Since we're on the subject of taboos, I feel it necessary to talk about this one. This one pisses me off and it's very much a cornerstone to a bigger issue with our artistic community: The idea and assumption that as an artist you MUST improve at all times. 24/7. No exceptions. Every work you produce must be 10x better than your last. You must constantly strive for perfection. To ignore this "truth" is to commit the terrible sin of rejecting the very concept of improvement, and you will never break out of your "comfort zone."
I'm here to tell you that this is hogwash.
You should strive to improve. Never say that I don't encourage improvement. It's why you go to school, why you go to college, and why after college you continue to work on your art. You always want to be better. The problem is that far too many people have a strictly binary concept of what "better" is and on how to "improve."
First off, there is no pinnacle of perfection. There is no singular mountain with a summit for only the most amazing works of art. Improvement for an artist is not a linear path straight up to a single point. I want to make that very clear because it's a fallacy so many people firmly believe. Like all aspects of life, there is a wide range of artistic styles, goals, crafts, and skills. There are many mountains and hills and valleys and paths to take, but for some reason the common wisdom is that there is only one path and one mountain.
There seems to be this vague concept that only hyper realistic art is desirable. It's the mentality that old master's paintings from the renaissance are more important and revered than modern more abstract art. It's the idea that a highly rendered digital painting with enormous amounts of detail and variety in shadow and light is inherently "better" than a flat monochromatic cartoon. It's the whole "high art" versus "low art" belief, and we are all being silently judged and categorized on this list.
But art is much more than that. You don't have to make the most realistic anatomically correct paintings to be considered a good artist. This whole "high art" goal had been so pounded into my head during college that afterwards I refused to let myself explore. I was under the impression that the ONLY way to be a great artist was to make paintings, with "deep" meanings and messages behind them. There was only one goal, and my constant failed attempts to achieve it was very difficult for me. I felt like a failure because no matter how hard I tried, I could not achieve the level of quality and "high art" that I saw around me (And wouldn't you know it? Those painterly works I did in college are often cited as my "best" by those who are critical of my cartooning work).
I learned an important lesson then. There isn't only one goal to try and achieve. Firstly let's put to rest the idea that you must be perfect at all times. As Salvador Dali once said: "Have no fear of perfection, you'll never reach it." This is not meant to be mean-spirited, but instead liberating. You can strive to improve and get better, but since perfection is technically unobtainable, you should not dedicate your life towards trying to achieve that which you cannot have. Making mistakes is how we learn and grow and get better. Don't be afraid of not being perfect.
And that's been my philosophy for a very long time now. I know that I will get better and improve. I will practice in my spare time and I will make what I feel is quality art for the project that I am working on. But I will not go out of my way to force improvement upon myself unless it is absolutely necessary for me to do so. And this is where the poisonous "high art" mentality I spoke of earlier comes into place.
People seem to have an aversion to things which stay the same. They see it as being "lazy" or not breaking free of the "comfort zone." It's viewed negatively by many and there are even those who violently oppose the very idea of letting your art grow at a gradual pace. They think that by jostling these artists out of their "comfort zone" they are doing them a favor and helping them grow, but more often than not it's detrimental.
And of course that mindset ignores when staying consistent is beneficial. Yes, there are actually good reasons to make art that is similar in nature. If you're running a web comic, for example, making sure the characters and settings are consistent between strips is highly important. If you work for a comic company you need to be able to produce consistent artwork that doesn't vary in quality. If you work for an animation company you need to be able to learn how to draw consistently in a style that may not be your own, and to be able to learn a whole new style and maintain that one as well for years at time. There is skill and honor in being able to maintain your craft and not shake things up.
Cynical improvement for the sake of it is almost as bad as refusing to improve at all. You can't force change, you have to let change happen. This is why I've always hated it when people look at my comics (which are meant to be posted on a semi-regular basis) and complain that they all "look the same" and are "stagnating." Yeah... they're kinda suppose to be like that. They're a series. It's not to say I won't improve and change things when I feel I need to, but demanding change for no reason other than to change is arrogant.
Let me reiterate, because I have a feeling people might forget, that I AM NOT AGAINST THE IDEA OF TRYING TO IMPROVE YOUR ART. You should absolutely do so when you can and when it's right for you. Likewise there are also a lot of fundamentals that we all need to learn. It might not seem like it's appropriate, but figure drawing and drawing from life can help you in a variety of fields, not just the ones dedicated towards realistic art. You should absolutely experiment and try new things.
But this singular narrow-minded mentality that you MUST constantly improve your art 24/7 or else you'll never achieve "greatness" is bullshit. It's a mentality that does more harm than good to our community. People should be allowed to grow and improve at their own pace. If they ask for help, help them, but don't force them to try and change.
There are many mountains to climb and it's incredibly unhelpful when an artist is halfway up one to point to another mountain and tell them they should just apparate over there now. If an artist is struggling with their realistic anatomy, you don't hand them a book on "how to draw cartoons," right?
I know that this is gonna be seen as me "rejecting improvement" but I really hope that most of you don't see this journal in that simple-minded way. I am not rejecting improvement, I am rejecting the belief that everyone must march in step to some socially accepted norm of our artistic culture. There's more than one way to make art, therefor there is more than one way to improve.