Many people say that looking back is a bad thing to do, because it makes you dwell on the past and is getting you nowhere.
I beg to differ! Because I think it doesn't hurt to look back on what you already achieved, every once in a while.
In contrary; it can be a great motivation.
I came to DeviantArt, almost 7 years ago, with close to no expectations.
To provide you a bit of a background; As a kid, I used to show my drawings to all the people around me (to the level of sheer annoyance). And in the early years of the internet, I posted my writings and drawings on several Dutch forums, where I got quite the feedback on it. But as social media gradually took over the internet, and the small forums I used to reside on died a slow death, I realized the stage of getting feedback there would soon be over for me.
DeviantArt was in that sense the next place to move to. A community that wasn't killed by the influence of social media. But it was a hard place to move to.
As a non-native English speaker, I wasn't by far fluent in English, which made it hard to communicate my ideas. Writing was undo-able. I couldn't write story's in English like I did in Dutch, and the amount of Dutch people on DeviantArt was too small to even bother posting untranslated stuff here. When it comes to drawing... as a kid I though I was rather skilled for my age. I guess it was natural to think so, since the world as a kid wasn't any bigger than my school, and I certainly was among the most talented artists of my school. Even on the Dutch forums I belonged to the rather talented group of artists. Looking back now, that was probably because the forums I resided on were aimed towards kids or my age, and any people that were more serious about art would move on to other websites.
Coming to DeviantArt made me suddenly realize there was a whole world out there. That there were people good enough to make serious money from their art. And that I certainly didn't belong to that group at the time.
I remember spending my first few months doing nothing other than browsing and faving work of others. It was (and still is) surprising how many good artists there are out here. Basically everything out here inspired me in some way. Yet it made me sad. Because no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't do the same. Even though I tried copying poses or glimpses of what I saw in art that I liked --for practice purposes, of course-- my art never looked even one bit as stunning as the artwork I liked. They had something I didn't have. A feeling I couldn't grasp. And that got me kinda depressed.
I don't know what it is with artists, that makes us want to move forward so badly that we forget to look at the world around us.
But I know I had that feeling continuously. I made something, put my heart in it, but disliked it after a day or 2 because it "wasn't good enough".
No matter how far I got, I only kept looking towards the horizon. To the people that I admired and their talent I could never get even close to. And it made me feel like a failure all the time.
I wasn't until a while ago that I had my wake up call.
I was complaining about another artwork that didn't work out as I intended to a friend (yeah, things like that can still get me moody), when she told me, plain and simple.
"Really... do you have any idea how many people follow you and look up to you? They look up to you in the exact same way like you looked up to the people you admired when you started out!"
That was the moment I turned the issue around, and realized she was right.
The artwork that I faved as inspiration has changed a lot over the years. It had become a lot better, quality-wise. There were people that used to inspire me that --when I look at it now-- make me wonder why I was ever that inspired by them. They were talented, that's for sure, but they weren't that good. But every time time I moved on, I simply thought that it was because I changed preferences in art. It didn't occur to me at all, that the reason I changed preferences was because I gained skill. That I kinda reached my goal and wanted to look up to something way better than me.
It's strange how we can be so focused on our goal that we become blind to our own progress.
If people told me, 7 years ago, that I would be doing this level of art... I would've said that it was impossible. It they told me back then that I would overcome my fear of public speaking and I would do art workshops in front of large crowds... I certainly would've raised my eyebrows. If they told me I would write articles in a language I wasn't familiar with at that point... I would've shaken my head in disbelief. If they told me I would have so many followers for a project that I never intended for anyone but myself... I would've laughed in their faces because I would not believe something like that.
It still happened, though.
And I'm sure I'm not alone in this.
We all learn, every single day. We gain skill, overcome our fears, and get better. But as our level grows, the people we look up to change as well. Even the greatest artists out here still have people they look up to and say "Man, I wish I was this good at drawing!", and we might not get why they complain about their art. We might not be able to imagine that now, since all we see from down here is perfection. We're not able to spot mistakes a such a high level yet. But we will be, in a few more years, when we are at that level too.
Looking back on it now, I wish I could've told my 7-year-younger me not to worry about that kind of stuff so much. And certainly NOT to get artblocked over something that futile. But I can't.
However, I can tell the people that look up to me now not to worry and just keep drawing.
Because things will change and you will improve, if you just keep trying. In a few years you'll find yourself having art that exceeds your own expectations.
And you'll find yourself thinking "Who was that DamaiMikaz-girl again, and why was I that inspired by her? She wasn't that good."