Improvement is something that, at the moment, is hard to think about. After all, when we are focused on a task in the present, it is hard to think much about the future. However, especially with art and artists, if you stick with something and practice over and over again, improvement is bound to come. One only just has to put in the time and effort while being open to change and growth and over time, you will see the difference in your work. As artists, this is something we treasure for it is always lovely to grow into better and better versions of ourselves. In fact, it is so satisfying to look at our art in the present and to think about how far we have come.
However, what about the art that we leave behind in the past? What about the drawings, the characters, the paintings, and other works of art that helped us get to where we are today as artists? What happens to those pieces? Often, we try to bury them in the past, hoping that they will stay there, forgotten and untouched by anyone. Old art from our younger years and completed by more inexperienced hands are looked upon with pained expressions. We often cringe when old works of ours rise up to the surface, remembering just how much we fumbled with our craft in the past in comparison to the present. We often don't want to see our own art; we don't want to admit how inexperienced we once were as creators and artists.
These feelings are completely understandable; I know that I have felt them time and time again whenever I go and flip through an old sketchbook of mine. It's kind of embarrassing at times to see how rusty your art skills were in the past. You want to bury that old art and never see it again. However, what if this wasn't the only option for our old art. What if there was another way we could view the paintings and drawings of our past. Is there anything at all to gain by looking back at our old work?
Personally, I have found many advantages to looking back and exploring my old artwork. First of all, obvious on the surface is to see how far you have come as an artist. I don't just mean a plain appreciation that you are no longer as rusty of an artist, I mean REALLY looking at your progress. Sometimes, it is nice to appreciate the good you are able to accomplish and the beauty you are able to create. Often, we are really hard on ourselves and become our absolute worst critics. Every once in a while, it is nice to subvert this constant artist strife. Look back at your old art and see how you have changed: see how you have evolved as a content creator.
However, looking at changes isn't the only benefit for exploring your old art. It is also quite nice to make note OF these changes. Mark what you enjoy about your past work and if you find some common aspect or trend, incorporate or emphasize it in your artwork. Often, we repeat little art quirks that we enjoy without understanding what it is we actually like about them. Taking a step back and looking at old art, you could learn something new about your art style as a whole. Thus, from this experience, you are able to grow as a creator and artist.
However, one of the fun things that I love to do with my old art is to redraw it completely. It really can be a testament to how much you have grown and evolved as a creator if you take a little time to redraw something from your past. Like before, you can learn something about your art and your art style while also feeling a rush of nostalgia as you recreate a piece you most likely were really proud of in the past. For me, this is just a really fun experience and allows you to really feel connected to your own artistry.
It's true that you shouldn't live in the past, but that doesn't mean that you should cringe completely at it or actively avoid it when it comes to your art. Sometimes, it is nice to go back and embrace the artist that you were so that you can appreciate that artist that you now are.