I am going to keep this week’s post to just art from last week’s stream. I hope you enjoy. If you are interested in getting advice or my process, you should drop in on my streams. www.twitch.tv/jdscribbles. Also be sure to follow me on Twitter to know when go live for a stream.
These mechs were pretty fun. I took them from quick sketches as seen in the first image to some rendered form for better understanding.
These were composition warm exercises. They took about 20 minutes each.
Here is an environment sketch. I think it was suppose to be 20 minute but I might have run over on this one because I liked where it was going. There is a lot of potential with this idea.
This may not look like much but it was a pretty fun Friday night. The point was involve the viewers to get them into the story. I would work on quick character silhouette and have the viewers guess how the character related to the story. The closest guess would receive scribble credits. After I would quickly visualize the character I would somehow put them into a story. As the characters started to make an actual story I began to storyboard the actual made up story. It was challenging and fun and provided a lot of laughs for myself and the viewers.
Thanks for taking a look at my work. Swing by my stream if you are interested in watching this weeks work develope. I have added a link at the top of my page.
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.
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
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.
The Monument Rocks
The rest are rough sketches but convey the idea good enough to show.
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.
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.
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.
This post has turned out to be far more than I intended it to be and due to its complexity and length, and I am going to break it into two parts. I originally started down a path that led me to an epiphany. Ultimately, everything I have been talking about for the last couple weeks about preconceived notions are tied directly to the subject of this post.
As artists and designers, we often find the most simple designs to be the most beautiful, and often try and make that happen in our own work. What we find, however, is that the most simple ideas are often the most difficult to portray or discover. My attempt to explain what is happening in my head day to day is no different.
I see and hear artists talk about skills related to how to paint and draw better – the technical side of being an artist. I feel this or I feel that and that is the result of how I got the image. I don’t know if I have ever heard an artist talk about the mental side of being an artist. I am going to attempt to do that. The closest thing I usually see is, how do you get your ideas, or how do I stop procrastination. Keep in mind that I am not a psychologist, and I have never played one of TV. All of these conclusions are being drawn from personal experience,
reading, and observations.
According to Sigmund Freud’s Structural Model of the Psyche, the psyche is made up of three parts: the Id, Ego, and Superego. In the first draft of this post, I used the ego to describe all the battles happening in my head, but it didn’t capture what I was trying to communicate.
Egotism vs. Egoism
Egotistic or egotistical is often used to describe a feeling of vast self-importance. It’s a weighty word isn’t it? Being egotistical refers to someone who is excessively conceited or vain, even narcissistic. You hear these terms applied frequently in the art world. There are many artists that have that reputation, and you can instantly tell when you are dealing with one of them. But all the artists I personally know are awesome people, and egotistic is the last word I think of when describing them.
Egoism is a preoccupation with oneself, but not necessarily feeling superior to others. The truth is, you actually have to have a certain degree of egoism to improve as an artist. It doesn’t matter if you are working for the entertainment industry or you are creating art for some lofty ideal or cause. Being an egoist means you always seek to improve as an artist. Improving as an artist is about improving yourself. If you seek to improve at a significant speed as an artist, you will choose to work on your art over doing anything else. But even reaching this point is a challenge in and of itself.
Let’s take a step backwards for a second. I want to talk about the Id. Freud says that as newborn children, we are completely driven by the id. The id is completely unconscious and is the instinctive part of our personality. To oversimplify, “Id touch oven, oven burns Id’s hand. That hurt! Id not doing that again.” Id can be thought of as your fight or flight instinct, but what the id wants most is to be happy, and Id wants it now. Id will do whatever it can to make that happen. It doesn’t take long of the id running things before the Ego develops as a result of our interactions with the external world.
The ego is developed to keep the id in check. Where Id doesn’t care what it has to do to feel pleasure, Ego wants to feel pleasure but will delay gratification in order to achieve it in a realistic manner. Freud says the ego is relatively weak compared to the id, “like a man on horseback, who has to hold in check the superior strength of the horse” (Freud, 1923, p.15). The ego is responsible for rational and realistic thinking and problem solving but has no concept of right or wrong. Enter into the picture, the Superego.
“like a man on horseback, who has to hold in check the superior strength of the horse” (Freud, 1923, p.15).
The superego is attributed to morals and values and is developed by one’s surroundings and society. The superego is also responsible for your dreams and aspirations or your ideal self, such as becoming a master artist, or mastering some kind of skill or occupational goal. It makes you have expectations that the image will look beautiful and punishes you with guilt and anger when that doesn’t happen. The superego is also the reason you feel guilty when you choose to play games or do some other activity instead of drawing or painting when you are trying to achieve the goal of improvement. Sometimes this is good, sometimes it is not. Just like the id, the superego needs to be held in check.
Generally, I am not a fan of disassociating what is happening in my head into seemingly different identities. When parts of the psyche are given a face and name they achieve an air of being uncontrollable, when in fact the opposite is true. You will need to learn to control these things if you hope to become the best artist you can.
If it helps you could use the cartoon depiction of the id, ego, and superego if you would like. Think of the id as the devil on your shoulder, the ego is you in the middle, and the superego as the angel on your other shoulder. I like to think of the id and the superego as two different dragons I need to beat back into their lairs with a big stick.
Ego: I fight with the Id and superego every day. It is the constant battle that wages in my head, that no one can see and no one knows about. It’s a battle that happens in everyone’s head whether they realize it or not, and it’s an epic battle with so many twists, deaths, and betrayals, it even puts the Game of Thrones to shame.
When I don’t feel like doing work and just want to play games, or binge watch a show on Netflix that is id wanting to just be happy now! When I then feel guilty about playing games instead of working, that is my superego telling me I am not living up to the best person I can be or tell me I am working too much and need to spend time with my family. Which isn’t a bad thing.
The times when the superego becomes a problem is when I am trying to spend time with my family and superego makes me feel guilty for doing so. The mind is a complex place and a lifetime won’t even be enough time to understand what is happening up there.
The superego is responsible for so many people giving up on the arts at such a young age. It is the same superego that caused me to be embarrassed to be seen counting on my fingers doing math in school. Or why you didn’t want to raise your hand, even though you knew the answer. Part of the problem is every portion of our psyche (id, ego, superego) love so much to be right, and will reward us with dopamine for doing so. But more than anything, they hate being wrong. The superego fears help and thinks it can do everything on its own. I have come to realize that so much about becoming a better artist is learning how to punch your superego and id in the mouth, telling them to sit the f*ck down.
Hopefully you will return next week as I continue this topic, discussing a little bit more about the battles with my psyche and self-discoveries that have helped me improve as an artist.
Simply Psychology Id, Ego and Superego McLeod Saul 2008 http://www.simplypsychology.org/psyche.html
I remember the day I realized digital art was a thing. I was deep into one of my drawing spells, frustrated with how things looked on the paper. I just couldn’t get what was in my head on to the paper. So I did what so many of us do, and went to the Google’s. Google! “How do I draw better?” I came across people drawing things directly in Photoshop. What was this sorcery, and how do I take part in it? Surely this is my answer to be instantly better at art. My brain and all the power of Photoshop…it will be instant improvement. Right?
That was eight years ago, and I was still in the middle of trying to get my degree in business management. Clearly, I had all the intention in the world of using that degree. At any rate, when I finally got my hands on a Wacom Intuos 4, I was sure the answer to all my lack of art powers had arrived. I unwrapped that bad boy, downloaded the drivers and I was in it to win it. Fast forward 10 minutes later. F*** this! How the hell am I supposed to draw when I can’t see my hand? Thus began the cycle of starting, getting extremely frustrated, then stopping, then starting, etc.
I never really did get a handle on using a tablet. I can use one now if I need to, and accomplish the same things, but I still hate the disassociation of not being able to see my hand while I draw or paint. It is just the way I am.
The truth is, having access to powerful tools such as Photoshop, Painter, or Sai don’t make us better at anything. The ugly truth is, we may even take a step backwards. It’s like in the Disney movie Aladdin, Jafar wished he was the most powerful genie in the Universe. He got what he wanted. All the power in the universe that he didn’t understand, and then was confined to a tiny lamp.
After I got my tablet and attempted to use Photoshop, it freaked me out, and I became Jafar trapped in a lamp. The surface of the tablet was too smooth and the way the brush moved on the screen was too hard to control. My brain had really nothing to reference how to get better at this sorcery. So I turned to Illustrator and the pen tool.
At the time, it felt like a cop out, but now I realize it helped me with my confidence in using the tablet. The pen tool allowed me to place lines exactly where I wanted them while I was practicing with the tablet. Sure, the mouse is much faster with the pen tool, but I had a fancy new tablet that needed to be used. The reason I realize this is valuable now is because I was improving my hand-eye coordination with my tablet by doing something that I was already confident doing.
How many of you have a similar story or are still struggling with this issue? The reason for this story is to smash away the preconceived notions that we have when it comes to art. The truth about improvement is that you are going to follow your own path of discovery and there are a million things I can share with you about becoming a better artist, but if you aren’t ready to hear it, it won’t matter.
What brush are you using? What program is she using? I tried that brush and it didn’t do that for me. How do I get better at art? How do I get better at drawing? is coming to town. She is going to share all her secrets to success. Are you doing dude? Did you see that new tutorial? I totally get it now. Nope.
All of these questions and thoughts were running through my mind, until I realized the real secret is there is no secret. There is no hidden world in the wardrobe. Every professional artist practically shouts it out when they give their presentations, and post their tutorials. Hard work and time – that’s it. If you don’t understand, design, shape, contrast, composition, form, value, anatomy, light, perspective, contrast, color theory, or have no muscle memory, the brush the artist is using or program the artist is using means nothing. It is window dressing. Sure, it is inspiring to watch what they are doing, but the focus is in the wrong place. Inspiration is a powerful thing but can only take you so far. I know this because this was how my brain worked before I realized I wasn’t improving. I would watch tutorials and then try to do the same thing. I couldn’t even come close to producing what that artist was doing. I was so focused on what other artists were doing rather than focusing on me and what I needed to do to improve.
Once you start to focus on yourself, improvement will follow. At first, you will have huge canyons that you will have to build bridges to get over to the other side. But as you stick with it, those canyons get smaller and eventually turn into puddles you only need to hop over. Once you get to that point, you’ll know how to solve the deficiencies in your art, because you will have put in the time and hard work to understand how to improve. Now you will understand why that artist is using that brush and understand the struggles they were talking about and the steps they had to take to get where they are.
Here are some tips:
If you are struggling with your tablet. Hide your mouse for a month and only use your tablet to operate your computer.
If Photoshop is overwhelming. It can still overwhelm me at times. Get rid of all the options except the brushes tool, and then get rid of all your brushes except for a simple round brush, an airbrush, and a painterly brush. I will upload a set that can be found here.
Improve your hand-eye coordination. Practice drawing straight lines, ellipses, curved lines, pen pressure by going from thick to thin lines. Do this on paper, do it with your tablet.
Don’t limit yourself to working on the computer. Drawing or painting with no CTRL+Z will do wonders for your confidence and speed over time.
Welcome to the other side, I hope you all made it through the New Year’s alright.
Over the Holiday break I have immersed myself in fixing the major weaknesses of my art. There are several things I have just been ignoring or putting off. There are still preconceived notions about art and how to work that I am tearing down in my own psyche. It is amazing how many of these preconceived notions there are.
I think I have mentioned how I struggled with the idea that art skills were something people were just gifted with at birth. I struggled with this issue big time early in my art career. It nearly caused me to quit hundreds of times. It is difficult as a new artist to look at good or professional artwork and imagine that artist in their adolescence being frustrated when they were trying to convey an image on a page or tearing pages out of their sketchbook because their anatomy makes no sense.
Let’s get this out of the away: No one is born good at art. Nobody is born good at anything. Even the prodigies weren’t born with the skills they needed to execute their profession. They just had an environment that pushed or nurtured them from a very young age. Just because someone has mastered something by age 12, don’t discredit the amount of hard work that went into that skill.
No one is born good at art.
Often, when I hear professional artists talk about this issue, they compare becoming a great artist to being an athlete that plays professional football or basketball. I think these are probably the two worst sports analogies that can be made. Genetics play a big role in these sports. There is no denying the immense amount of hard work that had to go into becoming a professional football or basketball player. They are elite because they worked harder than anyone else, but the average height of an NBA player is 6’7”. I can’t make myself grow taller than my genetics allow barring new scientific discoveries. However, if I was that tall and never practiced shooting a basketball or dribbling I wouldn’t be in the NBA either.
NFL athletes are another breed of human. Again, I am not denying the amount of hard work these guys have to put in to get to the league, but they are essentially your modern day comic book characters. It is insane for a man to be 6’2”, 254 lbs and able to run 40 yards in 4.4 seconds. These athletes have to have a genetic bone structure that can support that amount of muscle mass, and the power generated from those muscles when they are exerted.
Now obviously these guys have to practice the skills needed in order to operate at the professional level for these sports. However, I think comparing what it takes to become a good artist to a sport like golf is more accurate. It may not be as sexy but it is far more accurate. I am not a golfer but I can imagine the amount of time and practice it would take to become a professional golfer. Almost anybody could become a professional golfer if they practiced enough and in the right way.
Based on what I’ve observed from really good artists, it seems they fall into one of three categories.
Born with a Photographic Memory. This is the one genetic trait I can think of that can give a person an advantage from birth. This is also known as an eidetic memory. I think most of us picture every great artist as having this talent when we are starting out. But this is so rarely the case.
Starting Young . It may seem that some have been good at art their whole life, but this can be because they have been drawing since they can remember. This doesn’t mean they didn’t work hard. They just put in an incredible amount of work early in their life. Eventually, they probably hit a point where they refined their skills with focused study.
Starting Old. Then you have people who love art and don’t start till their 20’s 30’s 40’s, and become amazing artists. I fall into this category.
Often if you ask an artist who has been creating art from a very young age why they draw some of the things they do, they find it difficult to communicate because it is so natural to them. This leads to the idea of art being a magical talent that someone is born with. Let’s run with this line of thinking a second.
At what point in history has art been such a viable profession? It has probably only been in the last century, maybe even half century that anyone has been able to just pursue the life of an artist without living in abject poverty or having a wealthy patron. Many of the artists in history came from a more privileged background that gave them access to a mentor or to attend a prestigious art school. Now I could be completely wrong about this because I don’t have a whole lot of art history in my education. (Which is why I will be doing some art history posts with more facts and less hypothesis in the future.)
What I do know is that in the past (and present), schools that had credible arts programs tended to be very expensive. Add to that the artists who have started so young they’re unable to articulate how they’ve learned to do certain things and the fact that out of 100 people off the street, only one could probably draw anything better than a stick figure and you get a generation of mystery. This all leads to the preconceived notion that art is a skill reserved for those born with natural skills. It lends itself to have a mystical air about it, when that isn’t true. It is a skill that should be taught like math or science. Unfortunately, art hasn’t been regarded as important as some of the STEM disciplines in the traditional academic model.
Fortunately for us, the internet has completely changed how art education or any education can be consumed. In fact, art education has never been so available to the masses as it is now. Becoming a good artist is not magic, it is not something someone is born with, and it is not a gift. There are no shortcuts, there are no special brushes, or tricks that are going to instantly make you a good artist. Becoming a good artist is just years of extremely hard work, and if you love being an artist that work will extremely fulfilling.
What is something you are currently struggling with in your art journey? Let me know if the comments.
Just kidding. I do want to keep it short this week since we are right in the middle of the holidays and I have trouble saying no to work.
This week I wanted to show a lot more sketch than blog, since I have been calling this a sketchblog. So that is what will follow my short rant about New Year’s Resolutions. I am not a fan of making resolutions.I am a firm believer of if you are going to change something in your life, why are waiting for a specific first day of the year in order to make that change? Just do it, why wait? Make the plans, execute the change.
Don’t get me wrong I have goals for what I would like to accomplish in 2016 but if something isn’t working in my day to day. I will fix it.
I want to be better than 2015 me.
I want to be faster at drawing and painting, and create more work than in 2015.
I want to spend more time with my family.
I want to spend more time outside.
I want to grow this blog and add more content, like videos, and live streams.
Those are just a few of my goals for 2016. Let me know what your goals are for 2016. See you next year.
Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas to you and yours.
From day one of writing this blog, I knew I would eventually have to get to the topic of failure. I’m not talking about the normal disappointments you may encounter when dealing with a difficult client. I’m talking about years of failure. Years of frustration. What I didn’t realize was that finally overcoming one of my biggest design failures would serve as the catalyst for really understanding the anatomy of failure and how to deal with it.
Tackling this design problem was like going on a ridiculously challenging hike. This hike consisted of steep inclines with switchbacks that pulled you deep into the woods, blocking out any hint of the point you’re hoping to reach. For the duration of the hike, you’re sweating profusely, and falling behind because you’re out shape. You’ve rolled your ankle a couple times and you’ve all but convinced yourself to turn around and go back down the mountain.
You sit down on multiple occasions, ripping yourself to shreds in your mind. The one saving grace is that every once in awhile, the forest breaks, the switchbacks stop, and you get a glimpse of the incredible view. And every now and again, a friend waits for you to give you some encouragement. Then it’s back into the woods for switchbacks that seem to go on forever because you’re not even close to the top. This goes on for hours.
Finally, after accidently rolling down a portion of the mountain, falling off a cliff edge twice, and trying to recover from a shattered tibia, you see the clearing. This has to be the end, it just has to be. You pass a couple of hikers who tell you it’s right around that corner. The forest breaks for the last time and you stop. You look up to see your friends waiting for you. The view is breathtaking. It’s that moment where you realize you have finally arrived. And even though you know you’ll have to hike back down, you realize you actually made it and that’s what matters.
This is exactly what it felt like when I was going through the process of developing my personal logo – a project that took years in the making. Okay maybe it wasn’t that bad, but it was a struggle.
When I look back on all the ideas you are about to see, I can remember where I was at as an artist and designer for each one. Some of these ideas and designs seemed to be the perfect solution, the end of the trail, but were quickly scraped or filed away for future editing.
So here’s the evolution of my own logo design. There are also hundreds of sketches that have been thrown away, or files that have been deleted. I know I threw away about 12 pages of 11 x 8.5 in graph paper completely filled with sketches last week out of pure frustration. The designs are presented in chronological order starting in 2010.
At this point I had started doing websites and really had no confidence with drawing or painting, but I was really comfortable with illustrator and coding web pages. However, graphic design and webpage development were extremely boring and ultimately not what I wanted to do.
With the above designs, I had started to work on my drawing and painting skills, but was still in a graphic design mindset. This was because I was questioning my ability to become a successful artist in the gaming industry. This was probably around 2012.
The above designs were around 2013, and I was becoming more confident as a painter and wanted a logo I could sign my paintings with. The black box with the blue outlined initials was the logo I went with for a while. The logo was generated from a hand sketch on a piece of paper and put into Illustrator. That was the logo that I had for a good amount of time, but I knew it didn’t feel right and eventually scrapped it. For the last couple of years, I went with no logo because I just couldn’t come up with one I felt comfortable with. My art was my brand and that was good enough. I often didn’t even sign my paintings. At this point, I realized how irritated I got when trying to design logos.
This logo went on my webpage for about a week when I gave my portfolio site a facelift. The layout became very minimal and I was going for a clean Art Deco look. However, my personality is not Art Deco, so this was scrapped also. I again realized how much I hated wasting time on designing logos, which brings us just about current.
The design process for this blog started when I bought the domain name. My ambition to design a logo for this blog was low and I wasn’t that concerned about it, so I would doodle possible logo designs in between drawings or when I had an extra second or two. However, I became quite unsatisfied with the designs and it turned into a problem that needed to be solved. I eventually figured out I wanted something that worked with negative space, but what I really wanted was a mascot of some sort. The mascot idea got sketched out a couple times, but the results were so hideous, I deleted the files in frustration and sent that idea to the back of my mind for my subconscious to chew on.
Here are some hideous attempts to do a 3d thing.
Frustrated that the ideas for initials in negative space weren’t working, I went in the direction of designing a flag. People can get behind a good flag design. The principle of flag design is simplicity. Out of more frustration I almost settled with second design in the second row. It was simple and got the point across that I was an artist. However, I wasn’t happy that it looked like an app icon. I sought out some opinions, and after the underwhelming response it was back to the drawing board.
These sketches were a bit of a departure from the very angular sketches I naturally gravitated towards. The design that has the orange in it was a quick 10-second doodle that looked to have potential, which was further confirmed when I showed the design to my wife and was given legit approval rather than the sarcastic, “Yeah, that’s good” that I would normally get.
So I took the design into Illustrator. Here are several of the iterations, some with strokes, different angles, the “J” as a stylus. However, the design still didn’t feel right, and I almost gave up on this design. However, discussing the design with a couple friends gave me some ideas. The design still had too much going on. Any good designer will tell you a design isn’t complete until you have simplified it as far as possible, and that was exactly what was needed in this case.
The first design of this iteration path was where I almost stopped. I was very happy with simplicity of the JD. The whole design has a very strong graphic shape, but it still didn’t feel quite like me. At this point, you can see my final design is staring me in the face. Any good designer will also tell you iteration is king. Even if your first design was the best, which is often never the case, you won’t know until you have emptied your mind.
Later that evening, another artist friend asked me what I wanted out of the design. I told him something with my initials and to play with negative space. His response was to break out of the circle I had stuck with. To me that meant going back to the drawing board because here was another failed attempt. In an attempt at humor, I adjusted the design to give him the finger which ultimately led to the design taking on a personality. After contemplating what my buddy had said, I started moving the white circle inside the black circle which gave the appearance of a face looking in directions and is a simple animation trick, which is when the design negative shape slammed into my eyeballs.
With the shape language of the face perfectly clear, I knew exactly how to proceed. The above graphic shows the simple shapes used to produce the final design.
Since playing around with the face was how I discovered the design, I knew the design could take on its own personality, body language, and emotions. Finally! This was me in a logo. This was me boiled down and communicated through simple graphic shapes.
How I felt when I the design was realized.
I present to you the new face of JDScribbles!
This post makes me seem like I have obsessed about this for the last five years. The truth is, I could live with or without a logo, allowing my body of work to be my brand. But as a designer, this has been a nagging design problem that I had never been able to solve. If I can’t figure out the essence of my own design problems, how can I help clients discover the essence of their problems?
The truth of the matter is, designing for yourself and working on your own projects is so much harder than designing for a client. You have no boundaries; you have no guidelines. It is just you and how well you think you know what you want. When you finally figure it out what that is, it’s a great feeling. The greatest success of this design is not the final design, it is all the lessons I have garnered along the way, knowing when to put a project down, knowing when to ask for help, knowing how to self direct, learning that failure isn’t really failure, it is just another step in the design process. You only fail if you give up for good. The final design is just the cherry on top because instead of failing, you finally succeeded in reaching the top of the mountain.
What failures have you overcome? And what are the lessons you took from them? Let me know in the comments.
I was invited and had the pleasure of being a part of a portfolio review panel I mentioned last week for students just finishing their two year degree in game design. The students work ranged from amazing to sub-par. It was clear from the work displayed which students were passionate and knew what they wanted to do, and which students were unsure of their direction.
With the students who were unsure, you could tell the difference between the students who were unsure of their direction, and who were unsure of their direction because their work wasn’t to a standard they wanted it to be, and knew the amount of work that lay ahead of them. That led me to reflect on my art journey for this blog post but I still wasn’t sure what this week’s blog post was going to be until I was watching a Vsauce YouTube video this morning.
The host Michael was talking about Super tasks (I linked his video) near the end Michael was talking about the difference between Neanderthals and Homo-sapiens and the difference in our exploration habits. Neanderthals were content with stopping when they reached a body of water or some other resource, while homo-sapiens have always strived to conquer every barrier that stands in our way, which has led to our population of this planet.
Furthermore, this difference contributing to our desire to reach other planets, and is ultimately why Neanderthals are extinct and our species lives today. He has a terrific quote at that end of his video, “If you want to solve problems you don’t just solve the ones that are there, you find more and make more, and go after the impossible ones, fostering a love an obsession with problems is how you solve problems. “
We as artists and designers are problem solvers, no matter what kind of artist you are when you set out to accomplish the next project you will be solving many complex problems. The problems may be for commercial purposes, they may be with the world, or maybe they are personal, but they need solving just the same. I often reflect and tend to do more reflection near the end of the year. I often wonder what my purpose as an artist is, what am I really contributing to the world? I still don’t have the answer but I know this is my passion.
Michael then went on to quote Antoine de Saint-Exupérym who said, “If you want to build a ship, don’t just assign them tasks like getting wood. Teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”
Neither one of these quotes I have mentioned are intended for artists but they are fitting just the same. Is the exploration of other planets a matter of life and death? Possibly, as it certainly increases the future generation’s chance for survival just as spreading across the surface of this planet did for us.
Is art itself a matter of life and death? Who is to say that art and storytelling doesn’t hold the same implications for species survival? Is it a type of sustenance that homo-sapiens need? Is that something that is even measureable? Why are there examples of it dating back 40 thousand years? Art has always been something that has evolved with the human species. It must carry some importance.
I don’t think anyone has come up with an answer to that question and it might never be answered. If you know of answer please leave it in the comments and I will correct my statement in the next post. Obviously, the reasons behind our art and storytelling today are far different than in the past, but the desire to master the skill or any other skill is just the same as reaching for the stars.
It isn’t easy and never will be. It takes a lifetime to accomplish and even that may not be enough time. However, if it is indeed your passion, pursue it! Don’t be content with stopping because you’ve reached a certain point. Don’t let anyone tell you that just because your idea lives with the stars that you can’t strive to attain it. Even if you don’t get all the way there, you will probably find yourself in a far better place and feeling more accomplished than you could have dreamed, and you will look back on your journey – glad you that set off on in the first place.
I think this video from Neil Tyson Degrasse is very fitting for this post, and as always I will leave you with some sketches.