In decision theory and general systems theory, a mindset is a set of assumptions, methods, or notations held by one or more people or groups of people that is so established that it creates a powerful incentive within these people or groups to continue to adopt or accept prior behaviors, choices, or tools.Wikipedia
Having the correct mindset is the path to success. You’ve probably heard this multiple times and might even consider it to be rather cliche, but there is deeper meaning in this rather simplistic phrase. There are generally two types of mindsets, namely fixed or growth, and the infographic below illustrates the basic differences between both of them.
Of course I personally wouldn’t categorize people strictly in either category, like all things in life, everything is truly grey. However, my past experiences seem to indicate a pattern of developmental progress in drawing and art with respect to Japanese style animation and comics. Essentially, there are 4 different kinds of anime artists each driven by a particular motivation.
- The artist that draws for fun
- The artist that draws for attention
- The artist that draws for the challenge
- The professional artist
The artist that draws for fun
There is absolutely nothing wrong with having fun. You will always encounter that one elitist that will say this type of casual artist is the worst and flooding the world with horrible works. That is certainly not true. Art is not science, and as such is not subject to strict quality rules or review when it comes to outputting content. Art is art, and you create works to be seen for whatever reason. Most of the time it is treated as a hobby, and as such these artists are not receptive to constructive criticism and sometimes outright reject it.
eludes alludes to the artist having a fixed mindset. It just means developmentally that progress will be slow and there will be no significant improvement in the quality of the drawings. Infact, most of their art will look similar as there is no desire to accumulate new types of skills or intuition i.e. their art skill is plateaued/saturated.
The artist that draws for attention
Again, like the first category there is nothing wrong about drawing for attention. But this type of artist is a tricky one, some I’ve met have psychopathic tendencies or act rather irrationally. Attention can be likened to a narcotic, it gives the artist a sense of grandeur, but side effects can be rather negative (such as egocentricity, but not limited to).
Like the artist that draws for fun, the skill plateaus, but more often that not the art quality is not half that bad. Clearly, to gain attention in the first place you would need to be rather decent at drawing and most often than not, this type of artist manifests from the first type after he/she has reached a certain level of competency. Again, the works will look rather similar to each other and sometimes they make a glaring mistake that seems out of place based on the quality of their other works (because they will try something they don’t fully understand).
The artist that draws for the challenge
This type of artist is one that derives pleasure from the challenge of trying out new things. Like the previous two, the challenging aspect can also be linked to getting attention and having fun, but more often than not this type of artist is not popular. This is due to inconsistency.
As you can expect, the mindset is one of growth and there is one very particular aspect to this mindset that allows these types of artists to progress fast. “I want to beat it”. And this doesn’t only apply just to drawing but anything in life. It is not good enough to just learn or replicate something you like or saw, you must truly assimilate it and make it even better. This is the distinction between someone who becomes good, and someone who becomes excellent.
Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal.T.S. Eliot
This quote which was misattributed to Picasso by Steve Jobs has a fairly simple meaning. Essentially, copying is technique; stealing is creativity. When you copy something, you do it mindlessly. When you steal something, you seek to understand it and make it your own. This is the challenge that these types of artists seek.
The professional artist
The artist who has turned their passion or talent into a career. This type of artist is very receptive to all sorts of information and tries out everything at an accelerated rate. Growth is almost exponential as the accumulation of knowledge supports the ease of learning new concepts.
Don’t be fooled by the word ‘talent’. Those with a fixed mindset would have you believe that this is an innate quality that cannot be surpassed. No. Talent is just a term for being more perceptive about something more than others. This perception can be trained. Professional artists know that hard work and persistence is the key to becoming excellent. Their livelihoods depend on it.
When a mistake is made, they learn from it. And I don’t mean they try not to do the same thing again. They actually go out of their way to find out exactly why it’s wrong, figure it out, and practice it until it’s mastered.
When some professional artists reach a certain level of competence, they can also plateau i.e. all their works look rather the same. An example of this would be Tony Taka. The reasons are various but the artists no longer go outside their comfort zone. Maybe they can achieve a decent amount of commissions, or their audience only wants one particular type/theme of drawing…
Once you stop learning you start dying.Albert Einstein
Why I don’t take requests to take in pupils
Because in all previous cases, people who ask me to teach them only want one thing. A fast and easy cheat to get good. I’d love to know a cheat like that but unfortunately that kind of hack does not exist. These people are fully in category 1. Any constructive criticism I make on their works they completely ignore, a frank waste of time. I’ve come to learn that serious artists never depend on someone else to learn. They learn independently.
This is an odd one, it varies from person to person. Personally, I don’t find “That arm is too short” to be in the realms of constructive criticism. Yes, the problem is stated (unlike “That arm looks wrong”) but it provides no clues on how to fix it. People seldom understand that what they see is different from what an amateur artist sees. If the artist can see that the arm is too short, they’d have fixed it already. But therein lies the crux of the problem, they can’t see it. So just simply pointing that out to them is a flagrant waste of time. You might have experienced this in the form of an artist being puzzled, erasing and sketching it wrong over and over again, and constantly asking if it looks right.
Real constructive criticism comes in the form of actually explaining the correct way to draw/do something by sketching and/or explaining the basis of why it is wrong and how to fix it.
What’s even better is not depending on others to criticise your work, but for you to develop the ability to self-analyse and figure out what looks wrong and how you would go about attempting to fix it. A little trick is to leave a drawing without looking at it for 1-2 days. It almost certainly results in finding a few flaws.
Leave a comment if you have an alternative or enlightened view on any of these topics.