Regardless of your current artistic skill level, as an artist and a designer we are always aiming for more. It is important to be happy with what you produce right now, doing the best you can is the only thing you can do but always stay hungry. Push for more.
One of my favorite quotes by Steve Jobs is, "Stay hungry, stay foolish."
Many great artists came from humble beginnings and when they reach a certain skill level, they don't stop there, they keep going.
They will never reach a point in their lives where they can say, "Ok, I think I've reached my potential. It is perfect. Time to rest."
I doubt it.
I am always inspired by other designer's work; their work is an inspiration to push myself more, better. Not better then them or anyone else, but better then my previous self. Never standing still.
It is important to be happy with your current work. The work you are producing now is the best you can do within the time and skill level you are at right now. But never settle for your current skill level.
A week from now, a year from now you will be at a new level, producing the best work you can for that time, being the best artist you can be at that moment. Never compare yourself to anyone else's work or someone else's skill level. Only become inspired by what others are doing.
Focus on doing the best you can right now and here are eight ways to push yourself even further.
1. ENTER COMPETITIONS:
Online forums are one of the best ways to find out if there are any competitions ongoing or coming up. There are usually one or two per forum per month. There is always something happening. Enter in one when you see it.
It will help you put all the productivity principles to work. It will push you beyond your comfort zone as an artist. You know what happens when we push ourselves past the comfort zone? We grow.
Any other forums you consistently visit may have something up.
2. LEVEL DESIGN/SPEED MODELING/SPEED TEXTURING CHALLENGES:
These are great way to improve your environment, level design, texturing and modeling skill. Topics are often already chosen. If it is a speed modeling/texturing challenge, you are given 1-2 hours to complete a model or a texture.
Weekly exercise. If you do this for a year imagine where your texturing and modeling skills will be. One per week, four per month and 48 models and/or textures later.
World of Level Design forums has consistent Environment/Level Design Challenges. Take a look at what has been done previously here.
Participate often in as many challenges as you can dedicate quality time to.
3. READ FORUMS/BOOKS/BLOGS/TUTORIALS:
I consistently visit other forums, bookmark inspirational aritst's websites and collect beautiful artwork and imagery.
Amazon.com always offers great discounts on books. Trip to a local bookstore often provides a few choices of books as well.
Visit WoLD Store for Level Design books and book recommendations.
Forums and blogs are one of my my favorite learning tools. Where a book offers a structure and sequential steps, blogs and forums offer up to date tutorials, feedback from other artist and variety of topics. Critique alone, is often worth everything.
4. GNOMON/DIGITAL TUTORS/EAT3D/WoLD:
I currently own about 50+ dvds from gnomon that I purchased over last 7 years. Their analog library is fantastic, and they are always coming out with new, updated 3d software dvds.
My suggestion would be to decide on what you want to get good at, want you want to master and then buy the dvds based on that. When I began learning digital painting and drawing, I bought Gnomon's entire analog library. Important key is to pick one skill and stick with it until you are proficient in it before moving on to the next.
5. POST WORK IN PROGRESS:
Get a blog or a thread started on a forum. Title it 'your name WIP', or 3d Sketchbook etc and update it with your work. People will want to help you out at becoming better. You will also get to see your own progress over time. It is a fantastic way to improve.
6. RECORD AND PUBLISH PROCESS OF YOUR WORK:
I do this a lot with my work. Not only do I get to learn it better, I get to teach it back to the community. When you have to explain something back of what you learn, you get to understand the subject matter that much better. You learn it faster.
7. FRIEND/GROUP OF FRIENDS/MASTERMINDS:
Having a friend or a group with the same goal is extremely helpful. You can bounce back ideas and show projects you are working on to get feedback. Online forum also work, but it is better if you can get a few people into a 'Master Mind' group together to always help push each other.
I've been bouncing ideas and talking about MasterMinding with Keith Garry. MasterMinding is a powerful way to help others and yourself to achieve higher artistic goals.
Surround yourself with other like-minded artist and level designers.
8. JOIN A MOD TEAM:
Mod teams are great way to learn and work in a studio-like environment. Being able to work in a cooperative group environment is one of the most sought out skills when a studio is looking to hire. Not only that, the skill and artistic knowledge you will gain from a mod team is priceless. All this is at no charge. Only your time. You will walk away with a great portfolio, great friends and possibly a contract to make your mod into a full game.
Get your work out. Share your vision and let others help you become a better artist. Because in 10 years, you will do the same for someone else who is learning the ropes; and I have to tell you there is no better feeling in the world then to help someone else achieve their dreams. It is the least we can do.
Challenge yourself and challenge others.