I’ve been on a long quest to get back into creating professional-level art that started about five years ago.

But the real quest began long long before that.

If you’re into doing art then you realize that improvement only comes with time and practice. I’m sure you’ve heard about how important it is to put in 10,000 hours, to master a skill. I’ve put that time in, but I started drawing seriously when I was five years old.

In his 2008 book “Outliers,” Malcolm Gladwell wrote that “ten thousand hours is the magic number of greatness.”  His examples included, Bill Gates, who was able to start coding as a teen since he attended a progressive Seattle high school , and The Beatles, who played eight-hour gigs in German clubs long before they invaded America. Those opportunities to practice early and often — along with precocious talent — allowed them to respectively invent software and modern rock and roll.


The frustrations of my terrible but fun drawings when I was a kid, gave way to some sophistication when I was a teenager, and became more professional when I was in my 20s. So much so that I got some commissions, some illustration jobs for magazines, and I was involved in self-publishing some work first with the Rough Cut group and then with Rain King Studios.

Then… I walked away.

I wrote about this experience and what I learned along the way in this piece that I posted on Quora.

But I’m at a different phase now. Now, I want to get really good at art. Better than I’ve ever been before.

The work that I’ve been producing in the last year has been good enough to keep me in commissioned portraits non-stop. I’m also doing some commercial work again. And I’m looking at what’s next.

So… I did a thing.

After picking up several books on anatomy and talking to close artist friends, and polling my wider network, I’ve returned to studying anatomy, and backgrounds, and folds in clothes, and color work, and everything else you can imagine.

I’m ready to move to the next level, and serious study, coupled with kind but intense self-reflection, in addition to doing finished work, and then starting all over again, is what will make it happen.

In that vein, I did something that I haven’t seriously done since I was a teenager, and that’s crack open one of Bridgeman’s anatomy books and start doing my homework on the subject again.

I ended up following the advice of David Finch, a DC and Marvel comic artist who is doing these amazing live art pieces on YouTube, where he not only does a piece of art from start to finish, but answers questions from the crowd.

My freehand sketches of anatomy from one of Bridgeman’s books.

Thanks to Shawn Wilson, my art brother, I caught the message from Finch this past week that said to pick up a Bridgeman book, do every drawing in the book, then start over to really learn anatomy. Since I love the work of Finch, and I already have the Bridgeman stuff (here’s a link to the most recent version of his anatomy for artist’s books) I just got to work on some sketches.

Now Shawn gets on to me all the time for not giving myself enough credit for where I am, but I was pleasantly surprised by how well my first day anatomy sketches came out.

And, I ended up being so fired up about my success that I did a quick pen and ink piece of the new Batwoman, Javicia Leslie (above).

Back to School

So, after all this time, I’m back to learning the basics again. But this time I’m doing it with a singular focus… to be better at art than ever before.

I wanted to share this with you because I’m not young anymore. And I’m literally a professional artist and have been for a long time.

But, you’re never too old to learn new things. In fact, it’s that desire to learn and grow and get better that makes art fun and challenging.

Just the act of trying new things and pushing your limits makes you better.

It’s never too late to take a step back, seek new avenues of learning, and find some humility so that you can become better at something than ever before.

Dirk Hooper

Dirk Hooper is an award-winning fetish photographer, award-winning professional writer, fine artist, journalist for the kink community and expert on personal branding.

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