How to reach your art goals.

(Man, I'm loving these click-bait titles!)

Ok, first off, a huge thank you for reading and sharing Tuesday's post!  You guys are the greatest :)

I started to write the post on studying and improving, and I realized that I was missing a step.  Before you can focus on getting better, you have to know where you are going.

When I look at portfolios, I always ask "What do you want to do?".  I get back the following answers: 

  1. I want to work at Disney
  2. I want to paint Magic cards
  3. I want to work on a AAA game.
  4. Some variation of #1-3


Those are dreams.

A goal is something you can make a plan, follow said plan, and have a reasonable chance of success.  A better goal is measurable.  You might reach your dreams, but there are elements of them that are BEYOND YOUR CONTROL.  You could be the best artist for Magic in the world, and if you ex-girlfriend you cheated on and broke her heart is the art ain't getting work.  (Yes, there are things you can do to make your dreams more likely, but that's another post.)

It's very hard to improve when you are living for your dream instead of for your goals.  Dreams are by nature ephemeral and addictive...and they will tend to make you feel depressed and hopeless.  Because you can't plan how to get there, it can seem impossible, and therefore, you spend more time thinking about how you would *like* to work at Disney than in improving your skills.

My dream is to do concept art for a live action film, something like a Marvel film or Star Wars.  I don't actually think about it too much.  My top goal at the moment is to paint realistic and emotional sci-fi scenes that have a sense of place and story.  It's not a great goal - it is hard to measure, and it still relies on an audience...but it's still about painting, and it's what I try to think about when I practice.  It's something I can reach without getting employment.

It's a good idea to have several goals, leading you forward.  Mine:

  1. Draw 20 quick gesture drawings a day.  Each one should be less than 2 minutes of drawing.
  2. 3-5 speed paintings a week.  Each one should be 1-3 hours long, and should have a sense of place, story and design.
  3. A new portfolio of things I'll be proud to show by San Diego Comiccon
  4. Make a real video tutorial for gumroad before the end of the year.
  5. Continue to improve the integration of 3D and photographic elements into my paintings.
  6. 1-2 Photoshoots a month with themes, a model and props to increase my library of tools to pull from.

I really, really think it's bad to dwell dreams of the future.  I can't stress this enough.  Every person I've ever known who did it ended up....nowhere.  Dreams like that are like drugs - you get a short term high that makes you feel better, but your long term life suffers.  The people I know who suffered the most?  The ones that GOT their dream by luck, and then realized it wasn't what they wanted to do.

The other advantage of goals over dreams is they help you make sure you like the process, not the ego-boost or the result.  I had an animator friend who said she hated animating, but loved the result when it was done.  Guess what?  She's not animating anymore.  Do you love to draw?  Great!  Draw, don't worry about drawing for Disney.

There are steps to take to be successful in business.  They have very little to do with art.  "Lifewriting for Entrepreneurs" is a great Facebook group to talk about that stuff...but the skills you need to work on to get a job are often not the skills you need to work on to be a better artist...after base-competency is reached artistically, further improvement does much less to help you get a job.

I want to see you be a better artist more than I want you to get a job at Disney.  We need more great artists, we don't really need anyone else working at a studio.

Ok, now that I've clarified goals, and we're on the same page, I think the next post will actually be about some ways to use your limited time to improve your art as best you can.

Thanks again for reading, as always, please share and let me know what you thought!