This is a rant I'm not going to remove because there's no way I can get into trouble over this (but hey I'll never know lol) If you're a busy student in a non-art related field of study, this may be useful for you! It's a reply to a question, if you wondering why it's phrased in a certain way at some points.
HOW TO BALANCE ART AND SCHOOL WORK
(in stressful academic environments)
1. Identify your goals:
You need to figure out how seriously you’re going to take art. Do you intend to become so good at art that you become popular online (like a tumblr art superstar, perhaps?) Do you want to achieve professional standards, so that you can be employed in an art-related field? Or did you just intend it to be a hobby, something to do once every fortnight or less, something in the sidelines that you can impress your friends with? Do you intend to make money out of this (by selling prints of your works online or at conventions, or by doing freelance work) or do you just want to keep your art to yourself? Note that your goals will change as you get further and further into art and become more confident of your skills. I didn’t intend for my art to be a serious thing until I reached a certain level of proficiency after a few years.
2. Plan and make sacrifices:
Once you’ve decided on your level of seriousness, fine tune your expectations to meet those goals. If you’ve decided to become really really good, know that the schedule/life-style of highly-skilled artist (or one in the making) is much more demanding than you’d expect. A lot of them have a day job that is not related to the art that made them popular, and the only way they can keep up in the competitive world of art-related social media is to spend almost every minute of their free time doing something productive, which will further the goal you’ve set in the earlier step. So I would suggest this: Do all your school related work first, take good care of your social life, sleep 8 hours a day. Then, identify all the remaining blocks of time which you tend to spend idle (browsing through the internet aimlessly, watching non-meaningful things on TV or just lying around being unproductive). You’ll have to sacrifice all this time and turn them into productive art-making sessions – it’ll be tiring at first, but you’ll get used to your more efficient schedule soon and feel a lot more contented. Don’t say you don’t have idle time – a friend told me that time is like a water-logged sponge, if you squeeze hard enough, there will be some time you can find.
Recognize that all successful artists have to work this way to get where they are. During my internship, I met the super famous Vin Hill who shared something I’ll remember forever. He told me that he can’t stand to spend time idle – even watching TV or waiting in a queue is a huge irritation to him because he can be drawing, conceptualizing or learning something new. He wishes he doesn’t even need to sleep so that he can create more; he’s so careful with his use of time, which is the reason for his immense success.
3. Increase your ‘seeing’ and ‘thinking’ efficiency:
If you’re trying hard enough to gather enough idle time to do your art, you should automatically begin to do all your school work more efficiently as well. Rather than spending 5-6 hours slowly lazing though an essay submission, you’ll find yourself doing it in half the time or less, because you know that there’s something enjoyable waiting for you at the end of it, but you’ll only be able to truly enjoy it if you’ve worked hard enough before this. And chances are, you’ll find yourself doing better at school because your concentration levels are very high.
Presuming that you’ve already identified your idle time, think about how you can do more within that time. Time spent waiting can be used to observe your surroundings – the way the light falls on or through objects, the way people’s faces move when they make certain emotions, the millions of designs, advertisements and architecture you can draw inspiration from. There’s something to be learnt from everything you see, you just have to put your mind in a state where you’re ready to notice and remember things you’ve never noticed before. Being successful at art, even though you’re a busy person, really depends on how much you think about improving.
When you’re really able to sit down and do art, don’t settle for an aimless doodle. You can afford time for aimless doodling when you have lots of time to spare, but I’m going to assume that you’re really busy. So treat every session like an opportunity to level-up – is there a tutorial you can learn a new skill from? Is there a set of reference photos that you can copy to learn something about light and colour? Is there a book you can read to learn something about the historical period your original comic series is set in, or a place you can visit to better understand mood and environment? Is it time to practice a new angle, perspective or medium you haven’t tried before? Remember your artistic goals, and find some way to remind yourself of them every day. Basically, every action of yours should be targeted rather than random, and should point towards your envisioned endpoint. Open your eyes, think much harder than the average person about what you see, and turn them into masterpieces.
4. Art Lessons/School:
I haven’t taken art lessons or gone to art school, and from personal experience in observing those around me, I’d say that they aren’t necessary until you reach a reasonably high standard. This may be surprising – you’d expect art lessons to be needed at the beginning of your journey, not near the end. The truth is, learning art by yourself, through exploration and trial and error, is 1000x more fun than learning it in a standard way. Artistic success is all about style and inspiration, and figuring it out by yourself is much more likely to ensure you those two assets. Additionally, you need quite a lot of time to figure out how serious you are about art – there’s no point at all going to a cheap place that can’t teach you real skills, but good schools are an expensive investment not meant for those who are not ready. The skills you can learn at the best art schools or from the best teachers will be many times more beneficial to you – as a skilled artist hoping to be an epic artist, rather than a beginner artist hoping to be a skilled artist. Art school is like completing a painting. You want to already have a good painting, and get a teacher to add beautiful finishing touches where your skills are still lacking, and not go with an empty canvas, and get a teacher to construct the painting from scratch for you.
Feel free to disagree on this point though…this is just what works for me, if you feel better finding a tutor during your early stages of art-making, do go ahead!
5. Aim for Constant Progress:
As a busy student, the easiest way to give up and tear down everything you’ve worked hard for is to let yourself go into stagnation. Even if you’ve been doing all the above faithfully, there will come a point of time where you don’t see significant improvement (whether in skills or in online popularity). At this point of time, you’ll start to question why you’re working so hard when you could go back to relaxing and idling like the rest of your friends.
Here’s how to avoid the plateau: Treat your art making like a computer game. You’re gathering XP to level up every time you log in. This is super super demanding, but make every new piece an improvement from the last. By this I don’t mean overall improvement – that’s way too difficult. Aim to just get 1 or 2 new points right. Have I drawn the nose better here? Have I used a better colour on her skin or dress? Have I drawn this little patch of leaves better than I did the last time I tried? Or even: Have I managed to do my school work slightly more efficiently, or found a new idle time I can use? The good thing is: once you have these expectations of yourself, it’s impossible not to improve by 1 or 2 points every drawing.
6. It is perfectly do-able:
Having said all these, it’s time to show you proof that people have done it. Every single member of my doujin circle, for example, is a very skilled and internet-famous artist (most of them have more than 10-20k followers each) who also happen to be academic super-achievers in non-art related fields. Shion and Psych0 are Deans Listers in their university majors, Gin and Nighyee are scholars, Bakeddeer andLalamoo graduated top in their cohorts. I’m a law student in NUS! It’s not that we have super-powers or are exceptionally talented, we just work very efficiently individually and as a unit, and spend almost no time idling. We have very high expectations of ourselves and each other and constantly motivate and critique each other – we’re almost like a sports team haha. We take the business of art very seriously and have learnt to make sacrifices to achieve our clear goals. (And I’m so proud of them tbh ;_ I really believe that anyone can do it, you just have to be prepared to work really hard for it, like an athlete or musician. A positive, confident and diligent mindset is really the beginning to success in both areas of your life
Sorry for my super rambly and late answer, I had to think hard about what to write so that it’ll really help everyone reading this Hope it was useful and thanks so much for sitting through all of it! Have a great day and HAPPY NEW YEAR! May 2016 bring you lots of inspiration, energy and success!