DISCLAIMER: I wrote this two years ago, and with a DeviantArt audience in mind. But upon re-reading, I think it's stood up to time pretty well (sometimes me-from-the-past can be surprisingly mature~). Anyway, I just love getting feedback on my "advice lists".
I'm writing this because I kinda had a mini revelation a few weeks ago...I was thinking about some of the people I knew online when I first started sharing art & stories on the internet as a young, impressionable 8th-grader. And it just hit me: not all of those "amazing" artists I looked up to were all that great. As people, I mean.
I'm not gonna be vindictive and name names and gripe or anything. I'm just going to draw on those experiences, and instead share a list of what I think a good artistic role model should be.
Because in case you didn't know, we're ALL role models here! No matter how bad you think your art is, the fact that you're sharing it and talking about it online puts you leagues ahead of all the youngins out there who haven't tried yet. You have experience, for better or for worse, that they simply do not have. And when it comes time to share that experience, it would be best not to do it in a way that messes people up, would it not?
1. Don't try to make mini-me's
People like it best when things are done THEIR way, so I'm guessing this is the easiest trap to fall into. ^^' It's okay to give people advice, but it's not okay to give undue criticism simply because they aren't making art exactly the way you do.
The experience I'm drawing on here is of someone I knew who would put so much emphasis on backstories and character development; they never drew anyone who didn't have a story.
This isn't a bad thing in and of itself, and I always liked stories, so I tried hard to impress them~. But sometimes you just gotta draw, y'know? So one day I drew this random character; it was pretty much just a profile of a girl's face. But I was trying a new art program, and I spent a lot of time on the shading and whatnot, and when I finished I was really proud of myself.
And the person in question left a comment that was basically the equivalent of "So...what's this supposed to be?"
I'm not gonna go find and quote exactly what they said; that would be petty. The gist is that it was the first time in a long time that I just drew a character for funzies, and they made me feel like that was a waste of my time. And it wasn't.
There's nothing wrong with drawing just to draw. Not everyone is good at telling stories; not everyone even wants to tell stories, and that's okay. Just because you like to write up a full profile for every character you draw doesn't mean that everyone else has to, or even that they should. It is a personal preference.
Bottom line: Before you go telling your "apprentices" what they should do, ask yourself: is this something that would help them become better at doing what they love, or is it something that would help them become more like me? If the answer is the latter, stop, back up, rethink, rephrase, and if all else fails...just don't say anything.
2. Don't be condescending
This is SO, SO important in all areas of life, really. Do not assume that you are above everyone else. And even if you objectively are, don't act like it. It is NEVER necessary.
For instance, if the people who usually look up to you start giving you criticism, don't dismiss it as "they just don't understand, they're too young". This is also a real experience that I had...
Like, what exactly gives you the right to decide that if your apprentices suddenly AREN'T gushing all over you, they're misunderstanding your work? You're not a god. You can screw up, too; you can make something that doesn't come across the way you wanted it to. It's called a mistake.
And besides that, your apprentices are artists, too. Just because they're not as good as you in certain areas, doesn't mean that their opinions (other than worship and praise...) are totally invalid.
Bottom line: Take your apprentices seriously, and stay off your high horse. I mean, like, don't even get on the high horse to begin with. Sell it away and buy yourself some humility and compassion instead.
And if you think that you ARE being misunderstood, take the time to understand what your apprentices were expecting and let them know why you didn't do it. Talk to them. Don't gossip to other "good artists" about what your "underlings" are saying about you.
3. Chill out
Not everything you say to your apprentices has to turn into a teaching moment. Everyone and their mom has a guide on how to make constructive comments and critiques, but you don't have to do that ALL the time.
For example, if you already told so-and-so how they can improve their anatomy work, you don't need to repeat it to them on their next 10 deviations. And you DEFINITELY don't need to "check up" on their learning progress as they continue to make art. Like, please don't. Don't make yourself into a helicopter senpai.
The fact is that art is supposed to be fun for most people. Sure, I know that I can do better when it comes to drawing feet, but I don't have to devote myself to it. I'll practice it whenever it comes up, and if I don't feel like stressing myself out over it, I won't even bother. That's my decision. I'll learn what I want to learn on MY time.
Bottom line: Just because an apprentice comes to you for help, doesn't mean that they're enrolling themselves in "Senpai Art School". You can't just make yourself someone's teacher. When they ask for constructive criticism, give it. But don't be so quick to give it when it isn't asked for. And definitely don't let it be all that you ever say to them.
4. Get yourself a role model
Few people create art in a vacuum. Usually, artists will see another artist's work, say "I wanna try that" and then they start incorporating what they saw into their own work. It's called inspiration~. Even if you don't decide to stick with it, the important thing is that you saw it and thought it was worth trying to learn from. That is what people will see in you when you become a role model~.
So it's valuable to you to have role models of your own, if for no other reason than to put yourself in your apprentices' shoes on a regular basis. It's good to switch perspectives every once in a while.
Also, it can really help you analyze your own behavior. I've noticed that role models who completely idolize their own role models and try to do everything they do usually expect the same from their apprentices. It's like, "They are the best and I'm gonna be just like them, so if you want to be good you should just do everything I do and maybe you'll catch up." It's...not very healthy behavior, IMO.
And then, role models who think that they themselves are the best and see no need to have their own role models...well, you can guess what they expect their apprentices to do.
Maybe you're in a good place with your art style, and you aren't interested in "improving" anymore. That's okay (and congrats~). But make sure you're still able to appreciate other people's work, too, even if you don't want to learn from them.
Bottom line: Find other artists to love! A little diversity in your own art interests will spread to your apprentices, which is good. It'll also help you to better understand the multitude of art styles that exist, and maybe instead of telling someone "you should draw hair more like this", you might tell them "hey, your style reminds me of this person; go check out their gallery!"
5. Put the whistle away
By this I mean, don't jump to conclusions about where one of your apprentices is heading on their artistic path. Maybe they've started writing stories with darker themes. Don't zoom in to give them a lecture about "being emo" and how it's better to have "more original ideas". The same goes for your apprentice whose newest fic is titled "Kotori's Kawaii High School Adventure". Just leave them alone...
Even if the apprentice in question is having a genuinely bad idea, it won't do them any good to hear you lecture to them about "tropes" and "overused plotlines" and "basic characters". There are some things that can only be taught to you by Father Time. I mean, just think about all the bad ideas you had when you were starting out. XD But you're okay now, right?
This isn't to say that you shouldn't offer criticism at all. It's just that...well, you have to learn to recognize the difference between "bad idea" and "what I don't like to see". Like, if there are people airing/selling work of that caliber to millions worldwide, and you still don't like it, then it's probably in the "what I don't like to see" category. (And when I say caliber, I mean complexity and originality, not genre or content. I'm not even gonna go there)
Bottom Line: For example, I'm a fan of more complex storylines. Stuff that makes you think, y'know? But if my apprentice wants to write stories with the complexity of your average Strawberry Shortcake episode, my job is not to wean them off of that desire. If they are ever going to be weaned off of it, they will do it on their own. So what is my job?
My job is to help them make their story the best darn Strawberry Shortcake episode in the history of mankind~.
So that's it. Basically, be nice, don't be a snot, and broaden your horizons. Do that, and you'll be a good role model no matter what~. And if I'm guilty of anything I said not to do on this list, feel free to call me out on it. I'm still a work in progress, especially when it comes to #5...although, my sibs would know more about that than anyone on the internet. ^^' Doki out~