1 – Introduction & Tackling Perfectionism

Intro

Hey there! My name’s Connor. I’m an illustrator based in Edinburgh.

I’ve been doing this freelance thing since maybe September of 2021. I did an undergrad at UCLan and a masters at Uni of Edinburgh, both in Illustration.

So, yeah, still fairly new to all of this. I’ve built up a portfolio, tried to contact art directors, applied for funding, done a few commissions etc. so that’s probably quite standard.

I work 2 (yes, two!) jobs right now. The latter I started two months ago so I’ve had less time for illustration than usual.

I’ve had my fair share of breaks and burnouts, admittedly. When you’re an overthinker type like me, it can be pretty easy to stumble on invisible hurdles. That’s actually why I wanted to start a blog – I felt that it would be good to get my thoughts out somewhere, and maybe they’d resonate with others – or just myself, at least!

The first thing I want to talk about is something which has plagued me from the very beginning…

Perfectionism!

I always loved drawing, ever since I was a kid. I had a lot of people in my life state “I wish I could draw, like you!” and it always confused me. Anyone can draw, right? I know I can draw but it’s not THAT good.

When I started university, it was the first time I really got to see what other drawing enthusiasts could do. And it astounded me. It felt like there were all these different ways to draw, with such personality in them. I wanted to find my own voice, too.

Theodore Roosevelt once said “Comparison is the thief of Joy”.

It’s true. Since day 1 of my degree I found myself comparing my work to what others were doing. Back then, I almost felt it was necessary to understand the benchmark I needed to meet in order to do well in my course.

But since graduating, and especially when covid hit, things changed.

Now I must motivate myself. I can’t go into a studio every day and talk to my friends, classmates and tutors. There’s no two-way street. Instead, I log onto Instagram, faced with a constant feed of others’ curated, perfected versions of their craft, rather than their works-in-progress scattered across desks.

This is where comparison and perfectionism tie in. I’ve spent more time than I’d like to admit skulking because I see what other people can do, look at my own work, and wonder why I can’t be as good. The negativity begins to set in, and motivation is out the window.

Mistakes

“Don’t stress about making it perfect! There is beauty in disorder and chaos, and nothing will ever be perfect. Instead, strive for continual improvement. Look at the bigger picture.” Rohit Sharma

It’s been a recent trend that I look at my portfolio and feel like I could do so much better. I think that it’s a common trait in artists to have good taste and high standards, so it makes sense that I’d be critical of myself. But too much self-criticism can be damaging for your mental health.

Sometimes I find it helpful to think of Dragon Ball Z in relation to perfectionism (bare with me on this one).

Goku and Vegeta both want to be the strongest fighter. Vegeta wants to be better than Goku. He thinks that he deserves it more and he can’t understand why Goku is always stronger than him. Goku, however, isn’t interested in being better than Vegeta. He fights for his own sake, to push his limits and be a better man than he was yesterday. That’s why Goku is always one step ahead of Vegeta.

The healthiest way I can look at my own work is by comparing past me to present me. I know that in the past few years since I took drawing more seriously that I’ve been able to improve my observational skills, my anatomy, my understanding of colour etc. SO MUCH. It’s through practice that these things develop.

Conclusion

I think it’s time that I started to see my own practice in a more positive light. Yes, I’m not perfect, and neither are my drawings. And they might not even be up to my own unrealistic standards. But I need to understand that I’m going at my own pace, alongside the chaos of the rest of my life, and that I still have time to develop.

So why not try comics, even if I’m intimidated by the panel format? Why not try printmaking, even if it takes changing from a digital workspace to a traditional one? Why not just play around, have fun, and embrace the chaos? I think that’s something we can all get behind.

If you enjoyed this blog, you can see what I’m getting up to via my website and socials. I am taking a little break for the sake of my mental health, but I hope to have lots to share in the coming months! This blog will be updated weekly, so be sure to bookmark it if you liked what you read. 🙂

Recommended Reading

At the end of each blog I’ll drop links to some related media that might interest you.

Three easy tricks to help you beat imposter syndrome

Be at the top of your game: 13 lessons on creative progress from artists and designers

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