It’s All About The Process And Loving It

old school workstation
My artist tools circa mid 1980s
digital work station
My artist tools, 2019

How long does it take before I’m good enough at art?

I occasionally hang out and participate on a Facebook group for fantasy artists. A recent post on that page posed the above question (and I paraphrase), “how long does it take before I’m good enough at art?”

In examining my own art journey, I’ve learned there are two answers to that question:
1) I’m good enough when someone decides to pay me for the work I’ve done. It may not have always been my best work, but someone liked my work enough to hire me for an art commission. It’s hard to argue against that one, especially when it’s the artist who’s earning a paycheck from their art. While beauty is in the eye of the beholder, getting a paying client is a matter of finding the right client.

And my second answer…
2) I’ll never be good enough. I remind myself what a college teacher of mine liked to say, “you’re job is to suck less.” I’ve come to realize this means the artists at the top of their game are constantly striving to improve.

If nothing more, as an artist seeking improvement, I should learn to ask questions of my own work:

  • When making a painting: Is my composition working as I intended?
  • When drawing a comic book page: Is the storytelling clear?
  • When using reference: Does a head look like a head? (Feel free to substitute any other object for “head”)


    Another way to improve is to “have the humility to ask for feedback while having the ability to not take it as gospel.” And that’s straight from a text message Gary Vaynerchuk sent me!

Gary Vee text message

I’ve never ever asked myself or others how long does it take get good at art. It’s a loaded question. At the risk of sounding too business-like, ultimately the market decides. Anything I decide to put out there, the market will decide. Whether it’s a like or a comment on social media, or a purchase from my online store or an art commission. Even if it’s utter online silence and lack of sales or commissions. The market decides.

You Have To Love The Process

As a matter of improving my skill set in art and getting good at it, how did I do it? Short answer: I’m still working on it.

Longer answer: It’s a matter of embracing the process of making art so much that I can’t live without making art. Why? Because that’s the only thing that will get me to continue learning and potentially improve my art making.

So the question now is: How do I learn to embrace the process of making art? I do it by making art, not talking about making art. And then making a lot more art, and then making lots and lots more art. Below are examples of my art through the years (1985 through today.) In all this time, I never once really thought about getting better. I always was dreaming up my next art piece. Or a story I wanted to draw. Or some new characters I wanted to create.

When I didn’t know what I was doing, I would emulate artists whose work I couldn’t get enough of. I can name drop artists like Neal Adams, John Byrne, Walt Simonson, John Buscema, Boris Vallejo, Frank Frazetta…the list goes on.


A little secret that holds today as it did back then: I’m still admiring and emulating the works of other artists. When I don’t have direction, I find it incredibly easy and almost relieving to see what other artists are creating. And I copy them. At this stage, I’m not making actual copies of their work. What I get from other artists is a sense of direction which in turn inspires me.

Never Compare Your Art To Someone Else’s. Stealing Is Better.

I never compare. I look to steal. When I say “steal”, I make note of those artists whose work really makes me upset that I did not create it. There’s a certain healthy professional jealousy in looking at a piece of art and deep down inside wishing I could do that. This concept of stealing, therefore, involves really digging deeper into who or what this artist represents. That is the measure of how I judge the type of art I want to steal.

As a consumer, I can view tons of beautiful artwork on the internet. But when I am so compelled by the art that I want to make something similar but different, then I know I’m on the right path. The next step involves researching the artist. Who is he or she? What is their online presence? I really become intrigued beyond the art at that point. After that, I will take that inspiration and “steal” bits and parts of their style. Or maybe the way the artist renders. Or perhaps I’m really taken by how the artist paints skies. Maybe it’s the looseness of how the artist’s brushwork looks. It makes me wonder why the hell am I painting in such a manner that is way too much in tedious detail? I steal all of that information and it becomes a new inspiration. If you’re not sure how to do that, then you need to keep making art. And make a lot. Then, make a lot more. Draw. Sketch. Paint. Make the comic book you always wanted to see. That’s how it’s done.

It’s only after you’ve made a lot of art that you can decide if you enjoy the process enough to continue. I’m heavily into making my own characters and creating comic book stories about them. I also like to make full color paintings. I seriously can’t imagine a single day going by without me somehow making art. If you don’t love the process, you aren’t going to continue to do it. And if you don’t do it, you’ll never know just how much your art can improve.


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Rene Arreola © 2020