Toolbox for Success: Always Keep Learning

“The day you stop learning anything new, you’re probably dead.” –Barry Armitstead

I remember being very young when my father said this to me. How old particularly I can’t remember but it was definitely elementary school, so I was at 12 years old or less. At the time it seemed obvious. I was still in school and had a lot of years left to go with my education between high school and then going off to Central Washington University. At the time it was easy to imagine that I’d learn something new every day. How could I not?

Fast forward a few years *see 11* and I was graduating from CWU with a Bachelor of Fine Arts with a focus on Illustration and Metal Work. The funny thing was… I had only taken one illustration class out of the two that were offered. The prof who taught illustrations thought it was only best for Graphic Designers to do work in their last year. Well I wasn’t a GD major, and wanted it because hey guess what, I wanted to be an illustrator. I could rant about the schools lack of classes that I wanted them to have but I also never transferred… for a lot of reasons… so really the fault is my own there. ANYWAY.

Once out of school I of course had a job that I was working and had already been doing online commissions off of places like Deviantart and FurAffinity. But my art stopped progressing for a while. It became so stagnant that it felt well, dead.

A lightbulb went off in my head about that time and my fathers saying finally became more clear than it had ever been. There’s a lot more to death than just what happens when your body ages. There’s being completely stagnant and not progressing at all. Not fulfilling your life the way you want it to be. Not enriching yourself further. I couldn’t even look at the jobs that I really wanted to be looking at. My art was far below standard for any company at the time and it was a hard thing to face. Especially after having just spent six years at a place of “furthered education.”

I also realized something else about that time. Just being out of school doesn’t mean you have to stop learning. Quite the opposite. The entire reason for all of those years in uncomfortable chairs and classrooms was to give you the tools to learn whatever you want. Yes, I had been told this before, a lot, by like, everyone. But that doesn’t mean it really sinks in until you need to experience it for real for the first time.

Over the next five years *bringing us to the present* I had the hard task of teaching myself how to do the type of art that I wanted to be doing. I had friends who tried to show me different sites I could look at in order to get there, but just I talked about yesterday with the “no magic wand” it held true with this too. There wasn’t anyone out there that was going to do the learning for me.

The same holds true even once you have acquired a job in your field. As an artist the looks are always changing, the world is always evolving with what they want to see, what they find attractive in art *and people… but that’s another rant for another time.* and how they want that art created. There was a span of years where doing any digital art was just unheard of in production. Now we live in an era where a good portion of art used is all created digitally from concept to completion. When I started my education I was still under the impression *god knows how* that I was going to be able to be a traditional illustrator with colored pencils, inks and watercolor and make it in the world. While this was one option I could have done it would have completely hamstrung my growth and development as an artist. I had to master the scary program that was Photoshop. To be really upfront I really should go learn things like Maya and other 3D render programs as well.

The point is, there’s always something new to learn and you have to be open to learning these things. Today our society moves at a lightning fast pace that one can barely keep up with, even with access to the internet. No matter what your profession there’s a way to reach out and challenge yourself. To learn something new everyday. Look up a tutorial, read a book, listen to a podcast, talk to an elder, talk to a teacher, talk to a friend, experience something new, enrich your life.

In doing so you are arming yourself with more skills, more knowledge and with that giving yourself access to more opportunities. You never know when you might need to sketch a snail shaped space ship, or render a piston or Ground Engaging Tool in Caterpillar Yellow.

Remember great things don’t happen instantly. They take time and effort. Art takes time, Great art takes LOTS of time.
No matter what you’re doing pursue the next level of greatness.

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Art References:

CTRL+Paint: http://www.ctrlpaint.com/

DrawCrowd: http://drawcrowd.com/  Great place to see high end art. The references you use will push you to create better work. Never settle for anything but the best reference art to look at.

Art Station: https://www.artstation.com/  Great References, inspiration, community and you can make a portfolio webpage with them! FOR FREE.

GumRoad: https://gumroad.com/collections/illustration-tutorials  Yes, it’s easy to spend lots of dollars here. Yes, its a WEALTH of knowledge.

Deviantart: http://www.deviantart.com/ Not what it once was in terms of critiques, but you can still search for some really awesome tutorials here.

*Tomorrow: Be your own Marketing Team*

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