February 22, 2011

How to Breed Ideas

A few days ago I woke up and had a question from an interview roaming through my mind: "Isn´t the amount of ideas you have to develop on a daily basis exhausting?"

By the weekly amount of inquiries an illustrator has, it indeed feels like pulling rabbits out of the hat all the time. And apparently that is what an illustrator does, conceptual magic.

How is it possible to keep that pool of ideas so fresh and new?

The thing; is everyone recommends to carry a sketchbook around, do studies here and there and draw from life as much as you can. This is OK if you are student or if drawing from life makes you money as artist, (if not you should put that into question). 
Sure thing is that it helps to train observation skills and such. And I agree, its better to draw from life than from a bad photograph.

But sketching down ideas just for the sake of having them pulled out, the moment they appeared, is not the best idea.

Here´s why:
If you were taught to draw on a daily basis for study, again,  this is OK, but don´t begin to manifest your ideas in a sketchbooks like a journal. You might think that, once the ideas are brought to paper, you can later go back to them and work them out, one by one, but you will not.
There are too much of them, and the ones that were initially brilliant ideas turn out to be just flat and unimaginative, depending on the mood you are when later reviewing the sketchbook.

Sure you can go through the sketchbook in a winged mood, but its not the same.

The reason is mostly because our subconsciousness thought we have pulled the idea out and thats it! Our mind forgets about the emotional connection we have about that particular idea, the moment we manifest them. If thats just a rough sketch, thats it. If you are later going to work that out (you can try that for yourself) you will most likely don´t find a reason why you had done this or that sketch.

The thing is, you will never put much energy into an old sketch, since the accompanied emotional connection, I call it emotional linkage, to it, is gone. Thats why I say inspiration is ephemeral.

There is no better treasure for great ideas than between the heart and the unconsciousness.

This way ideas can develop themselves and find their way onto the surface when their time is just right, be it an assignment or a personal project.

I grow most ideas out of personal projects and experiments. I have developed my very own way of breeding ideas. In fact, everyone has to develop their own way of breeding them.

Looking at other artists work is also a way of getting inspired, but inspiration does not last very long its very momentary and not adequate to fill the "idea-pool" with valuable material. Lets say, its OK to look at how other artists work out a solution to a problem, but don´t let your soul be burned by the searing touch of the influence. Here´s my take on the difference between inspiration and influence.

My method of breeding ideas looks like this: assigning myself to do personal projects, this gives a platform to let my imagination run wild. But there is a flood of ideas hitting that theme that I do not manifest in sketches or pieces at all. I do keep these ideas in the back of my mind and try to combine them with some older, still present ideas that I have in mind. 

Only the strongest ones survive, if they are still there after some days or weeks, they are good enough to be manifested in one or the other way. The medium is secondary. This way unconsciously and persistently new ideas were generated. This process does also train the "initial-conception-ability" that allows to bring ideas on the table upon request.

And how do you breed ideas?
Or better said, what do you do to keep them fresh?

February 17, 2011

Finding Your own Pace

When starting out with painting and doing some creative stuff, I embraced the process of doing art.
I enjoyed and celebrated this process as something special.
Every time I bought new pencils, brushes or a new canvas I felt so inspired to do something so great and new with them.

But to be honest, in retrospective it took way too long to imagine I could ever make a living from painting/drawing and when looked at the works created at that time, it must be around 15 years from now, they were not even good.

But it was a start, a beginning. I had some ideas and it felt good to bring them onto paper somehow.

When I studied, I was assigned to do things I did not like, but over the years learned to enjoy this process too. It felt good to accomplish things in my own kind of way, where others followed the manual I found my personal way to hit the goals. And succeed. In retrospect this was stunning! This was around 8 years ago

Today I create 5 works or more in a week, from sketches to final illustrations and I´m still far from being perfect. In fact I hope to never reach perfectness. And to cite Socrates:"The only thing I know is that I don't know anything."  

I think I hit the 10000 hours a few years ago and I´m onto the next level at my own pace. I´m really looking forward towards the things that are possible to accomplish when the 20000 hour goal is in reach.

The biggest difference between now and then is the number of images I create in a year and the way I look at these. Even the way critique or rejection does touch me. I still do embrace the process of creating an artwork today.

But calling this process production is degrading, probably because I worked too long in production companies and at the assembly line besides study, that I know what production is. Dully producing thousands of products that all look the same and are not even worth the material with which they are produced. That is not what an artist does.

Creating a cover artwork, interior illustration or anything else that a creative freelancer artist can do, is so complex, that is by far more than producing just something. I call it:"creating an experience". Doing client work is always a win-win experience.

When you are at this "beginning stage", embracing the creative outlet is the utmost and most important thing in the world, so enjoy it. Looking too much into what others have achieved and done is a killer. A creativity killer.

Most artists blocks come from looking too much at other peoples pace".
How about your pace?

February 8, 2011

Keep Your Imagination Active

Hellbound II done with Alchemy
Recently I have had a read through my blogs, one of them was a post by James Gurney Activating your imagination which I have commented, but somehow my comment disappeared. I will not shelter James for deleting my post, and if so, it might be by accident. (Its probably a bug;)

James mostly cited from Howard Pyle, but in my opinion Howard Pyle is outdated. He was obviously a photography antagonist in the time he lived (March 5, 1853 – November 9, 1911). To deny something that might help is not the best suggestion to a student either. My suggestion would be to put everything into question: references, casts, lighting, shapes, anything and the status quo.

Drawing things from memory might also not be a clever suggestion, since when doing so we make flaws, and that is what leads to the need for a reference, a vicious cycle. It might be a nice practice but won´t help to cure the itch.

OK, I went on with my thought about this topic and realized it was too important to be lost in a blog post of someone else and so I went on to resurrect this theme for a very own treatment.

As artist, the activation of imagination is useless, since as artists we are constantly expanding the ability of our imagination, more important is keeping the imagination areal active.
While in the daily routine we are often distracted or have to rely on references, in personal works we can explore the shape recognition patterns of the brain.

Have you ever wondered how comics work?

Thats what visual imagination is all about: shape recognition. Even when you imagine pictures to a story, you visually recreate known images, places and faces. These are familiar. But these are boundaries. Shape recognition allows the brain to imagine things that are not there and not known, but depending on the appearance and the knowledge of the viewer, as possible. Training of this ability can bear a great learning potential.

An interesting practice option is to do sketches with only a candle light illuminating a room. While it isn´t only a romantic mood, as artist you can try to see shapes in a stack of clothes thrown over a chair for example, or even better the shadows these might cast.
Try this with different kind of fabrics or objects and sketch what you see.
In daylight its the easiest to see and force yourself to paint from clouds and trees.
Leafs on a tree show so many shapes you can easily be inspired to see faces or a complete scene.

Everyone and Dan Gerhartz recommends artists to always paint from life whenever possible, but this isn´t always possible, I recommend to paint from shape. Shapes are everywhere, shapes are your friend and so should imagination be your friend.

In an interview that I have read from H.R.Giger a while ago, I found it interesting that he used to spray kinda clouds with the airbrush onto the canvas and develops what he sees in them. Combined with his very own style a great approach, he constantly challenges his imagination with this method. A thing that would not be possible if H.R.Giger had painted from life.

If you are more computer savvy, maybe the solution I suggested at Gurneys blog maybe helpful: Alchemy is a sketch tool that can be useful to generate shapes to inspire artworks from.
In the forums of Alchemy I have seen a number of known artist names of the industry showing their approaches with this awesome tool.

This little program is totally free to use and on the website you find an introduction from Andrew Android Jones about the possibilities. You can set the tool to make snapshots of your experimentation every 5 seconds and later go through a generated pdf to fish for useful shapes. This is outstanding.

When I used this for a couple of days my "shape-recognition-areal" was better than ever. The sketching in the dark becomes even more potent when trained to see in patterns.
For the piece displayed on top of this post, I used some shapes with layer-blend-modes in Photoshop and added some elements here and there.

This is merely a sketch and absolutely experimental for me, but I love to explore new possibilities.
In an upcoming post I write about breeding ideas, and how to find your pace, keep follow my blog if this is interesting for you.

I really like to hear how you train your imagination?

February 3, 2011

An Artists Guide to Blogging, Fame and Fortune

Why running a blog might be good for you
It can reveal something about the artist, that their work alone cannot communicate. Its something personal. Everyone has a very subjective perception. For example:"when I say artists, I mean people who paint great figurative paintings with impact". For someone else an artist smashes just paint onto a canvas to create abstract art.

Through a blog you gain more knowledge about the person behind the art and their goals, and its a matter of a few sentences to find out if there is a "same wavelength". Sure when you like the art of an artist, you don´t necessarily need to like the artist behind and vice versa. But in case you want hire an artist for a project this wavelength thing suddenly becomes more weight.

I have another post discussing this question:" artists, why do you blog?" and I´m still interested to hear my fellow artists reasons.

When I get asked why I do blog, my answer is simple; its my opportunity to share my passion in a personal manner. I want to help others. I want to make a difference.

In a perfect world....
... probably everyone should just do what they can best, a writer should write, an artist should paint a salesman should sell and a blogger should blog.

But, in our world, an artist has to be the blogger, copywriter, marketer, manager, salesman, creative director, designer, web-developer, programmer, entrepreneur, coach, psychotherapist, clerk...
you name it.
If any artist would ever get the financial compensation for all these jobs he has to do on a regular basis, no one ever would become a manager anymore:-)

What to blog
I have mentioned it before and will keep on posting this pointer until artists check the fact, that posting images without any words on a blog is plain useless.
People search blogs for help, advice, solutions and probably in a few percent, for inspiration.
As fast as a visitor views your images on your blog, so fast they are forgotten.

Bottom line is, that (except your name is Jason Chan) you will not stand out with just posting images on your blog, without any keywords connected to them. Or even without a bio at all.

Lets take this a step further; as curator or art director I have to chose between 20 artists who are blogging and showing a little of their works. I´m not sure if these are official blogs, because 19 of these artists just post shiny pictures with little to no description.
Just 1 artist writes articles and shares a creation process of their work, which one stands out? Which one of these makes it easy to be recognized as an original creator and not just as a re-poster of other peoples content?

You should blog,
  • If you are an artist and have developed a new technique, a blog is the perfect space to show the progress step by step. Or promote your workshop along with it.
  • If as illustrator you have developed a sophisticated artwork for a novel, a blog is the place to show a progress and describe it! Advertise it!
  • If you are an advisor or coach, a blog is the perfect solution for giving and receiving advice. And make use of content marketing besides.
  • As art director you can write about your side of the business and reveal case studies to interested parties, illustrators for example.
Continuity is a requirement, not an option
Continuity and quality are equally important. I always say its important to write only if you have something to say, otherwise people won´t listen when you really have something to say.
But continuity is a requirement, not an option. If you as artist are serious about your profession in creating new works, blogging is a great way to get the story out and told.
It took a long time for me to realize that I want to write more than just a journal or a press release here and then. Something that can help and inspire others at the same time. I found with this way of utilizing a blog I have still a lot to learn, but can give advice at the same time. Because I see a lot more artists at a stage where I have been a few years ago and they can develop their voice too, if they just want to.

For me communication through writing has become my daily bread and butter and I do enjoy it more than anytime before in my life. I just learned that writing or blogging the right way is similar to painting, if you are successful, you create a picture in the readers mind that connects you to the reader in a stronger manner than any image alone posted on a blog could ever do.

What has this all to do with fame and fortune?
Hm, probably this was a teaser, but if you are good at doing the blog thing, fame will be surely yours. And my definition of fortune is to make a living from what I do love the most, thats what I´m doing and I´m pretty sure when I can achieve it, someone else can do too.

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