A few days ago, a friend of mine asked me this question via Facebook. Bothered by the issue, he asked if it was too late to draw and if there was a certain age you reach where there’s just no point bothering.
Initially confused by the question, I sat down and proceeded to answer quickly, promising him a blog article about this touchy topic which must also haunt the thoughts of other aspiring artists in this world. You see, this friend of mine dreams of becoming a comic book artist. However, in the last few years he’s been working full time as a computer technician, leaving him too little time to draw. Or so he says.
Here’s what I answered to my friend:
Dear, it’s never too late
Unlike being an athlete or pursuing a career that requires you to be young and strong in order to excel, art requires no such thing. Can you hold a pen? Are your eyes good enough to see the paper in front of you? As long as you can do these two simple tasks, there’s nothing stopping you from becoming an artist. And if you want formal art instruction, there’s no age limit stopping you from returning to school.
The visual arts are wonderful for that; no matter how ugly, old or cripple you are, it does not matter. At all. What people will judge will be your work, not your appearance or age. So saying it’s too late is a poor, bad excuse to give up pursuing that field of work.
But I’m so busy…
Really, are you? This is excuse #1 I hear all the time from friends and acquaintances who say they would like to get better at arts. They are so, so busy… To that, I answer: “Are you really? How many hours a day do you work? 8 hours? And when you come back home, how many hours do you spend sat in front of the TV or the computer watching a TV Show or playing games?” At that point, most start babbling more excuses about how they need to “relax” after their hard day at work. And hey, I’m not blaming them; working 9-5 isn’t easy. If something, it’s a motivation killer and that’s why I decided to leave my job and work to my own. What their pretexts tell me though is that playing games and sitting on the couch for hours is more important to them than improving their skills.
I’m not going to start a debate about how good or evil TV is. I got rid of mine a long time ago and I never play games either. So my stand on the issue is pretty clear. All I’m saying is that if you want to become better at something, if you want to realize your dreams, you need to put some efforts into them. You need to MAKE time. Ask yourself: What is more important, really? Playing WoW or becoming the artist you always wanted to be?
Beware instant gratification; concentrate instead on long-term goals
Instant gratification is very tempting. It’s everywhere; in your TV, on the internet, on your gaming console… the promise of fun and immediate pleasure. In the end though, you will accomplish nothing if you don’t put aside some of it in order to concentrate on your long-term goals.
Becoming an artist, whether you are into fine arts, design, photography or fashion, isn’t something you can do overnight. As I said earlier, it takes time and dedication. That’s what scares most people away from their own dreams; so much work… why bother? Bother because you want to surpass yourself and fulfill your ambitions and aspirations.
My advice is to start small and increase your efforts with time. You want to become better at drawing? Then make one sketch every night. Devote 20 minutes of your evening to that. Start with something simple, something you like. Just have fun! Then, after a few weeks, when this new practice becomes a routine, set yourself goals; learning/mastering anatomy and perspective is a very good objective for artists of all levels. But it could also be getting better at drawing clothes, portraits, architecture, pets… anything you like, anything you want to get better at.
Minutes will become hours, hours will become weeks. Then after a few months, you’ll be able to look back and witness how much you’ve improved. Time and dedication, that’s all it takes.
You lack discipline? Go public!
Some people lack discipline (myself included). Some days you just don’t feel like working at all and it’s easy to just go “Eh, I’ll do it another day…” but then days pass and you’ve still accomplished nothing. Rings a bell? I know how that feels.
Some of us need a kick in the butt to get to work sometimes. The best cure to laziness and procrastination I found was to make your goals public. If your new resolution is to become a master comic book artist, open a Tumblr blog or create a DeviantART portfolio and post there your daily creations. When you start getting fans and followers supporting you, you will not want to disappoint them. They’ll become part of your motivation and you will not want to let them down.
Rome wasn’t built in one day
Don’t get discouraged if you don’t see immediate results; becoming better at a discipline, especially arts, is something that takes a lot of practice. Once you start drawing daily and developing your observation skills, you’ll notice changes though. Little by little, you will improve. I have yet to meet an artist that worsened with practice.
Finally, good luck to all aspiring artists reading this article. If you have any question I haven’t answered, please leave a comment and I will gladly reply.