When Successful Artists Give Bad Advice

Vintage Illustration of The Pied PiperOne of the most successful illustrators in the world recently published a blog post that contained what I consider to be philosophical poison.

From what I can tell, this artist means well.

When I met him in person he was very kind to me and very encouraging. He is widely respected within the field of illustration.

Personally, I respect his work, his talent, his many years of experience and his passion. …but sometimes he just says crazy stuff.

This isn’t the first time he has shared bad advice with thousands upon thousands of fans. This artist often makes sensational, illogical and thus: irresponsible statements.

In fact, there is an epidemic of good-intentioned but bad advice spreading across the Internet.

Some successful artists unwittingly lead young or inexperienced artists in intellectual circles, into creative dead-ends, off of philosophical cliffs and into emotional ravines. (FYI: That last one’s a real doozy.)

In this post I’ll provide you with a list of questions that you can use to test the creative advice you receive so you can hold onto what’s good and ignore the rest.

Great Artist = Great Teacher?

Many successful artists are not also good teachers. …and that’s okay!

Bad advice is everywhere: blog posts, books, podcasts, tutorials, DVDs, classrooms and convention panels. And the more successful the artist, the more widespread their advice, regardless of its authenticity.

Today, anyone with a blog or a Twitter account can become a thought leader but few are actually qualified. So don’t forget to turn your brain on when you read or listen to professional advice.

Many artists are not self-aware enough to understand why they are skilled or why they make the artistic choices they make.

Of those successful artists who do understand their own process, few possess the ability or patience necessary to clearly and accurately communicate that understanding.

For scientific proof of this concept read Blink by Malcom Gladwell. (Buy the book through this link and a percentage will go to support ChrisOatley.com)

It takes a gifted teacher to be artistically skilled, self-aware and able to communicate creative concepts in a way that is accessible and relevant to anyone listening or reading.

Many successful artists don’t know how to do this because many successful artists are not good teachers.

(Side Note: It is for each individual member of this community to decide if they want to listen to our advice.  We certainly do our best to maintain the standards I express in this post. But we are all merely human.)

Some artists who are not skilled teachers wisely share their own processes and practices in a “This is what worked for me.” kind of way. That kind of insight can be very useful to us if we can figure out how to apply it to our own work. But that is our responsibility.

We should not expect every successful artist to also be a successful teacher. One does not have to be qualified to teach in order to share their own process and practices. However, in those cases we must take the artist at his or her word, understanding that his or her processes and practices won’t apply to all of us.

The “Advice Authenticity” Test:

1.) Ask “Why?”

If you can’t understand (or at least sense) the “Why?” behind the advice, it might be bogus.

If the artist is there in person, ask them “Why?.” If you’re worried about being perceived as stubborn or skeptical, ask this way: “Thank you so much for sharing your insights. I’m hearing you but I don’t think I fully understand. Why exactly do you believe this?”

They will probably be delighted and inspired that you want to know more but if they can’t or won’t answer you clearly, just be polite, thank them and forget it. If they talk down to you or act indignant, warn your friends.

2.) Ask “How?”

Do they speak in generalities? If so, you either have to ask them to be more specific or you’ll just run in circles trying to follow the ambiguous advice.

EXAMPLE: “You just want to try to get the perspective right.” or “Work on getting more of a sense of storytelling into your work.” or “You need to network.”

If you receive frustratingly general advice like this you can ask them to give you one specific next step.

You can ask: “Okay, I’ll make a note to focus on that. But before I go, what do you think is the one thing, the one next step, I should do to work on that?”

If they can’t give you one clear action to take, bail out.

3.) Ask For Historical Proof.

Has this kind of advice been true for centuries?

Has it worked for many artists over and over for generations?

Ask the artist sharing the advice for historical examples. If the artist is not available, then try to find some historical examples on your own.

If there are no historical examples to be found, the advice is probably B.S. The artist sharing the advice is irresponsible and doesn’t respect your intelligence. Warn your friends.

EXAMPLE: A lot of “inspirational” content fails to pass the historical proof test. Some artists blurt out statements that seem inspiring on the surface but they break down under scrutiny. These kinds of statements are illogical, shallow and unrealistic.

Don’t trust any advisor who acts like a superhero or tells you that you can become one.  Do trust advisors who live in reality and provide realistic, balanced, grounded advice.

4.) Does The Advice Apply To You?

Some advice might be true in essence but what if you can’t figure out how to apply it to your own work?

EXAMPLE: I recently heard from an aspiring Story Artist (we’ll call him Dwight) who is being mentored by a Story Artist at one of the big animation studios. Studio Guy gave Dwight some advice that put Dwight in a frustrating situation.

Studio Guy said something like “You shouldn’t talk about the story ideas for your personal projects with other people because it will make you tired of your own ideas and you won’t finish them.”  (It should be noted that this advice does help some people.)

What Studio Guy failed to realize about his own student was that Dwight is a verbal processor. To give this kind of “Keep it all inside.” advice to a verbal processor is like sentencing him to a creative prison inside his own mind. Dwight absolutely needs to talk out his ideas.

Dwight wrote me to express his frustration and ask what I thought about Studio Guy’s advice. We talked about it and he’s okay now. He feels free to dismiss Studio Guy’s advice in this area and he’s feeling good now.  …but that was a close call.

You can attempt to apply advice that doesn’t seem to fit by talking it out with friends or your circle of trust.

…but only do that if you really think the advice is vital to your own artistic growth. If not, you probably have plenty of other things to work on. I wouldn’t sweat it if I were you.

5.) Is The Advice Actionable?

Is this something you can actually DO?

Some artists with blogs and Twitter accounts never apply their advice or they just parrot popular mantras just to sound like they have something to offer you. But if the advice doesn’t empower you to take actions which lead to noticeable results, it is completely useless.

“Parrot” EXAMPLE: People are always telling young or inexperienced artists that “You need to network!”

But there are at least two major issues with that advice (which is why it makes me livid when I hear people give it:

  1. What does “networking” even look like in the real world? Nobody seems to teach that.
  2. “Networking” can be a huge, intimidating, awkward, controversial concept. Hardly anyone ever breaks it down to actionable steps. (But Lora and I will – very soon.)

This kind of advice is like a photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy.  It’s not going to be very clear because of the law of diminishing returns.

“Lacking Application” EXAMPLE: I used this example earlier but it applies here too. There’s a bit of portfolio feedback that has been popular in the animation space lately and it makes me feel crazy.

“Try to add a greater sense of storytelling to your work.”

But HOW does one DO that?  It’s so open to interpretation that frustration and overwhelm is an almost certain result.

Beware of meaningless “parroting” and advice that lacks any real application.  There’s no way you can take action with this kind of advice.  Don’t waste your time with it.

Focus on goal setting and taking action.

Bottom Line:

Almost all human beings have what I call our built-in “B.S. Detector” amd almost everyone’s is very accurate. Heed your B.S. Alarm when it goes off in your head (or your heart). It might not be insecurity or paranoia or trust issues. It might ensure your artistic survival.

Don’t assume that every artist who is perceived as successful is qualified to teach. Many are just sharing “What worked for me” and some are just full of B.S.

You have the freedom to decide for yourself. Yes, you need to be humble and teachable in order to grow as an artist and storyteller but beware of people who advise irresponsibly.

Comment and Share!

Have you ever been led astray by bad advice from a successful artist? What broke the spell?

NOTE: This post was originally created for my other website, Paper Wings. Thus, some of the comments are refer to both Lora Innes (my Paper Wings partner) and me.

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{ 79 comments… read them below or add one }

Sam Kirkman

excellent points Chris. After much searching and researching and looking some more, I can personally vouch for the both of you. Your metal has proven true to the touchstone and what you’ve shared has become valuable advice. As a sample of what else I’ve found which did not past that test;
When I tabled last year for the first time at WonderCon 2011, I slipped away from the table on Sunday to catch a panel on “Self Promotion and PR 101″ mediated by a well known person in comics. I felt something was amiss when he objected to my filming it to share with the illoponders. Why wouldn’t you want to your bread to be cast on the waters? Any way, My sole take away from that wasted hour?

“Fake it till you make it.”

❍-o

really….

I understood his point, you need to be confident in your work but…

fortunately this kind of miss info has been the exception. I am constantly amazed by the truly caring and sharing individuals I’ve met in my search for advice and inspiration.
As I’ve told you many times, what you do matters. Thank you for all the time and effort you and Lora put into this community. It isn’t wasted.

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Michael Mayne

I’ve heard the “fake it till you make it” stance a few times. One or two times, it wasn’t just alluded to—that WAS the advice. o_O

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Sam Kirkman

Yup! That kind of summed it up. Let’s all be posers and then someone will notice us. Pa-lease!

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Chris Oatley

Wow. Another perfect example. You are so genuine, Sam. You probably aren’t even capable of “faking it” and that’s a wonderful thing. See what I mean? General, parroted advice that contradicts the very essence of WHO the listener is.

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Jules Rivera

“Fake it till you make it” sort of makes sense, but it’s too vague and worded very badly. It sounds like your product is not a real comic, but a fake comic made out of ether and holograms, which is absurd. We make comics. These are real products. It’s credibility a lot of new artists are lacking, and that’s simply because they haven’t built a following yet (myself included, I’ve been rattling chains around the net for years and I’m still pretty obscure).

The better piece of advice would be to build your credibility. How do you build your credibility? Put out a credible product (a lot of us already do that). Promote that product either through online advertising or social networking. Show your work to other artists. Form relationships with those artists. Maybe even collaborate with those artists. Over time, with enough of that, you’ll have built your reputation, possibly even have attracted job opportunities, and then you’ll be a lot closer to “making it.”

“Put out product and self-promote until you make it.” No faking need be necessary.

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Sam Kirkman

Right on Jules! What we accomplish takes REAL effort. It’s hard work, blood sweat & tears kind of stuff. You can’t fake that.

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Jules Rivera

I think I kind of get what the “faking” thing is talking about. It’s about confidence. When you’re just starting out, you might not have confidence in your work. Heck, a lot of veterans don’t always have confidence in their work. However, it’s confidence that can sell an artist’s work. People will buy your products if you sound like you know what you’re doing. People will hire you for the job if you are confident you can deliver what they want. I’m guessing the “fake it” part just has to do with faking confidence until you are genuinely confident in your work.

Fake confidence until you have confidence. Does that make any sense?

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Tim Paul

I understand what you mean by Fake confidence till you have confidence as what they mean by fake it till you make it.

The thing with that is, it’s a toss away line meant to be more clever then useful. It might be good in an interview where you aren’t having interaction with people seeking advice.

So there’s better ways to get the point across. Like, confidence in yourself as an artist will make clients feel as confident in you.

When you see yourself as an illustrator and present yourself as an illustrator, that’s what people and clients will see you as. And each person gets to that point in their own time, on their own terms.

Until you get to that point, where you have that moment you say to yourself, I am an illustrator, just keep working at it.

That’s what I would rather hear then some clever line.

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Charlotte

Great post! I really like the point about asking additional questions to figure out what specifically a line of advice means. Sometimes I think I misinterpret advice because it’s too general. For example, I was told my art “looks too digital” once and mistook that for “don’t do art digitally. . .only use traditional mediums.”. I later found out that they actually just wanted me to add more texture and variations in saturation so that my illustrations looked more organic/raw. Took me awhile to figure that our though!

Also, looking forward to the networking advice. I’m horrible at it!

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Charlotte

Great post! I really like the point about asking additional questions to figure out what specifically a line of advice means. Sometimes I think I misinterpret advice because it’s too general. For example, I was told my art “looks too digital” once and mistook that for “don’t do art digitally. . .only use traditional mediums.”. I later found out that they actually just wanted me to add more texture and variations in saturation so that my illustrations looked more organic/raw, which could easily done by swapping out a few brushes and changing color/opacity levels. Took me awhile to figure that our though!

Also, looking forward to the networking advice. I’m horrible at it!

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Michael Mayne

Also, there’s nothing inherently wrong with looking “digital.” But if it’s YOUR desire to keep it from looking so, then by all means use those traditional-mimicking tools to their fullest advantage!

I see plenty of art that “looks digital” (because, well, it is) but that had no bearing on the quality of it. It still looked great. On the flipside, lackluster quality can be found just as much in traditional mediums. If you’re working digital, just make the tools work for you, just like you’d have to if you were working with any traditional tools. Either way still just takes practice and adaptation.

“It looks too digital,” really is too vague of advice, no matter what. Good on you for picking up on what the critic *probably* meant!

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Jules Rivera

“Looks too digital” …What? What does that even mean? Did your artwork have artifacts? Was it pixelated? Was it cel-shaded and the artist didn’t like that? Seriously?

The vast majority of coloring in commercial art is done digitally. Granted, there are ways to simulate a painted look for some things, it’s pretty much all digital. To say something “looks too digital” makes no sense.

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Chris Oatley

Perfect example, Charlotte! “Too digital?” What the heck does THAT mean?!

Is that just based on someone’s personal taste? (Probably)

Is it color? Texture? Line quality?

Who the heck knows?

Thank you so much for sharing.

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RobinofLeyLines

How do you guys always know the right topic to cover at the right time? Seriously?? Have you bugged my house? Are the headaches I have been having lately NOT stress but, in actual fact, the PWP chip that was installed in my brain?

Facetiousness aside, my entire Sunday was pretty much struggling with this, from both sides of the table. My biggest issue with vague advice, or advice that relies on “just have faith” logic, is that I’m left with this mantra running circles in my mind:

“If I was just better at (Networking/Marketing/Artwork/Insert Topic) then I would be so much more successful than I am. Since I’m not, and I don’t know what to DO to become better, my dreams are destined to failure.”

THAT mantra was my Sunday. I felt so overwhelmed and hopeless. I walked in the door, not knowing what to do with myself, and there, sitting in a bright pool of sunshine, were my seedlings for the coming summer garden.

I just sat down next to them and stared. Onions, carrots, beets, tomatoes, lettuce, squash! None of them are very big yet. Not all of them sprouted. But I planted lots of them, and I know that if I make sure to take care of them a little bit every day, that I will have a wonderful harvest in the Fall.

I reminded myself that the work I do now is seedling work. And not all the seeds I plant will grow. What’s important is to try lots of things, find what works for me, and cultivate the seedlings I do have.

I think I’ve learned more sound advice from my garden than any other teacher.

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Chris Oatley

I have a few gardening lessons that apply to art in my blog post queue. Can’t wait to talk to you about them at DCC.

As far as the mind-reading goes: Lora and I don’t haven’t invested in the development of any special mind-reading technology because just listening to you guys is much simpler. ;)

We pay attention. That’s why we always want you all to respond to our emails, ask questions, post in the comments, on the FB Wall, on Twitter etc… We are constantly striving to achieve the goal of creating the best art education you can find online.

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RobinofLeyLines

Well it is working!! Your posts always have a just-in-time feel to them. Even from day one.

Having a post on how you guys listen would be, for me, fascinating. I always feel in the dark when it comes to really understanding the people that connect with my work. I’ve gotten better as I’ve started to take baby-steps in being more engaged with my readership, but I still am constantly surprised with what draws people to my work.

In the past week I got two reviews, and both highlighted on the psychological and socioeconomic elements of LeyLines as their FAVORITE things. Never, in a million years, would I have thought that was of interest. In fact, I was worried those aspects were major turn-offs, but they’re in my story because I enjoy them.

Now I’m not sure what to do with that information! How do I get my work in front of the kinds of people that like that material? I have information that is more specific…but no idea what to do with it!

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Ben

It would be helpful to us if you would name the poison-peddler as you characterize him/her. You prefaced this whole post with compliments of the creator in question (to soften the necessary blow, I expected), so go ahead and say who it is (and spare us the poisoning)!

It’s very silly that you would be intimidated from naming the mere IDEA (nevermind its conceiver) that you find fatal our artistic futures!

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Lora Innes

Not everyone is right all of the time. The point of the topic is that we’re all sometimes wrong. So weigh every bit of advice you get. People I admire and who have permission to speak into my life sometimes don’t give advice that is right for me. But most of the time what they say is true and I take it.

Now if someone gives you bad advice often enough you probably want to stop listening to what they have to say. But I don’t think Chris and I feel that way about the people he’s referred to here. We suggest you weigh every little bit of advice individually and see if it holds up.

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Chris Oatley

Yep!

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Derrick "Captain Dutz" Utz

This is an awesome explination Lora!

Additionally Ben, there is something very imortant here; the person doesnt need to be named. If they named him we would focus heavly on just what this person says and not learn the fact that this is a skill set we need to develop to grade all teachers/artists…even Chris and Lora if needed. They are not trying to discuss this other person’s exact lessons yet instead showing us how to discern against bad info from many others just like him/her. The Wing Leaders are simply “showing us how to fish so we may never be hungry again”.

Great post team!

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Tina Burke

This made me laugh – my curiosity kicked in and I was dying to know who it was, too! But really, I love how Chris and Lora keep such a positive vibe in this community (focusing on building people up rather than tearing people down by naming names) and I’m happy for it to stay that way. I read the post as being more of a general discussion – there’s SO much advice out there to interpret and either take on board or discard – it’s not really just about this one particular artist, whoever it may be. I love that this post gives you ways to analyze it all, wherever it comes from.

The types of advice that overwhelmed me was about networking – blogging and “setting yourself up as an expert” etc. But there’s so much to know about being an artist/illustrator/author, we can never know it all – and I would feel like a fraud pretending I did. And all the blogging experts were saying everyone should blog once a day, or three times a week (or whatever their secret to success was) … and it had to be engaging, and of value to the reader, and not too long, and with a snappy headline … and… and… and…

It was all a bit stressful, and not “me” – and I just didn’t have the time to commit to all that. So now I’ve decided to blog when I have something to say, or something to share, and spend more time focusing on my illustration work – which is my priority at the moment. I know that’s not the greatest networking strategy, but it’s a more comfortable fit for me right now.

Having said that – I look forward to your networking post!

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RobinofLeyLines

Yes, yes, and YES!

I’ve had the same experiencing with the “Networking” issue. My current thought is that there must be a way to cover most of the bases in a general way, and focus time on only the ones that match my personality. Still trying to figure out what tools are out there to make it all work tho…Eager to hear/see this Networking topic Chris has hinted at.

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Chris Oatley

Yeah, Robin. It’s about authentic relationship… …not the size of your “network.”

When have you ever met a human being who preferred to be a number or a “contact” rather than an individual?

You’re right on.

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Chris Oatley

Tina, I forgot about the “blog every day” myth. Don’t even get me started on that. I just went off the other night when a friend told me she had been told to do that. She was wearing out her audience AND herself!

Here’s something that has been true for generations upon generations: QUALITY is better than QUANTITY! What a novel concept, right? (sarcasm)

You are right on. I’m so glad you didn’t fall under the daily blog spell. (Not that there’s not EVER a time to blog daily… …if you’re Smashing Magazine or Life Hacker etc.)

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Chris Oatley

Hey, Ben.

No benefit would come from naming names because even if I did single out one individual, the problem doesn’t go away. We all still need to turn our brains on and put the advice of others through the authenticity test.

You’ll receive all sorts of bad advice from all sorts of people and you need to be able to discern for yourself how to detect it.

Plus, I wouldn’t want someone to name me in that way if I said something really stupid (Lord knows I have said more than my share of stupid things before). I’d just want them to talk through it with me.

I certainly don’t want to damage this artist’s career because, as I said, he means well. There’s just a consistent pattern of irresponsible advice coming from him. …but he’s not the only one, of course.

If you really use your noodle and exercise persistence and patience in your own artistic growth, you’ll be fine.

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Melissa

This is such a good post!
I ran into several great artists who couldn’t teach in college. Obviously these professors are good at their craft,you could look at their work, or go to one of their many shows.

But once they got into the classroom, it was a different story! These artists are the same in the “real world” as they are in the cocoon of art school.

As stated above, its always good to be as objective as possible when you are listening to an artistic hero talk at a con/twitter. Its easy to put aside any critique of their advice because you admire their work so much.

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Chris Oatley

Yeah. Many great artists have wonderfully helpful insights that they want to share. Sometimes you have to help them get it out of their heads though. I bet they’ll be appreciative if you do so in a respectful way.

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Michael Mayne

This is actually helpful advice for the teachers as well.
I just teach a few adjunct classes from semester to semester, and I don’t really have room for “this is just the way I do things” in that scenario, as I teach very fundamental classes. I have to be as succinct and clear as possible up front, since I like to spend more time going around to each student individually and help them grasp any of the loftier concepts in their own way. The more I teach these classes, the better I see which of those ideas are better addressed along with the initial demonstrations (some of those answers to “why” questions).

Still, I admit that sometimes I have floundered in the presentation while going over some of these fundamentals. I just get caught up in trying to feed them as much as I can that I start taking shortcuts that I’m familiar with, but they’re not. And I think that’s where many “teachers” or artists just trying to give advice misstep—it may not be out of some arrogant desire to proclaim at all; sometimes artists who are in a position to pass along their experience simply have not broken down their methods in a long time and indeed have just become so accustomed to the shortcuts themselves that they forget that they ARE shortcuts.

A couple of times (thankfully just a couple!) I’ve had to return to the next class meeting and deliver a recant of the previous board demonstrations with a more broken down process and an extra print-out or two just to make things as clear as possible. What’s great is that I always have a few students who aren’t afraid to ask questions (which I routinely encourage) so even on days where I feel like too many of the important details are going over peoples’ heads, I can still fill in some of those gaps on the spot.

Of course, I always enjoy a good fan-to-artist conversation at a convention, whichever side I’m on! Last year I even recommended Paper Wings to a number of people I had lengthier discussions with, not just for the advice from Chris and Lora, but because there’s such a synthesis of ideas within the comments sections of each post. Nobody here is saying, “THIS way is the ONLY way;” instead everyone here is open to further exploration, genuinely fostered by the Wing Leaders (when did that one get coined? I like it!). This isn’t just a great place to learn; it’s a great place to START learning (which is even better, I think)!

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Chris Oatley

Incredibly well-put, Michael.

I once heard Ed Catmull (Pixar Leader and one of the forefathers of computer animation) say something to the effect of ‘Statements that give us the sense of being satisfied with ourselves, that we’ve finally found the answer are of no use to us. Useful statements create further questions.’

That is in no way a direct quote but the essence is there.

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Jules Rivera

Apparently, one big, fat wad of crappy advice I’ve been getting is (as we’ve explored last week): Working on a pitch? GENRE MIX! (“It’s Star Wars meets Sin City” or something lame like that)

Now that I’ve taken the time to really weigh this advice, I realize how truly dumb it really is. It’s bad because it doesn’t allow the audience you’re pitching to really connect with the story you’re selling on a human level. Even really good stories can be royally borked up with this kind of pitching. Case in point – Saga. Somehow, this blurb has surfaced to pitch this comic:

“Star Wars-style action collides with Game of Thrones-esque drama in this original sci-fi/fantasy epic for mature readers…”

Ugh…the marketing bonehead came up with that needs a serious flogging. This statement takes an otherwise great comic and reduces it to a series of buzz words. It’s obnoxious and it’s banking on a Pavlovian response to things like “Star Wars” and “Game of Thrones” most people won’t have. Also, the real sell to Saga is that it’s a story of love through adversity. That’s the human connection.

As a further exercise, I tried a similar pitching method to write my links page: http://www.valkyriesquadron.com/links/ Find the human element, showcase the conflict.

Bottom Line: 1) Sorry for hijacking this post to talk about a previous podcast’s advice but genre mixing to pitch really IS a bad piece of advice. 2) Fine tune your B.S. detector. If it sounds illogical and stupid, it is.

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Chris Oatley

Excellent summation, Jules! AND I’m SO glad that you applied it to last week’s post. Real-world examples are one of the best ways to communicate. In fact, our conversation about the Genre-Mix pitching method was one of the things that helped create this post.

Please let us know if you discover any other Pervasive B.S. feel free to share it here so we can all beware.

I’d like to just quote you one more time for reinforcement: “Fine tune your B.S. detector. If it sounds illogical and stupid, it is.” I would add “frustrating” to “illogical and stupid.” Good teachers/ communicators don’t usually FRUSTRATE the people they are teaching.

Sure, they aren’t perfect, but you can usually tell when they are getting at something legitimate and thoughtful as opposed to just parroting or being reckless.

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Lora

Good teachers EQUIP and make CLEAR.

Actionable steps are helpful. A lot of people have great success because they are insanely talented, and that rises to the surface. But that’s not repeatable. Now the things they did to grow, refine and harness that talent? Those are the things you can put into practice.

“Learn to draw better” is not actionable. “Begin to take a figure drawing class” or “study perspective drawing” IS.

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Michael Coronado III

I haven’t been led astray on a personal basis, but I think lots of us at one point or another hear someone else’s success and think we can create the same scenario for ourselves. This happens a lot when you hear those “‘Company’ The story or how this guy and that guy made this” we hear these stories and side track ourselves sometimes to try and recreate a path that no longer exists.

The simple advice I’ve been following from industry people now is to do your own work before work for someone else (on spec) so you won’t feel like you’ve wasted time if relations break down or reality hits you that you’d rather be drawing robots but you agreed to draw someone’s cowboy epic.

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Chris Oatley

Yeah, Michael. Jeffrey Katzenberg said something like this in a Q&A one time. He talked about how you have to find the common truths in these various success stories. For example, what do Steve Jobs and Michael Jordan have IN COMMON? Persistence is one thing. And that’s something that has been true, effective advice… …forever.

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Jake Ekiss

I’m very thankful I haven’t had one of these experiences, but I do know those that have. It’s always depressing to see an artist get steered down a path that’s just flat unhelpful, or that is completely geared to a different kind of artist. It makes for frustration on everyone’s part.

Really, I was incredibly spoiled by my first critique and continue to be so every time I get a refresher from the same individual (Brian Stelfreeze, in case anyone sees him at a show). The experience I have had is of meeting plenty of other artists who have far more art skills than they do instruction ones. It’s not that they don’t have decent advice, but they are often incapable of articulating it succinctly and clearly. With Brian, anyone who has met him knows the man has a gift for instruction, and thus an hour or two with him has (literally, in my case) taught me more than entire semesters of formal education on the same topics.

A lot of artists can point out flaws and might even have a pithy inspirational quote about their process. That said, it’s rare to find someone who can see where you’re going wrong, and then give you a process that will allow you to fix it.

Then there’s the hidden danger, the artist who is stingy about their knowledge intentionally, either out of misguided fear of competition or simple arrogance. I’m sad to say I’ve met these types too. I’ve seen guys at cons who talk about how they won’t share what materials they use because they don’t want everyone else to go out and start using it “buying up the supply”.

Then there’s another type, the ones that don’t really believe art is a skill set that can be learned, but who rather treat it as a “talent only” affair. I’ll say flat out, that’s a dirty lie. While there are people who do have natural aptitude, the notion that art, writing or storytelling are somehow unrelated to practice, technique and research is pure fabrication. Yes, some folks have natural aptitudes. But to make a sports analogy, those are the Olympic marathon runners. Just because you aren’t the fastest man in the world doesn’t mean you can’t learn how to do a respectable 5k. Talent is the last inch that takes a person from good to great or great to amazing, but there are plenty of people, dare I say, most, who claw their way up to great from scratch.

I suppose I can’t add much more than other things to look out for, and perhaps attitudes to avoid, but hopefully it’s constructive to the conversation at hand.

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David Wilson

There are some wonderful things being said and it
s evident that we’ve all received both good and poor criticisms.

One thing that has helped me get the most from BAD criticisms, when it’s apparent the critic can’t articulate well, is accepting that something didn’t FEEL right to the viewer. Asking a couple more questions helps to pinpoint what it is that feels wrong. From that point I can figure out how to clarify my initial intent, eliminate distractions, and/or or correct technical mistakes.

There is value to be had in 90% of the feedback given, even if it’s the realization that an individual doesn’t connect with you well yet.

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Chris Oatley

Great stuff, D-Dubs. This is a way to test those “feelings” and impressions.

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Eric S

Most of the time when I reach out and ask for advice from an artist I admire they only have the vague things to say. I’ve found that taking it with a grain of salt and trying to apply it as best I can has been my best option thus far.
Though I keep hearing the “Fake it ’till you make it” mantra from a lot of people.

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Chris Oatley

Good point, Eric. What kinds of “tests” do you do in order to find the gems inside the vague statements? I’d love to know your thoughts on that.

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Eric S

An example off the top of my head is: “The shading in this one is off/needs work.” I’ll take that statement and try to look at the piece in a different light (Like upping the contrast and make it all Frank Miller style to see if I used the negative space right for the shadows) or take it into Photoshop and change the direction of the light source or do a quick search for some references in movies/photos of similar lighting and see where I screwed it up. Takes some extra time but it helps me when I have to figure it out on my own since they can’t give a specific example for me to focus on.
Though, I will say that after I finish a piece I will rarely, if ever, go back and actually fix a picture. I generally will apply the lessons learned in the previous and try to make the next one even better. ^^

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Tegan Clancy

Sometimes the way to sort the good advice from the bad is to receive multiple critques. The sound advice is generally overlaped between critiques and the random advice can then fall to the side!

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Lora

This is the truth! Though sometimes there is the one person who just shoots straight when no one else has.

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Tegan Clancy

Too true! Sometimes you can’t go with numbers, you need to go with your gut instinct of noticing a straight shooter!

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Michael Mayne

On the opposite end, isn’t it kinda funny how we’ll happily take a vague compliment, probably more so than an articulate critique?

On that note, while you don’t want to simply go fishing for compliments all the time, knowing specifically what your perceived, current strengths could be just as beneficial as knowing where you’re missing the mark. While you’re working at addressing your weaknesses, strengthening your strengths is always on the table too. Never become complacent!

So, I guess… read into words of accolade and appreciation you receive as well. Find where those cross-over and use that knowledge to your advantage as well!

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Sly

I couldn’t disagree more. Vague compliments annoy the hell out of me. “Nice work,” “ooh, so pretty!” “I like it.” I hear it all the time, and I’m sorry, but I didn’t put 50+ hours into a painting so you could put a gold star on it and make me feel accomplished. I feel accomplished because I finished it, and now what I really need to know is does it reach through the void and touch you in some way? I was going for a reaction in particular, and I actually need to know what your reaction WAS. “It’s pretty” does not tell me if it made you smile, or if it made you feel nostalgic, or if you just like those colors in particular. Frustrating as hell.

I once got a critique on DA where the guy apologized that he had to put a low-ish score under “Originality” to be honest. And I couldn’t thank him enough.

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Chris Oatley

Sly,

You don’t have to take my advice, but it sounds like these people are just trying their best to be encouraging. I don’t think you can fault them for that.

Not everyone is in touch with their own reactions to a piece of art. …especially not enough to be able to articulate it in a way that is sophisticated enough to suit your own personal preferences.

Try not to let it frustrate you when people give you general compliments. Just embrace their attempts to encourage you and just say “Thank you.”

Thoughtful, constructive criticism is really hard to formulate as is detailed in this blog post and these comments. …it’s especially hard to formulate on-the-fly.

My advice: Give ‘em a break, relax and divvy up your expectations according to the source. You will have very few people in your life to whom you can turn for thoughtful, constructive criticism. And that’s okay. It’s about quality, not quantity. Don’t expect Jedi wisdom from anyone. Just embrace the surprise when you DO receive Jedi wisdom from someone. …and apply it.

Does that make sense?

Not trying to lambaste you. Just trying to help clear any fog away that might be there.

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Sly

I’m always courteous and say “thank you.” But it’s very frustrating because there’s really no one I can turn to for an actual critique. Even when I took a freaking art tutorial in college, one on one, just me and the professor and my work, the professor couldn’t be bothered to critique it (and yes, I know he’s a bad professor, but I didn’t have a choice). He just said things like “oh, if you did different panels on different pieces of paper, that would give it a variety of texture” and “you’re female, shouldn’t you be interested in women’s studies?”

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leucome

You are skilled enough so that those guys just don’t know why they like your work.
So I looked and your perspective is good you lighting is really good and your proportion are good. The forehead seam to small or whole facial feature are to big but maybe it’s an artistic choice, mouth are often similar. I don’t like some pose but it do not look like a mistake. I think maybe you can let more white space between word and speech bubble to improve readability.
Maybe you can use foreshortening more often.

So overall i make me think that i must work more on lighting and background for my own work.

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Chris Oatley

Oh lord. That’s painful to even think about. Well, I’m glad that’s over for you.

Just hang in there and take your time. I bet you can form a circle of trust here at PW that will create a very different experience.

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Michael Mayne

I wouldn’t say I get upset with those kinds of comments. And I don’t just brush them aside. I still appreciate them, but a comment that mentions what the viewer specifically liked is genuinely helpful, and something I’m really going to value (for its rarity, for starters).

And as Chris noted, “It’s about quality, not quantity.”
When you do get a gem of a compliment, make it just as important to your creative process as a hard critique. And vice versa! =)

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Scott Wiser

What a great topic to have on my mind today! Great comments everyone … mine are especially in harmony with Michael Mayne’s below.

There is all sort of information …. erroneous and equally enlightening all around us. I’m starting to find a balance to sort through it, and I’m definitely going to add you approach, Chris, to my arsenal.

I had a mentor who at first I thought was very harsh. He tore my work apart and I wasn’t sure how to react. Fortunately I came across a former student who praised this mentor’s style as “no nonsense.” So I changed my attitude and actually begged him to help me knock out my bad work and get to the good stuff. He turned out to be the mentor I wished I had earlier in my education … full of knowledge! And he really help me push my work to the next level.

But on the flipside, as I’ve continued studying and working, I’ve seen how alot of the things he told me (while tons of it was great) was not actually accurate … and by abandoning some of those ideas, my work has risen in impact on my general audience.

So now my goal is to definitely listen and thank them like you mentioned … and then to just carry on, do my best, and find my artistic powers as best I can. If I ever feel inhibited, it is usually because of an erroneous thought pattern, which I now have methods in place to deal with those …. And I carry on, making my art better and better.

Thanks to this community of wingerz, improvement isn’t just a goal – it’s a result of harder, smarter practice!

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Michael Dambold

This is a wonderful post. I recently had to grapple with this issue. In school I spoke to a professional who gave me some very, clearly bad advice. At the time I knew it wasn’t good, but I didn’t know how BAD it really was. Unchecked, I realized it had been affecting me for years, concerning my stylistic approach to the works I had created. I guess the key is to understand bad advice AND critiques as well!

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Chris Oatley

What was the advice, Michael? If you don’t mind sharing…

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S-Morishita

Like so many of the other people that posted here this post really opened my eyes to a few different situations that I have been in and now I understand how to handle it a lot better.
The first issue was when I was in school and the bad advice that my teacher said was, well it was more so what she did. Instead of showing me what she was talking about or getting a paper to show me an example she used my own paint brush and painted on my artwork. I sat there in shock but since she was older than me I couldn’t yell at her so I was stunned and I still can’t get that out my mind to this day. I don’t hate her for it at all I’m just shocked that she would paint on my work instead of showing me a different way and I learned from then on not to draw on someone else work, I think what she did was bad advice for the other students around because I’m sure some one might have thought that if she’s doing it then it would be okay for them.

I won’t really talk about the other person because they aren’t really an artist so I shouldn’t have listen to them, or at least I don’t believe I should have, because I haven’t seen any of their work or what they accomplished with their own two hands in the art field, well besides some doodles but that’s really it. I just wanted to say that this post and many of the others really helped me and I am constantly telling others about your site and linking you to however many artist that struggle with story telling or networking/marketing their comic. Please keep making these post. I’ve been able to get over my discouragement of not going down the working in disney or dreamworks path and just do what I love to do and that’s comics. *Not saying that going down that path is bad, over time I just wanted to do something else ^^* I’ve felt bad about that for a very long time because that’s what I thought I wanted to do and so many other people we’re saying I should but I realized that I love comic’s more and this site has really helped me to grow so much more as a comic creator and confident artist! Thank you again so much!!

*Also I always use Chris as an excuse for my mom to not get upset that I chose to go this way, I’ll say “Oh this guy who works at Disney, his name’s Chris, said this, this and that about comics and then he said this.” I think that really helps reassure her that I’m not wasting my time with comics but that it’s a serious and good thing :D*

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Chris Oatley

Thank you so much. This is just so encouraging. Welcome to the comments! You’ll definitely find even more encouragement and help here!

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Sam Kirkman

You know Sharean, you made me think of a similar experience of mine in Art school. Although my reaction was different. It was during a foreign study program in Lacoste

http://www2.scad.edu/academic/offcampus/scadlacoste.cfm

That summer in the South of France was for me the most incredible experience. I don’t mention it much for fear of sounding privileged, but it truly was a turning point for me.
Lacoste is a medieval village in Vaucluse Provence, near Avignon. The village is dominated by the ruins of the Chateau of the Marquis De Sade and filled with the light that inspired the impressionist. It was only a month, but what a month!
Bernard Pfriem established the school there in 1970 in association with Sarah Lawrence College and the Cleveland Institute of Art. He was a great man. I remember the evenings spent, under the stars on his terrace, smelling the scent of burning mosquito coils and listening to his wonderful lectures. I’m sorry for rambling, I share this with you because I just wish I could take you all there. I learned so much. Anyway…
He was my drawing professor and it was during a life drawing session under his tutelage that I learned to draw the human foot. And it was by him taking the charcoal from my hand, setting before the drawing that I was hammering away on showing me where I was going wrong. It was a light bulb, eureka, Holy Toledo experience!
Perhaps it was in the way that your professor handled it. if it was at all demeaning and embarrassing, which I’m sure it was by your reaction, then shame on them! But as students just learning the craft and developing our skills, we do best to let go of the precious. We might miss out on something that could move us forward.
Even still later, after we’ve gained a bit of proficiency we do well to let go of it. See each piece we create as a step in a direction, hopefully a right one, and not the destination achieved.
It must be my age. When you get old I guess you tend to get preachy and want to pass on the gems you’ve found on your journey. I apologize if I’ve board anyone. :o)

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S-Morishita

That’s understandable and I think with the situation with instructors drawing on top of others work, people will feel differently about that and from your point I can some what understand how much that helped you when he showed you the correct way by drawing on top of your work but for me and my personal preference I would have been happier and much less offend had she used a transparent sheet on top of my work and corrected me that way, or if she really wanted to draw on top of it I could have made a photocopy for her ^^;. I don’t mind her or anyone else showing me the right way to do things I just would have been more comfortable with her handling the situation differently but that is just me. I do appreciate you letting me know your view and own personal experience with an instructor drawing on your work. I’m like that person who doesn’t like to mix her corn with her mashed potatoes, they’re two different things and the way I viewed it is when the teacher drew on my work it was like she was mixing her corn with my mashed potatoes *bad example but being around kids almost all day can warp your mind ^^;*, it’s not that it’s going to kill anyone or that it’s bad for you it’s just a nitpick and I would rather keep them separate and enjoy each one separately:D

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John P Garrett

Excellent article. It reminds me of a quote from Andrew Loomis:
“May I confess that two weeks after entering art school, I was advised to go home.”

~John

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Lora Innes

Lol. I’ve given that advice to certain young artists from time to time.

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Marissa James

Artists have to be VERY careful who they put their trust in, be they “successful professionals” or not. Early in my career, I put my trust and confidence into a guy who purported to “want to help me succeed.” I asked him many questions privately about painting as well as the business end of things. I opened my heart and told him a bit about my background and art related troubles. It wasn’t til later I found out that not only was this guy giving me advice that was crooked, he was taking what I thought were private emails and making them public to his email list and also publishing the things I wrote him in a self published book about succeeding in art. I was mortified. When I approached him about this, he turned on me and said some nasty things such as that I’d never learn to paint. Because I had trusted him so much, my confidence was shattered and my career suffered for it for several years after I broke contact with him. Later I found out that though he claimed to be an expert on galleries, his art was not being represented by a single one at the time he made those claims. Be very careful who you trust. Not all all artists are out there to help people, even if they say they are. The best advice I ever got since was to never ask or look for advice from other artists. When I have questions about my career, I look to businesspeople who have nothing to do with art. (Warning: the above mentioned “artist” is still out there, and still purporting to want to “help artists.” Beware.

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Lora Innes

I’m sorry this happened to you, Marissa. I would hate to say never trust anyone though. Getting business advice from business people is a GREAT suggestion!

I’ve also found that there has been invaluable benefit in my life from having inside the industry friends and mentors. But your word of caution comes from experience and is wise. Be smart about who you share what with.

Again. So sorry for the horrendous experience. I hope you have another equal but opposite one, though, with someone worthy of your trust.

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Chris Oatley

Yeah, unfortunately, the Internet has given a platform to certain people who simplicity don’t deserve it. I know that Lora and I will never do anything to wittingly abuse your trust. We value the perspective and trust of our community here more than anything else about it.

There is an element of risk involved with any kind of relationship but that’s exactly why Lora and I are so intense about forming “circles of trust” that can help you grow.

Also, always be wary of people online who aren’t transparent. Lora and I don’t share every personal detail about our lives but we do run PW as transparently as we possibly can. If Lora and I were killed in a helicopter accident, our apprentices (with just a little bit of help from our spouses) could keep the entire thing running. And we are as transparent as we can be on the show and here on the blog. There’s a lot of bogus stuff out there but there are places where you can reach out and connect with people with minimal risk. We hope PW will always be one of those places.

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Chris Oatley

And thank you so much for reaching out and posting this comment. It is a high honor to have you put your trust in us enough to share this story. I bet there are many more people reading who have had similar experiences. And your speaking up will, no doubt, encourage them.

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Marissa James

Thanks for your comments. Every chance I get that is appropriate, I like to tell others my story with this awful person. I’d love to put his name here, but I think that would lower myself (but I will if you request!). The thing that was tough about this “artist” so-called mentor is that he was very convincing. He made himself sound like this super nice guy whose only goal in life was to help artists succeed. He boasted about how much success he had and how successful his wife (also an artist) was, how much he knew, etc. What he was really doing was gathering fodder that he could write books from. And then when you question him, he’d strike like a snake. Not only did he strike down my confidence in my ability, he dragged my name through the mud to his associates and mailing list. I eventually had to get a lawyer involved. I’m glad to see that you guys on this website seem to be more “real” than this guy ever was. I realize that not all artists are out there to “get people” but after my experience, it’s been really hard to want to have much to do with other artists!

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Tim Paul

I’m finding myself being asked questions when people find out I make money as a freelance illustrator. I remember all my frustration along the way, and advice I got that didn’t help. I always reply by asking questions of the person. For example, when someone asks “How does a person go about getting work that pays?” I respond by asking, do you have a portfolio? If the answer is yes, the conversation goes in a different direction then if they say no. No is easy, put together a portfolio, because the chances of getting hired without one seem near in possible.

I think if more people giving advice would ask questions, they might give better advice.

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Tim Paul

I’d like to add, before anyone points it out, the subject of putting together a portfolio is just as complex as how to get work (once you have that portfolio). I’m just saying that when answering the How to Get Work question, not having a portfolio means we start with get a portfolio. Naturally I expect a follow up question of “how do I do that?”

When the answer is yes I have a portfolio, you then have many options to go and a lot more questions to ask before you can give any useful advice.

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Chelsea Edwards

I have definitely seen the results of bad mentor-ship. I recently paid quite a bit of money at an event to learn mainly, and also share my portfolio with some very well-established artists, only to hear things in group discussions like “quit if you aren’t getting money out of it” and “I hate this (in reference to people’s work, including my own.)” I truly don’t think many of those artist should have been teaching – although they are great painters.

I am excited about the networking steps, I find that to be most difficult and it wasn’t mentioned much other than “do it” in school.

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twinsane8

I haven’t run into really bad advice like this in the art world yet (at least I think I haven’t), but I’m still in high school. I have no doubt that I will encounter it in the future, especially heading off to art school.

However, I have run into it with my English teacher. I got a B on a paper, and when I asked the teacher why I got this grade, he gave me a vague, clearly B.S. answer, so then I tried asking him how I could have improved it. Once again, he came up with nothing. As a very hard-working student who rarely gets B’s at all, I was furious that my teacher essentially gave me that grade for nothing, and apparently there was no way for me to improve it!

This post really pinpoints everything to look out for and I will definitely keep it in mind as I get older.

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Rachel

One part of this post that really resonated with me was asking for specificity. I’ve found that whether following advice, or completing a personal project, I need to break it down into “what’s the next step.” I’m really excited for when you guys talk about networking, because that’s one thing people keep telling me to do, but I’m not really sure how.

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Tom Chambers

Hey Guys,

Thanks for the great post! Somehow your encouragement is always so personal and practical, and your advice has been hugely helpful for me.

It’s funny how some people have a real gift for teaching and others do not. My art teacher in Jr. High was amazing. We did so much in his class, I even did hand-drawn animation in 8th grade! It’s funny because he was actually a pretty stern guy, but he always encouraged us and he showed us how to do things. I grew so much through his classes, and it energized me to draw like crazy! I would spend hours after school every day drawing and working on projects.

In contrast my art teacher all through high school was just awful. You could tell that she didn’t like what she was doing. She gave us projects to keep us busy but never taught us anything, and I cannot think of a single positive (let alone encouraging) word she ever said. My passion for art was so suffocated during those years that I eventually stopped completely for about 5 years, literally.

I had a very similar experience with college. I took two classes in an open-enrollment night program at a very highly regarded art school. The first was an illustration class focusing on painting techniques which was amazing! My teacher was so approachable and helpful; it reawakened my passion for art. I learned a few practical tips and techniques that unlocked so many doors for me. It was only a semester long class, but I took a quantum leap forward in my growth as an artist.

I was so excited I decided to take another class there. It was, unfortunately, a very bad experience for me. Much like my experience in high school I had a bitter and discouraging teacher who could say nothing positive, nor give me any kind of insight or direction. It was painful. I’m sad to say, in my insecurity I succumbed and gave up art all together for another two years.

Looking back I know that I have to take responsibility myself for giving up on my artistic pursuits for so long, but man, some of those experiences did not help! I just want to thank you guys for being a positive voice and offering such helpful advice. You’ve been so encouraging and have taught me a lot about how to stay motivated and keep moving forward artistically.

Thanks so much for what you do!
Tom

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Chucky Scott

I’m a character designer, attended the CTNX 2011 and it was a roller coaster ride! I talked to professionals who suggested general advice ‘do more styles’, ‘show more versatility’, ‘your work is better suited for TV’. All of it was correct but they were blanket statements. It took me months to realize there is no such thing as being only a character designer. Since the job falls under visual development I need to also know how to paint, do background, props, ext. It wasn’t anyone’s fault, as animators this is second nature to them so it never occurred that they had to explain it. I never attended an animation school so I simply didn’t speak the language.
Sometimes you have to educate the person who’s giving you advice so they can better help you :)

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whytemanga

“Those who can’t, teach.” It’s been said, but of course the flip-side might be, “those who can’t teach, create.” At least, that’s what happened to me.

Malcolm Gladwell made the argument that it takes 10, 000 hours to become a master at craft — maybe that includes teaching, too? It’s definitely not an inherited trait, being a good teacher.

My bottom line is, it’s really hard to spend both 10, 000 hours in practicing creating art — and still have time leftover to spend another 10, 000 practicing to teach it. It’s either or, unless that person’s had a lot of … opportunities. :>

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leucome

I actually almost get the my best advice from learner that are better than me in specific domain. Maybe because they just went to discover it so it’s a clear fresh new information they can teach. Someone who have mastered something 20 year ago just don’t care about it at all.

How i can draw better.. Sit and draw
How i can draw perspective.. Euh sit and draw perspective
How i can draw shadow. Re euh! sit and draw shadow.
Hey why are you asking this stuff you already know what you want to do, do it!

It’s a fictive story based on my own experience teaching how to use computer. I was good at teaching but now i am not because i forgot the base. Everything look so obvious that I forgot how to explain how and why.

And some time there are just no simple tips to improve art works I am better now so i began to fix my old pages and most of the time the only fix is to put it in the garbage and start from scratch because i need to fix everything ! So sure at the time I made those pages more advanced artist could not help me with simple tips. There are just no simple tips to fix everything.

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Kurt Hathaway

When I was an editor at Image Comics, I would do portfolio reviews at cons. Anyone who knows me, knows I’m not the sugarcoating type…I’m hard on myself….so I tell the truth to others. Some folks think I’m a jerk, a lot of folks would thank me for being honest with them in a room full of folks who would sidestep a truthful answer. Art is, of course, subjective…but I would always ask a question to the artist up front: are you looking for advice or are you looking to get hired? The answer he gave me told me what HE thought about HIS work–in progress, or ready for work? And it would steer my review of his work. There were many who didn’t want the truth, others who soaked it up like a sponge and vowed to re-work their samples. Then there were the crackpots. One kid wanted to “do it all”–write, pencil, ink, letter, color. As a result his work was very weak [and he colored his original art]. Another was an inker who showed me samples inked in ball-point pen. He tried to sell me on the idea that it was “the wave of the future.” It wasn’t.

My favorite experiences, though, were when I’d pop open a portfolio and I wanted to hire the artist on the spot. That made my time at the table worth it.

Kurt Hathaway
khathawayart@gmail.com

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Michael Corley

I especially like the “actionable” section. Nothing is more worthless than vague advice disguised as sagely advice.

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Jamie Willmott

Hi, I’m currently trying to teach myself about drawing and illustration (which is how I found this site).

I think that this post applies to numerous walks of life. My day job is in computers and I’ve worked as a photographer; this applies to those fields just as much. Advice from sources that you don’t know well should usually be questioned. Advice is really just opinion in a fancy name, to give it more credence.

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Westly LaFleur

— Well said, I so often encounter my peers who’ve been cornered by an artist they respect. I tell them to look around; is this what everyone does? People often forget that process is one of the least concrete details of the art-industry.

Cheers, Chris.

P.S. I greatly enjoyed that LS between Noah Bradley and yourself.

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Elaine

Hit a lot of good points and said some things that I’ve often struggled with as well as a struggling lil artist. I’ve been to some gatherings where people tell me pretty vague things that just sound like “move it along bs.” I was talking to a woman from a company looking for storyboard artists and pre-production artists, so I showed her the boards from one of my personal projects in hopes of getting some feed back. Instead all I got was “Make sure you have different styles.”

Really? I already understand the necessity of having a bag of different styles under your belt but that gave me no helpful feedback about the storytelling itself, the shot choices, the flow of the panels, nothing. I felt as though I was just wasting her time. I decided then and there that I should just forget it and move on.

I’m also having to deal with multiple opinions on my current thesis work, different fields and ideas can also be incredibly intimidating. Especially if you sometimes suffer from the problem of wanting to please everyone. I’m learning to filter through what everyone is telling me and really think back to what it is I want. While someone having more experience can be intimidating, don’t forget your own wants and goals in your work. :) Thanks for another great article Chris!

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Jake

Thanks for this advice, it really is helpful! So often I have fallen into the trap of listening to other people who may not be 100% sure of what they are talking about, only to get confused or struggle later on.

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