A few days ago couple of art snobs (15 year old digital sculpting wannabes who are probably using the pirated version of zbrush) showed up with their biased opinions about how 3D renders should look with referring the front page plugged works on cgtalk and artstation and suggested me to compare myself with them and quit. I never laughed so hard...
Sad about those kids who are ignorant about becoming a better person in general (artist or not) starts with healthy self respect. Pity them who never read Emerson who says "Envy is ignorance, Imitation is Suicide." -- I learned the hard and painful way that comparing yourself with others - no matter what it is about - is simply torturing yourself and killing all your creativity.
You may think this is being self-righteous but since I stopped trying to imitate other artists I become much more creative because I've felt free -- the feeling of that freedom gave me the freedom of creativity. I admire fellow artists works but I don't envy. I don't try to replicate their style because everyone of us are unique and came to this planet with the talents and point of view of our own which makes us special. I can't shoot like Ansel Adams, nor paint like Rodney Matthews or Roger Dean. But I can shoot photographs like myself, and render images like myself. Which is the right thing to do and only thing to do; to be yourself, to be who you are, to accept & love yourself as you are.
That doesn't mean we shouldn't improve. But bear that in mind; envying, comparing, competing has nothing to do with improving. Improving only starts when you accept yourself as you are. It only starts with understanding who you are. You can not reach that level of understanding while you trying to be someone else. I can only improve myself with working on my skills - not trying to copy somebody else's skills.
Therefore, as a personal decision I made long time ago on the fields I'm working (3D, illustration and photography) I read books to further my knowledge but also experiment to create my own methods. I watch tutorials to learn the tools and steps to take but I never use them on my work. Why? Because what I'm creating is simply my art; my methods, my point of view, reflection of my creative self.
Because... as great Emerson said; "Envy is ignorance, Imitation is Suicide."