AuthorTopic: Winning at pixel art  (Read 9960 times)

Offline cels

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Winning at pixel art

on: March 24, 2015, 10:45:09 am
I have a question and before I start, I would like to point out that this subject could easily turn into something negative. My main goal is to just share my view and hopefully have other people share their views, without necessarily fighting about who's right. And certainly, I hope to avoid ad hominem insults like "Who are you to talk?" or "Do u even dither, brah?"

With that said, here's the premise:

As a competitive person, I have a tendency to look at everything in terms of winning and losing. Even art. Of course, it's also about the personal journey and the joy of learning, but ultimately I still maintain a competitive mindset. I can see why some artists stay away from DeviantArt and PixelJoint, because there's something insidious and tantalising about counting the number of 'favourites' and comments each time you upload something. If you get a lot of faves, you count it as a victory. If your latest work is ignored, you count it as a defeat. You assign each piece of work a numerical value to indicate its actual value, to measure its success.

Every time I produce something that doesn't get good feedback, it really burns at me. Sometimes, the negative emotion is my primary source of motivation, as I hate the feeling of defeat when something doesn't get the recognition I feel it deserves. To put it mildly, I am very puzzled when I see other artists who keep making art for years and years without any sort of public recognition and no one to compliment them on their progress. In my competitive mindset, I don't understand why they go on. I don't understand what drives them to keep sharing work without getting real recognition, when their work is sometimes ignored completely.

Do any of you guys understand what I'm saying? Do you ever look at other people's art as competition and get annoyed if they get more recognition than you? Or is it as I fear - are you all much more mature, calm and confident than me? Is your artistic mindset unsullied by childish competitiveness?

I'm interested in your honest views. Let it all out.

Offline 32

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Re: Winning at pixel art

Reply #1 on: March 24, 2015, 11:42:29 am
I personally avoid posting my art publicly generally. I only started posting on pixel joint (and soonly, other social media, baby steps :crazy:) this year because I need the exposure to help me find work commercially. Before that I would generally show my work to friends and family when they ask, or post here once in a blue moon if I felt the need. So that is to say personally I've never required much feedback to motivate me, I enjoy doing what I'm doing and if I like looking at something when I'm done usually that's enough.

That said I understand your desire for recognition, certainly I've been a bit disappointed at the reaction (or rather, lack thereof) to a couple of things I've posted. I tend to be of the mindset that everyone else is wrong though :D Because I personally enjoy those works it manifests more as confusion than anger or frustration. Certainly on Pixeljoint in particular there have been times when I have thought my own or other's works have been very under appreciated, I tend to think it's just not a very good system for giving equal exposure to each piece that goes through there. The Pixeljoint community also definitely has it's kinks, dimensions being the big one haha.

So I guess ultimately my view is that it feels nice when a piece gets some recognition but it doesn't really get to me if it doesn't because... I'm a narcissist ???  ;D

Edit: Also in response to reactions to other people's art: I've never felt bad that someone else's work is getting recognition, I love to see what everyone else is doing and what the community responds to. That just drives me to try harder, I think. I suppose I don't see it as a zero sum game. I don't need other people to be doing worse for me to do better.
« Last Edit: March 24, 2015, 11:49:16 am by 32 »

Offline Cyangmou

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Re: Winning at pixel art

Reply #2 on: March 24, 2015, 11:58:44 am
Quote
when I see other artists who keep making art for years and years without any sort of public recognition and no one to compliment them on their progress. In my competitive mindset, I don't understand why they go on. I don't understand what drives them to keep sharing work without getting real recognition, when their work is sometimes ignored completely.

Do you create art for others with a highly altruistic view (or for money) on it that you make it for the people (or a client)?
Or are you creating art for yourself as means of expressing yourself?


In the first case:
The man with the money make the rules. If you have a problem with the rules, don't take the money.
THe preferences of the crowd set the preferred style. If you don't want to create that style, don't expect attention.

In the second case:
If you make something truly for yourself, it gets your own recognition. Why should your own recognition be less worth than "people's" recognition?
If you have your own recognition and achievement it should be completely unimportant what everyone else thinks.



Everyone will like or won't like something. If you show your stuff at certain communities, there is always the question who sees it and who likes it.
Maybe the people who would like your stuff aren't even in that community or they are a minority there.
Maybe your stuff just don't gets seen long enough.
What you see a lot usually gets normal and therefore gets liked by a lot more people.

If you want peoples recognition there is an easy formula to stick to:
a) analyze the people in the crowd and take a gaussian distribution of the stuff there and what you see the most
b) analyze the style which is used and do the same
c) analyze what gets the most attention

and now you would only have to create something like that. And guess what - it works.
It works for especially that group of people you targeted.
Industry does it all the time.
YOu might not even notice it.
But If that group of people you target is the group of people you can understand and relate to is another story.

If you hit the preferences of the targeted audience, you will gain popularity in the borders of the target audience, but maybe you have to stick to stuff which isn't truly yours (maybe it's a style, a character, an art direction, colors, a psychological approach or anything which doesn't work for you). The huge problem there is just if your personality has a problem with what is popular in a comm.
You might even have to sell your soul in order to create that stuff.
But who cares, in the big industries most of the stuff is made to be liked.

However If you create your own stuff you will have audience from a much smaller crowd of people.
That smaller crowd will like the stuff equally as much as the bigger crowd which just prefers the other thing.
So the quality of liking is the same, the quantity is different.
Makes a difference for ... making tons of money ... I guess.


On the other hand if you always stick to a formula it can lead to creative stagnation and people just copy copies of another one which got like.
Or you become just someone who runs after trend after trend, without the chance of creating an own trend.
A trend is usually created by a new innovative product, everything which follows up immediately just tries to make a quick buck out of the hyped trend. But That usually has to happen quickly, because trends change at a fast pace.

Look at the game industry and the Triple A titles -> at the core the same problem.
Minecraft -> suddenly sandbox games
Skyrim -> suddenly we had a huge amount of open world games
Sword and Sworcery -> suddenly the majority of indies was creating minimalistic pixels

Look at the movie industry and the Hollywood productions -> at the core the same problem
Look at the music industry and pop music -> at the core the same problem

If you want to be an individual:
Be yourself.
Stay yourself.
Be happy with it.
Give less fucks about others.

2 further examples:
styles and the music industry:
we have a few really popular pop-artists (just look at the name) who create stuff which showcased and advertised everywhere.
Now you should have heard some of those songs, and you should have an idea of the world/content they have in their works.
If the content is in line with what you believe it should work for you.
It works for the majority, and that's why it's popular and sells really good.

But I can tell you there are tons of other styles speaking to a different kind of audience.
I am for example listening to metal.
You neither can compare the lyrics nor the musical style with pop music, it's just different.
While I also don't like everything just because it's labeled as "metal", the overall style direction and lyrics speak to me in an average just much more than what pop does.
I haven't found any pop artist so far who would have gotten my recognition over a longer period of time, just because that stuff usually doesn't work for me or speak to me on a deeper level of psychology.

The big question:
Should metal artists then stop producing their stuff, just because they don't have as much recognition as the pop artists?

I honestly don't think so because they have their own fan-group which will stick with them. And that's just because they can communicate on a much more similar or even the same level.

In the best case if you create the stuff which is truly yours and you have people supporting your stuff in a way that you can proceed making it, why shouldn't you just go on and don't care what other people think about it?

another parallel example (which easily could be misunderstood, hiding it here)
sexuality.

Do you think that someone who isn't straight should get straight?
Just to get liked by the majority of people and to have a bigger target group for finding a partner?
I guess we all know that this won't work and that very few people even want to cheat nowadays regarding their sexuality (unless they are in a popular position)
Everyone who isn't straight is part of a minority, nonetheless it's an existing phenomen that the minority exists and keeps existing.
If you exchange "sexuality" with "style" you have at the core exactly the parallel problem.

« Last Edit: March 24, 2015, 12:11:42 pm by Cyangmou »
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Offline Friend

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Re: Winning at pixel art

Reply #3 on: March 24, 2015, 12:17:18 pm
if youre doing it primarily for the likes, then are you really winning or losing? 

Everyone has a need to feel validated, and when it comes to art, this need can be sensitized because it is a body of deeper personal expression.

I feel if I have created my own masterpiece and have expressed myself purely, I don't care if it is one of those works one views for 1 second then walks away.  On some level, just that it is out there, it has changed the world...maybe it has shifted a grain of sand, maybe a secret mountain...But I know a grain of sand shifts another shifts another grain, and mountains shift continents, so..  ???

Offline Alex Sinigaglia

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Re: Winning at pixel art

Reply #4 on: March 24, 2015, 12:20:25 pm
When I publish something in dA or here or anywhere, it's to keep track of my progress, to see if I have improved or I got worse.
Sharing with people is also one of the reasons I do and with that I expect feedback, but if I don't receive it then I ask for it so that I can get better.
And if I don't receive it after that, that's ok, I guess... it's not a problem.

If others' work gets recognition, I'm happy for them. But! It must be good for my eyes, otherwise I get upset and try to make it better. It's not the case here in this forum (I don't count my edits here, which are made to help people and are part of my feedback), but in another forum I'm registered in.
There's this guy who is "known" to convert stuff from a certain style to CvS (it stands for Capcom vs SNK 1/2, the videogame crossover/s). What I mean by converting is "re-sprite a sprite from one style to another"; but his "convertions" (as he calls them, I know the word is 'conversions') don't follow the CvS style (wrong lightsource, wrong shading), however most people consider his style the right one. So I think: "are they blind or something?" and start converting a sprite myself to show that "that's how you do it", together with some criticism.

If you see, there's a little silent competition between myself and the "blind" people who praise a "spriter" (I'll call him 're-shader' next time) that re-shades a full set of sprites in little time... and this is also another thing that irks me: you put so little time into converting stuff, so it's obvious your stuff is not perfect... but this 're-shader' doesn't care and so the others.  >:( And giving feedback to him is mostly useless because, although he starts following it in the first moments, he then proceeds to make the same identical mistakes. But I'm digressing, this is not the topic about feedback.

So, if you read the spoiler, what I want to tell you (even if I went off-topic in the last phrases) is that competition is not necessarily a bad, childish thing but it can give you an idea of what to do.
« Last Edit: March 24, 2015, 12:23:32 pm by Alex Sinigaglia »

Offline Ai

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Re: Winning at pixel art

Reply #5 on: March 24, 2015, 12:40:48 pm
I have a question and before I start, I would like to point out that this subject could easily turn into something negative. My main goal is to just share my view and hopefully have other people share their views, without necessarily fighting about who's right. And certainly, I hope to avoid ad hominem insults like "Who are you to talk?" or "Do u even dither, brah?"
Topic is "Winning at pixel art"... Where is the Charlie Sheen reference ? ;)

Quote
Every time I produce something that doesn't get good feedback, it really burns at me. Sometimes, the negative emotion is my primary source of motivation, as I hate the feeling of defeat when something doesn't get the recognition I feel it deserves. To put it mildly, I am very puzzled when I see other artists who keep making art for years and years without any sort of public recognition and no one to compliment them on their progress. In my competitive mindset, I don't understand why they go on. I don't understand what drives them to keep sharing work without getting real recognition, when their work is sometimes ignored completely.

I would observe, for a start, that everyone -- and I do mean everyone -- likes their 'numbers to go up' -- there is some common human psychology that amounts to, as soon as you quantified X, more X is better (unless X is bad in which case less X is better). But not everyone's numbers come primarily from external validation.

Validation is actually a rather complex subject; without going too far into it, you can get validation out of virtually everything, including eg. rejection, disapproval., etc.

(think of the mindset 'they simply don't understand things on the level I do'. This is almost certainly wrong and immature, but I mention it as an example of a mental narrative that can lead to feeling grimly validated by surprising things like rejection and disapproval.)

I haven't really come up with a good solution for such things. It's tough.

Some artists would tell you, quite seriously, that their art is a journey of self-exploration. My appreciation of the meaning of that is not great, but I can see how it would lead to a great ability to persist regardless of external feedback.

In specific response to
Quote
Every time I produce something that doesn't get good feedback, it really burns at me. Sometimes, the negative emotion is my primary source of motivation, as I hate the feeling of defeat when something doesn't get the recognition I feel it deserves.
I have fits of this. I generally stave it off by reminding myself of "The War of Art" -- specifically "How to be miserable.". Small quote:

Quote
The artist committing himself to his calling has volunteered for hell, whether he knows it or not. He will be
dining for the duration on a diet of isolation, rejection,
self-doubt, despair, ridicule, contempt, and humiliation.

The artist must be like that Marine. He has to know how to
be miserable. He has to love being miserable. He has to take
pride in being more miserable than any soldier or swabbie or
jet jockey.

IOW you've gotta learn to love that feeling of defeat, because it is the feeling of progress. If you're feeling great about your work, you have probably previously progressed and have now hit a plateau.

Quote
Do any of you guys understand what I'm saying? Do you ever look at other people's art as competition and get annoyed if they get more recognition than you? Or is it as I fear - are you all much more mature, calm and confident than me?
I'd suggest strongly that being more mature means a person is better at ignoring those feelings, rather than not having them. They notice them but assign them low priority.

I feel annoyed when art I consider poor gets attention ahead of artwork I've done that I consider good. But I generally just use that to push myself into doing the next artwork.

(in general, I tend to think of competitiveness as 'shitty, antisocial behaviour', so I have a strong aversive reaction to competitive behaviour (that is, one-upmanship) in myself. No offense intended, it's purely supposed to give context for where I'm coming from here.)

Quote
Is your artistic mindset unsullied by childish competitiveness?
Hell no. I want to be the best. But I want to be the best on my own terms, not others'. IOW I'm competing against myself, that's the mindset I cultivate. Other people's art doesn't .. get points, it's on a different scale?
Hard to express, but my art gets points because I have enough context to, in theory, judge it accurately. Other people's art gets different types of points because my appreciation of it is so superficial in comparison.

Or in other words, there are not 'people who are simply better than me at lineart' -- there is a hidden parameter there. With the hidden parameter properly shown, there are 'people who are simply better than me at lineart -by my standards of lineart-'.

There are also 'people who are better than me at getting desirable attention for their art, by my standards of desirable attention'. Those people frustrate me, I will admit. I'm not sure whether I feel competitive about it, I have rather variable feelings about it (that match the love-hate relationship I have with 'attention' ;)



.. well, I hope some of that is coherent rather than superficially-deep-sounding philosophizing ;)

Comments on posts others have made while I was writing this:

Cyangmou: I stand behind Cyangmou's post. All of it. Extremely on-point and insightful.

32:  Strongly agree with
Quote
I tend to be of the mindset that everyone else is wrong though :D Because I personally enjoy those works it manifests more as confusion than anger or frustration.
-- if you don't appreciate my art, that means our psychologies differ sufficiently. Which is pretty much a confusing fact that I have to accept to deal with people. Cyangmou's sexuality analogy is relevant here -- I don't really understand the psychological state 'being not bisexual' in other than a clinical sense, but that doesn't mean there is anything wrong with my sexuality or others, just that we're different.

While I was writing that, it occurred to me that my approach to art is very similar to programming. I'm making systems that are built on top of existing systems, for the consumption of other systems (commonly known as 'people'). If they don't work, that's my fault (but that is also mainly up to me, not you, to judge). If they don't work for you, maybe you don't understand them or maybe there is something wrong. If you can be clear about what that something is, I can take it on and fix it. If you can't, I try to shrug and move on -- your feedback is too indefinite to be worried about.

( a lot of programming philosophy is very relevant to art imo: YAGNI, release early and often, premature optimization is the root of all evil, explicit is better than implicit..)

Alex: yeah, it's really really hard to get any people at all who give half decent critique on a hugboxy site like DA. Or at all. Critique is hard.

I used to be bothered by incompetent drawers and their fans.. But I have come to view trying to correct such behaviour as irresponsible. People won't be taught until they have resolved to themselves that the way they are doing things is definitely inadequate. Until then, you are just like, poking and saying 'Hey. Hey, stop that'. It feels good / justified on some level, but it's not productive (and it's reducing time you could be using to actually make awesome things)
« Last Edit: March 24, 2015, 12:47:34 pm by Ai »
If you insist on being pessimistic about your own abilities, consider also being pessimistic about the accuracy of that pessimistic judgement.

Offline cels

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Re: Winning at pixel art

Reply #6 on: March 24, 2015, 04:06:57 pm
Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Some interesting points here.

@32: Well, I wouldn't necessarily call it narcissism. I think a good artist needs a fair amount of confidence in his or her own artistic vision. Otherwise, you'll just be chasing the lowest common denominator and diluting your ideas and your vision. So I think a certain amount of bias is healthy. When people praise your work, you think "Hell yeah, I'm awesome" and when they don't like your work, you think "Well, they don't know what they're talking about". And I think you have to live with that sort of healthy bias. And the same is true for sport. You'll often see athletes who make excuses when they have a bad performance, but I think that's often a healthy bias you need in order to believe in yourself. "This wasn't my day, but I am actually the best in the world. You'll see."

@Cyangmou: I suppose I need to reflect more on how much my art is aimed at others vs what I personally think is cool. But do you personally have the same view you're advocating? Do you give zero fucks about others, without counting your number of 'favourites' or admiring your trophies on Pixeljoint or DeviantArt or whatever other scenes you may frequent? I see you working very hard at your craft, but is it only for your own satisfaction when you're working on non-commercial art?

In regards to chasing popularity, pixel art has a very specific audience, like certain types of metal (e.g. trash metal). Not everyone will get it. But even within that demographic of people who appreciate pixel art, you can still chase recognition. Whether you want to be the most famous pixel artist in the world, or the most famous C64 pixel artist in the world or the most famous pixel artist when it comes to HD isometric art, or whatever else. Whatever your niche, it's still possible to have that competitive mindset, where you want to be better than others, where you compare yourself to your peers.

@Friend: That's an interesting point. I suppose I'm not pixelling to have any impact on the world at all. Not consciously, anyway. I mean, I try to help others with their art by providing feedback and being supportive. And I like to support the pixel art community and keep the art alive by publishing my stuff on the web, just in terms of being active and doing my bit. But I guess I never really think about whether my art itself is influencing others. It's more about expression and trying to visualize my dreams. Your point makes me think about what pixel art has influenced me and what kind of influence it has had. I'm not sure.

@Alex: Thanks for sharing, that's the kind of stuff I was talking about in the OP. I often detect the same attitude in other artforms, such as comedy or films, as some artists seem to be on a quest to compete with people they feel have the wrong attitude or are getting praise they don't deserve.

@Ai: Charlie Sheen was too obvious  ;D

Great quote. As for competitiveness being shitty and anti-social behavior, it's a very tricky subject for me. Coming from sports, I think competitiveness is absolutely vital to certain activities. There's a great Confucius quote about competition. He says "Gentlemen do not compete. You may say that in archery they do so, but before climbing the stairs to the archery hall, they bow and defer to each other". I read this quote as saying "A good person does not try to compete with others in doing good deeds. In activities such as archery however,  it is alright to be competitive, as long as you maintain the mindset of a good person and don't lose focus of what is important. (i.e. benevolence)"

Offline wzl

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Re: Winning at pixel art

Reply #7 on: March 24, 2015, 06:30:27 pm
Lost of good things said already. One thing i want to add though:

Do you think there is a best of a kind in art? Can you really say one piece is objectively better than another one? More precise strokes? Photorealistic rendering vs abstract color choices? Which is more art?

Eventually it lies in the eye of the beholder. Like cyangmou already mentioned, its a point of demography. What kind of audience do you want to cater to? Pop culture? Realism? Chibi/Japanese style drawings? Abstract horror?
Or do you want to create your own demography by not abiding by any particular known style or direction?

I totally understand the desire of recognition, and the crushing feeling of someone being acknowledged by doing something inferior.
It is a question of who do you want to be acknowledge by? People who thumb up crudely drawn figures catering to a specific group of people, or people who understand art on a more, lets say deeper level.

Personally i prefer posting my art here. I don't get any badges, thumbs, awards or shinies for it, but in return i get something more valuable. Opinions and feedback on my art that will help me become a better artist.

If you want to put yourself out there as much as you can to become a reknown artist, do so. Not only pixeljoint and DA, but every place you feel fits your demography.

Offline Cyangmou

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Re: Winning at pixel art

Reply #8 on: March 24, 2015, 06:41:32 pm
@Cyangmou: I suppose I need to reflect more on how much my art is aimed at others vs what I personally think is cool. But do you personally have the same view you're advocating? Do you give zero fucks about others, without counting your number of 'favourites' or admiring your trophies on Pixeljoint or DeviantArt or whatever other scenes you may frequent?

Sure, I do have the view I am advocating.
I can't give zero fucks about others, but as I said you should give "less" fucks.
Giving less fucks simply results in yourself being happier and only if you are happy you can work on.
Everybody has motivation and depression phases (not talking about the "depression" illness here, rather of a sinus of moods) - but generally speaking if you are happy the moivation phases last longer than the depression phases which also results in being more productive.

If things others say, do or don't do makes you feel worse, you either have to give more fucks about those things or you have to change your policy of showing stuff.

Pixel art is the completely wrong artstyle to start with if you want to have wide admiration and if you want to be a well-known and great pop-artist. If you want to have popularity, either go with fantasy concept/landscape painting or anime painting - those are the 2 artstyles in this age, which will bring you fame, if you pull them off on a masters level.
Pixel art rather is a new, unconventional and very poorly examined artstyle and therefore it can't be as popular as stuff which has been developed over a far greater amount of time.
Plus pixel art is directly tied to games and nowadays to the indie scene. On a world's scale games aren't yet even considered as art by the majority of the audience. Games are quite a new medium, and therefore game art is also not seen as true art by most of the audience playing games.
That gives pixel game art even a much harder standing.

I see you working very hard at your craft, but is it only for your own satisfaction when you're working on non-commercial art?
I am working in order to achieve my personal goals. Pro-work for indie developers always means that a few sacrifices to the ideals have to be made - I have to live with that as much as every developer has to live with it.
100% original work from me is 100% in line with me. There is a clear difference in terms of the underlying ideas, but not that much of a difference in terms of the craft aspect.

The best help I ever got on the topic you brought up came in form of a book by Ayn Rand, called "The Fountainhead". Maybe you should just read that one, at least I'd recommend it to you.
« Last Edit: March 24, 2015, 06:45:35 pm by Cyangmou »
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Offline jengy

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Re: Winning at pixel art

Reply #9 on: March 24, 2015, 07:17:56 pm
A short personal story: cell, I totally know that feels, and I have some thoughts about my own experience with black and white thinking.

I'm gunna start talking about it from my own point of view so don't feel like I'm trying to implicate who you are cell; these are just my thoughts, and all "yous" are hypothetical, me-based ones. :)

What you should know that what you experience is common, but that feeling of winning or losing is not helpful or necessary and you can get rid of it with time, practice, and mental exercise.

While seeing things in black and white terms can be useful in terms of motivation for propelling one forward, it creates a over-simplification mechanism that can be poisonous to thinking, and make you afraid to fail and experiment with many aspects in life, and limit your mental flexibility.

I have been an artist all my life and I've suffered from depression since age 11.

I wouldn't be depressed all the time, but more often than not my negative thoughts and events of failure or embarrassment would propel me into depression every so often. Equally, successes would put me into a manic state and I'd be riding on a cloud. I was a sore loser, and a bad winner.

When I was 25, I was listening to a radio show that featured my favorite comedian, Louis CK.
During the show, he mentioned that he was suffering from problems and sought help through therapy because he was struggling to figure out some issues we was experiencing in his marriage. If a rational-minded, thoroughly respectable person I looked up did it, then maybe I could?
There was a loss of shame when I learned that someone I thought of highly took up therapy for a while and I decided to look into it.

I also had the love and support of PixelPiledriver in my times of need to be there for me time after time, so I was also incredibly lucky there. Pixel was always incredibly patient and understanding during my lows and gave me so many positive affirmations and justice to my self confidence. But I wanted to start standing up on my own feet and going into counselling sessions on my own. He'd been there for me, but I needed to start relying on my own effort to get where I wanted to be mentally.

If you overwork yourself to be better based on either fail or lose, while you may excel your artistic journey forward, you often are leaving important cognitive and skills behind, and not addressing the defects with them. On a morale/quality of life level, you're also fucking yourself.

Black and white/winning losing thinking isn't sustainable and you can find so much pleasure in the process as well as the final product. Why trash 90% of the journey?

My advice is to look into CBT, a soft-core form of therapy that addresses thinking errors and can help you get over your polarizing thoughts. CBT for Dummies is great, and cheaper than having to see a counselor if one isn't available to you. The most important thing though is that you realize though your thoughts are perfectly OK to have, and know there are less painful and more healthy alternatives.

Best of luck and hugs all around.
Anyone can feel free to message me privately if they need any more references for therapy or behavioral health. :)