Yaardvark by Meg Lyman
It is often said that if you like the art you produced a year ago, you aren’t learning anything. But not liking last year’s art doesn’t necessarily mean you’re learning, either. I rarely like what I produce. However, it recently occurred that I wasn’t doing anything about it. It took outsiders to show me how to break that cycle; how to improve and grow.
Dragon*Con is one of the largest fantasy/science-fiction conventions in the country. Nerds from around the world converge on Atlanta on Labor Day weekend, geeking it up with costumes, gaming, seminars, and art. This was my second year attending, and the first year I tried to get into the Art Show. I found out a few months ago that my “work does not meet the criteria” for the show.
I was sad at first, but became more and more determined to figure out why. The three art show jurors were top-notch fantasy artists and fabulous people; all three agreed to take the time out of their busy days selling art to give me portfolio critiques. I also weaseled critiques out of some of the excellent attending artists.
The short version: Ouch. They tore me a new one.
The awesome Larry Elmore says individual artistic knowledge progresses in stairsteps. One day you’ll be happy with your art, and the next, you’ll read something or talk to someone… and BAM! you’ve jumped up a step, and your work is suddenly full of flaws. It’s true. The bad part about that is the ego bruising. The awesome part is the motivation. Once you see that next step, you know you can get there.
In the hour I spent with these artists, I jumped several steps. They made me think about things I’d never even considered. Being a chronic overachiever, the ordeal made me feel sheepish and small. But they were right. And I came home full of humility and motivation, along with the realization that I hadn’t been pushing myself enough. Not liking my results was a good first step, but it wouldn’t do me any good unless I did something about it. I had been trundling along, satisfied with mediocrity.
The painting above was the first I completed after the convention. A lot more thought went into it than my previous ‘varks. I still don’t like it, but it tells a better story.
Get critiques whenever you can. Forget the ego bruising – bruises heal quickly, and the lessons will last you a lifetime.