Becoming a self-taught artist – It doesn’t matter where you start
August 16, 2014
Art is War
September 13, 2014


Learn to give things up – finding balance


The first image that comes to mind when thinking of balance is most likely the scales of justice. It’s an iconic idea used in sculpture, painting, illustration… you name it. A pair of scales , perfectly horizontal and aligned with each other. That’s become our culture’s stereotypical image of balance. The scales that you see that are clearly tipped in one direction immediately read as something being out of balance, something that needs fixing and adjusting. That’s just the way we’ve come to automatically interpret these images.

But have you ever seen actual scales being used? They are only perfectly aligned when not in use.  Balance is not a static equilibrium, even though we all dream of it being that way, balance is an action, a constant changing movement in which when something gets added to one side, you must immediately begin to adjust the other side to reach equilibrium – you might have to take some things out or you might have to put some things in. The scales, whenever you use them, will always be tipped in one direction and will only be in perfect equilibrium when you do nothing…

So why am I writing about this? I get questions all the time about video games, about things people like to do, about the lack of time that everyone has. How do you balance work and studying? How do you support yourself and dedicate the majority of your time to doing something that doesn’t yet pay? How do you keep doing all the things you like and don’t want to give up, and still find time to practice your art and improve?

The simple answer is – you don’t. You don’t find time, you make time. We all want to have more, to keep adding things to our lives and to not have to give up anything. We find comfort in routines, we like our lives the way they are, even if they’re not satisfying, we get through the day, we get our minor pleasures from staring at screens, drinking some sugar, exchanging gossip. Our brains stay happy – no mortal danger encountered, no need to change anything.

The greatest difficulty in making changes to your life comes from your brain, its goal is to keep you alive, not to make you happy. Ever wonder why it’s so hard to stop playing video games or to not watch a series you’ve started? Simple – it’s  safe, entertaining and addictive. Swapping this for something like –“ pursue an uncertain and highly competitive career path with no guaranteed outcome” seems like a ridiculous proposition. And again, your brain wants to keep you alive, not happy. Imagine an overprotective mother faced with a hyperactive child on a playground… Kid wants to go everywhere, do everything, the mother keeps it tied with one of those baby leashes and has it look at all the other kids going on all the rides. That’s the relationship we all have with our brains. Nothing that other people have done is impossible for you, but we all go in spectator mode, we sit on the sidelines, we become content with cheering and eating, resigning dreams to complacency, surrendering to laziness and the urge to conserve energy.

Achieving balance is putting on a huge demand on one side, then chipping away at it until the scales start to tip. Whichever side you work on – that’s the side that grows .What balances the scales is energy, your energy to get things done, to be productive. There is only a limited amount of it each day, you can put it in entertainment or you can invest it in improving. The scales will always look tilted to one side as long as you’re active and working. It’s supposed to be this way. It’s not meant to be easy. Easy makes you do nothing, it’s adversity that gets you going. It’s giving up things that people struggle with, you have to make sacrifices. You can’t keep all the things you want to have, you can’t do all the things you’ve gotten used to doing. You can’t waste time, you can’t feed your addictions, whether they be games, social media, gossiping, soap operas, laziness, hanging out with people. The scales can only hold this much, you need to cut things off and let them go. Believe me, this might seem difficult when you’re starting, but once you start improving you won’t miss any of it, your brain will rewire itself, the things you thought you couldn’t ever give up will vanish from your life in a month, you’ll develop a sense of reward from doing your work instead of indulging in addictions. If you continue to hold on to everything you are already doing, you can’t possibly change. Just think of it – your character is the sum of your actions. You keep doing the same things – you remain the same. To become better you need to learn to work harder. Work harder on yourself and work harder on your work.

With all that said… just to now balance the whole message… I’m not saying never do anything fun, entertainment is evil, stay away from anything enjoyable, of course not. I think we all have more than enough of that in our lives even if we tried to stay away from it. It’s just the culture we live in. So we’re definitely not starved for enjoyable things. I just  think that people need to hear the opposite message more, to just get going. Once you start working you don’t need to be told anything, you know when to rest, you know how to get things done. For most of us – it’s time to get to work. No one needs a manual on how to relax, but we could all do with more information on how to put some work in.




  1. Greggy Frost says:

    You just summed up the last 3 weeks of my life. I already was on the good track, but I still needed to make some harsh sacrifices. With that done 3 weeks ago, made me a whole better person all over. My top two priorities are health/musclebuilding and art now. 3 weeks ago I finally took that gym subscription and doing 3 times cardio and 2 times muscle building each week, still going and pushing through failure when thing get tough. In the past I read much books about art, and watched even more videotutorials about it, or gazed at fantastical art. All great and educational, but not getting the drawing skills I wanted from it. It was too difficult for me to constructively draw everyday, but since 3 weeks… I do draw everyday. Not just a few minutes, but all the time I got left besides my internship for school and cardio/musclebuilding. Picking up the fundamentals again, and this time much much more drawing than reading/theorizing. Drawing in the train, in the breaks on internship, at home, everywhere where I can I sculpt my brain to greatness.

    Kudos to Volen Cherkezov for my change from B to A+, being the best person I can and to amaze my own expectations. Good luck on your journey, hopefully I’m eventually able to do something back in return.

    -Greggy Frost

    • Volen says:

      Dude… that’s probably one of the best things I’ve ever heard. Thank you so much for that. Learning to get to work and stay on course is going to pay you amazing dividends, no matter what you decide to focus on in the future. For me, when I chose to do art, it’s because the training suited my personality, ever since I was a kid I’d do weights, but I even got to understand how to do that better when I began to realize and actually see in my artwork how consistency and long term dedication can literally transform you. Keep that motivation up, set yourself projects and goals and just develop some routines, same as you would for the gym… and keep me posted, I’d love to know how you’re getting on.
      Thank you man, for the awesome comment, I definitely can’t be credited with all you’ve said, but it’s amazing to know that I might have helped in some small way. Keep going, dude. It’s on you.

  2. Greggy Frost says:

    Thanks for your nice and broad answer as always 🙂 I’ll sure keep motivated, it’s going great! As for being updated with my art, I keep a digital sketchbook updated right here

    • Volen says:

      You’re off to a good start, your sense of proportion and accuracy are pretty good and you also have some good form building. I couldn’t do any of that stuff when I started out and I still struggle with a lot of that. I’ll keep an eye on that sketchbook 🙂

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