In 2005 I joined the conceptart.org community, right about the time I started studying 3D-graphics at University. It is now but a shadow of its former self, but back then it was the best resource for artistic improvement I had ever come across. Not only did I, for the first time, get a notion of what level of art was expected of me to become a professional, but I was also introduced to the mentalities, paradigms and attitudes which it took to improve at a quicker pace. At the time, the community was built on the fundaments of helping each other grow through honest, straight forward critique. It wasn't about popularity, likes or kindness. It was brutal sometimes, completely ego-shattering, and absolutely glorious.
It was when I embraced failure that I started growing at a faster rate. When counter-intuitively I abandoned the idea that I had to make pretty pictures, I was free to step outside my comfort-zone and actually start improving. For me that's the best advice (besides being prolific), to start making ugly pictures. Obviously that's not desirable in a professional context, we need to be reliable and perform at a high level. But personally, at home, I still try to maintain that attitude, to not fear failure, but rather embrace it as a natural and positive part of growing. I just need to re-iterate that for myself occasionally. In addition, my sense of self-respect isn't closely linked with the quality of the pictures I make, but rather correlates closely with my self-perceived effort at practicing. Sometimes that means making ugly shit.
I'm writing this mainly as a reminder for myself, but also as a piece of advice for beginners (but I ain't no teacher, and I don't eagerly give advice, because of all the misconceptions I feel I still hold). It breaks my heart to see newbies sticking to what they think is good, and most often, the fear of failure overcomes them. I don't want to be like that. Make ugly pictures.
To follow up on these thoughts, I ought to post some really crappy things where I'm venturing far outside of my comfort-zone, but I'm afraid I've mainly done studies of some beautiful women. I'll try to do worse next time (although these are still far from anything resembling mastery).
And true to form, here are some more unsolicited music-recommendations.