When I started out on DeviantArt, I used to be one of those artists that thought I could never do art properly.
I'll start saying that I spend most of my childhood getting only little encouragement.
My parents were, like many other parents, convinced that art wasn't that much of a useful skill since it's nearly impossible to earn money with -- and would've liked it if I spend my time doing something more useful instead. At school I was that pathetic kid without friends. Creative, yet very introverted. The one that gets bullied in the schoolyard. Needless to say; it was rare to find people saying something nice about me, and it was even more rare to find someone actually encouraging me.
Back then, I used to believe that I was alone. I initially signed up to DeviantArt to find people with similar interests. But it happened to change my mind along the way. When I came into contact with other artists, I came to realize that there were in fact many people just like me. People that didn't have a great time at school, or had their parents giving them a hard time because they believed art was a bad career choice. People struggling with their confidence because they were well aware they weren't as good at the pro's out here, but just didn't know how to get better.
Starting out with things is hard -- even harder when you have little to no confidence to build on.
I've been there. I had my idols that I looked up to. But, sadly, most of them were so grand and impressive that they almost seemed inhuman to me. As if they never had anything other than impressive talent or massive popularity, and it came to them naturally. And like probably many others that didn't overflow with confidence at that time; I felt too intimidated to even talk to them. Yet I kept feeling disappointed over the fact that such a 'great person' would probably never notice me, let alone reply to my messages.
Yes, a lot of mixed feelings here -- yet I noticed it's a very common feeling around here.
I wished that, when I started my journey on DeviantArt in 2007, just one of those well-known artists would have replied to my messages. Nothing special. Just being honest about their talent. That skills don't come overnight. That the road towards it is far from easy, but that we should just be stubborn and never give up. Because back then, I was in need of encouragement -- just like many other beginners are. And such a thing would most certainly have pushed me forward.
But just like many others, I never got a response back. And I felt unworthy.
You know what the weird thing is... once people have acquired something, they make it seem so damned easy for other people to get there. While, as a matter of fact, it's not easy at all. Getting good at something is a rocky road full of hard work, being swayed between emotions, dealing with both peer pressure and self-doubt, and finding creative solutions to deal with all kinds of limitations that come up along the way. I now realize that neither of us are born with the magical talent to draw or write. We all worked for it. And we're all the same.
People tend to forget that a lot.
I see people nowadays being so keen on filtering away the parts in life where they failed, that they make themselves seem almost inhuman. Just note the number of people on DeviantArt hiding their old art because "it's ugly", or the number of improvement meme's that start with amazing art already -- while I'm sure they were at some point unskilled too. You know which improvement meme's inspired me most? Those that started out like utter crap and gradually moved on towards an amazing level of art. Why? Because they encouraged me. Rather than just showing perfect work that I can't do and can't relate to, they showed their beginners stage, when they weren't all that awesome. And I could relate to that, because I wasn't that awesome either.
Over time, things have gradually changed. I've noticed so by the increase of messages in my inbox from people that tell me they admire my art, or ask me how I write so well.
True, it's been almost 7 years since I signed up here. I've changed from a beginner to one that is seemingly known in the community. But to my regret, I now see people looking up towards me in same way as I looked up to my idols years ago. As if my 'level' is just as impossible to reach. As if I were just that inhuman. To be honest; it scares me. I don't want to be one of those amazing artists that new people get depressed over, because they feel they can never do the same.
The sole reason I'm teaching art at conventions, rather than selling it, is because I want to get rid of that illusion. I firmly believe that there's no such thing as sheer talent. I believe that anyone can achieve greatness, if they really try. And I left my old art on DeviantArt for that purpose, even despite thinking it's crap now. Just so people can see that when I started, I was indeed no more skilled than they are. To me, that seems reasonable. I mean; it's the least I can do to encourage people. But over the years many people have asked me how it came that I wasn't afraid to show those works, and why I wasn't afraid to write about the not-so-good things in my life (like bullies, or handicaps), or even exposing my own artistic mistakes.
In return I asked them; "Why should I be afraid?"
Writing fiction for years taught me that the most interesting characters, are often those that are severely flawed, because those are the characters people relate to. When we encounter perfection, we can only stare in awe. When we encounter someone that overcame obstacles in order to grow, it encourages us to do the same.
I have no ambition to pretend things like talent or popularity come to me naturally. It would be a lie if I did so.
Instead, I'd rather be the artist that I wished that had talked to me at the beginning at my journey.
The one that would've told me not to worry too much, because skills don't develop over night. But that I was at least on the right track, because I was trying to improve.
The one that would've told me that popularity isn't only a matter of being skilled at art, but also heavily relies on social skills.
That --despite what many people think-- even talent and popularity won't make you feel better about yourself -- only believing in yourself will.
And if there are, by any chance, people who read this message and feel encouraged to never give up...
I'm glad to have done so.