The Improvement Mindset: Improvement is in Your Hands
This past summer when I attended a pre-college program, I had one goal in mind: to come out of the experience as a better artist. While I had been drawing for several years prior, every medium, such as charcoal, animation, and 3D with foam core, we used in class was new, foreign, and often frustrating. Part of me wanted to just say, “Screw it!” and go out with my friends instead of working.
However, most times when I would rather go out and get food truck fries or boba tea, I stayed in with charcoal all over my dorm room floor, or holed up in the animation lab drawing frame after frame late into the night. I remember one particular night when it was around 2 in the morning and all I wanted to do was give up. I called my parents in a panic and that’s when they reminded me of my goal. They told me that while sometimes the work can be incredibly stressful and difficult, in the end it will pay off and I will be happier because of it.
When the program ended, it was really easy to see which students had improved- and who had not. There were stark differences between the quality of the pieces from the beginning of the program to the end. So many people blamed their professors or lack of background knowledge on why they weren’t as ‘good’ as they were hoping to be by the end of the program. Most of them lost all of their motivation halfway through, but they still expected to see improvement. Their work was more or less the same as at the beginning of the program, and a lot of them were pretty mad about that.
On the other side of the spectrum were the people who had improved. I saw people who went from drawing mostly anime characters to being able to draw beautiful, gestural birds on huge canvases. People who had never blown glass ever created careful droplets at specific measurements with precision. I noticed that we all had similar habits that set us apart from everyone else.
Here are tips for improving your art:
1) Have a goal in mind.
Some students wanted to get a good grade so that they could get a letter of recommendation for when they applied to university. Others wanted to create pieces to include in their portfolio. While the goals are different, the motivation is the same. Create something that you are motivated to work towards, because if you are motivated, then you are more likely to work hard!
2) Ask for help, even when you don’t think you need it.
It’s always good to have your teacher’s point of view. I’ve found that there is a stigma against asking for help, especially in high school, but that stigma restricts you from really learning! Asking for help and accepting criticism is so important to know where you doing well and where you can get better.
3) Keep a schedule, but allow yourself fun time!
Set times that you will work on a project and be completely focused on what you are doing. Remember that it is just as important to have fun though. I made sure to let myself relax and go out with my friends so that I kept a happy mindset, and if I have a happy mindset than I can work better.
4) Work hard. I won’t tell you the cliché “Work hard and you can achieve anything!” rubbish that you are told all of your life, but also don’t slack off and expect results. I knew that I wouldn’t get anywhere if I only played and never worked. Besides, the work can be really fun!
My summer was the most I’ve ever worked in my whole life, and much of the time was stressful and very, very difficult. However, in the end I had an amazing time getting to do what I loved with people who had similar passions, and my art and my mind were so much better because of it. Now that I’m back in school, I know I have to keep up with these habits so that I can achieve my dreams of being an artist- while not failing all of my classes.