I want to take some time to talk about one aspect in particular of working with a team (or an Art Director if you are a freelancer). When making OLOGON: Edlen`s Wrath, as the lead concept artist, I have to be constantly checking up on the art department and supplying the needs of other departments. So in a way, I get to do some art and manage people at the same time. Constructive feedback is a minimum requirement for this management model to work.
I remember when I first started working with game dev teams I used to take their feedback in the wrong way. What I mean by that is I had a lot of attachment to the work I was doing; in my head, my work was my worth and so when people criticised it, it felt like they were criticising me, the person and not the work. Obviously it lead me in a very passive-aggressive behaviour for some time before I realised it was a problem I had to fix. I used to think that I was just “more sensitive” to criticism than most.
Soon, as I dug deeper into the concept art world, it became clear to me that I needed to fix this bad habit if I wanted to succeed. To help fight that, I took it upon myself to research why I was acting the way I was. Lucky enough I had been seeing a therapist for quite some time to help me better understand myself, so I took advantage of that extra layer of analysis to speed up the process. Through some painful but fruitful arguing, it was clear to me that I was acting this way because work is something very important to me (it`s a part of expressing my identity as a human being) and weighted a lot in terms of how I wanted to show myself to the world. Basically I was reducing myself to my work, like I was nothing more.
The problem was out in the open; now all I had to do is think of a solution to that problem. How would I create a healthy distance between myself and my client work?
My first step was to bring in more diversity to my work in terms of style. By being more versatile, in theory it would be easier to adjust things to the way the team/client feels it`s best. Another thing that helped me a lot was to communicate my problems to the team and apologise for the times I was unprofessional - by keeping them in the loop, it was easier to manage the decrease in production. It also helped reinforce the idea of being part of a group; if we are all arguing to have the best result possible, then the project grows as a whole and that is the whole point. So I shouldn`t think that there is something wrong with me but instead think of problems to fix in the work. This change in mentality helps the artist to distance himself a bit from his work. I also heard from other artists when I brought up the subject that throwing away sketches can help one to detach himself from the ownership of the work.