Hello fine folk of the internet and good people all around. Come hither, come near, it's Friday so have no fear! The work week is coming to an end and thus the weekend arrives so your sore soul can mend. But doth we have to fret? With anguish relentless drag us from our bed. Every day the struggle is real so let me talk about how I feel. Denizens of our fine realm let us be smart and ponder the query, why doth I even art?
Or you know, whatever.
Yes, this week we take a little tour of the most important aspects of the creative career chiefly being the question why we even pursue this at all. Last week we talked about what it means to be a concept artist so this week we extend this into the broader sense and ask what it means to be a artist in general. I don't want to get too much into the definition of art since that is just a huge pit of snakes so we'll dance around it and focus on how it affects us in a more practical sense by means of setting and achieving goals.
Why setting goals is important
A somewhat famous notion about goals is that they help with the long term vision while solving short term problems. It's a healthy balance between managing long term expectations and the quickest way to get there, which is never a singular task. Getting better at art is often used as a metaphor for other branches of life so I don't have to find a novel one. If we want to get better at painting we have to break it down into it's individual components such as composition, color theory, perspective, etc. Those components can be further broken down into smaller and smaller tasks which provide short term goals that are part of a bigger whole. We can slowly work our way towards the bigger goal and keep motivated by smaller victories. That motivation and energy to keep going is just as crucial as understanding what the goal was to begin with and, right here is where things get dicey.
Understanding the goal might sound very logical but there is a huge caveat. One of the problems of setting a goal far off is that you might not have a clue what it actually means. The whole, you don't know what you don't know bit. Take the example of "I want to be good at art.". This sounds like a very reasonable goal but it's also rife with ignorance. It leads to questions such as; 'what defines good?', 'what aspect of art? Dance, painting, illustration, still life, all of it?', 'when?', 'how?'. You might set a goal which you wont be able to recognize even if it hit you in the face.
"But, Titus! Isn't it all about the journey and not the destination?"
Absolutely! Provided you know where you're going. It's like going on an epic road trip, it's all about the journey, but if you don't do your research and have no clue where you are going you might end up driving circles in the desert or get lost in a shopping mall. A little direction is always a plus.
Why understanding your goals is more important.
What a punch line - good thing this blog is free right? But in all seriousness, this is quite important. Understanding your goals is all about understanding yourself and doing a healthy amount of research, and I do love research so get ready for a post about that. The question that lies at the foundation for all of this is "Why". Why do we do what we do. Why do we want what we want. We need to explore these questions to make sure we actually want to achieve certain goals or if we're just forced into it by parents, peer pressure, lack of alternatives etc. It might be somewhat of a depressing notion but it's important to think about. So, to you dear reader, I pose the question: "Why do you want to be an artist?". Whether you are one already or an aspiring one doesn't matter.
Let me give you my answer.
I want to become an artist because I think I have something to say with the things I paint. I'm confident about my ability to transport people into a world they are not currently in and thus adding something to their experience library.
This might come off as a bit arrogant but the answer is the same as your artistic message. So it's OK if it's a bit cocky, arrogant, out there, floaty, touchy feely or whatever your message is. Based on this answer I can start setting goals and also test whether or not I'm on the right track. Let's go back in time to when I was 16, it's 2002 and Ja Rule is on No1 of the US charts for 2 weeks straight. I wanted, more than anything, to become a concept artist and I started a bumbling 8 year path to get there. On November 21st 2010 I had my first day as a concept artist for a company called Rebellion on the game 'NeverDead'.
I came into work and thought; 'Shit... and now what.'
See, the problem was when I was 16 and up to this very day I was / am pretty stupid. Especially about things I know nothing about. When I started that journey I didn't have a clue what it meant to be a concept artist and thus my goals where skewed like crazy. I achieved something I had no knowledge about, which, in many ways rendered it completely and utterly useless. How do you celebrate victory when it doesn't feel like one because you had no clue what you were chasing to begin with?
Yeesh. Heavy stuff.
There are a whole host of reasons why it went 'wrong' and it's not a bad thing either but the underlying theme should be clear by now. What if the goal had been more important? Something that took longer to achieve? Or if I would've done it when I was older and less flexible time wise? A problem with not understanding your goal is that you might not understand all the necessary steps or skills you need to get there. Which might mean you go off on the wrong path straying farther and farther from your goal. You won't be able to see this because you don't know what you're looking for.
So why do you art? Is it for money? Glory? Self expression? Fun?
Do you understand all the steps to get there?
Before I stated that I think I have something to say with my work, but so far I'm not. I'm working as a illustrator - which by the way I absolutely love, don't get me wrong. It has shown me that how I paint things is almost more important than what I paint, which I couldn't have told you a few short years ago. At the same time it shows me that I still have a ways to go. And with this new understanding new goals appear.
The punch line
As you learn more, goals change. Be flexible.
Real ground breaking stuff, I know! I could've just said so at the start but then again, where's the fun in that? Time is valuable. Now, I don't mind wasting a few minutes of your time every Friday, especially when it might save you more time in the end! I see this so often, people wanting to become an artist but don't know why or be the best but don't know how. They see cool things online and want to imitate. They see flashy movies and want to be part of it. They see a cool game and want to do something, anything for it for no other reason than wanting it. As if it were a primal instinct that's ingrained in their DNA. And who knows, maybe it is.
However, please, please, please, understand that on some level all art, even production art, is a form of self expression. The better you know yourself, the more depth you create, the more you are focused on the why of things the better your work will be. And perhaps, that game, movie or even this career is not what you want deep inside. Take some time to think about it. You have one life, spend it well.