Sometimes you shouldn't emulate your heroes

Setting quantitative goals around art-making was useful for a few years. I can now sit and draw for a whole day if I must. So my determination around how much to draw (a lot) was soundBut I made some dubious choices about what to draw, and how to go about it. The choices were dubious because my motives were warped. 

From 2013 to 2017, hellbent on achieving Illustration Skills, I spent a lot of time emulating artists I admired. I amassed an inspiration folder featuring a wide spread of styles, but the ones I envied most were gorgeous, intricate, succulent with color. I was taken with the prize-winning artists who created these works. I so wanted to be as good as they were. I fretted over my inferior skills, duplicating their pieces wholesale, trying to bludgeon my style into something resembling theirs. 

Emulation is necessary for improvement! But I came at art practice so militantly, I didn't realize how little I was enjoying the process. What I was experiencing wasn't inspiration. What I was doing wasn't as innocent as drawing from my influences. It was as if I wanted to possess the art I loved—specifically, the stuff The Institution* deemed exemplary. I imagined that if I learned to draw like Sam Bosma and Jillian Tamaki and Richie Pope and every other esteemed illustrator there ever was, I would achieve... I don't know. Nirvana?

That's the thing: my motivations were fucked. I didn't want their styles. I wanted their careers. I wanted their happiness, which I assumed that they, being successful professional artists, possessed in spades. I wanted their job satisfaction, their freedom, their jouissance. Their fearlessness in doing what they loved.

I assumed, mistakenly, that mastering illustration skills would come with the full suite of self-actualization software. 

My emulation simply had no center. It was joyless. Apparently, you can love to look at, or read, or listen to a thing, and hate creating it yourself. I love looking at gorgeous paintings, but you know what I actually like making? Stupid hilarious comics, that's what.

I will be influenced by 100000 artists in my lifetime, but there is only one me. (How very special I am!) My style will shift, but probably not more than a dozen times, unless I go after a career in art forgery. But art forgers don't win industry awards or get invited to speak at conferences, so what even is the point.

Kidding! Don't chase awards, friends. That, too, will make you sallow and curmudgeonly.

*Which I imagine to be housed in a grand Art Deco-ish edifice