...and often, you can tell the quality of an artist's work by the work of their friends too. We like to think of art as being a solitary practice, great for introverts, where the artist hides from the rest of the world and things of beauty spring forth, whole-cloth from their minds and their hands.
Not in my experience.
You've probably heard the saying, "Only 1 in 20 artists will succeed." I don't have the data one way or another, so let's assume that is correct. It's only half the equation though, because it is an average across years, and populations. What I've seen happen is more like this...coming out of art school, one year, there will be 5 break-out successes...and the next 2 years...NOTHING. My favorite example is the School of Visual Arts in NYC. In ONE YEAR, they had Dan Dos Santos, Tomer Hanuka and James Jean...but I don't know who graduated the year after. All three of those guys hung out together, looked at each others' work and were friends.
People succeed in clumps, because they help each other. When you have artists at your level but with different strengths working side-by-side, you pick up stuff from them. You tend to naturally compete with them, so you push yourself. When you formalize the process even more, good things happen. I have a group of friends who do a Google Hangout every Wednesday to paint and offer suggestions on each others' work....they have all gotten incredibly good incredibly fast. I honestly wish I was a part of their circle.
My friend Lyle came over on Tuesday and we went through my work from this year - and his comments and suggestions were amazing, I feel like I have a much better sense of what I need to do. At the same time, I've been helping him with things he's missed in his art. Even though it feels like we are competing, the reality is that when you form alliances and teams, everyone tends to do better.
So students - Find the best people in your class, and see if you can be friends. If you're learning on your own, still applies. All the people I look up to as heroes talk about the "glory days" of conceptart.org, where that same ethos applied online. Don't tell me "I don't know anyone who does art." If you're dedicated enough to put the hours in for yourself, you can find someone online, or in a community centre, or somewhere. It *will* help you make better use of your time, you'll learn more and you'll learn faster.
Oh, and should be obvious but - Don't find people that agree with you, or tell you that your art is great, or that you're a wonderful person, or that "We're all going to make it!" while they play video games. You should hurt just a little bit after you've met with this group of people. This is like gym-time. You don't want "A family" you want a gym buddy.
Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed and/or found it useful :) Please share and keep reading :)