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7 Nov 2013

Improving Your Skills as an Artist

As an artist, you want to constantly improve your skills and become the best artist that you can possible become. This is true of all crafts, and with artists in high demand in indie gaming, it literally can pay to always find new ways to improve your craft and become attractive to other indie devs. Or perhaps you want to design your own art as you design your very own game, yet you want to improve just a little bit more as you design the game of your dreams. Whatever your case may be, there are ways to improve your skills as an artist and fast-track yourself to success. Here are a few ways to achieve this.


Stop being intimidated by better artists

The feeling that someone is better than you no matter how hard you try to improve your skills is one that everyone hates. It’s a feeling that everyone experiences, and while it may hurt, it’s a good thing. Instead of getting angry at yourself for not being better, rather than feeling bitter about not being as talented as your peers, you need to instead use these feelings to improve yourself as an artist. Use it as a catalyst to improve yourself, and you will find yourself constantly hungry to improve your artistic abilities.

Besides, look on the bright side: those that are the ‘best’ in their craft usually find that their skills flatline due to no one around them being better than them. Don’t allow this to happen. Instead, embrace the fact that there are people better than you, and use these people’s abilities to strive for greatness.


Work hard, leave on time

Even if you are a beginning artist. Sure, there’s nothing wrong with working a little extra after core hours (the typical eighth our work day), but do not spend a ton of extra hours working on your project. Many beginning artists feel they need to ‘pay their dues’ by working long hours every day on one particular project. While this energy and dedicated to becoming awesome should be applauded, artists that take this route are going to find that they will burn out much more quickly than their peers. Over time, your quality of work will drop considerably, and you will find that you will begin hating your work every day. I don’t have to tell you that you do not want this to happen. Thus, the best approach to work daily is again to work hard and leave on time (and if you work from home, stop working after eight hours). After all, you need your rest and need to be able to approach your work with a clear mind every day.


Always find time for personal work

No matter if you are working at a studio, an industry job, or you are hired to work on an indie game from home, always, and I cannot stress this enough: always find time for personal work. You have to constantly remind yourself as to why you enjoy being an artist in the first place, and working on projects of your choice – projects that are your own – will remind you of this. Plus, it’s a great way for you to improve your skills as an artist. After all, what better way to continue to learn and gauge your talents than by working on any type of project of your choosing? In addition, working on personal work will allow you to build a portfolio, and this will help you the day you want to find a new job. Use personal work to improve your creativity, all the while using personal work as a way to ‘unwind’ for the day.


Provide feedback for peers

Take it from me: providing feedback to other artists is incredibly helpful in improving your own skills as an artist. I’ll give you an example. My knowledge of knowing what makes a game awesome and what kills a game was acquired when I began reviewing video games during my Senior year of high school. I found myself having to look at a game objectively instead of solely playing it, always striving to find the good and the bad about the game. In the beginning, it was hard, but now I find myself always noticing why certain games are developed in the way they are. You know how when clockmakers would look at a clock, and instantly they would be able to tell you why the clock was behaving in a certain manner? That’s how I have become with games on a much, much smaller scale (and my apologies for comparing myself to a clockmaker – those guys were and are geniuses).

By providing critical feedback to artists, you will find yourself learning all about art direction. You will find yourself learning why certain art is appealing and why certain pieces of art fails to make an impression on people. Going forward, you will be able to use this acquired knowledge in your own art, and your art will be better for it.


If you find yourself getting lazy, punch yourself in the face

And literally if it helps. I’ll be honest: sometimes I see my work as only a means to pay the bills, and the instant this thought creeps into my mind, I stop what I’m doing and write exactly what I want to write. It’s a great way to remind myself that the craft of writing isn’t solely to pay the bills, yet it’s my life’s work and should be lowered to simply one means to pay bills.

So too must you take the same approach to your art. If you find yourself thinking of your art as solely a way to pay bills, then you are going to find yourself getting lazy and taking shortcuts, and your work is going to suffer as a whole. Never allow this to happen! If possible, do what I do: work on a project that you want to work on the moment this thought crosses your mind, and use it as a reminder that you are living your dream. Be thankful for that and never degrade your craft as a ‘means to pay bills’ (although if you were to get any job that could pay the bills, a job using your craft is the ideal job).

In short, treat every single day as if it is something special, and watch your art improve!

There are many other ways to improve your craft as an artist, yet these are only the beginning techniques you can use to improve your life’s work. Treasure every day that you get to do what you love the most, and as stated previously, be thankful for what you are doing. Not everybody gets to make a career out of what they love to do, so use every work day to strive to improve your artistic abilities. From there, your skills will certainly blossom!

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