So I was talking with a friend of mine this week about frustration, and looking for signs of improvement in your work. She made the comment that she'd done a 240 page sketchbook and couldn't see any signs of getting better.
On the one hand, I completely get the feeling. Some days you just need that reassurance from your practice and your work that you are actually getting better....that never goes away, regardless of how good you are.
On the other hand - Never look at your current sketchbook for signs of improvement.
It will just frustrate and depress and confuse you more. Think of your current sketchbook as a single trip to the gym: You won't be better by the end of that trip in any measurable way than you were at the start of your workout. This is one reason why we keep our old sketchbooks.
Go back 5 books or so, and you'll more than likely see improvement....if you don't, it might be time to change up your workout....that could be one year later, that could be 5 years later, depending on how much you draw....but when I was a student, I tried for a sketchbook every 2 months, so a year would be about right for me.
(Incidentally, now I do most of my work digitally, so I go back to paintings from a year ago...same principle.)
When we are students, almost by nature, we tend to be impatient. We want to see dramatic results after every workshop, every drawing, every crit session. It doesn't happen like that...and honestly, you don't need to see your improvement. You're going to probably hate your work forever, at least to some level. It's never going to match what's in your head, and you're going to feel every mis-stroke deep in your soul. Looking for improvement, at least for me, intensifies those feelings of pain.
This artistic journey is the ultimate trust-fall. Just make works that speak to you. Watching your self getting "better" is like trying to watch yourself get taller, or loose weight on a diet. It will happen. It will happen in its own time, in its own way, and stressing about it will only slow you down.
Do your thing - spend more time trying to figure out what that is than if you are doing it well. Just like kids getting taller, if you do your thing with passion and intensity, getting better is a given.
Thanks for reading! Hope you're all doing well on your particular trust falls. If you want to see my particular sketching practice, please check out my instagram at the top of the page :)