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The Healthy Way To Compare Yourself To Other Illustrators

January 20, 2011

(Illustration by Øivind Hovland)

It can be dangerous to spend too much time comparing your own Illustration work to that of your fellow artists, but there are times when it can be beneficial to your art and your business.  

I’m sure we’ve all found ourselves getting caught in the trap of unhealthy comparisons. It can be easy to find yourself looking at someone’s art and marveling at how much better they are than you, or how much more successful. This only results in feelings of doubt and uncertainty, which can wreak havoc on your creative output. If you find yourself in this situation, maybe it’s time to back off and return to your own voice and think about what is unique about you.

However, it is also a mistake to go too far in the opposite direction and close yourself off from your fellow Illustrators altogether, thereby passing up opportunities for personal, professional, and artistic growth.

Healthy Comparison

There’s no doubt that paying attention to your fellow Illustrators can be a great learning experience when done in moderation. There are so many things you can learn from the ways that other people communicate visual ideas, promote their work, design their website, etc.

Whenever you come across an Illustrator that inspires you, take a moment to think about what it is that’s grabbing your attention.

Have they tackled a topic in a way that you might not have considered?

Do they have a unique skill or technique that you can develop within yourself?

Are they running their business in a way that you can apply to your own situation?

Questions like these can help to turn simple admiration into a more studious approach that can make you a better Illustrator. No matter what level of experience or talent you consider yourself to be at, growth and education should be a regular activity, lest you become stagnant and complacent in your craft.

The important thing is to be mindful of the ways that you can take the things that you learn from other artists and make them your own without simply copying their approach.

Do you consciously study the work and practices of your fellow Illustrators? What are some things that you’ve learned by doing this?

Please share your thoughts in the comments section of this post.

Special thanks to Øivind Hovland for providing the artwork for this post.

About Øivind Hovland: Øivind Hovland is an experienced freelance illustrator with a long list of international clients, covering a broad range of media.

He is also the author of two illustrated books, published by Tabella, and his work has been short-listed for IMAGES and the Nationwide Mercury Prize Art Exhibition.

Øivind is represented in the UK by NB Illustration.

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11 Comments leave one →
  1. January 20, 2011 6:32 AM

    Thanks for posting this.

    I do use your techniques when I compare myself to other illustrators. Every now and again I’m told that my work looks like this artist or that artist. When I visit these artist’s websites, I do see the similarities that I’m told I share. However, I notice the differences as well and it’s those differences that I push in my own work.
    As for success, that’s relevant. One can’t tell the full success of another artist by just looking at their blog or website. An artist who creates beautiful work doesn’t mean he’s getting A grade gigs, or the gigs that are the artist’s goal. Then again the artist might be at the top of his/her game. Also, things like the economy can play with an artist’s success. One month, an artist is the latest thing since sliced bread and then the next month, he or she is yesterday’s news. So (to me anyway), it’s somewhat pointless to think that an artist is more successful than you. When it come to other artist’s business strategies, sure, try them out. But don’t feel down if it doesn’t work for you. Think about all the good business practices that work for you and then move on.
    Basically, what I’m getting down to, is it’s good to learn from other artist’s practices, but remember your own good qualities about your work. After all, it’s all your good practices that got you this far.

    • January 20, 2011 6:45 AM

      Eek!! I meant to say, ‘As for success, that’s relative!’

      I need a live in editor! :D

  2. January 20, 2011 7:32 AM

    I find myself frequently in awe of my peers business growth. Artistically I am very confident in my work, happy where I am, but I seem unable to get work. I do try to talk to the illustrators I know who have found reps and jobs, but gathering information on how I could improve my own practice is not easy.

  3. January 20, 2011 7:39 AM

    This is a great little nugget of info, Thomas. Even though I already kind of do what your talking about, it’s one of those things that is nice to have spelled out for you so that you become more aware of what you’re doing. You wrote a nice to-the-point outline of it. Thanks.

  4. DeadOctopi permalink
    January 20, 2011 7:50 AM

    So glad I read this, this morning. I think I need to learn to cut myself off from the internet from time to time, I sink hard and fast into that “Oh my god, I’m never going to produce art like that!” mode. It’s probably getting to a point now where it’s cutting into time actually building a portfolio or producing art on a regular schedule.

    Funny, a website I adore speaks to me about how much I need to distance myself from access to it (although a bit indirectly, that’s just my personal conclusion)

    Regardless, thanks for this post. A certainly poignant topic for my brain today. :)

  5. January 20, 2011 9:40 AM

    Man, you have no idea of relevant this is to me right now. I am totally in the place where I am tying to define a style, and when I look at the greats out there it both intimidates me and inspires me at the same time.

    Thanks so much for the blog and the words of wisdom…it helps me to feel connected and gives me guidance..

  6. January 20, 2011 11:10 AM

    Thanks for this post! Inspiration and intimidation is a fine line for me sometimes and this article list some great ways for me to manage it a bit better. Thank you!

  7. January 20, 2011 3:49 PM

    Yet another insightful post! Also I wanted to let you know, I’ve linked to you from my blog as part of a Stylish Blogger Award:

    “Escape from Illustration Island
    If any of you have yet to discover this blog & its equally amazing podcast, hurry right on over there for loads of great information & a warm illustration-related community led by Thomas James, who must never sleep at all.”

  8. Edwina@FASHION + ART permalink
    January 21, 2011 10:25 AM

    Good post, guys. As artists, you have to form a belief in your own style and talent so that looking at the work of others and learning from it is a joy, as it should be, and not some internal beatdown.

  9. January 24, 2011 11:25 AM

    I’ve finally reached the point with my art where I know that if I give it my best shot it will be good enough. It seems basic but I’ve found if I stop trying striving for perfection and stop beating myself up for not being the best artist out there that I can really improve my work.
    You have to enjoy your work or else it shows in your final pieces. Great post

  10. March 1, 2011 8:24 PM

    ultimately your only fooling yourself, it takes years to develop a style, and the journey takes you through my stages, some involve copying, but ultimately youll realize weather you have the right stuff or not, but try not to waste to much time in self doubt, as this will shine though in your work.. talk to people and get your work out there, thatll clear you head either way.

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