April 17, 2014

Know Your Inspiration...

...to get rid of it.

If Kirby Ferguson is right with his statement that "Everything is a remix", then there is no need to worry that you are going to create something completely new - ever.

I believe that isn´t even necessary.

From Motorcycle to Cyborg (process video here) inspired by Cat-meff

An inherent desire to Copy, transform and to combine is what makes creative people creative by default.
Some folks worry too much about originality, others don´t even care.
Suzanne Helmigh wrote a nice article about that matter in particular - I will just write about creativity and inspiration with the creative person in mind that finds him or herself somewhere in the middle:

"knowing there is no chance of creating something absolutely new, but being confident that there is always room for a new or unique perspective."

I´m intrigued by the phenomenon creativity that I like to gather some interesting information about that topic in regard that the title of this article is going to make more sense.

The Theory:
Knowing your inspiration and keeping track of the sources makes it easier to develop a very own style.
Because with time you know what works and what not and can keep those stylistic influences along with new ones that evolve along the way.

It isn´t even necessary to get rid of inspiration, if properly credited, but in terms of developing a unique handwriting in artistic expression it makes all the way sense of keeping a journal of what inspires you.

It is also good and motivating to know that there is always room to create endless possiblities.
When you know that there are endless possiblities and popular artists only have found a way to make something existing shine in a new light through copying, transformation and combination, it gets a lot easier to drop the pressure of coming up with something absolutely unique.

It may not be something new or avantgarde, but that isn´t necessary either because people feel comfortable when discovering something familiar. This can be anything, ranging from symbols, fashion trends, artistic trends color trends and contemporary values.

Depending on your target group it is even encouraged to play with symbols known among these people to contribute value as an artist. Thats exactly what filmmakers do and publishers. As artist we probably have more creative freedom because we can achieve more with little cost as opposed to a production-team that can easily consist of 200 heads.

Practial advice:
In practice it makes sense to use a journal or sketchbook to capture ideas. I do often sketches on different layers in one document and see how it evolves. That can also be done using a scrapsheet where you put different thumbnail sketches on one sheet. Whatever helps to get the idea pulled, will do the job.

  • It makes sense to harvest art books to get inspiration, but also websites like Pinterest, tumblr, facebook (with the right subscriptions) and deviantArt.
  • I recommend having inspiring works collected in a folder related to an individual project and another one for general collecting purposes.
    With cloud-storage getting cheap and even free 5-10GB, it makes sense to sync your inspiration folders on all devices. Something I did recently and it makes a huge difference.
  • Art school will not help you to be more creativity or to inspire you, it is simply not their job. They have a stamp for you and either you want to carry it or not. Period.
  • Do something now. Question it later.
  • Inspiration can originate from other artists work or photographs, by crediting your sources you don´t cheat, you give credit where it is due and if you want to make a living, it is the only right thing to do.
  • There is no such thing as talent, there is just creativity or not: studies have shown that children at the age of 5 years are still at their highest creativity level, after graduating from highschool, or at the age of 25 years only 2% are able to use their creativity to the fullest capacity.
  • Inspirational can also be a talk with good friends. Many of the ideas I have on my list for the Skull:z & Idols project came from friends who suggested them. 
  • A lot of creative and especially successful creative work stems from the right decisions.

This means questioning things at your own and not putting into account the opinion of others. For example, there can be a great idea, but poor execution prevent it from being seen or even from being finished. On the other hand a poor concept can benefit from a great execution but it will never be outstanding because a great execution is just craftmanship - not originality. To be inpirational you have to deliver more; great ideas and great execution. For being recognized as original creator you have to deliver both on a regular basis.
Not the hardest thing to do because both is depending on practice and patience - not talent.

However, if you only look to what others do and what makes them popular, it will lead you only so far - without the following. There is more to a following than just people who buy your stuff, if treated correctly it is a tribe, people that can give you valuable input or constructive critique, that help you to decide and give you constant support. But what a following on facebook, twitter or deviantArt can not do for you is to make decisions.

You get eventually feedback on your decisions and see what works or what not, from there it is almost always: rinse and repeat.

Art is a dirty work, but somebody has to do it.
(Joachim Lüttke)

March 26, 2014

The Power Of "New"

There are countless marketing strategies out there, harnessing the power of the internet age and focusing on the intelligent and smart buyers. Why is it, that words like "New" or a redesigned product catches more sales than a sophisticated content marketing strategy?

Is the appeal of NEW really hard-wired to our brains?

I believe it has to do with our Lizard brains, that is always on the hunt for news, or at least new ways to help us survive.

NEWS as in newspapers or television serve the same desire, a desire to gather knowledge about things that matter to us, so we can prove ourselves as well informed to our peers.

But the big issue remains that many sources are questionable and not every news is really new. How do you point out which news is trustworthy and even if something is trustworthy, does it benefit you in order to survive?

Let´s reflect about the newspaper for a minute, the news that talks about politics for example, why is it that these news foster frustration and bullying, instead of satisfying the nations?

In the age of information, ignorance becomes more than a choice, it becomes a prerequisite for a healthy lifestyle. OR at least being picky about which news you choose to ignore.

Back to the positive news, the ones you encounter in your grocery stores and on Amazon; what about a brand redesign? Why is it that you feel the urge to try the new labeled product of Coca Cola? You know it is the same content with just a different design, but chances are it tastes better...right?
Bullshit you say, but at least 1 out of 3 people think so.

Whenever there´s something new, there´s also a half-life. Different news have different lives.
The new design of a cereal brand may last longer than the "new taste" sticker on an alcopop drink.

To some extent it is fun to observe which kind of news lives longer than others and for which reasons.
From a psychological point-of-view this is very interesting; We are so trained to react on "NEW" that it is almost conditioned. Like the classical conditioning of Pavlov´s dog.

Artists can also benefit from this power in many regards. One option might be to get back to old techniques or old artworks and paint over them and post them as new. Actually adding the word "New" to any description of listing your artwork can result in a better ranking throughout search engines. This is a huge overlooked fact and I´m really wondering why so many artists are ignoring this simple opportunity.

Maybe the next time you try it out for yourself, any feedback or input on this matter is greatly appreciated.

March 19, 2014

How Mediocre Became The New Awesome

Interesting things are not the things that are generally labelled as awesome, why?
Maybe because awesome is surprising, unexpected. Really?

Listen to this song, if you know at least one popular NIN song, than nothing in this song is a surprise.

And yet it is great, this goes also for the real Trent Reznor. This satire and very clever observation of how a famous NIN-song is made is a reminder of how some psychologic wonders and their respective mechanics work.

If you follow the rules, there are no surprises, then there are no expectations and you can still overdeliver in other regards.

I think awesomeness is a combination of many factors including surprise, authenticity, personality, relevance and meaning.

The problem with awesome is that once established the envelope has to be pushed at all given times. And actually you end up either pushing yourself always to get better which leads to burnout sooner or later...or you settle with mediocre.

But, that may not be the worst thing that can happen. Let´s say you are a great artist, always eager to learn new things, you can make a living from the things you love to do. From a subjective clients point-of-view, your worst work may still be way better than that of a graduate that has yet 20.000 hours to go before taking the plunge into the freelance world.

So why still pushing the envelope if it is good enough for others and especially years to come?

I believe artists do this out of a necissity. A reason that is unimaginable to the regular human public.

I tend to label that necissity as meaningful work, but I can be misled.
However, I don´t do that for client or a certain project, and many conversations with fellow artists confirm my stance in a way that I´m not alone... Artists do all the improvement simply for their own pleasure.

A selfish bunch of people.

Viewing that from a corporate view, this conclusion is all the sudden - not so far off.

Corporations often hold back patents that later become the norm in industries as seen for cars, food or clothes.The reason might be simply because planning of trends can only be arranged if there are plans and if there are others with the same interests.

From another corporate view, for example apple or McDonalds, this technique is used to deliver always great products. If they would deliver awesome products, the pressure would be so high it wouldn´t even be sustainable for a long period of time. So instead they settle with mediocre and deliver it constantly so that there´s still room for improvement and for the new.

This tactic works. worldwide. Every minute of the day.

With every song. With every Artwork. With every franchise.

Think about it.

And maybe you can relax.

March 5, 2014

The Difference Between "Name" and "Brand"

As artist there´s much information about marketing youself out there and when taking a closer look, what is the difference then, between a name and a brand?

A Name is attched to a person, artist or musician and can not be transferred. A perfect example are artists, because a famous artist, when dead, can not be replaced by another artist under the same name. In this regard the pro´s are to gain higher value for a single artwork, but there is no exit strategy, once decided to go with the name, means to live that business until the end.

A brand works differently, a franchis such as Subway´s or Burger King are perfect examples of a brand in action. Several businessmen-and-women worldwide, can open a store and name it Subway´s if they are part of the original chain and if they abide to follow the structures and rules established.
The founder of such brands have an exit-strategy, once their label is known, accepted and trusted worldwide, they can reap the benefits of not having to work anymore (except they are bored).

It would be great if things would be that easy, but unfortunately the world is a much more difficult place, so there are a lot variations inbetween those two, for example:

If a brand has a very charismatic leader who loves to connect with the public on events that brings together early adopters worldwide, the brand can suffer from being attached to one face, you can guess it: Apple and it´s CEO Steve Jobs.

Another not so popular example of the opposite: An illustration rep. called "John Doe rep" can suffer from having no exit point strategy and once he has to retire, the company can hardly be led by another person, even if the successor is known to be a great benefit for the company. Branding differently and marketing on a different level would have made that easier.

Both, name and brands have their benefits and it is important to focus on these aspects. If someone wholeheartedly agree with this simple rule and accepts the outcome whatever this may be, there is nothing wrong. It is only the surprising reactions of some people I have seen, that makes me question such things and ask, why didn´t they thought about that beforehand.

February 19, 2014

Gatekeepers, Agents and Middlemen are dead, long live the Middlemen!

There was a time when talent was hard work, followed by a lifetime in starvation and appreciated only after an artist´s death. Then there was a time when talent was not born, it was made by agencies and by popular demand.

Now we are on a path beyond that, gatekeeper of the artworld, the music industries and literary agents are the new artists and if the are not quickly adapting to this new environment, doomed to extinct.

This is a call, a call for agents, not for me, I don´t need one, but a call for waking up.

And I don´t mean advertising agencies but those whose job it is to find talent and sell it to the world.

What I find interesting is that many artists and illustrators are still actively seeking for reps or agents to collaborate - as if they were not able to negotiate and find clients by themselves. And there are still a hand full of agencies specialized in representing artists, but these were established in the last century and sap from the fruits they sowed - may they live long and prosper.

The reason why there are no new agencies or reps is simple: because there is no need anymore.

In times where Television and Magazines were at their peak point in revenue, agents and illustrators had a great time together, but nowadays more people use smartphones and internet than the amount of families in the sixties had tubes.

Now to reach 100.000 people it takes one ad in facebook, targeting at the right people as well, because no one can be brave enough to ignore such a huge network, not even professionals.

And it does not even stop there, countless specified communities, professional networks like LinkedIn or Enthuse.me are popping up like mushrooms everyday!

Countless guides and howto´s make it easier than ever to any newbie to break into any industry.
Building your own brand was also never that easy...

...or not?

OK, that sounds like an advertising for the internet, and one thing is for sure, it takes more than just a few youtube videos, to educate yourself.

But, chances are that over time, it is possible to see the underlying mechanics that are at work and with enough persistence, passion, and a lot of smart and hard work it will be possible to get your name out there to the right people.

Sure, there´s one advantage of having an agent: it takes the negotiating part and guesswork out of business and gives you work that you love to do.
On the other hand, if your work coming from a rep amounts to 80% in a month, you are literally in a frontline assembly. I prefer to negotiate myself and love connecting with new clients, it takes probably a lot of motivation to post your work regularly online and yes, it can be daunting at times but that is not the key.

The key is to consider that work.

Once you are there and consider the social-media aspect as relevant to your business and updating your online presence as work, it becomes important. And there´s always something that you can improve.

Here´s a second key: Consider improvement as meaningful, and you are done.

One important argument that an experienced agent, established author or illustrator may append is: that a representant or agent does give you valuable feedback.

Sure thing, the problem is that its just a very specific type of feedback and only brings you that far. For a different industry you need a different agent and so on. You end up uberspecialized with knowledge that is outdated faster than you can snap.
And even if the feedback is valuable, there is always a representant of the client behind that agent who has the same knowledge and if they havn´t, they will get replaced by someone who will have in the future.

So essentially, the knowledgeable feedback from the agent is nothing different than the knowledge about what the client wants, spiced up with some experience...which can be broken down to the following sentence:
If you know what the clients want and can deliver it without whining, you are in the game.

Sure, the agent has a nice way of telling you that your work is shitty today and it can be daunting to find out that the companies art-director does not have such a nice tone, but you know what? Get used to it, don´t take yourself so important and do what they want.

You are your own agent and have to find a nice way of telling the truth to your self from now on.

If you want flattery, post your art to facebook, go figure.

February 12, 2014

Artbook Review: Infected By Art Issue #1

Being part of an artbook is a great honor for any artist, even more so if one is surrounded by living legends and pure awesomeness.

It was and is such a great honor for me to even have won the Bronze recognition award in book one of IBA /Infected By Art, edited by Todd Spoor and Aaron Raymond.
The neccessity for such a book shows the insatiable interest for annual art books such as "Spectrum" and "Exposé".

The website http://www.infectedbyart.com/ has since then grown and seen numerous artists participate in the showcase, community activities, regular contests and also in the second edition of the book which is expected to be released later this year, I´m included with a total of 8 artworks!

Quick review:
There is not much that can be said about the quality of the works itself, except that it is of sheer outstanding quality throughout. Opposed to the Spectrum artbooks which often have "placeholder" (that´s how I call works that I would have rejected) and opposed to "Exposé", which shows off only digital art, IBA closes a very important gap here.

You will find photoshop painting as also sculpture and oilpaintings alongside colored pencils, all focusing on the fantastic art or imaginary fantastic fine art, as the collector prefers to say.

The book is published with authorhouse and from experience I can say the quality is much better than from Amazon´s createspace, as you can see in the pictures below, the pages are semiglossy with a deep color and brilliant fine rasterization allowing for a great look of most colors. Some colors are not perfectly but I can understand that with such a variety of submissions and a variety of qualities it is difficult to maintain a standard that works for all artworks in the same way.

From a design point-of-view, the book has chances to look better in future issues. The consistency of, let´s say the page numbers and the text could be either sans serif or all serif, but that is a matter of taste.
It doesn´t serve a better readability and is nitpicking at very high standards.
However, one issue are the different colors in the later part of the book where a red or green page background can contradict with the featured image on that site. Using white or black and a colorspot on top or bottom of the page could indicate the category in the same manner, by being less obstrusive. It might be OK to use a colored border for award winners, but that would be easy to do.
Again, that is my personal opinion and I´m sure these are things that will be considered to be better in future editions.

Following you can gat an idea of the quality of the book and a general gist of  its awesome content:

Yours truly to the right side...

Yours truly again,  featured with the award!

The artists:
The list of artists that are involved reads like a stamp for inspiration gallore:
Ciruelo Cabral, Pascal Blanché,Peter Mohrbacher, Steven Stahlberg, Ken Barthelmey, Yannick Bouchard, Sandra Chang-Adair, Clint Cearley and others. My promise is that the next edition will be even more packed with legendary names of the scene!

Get the book here:

February 5, 2014

Digital Impressionism: Environment Painting / A Photoshop Painting Guide

In this article you´ll find some information about painting environments in a digitally-impressionist sort of way.

It is not a tutorial per se, that´s why I call it a guide, it should rather help you to look into the right direction for more information, but maybe my approach tackles you enough to get there on your own.

The technique is easy compared to traditional plein-air painting. Easy might be a subjective thing in that regard, because a prerequisite is a deep understanding of Photoshop and digital painting in general.
Go and get the fundamentals down if you feel this is still too difficult for you, check here - and here.

The results will probably not get you into the Modern-Tate-Gallery or the like, but it will show some techniques that allow you to loosen your workflow for illustration and make painting landscapes some fun.

Setting up:
For a basic setup it is recommended to have a capable computer, a copy of Photoshop and a Graphic tablet of your choice. 

I recommend using the brushes of Shaddy Safadi for doing landscapes. There are only three that I use from his package, but if you have your own, that is fine too.
Thanks Lukas, for sharing:)

Shaddy has a very stylized approach that is sophisticated and yet very clean, speedpaintings may look differently, but what I rather want to talk about is the basics underlying structure that help us to decide how to even get there.

Your document size can be regular web sized at 72dpi. for more detail you can scale up later and paint in details as you please, but to keep it fun and simple, just leave the images in the same size as your reference photograph.

If your photoshop lags when you try working with big or sophisticated brushes, try to change the "Tile-Cache" in the performance options in Photoshop from 1024K to 128K. It is very often by default at 1024 and that is OK for general image-editing, but not for painting where you want a direct feedback on your input.

First it has to be said that it doesn´t make a big difference if you are going to paint "en plein-air" or if you work from a photograph. A photograph, if not so hard edited as many shots from 500px, are really helpful.

The key is to question your reference and try to interpret, not to copy.

This guide is not about tracing or copying, but to get the essence out of a photograph to incorporate in your own, personal vision.

Seeing is believing and what you believe goes into the painting to make others believe what you believe.

You can for sure pull a grid to transfer the image lines, but don´t care too much. Your personal interpretation is way more important than to have a result that is accurate. The first attempts may fail miserably, but as you go on, the number of  flaws will be less and more acceptable. One benefit is that it will more distinctive and obvious that you are painting and not just tracing.

One approach in Photoshop that may save you some hassle without cheating too much is to reduce details. The following two options seem easy to do the trick in Photoshop
(Image courtesy http://www.photos4artists.co.uk/)

Use either very bad compressed jpeg that gives you abstract colos in a nearly cubism look...

...or blur to take your attention away from the details, see example below:

Another reason to do such "digital impressionism-exercises" is to loosen, or warm-up and it helps to sharpen your eyes for coloring and values in general.

This is one of my painting studies that shows a very traditional edge to the digital impressionism look, it is not perfect and that is not the goal of this exercise.

You can find a demo-video with the process of the painting right here:

I´m sorry that it is not narrated, I hate speaking into the void and it makes things so awful to jump to a certain information, I rather write things down, so even a search engine can find my stuff.

Criteria for reference images:
Back to the painting: See below some indicators, by which you can determine if a photograph is good for use as a reference. As a rule I go firstly about the "3C´s" Composition,Colors and Contrast. But other factors such as interesting lighting and structures can be taken into account as well.

#1: Composition:

#2: Colors:

#3: Contrasts:

It all can be broken down to these things when considering a photograph, there´s even much more to it, training your eyes will open upmore things to consider in the long run.

So there are a lot ways to find good photographs, look at your own archive, or try to make some shots in your next holiday. Find them on google streetview, at flickr, 500px, photos4artists or deviantart.

More of my studies with thumbnail-process, to eventually learn from:

Some video tutorials:

Shaddy Safadi videos, (play them from 0 to 8!)

Environment thumbnailing by MrCamske

Environment design by Hani Masyon

Check out the brushes, download them, and thoroughly read the information on this page.

Artists to check out that make great use of digital impressionism:

Shaddy Safadi

Jonas De Ro


January 27, 2014

How To Avoid Burnout And Stay Motivated

I am in the process of gathering information for a much more comprehensive book about "How to avoid Burnout and How to stay motivated 24/7" so this blog post is an essential milestone to give the relevant information an early outlet. Hopefully through comments and links that I will add later, this post will be a valuable resource later on.

We are not machines (Android Legacy: the Grid) Collab with Louis Konstantinou

First thing first: What is Burnout and how can I find out if I have it?

"Burnout is a state of emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed and unable to meet constant demands. As the stress continues, you begin to lose the interest or motivation that led you to take on a certain role in the first place.
Burnout reduces your productivity and saps your energy, leaving you feeling increasingly helpless, hopeless, cynical, and resentful. Eventually, you may feel like you have nothing more to give." 
  • Every day is a bad day.
  • Caring about your work or home life seems like a total waste of energy.
  • You’re exhausted all the time.
  • The majority of your day is spent on tasks you find either mind-numbingly dull or overwhelming.
  • You feel like nothing you do makes a difference or is appreciated.
 From http://www.helpguide.org/mental/burnout_signs_symptoms.htm

According to Wikipedia; Burnout is not a recognized disorder in the DSM although it is recognized in the ICD-10 and specified as a "State of vital exhaustion" (Z73.0) under "Problems related to life-management difficulty" (Z73), but not considered a "disorder".

This doesn´t make it any easier, consulting a doctor about such issues can often result in being categorized with burnout, ADHS, whatsoever, these are nice names but don´t help anyone. The burnout prevention tips from that helpguide-site are a good start, but to get into the matter of reflecting what causes it all, you have to dig deeper. The thing is: even if you don´t have burnout, it can help to read through this post to see what you can do and do just right to stay away from it.

The first step would be to find information about what sucessful people do that help them to prevent a mental breakdown. There is this post from Chris Oatley which covers around 10 minutes about "How To Avoid Artistic Burnout". He doesn´t give any help, but rather tells what he´s doing. Probably the same that is covered in the 5 minutes that Noah Bradley spoke about in his course "The Art Of Freelancing" This means there must be something that some people have in common that help them to avoid this kind of mental issue, but what is it?

The one and only rule:

By doing countless research and empiric observation it can be said that there is one golden rule that all powerful, succesful and creative people do never break: "Focus on meaningful work all the time."

Rockstars such as Bruce Springsteen, Photographers like Annie Leibovitz, Stagedesigners like Eiko Ishioka, all have one thing in common: They give/gave their best, pushed the boundaries, give/gave more than they actually have/had, for what purpose? Meaningful work and resonance. But when resonance is gone, that what is left is the work that has to be done. Make it meaningful and it will be more fun than work. Easy as that.

What are the habits of highly productive creative people?

I will try to break down these things in a bullet-post. All or many of those artists mentioning they had never artists or creative block, depression or burnout, due to the following reasons:

  1. They don´t procrastinate
    They know that giving their best produces resonance, which in turn motivates to strive for even better work
  2. Many embrace working from home/on their own
  3. They are experienced with unstable situations or embrace the new, the unknown
    They have no prejudices against anything or anyone until they have shaped their own opinion
    Highly successful artists focus to at least 70% on meaningful work
  4. They get something done everyday that means something to them on a personal level (and be it just 10 minutes a day)
  5. Keep up self assignments at every cost (if it is meaningful)
  6. They blog, do podcasts or otherwise publish their experiences
  7. They all tend to have fun doing what they love
    They all have obtained some kind of peer recognition/peer respect
  8. Many of these artists don´t let themselves demotivate by great output of fellow artists and get rather encouraged to get better at their own work
  9. They all have abandoned negative thinking from their work ethics
  10. Many abandoned negative media input such as televisons, magazines and newspaper
  11. They all share the opinion that money doesn´t matter
  12. Many maintain a healthy work-life-balance
  13. See inspiration everywhere, from movies to great architecture, to nature, etc...
  14. They know that even client work can be meaningful and have an even better resonance through collaborative effort
  15. They all have CCD (Creative Compulsive Disorder(1))
(1)CCD (Creative Compulsive Disorder) may be the key to prevent burnout at any given time, there is no official paper about that, it is not even an disorder, the term is coined by Zina Nicole Lahr, http://www.thisiscolossal.com/2013/12/creative-compulsive-disorder-remembering-zina-nicole-lahr/ 
It´s key indications are:
  • Inherent urge to create something new
  • Urge to be creative
  • A good feeling by hacking things or making up new use for old things
  • Restlesness
  • Finding joy in changing small things everyday
  • Finding joy in use things in a different way
  • Finding solutions for problems that no one else can relate to
  • Finding joy in things that everyone else would decline
  • Having fun in creative recycling

This all sounds nice and good, but how do I get away from Burnout to CCD?

The solution is written above, we humans are not made of flesh and bone that is controlled by a brain, we also are slaves to our habits. And learn to focus on the rule is crucial. Find out what is meaningful to you.

Changing habits is the key.

When you are used to procrastinate because you don´t have fun doing what you do, find a challenge in it, be it to work against a timer, etc.
Most are subtle tweaks to gain some fun in your gray and dull workday.
The next step is to make some goals, make lists to achive them. One list for the goals and one list with ways to achieve them, everything is allowed, not just work related, write up a holiday location or a long neglected dream, a show, whatsoever.... This way we get to our inner core and find what we truly want. Depending on your situation this takes time. Someone with CCD has an easier time to get in synch with their inner voice because they know how it sounds. Someone who has neglected their inner voice for years, it can take time, so being patient with yourself is the first and most important thing to do.

Abandon negative media input

The first step is to abandon negative input. Sure, you can´t kick your boss or husband or brother in law, whatsoever, but you can switch off some serious sources of negativity, which are: Television, boulevard magazines, newspapers, handy and messaging platforms such as facebook, skype, etc....
Opt out for a few weeks and you´ll notice a difference, if that happens, welcome to the real world - now you probably can read on and find use in the following tips.

Nothing was built in one day

Nope, not even Rome. Depending on how long such a situation has gone (1 year, 2 or 5?) It can take a whole year until you are able to write down a list with things that come from your heart. It makes sense to carry a notebook with you to jot down things when they appear, this can be on your way to work or in the restroom in the cinema and it is important to write it down. Don´t be afraid when you jump up at night and have an idea, it can be frightening, but it is good!

Back to the lists: When you are able to shape a list, one should cover short and long term goals, the other list should be filled with ways and possible approaches to get there. Color your lists in "Green" for short term goals and solutions and "Red" or "Orange" for long term goals and their respective solutions.
Possible goals can be: Learning a new language, visiting XY show one day, exhibiting with this or that artist in a group show, publish a book or two, etc.

One common denominator of successful creative people is that they have goals, lots of goals and ideas. In fact many have more ideas than time in their lives to fulfill a small percentage of these.

The wrong idea about us is what we need to change

One thing I often have to explain is that it is vital to have an idea of ourself that the subconsciousness can adapt to. If we have the wrong idea about ourselves, how can anyone else perceive us as different?

If we want to change our "self-image" we need to find a rolemodel, someone we can think of - that represents the habits and ideals we are deaming of.
I personaly have many rolemodels, to name just one would be wrong, it is from each one attribute and in the past 1-15 years they have become me. These habits have changed the person that I was into the person that is on their way to be the best they can possibly be. 


We all tend to be fooled by perception, I am no exception, but it is helpful when we can trust our inner voice in a split second. This gut feeling reveals the truth about someone or something that no google search can replace.

Getting to that point takes years it is neither helpful to generally distrust people, nor is it good to trust everyone. It is a practice and this practice is a challenge - everyday. Make it a fun challenge and you are good to go.
If you see these challenges and perceive them as something that can teach you, tell a story, help you to get better or simply enjoy distilling the essence out of things that someone tells you, you are on a great journey!

Any coin has two sides

It is vital to understand that the above mentioned disorders "Burnout" and "CCD" both are two sides of the same coin! IT is on us to find the edge, we will always tend to be more on one side than the other, but in the long run those walking on the edge will last.

Branching out

One secret to overcome demotivation is to branch out. Literally.
In terms of style, as an artist this is easy, you can try several approaches, different medium and techniques, whatever makes you happy. By doing so it can occur that something totally different makes you happier than painting or designing, for example teaching, writing or speaking. This is totally OK. In the best case your actions and outlets look like a tree, build up from the ground and one big stem unto a variety of branches which are all turning towards the sun. In the best case you should update your "Goals list" .
Staying with one style for a long time can be limiting, not just in creativity it can also turn into a burnout as well, because motivation to keep up the work will decrease. The other problem  is that by sticking with one style, copycats work has a bigger influence towards causing burnout as it is a downward spiral that aims to find proof in devaluing ones own work.
When you are branching out, there are several irons in a fire and if one is popular that is good, but it can get cold as easy as it got hot. The only way to stay with both feet on the ground is focusing on other branches. these are the true challenges. Sure it will keep you from fast success and from a high paid salary, but in the end health benefits and regular inquiries are more worth than a fast career with a fast exit.


Generally speaking, everyone has expectations, silent and loud ones. Silent expectations are the ones you keep for yourself, no one lives up to them except yourself. The loud ones cause in a good relationship positive stress, while unfocused, slammed into the room kind of expectations can cause pressure and negative stress, the same works for critique.
The latter works in a similar fashion, when you form a critique in your head and do that consciously, it can help you to get better with your own work, spoken out loud it can turn into misunderstanding and negative responses.
So it is really crucial to decide what you keep for yourself and which thoughts and be expressed loudly.

One final conclusion is that expectations in general are a bad thing, better is an opportunity based kind of anticipation that is far from a fix imagination of how things should be looking in your concept or worldview.

Make lists not war

A strong will and some self discilpine combined with a smart use of lists can work wonders.
In addition to the long-term-goals-list and the list on how to achieve these, you can do small daily lists, I suggest to use post-Its. The reason is they simply have not much space. If you write down things you have to do, limit yourself to the most important things, if you need two post-It´s, write another one for the next day.


Limitations are per se not a viable option, from a psychological point of view all human beings and also animals get angry if something we are used to is cut back. It is in our nature. To avoid being angry we need to change our perception and turn limitations into branching. Divide things we can do and want to into one branch and things we rather should not do on a list that involves necessary things, for example: When we are used to stay up long because of work overload, which caused a big part of burnout, we can force ourselves to make useful things if we have to stay up that long, for example listening to audiobooks and making larger breaks concentrating on non-work-related things such as blogs, etc. When we have to stay up that long it is probably in our nature, holding us back only makes us angry. But putting the fun back can make the overal impression that it isn´t work and thus result in a more relaxed stance which is productive to avoid burnout.

Surround yourself with motivated people.

Probably the most important advice, many of us struggle with a career in art because we hear the doubts of our parents and friends at any given time. What we really need are encouraging and honest words from friends that are constructive. There are a lot of vampires out there and trolls who just wait to suck out the valuable lifejuice and hope from you, avoid these people and you avoid burnout.

That´s it, I hope you found that useful.
If you have experienced burnout and want to addres or critizize some points, (constructive hopefully) then feel free to contact me or jot it down in a comment!

January 13, 2014

The 101 Guide To Digital Painting Hardware #2 The "Workstation"

This post, Part #2 of this 101 Guide focuses on the essential part of the hardware: The Workstation.

The previous post might be interesting for you if you are seeking out advice on tabletts and pen-displays as input devices.

The workstation, regardless which brand you chose, should be a reliable and scalable workhorse, in the following points, I´ll guide you through the main differences and what you should keep in mind when buying or better said; investing in one.

#1: Mac vs. PC:

The endless discussion seems to continue, but eventually, with the new Mac Pro, the discussion finally comes to an end. The times in which a Macintosh computer was mentioned as THE workhorse for creative people are definitely over. The reasons why, will make sense if you got to the bottom of this page. The only thing that Apple is still better at than most PC manufacturer is "the hardware"- that´s all.

Conclusion: There is no real difference anymore, it has become a matter of taste, there´s an older post from me here on this blog which holds truth still most of the time - 10 Reasons why working on a Mac sucks big time for Creatives.

#2: Ultrabook or Macbook?

That is the first reason, why Apple isn´t quite necessary anymore, PC-Manufacturer have established a notebook standard and from several brands there are "Ultrabooks" available, what´s up with that?

The Ultrabooks often look similar to Macbook Pro´s from Apple and they meet certain criteria to get the label Ultrabook such as; portability, battery-life, power consumption, power and speed.
Actually always a bit lower priced than any Macbook you can lose a big chunk ov money on a high-end Ultrabook as well.

For working with digital painting or digital illustration I´d give some thoughts to the following before you invest in such a portable computer for your work:

  • Are you often on the move? If yes, such a "Notebook" can be  a good investment
  • Notebooks don´t have much space for capable graphics cards
  • Notebooks get hot when used for a long time -hence they reduce GHz bandwidth to reduce heat
  • Macbooks and Ultrabooks have reduced slots for Ram, making upgrades expensive and limited
If a Notebook, Ultrabook or Macbook pro seems to be the only option for you, consider to compare the specs, here is a comprehensive overview comparing Ultrabooks to Macbooks.

#3: All-in-one-solutions

All-in-one is never a solution, if you think you do yourself a favor by getting an iMac or PC-equivalent, you´re going for the complete opposite. Here´s why: The AIO-solution may save you space on your precious desk and probably saves a bit on power consumption, but there ends the list of advantages. If something happens, you need a replacement of the whole device. If your harddisk crashes or an usb-port is broken you can ship the whole thing to your dealer which is not nice especially if there are deadlines to meet.
As a conclusion you better stay away from those if you have to work with it.
If you are student or just have not the space on your desk, here´s a list of powerful alternatives to iMacs.

#4: Desktop Computer vs. Workstation vs. Mac Pro

The desktop Computer aka PC or Personal Computer is still the most used machine to serve Photoshop or other tools for digital painting. And for most uses the regular "Gaming machine" is OK.

However there are some things to consider if you are on the edge to save for or getting a new machine to work with. The biggest advantage a PC has over a notebook or all-in-one PC´s is interchangeability of internal parts.

#1: The Desktop PC
  • Make it big: Get a big tower that allows for many internal parts, HDD´s GPU´s, etc
  • Get a powerful powersupply, don´t trust the manufacturer of system parts, calculate your power demand and order the correct parts http://www.thermaltake.outervision.com/
  • If you are only working with it, consider getting an Nvidia Quadro card http://www.nvidia.com/object/workstation-solutions.html the mid-range cards are not that expensive anymore , but they are short on power consumption compared to any GeForce card!
  • For mainboards, go for Asus or Gigabyte
  • Processors, I just use Intel: get an i7 if you want constant high-power and speed or a XEON if high-speed and multitasking is what you need.
  • Processor: Get an I5 if you are eager to save on Idle time and have power when you need it.
  • Use SSD for system and fast access (scratch-disk) and get bigger SSD´s they are faster.
  • Use HDD´s for storage
  • Get a small 2.5" HDD´s 1TB drive as external drive for backup, they get power through USB
  • Go for triple channel RAM
Since processor´s market develops so fast it doesn´t make sense to put up a list on here, also recommendation such as Asus or Gigabyte for mainboards have developed so in recent years. It is vital to research upfront and compare prices of whole system retailers too. The advantage of a pre-built system is that you can get warranty on these parts, often even when you put in your own existing parts such as HDD or Graphicscards.

Just to have a number, a good gaming PC that suits Photoshop needs can cost around $1500 and there´s still room to upgrade with SSD or RAM, so it makes sense to get a mainboard with more RAM-DIMM sockets than you probably think you´ll need, replacing RAM-bars is always more expensive than adding up to existing.

#2: The Mac Pro

The new Mac Pro´s are utterly expensive at even the smallest configuration, which is ridiculous. The problem with the new Mac Pro is that every HDD you´d need except the system drive has to be external, same goes for optical drives such as a burner or DVD/BluRay drive, all external. Upgrading RAM can become highly costly as there is just room for 4 bars and each can cost around $400.

Tips to consider if it has to be a Mac Pro:
  • Get an older 2012 Mac Pro model right now or when the new one comes out, it get´s cheaper then.
  • The old Mac Pro is silent, even the smaller machines have a Xeon Processor and Quad-Core.
  • They have enough room to add-in RAM bars and HDD´s and several Graphics cards.
Conclusion: If it doesn´t has to be PCIE-SSD with 980 MBIT reading-speeds and 2200MHz RAM speed, you are better off getting a 2011-2012 Mac Pro with 8 cores and upgrade that model with an 512GB Samsung 840 Pro SSD and an NVIDIA Quadro K4000, and up to 32GB of RAM - then you should be fine for the next couple of years to work. More specs and tech info here. 

#3: The Workstation

The typical remark (even from Photoshop Pro´s) is: Why a workstation? Get a good gaming PC and you´re fine.
Thanks, this advice is good for every novice out there and will only bring you that far. A look inside a workstation should reveal some "AHA" moment:

HP z820 inside

9 Slots for DIMM-Socket RAM Memory alone and a well thought through- cooling system, combined with hardware like SSD or Kepler GPU´s will pay off the costs faster than you can watch. Power consumption is getting lower while SSD-drives get faster while consuming less power too. The durability and system stability are key factors that can ideally justify the investment into such a beast. Following some general info and overview about the different brands. Even if the Mac Pro can be count as a workstation also, they are so special in every regard that I can´t put it in the list of workstations, especially since the release of the 2013 model, which is less upgradeable than previous models. Ever since the Macintosh is powered by Intel processors, there´s no reason to go to Apple for a workstation anymore.

There is a paper from Intel about the difference between Desktop-PC and Workstation (PDF) that may additionally help you to decide for one or the other.


The HP Z820 is a very good choice, but be advised that no NVidia GeForce card will work, only Quadros or AMD FirePro. It is watercooled and I´d suggest getting one as a barebone, means just the case with mainboard and probably processor and fit the rest in, matching to the specs of the connectivity. With room up to 512GB RAM you shouldn´t run out of memory ever. A 6-Core XEON processor should also last very long with this machine. Get more info here.


The DELL Precision t7610, similar to the HP z820 has everything you´d ever need as a Photoshop professional. A mid-range Quadro k2000 card from NVidia and a 4-6 Core XEON Processor plus a Samsung 840 Pro SSD should do the trick. Ordering one Dell Case with Mainboard and processor only cost around: which is still affordable, More info here.
While DELL seems as good as the HP, problem might be that it can be more difficult to get a configuration without anything except processor, mainboard and case.


A very interesting thing is when workstation enthusiasts tweak and find the best hardware to put it together, ADK is about that. More aimed towards video-editing, their workstations are also great for any photographer or digital painter working in 2D and 3D tools. More info here.


BOXX is around quite a while and prices range between the 2k and 3,5k mark like the other brands for a decent, not too shabby Photoshop workstation. More info here. Configuration and research is key here.

As with all computer related investments, research is due for any of these recommendation. Time flies and a good recommendation now is worthless in 6 month from now and so on.

However, some brands like ADK keep you up-to-date with a configuration as much as most of the manufacturer configuration web-tools too.

So it is up to the user to decide which kind of graphics card you need for your workload, which Processor, how much RAM and which Harddrive. What might be of interest is that Adobe CS6/CC as also blender makes use of CUDA, a core-technology developed by NVidia, programms that make use of this extra-processors can benefit from a card that uses it.

Another big advantage of workstations is warranty. Usually you have warranty claim from one dealer/manufacturer, not many opposed to the self-built Desktop PC´s. And in this regard the higher cost include a free service repair or interchange service -next-day, which can come in handy if you have to get work done.

January 2, 2014

Should I Finish That Work In Progress? (Mind Map Approach)

As a matter of fact, every artist does struggle with that simple question and quite recently I came up with a Mind-Map/chart to give a visual solution for particular situations. This is a piece that you can pin on your desk or studio wall and look at it when in doubt.

This Map is by no means perfect, any suggestion will be incorporated in future versions, so feel free to share this or suggest a correction.

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