The Culture of Failure

drumpf

Hello Everyone,

Two months of 2016 already down, and it appears the rest of the year will be over in a blink of an eye. Now I am not a political guy, and I rarely engage in political talk. So this is not a political blog post, but more so what irritates me about the majority of people’s mindset on failure.

I saw this image going around this week and it got under my skin. Now let me make this clear, I do not support Donald Trump or the dumb things that come out of his mouth. But this meme goes against every aspect of my mindset. This is a perpetuation of the ‘failure is bad’ culture. So things like this can really piss off those who understand the power of failure and how much a person can learn from it.

Look, you can’t deny Trump is a successful figure. Every time he has gone bankrupt, he has come back stronger, and I can guarantee you there are far more failures that aren’t on that list and are even more colossal to him. However, it is clear he has never let those failures stand in his way of success. Do you have to like him? No! Do you have to think he is a good person? Nope! But this isn’t about Trump, it is about perpetuating the idea that failure is a bad thing. Think about this idea before you share something like this on social media, or jump on the hate bandwagon for a mistake someone has made.

The reason I think this meme is a problem, and that most political ads are terrible, is because they emphasize how bad failure is. This is the worst possible thing you can do for someone who hasn’t figured out how to use failure to their advantage. Like the kids who have a problem raising their hands in class because they are afraid they will give the wrong answer and all the other kids will laugh. This is the last thing these kids need to see. It just instills an even deeper fear of failure.

Everything you do has both negative and positive aspects. You don’t focus on the negative aspects of everything you do during the day, do you? So why is it that many people choose to focus on the negative aspects of failure? By doing this, you’re practically ensuring that your learning process will be slow and cumbersome.

I realize that every person is different and reacts to failure in their own way. So let me put this into the context of team sports. Generally, I am not the type of person that encourages rewarding every single person for their efforts. But do I think there is anything wrong with every kid getting a trophy at the end of the year? No. I do, however, make sure that every single kid I coach knows the difference between that and a championship trophy. So why do it at all? It’s because I know how hard I push those kids during the season and I remember my own experiences in sports.

Looking back, I don’t think I even cared about the trophy. I just wanted to hear what my coach had to say about my performance that year. The trophy just got chucked into the closet. While I know for a fact that kids learn from failures, I believe a majority of kids lack the ability to assess their failures and execute a better strategy to not repeat that failure without outside reinforcement. This outside reinforcement often comes in the form of a negative response to an action. Yet, countless studies show kids learn best from the acknowledgement of their own and others’ successes. I remember that when my coach said something awesome about another kid and didn’t say something cool like that for me, it really stuck in my head. I would make a note of it and remember to add that to my repertoire of skills for the next season.

As adults, most of us have the ability to evaluate our successes and failures and then act accordingly. This is why we don’t need a trophy at the end of every year. If I enter an image into an art contest I don’t expect a participation trophy, because I am an adult. My effort was not good enough to warrant acknowledgement. I will take some time to evaluate why those other artists were good enough and then compare and contrast the elements of my image and move on to the next 10, 100, 1,000 images. However, I think there is an incredible number of people out there who become petrified by fear and never enter a contest again.

You have to fight that fear of failure, what is the worst that is going to happen? Are you going to jail because you made the wrong first mark? What is it that you are really going to lose by screwing up? The thing about failure is every time you fail you are one step closer to succeeding. Since you just failed you are that much faster and more efficient the next time around. If you embrace the fact that you are going to fail all the time, you will start using that knowledge to improve. “Welp that attempt didn’t work but I have this, this, and this, that I can use in the future.” That is what is amazing about failure. It arms you with the tools your need to succeed.

I have reached a point where I realize that failure sucks, but I am still going to put my head on my pillow at night and wake up the next day, knowing the world will keep turning regardless. I know I will still have my wife and kids and family around me, and I know that I can teach my kids that failure is nothing to fear. I know what success feels like and the tremendous feeling of accomplishment that comes from that. And I can show my kids from the millions of failures that as long as you didn’t give up, you will find success.

The reason it is good to acknowledge the positives in young minds and give trophies at the end of the year is that you are building a foundation of success. We are teaching kids from a young age what success feels like rather than, ”failure sucks, so I don’t want to experience that again.” They may sound similar but I can guarantee the mindsets are wildly different and the results will prove that. The first breeds the mindset of “I am going to go all out to achieve my dreams, goals, and desires”, while the other breeds a cautious, fearful approach to life.

In today’s world we seem to emphasize the bad and failures, but only acknowledge the good. If we want to live in a better world, we need to celebrate the good and merely acknowledge the bad and failures. By doing this, we will encourage more young minds to grow and strive to be wildly successful, with a mindset that breeds the desire to achieve and give back.

I would like to leave you with a quote that a good friend of mine said to me when she read this piece. “Show me a person who has never failed epically, and I will show your a person who has never tried epic.”

What is your biggest and what did you take away from it?

As usual here are some sketches from last week.

16Feb26StreamMoreSketches

Brush Tool

StreamSketch16Feb25

StreamSketch16Feb27

I normally write these posts on Saturday mornings but don’t post till Monday so I can reread and have each post edited, which allowed me to see this peice from John Oliver which is pretty awesome, and seemed fitting since the post started with Donald Drumpf.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Honesty

I wanted to talk about honesty this week. I touched on this a bit when I wrote about self-improvement and it has come up several times since I started live-streaming a few weeks ago. Since then, I’ve had time to interact with far more people than is normal for me, and these exchanges have caused me to notice things about myself that I would not have discovered otherwise. It has also caused me to really think about what honesty means to an artist.

The honesty I’m talking about isn’t the type that keeps you from taking someone else’s work and calling it your own. Hopefully, if you are reading my blog, you have a lot more integrity than that. I’m talking about being honest with ourselves. For the most part, I’d always thought that I was pretty honest with myself, but live-streaming helped me to see just how honest I had actually been.

The first thing I noticed was how much more work I have been producing. I had been working under the illusion that I was already producing a ton of work. This wasn’t actually the case, and I didn’t realize the potential I had until about two weeks into live-streaming. In fact, I have doubled the amount of work I produce. It made me realize just how much time I was wasting not doing art and lying to myself about it.

The next thing I started to really notice was where my weaknesses were. Nothing makes you realize where you rely on crutches to get you through like doing a live stream and having people watch you work. One area I knew I needed to work on and address has been color. I have been focusing on that during my stream sessions, and I am not sure I would have seen the amount of improvement I have without the pressure of live-streaming. Granted, this is just me, but there are times where I need an external motivator to drive me forward. Currently, my live streams are helping me weed out the weak areas in my art because of how honest it forces me to be with myself.

In the past, the only reason I lifted weights or tried incredibly hard to stay in shape was to play football at a highly competitive level. I don’t play football anymore and I hate lifting weights. Lol Hopefully that doesn’t sound like I hate doing art, because that is definitely not the case. It is just a simple way for me to find more motivation to improve towards the goals I am trying to achieve.

The stream has also made me realize how other people feel and think about their own art, and how honest they are being with themselves. I had an interaction with a person this week that blew my mind, and not necessarily in a good way. I don’t think it was in a bad way either, I was just kind of dumbfounded. Most of the people that participate in my stream have a solid grasp of where they are as artists, and where they are going. Every once in a while though, there is someone who walks to the beat of their own drum, which I totally support – if it’s working. But if that’s not the direction you want to go, and you’re just trying to convince yourself that you’re not wrong, you have got to just stop. Be honest with yourself and find the beat that you do want to walk to.

Now before I go on, I have said this early and often, everyone has different reasons for doing art. Some do it for fun, some do it to work things out in their life, some do it for a job or want to do it for a job one day, some have a mixture of all three, etc…Hopefully you get the point.
When I am shown work by people in my stream, I have a few questions I will ask before I continue with a critique. Obviously they are posting their work in a public forum for people to comment. But if their work is of particularly low quality and there was a lot of boasting prior to the posting of that work, I want to know a few things before I continue. I want to know the age of the person I am talking to, what their plans are with their art career, and maybe some of their social habits. The most important answer to me is whether or not they want to do art for a job one day. In this case, the answer was yes.

Now, I will try my damndest to come up with something positive to say because there is always a positive to take away, but I am not the type of person that can just say “hey that’s awesome, good try”, and leave it at that especially when the boasting takes on the form of “look at how good my work is and I just want you to compliment it.” The person I interacted with had something like 12 pages on a Deviantart site. I had a couple things I took away from looking at his site. At least he was drawing a ton, and he had a lot of imaginative ideas. However, there was not a core fundamental grasped anywhere in his art. Of all the pictures he had posted, there was little to no improvement shown, but his answers to my questions had him thinking there was improvement happening. He had also mentioned he was 20, bullied in high school and that art was his only thing.

The bullying answer made it pretty clear to me that he might take negative criticism hard if he didn’t get it from the a specific direction, and no matter how I danced around the issue, he wouldn’t give me a way in to help him improve. Eventually, the conversation ended with no conclusion. I have thought about it quite a bit, and yes, it sucks that he was bullied and probably had many other bad experiences which affected his confidence on a daily basis. But being honest with yourself is the only way through the problem. If you have a dream to accomplish something, you can’t let any negative circumstances stand in your way or dictate your progress. Hopefully this last part doesn’t come off as too insensitive, but if you hope to do what you love for a living no one is going to give you that job because they feel bad for you. You have to earn it.

There are so many resources online to turn any person in to a master artist if they want it bad enough. The only thing stopping you from accessing that information is you typing a few different words into Google. If you think you are being honest with yourself find a way to test out how honest you really are being with yourself, and you will be amazed at what you discover and how quickly you improve.

Here is a recap of some of the work from last weeks live stream.

Another quick water color sketch.
Another quick water color sketch.
Watercolor sketch.
Watercolor sketch.
2 min color thumbs from the stream.
2 min color thumbs from the stream.
2 min color thumbs from the stream.
2 min color thumbs from the stream.
2 min color thumbs from the stream.
2 min color thumbs from the stream.
4 min color studies. The 2 min ones are super hard and this allowed me to relax a little.
4 min color studies. The 2 min ones are super hard and this allowed me to relax a little.
A happy accident. Love how the lighting played out in this one.
A happy accident. Love how the lighting played out in this one and will do a clean up on it this week.
facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Art Drop

Hey Everyone,
This week is a step away from the usual. I wanted to promote my Twitch live stream channel, with images that were produced during last week’s livestream sessions. These are just the images that are in a more completed state. There were about four or five other paintings that are just finished with their rough stage. So there is quite a bit of production that happens during the live stream. I took some of the footage from the livestream and sped up it up to make them watchable in a short amount of time.

I hope you all enjoy and if you are interested in watching some of the live stream follow me on twitter to get the announcements of when I go live. You can find my channel at http://www.twitch.tv/jdscribbles

TheAuditor

The Auditor

16Feb12_MechRedClean

Red

The first ten minutes of the video is the idea stage of a painting and is by far my favoriete part of the process. All the rest is clean up. This took quite a while as most clean jobs do, but it took a little longer since I was interacting with people watching by explaining some important things.

ThemonumentRocks

The Monument Rocks

16Feb11StreamEnviroments

River Crossing

The rest are rough sketches but convey the idea good enough to show.

16Feb11StreamMech

RockBridge

This last one was a 30 minute speed paint for a spit paint group on Facebook. It was called crazy cowboy, but the cowboy did’t work because of how I painted the image. But I liked everything else about it.
CrazyCowboySpitPaint

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

The Power of Thinking.

I am pretty good at trivia games. I can play Cranium, pick the Data Head category and get the answer right more often than not. My wife usually gives me a look like “WTF…why do you know that?” I usually give her a look like “I have no idea, it just popped into my head and sounded right.” Realistically, it is probably because at some point, I was in a class somewhere, doodling away and barely paying attention, and the fact just stuck in my brain for later trivia use. I wouldn’t say my 2.0 GPA in high school was because I didn’t hear or understand the information. My GPA in high school sucked because I never turned in any homework because it was all crap I didn’t give a f*ck about.

I make a conscious effort to remember this when I see how my oldest kid is doing in school. Am I concerned that he is labeled “behind” in things like reading and writing? Not in the slightest. I know what I was capable of, and when I started to get things. I know he will most likely be just as smart, if not smarter, and he is already doing better in school than I did. I didn’t read a single book until I was out of high school. Is that something to brag about? Maybe not, but the point is that I wasn’t interested in anything being taught in high school.

So what does this have to do with art? I have been trying to tweak some things about my drawing and painting process – namely the fact that I need to think more while working. I have a daily journal that I write in on a regular basis to reflect on my progress as an artist and other things I encounter in life. I think as a result of not paying attention in school and doodling all the time, I developed the bad habit of letting my brain drift to Nowheresville when I draw. It became so natural for me to just pick up a pen and scribble on whatever scratch piece of paper was there while I let my brain drift, that my brain now just automatically does that everytime I start to draw or paint.

I am fairly certain I am not the only one that suffers this affliction. As a new artist, there is this preconceived notion that your pencil or brush should hit the canvas or paper and everything will just work itself out. No thought required – insto presto, image made. Okay, maybe not quite that bad, and hopefully nobody out there thinks that is really how it happens. But I remember being a little surprised about all the things I needed to think about and process while doing a painting because art is supposed to be easy and fun. It makes no sense to me now why that was surprising.

Even now, when I am warming up or drawing, my mind will start to drift and I will just let my hand do what it does. I don’t do this nearly as much as I used to, but I still find myself doing this if I am tired, feeling drained, and no ideas are coming to me. When no ideas are coming is probably the best time to just let your hand do the work, until you see the sparks of inspiration. However, success occurs far more often when I at least have some idea of a direction I want to go with an image.

I have been working pretty hard on the design side of my images lately, which requires quite a bit of brainpower while working. This goes directly against the practice of letting your brain drift, because you need to consciously think ahead of each mark you make. This was something I only started doing in the last few years. Before that, I usually just threw some marks down and responded to them.

Getting a successful image without preplanning before hand is a difficult thing to do as a beginning artist. There are so many fundamental elements that go into being able to consistently produce successful images. It is difficult for the brain to process all that information in a short amount of time without referencing anything or doing any kind of study.

It is very similar to what athletes talk about when they move up a level in a sport. When high school football players transition to college, they talk about how much faster the game is. The same happens when college players progress to the NFL. Eventually, after a few years of experience, the game starts to slow down. The brain is able to process all the information from practice and film study in fractions of seconds. When a player is in the zone, you can see it happening before, during, and after plays.

My First 30 min spit paint.
My First 30 min spit paint. lol It’s hard to look at.

The same thing holds true for artists. When you are new to art and someone asks you to paint a picture of a subject called dino rhino or imaginary wetland in only 30 minutes, odds are that it is going to look like crap. Those 30 minutes are going to fly by, and you are going to look at the canvas afterwards and ask yourself wtf just happened. I know that is exactly how I felt a couple years ago when trying to do 30-minute speed paints on random subjects.

Every painting sucked, there was no edge control and every color was flat. The values were garbage and the light seemed to come from everywhere with god rays flying in from god knows where. I would like to say I stuck with it, but that would be a lie. I gave up on those quickly. However, I have recently started doing them again and the results are much better now. 30 minutes no longer fly by. In fact, I often have about 5 minutes to spare to clean things up a bit.

Brain power, dedication, and time are the keys to becoming a successful artist. Everything about becoming a good artist is earned through thought and never given to you with no effort. Remember that and you should be alright.

Thumbnails done this week during my twitch live stream.
Thumbnails done this week during my twitch live stream.
facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Psychology of an Artistic Mind. Part 2

Prior to starting my path to become an artist in the game industry I had this idea that I could just go about my business drawing occasionally and playing video games till 3 in the morning and thought one day I would eventually make it. I am the type of person that for the most part can pick something up and become pretty good at it rather quickly. So why couldn’t I just continue at the same pace of improvement? I mean people would compliment me and tell me how good I was and they liked what they were seeing right?

Illusions, my friends. Illusions my Id was trying desperately for me to believe and hang on to. “Just play games…you are good enough at art, people tell you that all the time, but games that’s the real skill that needs constant attention. We are so f*ckin good at owning newbs, and if you play less, you will start to suck, and then you will just be a forever noob. Don’t you dare let all this gaming talent go to waste.” Sadly that seems pretty close to the argument I would often have in my head. It seems funny now, only because I can almost instantly spot people that have the same problem I did.

For me it took an external force to break my habits. I finally hated my job so much and saw the failure of the company was on the horizon. That made me realize how bad I really was at art and if I seriously wanted to switch careers I had a ton of work to do. I wish I could say I had no problems dropping games, but there were definitely some struggles in there. All three egos have problems when you try and get rid of something they do really well and substitute it for something where there is a lot of failure, with more to come.

I strongly believe the mental battle of becoming an artist is the hardest battle to fight. So much of whether you will overcome the odds and put in the amount of time it requires to become good happens inside your head. It can be a lonely, desolate battlefield at times that can be filled with uncanny beauty or become an inhospitable nightmare.

Think of the mental battle that is required to force yourself to go to the gym after not going for a couple years. When you finally convince yourself to do it and see the results that are happening. There is a mental and physical aspect to that relationship that manifests in a healthier looking body, and often times it could only take a month to see results. That really isn’t that much time in the grand scheme of things. Your superego rewards your brain with dopamine when it notices the success and results. The results reinforce the action because success has been established and is repeatable in a relatively short amount of time.

One of the first digital paintings I did. I can't even remember the amount of time I spent on this thing but it came out decent enough to convince me to go on.
One of the first digital paintings I did back in 2009. I can’t even remember the amount of time I spent on this thing but it was an insane amount and it came out decent enough to convince me that I might be able to do this art thing.

The fight to become a better artist is almost all mental, with the results often taking years to manifest. The only thing that keeps us going is the occasional drawing, painting, or abstraction, capturing something perfectly or at least good enough that our superego rejoices with the success. But in the early stages of becoming an artist, we are unsure of how to replicate our success, and failures come early and often. This results in fear, anxiety, and guilt. This is most likely why most people give up on becoming an artist. They aren’t willing to put up with the amount of time and effort it takes to get results.

The other factor that can drive us early on are the people close to us who will most likely tell you that your art is good. That’s what friends and family are for, right? However, depending on what you want to do with your art, these compliments could be the worst thing you can hear. Falling in love with compliments and being comfortable with where you are often leads to complacency, and complacency is a place where the ego loves to live. Ego will pull his nice winter quilt up over his shoulders and snuggle in for the long haul until you catch on. As an artist striving for improvement, complacency is the worst place you can find yourself. Why? Because the longer you stay complacent, the harder it is to break out of it. It’s like going down to the 7th level of the dream world. Time flies by, and before you know it, years have passed with no real improvement.

Part of this complacency is the refusal to accept that something we love so much requires hard work. “If I love something a ton, it doesn’t require work, right?” This assumption couldn’t be more wrong for a person striving for improvement. The hard part is suplexing all three of your egos to realize that you will never be done improving and committing to the time it takes to improve.

That means you need to put down the sticks, reduce the amount of time spent going out with friends, shut down Facebook, Instagram, or whatever else is consuming your time. You don’t have to completely lose your life and become an art zombie like so many of us. But sadly, that is the level of commitment you are competing with when you enter this industry. You are competing with people who go to work and get paid to do what they love, then they go home and do that some more, go to sleep and do it again.

If you have made it past the time-commitment stage, but you aren’t improving as an artist, or getting the attention/response you want from your art, then you are probably doing something wrong. Either your work is not conveying a message correctly, or it’s boring, lacks design…the list goes on and on. It takes time to identify the problem areas in your own artwork. It’s funny how easy it is to spot the errors in other people’s art. In fact, our egos will jump all over that opportunity. “Look! Haha, I am not the only one that has issues” it shouts. But when it comes to our own art, the blinders are turned on full blast with the AC and max power, “Everything is cool here, nothing to see.” If that’s the case, then you are going to grab your egos again, drag them to the top rope, suplex onto a table, and change things up.

The best way I have learned to combat the blinders is to constantly disconnect from what I am working on. Walk away from it often. I need to constantly figure out a way to look at an image that I am working on with fresh eyes. We can get so caught up with one little shadow not looking right and destroy the whole image just to make that one unimportant shadow look right. Why? Yup, you guessed it – Ego. It’s the need to convince ourselves we can make anything look perfect and bend to our will.

One of the biggest things I have learned while trying to become a better artist is that it is a nonstop battle with my egos. Have you had an ego attack like one of these?

  • Refusing to step away from a painting because you can’t get something right. Then you eventually go to bed at 5 in the morning, pissed off because you couldn’t get it right but you couldn’t keep your eyes open anymore. You get crap sleep because your dreams are mocking you. But then, you wake up to look at the painting and instantly realize the problem and how to fix it in less to 5 minutes.

  • Not using the color picker. Because you should be able to defy the evolution of your eyes and brain with how they perceive color.

  • Not using a reference. Because you should know what a donkey looks like from all angles and every lighting scenario. Of course you should, since there is one sitting in front of this computer right now trying to draw a donkey he thinks he can draw without looking at reference (but really can’t). Or is that a jackass? Punch your ego in the face and use the reference. It will look better and be so much faster.

  • Not using your pencil to measure the model in a figure drawing or life drawing session. Because you know you can eyeball the sh*t out of this pose and nail it. Then, the once beautiful, unsuspecting model turns into Quasimodo on your page.

  • Refusal to use the lasso tool case. Because you can paint that edge just as crisp freehand. Two hours later, you think you’ve nailed it, walk away, and come back a see the hairy, uncrisp edge from the seventh circle of hell.

I could go on for days. What is important is that you know what kind of artist you want to be. For me, speed and accuracy is the name of the game. I need to generate ideas quickly in order to effectively do a job. Maybe some of these things don’t bug you, and maybe you are happy with where you are as an artist, but that is why every single person’s art journey is their own journey. The most important thing is understanding who you are and where you want to go as an artist. Then, don’t be afraid to change directions or walk down a side path if an opportunity arises. And if your egos give you grief about it, slap them in the mouth and tell them you are in charge here.

Feeding the Fire was the topic for this painting. Another 30 min painting for a group on Facebook called spit paint.
Feeding the Fire was the topic for this painting. Another 30 min painting for a group on Facebook called spit paint.
facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail