So after a particularly rough first semester at TAD that had all sorts of contributing factors behind it (many of which can be really boiled down to 'excuses' when I really look at them), I picked up a hair of steam at the end.
I still learned a ton from the classes, but am a little disappointed with the fact that I didn't do as well as I would've liked. During one of the final classes however, Marshall Vandruff, (who is easily the best teacher I've ever had the pleasure of being guided by) mentioned a book by George Leonard called Mastery ( http://www.scribd.com/doc/257928/-Mastery-by-George-Leonard ). I read it, and it has significantly changed my outlook on art (life?).
In this book, George (we're good buddies, totally on a first name basis) discusses how we all learn in a series of steps, or rising plateaus, and that many of us (most of us) fall off the path of mastery because we wind up tumbling off a plateau while we're waiting for the next tier. There are various personality types that contribute to different ways to falling off the path, but more importantly George gives tips to staying ON the path.
For me though, it was finally looking at it from that certain angle that just made things -click-. I've always known that hard work was the key to success and I wasn't going to get better at art without doing a lot of it. For whatever reason (read: due to the fear of failure) I just couldn't shake that little devil on the shoulder that kept pointing out that there were so many people who said they drew all the time because they love drawing - and there are a lot of times, (any time things aren't going well, which is most of the time by my overly high self-imposed standards), I just don't. I'd rather read an interesting story, or browse other art work, or research, or do things completely unrelated to art.
It's very easy to say that 'good' artists are 'good' because they're gifted, talented, etc. This is true, and not true. While it's come to my realization that there is only so much 'God Given Talent' that a person can stand on before they eventually have to work at their craft (my own high school art experience being a good example), I've come to surmise that there is still a 'gift' that some people have. The gift to truly love the practice of what they're doing. Doodling, sketching, observing... All the things we have to do to get better at art. They already love the practice part; the little failures as well as the little success. That is their only 'gift'. I didn't always love coffee either, why can't the love of practice be the same thing?
... Okay that's a stretch, but bear with me. Art is coffee.
Many of us love the prospect of the 'finish line'. I've always known and believed truly that there's never a true END to learning about art - but that doesn't mean I haven't always had this goal set forth of where I wanted to be artistically/professionally. I've been hunting toward that gold star, the badge of honor, the moment when I get my first 'big' reliable contract with a major publisher, or a piece in Spectrum, or an article in ImagineFX. I've wanted so bad to reach all those little tick marks on the way to artistic 'success'. It wasn't until this book and the subsequent little revelations within (both in my interpretation of it, as well as what's plainly written) that it really finally CLICKED to me.
So now I'm on the path to mastery. At least I'm trying to get on it. It's not going to be easy. I'll have to cut my way out of the winding path that's going nowhere and tear through some thorns of disappointment and self-loathing and failure to get there, but I'll break through. The difference is that for the first time in my life, I'm actually looking forward to the frustrations. Those little failures aren't just one more taunting being slung at me from the always-distant end goals I'd set forth, they're a reminder that I'm just digging my way to ward the PROPER path.
Already I've seen improvements in quality and confidence in my art. Now if something just isn't working quite 'right', I don't agonize over it once I like it well enough. More importantly, if something is working well, but I know isn't rendered perfectly, I just let it do what's working and move on. That's not to say I think it's perfect, but I've just come to realize that I'm not perfect, but I'm learning. It's silly to hold myself up to the standards of the 'masters', I'm not there yet. But with each piece I learn a little something, which each pen stroke I get a little more control.
For once I'm able to look at a piece, notice the things that aren't perfect on it, and say "okay, let's work on that next," instead of working something to death with this image of what I want it to be - without any idea of how to get it there. It's nice to enjoy the tough parts.
So here's to enjoying a cup of nasty, bitter coffee now and again.
...Okay that metaphor was totally not worth stretching in the first place.
Below: The piece I did in which I was finally able to let go of the little things that I see that are wrong with it because quite frankly? The image worked overall. Isn't that what matters?