own work. I wouldn’t have been able to answer these questions if I didn’t have a background of hurtful but true feedback.
Learning what you do wrong is the best way to learn what you and others need to improve, and this is vital for your career progression. If you know your limitations, you know where you need to put the work.
Get one or multiple “climbing” buddies.
This one is a great example of advice hidden from people. An old friend of mine, M.S., once told me this:
“If you have a friend that you trust and is willing to grow, use him to lend you a piece of climbing rope when he advances further than yourself. He’ll be able to push you up, sometimes even higher than he is. Then, it’s your turn to lend him the climbing rope. Do this often, and together, you will reach the peak faster and stronger.”
This metaphor for helping each other is genius. If you climb the mountain alone, you’ll probably take longer to find the right path and use more energy to do so. Another person next to you can help you with it as you’ll split the heavy lifting, which in our case is finding what we need to do to get better.
Purposely make mistakes and learn to fix them.
This one is something I play with a lot. Being a good artist means being able to solve many problems.
The way I understand this is like a Rubik's cube. You purposely undo it to solve it again. Eventually, you start to think the way the cube requires you to think.
The example is great, but how can I apply this to art?
There’s a couple of ways:
- Work on many different projects. You’ll naturally advance, so you will better understand what you did wrong in those past pieces. Now it’s time to go back and fix those issues. Revisit those pieces and bring them to your current standards.
- Grab work from other people. In marketplaces like Gumroad or Artstation, you will find other people’s work to be investigated. Some will not be perfect, so work on perfecting them.
Open your mind to new ways of creating.
This one took me the longest to realize. As I mentioned in other articles, I have always been very tight regarding my creativity. I only allowed myself to create either environment for games or props, weapons, and vehicles.
During the first four years of my career, this worked, as there was always something new out there to learn, like the introduction of substance painter and designer to our pipelines, but nowadays, I feel as if I had already tried every style out there, so I don’t see huge personal growth as I used to in the past.
The solution to this is simple. Grab something that picks your interest and implement it into your life as a hobby. In my case, now I write articles, and I can code shaders. Not every growth has to be related to what you do every day to be useful to your every day if that makes any sense.
Explore the roots of your craft.
I covered this in my “Is New Tech Good for You as an Artist” article. It is crucial to learn new techniques in the newer software by understanding how it was made 10 years ago.
For example, did you know texture artists used to create their masks out of photographs? It was a tedious process, but the results were outstanding.
Take this example from my very good friend Jose Artundo. He is a magician when it comes to texturing.
You can see how using older workflows. He was able to reach the finest level of detail.
I encourage you to investigate these methods, learn them, apply them, and migrate them to your new workflow. I made huge progress just by doing this.
The same can apply to lighting and modeling. We have super nice plugins nowadays that do a lot of the work for you, but if you learn how to model a complex shape by hand, you are investing good time in deeply understanding the importance of a clean mesh.
I hope this article was interesting. As always, there’s a comment box below so that I can hear your thoughts on this. I can’t wait!