There’s a lot of “2009 vs 2019 art!” stuff floating around right now that’s probably very demotivating to a lot of people. Respect to those who have made huge strides this decade, but if you are one of the many who haven’t… please remember to be kind to yourself. Not everyone goes from kindergarten scribbles to the Mona Lisa in 10 years. You can’t sum up your worthiness with a single before and after picture. Your journey is your own. You don’t need to apologize or punish yourself for the way you’ve taken it.
My own creative ability has barely evolved at all in 10 years. I’ve basically been at an artistic standstill since 2013. I’ve grieved about that, but grieving is different than self-punishment.
If you struggle with thoughts saying you’re worthless, lazy, will never improve artistically… my challenge is: call their bluff. If you REALLY believe you’re a lost cause, then own it. Accept it. If you’re really a horrible failure, try acting like it. Practice the fine art of not giving a fuck for a while. Be the most worthless, talentless hack you can possibly dream of being.
Really! Give it a whirl! See how it turns out. If you don’t like it, you can always go back to beating yourself up mentally every day. But for a while, go on vacation. If you’re already so stagnant, you can either be stagnant and miserable, or stagnant and happy. Pick happiness. Discard your regrets. Own your capacity for failure. Noodle around and do draw at your own lazy, unmotivated pace, and give no apologies for doing so. Proudly be the most selfish, complacent, stagnant artist that you can be. Learn to love it. And see what happens.
Because I’ll tell you a secret: actual bad artists don’t care that they’re bad. Good artists do. If these thoughts eat you up inside, if they keep you up at night… then you’re probably not as crummy as the voices say you are. If you can let go of your self-hatred, and stop comparing your rough sketches to other people’s portfolio cornerstones, I bet you will be able to blossom, in your own way, on your own time.
You will be amazed how life can improve when you stop trying to become a “good artist.” Even if you don’t accomplish everything you “should,” you’ll be much happier than you were. And believe me, happiness is worth more than any artistic improvement.
Edit: Another thing to point out is that some improvements aren’t things you can see in finished art. For example, in the last decade, I’ve gotten much faster overall, which is fantastic, and I’ve also gotten better at communicating with clients. But you wouldn’t know any of that just from looking at a simple 2009 – 2019 improvement pic.
But even if you feel like you legitimately haven’t improved… it’s going to be ok.