Are you a hack or a primadonna?


How do you decide when a script or drawing is finished? When is it good enough and when does it need more work?

At my old studio, we used to joke: When is a drawing really good? When it is done!

We sometimes continued to come up with alternatives, like: When the invoice is sent!

While it sounds like a shallow hack remark, there is a level of truth to it. Because just as you can do sloppy artwork just to get something “done”, there is also a great risk of spending to long on something and ruin it in the process. Besides, life is short. You want to get more than one drawing done, so you shouldn’t keep obsessing over one piece of art, trying to make it “perfect”!

The perfect drawing does not exist. Because you will change, however unnoticeable, as you are working on it, and that will change how you look at the drawing.

But how do we know when something is “done” or “good”?

That is a hard question to answer. Wether it be a piece of art or a manuscript, you just need to pass it on at some point. Get a second opinion. To judge something yourself, you need a bit of distance. You don’t always have the opportunity to put something in a drawer for a month or two. You might be on a deadline.

But there is a skill to deciding whether the thing you’re working on is good enough or needs some more work.

If it’s paid work, you also need to take money into consideration. What would be the hourly rate if it takes you ten hours to do an illustration? If the answer makes you cringe, perhaps you need to be spending five hours instead. It all depends on the situation.

A work of art should be judged not only by it’s artistic merit, but also by the circumstances under which it was made.

As artists, we walk a tightrope between being lazy hacks and overly self-critical, meticulous primadonnas. Too little self-critique and you stop growing as an artist. Too much self-critique and you might end up quitting art altogether. Because it’s just too damn hard.

Whenever you find yourself in a place where things are really, really hard, remind yourself that’s because you are growing, improving, learning.

Somewhere in you, between the hack and the primadonna, there is a humble, realistic and self-aware professional waiting to get things done. Stop getting in his way and let him go to work.

Tags: , , , , ,

One Response to “Are you a hack or a primadonna?”

  1. Josh Dubois June 19, 2016 at 5:02 am #

    This is an excellent question and perspective! When I was a teenager, I thought for sure I was going to draw comics. But, I would always get stuck on the parts that I struggled with and would not allow myself to move forward. Life happened and eventually the drawing turned to doodling and then stopped. Now here I am over 40 and the pencil has found its way back into my hand. Now that I have grown-up (notice I didn’t say matured!), I am going right after those items I used to struggle with. This way, my primadonna and my hack can finally join forces.
    Thanks for all of the insight, Mr. Schmidt

Leave a Reply