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Becoming a better artist is not only about skills or tools, but it’s also about increasing your artistic awareness through experimentation and personal growth. As you start growing as an artist, you start growing your capacity to observe things. It starts with a low-awareness state at the early beginning and, over time it moves into a high-awareness. It’s a gradual process that only comes with conscious practice and exposure.

In this article, I want to talk about how the transition happens, between the low and high state of awareness. It is not about what tech tools to use in becoming better at your craft, it’s actually about building up new artistic expression through continuous personal experimentation.

Learning something new with low awareness

When learning a certain artistic craft (for example, character animation, or 3D modeling or concept art) you’re initially unaware of the big process, both creative and technical. You may have an overall idea but you don’t have the knowledge of the process.

It’s so common for a novice to become over-excited about personal results, like making a masterpiece from nothing, without even a working plan. Other times, everything looks like a disaster and the more you struggle to polish, the more it gets ruined. All this is quite normal when learning and these ups and downs, are actually pushing the learning process forward.

Why’s that? Because when learning something new and I mean learning in general (not necessarily digital art), the brain is unaware of the big picture. The student is in a low-state of awareness which actually it’s quite a positive thing. There’s no fear and no worry about being better. It’s just about getting familiar with it!

Learning requires time and patience because it’s simply a journey.

Things may look over complicated because it requires repetition to just become familiar with it. The progression is slow because it implies one step at a time and, usually we forget the order of the steps.

schematic in 3 stages of the learning something process

However, every fundamental thing looks interesting. Why? Because the brain associates the New with Excitement, and learning becomes quite Fun. Of course, I assume here you’re actually learning something that interests you.

In fact, in the beginning it’s all about “figuring out” things, and that’s normal. At this point, your brain is creating new brain cell connections based on the acquired new knowledge.

Being in the familiar zone

Once you get familiar with the new, the brain gets to a certain level of processing the information. It has the subject terminology, it has an overall image of the entire game and you acquired certain practical skills. There’s already a foundation of what was new knowledge.

At this point, there are definitely rewards and satisfaction moments since personal artwork may look good enough to you. You’re now in the familiar and comfort zone of skills. I call this state Good-Enough state, where you have certain learning and practice experience.

Unfortunately, lots of students just stop here. They stop growing because they’re good enough!

What I mean is, they stop the progress of their artistic awareness because the autopilot kicks in. Let me explain this.

Once being in the comfort zone, the awareness level is kept low, just like the beginning … when you’re figuring out stuff. But this time is bad.

The brain has an autopilot mode but with two states, the positive and the negative.

  • State 1 – positive or active. Do enough repetitions of the same thing, and it becomes a mastery. You’re becoming better and better at your craft (just like the shift between a novice driver and an experienced one).
  • State 2 – negative or counteractive. Keep doing the same thing over the long term, and it becomes the limitation. Because you’re lacking the new and the excitement (the brain is like a muscle you no longer use, it gets weak if there’s no challenge).

The familiar skills become repetitive, and it turns into the autopilot. Right now you don’t use your brain for processing and adapting something new (like new skills, new knowledge, new situations) and the awareness level is on pause. Your brain is on pause because you’re in the negative mode of the autopilot.

Towards the high artistic awareness

In order to avoid the counteractive mode of the Autopilot – Mode 2, you must develop a certain Conscious Artistic Awareness.

Basically it means artistic maturity build over time. It’s based on active and conscious engagement with various learning experiences, on different planes such as theoretical, technical and most importantly, social and creative.

Artistic Awareness means the “capacity of observing” things around you. High Artistic awareness is the next level up.

High Artistic Awareness means observing things around you more deeply, and acutely and from different perspectives, not necessarily artistic perspectives. It means observing things as a person, not as a technical artist.

Sounds like a cliche, right? In fact, it’s about growing as an artist as you grow as a person, curious in observing and learning about the things around you.

High artistic awareness gives you:

  • Clarity. The capacity to understand a complex pipeline, not mastering multiple subjects, but understanding how things are connected between multiple subjects or topics.
  • Intuition. The ability to try out things that are outside of the comfort zone of skills and knowledge and yet, unconsciously you have a certain ease of understanding and creating.
  • Progress. The power to keep moving forward by gradually improving or getting new goals with incremental challenges.

I strongly believe that the transition between low and high awareness comes along with the following 4 main factors. Each of these factors can be discussed further in detail (future posts).

4 factors that build high artistic awareness

Keep in mind that our brain unconsciously learns new knowledge from any situation. With this fact in mind you must understand that the more you’re exposed to a variety of info and situations, the more your brain consolidates the main knowledge.

Therefore, build up your high artistic awareness through these 4 main factors:

  1. Environment: Look to be in the company of people that uplift you, that inspires you to be a better artist and individual. You are a reflection of your environment, and vice-versa.
  2. Personal Values: Put some quality time every day for yourself, create a foundation for your values, including state of mind and health. Have like a selfish personal time.
  3. Traveling. Make time in your schedule for traveling, at least once a year goes in a place you’ve never been before. Traveling wakes up your brain, it makes you more creative, more imaginative and inspired because everything around is new.
  4. Creation: Create personal work, don’t stop your ideas before even trying to create them. Have a side project to nurture your brain during downtime so when you return to other pursuits you have new perspectives and ideas.


High awareness is behind the purpose of your art, you create things because it’s meaningful, not just cool art. Cool is good but meaningful is powerful.

Having a high-awareness, you pay greater attention to the story and context behind your art. You feel the need to express yourself more authentically. Now, you control the tools you’re using, you come up with new ways of using the same tools.

Build up your artistic awareness by building up yourself as a person. Build up your life awareness through various and new experiences, your artistic expression it’s there somewhere.

To sum up the whole article with one favorite quote.

“Raise your awareness and share your uniqueness to the world” – Amit Ray (author, spiritual master, scientist).

Cristina Zoica Dumitru

I teach digital art courses online and on-location. My mission is to challenge students to reach their maximum potential for creativity and authenticity.

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