Don’t worry, take the small job.

    As mammals we’re attracted to shinny things, which explains why doors to the entertainment biz are crammed with talent.  We look at working on the set of Iron Man as a dream or goal, but what happens when you arrive and your job is to mop up the blemish on Robert Downey Jr.’s sweet face?
    It’s not success that we want, it’s recognition for our hard work.  This is why Disney movies in the 90’s had penises to and fro.  People worked hard but got no recognition, no praise.  Thus, hidden dick.
    It’s not money we want, we just don’t want to worry all the time.  It’s not absolute freedom we want, it’s a worthwhile challenge.
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LiveStream Analysis – May 30th, 2017

Like night, I made this live stream:
I consider it a failure   But, like all failures, we have an opportunity to learn something.  When something doesn’t work out, it’s always best to take a step back and reason out its shortcomings.  Otherwise, you’re doomed to repeat the same mistakes over and over again.
So, let’s commence the flagellation!
  • Composition was not solved.
    • Very early on in this painting, I arrived at a composition that I liked, but I settled too quickly.  The buildings on the hill were not solved early on, the sense of scale could be pushed further.
  • No Reference.
    • Civilization does not start abruptly.  A town does not just begin all of a sudden, there’s a progression of buildings on the outskirts of any town, which lead into a denser packed city.  If I used reference, I would have figured this out sooner.
  • No Reference!
    • The desert sort of looks like a desert, the town sort of looks like a town.  The lighting kind of looks correct.  Not good enough.
  • Did not solve color or light.
    • Before I jumped into painting finer details, lighting and color were not solved.  I fought with it in the beginning, but never quite figured it out before I moved into painting if further.  This led to a backwards approach, where I’m trying to fix my mistakes as I move forward   This is a bad workflow, because it does not allow for what Bob Ross calls “Happy Accidents.”
I could go on, but this is a sufficient scolding of my efforts.  Looking at the painting now, I should have stopped 20 minutes in; that at least could have served as a decent sketch.
It’s the Backwards Approach that always gets me, and we all encounter it in our work.  We push too far ahead and leave a mess in our wake, only to have to back track and clean up after ourselves.  I’m quickly considering this to be the death knell of a painting in progress.  If you’re detailing a painting but it feels more like a punishment that meditative pleasure, maybe you should set it aside and work on something else.

Tuesday Afternoon Live Stream

I present the aftermath of yesterday’s 2 hour event – A Giant Leaping Through the Clouds.

 

Always reflect on what you’ve done, and try to look at it with a fresh pair of eyes.  Sometimes that means coming back to it in a day, or looking it at backwards, upside-down, etc.  If you don’t like what you’ve done, don’t beat yourself up about it.  Whenever we draw, we’re improving.  If you want to improve, then draw.

 

leapingGiant.jpg

Cheat Day #3 – Empieza Fuerte

I’ve realized something profound a while ago, something I’ve been procrastinating to admit to myself.  This particular “something” is preached by self-development experts, artists, writers, and all people who strive on getting a lot done in any given day.  I guess I’ve been procrastinating on writing about it, or admitting how important it actually is, because I figured it was set in stone – something we should all be doing, like not eating too much sugar.  What’s the point of delving on it when it’s so obvious, right?
That piece of advice is this:  If you want to have a good day, start in a good way.
Essentially the opposite is true as well.  If you want to be distracted, unfocused and all-around shitty for the duration of the day, wake up with social media, porn, and bad news.
We artists live off of our daily practice, and the act of sitting down to work is the practice.  Doing the work is the whole thing.  It’s not your ideas or your insight, it’s what you do everyday.  Ralph Waldo Emerson once said:
    “Sow a thought and you reap and action; sow an act and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character; sow a character and you reap a destiny.”    
The daily act gets to the heart of what masters of productivity preach: Do the work, become the person.  Fake it till you make it.  Keep it Simple Stupid.
We have a tendency to overcomplicate things.  But when we’re in the trenches of our work and bombs are blowing up all around us, of course it’s complicated.  At the ground level, life is chaos.  Zooming out and looking at the big picture is useful, because the big picture is where you’ll start to see patterns.
Looking at Emerson’s quote again, if you do something every morning—like scrolling through the endless magic that is Imgur—this will turn into a habit.  You’ll be distracted for the whole day, and Imgur and Reddit will call out to you for the rest of the day.
I’ve grown to dislike the word “successful”—I’m not even sure what it means anymore.  The word itself has been so much it has lost all meaning.  For example, the word “Awesome” used to describe 50 foot tall snarling winged horses that breathed fire and pissed lightning—things of that nature.  “Awesome”, after many years of dilution, is now used to describe the moment you get the last everything bagel at Dunkin Donuts.  The word “successful”, to me at least, now refers to Youtube videos of a young smiling dude-bro standing (or sitting) in front of a camera plagiarizing the words from self-development coaches like Jim Rohn or Tony Robbins.
One of the most important tips I’ve ever gotten as an artist or musician, is to not study your favorite composers or artists, but study who they studied.  Bach simply had it going on, and all of the great composers from the classical and romantics eras of music all studied his work.  Dig deep into the sources of inspiration from successful folks, because the great thinkers of hundreds or thousands of years ago may have had a better understanding of the human condition that we do.
I’m more writing to myself here than to you, dear reader, for as Flannery O’Conner once wrote:
“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.”
Words and ideas are yours for the taking.  Our lives are a collage of our experiences, and we are what we eat, do, think, and say.  Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, after all.

Cheat Day #1 – Soy Un Mono

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I’m sure I am breaking a cardinal rule of language immersion by writing this.  That is – never break from your target language and use your own.  But does writing count?  In any case, I’ll call this a Cheat Day, solely because speaking / writing in English after being attacked by Spanish all day feels like eating a plate of brownies.

I’ve been in Spain for a week, I’d like to take a moment in my own language to reflect on my experience so far.  I’ve been journaling every morning for the past three years, but since I got here I’ve switched it up and am now logging my mornings in Español.  It’s awful.  I have no clue if what I’m writing is grammatically sound, and I fear the day for when I’ll have to go back over everything I’ve written at the end of the month – incoherent dribble from some Americano painfully rendering his days in a language he can’t properly speak nor write.

When I speak, I’m a monkey.  But not your typical run of the mill eat-your-face kind of monkey.  I’m a shy, bashful, nervous little simian who speaks about 12 semi-tones higher while trying to communicate.  The people talk so much here, the whole culture seems to revolve around getting together to talk and gossip.  You know that wonderful moment when dinner has finished but conversation is still flowing, and people aren’t in any rush to leave the table because they’re having too much fun talking and gossiping?  The Spanish have a word for that – Sobremesa – which is a testament to how much weight they put on hanging out and talking.  They talk so much, that everyone is typically talking at the same time because they never stop talking.

As an American, I have to say that I’m not quite used to this.  I’m trying, but god dammit if there’s never a day where I’d rather stick my head in a boiling vat of olive oil then to mutter a few weak phrases I’ve memorized.  Like a bad martial art, I have a handful of practiced phrases that only work at the right time.  Like a bad martial art, I’ll need someone to set me up just right so that I can execute my practiced maneuver.

When you first jump into the learning another language, you’re mind isn’t as blank as you’d think it is.  You can already speak a language, and you can do it very well.  I don’t think we realize how good we all are at speaking our native tongues, until we really give a go at speaking another.  There’s all sorts of techniques out there on quick ways to learn, on achieving fluency with minimal effort, but what does it mean to speak?

When you’re learning guitar, when do you say that you can play?  To say you “Can Do” something carries a lot of weight.  You are able to—what, exactly?  Play a song?  Mutter a phrase?  If I can cook an egg, does that make me Gordon Ramsey?  The sliding scale of ability does not link up to the words “Can” and “Can Not”; it’s like comparing black and white to a rainbow.

Bear with me for a moment, and try to imagine it how I see it:  When you learn anything, think of it like an incomplete web starting a stopping in random places.  This is how learning looks in the beginning.  Your knowledge is sporadic, you may know a thing or two but the dots have not been connected.  Sometimes, one piece of the web will link up to another, and the strength of that connection is dependent on the amount you’ve practiced it.  These come in the form of epiphanies.  As you learn more, this process continues, and the web grows larger and more connections are made.  The web you’re left with is the accumulated, executable knowledge you’ve collected and rehearsed over a period of time.

I like the web idea, because it’s closer to nature’s process of building by accumulation.  But we humans are not used to creating webs, we like to create square buildings.  When drawing analogies to learning we’ll say things related to building a house, like “Work on your foundations first”, and “Only once the walls are up can you work on the plumbing” *wink*.  But when executing, like speaking, playing music, or drawing, we’re not traversing through our building looking for a misplaced word, we’re scanning our tangled web of knowledge on a specific subject.  After a while everything has an equal amount of importance, and the advanced topics are no more advanced than the fundamentals.  Eventually, everything connects.

Anyways, enough rambling.  I needed to expunge some English out of my system like a bad case of diarrhea, and damn does it feel good.  Not deviating away from a target language is like waving a glass of wine in front of an alcoholic – it’s right there, it’s so easy, all you need to do is take it.  But the times when you spend the most effort, when you’re so fed up you want to punch yourself in the balls, is when real learning is taking place.

 

Buenos Dias.

Rapid Failure – How to Memorize Complex Objects

What it is.

Dog
An example of using Rapid Failure to memorize dogs.

 

The Rapid Failure method is a technique for memorizing the combinations of simple forms that, when combined together, create something complex.  Everything we perceive can broken down into simple shapes, which is a key principle in drawing.  If we memorize those shapes we can develop a mental roadmap that allows us to depict whatever we want, whenever we want.

I developed this technique while looking for a way to incorporate spaced repetition in drawing, thus allowing me to draw from memory.  I wanted something simple and quick and so far, it’s worked.  Here’s how to do it.

 

How to do it.

helecoptor
RF for an apache helicopter.

 

1. Baseline

  • Attempt to draw the object from memory, as best you can.
  • The drawing will no doubt be abysmal, but it’s important that you record a starting point for later comparison.

 

2. Observe

  • Open up Google and look for clear and precise reference photos, all from various angles.
  • Don’t dive too deep into details or anatomy just yet — look for large forms that you can commit to memory.
  • Compare the reference to your previous attempts.

 

3. Memorize

  • Put the reference away and draw the object from memory.
  • Focus on one or two major shapes, and draw them several times from several angles.

 

4. Repeat

  • Look for your mistakes a calibrate accordingly.
  • If you feel inclined, try drawing the entire object.

 

Benefits.

horse-02
RF for horses.

 

Once you understand how to draw a dog, that knowledge is transferable to every single quadruped that lives or has lived on planet Earth.

 

As the name implies, it’s important that you move rapidly.  But when I say rapid, I don’t mean move the pen as fast as you can — it means to not stop, to move steadily and continuously and to fail with purpose.

Use a pen.  It should be obvious that you’re not going to be erasing anything, and you want your lines to be bold and visible.

Working this way provides some great benefits…

Instills confidence.

  • When you fail on purpose, the fear of getting it wrong evaporates.

Improves line quality.

  • Line quality comes from confidence and control.

Increased awareness of form.

  • Form is paramount to a good drawing.
  • If you focus only on large shapes, you’ll naturally become bias towards depicting form over detail ( which is a good thing ).

The shape, form and construction of various objects is transferable.

  • Once you understand how to draw a dog, that knowledge is transferable to almost every single quadruped living on planet Earth.

 

If you have any questions, agreements or feel like antagonizing me, or a way this technique can be altered and enhanced, do me a solid by leaving a comment below.

Good luck, and have fun failing.

Build Your Blocks and Keep Them

 

buildYourBlocks
Build and collect your blocks.

 

Everything in existence — be it biology, computers, science, art — builds upon foundations from the past.  Singular blocks are combined to create a new structure, which are combined to create something new, which are then combined with something else to create something new.

 

Always create, and keep everything you make.  Finished products come from a collection of small finished products, and everything you make can become a building block for something larger.  It doesn’t matter what you do, this method of creation and collection can be applied to everything.

 

Figure Drawing Tuesdays – 160726

A batch of work from last night at the Artisan Asylum.  If you live in the Somerville area and have nothing going on during Tuesday nights, how come you’re not coming to this?

 

30 Minsimage1 (2) copy 2

 

I’ve been using a technique that I had no idea I was utilizing until last night.  I suppose it resulted from banishing pencils from my toolbox a while back and sticking with a pen, which forced me to draw the figure on my first and only pass.  It don’t know if it has a name, but let’s call it Triangulation, for that’s essentially what I’m doing.

15 Mins

image2 copy 3

 

Using the above image as an example, It’s almost impossible to determine the length of the model’s right leg without any other frame of reference.  This is why we sketch form and proportions before adding details.  I hate doing that — I like going straight to the details.  To find the length of the leg, I picture a triangle where one point is on the tip of the shoulder, the other on the tip of the knee, which finishes on the pelvis.  This creates the necessary angles, thus the necessary distances, I need to draw correct proportions.  I do this all the way down the figure,  triangle after triangle, stroke after stroke.

10 Mins

image3 copy 3

 

Triangulating the angles of the figure is a simple concept, yet the challenge lies in pulling off the correct stroke in a single attempt.  You can see in the above example that I made some errors, particularly in the shoulders of the top two drawings, where my initial angle was off.  Errors were made because I didn’t calculate the correct angle before laying down the stroke, thus I had to recalibrate.  Other mistakes are due to a lack of confidence, which — I confess — is fucking unacceptable.

 

5 Mins

image4 copy

 

The above 5 minute drawings are my favorites, for when you have so little time you don’t have space for second guesses.  You do, then you proceed.  Drawing this way, it all comes down to the quality of the stroke.  Everything else — anatomy, shading, weight, etc — is basic fundamentals.

 

 

A Common Theme in Creativity

I’m beginning the study of writing as a practice, mostly that of the fiction variety – how does one go about creating a story out of thin air?  After consuming and digesting several books and lectures until my eyes bled, the same principle of creativity has been presented yet again:  You are not the creative thinker, you are only the vessel.  Your best ideas are not your own ideas, they all come from somewhere else entirely.  Ideas that you have are just a starting point, but the finished product created itself.  You are just the gardener pruning the hedges, guiding the story along a path – otherwise it’d grow into a chaotic mess – and it’s your job to walk away from it ( call it finished ).

Take comfort in this when you begin your next project – just start from a seed of an idea and let the story present itself.  Let the little creative thinkers in the deep recesses of your subconscious do all of the creative thinking for you.  All you have to do is to put down what they tell you.

 

 

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Remain Inspired (Motivated)

cintiqFirst
::Motivation::
     Motivation is like building a sand castle on the beach only to see it dissolved by the ocean.  Section by section the sand castle falls apart.  Its base weakens, a tower or two collapses, eventually the whole thing comes crashing down.  Motivation seeps out of your system like sand, and this is inherent within everyone.  We humans forget easily and move on without effort.

     Consider the New Years resolution, and how it has become somewhat of a joke to make one at all.  People know that they’ll resort back to their old ways, they know that this new feeling of personal power is transient and will quickly evaporate.  If one does not renew the metaphorical Sandcastle of Motivation every day, there will be nothing left by the end of the week.

     I believe this is why people, like myself, move from one thing to the next without finishing a damn thing.  We know how to act off of motivation, we know what it’s like to be inspired and to have the need to create.  But our interests fade quickly, and if we do not remain aware of this we’re doomed to an existence of starting and stopping, a trail of half finished projects in our wake.

::A potential Remedy::

     Long term goals are good, but we must understood that a long term goal is not a matter of destination but of accumulation.    When we sally forth to make a new painting, the accumulation of effort will magically result into something that appears finished.  It’s then up to us to hang up the smock and walk away from it.  Accumulation is key.  As we are beings who live alongside Time, we can piggyback on Time’s passing and connect our small day to day accomplishments into one – a finished product.
     Consider what made you motivated in the first place, and revisit it often.  Revisit it monthly, weekly and daily.  Surround yourself with things that have meaning to the subject at hand.  If you want to write a sci-fi novel, throw Battlestar Galactica onto your desktop background, watch sci-fi movies, and read about the future ( while you write of course ).  Always try to stay one step ahead of that mighty ocean that promises to take your motivations and turn them back into sand.