Thursday, November 10, 2011

The "WHY" of Art

Here's a copy of something I posed to an instructor on a private workshop over at CGHub... it's how I've been feeling about art recently. I think I have a way forward now... cautiously optimistic...


It seems the "workout/regimen" paradigm is alive and well among people learning art all over the internet. Recently, there's been something called a Deathline Challenge issued by a couple of members of three very difficult and challenging one-year goals that you set for yourself.

I set some really high one year goals.... and broke them down by month, and then by week. I have several types of studies listed... and I have a weekly quota of "studies" to complete to take me where I want to go.

I started on this, but found that though I was really enjoying the work, I was taking too long and the quotas weren't getting filled.

So I decided to take a step back from all of this and think harder about the "why" of art. Why do it?

Studies are hard. Often, they're a mixture of hard and boring. Getting better is a nice feeling. But if you step back from art (like I have) and see what you've done in the past few months, will you like what you see?

I've been doing serious studies again since June of this year... and looking at my work, you see a mountain of studies yet very little work that I'm too proud of.

Why do I do art? Why do I care?

It's the love, like we've decided, right?

So why am I not drawing things I love--all the time?

This is the realization I've made--the cart is before the horse. Instead of thinking about study first, drawing  second... it should be the other way around. This means that my studies work for my imagination drawings, not the other way around.

An analogy would be working out in a gym versus playing your favorite sport. If you love soccer, and you go to the gym every day for 6 hours breaking every single muscle tissue down to try and get "huge"... when are you playing soccer?

Besides, do you really need to build huge biceps to play soccer? Do I need to know the intricacies of drawing eyelashes if all I'm ever going to do is paint impressionist paintings? (Maybe at some point the study would help..)

But maybe you can see my point of view here.

I can definitely see the logic in busting my backside becoming as "huge" as possible like some Arnold Schwarzenegger of art skills; but it wouldn't help my "soccer" skills.

I'm not aiming for a job as a concept artist. I think I'd like to do some humor-based graphic novels, and I would love to animate on a future 2D Disney movie. That's where I want to be.

Learning the figure is key; but if I don't draw figures from imagination, I'm not making mistakes... I'm not doing the "love" part, I'm not playing the sport. I'm sitting in a sweaty gym, smelling all of the dank air and not playing "soccer".

I do think studies (at least for me) have a very important role; but they should be specific to the problems manifested in the art that I'm doing in the moment... training an art skill in something I'm not working on is like getting huge biceps when training for soccer.

I'm not totally settled on this idea; but I think it provides me a way forward from here. It doesn't mean I'll be lazy; in fact, it means I'll get excited about drawing again and I'll do a lot more of it... like playing soccer, I'll fail a lot more, I'll lose the game a lot more, I'll fall on my face in the mud. But I'll take criticisms and work on my game when I'm not in there playing it.


  1. Thanks for posting this. Maybe this is reading into it too much, but I've been struggling with a similar issue for years, both in drawing and music.

    Personally, I find it stems from insecurities about bigger life issues, and not so much about art itself. The fear goes something like this, "Without the intense discipline, would I just stop playing/drawing entirely? Could I embrace the person I've become once I've surrendered to life, even if that went against my notion of the artist I wanted to be?"

    This is could be a different issue from what you're describing, yet I see how it might relate.

  2. Hey Austen, thanks for the comment.

    Yeah, that's kind of what I was going at, too. There's a worry that if you don't set a strict set of guidelines for yourself, that you'll wander too far off the path and you won't do enough drawing anyway.

    It is sort of difficult to do creative stuff every day; it takes a different kind of discipline... and it's not as easy to define as "do 10 Loomis copies and a hail Mary". There's not an easy prescription; there's no script on how to do disciplined creative work.