I've been under fire recently for having the audacity to admit publicly that improving my art has never been, and never was, an ultimate goal of mine. Apparently that's like committing some sort of mortal sin in the art community. I've had trouble expressing myself about it too, because brushing off improvement for improvement sake makes me look like I'm uncaring, egocentric, and stubborn. But after a recent post I was given much more clarity in understanding the issue and I wanted to share my thoughts with you.
In the recent exchange I was basically told this: "If doing what you love isn't about dedicating your life to improving your art, you aren't an artist."
Maybe I'm old fashioned, but making art has never been solely about the technical expertise. Even in college, outside the handful of foundation courses you take in freshman year, perfection of the craft is often secondary to concepts and ideas and your ability to evoke feelings and emotions in your audience.
Technical proficiency is important, yes, but it is not the sole driving factor. Thank goodness it's not, because if it was everyone would be making nothing but realistic paintings like Leonardo and Michelangelo, and the art world would be stagnating and boring because everything would be the same.
DA is an art community, and part of that means helping people grow and become better artists. However, sometimes I think we place far too much importance on the technical side of things. It's very well and good to offer feedback to an artist you think will help them improve, but it's another thing entirely if you take their stubbornness or slow-to-change attitude to heart, become personally offended by it, and retaliate with trolling and tumblr blogs about them.
I make comics because I like telling stories. I like to see people laugh at my character's foibles. I like to build their suspense, and hit them with twists and turns. I want them to feel sad or happy during key events. I want my audience to enjoy what I produce. That has been, and always WILL be, my overall key goal as a cartoonist.
Now then, despite me saying improvement is not an ultimate goal for me, I still recognize it as something to keep in mind in the back of my head. Many people have told me that artists change their styles gradually over time (which is true), but those same people seem to disregard this when it comes to me because I am not changing fast enough for their liking. To many of these people, my lack of change within the span of a few DAYS is enough to throw a giant hissy fit over. Since SYAC is a near-daily comic series, I can understand people thinking I'm stagnating, but I know I am growing gradually and that the results will show for themselves eventually.
To prove this, please take a look at this comparison:
The left image is the first ever SYAC comic, the right is a much more recent one, the difference of about a year and a half.
While there are a lot of similarities (such a lack of a background, but honestly that's not really important for this particular series), it should be pretty obvious that I've improved. It's still cartoony, it's still simple and basic, but the lineart is smoother, the characters more iconic, and the shadow tones less grey and muddy. Is there a lot to still improve upon? Of course there is. Have I not improved at all since I started? That's absurd.
This is why I heartily resent people bringing out complaints that I'm committing some sort of mortal sin for not dedicating my entire life towards being the best comic artist ever. You can offer me advice and suggestions, but do not expect me to grow by leaps and bounds overnight. I listen to every criticism, comment, feedback, and complaint that I get and while I might have a bad attitude about some of that, it does sink in.
I realize my own strengths and weaknesses and understand that improvement for me will be a longer and slower process. It's gradual, and sometimes it can take years for this stuff to show itself. Jim Davis, for example, has taken close to 30 years to perfect his style, while Scott Adams hasn't really changed much at all in the past 20 years. Hell, there are artists here on DA who haven't improved at all. It's all about gradation and understanding that not everyone has the same goals, desires, passions, skill, and attitude about art as you.
Anyway... I'm tired of talking about this, and I'm sure you're all tired of hearing it. So this is going to be the last time I address this (if I can help it). Let this be my final words on the subject and let's move on already.
To sum things up:
1. Improvement for improvement sake is not my ultimate goal, never has been.
2. I acknowledge that I will improve, but gradually over time and not overnight.
3. You can offer feedback and criticism.
4. I am under no obligations to follow your feedback and criticism if I feel it doesn't help me towards my goal.