One of the results of assuming the antitruths I described earlier, is remaining trapped in your comfort zone. There is a certain honesty, and potential for accountability, in showing off your scribbly doodles if that is all you have managed to make yourself do. But nobody really wants to see very much of that, and you know it.
The problem is, when you try to push your work to a higher level, it doesn’t turn out well. Most of the critique you get starts to sound repetitive. If you know what you need to be doing, then there’s no need to waste a professional’s time. In terms of the technical process of improving as an artist, and the etiquette of dealing with people in general, this is entirely correct. But with no outside pressure it’s easy to get into a rut. And you can’t get outside pressure unless you expose yourself to it.
So, how do you break out of that? Something needs to change. The two main areas of change I’ll be working on are: confidence, and accepting criticism.
Confidence building is best done by focusing on certain media. The issue with digital art is that it’s too easy to Ctrl+Z yourself back out of any perceived mistake. It’s easy to retreat from a commitment. Graphite and other erasable media are similar, though you have a limited amount of erasure you can do before grubbing up the paper.
What you’re looking for in a medium is something that doesn’t allow you to back out once you get started. Ink, paint, or crayon. You’ll probably want to do some initial pencil layout, but try to do as little as possible just to avoid the temptation of the eraser.
Your confidence-building medium should also be affordable enough that you feel free to do several short pieces in the 30-60 minute range, and not feel like you’re wasting precious materials by throwing some of them away. But neither should they be super-cheap. I like doodling with ballpoint pens on newsprint, but I find it’s too easy to fill up pages with idle repetitive stuck-in-the-comfort-zone stuff, because I tend to think of it as too disposable.
I tend to go with pen and ink, often with a brush pen, or watercolor painting for this purpose.
The first thing to understand about criticism, is of course to learn to take it like a grown-up and listen to negative feedback. The second thing, though, is to evaluate your critics according to how much real information you’re getting back. And practice giving good substantial critique.
“Your perspective and anatomy are off” may technically be correct, and taking a general approach to improving those areas certainly won’t hurt you. But this statement is probably true for all art students to some extent, and it doesn’t take much knowledge to come to this level of awareness on your own. In that sense, it is barely helpful. In an open forum where anyone can chime in, you’ll get a fair amount of inarticulate commentary like this.
The problem with this kind of simplified critique is that the mind tends to give weight to whatever is most frequently repeated. Typically the simpler observations are going to be what get repeated more often. The result here is that whatever problems you have with your artwork will tend to be exaggerated to a more basic level than they necessarily are in reality. If you draw a figure with some of the shoulder muscles wrong, more people are going to be able to say “fix your anatomy” than “the deltoid is actually shaped like this and connects at these points.” That can be demoralizing, in the sense that you would feel worse about thinking you need to retake Drawing I, than Drawing III. So, it’s important to keep some perspective and not make too much of vague boilerplate comments.
Get back out there.