Thursday, October 2, 2014

Is Learning Illustration Hard?


Yes! - but a better question might be: Does Learning To Do Anything Well Take Hard Work? I'm often asked: If I take your classes at svslearn.com will I be able to illustrate a children's book, comic book, ebook, etc? There's no way to answer that question unless I want to be a complete sell out and say, "But of course...all you need to do is pay me your money and the world we be opened unto you!"


Unfortunately what you are subconsciously asking is can I be good at something without working hard? We all think we want that. I thought I wanted to be good at playing the guitar without working many hours to learn it so I could impress people and myself with an ability I did NOTHING to gain. But doesn't that beg the question: How can you impress yourself or anyone else without having gone through the hard work and sacrifice of learning? - AND - if you could magically attain such a level would it be rewarding? Wouldn't everyone be magically amazing at everything? If everyone was amazing at everything than would being amazing be average?

I've seen a lot of people try a creative endeavor like illustration only to quit after a year or two because they realized how hard it was going to be to reach a pro level. Then they pick up something else and try their hand at it only to realize that it's just as hard to achieve greatness. The truth is that if you love doing something it's going to take many years of hard work and practice to attain a high enough level to impress people and get noticed online.


Take a look at one of my first paintings (below) and the one I just finished(above). I rendered the one below when I was age 10. I remember this because my grandfather gave me an oil painting set on my tenth birthday. I was so excited I started painting right away. The new one (digital painting) was finished last night. There is a 38 year span between the two. There was no magic or sorcery in between these two paintings but there have been many years and many paintings that led to my ability now and many dedicated teachers and peers that have given me valuable instructions and pointers. Many of you know that I almost got kicked out of my University illustration program. My desire to create great art far exceeded my ability but with hard work and determination I was able to make progress and a career out of it.


There were many times where doubt crept in and made me want to quit but I beat back those urges and pushed through the hard times. I'm at a place right now that I wouldn't trade for money. When you reach a level where you can compete nationally or internationally I promise you will look back and thank yourself for not quitting. This is not to say that you shouldn't make lane changes but that no matter what lane you switch to you will have to start from scratch and work really hard to get really good. Learning is hard work but worth every minute!

15 comments:

  1. I love this post! I feel like I struggled in collge too. I remember in my first classes being in agony because I kept telling my professors "I'm done!" and they would just give me something else to fix, so I HAD to keep working. I hated the prep phases initialy, and struggled with sketching, doing color and value studies..etc. I kept trying to find the easier way, but eventually learned there isn't one. If you want a beautiful end product, there is no way around the hours you must invest. Granted, you do begin to work more efficiently, and you can get faster, but you still have to work. Anything truly worth it in life requires a significant amount of real, sweat inducing, elbow-grease kind of work. And for some reason, people will always try to find an easier way...

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    1. So true...I used to work on a drawing for an hour or so and call it done.

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  2. You are so right! I wish that I didn't "quit" drawing when I was like 10 or 12. Everyone told me that I was "good for my age." But…then… I started drawing stuff that wasn't up to my satisfaction and I didn't feel "good for my age" or for any age any more. So…I stopped drawing. I recently started drawing/painting/illustrating again. I am a children's author and can't afford an illustrator. I also have found that I enjoy the creative outlet of drawing with the help of illustrating programs. So…I practice now. I am slowly getting better. I hope to be "good for my age" again some day! B-)

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  3. Great post, Will! It's hard work of course but like you said so is anything you want to achieve - some parts of illustrating may come easy but overall there is a lot to learn. It's all about how bad you want it and how willing you are to work at. (P.S. - SVS may not be the complete solution but those classes sure are helpful and highly recommended!)

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    1. Thank you Angela - that's right - we don't want to be the complete solution - meeting with a group in person is invaluable whether it's in college or conference, more classes, critique groups, etc....we're happy to be part of the process. :)

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  4. Good stuff Will! I can't believe the years I wasted being lazy or impatient or wondering when, what I thought was hard work, would pay off and show results. I'm just a few years older than you and am just starting to find my lost passion for creating art. Never to late to start or re-start drawing and making a career out of it. Say, you should create a digitally remastered version of 10 year old Will's painting as shown - with current Will's talent and technology - then put them side by side.

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    1. That's a great idea - I actually did that with one of my childhood drawings a few years ago somewhere on this blog :)

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  5. Thank you for sharing your thoughts about the matter, it's nice to read about it and notice how normal this struggle is actually.

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  6. When I hear non-artists say, "I can't draw a stick man. Some people are born gifted," I want to correct them. I believe it's a learned skill like any other learned skill.

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  7. Learning illustration is hard. I guess with anything in life the hardest things have the greatest outcomes. The toughest thing for me is getting pass my high standards of where I fell my work should be at this time. I'm very good but not great yet( on my personal greatness scale). Sometime I do want to quit but there is something in me that absolutely has to illustrate. So, I absolutely have to keep moving forward. I just have to be the best I can be in this moment and see where it leads.

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  8. I think persistence and passion are sometimes in short supply in this culture of immediate gratification. I am like you, a survivor. I could have given up a long time ago and still have days when it seems like a pretty good idea. But then again art is the only thing I am good at and I love it, so I strap it on every day and go to work. Just like the old adage, anything worthwhile takes hard work. If you get something for nothing, you don't appreciate it anyway. Every day in the studio is a good day.

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  9. Great stuff! I appreciate your work. Thanks for sharing

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