I don't care who you are or where you are in life, you're either growing or you're dying. You see it all the time with people around you. Some people embrace life with all its challenges while others peak at some early point in their lives and begin their decline. Why is it some of the people who live to age 100 act so young while people in their late 30s are talking about "getting old?" It all comes down to one state of mind - being comfortable.
Now I could bitch here all day about all the people I've come across that haven't lived up to their potential but this is an art blog and my discussion is about classical realism, representational artists and art techniques. But aside from all the formal academia, the core of every great artist is their unattainable goal of earthly perfection. The sad truth is that the world is filled with a majority of people that shoot for "good enough." The art profession is no different. Our profession is littered with so many artists that had so much more in them but settled for mediocrity. You can love what you do, and you should, but don't ever become a mindless machine churning out artwork without a second thought because you think you're some kind of genius. At the point you start believing that, you are no longer progressing, and therefore, dying.
Keep yourself uneasy with what you're doing. Question your process, try a new color or a pose. Research artwork from a famous representational painter you found online. Do anything you can to grow. Becoming a one of the great representational artists isn't about the destination, it is about the journey. Some of your greatest art will come from great struggle (not saying you have to stay up all crazy hours of the night for months like I have in the past). I have a BFA degree and I had the honor of studying in Italy for a semester in college. Those experiences changed my life but they are nothing compared to what I learned on my own for the past 22 years. Each new painting is a lesson for my previous work on what I could do better. That feeling is something that drives me to work harder, to build more confidence and to do greater things. Let that same feeling push you.
The great Winston Churchill once said, "If you're doing through hell, keep going."
He was absolutely right. His speech may have had much greater consequences when it was written but it should inspire us nonetheless. Your art is a gift. Let your talent push you through those barriers in your artistic life, your personal struggles, your doubt, your pain, you're own personal hell. What lies on the other side is greatness.
So whether you've just picked up a brush or you've been painting for five years and you are looking for answers, do not despair. Representational artists spend entire lifetimes working towards some level of "earthly perfection." Every failure that you rise up from puts you one step closer to that greatness you desire. My question to you is - do you feel comfortable or are you unhappy? Only one way will get you everything you ever dreamed of.