Why do some artists seem to get better constantly and some don’t improve from day one?

I do want to clarify before I get into the harsh realities that there is NOTHING wrong with just doing art for fun and not caring if you improve. The problem is when someone is hoping to make some money selling their work but doesn’t understand why no one wants to buy anything. That is the artist I am speaking to.

Also, before anyone gets mad I’m saying someone’s art is bad, all of us started with bad art. That’s the nature of art and a necessary part of the process. It is no indication of how great you can become. The problem is when your work in year 4 still looks the same as on day 1.

They believe that what they start with is “just their style”.

I have seen this so many times, especially with younger artists. I guess that makes sense, teenagers tend to think they know everything at that age. The reality is your style will adapt with you. Not learning how to paint or draw well does not mean that the bad art you’re creating is “your style”. Most bad art when it comes to realism looks the same. The detail in the foreground is exactly as sharp and has the same values/contrast as details that are supposed to be miles in the distance. perspective is just trash. I don’t mean a little wonky, I mean roads look like they are shooting straight into the air. Buildings are lopsided. Bushes and trees are the same shade of green in the foreground as miles off. The horizon and waterlines are usually not straight. We’ve all seen where someone draws an amazing stylized building that has curved edges or leans into the piece. Very Alice in wonderland feeling. That is not what I’m speaking of. THAT is stylized and intended to look whimsical. What I’m talking about are just poor skills dismissed as “my style”. One could argue that good realism all looks the same, but that’s another video.

They have low expectations for themselves.

There is a myth that art is a genetic trait you’re born with just like the color of your hair or eyes. That is like saying being a surgeon is something genetic you’re born with. You may be born with more acute observational skills which can make art easier, but even then that has to be developed with time and practice. ANYONE can learn to paint or draw well. The attitude that person has will make all the difference in achieving that goal. If you believe you can’t do something, you won’t. If you believe you can’t do better because you weren’t born with the skill, you won’t bother doing the necessary work that every good artist does.

One of the things some of us naturally understand is balance in art. Our brains just see it without needing to use the rule of thirds or anything else. But even that doesn’t have to slow someone down. If someone doesn’t naturally have that ability, they can follow a formula to create stunning art. I’ve worked with several who had NO sense of balance. NONE. Their work was still great but they HAD to follow the rule of thirds to achieve it.

When you believe you have no control over something that’s holding you back, you will stay in the same place forever until you get out of your own way.

They only draw from “imagination”.

This is fine if you’re an abstract artist. But if you’re wanting to do landscapes or animals…GET A DANG REFERENCE PHOTO! Your work WILL. NOT. BE. GOOD if you think drawing in realism from only your head is a good idea. Good artists either draw from life or a photo, or better yet a combo of several photos. I am not saying you need to copy it exactly, but trust me, what your brain says a tiger or landscape looks like is nothing like what those things really look like.

Drawing only from imagination isn’t even an end goal! The idea that that means you’re a more advanced/better artist is a myth created by the teenagers that still believe their beginner art is “just their style”.

Good artists have a concept in their heads. They may sketch it out without a photo, but then they collect necessary references so that their work is good.

They surround themselves with nothing but other beginners.

This can be online art groups or in-person art shows or clubs. One thing I’ve noticed about smaller local art shows put on by the city or art clubs is that they are filled with mostly beginners or people who may have been painting for years but never improved. The work at most of the shows here in Dallas that I’ve seen is just…well, not inspiring. You occasionally get a skilled artist mixed in, but the vast majority are full newer artists, or those stuck in the “my bad art is just my style” folks.

When all you see are beginner’s works, you start to accept the bad as the norm. This is not going to inspire you to improve4 when everyone else’s work looks just like yours. Instead, join some art groups where more advanced artists are hanging out. Go to art shows that don’t accept beginner’s work. Start looking at what’s possible for you to paint too instead of a bunch of stuff that looks just like your own.

The wrong way to practice.

Not all practice is created equally. If you’re just making the same mistake again and again you’re not going to get anywhere. One example is in drawing. Tracing will help you to see what is really in that photo. Our brains like to convince us that we know what something looks like. We don’t. Not enough to draw or paint it accurately anyway. If we can trace it a few times that helps break us out of that and show us what is really in that reference photo. Practice drawing ACCURATELY, not just slapping random lines all over the place. Practice observing what that reference photo is showing you.