Monday, March 5, 2018

What chance do I have?

When you're just starting out drawing, and you're browsing ArtStation or Tumblr or Deviantart or wherever, you'll probably be overwhelmed by the amount of talented artists out there in the world, and the incredible volumes of artwork they seem to churn out on a daily basis. At some point, every aspiring artist thinks to themselves, "what chance do I have?"

I have some good news for you: you have a chance.

I will never forget the conversation I had once at a Comic Con. A guy came up to my artist alley table, peered at my prints and postcards, and said, "I wish I could draw."

"Anyone can learn to draw with practice!" I said cheerfully.

"Yeah, the thing is," he sighed, "I don't like practicing."

I just blinked at him while hearing cricket noises in my head.

Ask anyone in the world if they wish they could draw, and like the guy at my artist alley table, 99% of them will say "yes." Ask your mom, your friend, your boss, your barista, your baby. Everyone wants to be able to draw.

Of those people, few will start drawing every day.

Few will start watching and reading online tutorials, listening to illustration podcasts, reading illustration blogs.

Few will sign up for art classes.

Of those people, few will attend every single one of those classes, visit the optional extracurricular workshops, and put lots of effort into their homework.

Few will ask a pro for a one-on-one mentorship.

Few will attend a convention and get a portfolio review.

Of those people, few will go home, implement the advice they received, and create an entirely new portfolio.

Few will put together a sleek, professional website to showcase that new portfolio.

Few will start directly contacting agents, publishers, studios, employers.

Of those people, few will continue to persist and practice in the face of rejection.

I think this is what people mean when they say "50% of success is showing up."

There are some things you don't have control over, such as the amount of natural talent you were born with. Or perhaps you're burdened by physical or mental health struggles, or perhaps you're in difficult financial circumstances.

But there are some things that you do have control over, and frankly few people actually take advantage of that. Everyone wants to do the thing, but few people actually do the thing.

There's no way to guarantee success. But if you can just show up, just do the thing, you will be putting yourself in a very, very, very small candidate pool indeed.

As I heard someone put it on Twitter: "Go the extra mile. It's never crowded."

That's why you have a chance.

Now get cracking!


  1. I hear this often when I draw caricatures at events. "I could never do that" or "I can't even draw a stick figure" are popular responses. Its equally flattering and frustrating that people assume you've been blessed with some magic power that requires no sweat or effort.

    For future events were I encounter these people, I'm planning to use this quote, paraphrased from Fred Rogers; "I wasn't always good at drawing. But I kept practicing and the more I practiced the more I got better. I know I can still be better so I keep practicing every day!"

  2. Oh my gosh THE STICK FIGURE. They always bring up the stick figure!
    I like your Fred Rogers quote very much.

  3. It doesn't help that getting your portfolio in front of art directors, or even just finding their contact info online can be a daunting, spirit-breaking ordeal by itself.

    1. Daunting? Sure. Spirit-breaking ordeal? Hmmmm, it shouldn't be that hard. Feel free to email me if you need some guidance!

  4. I try to encourage them a bit when they use the stick figure bit. "Hey, you can draw a stick figure? That's great! That's gesture drawing! That's how all artists set up the pose. You're an artist already! Now all you have to do is draw the details on top."


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