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.
Yesterday, I finally got around to turning in my graduation paperwork for the AA degree I finished two years ago along with the BA degree I just completed this past quarter (yes, I can procrastinate like a pro.) As I was heading out, I dropped in on a class called “Portfolio Review.” The class was doing a dry run for the students who would be presenting in front of a panel of industry professionals next week. I only saw the last few, but generally, the portfolios reflected nearly every other portfolio review I had ever attended. With the exception of one or two students, the rest just weren’t industry ready. I’ve heard this comment from art directors and industry professionals across the country.
So why does it happen and with such regularity? First of all, this is by no means a criticism of the particular college. In fact, quite a few students accomplish more in two years than a lot of students do in four. However, many other students squander their time at school and then blame the instructors or administration for their own shortcomings. Of course, there are exceptions. I’ve heard horror stories of bad instructors and have even met a few myself. But even then, it’s still your responsibility to the get the most out of your class.
Often, when an instructor is running late, I hear students say, “If he’s not here in 15 minutes, can we leave?” Two things go through my mind when I hear this.
1. You are an adult choosing to attend higher education, so you can leave whenever the hell you’d like.
2. Why are you even here?
I know that sounds judgey I’m not saying that I’ve never had a day when I didn’t want to be at school. I’ve definitely felt frustrated when a class seemed utterly useless to what I wanted to do, yet was still required for my degree. I’ve had plenty of those days, and taken a lot of classes like that. I realized though, that I needed to take control of my own education to get whatever I could from the information presented and find a way to apply it to my life and work. I firmly believe that this type of mindset is what separates students who are able to transition into happy, working professionals from all the other apathetic “artists” who are still blaming someone else for their inability to get a job.
So let’s break down the things you can do to get the most out of your education.
– Get to know your instructors.
They have a wealth of information they don’t include in their lessons. This can happen because there simply isn’t enough time, or they believe none of the students really care. Remember, they have chosen teaching for a reason, so you will often find them to be more than happy to share their knowledge with people who authentically seek it out.
– View every assignment as a job brief – even the little ones.
When you approach an instructor’s assignment in this manner, you change the project’s meaning. It takes on a different light. The end result will look far less like a school assignment and you will often discover things you never would have had you just regurgitated the instructor’s assignment back to them.
– Know your path and walk it.
If you are in a class and a project doesn’t line up with your goals, don’t be afraid to change the project to benefit you. Obviously, you should be prepared to explain your reasons. Since most of your instructors come from your desired industry, they will probably understand and may even be impressed by your out-of-the-box thinking and initiative.
– Create your own assignments.
Don’t be complacent by settling for mediocrity. Always push yourself further than you think you can go. Sometimes, it can be difficult to stay motivated, so if you can find someone as dedicated as you are, buddy up and hold each other accountable.
– Know your competition.
In the grand scheme of things, it’s likely that your competition isn’t the student sitting next to you. Give yourself a pat on the back if you are the top student in your program, but you aren’t just competing with your classmates. You are competing with all the industry professionals currently doing the job you want, not to mention the top students from every other program in the world. The Games and Entertainment field is an international, multibillion-dollar industry, that continues to grow at a ridiculous rate. Research the curriculum of other top programs around the world and extract whatever you can about what they are learning. Incorporate it into your own education. Those programs often post the best work online, so compare your work to what you see there. Start a folder of the industry professionals you most admire and compare the quality of work. Remember, you are striving to be a professional with professional level work. When you compare yourself to other students, you are only striving to have the best student work.
– Help others.
The best lessons I have learned and the greatest epiphanies I have ever had come from teaching other people how to do something.
– Don’t put the industry you are striving for on a pedestal.
The pedestal is for things you can’t or aren’t supposed to touch. When you hold your desired industry on a pedestal, you make it something more than it really is. At the end of the day, that thing on that pedestal is still just a job. Obviously, working on games isn’t digging ditches, but it’s definitely something within your grasp.
– Network and Socialize
This goes along with not putting your industry on a pedestal. Don’t view the people in your desired industry as a whole different species of person. We all had to start somewhere. Reach out to them and most will be more than happy to talk with you. In fact, they likely suffer some of the same insecurities you do. Attend industry events and be yourself. By sharing your experience with others, you make it easy for them to do the same.
– Be passionate about what you are doing.
Most importantly, you have to love what you do. Choose projects that you are passionate about because those will ultimately turn out the best, and you will be far more motivated to work on them.
– Never stop learning
If you are passionate about what you are doing, you will never stop learning new things. You will always look for new, better, and faster ways to accomplish what you want to do.
Here are some warm-up environment thumbs. I like to do these to get my brain functioning at a normal capacity. Not quite as many as last month, but I was messing around in 3d quite a bit more as November moved along. Counting left to right, sets 1,2,4,and 5 are done in traditional medium. 1 and 4 are with pencil, and 2 and 5 are with an ink wash. 3,6,7, and 8 are all done digitally. I was messing around with abstraction and composition with a lot of these, and set 6 are abstract value comps of master paintings. I would call them the value essense of master studies. Hope you enjoy.