I don’t write much these days but I have a few thoughts and a few favorite new resources to share. It’s been an interesting journey since I graduated in December and I’ve had a lot to think about in the face of many rejections and my own personal struggle with my ego, my desires, and other things I’ve learned along the way. But I have a few pieces of advice for some of you out there (especially if you’re in school).
1. Draw your thumbnails.
2. Distance yourself from your ego as much as it is humanly possible.
I had a huge ego before and during (and a little bit after) my college education. I’m not sure of its origins, although I do think it had something to do with seeing myself grow and improve so rapidly in such a short amount of time.
My ego led to a few things, some of which were positive but most of which were not. I’ll start with the positive: I applied to everything and had a general stream of thought which led me to believe that I could accomplish all things. The negative: I had a bad attitude, I carried a sense of entitlement, I tore people down, I EXPECTED to get into every show I applied for, I didn’t feel like I needed to go through the process of preparing for each painting I attempted, I thought I could begin photo shoots without any thumbnails and expect inspiration to take over, and I needed most of all to defend my very fragile but very large ego at any cost. That was pretty easy while I was in school because I had a lot of opportunities to feed my pride and a lot of accomplishments that led me to believe that anything was possible and that my art deserved attention.
Since graduating I have learned to think for myself and figure out to let go of my ego. I faced a solid year of rejections which helped me tremendously. Some of the feedback (similar to the feedback I received in school but was too busy protecting my ego to hear) was painful and mostly that my work was not very interesting. Typical. Boring. Etc.
I think those rejections are some of the best things that happened to me. Losing my ego allowed me to see what I really wanted to pursue: illustration and storytelling. I tried to learn a lot of foundational techniques during my undergrad but I realize I wasted a lot of time ignoring some things in order to protect my ego. Mainly, I focused on portraiture which came easier to me. I didn’t go outside to paint from life. I NEVER drew thumbnails, unless it was a class requirement.
I lost out on a lot of precious time working the muscles of my creative imagination and brainstorming by refusing to draw thumbnails. Since I have realized that illustration is a path I would like to follow, I have been drawing thumbnails left and right and the ideas come easier and easier to me. Letting go of my ego allowed me to start drawing thumbnails-I was allowed to be clumsy in my efforts and my boyfriend (who is also an artist) would help me tear them apart and find ways to make them more dynamic or express ideas with more clarity. It was a major part of my imagination that I ignored because I didn’t think I needed it-and now it’s exploding.
I’m not very good with this whole writing thing-so I’m posting some links to the importance of thumbnails. Their explanations will prove to be much clearer than mine, and they provide visual examples!
I guess what I’m saying is this: let go of your pride. It’s hard to try new things when fear is involved. I have learned in the past few months to distance myself from everything that people have to say about my work, whether good or bad. I’ve found that creating structured opportunities for critiques allow me to look at my work objectively without taking criticisms personally. I’ve learned a little bit on problem solving, but I have a long long way to go.
Some practical ways to distance yourself from your ego: distance yourself from opinion, find structured time for critiques with problem solving in mind, keep the goal forever in your brain that the next painting/drawing/print will be better than the last, paint and draw as much as you can and you will see how many times your paintings will flop, know that you will fail (FAILURE IS NOT A BAD THING), find people who are better than you can ever hope to be and watch them work, apply for a lot of shows and face rejection-you will come across it more frequently than you like, drawing thumbnails alone will reveal a lot of personal shortcomings. Probably some other things too.
Thanks for reading! Maybe I’ll post a few thumbnails soon as an example, or maybe not.