We are all in this together.
Hello everyone, I had an idea of what to write about today, but Greg Ruth did it better than I could ever hope to, here is the link, and you must go read this and let it sink in a little, er, a lot. He brought up so many relevant points that it will take a few days to digest all of it, every word is gold. Please go prosper from the wealth he has provided.
I also want to apologize for the lack of engagement when you write back to the articles I have been posting over the last many months. Work grew out of scale for what I was humanly capable of accomplishing in the insane time blocks that were given. I was a zombie between milestones and I found myself tuning out rather than staying in the beat. When work is that overwhelming, I can usually no longer juggle a healthy lifestyle, whatever that means, nor can I conduct more than half a conversation at any given moment without thinking about why I’m not finishing the work I’ve been tasked with. I will be more punctual to the conversation, and again, I do apologize. So many wonderful things have been said and I feel terrible not having replied yet.
In our current situation, I am attempting to maintain my composure and contribute in the most beneficial way possible. I hope that what I write is not misconstrued as naive dialog, I am not trying to paint a sunny picture, I am focusing on maintaining a positive outlook and help us discern our role as creatives. There is a difference between being a creative and being a wrist, an artist by day. And I do believe that the Muddy Colors community is rich with creatives, so this is certainly for you.
So, this is that ubiquitous month-long vacation we all wished that we wish we could have had back before this virus became a reality crusher. But please, don’t tune out like you are on a vacation, instead, take the time to rebuild, refine, redefine, and reengage in those skills you have been looking to entertain but never quite found the time for. This is a skill building vacation, complete with self-help distractions, and burn off that nervous energy engaging in new skills.
Before locking-in to a dire mindset of “not sure what to do because the conventions aren’t running, and I have been a self made artist, no client list that I have established, no experience in commercial work, and what am I going to do now!?!” Back up a few steps and take a good look at one of the many titles your skills fall under, “Creative”, and think on that for just a moment. You are creative minded, you have creative ideas, and drawing, painting, sculpting, ________, fill in the art form, is but a tool to serve in executing those ideas, or, getting them out of your system and making them tangible. You have a bigger set of skills waiting to be tapped once you can see this for yourself.
Where do these ideas come from? Problems that need solutions. As artists, our ideas come from the turbulence and the inspirations that surround us, generated, fueled, and develop by conversations, the news fake or real, tv shows, books, comics, and/or video games and everything else in life we involve ourselves with. As an artist this creative lifestyle makes us a curious soul long after childhood, a wonderful trait that seems to fizzle out for so many somewhere in the mid 20’s, around that time when life “gets real”.
Being creative is a really good thing. You can see beyond a skill set, the idea is always bigger than the execution. It doesn’t mean that you are locked in as a draftsperson, or a painter, those are just the tools of your craft to help you articulate the creative ideas you have inside and the vision you have of things to come, or places never before seen. Those ideas are your gold. Ideas, concepts, thinking about something so deeply, researching about it, cross referencing it with other things similar, just to find a solution for how to articulate what you have discovered in that creative space is going to make you an expert very quickly, answers will not be too far off from there. Give them time to congeal, they will come when you least expect them to, and rarely do we have control over the duration of time it takes for this to happen.
Speaking of ideas, I have been reading a biography on Leonardo DaVinci, the master of a good idea. It has been very eye opening. One thing I did not know was that during his time, the person who could do many skills was highly valued by the king, as invention was important, and the person with adaptive skills and many talents were hailed as the kind of mind that it took to find the “next” and the “new”. It was encouraged to dabble in many different things because as human beings we have the capacity to do so. So very different from our world of today, where specialization has been the norm.
We have grown up in the post-industrial era, most of us were not witness to people who did so many things, and done very well with all of them. Specialization was an effect of the industrial era, where compartmentalization was key to the success of the factory, requiring specialists to run and operate just one part of the assembly line.
In mass production, this is a very good thing, and right now we could sure use this with toilet paper, medical supplies, and food stocks. But for each of us, it removed within us a notion that we can do a lot of different things, and do all of them well, all on our own. I am almost certain that back in the day when this behavior was more prevalent, those who did a lot of different things well did not label themselves any one of them, nor did they profess to how amazing they were with any of them; it was just the way things were and what they did.
This reminds me of a catch phrase that was once said differently than now, “A Jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one”. In this world where we value specialization, that phrase has been re-purposed to “a jack of all trades, and master of none”. This is just a minor example of why we have little faith in ourselves that we can do more than just one thing, that old dogs can’t learn new tricks, yada yada yada…
Thanks to the standards set in the public education system back before any of us were born, most of us are told, trained, educated into think that we are only equipped to specialize in one thing, and one thing only. (Here is where I have to go scream into a pillow for this horrible negative backlash caused in part, a big part by our broken and archaic education system.) Those few who we see do well with several different types of things in their life are tainted with the label of TALENTED, BLESSED, GIFTED, ______, you fill in the blank while I go wretch at this type of talk. This is simply not true. It’s all work; hard (not the same as difficult), industrious, enjoyable, passionate work.
This standard imposed upon us, that we can only specialize does not have to haunt you too, but you really have to be okay with letting go of some things that can impose harsh restrictions on the mind (subject for another controversial article), and be flexible and open to adaptivity. In a sense, this takes curiosity, which we all had at one point, and just need to shake it loose again to bring it back. You can find it neatly folded in the storage bin labeled “My Youth” buried away deep within your memories: time to go remember.
I was slightly “fortunate” to have had a glimpse at this rare type of homo-superior (David Bowie) although at the time I would not have called it a “good fortune”. I grew up envious of the adults in my family, how many things they could do, and not just okay hobbyists, but really well, like, borderline professional. It blew me away that they were amazing athletes, great musicians, artistic, skillful at constructing anything, articulate and very helpful, generous with their wisdom and knowledge. The feeling of inferiority often buried me, um, more like crushed me deep into the earth.
As much as I felt the struggle as real as struggle gets back then, that entanglement is what shaped me up, and gave me the confidence I have today, and inspired me to find those I sought out to learn from who were very similar in nature. More so, like that strange phenomenon of, once you’ve seen it done, it can be done again? I don’t do it like they did, but I sure as heck try, and yes, it can be done. We are capable of doing many difficult things in one lifetime, if we believe we can.
One of my grandfathers gave me a glimpse into what inspired(s) this kind of mindset during his lifetime, that you can do anything you set your mind to, and do it well. He said that times change, and the real affect of this is total social change, which reshapes everything we know. He lived through world wars and a depression, race riots, the equal rights movement, he was wise to this history. He continued on to explain that back then, to adapt, one must have many skills, and not just one. Industries would disappear overnight, the skill you were labeled a “genius” at reduced to ashes in a moment. Some skills would weather this change in some instances, but not always was this the case. Adapting to what was next was vital for survival.
It is a survival skill. We all have them, although sitting in the comfy creature comforts of a well-built home with a solid roof over our head, heated, fed, well slept, wearing comfortable clothing I chose for myself, typing on a modern computer does not at all feel like I am working hard on my survival skill savvy.
I’m a huge fan of human ingenuity; I think this is why I feel that learning about anything is so cool, so vital, which might be a reason I enjoy concept art so much. It mirrors reality and the problems that we have to solve regardless of its fabricated use. And learning something new and useful is such a rush that I hope that in some way these words get you hooked, maybe even addicted as well, and I am more than happy to be your dealer as long as it has a positive effect on you, which in turn will do so for others.
I am very biased in saying this because I just love learning, and will always have the bug for something new. But I cannot say this enough, “learn something new”. Add to the tool box. Spend time crunching the heart of the problem. You have no excuses at this point. You have the time. There will be a moment for you to scramble the jets and make a plan of attack, but for now, slow the heart rate, focus the mind, take a breath, and learn. And yes, you can learn more than one skill, and be really good at both, or all three, etc. You are not made to do just one thing in life, take control of that thinking and go own it.
Focusing on this skill building will take your mind off of the moment and help you escape, especially for those of you who are constantly looking for news updates and reading too much of all the news reports. Living in that stress can remove any quiet space needed for focus, let alone trying to find the inspiration and desire to learn something new. You have already developed a set of art skills; repeat the steps you took and how you got there with that something new. The baseline, or the foundation is the part that takes the longest to develop. If you have already developed that foundation, the next art form you take on will not take as long to develop, and you’ll grow to see how the arts are all so similar to one another, which will make them easier to take on and learn.
You won’t be neglecting your former art training or the tools you were trained to use. You are continuing on your artistic pathway, wherever that may lead you. The only that fades is the amble dexterity built up through repetition, which is but a few hours of stretching out those muscles and warming them up back into form.
Do be mindful of what is current, and what is relevant and try to aim for the “next”, and not the “nostalgic”. In other words, look towards the technologies and/or software at hand and to come, in place of trying to find another technical approach to the automotive illustration gouache techniques of the 1950’s as an example. If you are focused enough to learn how to learn, you will break down that gouache technique on your break time between learning that other “bigger” thing that will be a carrier changer for the future you.
Do not mistake this for “Don’t bother learning to draw better”, or aspire to bettering your craft. I am merely saying that some of the “technique type things” on our bucket list to learn are not as relevant as actual skill building. Skill build your art skills to the next level so that when everything does come back online, you are at the forefront of the next gen of artists contributing to that product, and in your spare time you are developing your new IP using that gouache technique you sleuthed during your breaks between jobs that help pay the bills.
Communication is huge, and the internet is going to be our tether that keeps us all connected for now, whether we like it or not. If you have been holding back from learning anything tech, please, engage in it now. I am not talking kicking down the cash for a subscription to Adobe or Autodesk, there are tools that put this problem to rest. The tools are very easy to use these days, its not all code based with scripts running mad matrix style in a blue side window reminding us how “not art” the moment is.
Gone are those days, we live in the OS or Open Source world, with fantastic programs that are absolutely free, and worthy enough that they are all used in Hollywood and the video game industry. Most of these open source applications are light weight and can run on any level of technology from an amazing machine to the one you donated to your parents many years ago.
Krita to replace Photoshop subscriptions, Blender to replace Maya, 3D Max, Modo, Houdini, Cinema 4D, and ZBrush subscriptions, DaVinci Resolve or Natron for Editing and Compositing software, and many more up and coming programs as well. These that I have listed and mentioned are industry proven.
It is time to sink your teeth into the newly emerging platforms that will shape the future of digital art and play with these tools that are cheaper than the internet service you have to pay for. Along with the OS platform is a robust, caring and sharing community, tossing up tutorials daily, albeit, you will have to endure a lack of professionalism in some of their presentations.
This goes with what I have been saying all along, that we live in an age where, as a creative, we now have all these tools at our disposal, and you do not have to have a mountain of money to produce a book, a film, music, or animations. It does take time to learn these tools, but…(and) right now is that time. There is always a “but” to address when you pitch hope.
My but to you is,” but” you have no more excuses. Right now, is the time to take steps towards a proactive period of growth and rebirth, healthiness and clear thinking. It will be hard to do, and it will take some getting used to, and it will take each other to help keep the other from falling down, but I am hopeful that from all of this will rise up a strong, mindful, creative bunch of inspirational people eager to take that torch and run with it into the future.
Maybe, as an idea, you make a bunch of art honoring those who are on the front lines of this new war we are fighting, turn it into a product that you can then sell to raise money for them, like the above piece of art was during world war 2.
I pose a challenge to all of you in hopes that in tackling this challenge you find a new path, a new use, and new potential in your skills, and have more confidence in your creative potential.
Problem solve this: currently in our world, we have _________ in upheaval, what can I think of that would help fix this problem. Fill in the blank with a thing that you have a tendency to focus on, because you like the subject matter, you were trained in it, or you are know so much about it you can’t help but see solutions for it. Avoid subject matter that frightens you or you have little to no patience for. Solutions will not be easy to design in this state of mind.
Make a physical list you can sit with anytime. Sit on the list like a hen on its egg. Blink three times. But really, kidding aside, sleep on it, think about it for a few days, then begin filling a page full of concepts that are rational, irrational, stupid, insane, amazing, egregious, ironic, irreverent, relevant to your subject, tap into its core, and before long answers will start to reveal themselves, if you are willing to look for them.
And so, you come up with this idea, but you have no resources. There is this amazing tool called the internet and chat room communities, Fiverr, and many resources like it that can help you make those ideas come to fruition. Be realistic, look for the loopholes, look for the snags, look for the unknowns and be willing to reach out to those who are experts for guidance, assistance, or a reference to assist you.
What changes are to come? No one knows for sure, but assuredly, they are coming and it will not be easy for the arts, and at the same time, we will be in great demand as we cleverly craft the images, jingles, stories, songs, signage, and slogans that will help inspire and motivate others to pick up the pieces and begin again.
And right now, there are a lot of problems that need to be solved. Pick one, and start creating a solution-based series of options that you think could make it work better. Something is going to make sense if we all put our minds to this task. A hive mind can see more clearly than any one pair of eyes. Share your ideas, your thoughts, and begin developing and shaping tomorrow, today.
This is a chance to finally test your creativity to its fullest, the world demands the employment of your creativity. Give it your all, and may you and those around you prosper from all the creative treasure that is buried within you.