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Submitted on
July 27, 2014
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Beware the Kitterpillar! by Sarilain

Do you feel like no one cares about your artwork?  That no matter how hard you try, you'll never improve?  Well, I've been there before.

A little less than a year ago, I didn't even have 100 watchers.  It was tough trying to find commissions, even though I priced them around 10 - 100 :points: an hour.  Sure, I had some wonderful people supporting me (thank you very much for that!), but when I looked at the thousands of diehard fans the "popular" artists had, I felt kinda useless.  It seemed like even a thousand watchers, or just being able to earn minimum wage was impossible.  Sometimes I wanted to cry from all the effort I put in.  I kept drawing and drawing but barely improving.  I was frustrated and felt useless.  But instead of giving up, I pushed myself even harder, and by God's grace it's starting to work out for me.

I now have over 16,000 amazing people encouraging me, and I know it's only a matter of time before I'm earning enough to be a full-time artist!  Sure, I'm not super popular yet, and I might not have what's considered "professional" quality art, but there's a lot that I've learned these last few months.  And I pray it can be of use and encouragement to other struggling artists.

Disclaimer and Credit:

This advice is only from my own perspective, and is by no means 100% accurate or at all professional.  This is simply what has worked for me.  I've often been asked about commissions, exposure, and such, so I hope this answers everyone's questions.

All images are linked back to the original artists.  Added them for artist features, inspiration, and to make my rambling a little less dreary.=P

You CAN Improve Your Artwork!

"Practice makes perfect."  I'm sure you're as tired of hearing it as I am, but this is the best advice I have ever received.  Certainly, no one will ever be perfect, no matter how "pro" we get, there's always more improvement to be made.  But practicing drawing is the only way you will actually become better at drawing.  Not practicing your craft but expecting to improve is like trying to win a race with a parked car.

Tourists by pepperin AT : Rurii-sama by Ryuuta-kun Lemon Drop by camilladerrico I will eat all your night mares by Fraizy-Sama Lux and Frey by laverinne

:bulletpink: Draw as often as you can.

I draw almost every single day.  If you think you don't have time for artwork, that's simply not true.  You don't have time because you don't make time.  This might mean sometimes giving up watching tv, spending time with friends, going out to eat...  If you really want to improve at something, you have to make sacrifices.  Even the busiest person with a family and a full-time job, ask yourself, can't you put aside just five minutes a day to sketch in a notepad?  It might not seem like much, but before you know it, those five minutes will add up into hours, days, months, even years of experience!

:bulletpink: You don't need fancy lessons.

This might be considered bad advice by a lot of professional artists, but you don't have to go to school to become an amazing artist.  Yes, schooling can help you improve much faster.  You have access to trained, seasoned professionals who can work directly with you.  But not everyone has access to, or can afford a professional education.

Instead, check out some of the awesome, free tutorials offered on deviantART alone.  They're made by wonderful people who started out just the same as you and I, why not benefit from their experience and further your own path?  It might save you a little time and struggle trying to figure it out on your own.

For instance, I found this one on colour theory particularly helpful in improving my adoptable designs:

Quick and Dirty Color Theory by DarlingMionette

:bulletpink: Study and search for inspiration!

140724 by fxerie [CLOSED] ADOPT AUCTION 98 - Reflection by Piffi-adoptables Hot Chocolate Teacats .Adoptables. [CUSTOM OPEN] by scribblin Custom Kysvee! ((JaskaTheFennec)) by Will-O-Wisps [closed] Fluffy Adopt Batch by SquiggleCakes

Study things in real life, like how shadows form around objects, how colours reflect off of surfaces, how a cat moves.  If you're an adoptable artist, try mixing weird things together.  If you like drawing cats, try drawing some made of unusual things... like bubbles, rocks, newspaper, socks...  Don't be afraid to experiment!

Study artists you admire, find out exactly what it is about their art that you love.  Then don't be afraid to try similar techniques in your own work.  Just try not to directly copy them.  For instance, as a child, I loved Lisa Frank, Sanrio, and Pokemon.  If I drew a rainbow Pikachu with a bow on its head and called it "Hello Mouse", that would be copying.  But if I drew a colourful picture with imaginary creatures in bows... it might be in a similar style, but it's still completely my own thing.  There's a difference between copying someone or being inspired by them.  Definitely don't be afraid to get inspired.  It's how everyone builds their art style.  It's done over years of taking tiny bits of inspiration and melding it all together.  I'm still finding mine.

:bulletpink: "I can't" actually means "I won't".

If Bob attempts a painting ten times before he perfects it, but Mary tries a hundred times but still can't do it, does that mean that Bob is better than Mary?  No!  Everyone matures at different speeds, some things just come more easily to some people.  And what if Mary says, "oh well, I tried a hundred times, I'll never get it, I give up!" but she doesn't know that on her very next try, it would have been the time she finally painted that award winning masterpiece?

If you tell yourself you can't do something, then most likely you will give up.  It could be right before that amazing breakthrough, but you'll never know.  Yes, we might take one step forward, then feel like we've fallen back three.  But if we keep trying, there's no way to move but forward.  Your artwork WILL improve, because there's no other way for it to go.  You just have to be patient and give it some time.

You CAN Gain More Exposure!

"All the popular artists get all the commissions!  No one will even look at my art!"  Throw that negative attitude out the window.  You CAN gain more watchers, you CAN receive commissions, and you most definitely DON'T have to under price to do it.

Check these out:

Commission: Nerine Charm by SarilainCommission : Princess Ariana Charm by SarilainCommission : Frostbite Charm by SarilainSteelers Pikachu Commission by Sarilain Blaziken Sketch Commission by Sarilain

They were my first commissions.  Maybe you think they're good, or maybe you think they're dreadful.  Either way, they're not what I consider high-end, front page deviantART material.  So how did I gain so many watchers and higher paid commissions?  Here's some tips.

:bulletpink: Make your profile interesting.

Think like a potential customer.  If you were someone else, why would you want to watch you?  They aren't going to dig through your gallery and find that reason for you.  Find some way to display your best and most interesting work.  Even without premium, you can still decorate with the deviant ID widget and latest gallery submissions widget.  If you have an open giveaway, or if you are offering a special promotion like discounted commissions, free sketches, etc., be sure to write a journal and display it with the profile journal widget.

Keep your profile clean, organized, and easy to understand.  Try not to ramble on too much, use proper grammar, and punctuation.  Upload an attractive icon and have a simple, memorable username.  Your profile is usually your first impression on others, so be sure to make it a good and lasting one.

:bulletpink: Be unique and attractive.

FREE Snuggly Icon / Avatar : Pikachu by Sarilain FREE Chubbicons : Kanto Starters by Sarilain Commission: Snuggly Icon for Meli-chan3 by Sarilain FREE Chubbicon: My Little Bunny Fluttershy by Sarilain  FREE Snuggly Icon : Vulpix by Sarilain FREE Snuggly Icon : Espeon by Sarilain FREE Chubbicon : Pikachu by Sarilain

If you want more watchers and hopefully commissions, you need to try to offer something they can't get any place else.  For instance, I'm not particularly skilled in anatomy or high definition artwork in general, so I came up with my own icon style.  It's not particularly jaw dropping, but this is an example of how I worked with my strengths and around my weaknesses.  Because I'm not great with high quality, I kept them simple.  They're cute and colourful because that's what I like most.  And best of all, there may be similar icons, but mine were still different enough to gain some attention.

:bulletpink: Advertise.

You won't gain watchers by sitting on your behind.  There are SO many ways to get exposure, here are just a few:

- Critique and comment on others' artwork; be active in the community.

- Llama badge spam!  They make others happy, and give you the opportunity to attract more profile visitors.

- Submit artwork as often as you can.  Bonus points for fan art, it gives others something to relate to!

- Host free raffles/giveaways.  Everyone loves free stuff, right?=P

- Join groups and fill up their galleries!  The more places your art is, the better chance you have of being noticed.

- Submit to less popular categories.  It's much easier to make it to the front page of deviantART with an icon (especially if it's free-to-use and a fan art), than it is to make it with something submitted to the Digital Drawings/Paintings category.

- Give back to the community.  Whether it's through encouraging journals, picture tutorials, or free-to-use resources, there's so many ways to help others, and gain a little exposure for you too.

Out of all of those methods, I've found the free-use artwork and llama method the most effective, but see what works for you!  And don't give up if you've given out a hundred llamas, or made five icons, and nothing's happening for you.  I've given out almost a hundred thousand llamas, and by the end of the year I hope to have a hundred free icons.  Everything takes time and effort.

Glam Mane Flutterbabe by Kiwicide Adoptable: Auction 01 [CLOSED!: AB'D TY!!!] by rosanova :Blueberry Lollipop: by PrePAWSterous strawberries by Melonkitten There's a ray of hope beyond despair. by Detrah

:bulletpink: Don't sell yourself short.

Try to estimate the time you spend on each type of commission.  Then price it according to what you would like to earn per hour.  I would recommend no less than minimum wage per hour, however, it's always up to you!  And ignore people who complain and badger you to death that your prices are too high, it's no one's business but your own.  No need to lower your self worth and standards!  After all, it takes years of practice to become a professional quality artist; you shouldn't undervalue all your blood, sweat, and tears.

If you have trouble receiving commissions, then either A) you need to advertise more, or B) you might need a little more practice.  Don't let it get you down though, both things are super simple to fix, you just have to work hard and be patient!  Because, again, I'm no Pixar quality artist, and if I can sell my simple little doodles, you can too!  It just took me a few years of practice, and half a year of advertising.

Here's some more of my old stuff to encourage you:

*Re-uploading* OLD Art: Aria by Sarilain Shattered Glass App 1 by Sarilain Old Sjutin by Sarilain Aisha Glomp *Old Art* by Sarilain*Re-uploading* OLD Art: Baby Chomby by Sarilain

You ARE Special!

No matter what anyone says, you are the only YOU in the whole entire world.  You're the only you that will ever exist!  There's no one who can do what you do, exactly how you do it, and don't let them tell you otherwise.  And most importantly, God already loves you, exactly how you are.  You don't have to struggle to meet impossible standards set by some strangers who don't even know you.

My favourite Bible verse is Zephaniah 3:17 :

I'm always encouraged and amazed over the fact that the Creator of the entire universe, could possible care enough about me to not only remember my name, watch over me... but singing?  Like celebrating and being proud kind of thing?  Wow.  I must be pretty special.

And because we're so super special, there's one more thing to remember.

:bulletpink: Don't let others define your originality.

This is especially prominent with adoptable artists.  There's always someone who leaves a nasty comment arguing that your species or designs aren't original enough, and you're just trying to rob people of their hard earned money.  Nonsense!  What is originality?  According to Merriam Webster, originality is "the quality of being new and different in a good and appealing way" and "the power of independent thought or constructive imagination".  So it basically means different, right?  Well, if everyone else decides that the only "original" adoptables are some super complicated freaky creatures, doesn't this in turn become unoriginal because everyone's doing it?  Besides, there's nothing truly "original", there's always something similar that has been done before.

Instead, celebrate who you are, and enjoy drawing what you like to draw.  With enough practice, your passion will show and it will attract others.  There's always someone else who's into what you're into.  So draw your pudding cats, jello dogs, and super complicated freaky creatures!=P  Your originality is for YOU to decide.  After all, if your designs are "so simple anyone could do it", then why don't they?

Kitten Chocobox by ethe Mlp oc by AquaGalaxy Fizzy Tiger by Pand-ASS Chibi Lava Cake by witchpaws

In conclusion, there are NO secrets, NO shortcuts to becoming a successful artist.  It's nothing more than sheer determination, effort, and for me, constant prayer.  How hard are you willing to work for what you want?

You CAN do it!  You are amazing and one of a kind, never forget that!=)
I wrote this yesterday, but just now had the time to upload it.
I hope it's encouraging, and not weird or dumb or something.x3  Completely nervous to submit it but I've been wanting to say this for so long.  It's so simple to become one of the "popular" artists you admire.  Not easy, but simple.  You just have to work hard!!

Thanks so much everyone.T^T
Add a Comment:
Shodaimesergio7 Featured By Owner 6 days ago  New member Hobbyist
Thank for all these words and advices; I'm a member of DeviantArt just 4 days ago and I didn t know how things were going here. Thanks a lot.
Lisaxgu Featured By Owner Jan 24, 2015  Hobbyist Artist
I really loved this. Your words are so meaningful and encouraging. :D I'm going to share this with my friend!
CrypticMachine Featured By Owner Jan 20, 2015  Student General Artist
Oh man. I was feeling really down today. Thank you so much for sharing. I really needed this so bad. This is lovely. ;u;
Luminix-pony Featured By Owner Jan 10, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
WOW! Thank you for your inspiring words...Luminix la 
MeIsGeanie Featured By Owner Jan 9, 2015  New member Hobbyist General Artist
OMG Thank You very much for this! This is exactly what I needed to read right now. I'll remember to read this whenever I feel giving up.
artistic4642 Featured By Owner Jan 7, 2015  Student
Thank you so much for encouraging and uplifting other artists! This is a great inspirational post that motivates artists to keep trying their hardest and continue to improve. I love that you incorporated your faith into the post, which really inspires me as a Christian. Thank you again for being willing to lift others up and help beginning or struggling artists! I pray that you will continue to have success and fulfill your dreams! Hugs!
cysir Featured By Owner Dec 28, 2014  Professional Artisan Crafter
Well, I'm a bit floored. This is fantastic advice and violently encouraging, especially coming from someone as great as you. Also awesome that you included your "before" drawings to show how much someone can improve if they put their mind to it! (Found this linked from the 2014 meme you just posted, and that was also quite encouraging.)

I had started an icon series but got discouraged when only one person downloaded it... however, I think I'll try it again. I guess I also need to work on not selling myself short and comparing myself - from now on, whenever I see a great artisan crafter, perhaps I could use that as motivation to be just as good, not putting myself down.

Last note - I really like the addition of the Scripture, complete with a lovely graphic design piece. You present Christianity as *your* thing, not something to shove down one's throat "if you wanna get good." 

Sorry for the wall of text! Just wanted to thank you for this wonderful journal. c:
Sarilain Featured By Owner Dec 28, 2014
I'm so happy!  It encourages me too that I can help someone else!  I keep trying with art and failing to reach my goals, it's nice to know I can be useful in other ways too.^^

Yes, it's so hard, but instead of trying to reach someone else's standard, just do your best and keep promoting it!  A lot of the time you just need more exposure.

Thank you!

Thank you too!!  Happy new year!!
ivoryK1tt3n Featured By Owner Dec 22, 2014  Student General Artist
Thank you for this.  <33  You are truly a giant inspiration~! <33
Sarilain Featured By Owner Dec 22, 2014
Thank you!!!
iGlacial Featured By Owner Nov 3, 2014  Professional Digital Artist
Very nice article, and encouraging too. 
I really have a massive problem with advertising myself - I (obviously wrongfully) think of advertising myself the same as bragging. Hopefully I'll get over it...

I have to say, your art = cuteness overload La la la la .
Sarilain Featured By Owner Nov 6, 2014
Ahaha I feel a little guilty too, but I have to advertise if I want to make sales so...x3

Thank you!
Ariamay123 Featured By Owner Oct 21, 2014
Wow, I only just came across this now, and it really made a huge difference for me. Thank you so much, it really gave me more confidence! :heart:
Sarilain Featured By Owner Oct 21, 2014
Aww thank you, I'm glad I could help!!!
Ariamay123 Featured By Owner Oct 22, 2014
You're welcome! :hug:
GrimmDestiny Featured By Owner Sep 24, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
This was such a confidence boost ahhh ;w; This is so inspirational thank you <3
Sarilain Featured By Owner Sep 30, 2014
I'm glad!!!
Shabooshka Featured By Owner Aug 3, 2014  Hobbyist Artist
:( this made me feel worse
razorsharp2199 Featured By Owner Aug 18, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Shabooshka Featured By Owner Aug 18, 2014  Hobbyist Artist
its srsly not possible, i try my best. but i havent progressed at all. i've only learned, thats as close as i can get :( and i know -_- i know i will not progress
razorsharp2199 Featured By Owner Aug 19, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
don't worry
i thought i would never get good at humans or animals
but look! i did! it took me a lot, but i did improve

and you will too
Shabooshka Featured By Owner Aug 19, 2014  Hobbyist Artist
razorsharp2199 Featured By Owner Aug 19, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Shabooshka Featured By Owner Aug 19, 2014  Hobbyist Artist
Shabooshka Featured By Owner Aug 19, 2014  Hobbyist Artist
Shabooshka Featured By Owner Aug 19, 2014  Hobbyist Artist
Ty but i cant -_- if i try i can, ok? the end
razorsharp2199 Featured By Owner Aug 19, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist

Shabooshka Featured By Owner Aug 19, 2014  Hobbyist Artist
razorsharp2199 Featured By Owner Aug 19, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
this is getting ridiculous
(1 Reply)
Justware Featured By Owner Jul 31, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Very interesting, although I believe it's not really about skills, rather how well you response for demand. It's reason fan art and chibi art is so much on display.

You are very skilled artist, don't take it any other way than that. I just don't believe hard work necessary equal success in art community. You have to have something that fascinates people, without it there will be no one looking your works.
LadyScourgE Featured By Owner Jul 30, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Dat Kitterpillar tho! It's melting me with its cuteness!

I must say, thank you for sharing your tips with us, and for your encouragement.
Jaeox Featured By Owner Jul 30, 2014   Writer
Very nicely said and put together. Nice optimism aswell.

Keep it up and hope things continue to go well for you. God has right paths for us all, we just have to do our part.

Time for me to kick this procrastinating tendency I tend to have.
flutter-sama Featured By Owner Jul 30, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
cintimon026 Featured By Owner Jul 30, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Thank you so much for the encouragement! I'm currently facing exactly that problem (I'm not attending the art major, I'm not popular enough on the internet and so on) It frustrates me so much. But after reading your journal, it gives me more hope. ;u;
LoneSpriter Featured By Owner Jul 29, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Oh my goodness thank you so much! I feel much happier already!
ThePeculiarMissE Featured By Owner Jul 29, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
This is very inspiring. Thanks so much for making this, it was just the encouragement I needed now!
xxStrawberry Featured By Owner Jul 29, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thank you for the inspiration!
PuftPrin Featured By Owner Jul 29, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
I love this message! Thank you so much for writing it, especially for the scripture. I often forget (and I hate this about myself) to pray for strength and perseverance when it comes to art. I'd pretty much condemn and judge myself for the things that I draw, so I'm in a constant battle about what is legit and what isn't when it comes to my artwork. For that reason, I end up drawing lots of fan art and regretting it later. Ugh, so anyway, thank you for being inspired enough to write this blog, I really felt like it was for me and/or that it was something I needed to hear. God bless you! 
AuroraSkies11 Featured By Owner Jul 29, 2014  Student General Artist
Thank you for taking your time to right this. I sold like 3 commissions so far but they're are not very good..... Probably because I'm really young compared to you.....
NoodlieSkullZ Featured By Owner Jul 29, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Wow~ okay then! <3 This was encouraging indeed! Thank you for sharing!
NightmareWolf123 Featured By Owner Jul 29, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
This was so encouraging for me, especially since I always doubt myself. I've sold no commissions in my time on deviantART but I feel I'm underpricing my own work. This is truly helpful.
spacerogue Featured By Owner Jul 29, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I never really expect I'll get anywhere but this was a joy to read :hug: 

Thanks for the boost ! 
Charnapoleon Featured By Owner Jul 29, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Thank you for writing this! I've only been drawing realism and portraiture for 8 months, and having a three year old child makes it difficult to get much done, but I will always find the time! Drawing attention to my art is something I find very difficult, but hopefully with more practice and confidence I will get there eventually :)
deshanrocks Featured By Owner Jul 29, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
nicely put
VanLouProductions Featured By Owner Jul 29, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist

Thank you so much for this! I will come back and read it every time I feel like giving up. :)
Heyriel Featured By Owner Jul 29, 2014  Student Digital Artist
Hmmm, actually most professionals I know (especially those in the conceptart business) don't really recommend going to art school at all. For the sake of having lots of time for your art, sure it's great (cause there is only so much time you can put aside for drawing when you've got a full-time job), but not because having that kind of formal education is fundamentally better or more useful than self-teaching. Many, many of the people there (eg on, or even look at some of the best artists on dA like Balaa) never went to art school but just gradually transitioned into the industry from their previous professions.
What they do always recomment is taking figure drawing classes though, cause the real thing is still better than drawing from photos. -and that advice even applies to animal artists. c:
RoadZero Featured By Owner Edited Jul 29, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Fancy lessons we sure don't need, yet there's a huge gap between art school (school as in "schools of thought", i.e. big hump of traditional knowledge going straight from old masters) and self-learned artist. You can become amazing all right - successful, with beautiful works which will represent your message or idea or design...or just be a feast for eyes. But most people won't make it to become classical artists. For most, it's not even a goal. That's why there's this gap. Popular dA artists and, uh, painters? are two different classes today.
dA, possibilities of digital art and the demand for fan-art had brought forward an entriely different breed of artists. For them, indeed, special art colledge is not necessary, since art colledges have different views and goals in teaching students. And lessons/short courses will in the end do the same as self-learning - dedicated, careful, full of attention self-learning.

I'm not trying to correct what you said...just thought of it, maybe someone will find this idea interesting. And not saying you can't possibly become a painter whose works will be gladly exhibited in art museums. But probably there aren't many people around who want this anyway.

Like celebrating and being proud kind of thing?"
Celebrating, yes. But proud - no. Because pride is unhealthy by definition. I think there's some healthy analog of "being proud" for God or God's being. But there's probably no word for it? Maybe...satisfaction? Or just... just... love? Is pride just love being twisted and disordered?.. Hmm. :)
ValChaon Featured By Owner Jul 28, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Thanks for the inspirational boost!
GeekyRockCandy Featured By Owner Jul 28, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
nooooo my self pity...ITS GONE! Thank you so much :iconsarilain: ! God bless you for making this journal & being inspiring.Chili Anime Emoji (Snuggy hug) [V2] 
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