Hello dear people of the internet and good people alike! This week we have something special / different in store for you all. People often want to know what it's like being a MTG artist on the road and going to events. There seems to be a odd amount of mystery surrounding it, well, no more! I shall be live tweeting the first day, from my departure at 6:30 in the morning until I go to bed. Hopefully this will give everyone a nice insight as to whats going on. Feel free to follow it on twitter or on this page! And since I don't know how to filter some of the stuff you can see some of my old tweets to. For free. That's just how nice we are over here at project-discovery.
Hello again fine folk of the internet and good people all around. It's time for another weekly installment here on project-discovery where we, for a change, will take it easy. Yes, summer is here, the weather is nice (hopefully) and there are plenty of reasons to relax. But are we? Outside of the weight of current world events which are certainly a cause for pause in our daily routine and the humdrum of having to ask someone to take days off (unless you freelance like a boss) stacked on top of other obligations like tax forms, stuff that breaks down, bills, and general annoyances alike it seems difficult to completely disconnect. I can only speak about one thing which is the most closely related to the core message of this blog, the pressure to art. So hopefully we can put things into a bit of perspective as we take a walk on the metaphysical wild side
As we are on the internet and talking about relaxing and feeling good I could not ignore the age-old plea for cats, so I hope you enjoyed this highly addictive video. Quick note, if you are highly relaxed then there is no real need to keep reading, unless reading relaxes you more in which case I wont stop you. To delve a little bit deeper into the meaning and purpose of relaxing, a term which over the years has grown significantly in usage and meaning, we have to understand a little bit more about relaxing and take look at it's counterpart, stress. Take this for example:
Personally I blame the sharp drop off of both graphs in the end on the invention of the internet and the fact that apparently nobody reads books anymore, even tho you totally should, especially the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher. Moving on, one of the key parts here is that stress was not a word referring to mental health before 1936 when it was coined by Hans Selye. He found all sorts of interesting stuff happens to the human body which is not easily attributed to one thing. As of today defining stress can be a difficult thing since it's so broad and is therefor applied to many things, possibly making things worse because we are so aware. With the rise of the internet and terms like stress self diagnosing has taken off like a rocket, even giving birth to the new term "Cyberchondria", which coincidentally is an amazing name for a retro 70's sci-fi city.
Safe to say stress is terrible for our health, it seems than, we are suffering from more pressure than ever, whether it is because we are more aware of it or, because the world is moving at a faster pace and we are all struggling to keep up, or both, is irrelevant. The one thing that matters is how you react to it. Especially when it comes to art.
This is a pretty big and complex problem, so to make it easier, we need to define certain things a bit better before we can break it down. In regards to art and the why of things it boils down to one of two things.
1. You art for the sake of art and expression
2. You art for the sake of paying the bills
Now we all hopefully know real life isn't as black and white as this and you probably have traits of both but in it's essence there is a core reason which relates more strongly to one or the other. With one there is a desire to maximize self expression and the other it's to sustain a lifestyle. Both come with their respective troubles but in order to further narrow it down we need to go deeper. These problems as defined in the book Flow can be put as:
1. Autotelic, for a purpose in and of itself.
2. Exotelic, for exterior purposes.
Both categories can suffer from the same problems and pressures but the internal pressure for art shows itself most in the first category because it is more pertinent for it's survival. Without the pressure the artistic capabilities might not be pushed which can directly compromise the likelihood of success since artistic expression and growth are the goals. Before I was talking about the pressure to art and this is it. That internal pressure to get better because it's vital to the survival of the skill. Now that we have that out of the way we can think about what making art actually entails. Here is what most people think or on some level feel it is all about:
- Painting / drawing art as much as you can
- Painting / drawing as realistically as you can
This is, to put it mildly, a really simplistic view. Making art, like with almost any other skill, is part of a much bigger whole. It's observation, your knowledge, your energy levels / how good you are feeling and so forth. So this is a more complete list:
- Painting / drawing when you can
- Reading about art
- Reading about things that might inspire (I don't like using that word)
- Going out and experience things (which you can later draw from)
- Taking breaks to process information (yes, this is a important thing)
- Taking a step back and reviewing your progress
- Exploring different media en ways to express
- Thinking about what you want to say with your art
- Thinking about why you want to say this
- Thinking about who it is for
The last three are quite flexible and can be updated through your artistic career, which moves through phases, and the rest should be maintained throughout. Now that it's becoming a bit more clear what the full scope of the artistic lifestyle is we can more easily identify culprits for stress. I have this feeling that part of the stress might come from the self imposed pressure that art is all about working and not about relaxing. I know that this was true for me! Sometimes it still is, even with constant reminders that I should relax! Because we all know that relaxing...
We talk a lot about understanding yourself and how you react to things, in fact, that's the whole purpose of this quasi diary like blog. With that in mind I duly encourage everyone to look at all the steps in the creative process, how engaged you are with them and if you can work some more non painting time in. Painting is a important aspect of life for many of us, but it's not the only aspect. Our subject matters, should be, heavily influenced by our experiences and interest. Therefor our paintings are usually only as good as a mix of our technical skills and our understanding of our interests.
Here is a rather depressing image in which I have applied the time relevant to me:
Assuming I keep working until the day I hit 85 I can start crossing off every week. Its a very sobering experience looking at life this way. What this means to me is not how hard I should work to get good at art with the "little time" I have left on this pale blue dot but more a mirror to show me that other things in life are important too. Enjoying time with friends, reading, playing games, seeing a movie, forgetting about time, forgetting about art, travel.
The more you understand that art is about a showing how you see the world and externalizing this the more you will find that it's not all about painting or drawing. In fact, it's not even about how good the work is on a technical level. It's about your ability to vocalize, in any way shape or form, the thoughts and ideas you have. This is why it's vital to engage in other mediums like photography or finger painting. So you see, time is on your side. It's not your enemy. You need time to grow, you grow just as much when you are not working than when you are. I often see these crazy schedules of people working 16 hours a day and having everything planned in to the last minute, this might work for some, but for most this is incredibly ineffective. There is a time and place for everything so when you are in the very beginnings of understanding fundamentals it's a good idea but I would recommend for everyone else not to do this. It's unhealthy. Oh geez, I passed 30 and it's instantly lecture time...
Hey look a pretentious quote! No worries, I googled it, it used to be a saying in our household, "there is more between heaven and earth" my mom and dad used to say.
If you are feeling bad because you can't relax because the pressure of getting better at art in fear of getting left behind I know how you feel. But just like the quote said, only interpreted differently, there is more between heaven and earth. There are other things to explore. Life isn't all about art in the form of spending time painting or perhaps for some of you reading this it's not even about art at all. It's about so much more stuff that's so crazy important. Relax. Now you can, hopefully, find out where the pressure and stress are coming from and how to mitigate those factors and just...
P.s All of this stuff is written on a personal level, and maybe it's more obvious to me now because I'm "getting a little older". That is to say, during most of my twenties I feel like I was an insufferable asshole. I worked all the time and it's proven to be only sort of effective. It wasn't until I changed my schedule that my attitude changed. Less grumpy, more smiley. Even tho I can rage like the best when losing at Overwatch. This shift into a more positive attitude led me to do more things, be nicer to people and as a result my work has gotten better. As if somehow the message I had in my mind was much more clear to understand, as if I could hear myself talking more clearly now that the asshole brain was shutting up a bit more often. My work has gone through a ton of phases, ups and downs, stuff people liked and stuff people didn't care about and all of that's fine. I think before realizing this stuff this would've stressed me out a lot but now I know it's just part of the cycle. I used to get insane back aches because of stress, crazy. Another big thing which was crucial to me was looking less at other people's work and achievement through envious eyes. That helps no one. Just do you, that's complicated enough already. And here too I'm still also addressing myself. Take care everyone!
Hello fine folks of the internet and good people all around, this week it's time for the first installment of "Making of:" where we talk about how we go about making some of the things we do, pretty self explanatory huh? The goal of these is not to talk about the exact nitty gritty when it comes to brush size or which brush we used unless it's super relevant somehow but more the design choices involved. This week with the coming of Eldritch Moon in Magic: The Gathering I thought it would be cool to show the two pieces I have in that set, Crop Sigil and Terrarion (like the title, get it?). These pieces were a lot of fun to paint but also a real struggle since I was changing techniques at the time. Some general info beforehand:
Art Director: Cynthia Sheppard
Resolution: 8000 x 5466 (or something close to it anyway)
Programs: Photoshop CC, Modo with a hint of Daz.
Machine: PC Win10, Core i7, 32GB Ram, GTX970
But enough intro, let's get to it!
Let's start with the official brief:
Color: Green spell
Location: In the farmlands of Gavony (see 37B, 38)
Action: Show a view from the top of a barn, looking down at some FIELDS OF CROPS where CULTIST PATTERNS have been BURNED—sort of like "crop circles," but using the shapes of the cultist symbols on 95. The result is a pattern of blackened, burned lines in otherwise healthy, green crops.
Focus: The patterns in the fields.
Mood: Weird stuff is happening here...
Ooooh! I remember when reading this for the first time I got really excited, this was a great opportunity to try out my new, and horrible, 3D skills. At this stage I was also asking for some other stuff than just lands so getting this was great. Dark mood, cool angle AND fire? Color me 30 hours lighter because Imma spend some time on this!
First things first, the 3D sketch.
Now for this I made the whole barn with my potato 3D skills and placed a few cameras so I could figure out which angle worked best. I wanted enough room for the field and the burning sign but at the same time I wanted to connect it to the viewer and the farmers. The people of Innistrad are a funny bunch and I knew they were going to go through some rough times, burning one of their fields felt like adding insult to injury and I wanted to show this.
After a few in between steps (which you can see if you scroll down) I reached this stage which is a important one. Right now the burning sign is still a bit weird; it's stretched incredibly far and I was struggling getting the sky in. All elements in a painting, especially one that has to read on such a small scale, have to serve a very specific purpose. I was pretty happy about the colors, a little moody and dark! This would come back to bite me though, did not have enough range!
And the sky was like:
Now that the sky is gone it's time to make sure the viewer doesn't fall off the canvas. Innistrad is this weirdly claustrophobic place (and not the only phobia!) so I decided to put a tower on the left border. Normally we read left to right and gradients dark to light; reversing this doesn't often happen. It's why good guys ride in on screen left to right and bad guys right to left because it feels more jarring when bad guys do that. So, putting a tower on the left means the viewer cant go back that way and it feels a little bit more claustrophobic. The angular roofs, and triangles as a whole, are also considered more aggressive shapes. These counter the circular shape of the crop sigil and again emphasize a little bit of the dire situation. It's true that almost all roofs are triangular so this could be seen as artsy fartsy &*#*(@ but in this case it's all about how many are placed and where.
Want some fire with that smoke? Getting a little atmosphere going! Also, tower on the left has disappeared! It's important to note that during the whole process things get toggled on and off constantly. Doing this, including flipping your canvas and previewing it on a card, is important to keep a fresh eye and to check if your composition is actually any good. Adding details and noise is always cool so I just did some of that. Right now was also the time to think more about the setting; what kind of soil was it? Has it rained? What equipment do they use? Are they building something? How long did the barn go unattended? What kind of crops are they? Asking these questions helps a lot when thinking of new details, like the cart and it's tracks and some building materials. Also; when leaves and crops are really wet the smoke is more white which is what I wanted, small things like that help!
And now for some final touches...
My buddy Victor helped me get a character in there which really tied the painting together. The tower on the left is also back in, yay! Add some shadows etc. So this whole piece is about jarring angles, shapes moving against each other in harsh ways and muted tones versus the rounded shapes of the sigil and the sharp high saturated orange of the fire.
So here is what I like and don't like about this piece.
- I like the angle / composition, it shows exactly what I want
- Addition of character added a new layer of depth to this piece
- The light and dark helped
- Angles on the roof are too sharp, need to use less polygonal lasso tool
- Some of the colors / contrast is wack. It's all over the place! Blurgh
- Some of the textures in there make absolutely no sense. Just, none. Just weird noise
Here is a GIF which for some reason doesn't loop (just open it in a new browser tab if it doesn't work)
Aawwwwww yeah, as far as fun cards to do go this rocketed into the top 5. Artifact, lands, doesn't get a whole lot better than that. On top of all that it was actually a reprint of a card from one of my favorite blocks, Ravnica.
Color: Colorless artifact
Location: On a table or windowsill (precise location unimportant)
Action: Show a small TERRARIUM shaped sort of like a glass lantern, with an elaborate base and lid. Inside is a WHOLE LANDSCAPE in miniature, including ALL FIVE terrain types: Plains, Islands, Swamp, Mountains, and Forest. (For example, we see a coastline in the front, with a swampy area at one end of it, then an expanse of plains, then forest covering the lower slopes of a mountain range in the background.) The landscape is too big to be contained in this small container—the mountains seem to fade into the distance far beyond where the back of the terrarium would be.
Focus: The terrarium.
Mood: This is an exotic and mysterious item, bending the rules of space to give access to mana of any color.
Look at the brief, it's a thing of beauty. Clear but still with challenges, just what a artist needs. The moment I read this brief I had a clear idea of what I wanted, it's pretty rare because normally I have doubts and go back and forth quite a bit.
First, a terrible 3D model so I would get the perspective right. I tried freehanding it but when I wanted to rotate the camera twice it meant redrawing everything. Uncool man. Uncool. The model was made in Modo with the dude posed in Daz then also imported into Modo. I grew up using Maya and Sketchup (which I used a lot for Forza Horizon 2) but Modo has a incredible renderer and easy light setup that works wonders for exteriors so I went with that (also because Chase Stone uses it and he's so good. #imitation)
Well, that sketch pretty much is the final piece already, like I said, clear vision. It was important to get all the values right so I actually stuck with greyscale longer than I normally do. These sketchlines are something I do all the time, they don't really show up in the WIP's but I constantly draw over my own work in lines to see if I can't push the design / painting. I also wanted this piece to be super ornamental like suggested in the brief so I did some research on Art Nouveau bronze and brass decorations. The technique used would be a mold so it would always be a bit crude. The carving in the top would not be mold but cut plate so it could be much more fine.
Not something I do a lot, keep the painting greyscale for so long. The process of using a color layer to fill everything in like some of the greats do (Tyler Jacobson and Adrian Smith) is stupidly difficult. I mean, just dumb. You think it's easy but then after 10 hours you just want to torch your PC. However, I did it and by a miracle it worked out.
Oh look at that fast forward. It's... erm. What's a good movie where they travel to the future? Not demolition man because he was frozen, that doesn't count. Anyway, yay! One of the fun parts in working on this image was that I could really focus on 1 area. Everything inside the Terrarion and the Terrarion itself would receive a lot of detail and the rest not so much. It helped me focus and get a lot done. Sometimes I get totally lost in a ocean of detail and it doesn't really benefit the painting a lot. Over the course of the next 6 months (and I'm talking August 2015 till about February 2016) I was going back and forth with this process a lot. It's something I'm still not really comfortable with to date but it's getting better. Artistic growth, yay!
Mixer brush is your friend. That is all. Flipping it because I want the chromatic flare to be really obvious and one of the last things you see. Trapping it in dark also means that it's not super easy for the reader to go out meaning you keep staring at it.
It isn't a complete article without cats!
All right, roundup time.
- Nice distribution of detail, was a first, liking it.
- COLORS! Color contrast is working out pretty well.
- Readability. Very easy to see whats going on.
- Still too loose in some points, up close this piece is a disaster
- The perspective is forced weirdly because of the angle of the chair which makes the whole thing look lob sided. #cantunsee
- Even tho it reads the angle is still a bit so,so. Maybe could've added more drama.
OKGIFTIME. If it doesn't loop just open it in a new browser. I will fix this at some point!
Well that's it for this week. If you have any questions on some specifics just give a shout in the comments and I'll do my best to answer them. It's hard to know in how much detail I should go.
Hey guys! This week's article will be quite a personal post as it is all about how I got interested all the geeky stuff in my life and what is my inspiration for almost all off my 3D modelling/sculpting projects. My hope is that this post will be very easy to relate to and that many of you will recognise part of your own childhoods. Basically, I thought it was time for some positivity amidst all the shit going on in the world lately!
Let’s jump back about 23 years ago! I believe I was about 6 years old when my dad introduced me to our first personal computer. The noisy device with the small black screen with a lot of blocky english text written on it. He knew what he was doing though:
“Cd..” ENTER “D:” ENTER “cd games” ENTER “cd keen4” ENTER “keen.exe”ENTER
And there it was! My very first game, COMMANDER KEEN 4!! :D
And because Titus had a very similar first experience I had to share Dangerous Dave as well! :D
Anybody remember this game?! It was amazing! And difficult! I don’t think I’ve actually finished any of these games now that I think about it.. <.< Perhaps I should!! As a kid you don’t care about which studio created the game and it was actually only during my college years that I learned that the guys that created Commander Keen were also the original creators of Doom! (which I was never allowed to play because my parents were quite protective of me). And because Titus had a very similar first experience (from the same developers) I had to share a giphy of Dangerous Dave as well! :D
Anyway, I’m getting off track here, it was around the same time that I would watch sooo many cartoons and Disney movies! My favorite ones were definitely the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the Thundercats and Darkwing Duck! I’d spend hours and hours drawing little stick-figure Leonardos and Lion-o’s.
Looking back I was also extremely lucky that both my parents are really into fantasy and science fiction. They love movies such as Willow, Star Wars and Star Trek and this definitely rubbed off on me. I was probably 7 or 8 when my dad thought it was time to move on from the simple little Dutch board games such as “ganzebord” (“gooseboard”) and “mens-erger-je-niet” (which I guess translates into: “don’t get annoyed.." I guess?). He decided it was time for “Star Quest”!!, this game was incredible to little 7 year old me! The cover alone told so much about the entire universe which I later discovered was quite a rip-off of the Warhammer 40K universe but who cares, it’s still awesome! :D
Later that year we started playing a second game, Dark World! Again, an epic box-cover and my first introduction to the classic character classes, barbarian, sorcerer, knight etc. Looking back, this game was actually really really superficial and simple but I had a lot of fun playing this with my friends.
Then as the years went on, games got more and more realistic and I started playing more complex games such as Warhammer 40K and especially Magic the Gathering which I’ve been playing for 20 years now. Looking back, the MtG starter decks from the Kazz vs Zakk set had a huuuge impact on my life and it still do. Magic the Gathering is main non-video game that we play in our close circle of friends and every time I see my family, I play with them as well.
I'm sure that most of you are well aware of this game but if you've never tried it I highly recommend giving it a shot for free through Magic Duels. It's definitely not the easiest game to get a hang of as of the game does quite a good job of explaining at least the basics.
Finally, I can't write a post about the games / series and movies that have had a huge impact on my life without mentioning this one..
One trilogy to rule them all, One trilogy to find them, One trilogy to inspire all and you know.. entertain us!
At this point I lost count on the number of times I watched the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy (extended version of-course). And even though the movies are already over a decade old, the work that was done by Peter Jackson and all the guys over at WETA is inspiring and extremely motivating. I think I'll have to watch them again soon now that the 6th season of Game of Thrones is done... (btw, how awesome were those last two episodes?!?)
Arriving at my life now, games, in all forms, digital - role playing and in physical form are still a huge part of my everyday life and I can’t wait to be part of a team that works together to create the next innovative game that hundreds upon thousands of players around the world will enjoy together.
I hope that this post had some parts to it that were really relatable and invoked a sense of nostalgia with you guys as well. I think it’s something that is good to look back at from time to time. In the grand scheme of things, our lives are simply a large collection of experiences and it is through games that many of us experience a lot of exciting and epic moments, either alone or with friends and family.
So game on guys! And have a great weekend!
That's Dutch for 'Nobody ever said it was going to be fun'. Always nice to start off an article on a cheerful note! And, I'm afraid, this week's article might not be all that cheerful. I'd like to talk about the brutal nature of the difficulty of becoming an artist. Now, this is mostly aimed at art aspirants but also the people around them. So, if you are in that category and don't hate my guts after this feel free to share this with your friends and family to show them that what you're doing isn't easy!
There are a couple of character traits that are absolutely vital when you want to become a artist:
- You have to be smart
- You have to be tenacious
- You have to be honest with yourself
That's really all there is to it. Pretty simple when you put it this way, but, like everything else that looks easy on the surface it actually isn't.
Now, there are many types of smart and in this case it refers more to problem solving than raw intelligence, although that never hurts of course. Growing up as a kid my parents encouraged me to do whatever I wanted as long as I could justify why. Always asking why. Why I wanted that Lego set, why I wanted those marbles, why the branded super soaker was better than the knockoff and why I should never have to eat broccoli (miserably failed there). If I managed to do that, I got my way, if I didn't, well. Safe to say I learned from an early age that doing your research is incredibly important which tied in beautifully when I started my path to becoming a concept artist.
One of the popular sayings among concept artists / illustrators is that if you manage to be the most boring person at a party because of all the useless stuff that you know you know you've made it. And I'm not talking MTV real world road rules challenge. I'm talking about knowing the difference between albino and albedo.
One of the bigger parts of the job of an artist is doing truckloads of research, especially concept artists. Being hungry for this information and being able to retain it and build on it are key factors. So if you are not doing that, start. If you are not into doing that, maybe (concept) art isn't for you. Here are some tips:
- Get into a habit of reading first, then looking at images when looking for reference.
- Talk as much as you can to other people about the things you have learned, challenge yourself.
- Listen to audio books, podcasts, science channels etc.
- Verify your sources, make sure you get your facts straight.
- Go beyond the matter you are dealing with. Need to paint gold? Maybe look up silver, platinum and every other precious metal. Then how they are formed, then where they are, how they are mined, what they are used for, how prices are derived, what the gold standard was and so forth. You catch my drift.
- Listen to other smart people and ask them questions
- Learn how to do research, and yes, this is a skill and no, this isn't easy. The art of asking questions is a difficult one so start early.
Another key factor on the road to becoming an artist is getting a thick skin. In Dutch we would say "eelt op je ziel" which translates to "calluses on your soul" (So dark!). You will deal with a lot of adversity which can come in a whole host of different ways. Whether it's critique on the work you are doing, or on you as a person, or personal circumstances, you name it. Life is amazing at messing you up and seeing if you can get back up on your feet again. A big way this presents itself is through the principle that you mostly teach art through failure. The more you fail and are made aware of those shortcomings the more you can learn. Most other aspects of life operate under the same principle but with art it's easy because it's a visual medium. You can literally point out stuff that's not up to par.
Getting back up on your feet also costs a truckload of energy. The first few hits are, generally speaking, free but after a while it starts to take it's toll and you need to let it. When I was looking for a job in 2010 I sent out 178 applications over the span of a few months and I either got no for an answer or no reply, save 1. Reading your twelfth rejection email in a row on a single day wears you down. Being able to internalize what rejection means to you and how to get back up on that horse is extremely important because it might just happen a lot!
The safety net which allows you to take the risks upon which you build the foundation for your tenacity consists of two parts. One is that which you build yourself and the other is what your friends and family give you in support. Not everyone has this, partly due to the fact that artists are not always taken seriously because it's 'just a hobby'. It's a hobby if you let it. Making it as a artist is about not quitting and that's pretty much it.
So here are the highlights on tenacity:
- You have to get a thick skin.
- Knowing what makes you tick will allow you to get over setbacks and get back on the horse.
- Setbacks cost mental energy, let it. Acknowledge this so you can recharge.
- Learn to be flexible, don't always push through. Sometimes you just need to let things be for a while.
- Make sure to get support from friends, family and peers. Not everyone will understand, this is part of the above.
- The difference between a professional artist and a failed one is that the latter quit.
This is the most important part of all, being honest with yourself. Here is the straight up brutal truth of it, not everyone can be a professional artist. They can't. You might not be able to achieve that goal. There are many reasons for this and all of them are valid. And it's OK! This is the thing most people forget. Sure, it might be shitty but it's OK. Life is so much bigger than art, or work for that matter. Take solace in the fact that the human experience is greater than our means of making our livelihood.
The main reason people don't make it as a artist (just to be that guy again) is simply because they quit too easily or are not truthful with themselves about their capabilities. (You know those stories of artists who make despite people telling them they can't? This is not me telling you you can't. This is me telling you not to listen).
Art is working countless hours. Every single day without fail. Becoming good means sacrificing. Sacrificing going to parties, hanging out with friends, playing games, sitting in the park, you name it. It doesn't mean you can't do these things but it means you have to compromise. Did you do any art today? How long? What did you learn? How tired are you? Getting to know yourself in this way is very important because it means you can figure out for yourself whether or not you'll be able to make it, if you can push that extra hour today. It also means being honest, I hear this all the time "I'm good at perspective so I don't need to practice it anymore or take advice on it" but then when I look at the work it's all wrong. Don't be this person. Please. Be the person that's open and asks others for help and then actually listens! Be stubborn only in your desire to succeed and not about how much you think you already know.
Here's the thing. I'm writing this blog to you now having made all those sacrifices. I've missed a lot of family events. I've missed parties and I stopped getting invites from friends. I've lost friends and I've lost family and I missed most of it because I was busy working. Busy trying to become good at this one skill in a endless sea of options and it pains me. I often feel deep regret. Is it all worth it? I'm not sure. Sometimes it is and sometimes it isn't.
I also got to know myself. I got to know the family and friends who stuck around and what they mean to me and perhaps not unimportant, I got to know what art means to me. Funnily enough, art has become my escape. From the world, my guilt, the sun and a social life that a man of my age (30!) should have.
When people say art is about expressing yourself this is what they are talking about. Because the road is so long and difficult it's worth showing that and showing the spark that has kept you going through all the shitty things.
Art is equally over valued as it is under valued. As easy as it looks as difficult it can be. Small triumphs can come at tremendous costs. Where one sees a image they may or may not like the other sees the culmination of years of work, sacrifice, personal growth and a thousand yard stare aimed right at the future. When you think your loved one shouldn't pursue art because you think it's a hobby it demonstrates perfectly how little you know. If you think artist shouldn't be paid because 'they do what they love' or 'it's just drawing' stop and think about how much you had to sacrifice to get where you are now.
To all those on that road now I wish you the best of luck. The road is long but you are not alone. Stick with it. Don't give up. Don't quit.
Also, this tiny demon better known as 'Shiva' is celebrating her 10th birthday today! WoopWoop! She is by far the least supportive cat I know by constantly dragging us away from our work but we love her to bits anyway.
The struggles of social media!
We all upload our work to social media, right? We upload it to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc etc.. But why do we do this? What do we hope to get out of it? I’d like to make that the topic of my post today! Are you ready? :D
First of all, what reasons could we have for uploading our work to social media, what are we trying to get out of it? Are we just uploading to show the picture we made to our friends and family? I suppose that makes sense, as little kids we would make a drawing, show it to our parents and receive instant feedback from our moms or dads “Wow, you made this? It looks so good, really well done!”. And don’t lie, that felt good! It gave us a boost to our self esteem and we wanted to feel like that again, so we made another one, positive reinforcement! Thinking back, is that the reason you're doing art now? It's not exactly how it worked for me, but I'll bother you guys with that story some other time! ^^
In a lot of ways, social media is not all that different. Sharing your experiences and especially art on social media is, for the most part, just about getting positive feedback from friends, family and the most valuable one of all, your peers.
But is it really positive? If somebody just spend about half a second looking at your image that you’ve worked on for hours/days/weeks and clicking that ‘like’ or ‘heart’ button. Is that enough? Does it really tell you something about your work or is it simply a small polite gesture?
Another reason for uploading art pieces to social media instead of just to art websites such as CGSociety, Artstation, ZBrush Central etc, is to get more exposure. And why wouldn't you? There's always a chance that a potential client/company would see your work and get you that job.
Hell, I do it too, but seeing as how I do not have 4000 Facebook friends, or 10.000 followers on Twitter I don't really get all that much exposure. Perhaps I start following and friending random people just to increase the number of likes I get from “friends” and “friends-of-friends”. I currently have 321 friends on Facebook and if I talk to 10% of those guys, it’s a lot. So adding 3679 random people on Facebook would simply turn it into free-for-all of random posts that I really don't care about..
Even if I did have 4000 FB friends, there is this thing called the 'Facebook Newsfeed Algorithm' which determines which posts pop up in your timeline. So when you do post your own work, it's very likely that most of your 'friends' won't even see your work, leaving you wondering why you didn't get that many likes. Wanna learn more about the Newsfeed Algorithm? Feel free to check out this article as well, AFTER YOU FINISH READING THIS ONE AND LIKING IT ON FACEBOOK OF-COURSE!! ;)
When I do share something myself, it's pretty nerve-wrecking, I won't lie. I spend a lot of time working on a piece that I might actually think was pretty decent only to receive about 20 likes in total whereas the picture of the next person's meal at a restaurant gets 50 likes! That really doesn't feel that great.. To be fair though.. it was a pretty tasty looking steak..
In order to get my work out there I've starting to use different Facebook groups. I suppose most of you are familiar with Level Up! It's a pretty cool way of directly sharing your work with your peers and a good way to get constructive criticism. My experience using Facebook groups have been really good so far and I can actually recommend it to anyone. If I may add one suggestion, don't join to many different groups that cover the same topic, that'll just result in you seeing the same work pop up over and over which is kind of annoying. Just go for the group with which is closest to your field and has the most members :)
To end on a positive note, I do think social media is great for sharing art. I love seeing cool art come by on my timeline. There’s a bunch of artists that I do follow and seeing work from 3D artists such as Rafael Grassetti, Adam Fisher or Jon Troy Nickel come by is just highly motivating and ever so slightly depressing at the same time.
All in all, I'll just continue to post my work on social media but I'll rely on other website for exposure. I'll just use Facebook to continue to enjoy the work of others. ^^
See you next time!
- Robin // Ixi87
This is the last email I sent to the artdrop for Wizards of the Coast before I got a job. It was sent in July 2013. My first email was sent in the summer of 2010 (I discontinued that email so I don't have the originals anymore unfortunately!) I got a very kind email back which, in a nutshell, said I might hear back but also might not. It was the same one I had received for the last 3 years, no worries I thought. Keep working and send another email in a few months. Little did I know...
And can I just say, that was pretty much the best day ever. I literally started shaking and crying. Really good news will do that! Now, my story with Wizards and the long road to get there is nothing special. A lot of great artists I know have had similar experiences and I encourage you to read up on those or catch a talk about it from people like Jesper Ejsing (his story is amazing!) but, since I'm writing here you'll get my version. The point of it is though, nothing comes easy, not even for the best of us.
That first assignment
I get a lot of questions about the pipeline when working for Wizards on Magic, one of the most common ones is about what the assignments look like, how much info we get and so forth. Well, here you go:
Color: Red-aligned land
Location: See below
Action: Show a wide shot of an arctic mountain range with active volcanoes, like p. 143-144. In the distance we see some indication of a Temur camp, constructed from hides and dragon bones.
Focus: The mountainous landscape
Mood: Unforgiving wilderness. This is nature at its harshest.
That was the first brief I received for the mountain of Khans of Tarkir. Besides shaking uncontrollably with excitement and fear there also were some sketches to be done. Now this is a client I'd been after for years and I felt I couldn't disappoint them but at the same time I was working for Playground games on Forza Horizon 2. It was going to be a very busy time! Because of copyright issues I can't show all the sketches I did for each card, but there were roughly 5-8 each (nowadays I do less) Here is the mountain with what would be the final composition.
The mountain wasn't even the only card I got assigned to do! Here is the full lineup:
Looking back I cringe so much. The quality, the compositions. It hurts! It can be done so much better! Honestly, what they saw in my work beats me but I couldn't be more grateful. Sometimes you shouldn't question good things coming your way and just roll with it. In the future I will do a write-up for a specific magic piece as well so you get to see the whole process.
After this initial burst a lot happened. Every single day I was convinced I wouldn't hear anything back. The panic is real. Funny thing, after talking to a lot of other MTG artists they experience the same thing, even after a few years. That crushing feeling; "Is this the day I don't hear back, when the assignments stop?". But, lo and behold, I was getting more assignments.
A lot of stuff happened. My first Grand Prix, Seville. Fate reforged, Dragons of Tarkir and after that Battle for Zendikar (Giant shoutout to Sam for getting me some insane stuff, I said it a 100 times but I cant thank you enough!). It was around this time where another ridiculously cool thing happened.
So Wizards does a whole lot of things before they send out assignments, one of them is creating a style guide. This is a intense sprint where a whole bunch of people come together and brainstorm for a few weeks, laying the foundations. Later this is polished and molded into a coherent style guide that serves as reference for the artists. I was fortunate enough to get a invite and be in the room when they did "Barrel" (Codenames are awesome!) These were the most intense and amazing 3 weeks ever. Now, I know, so far it's a summary of how awesome my art life is but I'll get to the bad part in the end. But first some more cool stuff! Muwhahahahah.
Here is a summary of stuff that happened which I can disclose which have nothing to do with Magic:
- At night the aircon was off, so we basically melted.
- A cleaning lady sort of knew Victor, and told him to stay in school (something close anyway)
- We visited Mount Rainier, I got a awesome sweater there and, it was the most amazing and quiet place ever.
- Victor was too afraid to jaywalk in a town of 3,000 people at 10:30 PM that we waited for a traffic light for about 15 minutes.
- I hit a new low in insecurity being around insanely good artists I didn't know very well yet.
- I discovered I'm not a huge fan of Applebees.
- Downtown Seattle is super cool.
- When you walk down the street to go somewhere instead of driving people look at you funny.
- Vodka + Emergen-C is actually not a bad drink. Dangerous, but good.
- Everybody at Wizards is a Rockband / Guitar hero legend.
- Peanutbutter M&M's and Yellow Nr 5 are super delicious.
- Jetlag got me addicted to coffee.
- Sunchips rule, Sweden - please start importing. Thanks.
Some tips for you!
Now, I wouldn't want to waste all this know-how so here are some useful tips if you want to apply for Wizards. Since this is a bullet point kind of post I'll just beef that up with some more:
- Learn to play the game. Seriously. Don't say you want to work for them oh so badly without even knowing about the game! Also, it's crazy fun, addictive and super difficult.
- Make fake cards. Come up with a brief in the same structure as I listed above and stick to it. That way you can show your process. Big categories are: Land, spell, creature, artifact.
- Look for similarities in the way cards are setup. MTG has a very specific way of doing things, if you can figure it out you've proven you've got the brains and skills to make it.
- Talk to other MTG artists to figure out what they feel is most important in a card. Listen! Don't just assume.
- Work on your own signature style, don't do the popular thing and photobash everything. I used to do it, now I kinda not like it anymore and paint almost every card. You'll see those in 2017!
- Keep submitting work but not too fast, wait a few months. People working there are crazy busy! So just keep at it! Remember, it took me 3 years.
- Get feedback from the MTG community, they are your friends. Also, they know the lore best.
Some other important things to note; art directors are busy people. Emphasis on people! Be nice and be patient. How would you feel if you get a thousand emails a day, and a thousand more the next day from people asking why you haven't replied yet. On your road to becoming a artist for Wizards, or a better artist in general, listen to feedback and lose that stubbornness. When people with lots of experience tell you something they don't do it to hurt you or keep you down, I hope...
And most of all pursue this for the right reasons. I'll admit, this is somewhat of a more puritan way of thinking but I feel strongly that this isn't a job you should chase for the money or fame. The Magic community is a very nice one, it has ups and downs of course, but it's united by the love for the game. There are tons of other really cool clients that pay well so if your heart truly isn't in it, maybe consider a alternative.
These days I spend most of my time working for Wizards and loving every single minute of it. But, in the spirit of this blog here are some of the low points which I hit during my career:
- In 2010 I hit a low point, I quit painting for 6 months.
- I applied for 5 art schools 2 years in a row and got denied all 10 times.
- Before I got a job I sent out 178 applications spread over 4 months, I got 1 reply that was positive.
- I had my first burnout at 19 which wrecked about 4 months of my life.
- In 2014 I was on the border of a depression and I had to quit my job and move.
- I was very stubborn and lost a bunch of friends because of my stubbornness.
- I was very stubborn and arrogant and lost a bunch of job offers because of this.
- In the past I misjudged jobs, failed, and never got called back.
- I've been scammed and worked for "free" because of it.
The list goes on and on. So remember, it's not all fun and games. It's about falling, getting up and going at it again. I read a quote; Art is easy, life is hard. And being in this industry and doing this for the last 6 years I couldn't agree more. I still have that same relentless drive to get better and keep pushing myself and I hope you have that too. I'll leave you with one of the first paintings I've ever done as a sign that you can do it as long as you work hard and stay true to yourself. You're welcome.
A final thanks goes out to all the Wizards art directors, you know who you are, for supporting me and giving me a shot. To all the people I worked with during the Barrel push and the fun shenanigans that were had. To my best friends Robin and Benny who supported me for the last 8 years with good feedback and terrible puns. My girlfriend Suzanne who is relentless in her support and gave me the guts to fail, get up, and try again. My parents and family who believed, and still do. And last but not least the art community who was at points cruel, relentless, motivational, supportive and ever on my heels. I couldn't have done it without you.
Here we are again, O glorious Friday! And, of course, everyone is rejoicing not because it's the end of the work week but because it's time for another blog. This week however will be slightly different than last. This week I'll give a inside peek into how my week went, with all the bells and whistles. I think it's very important to understand that many artists have a rather chaotic process when it comes to working. I know very few who can work uninterrupted for 8 hours a day and repeat this process day in day out.
So the question I was always interested in when looking at a painting was "How long did this take?". Not just in the sense of hours on the actual painting and preparation but also over how many days that was divided. Since the moment I started painting I've never been able to sit down for long periods at a time working on something. I always have to tab out, get up, watch a TV show*, do something and come back. At this point it's easy to fan out and talk about stuff like speed painting and efficiency (and I will at some blog, I promise) but for now I'll break down this week for you. So if you work erratic, unstructured and all over the place, no worries. So do I.
7:00 AM - Got up because apparently the sun rises here in Malmö at 4:26 in the morning. No joke. Also, I've been too lazy to get curtains because the previous tenant even took off the rails. Thanks bro.
7:30 AM - Already working but I had a feeling this was going to be a weird day. I got a assignment from a client that I was super excited about but at the same time terrifies me (still not done). I start out with line sketches while watching Day9.
10:00 AM - Quit working to grab some food.
10:15 AM - Back to line sketching, did maybe 1 and a half but I keep trashing it. Up to layer 23 already with no sign of a good composition.
NOON - Lunch time.
12: 30 PM - Back to work, starting on a different piece. Not feeling the other sketch.
2:15 PM - Work not going anywhere, time for some Hearthstone (lost like a 100 times... GG)
4 PM - back to work
5:30 PM - Time to make dinner
7 PM - Back to work, struggling but it's ok.
9 PM - End of workday
Let me just start off by saying that Tuesday 10:30 AM is the worst time of the week. And here's why. It doesn't have the merit of feeling shitty on a Monday because we already had that. It doesn't have the midweek joy of Wednesday. Doesn't have the pre-weekend but sorta good focus time of Thursday. It's definitely not Friday. It's past breakfast but not quite lunch. It's coffee time but nobody has anything to talk about. All the shows have aired and weekend talk is done. Tuesday 10:30 AM, you suck.
7:00 AM - getting up again because this sun has no off button. Nor snooze.
7:30 AM - starting workday with some more Day9.
10:00 AM - First break. Working on the same piece as yesterday.
10:30 AM - Back to painting. Struggling but it's going OK. Getting quite frustrated with the tempo but there is nothing to do but push on.
11:00 AM - Cracked, started playing Overwatch again.
NOON - Lunchtime
12:30 PM - Back to painting
1 PM - Struggle is real, back to the line sketch of yesterday
3 PM - Back to the painting, sketch is still going terrible. Lost maybe an hour to watching shows.
5:40 PM - Time to make food.
7:30 PM - Back to work. Was pretty happy with the sketch so back to painting
9 PM - Workday done, painting done. Took me a few days before this week but yay!
8:00 AM - Rise and shine. It's cloudy! WHOOO!
8:15 AM - Starting the workday, I was fast today.
9:00 AM - Playing Overwatch because I lost focus.
10:30 AM - went grocery shopping, because, no focus.
11:00 AM - Back to work, sketching sketching sketching
NOON - Lunchtime
12:30 PM - Working on another painting. Still struggling hard with getting focus
12:31 PM - Petting the cat
1:00 PM - Cat finally let me alone, back to work.
4:00 PM - Got some work done but lost an easy 40 minutes to more TV shows, discovered 'The Wire'
5:00 PM - Time to make dinner, too hungry. Home made hamburgers!
8:00 PM - Back to work after watching Silicon Valley (its so good =D )
9:00 PM - end of workday
8:30 AM - Got up after figuring out I can rearrange my blinds in such a way I get a whole 30 minutes less of blinding sunlight in the morning. We'll see if the experiment works.
8:31 AM - Start of the workday because fuck morning routines today.
9:30 AM - Start worrying about this blog
NOON - skip lunch, started to work on this blog.
1:30 PM - Done with the bulk of the framework for this blog, back to painting.
4:00 PM - Done with the painting, moving on to the next. I'm on a very tight deadline and it's stressing me out.
5:30 PM - done with the workday because on Thursday's I try to relax a little and not work dumb hours.
And Friday is still a mystery because these articles are written through the week and released and approved around 10 in the morning on Friday itself. But I bet it's going to be some work and then this.
So, a quick summary of what I've done this week:
Sketches: 7 done
Paintings: 2.5 done
Number of times I walked away to do something else: 748 or something
Average chrome tabs open: 5 windows, averaging 18 each. You do the math.
Hours of shows watched: 40+
TV shows: Season 1 of 'The Wire' almost done and caught up on all Day9 videos.
So that's it folks! A quick insight into my erratic work schedule filled with breaks and whatnot. This is how I love to work the most and how I get stuff done. Until next time!
* List of TV shows I watch:
- The Wire
- Rick and Morty
- American Dad
- Modern Family
- Game of Thrones (Because Suzanne is making me...)
- Silicon Valley
- Any British crime series, River, Broadchurch, Sherlock, Ripper Street, Luther, Happy Valley, etc.
Getting things done, or at least trying to..
So, I’m back for a second article! Yay! First of all, thanks to everyone who wrote to me after the first post, 'I’m a Pro'. It was really really nice to read that a lot of what I wrote sounded very familiar to a bunch of you! Let’s see if we can all progress together and reach our goals for this year.
Today’s topic is about getting things done. I picked this subject because it’s something that I have struggled with in the past but have now perfected.
Yeah.. right.. No, truth is, I’m still struggling, but hey, I do know a couple of little tricks that help me and I thought I’d share a few. So, without further ado, let’s get this done! (See what I did there?)
1. Define your project!
You know what I mean, what should be on your screen before you can say, “gha! nailed it!!” Taking at least 30 minutes to get a good idea of what you want to achieve before you can call something actually done might just be worth it. Instead of spending hours and hours refining things that really.. won’t even show up in the final version. For example, you’re a character sculptor; everybody can understand you want to spend some extra time refining those, [if you like guys read -> “abs”] - [if you like girls read -> “breasts”], and that’s totally fine! We’ll just call it, ‘anatomy training’, we all understand you need those extra 2-3 hours on Pinterest to research the subject thoroughly. But might not be critical to know the exact shape of the pectoralis muscle in order to sculpt a subject like this: CLICK
2. Research your subject!
It ties in pretty well with what I was talking about, do research on your subject. I’m sure you’ve all heard this again, and again, and again, and… well.. you get where I am going with this. It’s so important to have good reference at your disposal at all times. It took me surprisingly long to admit that I am human and I don’t have the perfect memory that allows me to sculpt everything of the top of my head.
For my last project, (which is not the best example seeing as I didn’t get to finish it because Titus dragged me along to Italy) I did take the time to look for reference and built one big mood board get get an idea of what I wanted to create. If your project is created over a longer period of time or you have to communicate your idea's to other people, a board like this can be a really helpful visual guideline to help you out.
In this case I was going for a Mongolian scout that would be in the middle of climbing a hazardous mountain side.
3. Splitting your projects into chunks!
One of the mistakes that I used to make, and let’s be honest, still do.. is jumping into a sculpting session not knowing where I want to be after I finish. This is completely fine if you’re just casually sculpting but this wasn’t really getting me anywhere. Structure is good and it just feels good to complete something you set out to do. Why should you only get this feeling at the very very end of a project?
At the start of your project you already thought about what needed to be done. Now just split the work up into subgoals that you can tick off once ready.
I actually noticed that UnicornDev makes sure she has a good checklist for her entire project and actively checks these while live-streaming on Twitch. She had all the different elements of her project listed, the character, the props, UV-ing, texturing etc..
I really should start executing my own advice!
It’s one of those things that’s probably already widely known around the world by many many people but I had never heard of it before I joined a startup. Who knows, maybe it’s a new discovery for some of you as well. The tool I’m referring to is Trello!
It’s a pretty simple app that just allows you to make lists with cards of what you have to do, the cards can be the tasks themselves or can be opened to add more information of additional checklists. I use Trello not just for projects at work and at home but it’s also pretty handy for your personal life.
Ever have that situation where you just keep thinking of things that you have to do in moments that you really shouldn’t be thinking about it? But it’s important so it keeps popping back up in your mind and gives you little panic attacks? sound familiar? no? yeah right.. ok, an example. You have to pay your car insurance (very grownup example, I know) but you think about this at 00:31.. You’re in bed and really not in any position to do anything about it right now but it does cause a bit of frustration. Orrr.. you’re at work and you just remember that you still have to go out buy a present for Mothersday!
(((Shit.. I actually still have to buy something for mother's day.. Mom.. if you’re reading this.. I’m sorry and I’ll really think of something cool soon!))) So, this is where Trello really comes in handy (if I had added this task). I check Trello on my phone regularly to see which tasks I still have in my “To Do” list and if I see a task I can do right at that moment I try to do right then so I can move it over to my “Done” list which is actually quite a nice feeling.
Give it a whirl, maybe this works for you as well and who knows, it might take some stress away from daily life while you're at it.
That’s it for this week boys and girls. If any of you have any additional tips on getting things done, feel free to spam me through Facebook or Twitter or whatever you kids are into these days. Until next time!
- Robin // ixi
You deserve a compliment! You do! I mean, most likely we don't know each other personally and I might not have a clue what kind of work you make or if you are even an artist. What I do know is that you are pretty awesome.
Why do I say that? Is it just another one of those terms people fling around? Maybe a little, but mostly no. It's not just a random thing and here's why:
Check out this ridiculously insightful comic by Leleoz. When I saw this it just gave me a moment to pause. This hits the nail on the head and not just for artists.
For those who are not too familiar with the art world it can only be described as terrifying. Art is something personal and putting it on a platform which is mostly disconnected from "the real world" it can lead to ridiculous pressure build up which can lead to all sorts of nasty feelings. And just to try and make it more relatable to you fine non-artist folk; Imagine putting art online as having to treat your in-laws to a 5 course meal but right before they arrive your food spontaneously self destructs leaving you only with the frozen noodles. Also, you are wearing pants but they are clown pants. From actual clowns. (sorry clown aficionados out there but lets face it, clown pants are just creepy )
So I hope that in 2016 people all understand the benefits of positive reinforcement (even though sometimes it isn't helpful when engaging in creative problem solving). We came from a period where being nasty to each other was common practice. I've certainly been on the raw end of that stick and it makes you feel like shit. Here is a list of stuff that is difficult to do when feeling bad:
- Make someone else feel happy
- Be consistently creative
- Enjoy the good things around you
- Handle the pressure of a stressful job
And here is a list of stuff that you can do when you feel good:
- Make someone else feel happy
- Be consistently creative
- Enjoy the good things around you
- Handle the pressure of a stressful job
Oh come on! Don't be so surprised, you knew this stuff already. I really hope I'm not telling anyone something new here but today that's not the point. There are a few options available when you feel this sort of negativity. One of them is to abandon social media all together (and that can work wonders!) but for some of us it's difficult, it's our lifeline to like minded people and a primary way to share. Another is to cut down on time, disable comments, or simply ignoring the bad ones. All of it can create habits which in turn make you less likely to compliment, say something nice, or start a conversation about a piece. It becomes superficial. This is not what you want to have done to your own work and neither does anyone else, so let's break the cycle.
This is a call to be more encouraging to people. And not just with a comment or like on their social media page but to talk to people. You know, engaging in conversation.
LOOK OVER THERE! WHERE?
>>LIKE RIGHT HERE<<
That's right - that is a link to Discord, a chat program reminiscent of mIRC (geez I feel old now) where we can all hang out, share work and in general have a good time. If you want to just chat to people and put the social back into social media* this is a space where you can do so.
Have a great day every and stay awesome
* YES I WENT THERE.
I am a pro... a pro-crastinator… but what I want to be, is a pro-fessional. A professional 3D artist in the game (or possibly film) industry that is. Hi, my name is Robin Brockötter and this will be my first blog post here on Project Discovery.
Whereas Titus is fully committed to share his experience as a professional concept artist, my angle is slightly different. I want to write about my struggles when it comes to trying to get back into the industry. I had a first little taste of the game industry while I was doing the same Game Design course as my co-writer and for a little bit after that. But since then my life took quite a surprising turn and now it's 4 years later and I really do still have that itch that I desperately want to scratch. This first post is about all the things that are keeping me from doing just that.
Don’t feel bad for me though, my life/career has been really quite fun up until now and I’ve already had some great opportunities that I am really grateful for, it’s just not exactly in line with what I actually want to end up doing. And that is collaborating with fellow game designers to work on games that people love and enjoy!
So, where to begin.. right now, I’m sitting in an office, writing this post during my lunch break at a great company that taught me a lot about 3D printing, managing a team, working efficiently and a lot about the startup life in general. But the role that I am in, is not where I want to be. This is why my articles will mainly be focused around my journey trying to shift to a career in the game/film industry.
MY VICIOUS CIRCLE
I work a full 40 hours a week, I have a social life (which basically means I spend my spare time gaming with friends and where I go on the occasional date), I spend some time working on 3D projects and to my regret a lot of time is spend, procrastinating. I realize that in order to get a good starting job in the industry, my portfolio needs to be top notch. But it’s not that easy for me to fully commit to working on my 3D projects after coming home already having spent my entire day working behind the PC which is quite mentally tiring. So usually, I just wanna relax and spend my free time watching Twitch.tv and playing Overwatch with friends and go through the same thing the very next day. Sound familiar? Oh, and if you were looking for a solution here, sorry.. I'll share it as soon as I have found it ;) But it's been two years now, don't get your hopes up.
Let's move on.
MY FIRST OBSTACLE
Besides being stuck in a vicious circle, I have a couple more obstacles that I'll have to overcome. My current portfolio is up on Artstation and to me it feels it’s pretty alright. The models I have up there, I like, but most of them feel.. unfinished. And that’s because, they are. I have a tendency of jumping into a 3D sculpt 100% and I can keep this up for 8 hours straight (during the weekend) and possibly another 8 hours spread over the next few days, but then, I run out of gas/motivation. The sculpt is there, about 60-70% finished, it looks pretty nifty but then I reach a point where I struggle to make the work better. This is around the time where I would have to bring it to the next level and jump into all the small details of the sculpt, or… texturing.. People that have the patience to really sit down and carefully texture a 3D model spread out over multiple texture maps really have my respect!
This is also around the time where I usually get a flash of inspiration… I see someone else’s work and my brain just triggers, “Wow, this piece is so awesome, I bet, if I start tonight, I can make something in this style of a character no-one has thought of before! I’d better get started right now”! So, I abandon my current project and I go back to the ZSphere and start on a new armature.. I think I currently have about 30 sculpts on my hard-drive that are somewhere between 50 and 80% completed..
If someone has an answer for this one, or has a trick to get a hang of doing great texture work in a short amount of time, I’m all ears!
But, on the bright side, at least I know what my problem is right? They say, knowing the problem is like having 80% of the solution? Well, my current strategy is to simply work on projects that I know I can finish.. Maybe this time, I don’t go for a hyper-realistic likeness of a well known character in a big black furry cloak that very recently came back to life.. (sorry if I spoiled it for anyone, but come on, it's been 2 weeks!!)
I should really re-watch last weeks GoT, it was 7 AM, I might have missed something seeing as I was still half asleep..
MY SECOND OBSTACLE
My second obstacle is the ever crushing doubt, “I’m not good enough.. yet..”, “My portfolio isn’t finished.. yet..”.
"When should I send these guys from... [INSERT ANY POSSIBLE NAME FROM ANY GAME STUDIO ON THE PLANET] an e-mail? But what if they reject me..? That would suck.. but who knows, they might like my stuff..? Could I already send my portfolio out? I really should have a newer demoreel first.. But if I’m going to make a new reel, I should really have some newer work.. I should probably start a new project.."
Please tell me I’m not the only one who thinks like this... And oh.. I should watch Lord of the Rings again! And definitely not the Hobbit! God.. how bad was the Hobbit..
Anyway, this is my starting point, the following posts will be all about the things I have run into and hopefully, eventual success!
Not everything here on Project Discovery is about hard facts and scientific evidence, some of it, like this, comes from personal experience. That being said I have a nagging suspicion almost every artist has "asshole brain" in one way or another. In fact, I think everyone just might have. So let's take a moment to properly complain about this phenomenon and maybe we can help each other out.
Sound familiar? If you are a fully dysfunctional artist it should! (I have yet to find a fully functioning artist) Before we get started let me summarize the different archetypes of insecurities, fears, frustrations and general asshole'ish (?) brain things I encounter. Let me know if any sound familiar:
- Everyone else is better
- I'm a fraud! In reality I suck!
- I cant think of any cool stuff. I must not be creative at all
- You keep doing the same thing over and over, that's dumb
- If you miss 1 second of possible painting time the world will leave you behind. No play time for you!
- Nobody saw my stuff, this must mean its terrible
- I don't think you have your own style. Wow, boring much?
- Hey look at that food thing on TV! Bet you want it now, especially because you cant get it because it's like 1 AM and you are still working. COME ON! Every. single. time
Now there are many, many, many more (luckily?) but most of them are derived from the big hitters above. Whichever one of those is loudest or the most frequent they all have one thing in common. Whether you like it or not they exert pressure on you. You exert pressure on yourself. I know you don't want to but you are making life more difficult on yourself than it has to be. Trust me, I know. It is my main struggle. I can go from being super happy to feeling bummed out all because of that little voice in my head. This mental energy drain is bad. Real eye opener right?
Here's the thing, we all have a reserve of mental energy. In the previous blog I talk about potato brain, a type of atrophy which occurs when you don't receive enough stimuli. The same effect applies, the lack of input drains your mental energy. The level of mental energy you have, which is comparable to physical energy, determines how long you can focus, how much resistance you have to negative thoughts and so forth. Long term negativity and lack of input can therefor seriously harm your creative process and breaking out of it isn't easy. One of the key things that helped me fight this is to recognize "drain triggers". I'm sure there is a fancy real world word for it but I'm not that smart. When I realize what's going on I try to identify how big of a impact it's having on me, so I treat it like a weather prediction. Level 3 mental storm coming! (and now I'm worried that sounds way less cool than I hoped it would...) Anyway, once you realize what's coming you can prepare. Everything has counter measures, such as taking a walk, doing something else like read a awesome blog (Yeah, I went there) play a game, get some "organic fruit and vegetable smoothies" or you know, donuts. Hopefully your solutions won't be unhealthy for you so maybe work in a gym routine in every once in a while*.
So why take this stuff seriously? Why get all touchy feely with yourself? Because if you don't you can break down and stop working all together and not have a clue why. "Art block", more like "I dont know myself well enough so I cant really figure out whats wrong and therefor not fix it-block" You can get stuck but the least you can do is know why. The pressure we artists put on ourselves in ridiculous, mostly because of our insecurities and, the overwhelming notion that art, aside from the few lucky ones, is not a profession that yields you great and consistent income. You have to fight every single day to stay relevant like B rated comedy shows. And boy do we know it. If staying relevant and therefor employed was just about being good at art it'd be one thing, but it's not about that anymore. It's about how relevant you can stay in a competitive environment. A signature style that has to resonate with the taste of the masses combined with a nice personality and brimming with originality. It's like constantly living in one of those American drug commercials where people constantly smile, laugh and hug their dogs even though they are on a ridiculous amount of medication and are apparently not worried that the side-effects of the sleeping aid causes hallucinations and halitosis!
So yeah, the pressure is huge. I feel it, you feel it, and I bet our non artist readers can relate. For art however there is a upside. In a way that pressure can push us forward and motivate us into getting better at what we do. Turning pressure into thrust is highly important. Work on finding the "drain triggers", develop a part of your brain that is better at kung-fu than the asshole part and kick it's ass every now and again. Don't let the pressure break you, turn it into thrust and use it to soar to great heights (this is a metaphor, do not jump off of shit.) Vent excess energy so the thrust doesn't move you so fast you tear apart. Get outlets, make sure you don't get potato brain and please, please, be honest to yourself.
Here is a list of stuff that's perfectly OK to do when you feel the drain trigger come on. This is stuff I do, maybe you can get some inspiration from it too:
- Call a bad day a bad day and stop painting. Tell your friends you have a bad day, they can help!
- Start playing games that make you feel better. Like, set an AI to 100% idiot mode and then trash it. Stupid computer... walked right into my rocket.
- Make apple crumble
- Offer me some apple crumble.
- Take a walk and think about nothing else. <- this one is impossible. Thinking Dark souls 3 is hard. Pfsh
- Take a long shower and think about the problem. (90% of the time this is composition for me btw)
- Watch a movie that's in the same genre as what you are working on.
- Drink "organic fruit and vegetable smoothies"
- Work out**
- And most importantly, hang out with your boy/girl friend / regular platonic friends. Ask them how they are doing and ask if you can help them with something. Not being stuck in your own head and not thinking about yourself is easiest when you genuinely want to help someone else. Bonus, it feels pretty good.
So. Sit back, relax. Don't blow up. You're doing just fine.
* I never go to the gym and personally think it might just be the worst thing ever.
** seriously, I never do it. Sweating next to a bunch of strangers who are also sweating and might want to talk to you? Really? I don't need that in my life, it's stressful enough as is. Kthnx.
It's the most commonly asked question in interviews and people alike asking about art in general. A very innocent question, or is it? I read somewhere that if you make a dramatic statement people are more likely to stay tuned for whatever follows, so I hope it worked because I'd like to talk a bit about inspiration.
So what is it about this question that so many of us artists struggle with? Is it the fact that we've been asked so many times and can't be bothered with it anymore? Or is it because we ourselves struggle to answer the question in a meaningful way? As a matter of fact I think the entire question is flawed.
Here is the thing that I struggle with in this particular instance. Inspiration is dealing with stimuli that trigger creative processes, but the creative process to many is so elusive and intangible that defining it in a broad statement is difficult. My creative process switches constantly, this is not to be confused with the process of how I make my work or how I set myself up to do that work in a practical sense, i.e how I arrange my desk and what software I use. Parts of the creative process in the way it's finally executed and how it manifests itself in a painting is always the same. The tool, digital painting in this case, remains the same. It's done on a computer, behind a desk, most likely after careful planning. Inspiration therefor weighs in much earlier in the creative process, in the stage where everything is still very much up in the air and up for grabs. This space in your mind where you try to focus on a blurred image. Grabbing and pulling in many ideas and references trying to make sense of this blurred image, the idea. In this space we have to look for inspiration and this is where the question goes terribly awry. A quick note by the way, the art of sketching is incredibly important in this stage. It serves as a sort of auto-focus on a image, it helps clarify what you are looking for. Inspiration in this stage could means something completely different than the inspiration that had you arrive at the blurred image to begin with. A often missed point in this is image progression or evolution.
Artists sit around and wait for inspiration. When they find it, they make cool stuff. Maybe they listen to music or something.
The thing is though; what happens when you (and I'm talking to non artists right now) listen to music, or look at art, or go for a run. Do you get inspired to create masterpieces of art? No? Nor do we artists, generally speaking. There are presumably exceptions to the rule but I have yet to find one.
Art is hard work. An amount of hard work that if you were fully aware of it before hand you might not get into it. Such is at least true for trying to stay 'competitive', for lack of a better word, in the art community. But more on that later. It's hard work to improve and that piece of white paper staring at you can be a terrifying thing. The core however to this whole thing lies in the drive to get better and, right next to it lies curiosity.
Curiosity is a curious thing. In many cases it's the silent engine that allows for us to push through boring moments and touch upon some new information. In the book FLOW the process of increasing complexity is described as being stimulated by new things. This process allows for more brain activity and is important to prevent a form of brain slumber that can occur when doing menial day to day tasks, a.k.a 'The daily drag'. Getting these impulses therefor is hugely important. HUGELY! Get it yet? The extremely short version is: If you don't experience new things your brain turns into a potato.
Our curiosity drives us to research new things. New things keep the brain active and interested, in turn making us curious about more things. We incorporate this into the creative process when we turn our research focus towards something we would like to, in this case, paint. Everything then becomes about adding something to the painting and the process broadens. It is here where we stumble upon the falsity of the inspiration statement. For me, it is really all about curiosity and how to stay motivated enough to stay curious and continue the creative process.
So where does that leave us? Should we all stop asking the question where inspiration comes from? The answer is, yes. Absolutely. I can't even emphasize it enough. Please, stop it. I get it though, it's not your fault. You mean well! So don't worry, I don't blame you. A very good alternative would be: "How do you stay motivated?".
P.s The answer is a mixture of terrible food, music, self loathing, crushing self inflicted pressure and energy drinks.