Archive for the ‘Artist’s Process’ Category

Deliberate Practice. Mandatory.

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

[Hey! Before you read this post, ask yourself, “do I want to learn something today, or do I just want to look at some cool art?” If you want to learn before you look at the art, read on. If you just want to jump to some kick ass drawings, click here.]

Confession:

4 skater woodblock prints

All 4 of the Skater Series of Woodblock Prints

I haven’t been completely honest about these Skater prints I’ve been working on. These haven’t just been a quick, punk rock inspired project.

Don’t get me wrong, they are that, but they are actually about a whole lot more too.

Let me back up. The first of these was about about the punk rock and skate boards. I had been working waaaay too much in the Spice Mines (ie. in the office for my DayJob). I got home after a long weekend at the office, and whipped the first one out, because I just wanted to do something, and something quick was good enough.

I put on some punk rock, and whipped out the first skater woodblock print.

The next night, when I wanted to make another one, I realized I had an opportunity to learn and increase my skills as a woodblock printmaker.

Before I go any further, I need to dig into the concept of deliberate practice.

What is Deliberate Practice?

Deliberate practice is different from regular practice in that it is specifically designed to improve performance of a skill.

This all started when Dave sent me and Walter a link to an article about deliberate practice. I read the article, and started thinking about how to apply this to art.

I already practiced from time to time, most commonly in my sketch book, when I draw tomatos, art tools, whisky bottles, or whatever else in front of me. I focus on seeing the thing in front of me, and making my pencil follow what my eye sees. It is practice, specifically designed to improve my drawing skill.

I decided this skater series of woodblock prints would be my chance to apply deliberate practice to woodblock printmaking. I focused on two things in particular: how the wood effects the image, and the design issues of working in black and white. I’ll expand on these in a bit.

Who wrote the book on Deliberate Practice?

It turns out that someone did write a book about this, and fairly recently too (it’s not even out in softcover yet).

Geoff Colvin’s book, Talent is Overrated discusses specifically how deliberate practice improves performance.

Read this book.

Click the link I provided to Amazon, get the audio book from audible, or just go to your local bookstore and sit down with this book for an hour.

The characteristics of deliberate practice are:

  1. It is designed specifically to improve performance
  2. It can be repeated, a lot
  3. Feedback is continuously available
  4. It is mentally demanding
  5. Typically, it is not fun (or everyone would do it)

I’m not going to get into the nitty gritty, because the book does a good job. If you have any interest in being better at what you do, you owe it to yourself to check this book out. If nothing else, sit down at Borders or Barnes & Noble with this book for an hour, and read chapters 5, 6, and 7. Those chapters describe what deliberate practice is, how it works, and how to apply deliberate practice to your life.

Deliberate Practice applied to Woodblock Printmaking

I set out on this skater series specifically to apply these concepts of deliberate practice to my craft of woodblock printmaking. The subject matter didn’t matter much, and the whole punk rock thing actually didn’t matter much. In fact, these elements were included as an attempt to make this practice a little more fun (but you already knew that, if you only read the italics).

The actual focus of these prints was my ability to put an image onto a woodblock. I kept these images simple to accomodate this, and repeated essentially the same image over and over. I wasn’t trying to improve my craft of image creation, I was trying to improve my craft of carving wood, and working with only black and white design elements.

In particular, I focused on:

  • How fine of detail I can get out of a woodblock. There is a natural limit to how fine of a line I can carve into the wood, and have the wood hold up structurally (at least with the Shina wood and the carving tools I am using)
  • The most precise ways to carve a block. This builds upon the previous point, but I spent a lot of time carving the more detail heavy areas, like the hands and the face, to work on my ability to carve finer details. I also paid attention to the shape of blade I used, how different blades carve differently, and how the amount of pressure and the angle I hold the blade at effect the line I carve.
  • How to balance black and white on the image. A black and white woodblock print has a high contrast, and I wanted to work on creating a good balance in the image to get just the right amount of ink to make the image look best. I didn’t want it to look too sparse, or too dark.

From the points of view above, I can find half a dozen things that I did well, and half a dozen things I didn’t do well on each print (I may go through this exercise in the future).

Results of this practice

A lot of the prints in the 101 Woodblock Series were carved in linoleum, which responds differently than wood. The blocks that were carved in wood didn’t have too much detail in them. I needed this exercise to prepare for my next round of prints, which will have far more detail than what I have done previously.

As a result of this practice, I feel more confident about my ability to carve woodblocks. I know a lot more about how the wood behaves, and some more information about balance in an image.

As I prepare for my next upcoming woodblock print, I know what to realistically expect from myself, because I hae a better understanding of my skill. I will include some challenges in my next print, but not so much that I will try to do something that the medium cannot do.

I’m Not the Only One

While I’m not too sure that Jen purposefully approached her “100 heads” project as deliberate practice, it certainly seems to fit into a lot of the requirements.

What am I talking about?

After seeing a post about a bunch of students drawing 100 heads, she decided to do her own. It’s mostly her story to tell, so just click through to Jen Hiebert’s drawings and check them out. These things are seriously cool.

I met Jen through Twitter. What? Not on twitter? You are missing out on the internet’s cocktail party. Go follow Jen on Twitter here. (You can follow me too).

She mentioned this project of hers to me on Twitter, and mentioned that she learned a lot from doing this project. I had been thinking about this deliberate practice thing, so this jumped out at me. I imagine that she learned far mar by doing 100 drawings of heads than she would have if she had done 5 or 10.

Go check out this project of hers, because, well, it is cool. I like when people do cool stuff, then share it with the world.

Click here and go to her site already!

Might Be More

This Deliberate Practice vein is rich. I’m gonna be working with these concepts a bit more to figure out how to best apply them to art. I’ll probably write about it.

Be warned.

Fighting Entropy, Our Environment’s Effect on Productivity

Sunday, March 14th, 2010

I didn’t do any work yesterday, at least, not on Art.

However, I did spend a lot of time cleaning my apartment. What a relief…

My goals require a lot of work to achieve. I have no misconceptions about them. I’m in the business of putting art in people’s hands, and I’m on the long road to making that happen.

I don’t need a messy environment to get in the way.

I’m a slave to my Environment

I’ve become more observant in the last few years of how my environment effects me.

  • I am more likely to open up my computer and write when my desk is clean and orderly.
  • I’m more likely to head out for a morning jog when my workout gear is clean and easily accessible.
  • I am more likely to spend all day printing when I’m not tripping all over stuff laying around my apartment.
  • I am more likely to spend an evening drawing when my drawing pads are accessible, my pencils/pens are organized, and my dry work area is clean
  • I am more likely to make a healthy meal for myself when I have a clean kitchen and a fridge full of food

I work best in clean, minimalist environments. I dream of a desk with a computer, pen, pencil, pad of paper, and nothing else. There is a strange contradiction within me, however, because I have tons of stuff. I collect and accumulate stuff like crazy. Pens, unopened mail, electronics equipment, scraps of paper, plastic silverware, books, CDs, comics, you name it. It’s just hard wired into me, and happens unconsciously.

On top of my penchant for accumulating stuff, entropy seems to be a little stronger in my life than usual. Entropy is, of course, the Thermodynamic phenomenon that makes everything becomes less organized and more chaotic, unless a certain amount of work is done to keep it together.

Entropy. Lucky me.

I’ve got enough on my plate. Two full time jobs (one of which has a paycheck). In addition, a few other big initiatives in my life that aren’t quite relevant to this site.

The real lesson here is that spending all day cleaning is working, just not in a direct way. It is work at being able to work better in the future.

It is an investment in a healthy environment. An environment that will encourage my work, rather than inhibit it. An environment that makes it easier, and more enjoyable to work. An environment that speaks success to me.

Our environments, after all, are always talking to us. Our environment tells us who we are, how successful we are, what we do with our time, and what we should think of ourselves.

I for one want an environment that pushes me in the direction of success, that is specifically designed to do so. I need an environment designed to subtly turn and direct me to do and feel the right things.

Like all things of value in life, this takes work to keep in place. The work will pay you back though.

Are you creating Assets or Liabilities?

Like everyone, I read Rich Dad, Poor Dad, and learned the difference between an asset and a liability. The idea of assets and liabilities applies to environment, but in an emotional way. Your environment can be an emotional asset, providing support, and good feelings when you work, or it can be a liability, hindering your ability to work, and providing bad feelings when working.

I’m not talking about anything “woo” here, I’m talking about really practical, basic stuff. Is the desk you work on clean, and easy to work at, or is your mouse covered with crap, and you always have to move stuff out of the way to get work done?

Is your apartment/house clean? Or are you distracted by the fact that the dishes aren’t done and you need to do laundry if you want to wear clean clothes tomorrow?

My old printmaking station didn’t work well for me. It was small, and even more detracting, it was too low. I am tall, so standing up and working on a surface 30 inches off the ground doesn’t work for me. When I got a new printmaking work station, my workplace became an asset that encourages work.

For nearly everything that requires work, we can create an environment that promotes productivity and getting that work done. My experience is that if I don’t actively work to make my environment an asset, entropy will take over, and it will work against me.

Have you worked your environment to make it aid you and your goals? Make you more productive? Need some help with this? Leave a comment and let me know!

Mind, Body, Heart – In Revolt!

Monday, March 8th, 2010

I managed to get sick late last week. It’s been a slow-burn kind of sick, not completely debilitating, but making my body feel bad. I’m behind on health.

I’m also behind on work for DayJob, which has been the state of affairs for pretty much the last 2 months.

I’m also behind on making these little skater prints. The 4th is ready to print, but I haven’t found time to get to it, especially since I am teaching myself to make videos while I work. Video complicates things.

naked aggression

Like a naked aggression inside of me, pulling in different directions.

These 3 are pulling me in different directions – my body wants me to stop and do nothing (or just play video games and eat soup), my mind wants me to go to work and finish my projects, and my heart wants to be printing and emitting more stuff into the world.

This “balance” is a pain to figure out.

I put “balance” in quotes because what I mean by balance is more of a scheduling issue than an emotional issue. When people speak of “balance”, I hear them mostly talking about emotional balance. In other words, not being obsessed.

Obsession is just the way I roll.

Anyway, it turns out the mind is right, I need to get my work done (something about getting a paycheck).

Eventually I’ll be completely caught up, and be able to work to my heart’s content.

New Work Table = Productivity and Quality of Life Increase

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

Out with the old, in with the new!

I replaced the dinky folding table I was using as a printmaking work station with a new, improved, modular station of might:

3-part printmaking and painting work area

This work area gives me plenty of room to work, and a lot of storage for my materials. Check out the in progress painting! It's a portrait of a small child.

My new station is made up of three tall work surfaces (ie. kitchen carts) that sit side by side. The tricky thing about finding good furniture was height. Desks are made for sitting at, not standing at, and shelves tend to not be deep enough to give a good work area. Kitchen is made to be used standing up, and addressed both these problems.

This work surface is actually 3 separate carts that can be individually be easily moved. When I was shopping, I thought I was making a concession by buying 3 of these and setting them next to each other, rather than buy one large work table, but I was wrong to think that.

The modular nature of this work area is a benefit. I can move one of them around as needed to use as a stand to paint on (or do anything else, I guess). I am not confined to working along a particular wall.

Instant Upgrade

The effect on my workspace was immediate, and two-fold: I have a nicer work area, and this is a far better tool than my previous work surface (a small folding table).

work station in apartment

The new work station fits well into my small apartment.

I do all of my work in my small studio apartment, so I have to live with my work area. This looks nicer, and already is keeping me more organized, both of which make my living space more enjoyable.

The real advantage of this work area is it will be easier to work at. It is taller than my previous work table, so I won’t be bending over for hours at a time when I am printing. I can move the painting section around my apartment as needed, I have been freed up to work where I would like.

As soon as I got this station set up, I knew I made the right decision to upgrade. This work area feels more professional, and I will be able to make more professional work here.

Invest in Yourself

The quality of our work areas effects our performance, I am a firm believer of this. When I have a messy desk, it is harder for me to get to work at my computer. Any impedance to our ability to work will make it harder to get stuff done.

It is always worth the time and expense to upgrade a work area. My upgrade has already made me more productive (and I haven’t even used it yet), since I was able to move all of my painting supplies off of my desk (my other work area) and onto a cart.

If you have been thinking about upgrading to a better work area, or getting better work furniture, do it. You will be happy you did.

How to be a Part Time Artist (or anything else!)

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

My DayJob takes it out of me. Especially this week, I am filling in for a co-worker that had to leave for a week and a half on a family emergency, in addition to my normal workload. My job isn’t that physically exhausting, after all I sit at a cubicle for 8 hours, but it is mentally exhausting.

It actually doesn’t matter how busy I am at work, I still get home exhausted. Just being somewhere and having to have my brain turned on and ready to think for 8 hours is tiring.

I’m not in good shape when I get home. The work day leaves me tired, unfocused, and hungry. This is a problem, since the evening is when I work on my art. Being worn out, tired, and looking to sit down, eat dinner, and relax is not a productive way to be.

I don’t have much of a choice, however. Great art does not make itself, and I will not be a great artist as a weekend warrior, only working on Saturday and Sunday. The weekend may work for those of you that are hobbyists, but I do have aspirations to be a professional artist. That takes time.

In fact, I consider art a second job. The difference between my art career and my engineering career is that my art career is completely dependent on the amount of time that I spend working. My engineering career requires pretty much just 8 hours a day.

If you are building a small business of any sort, or getting serious about a creative passion, you probably run into the same problem that I have, finding the time. In hopes to help, here are 3 things that have had a major impact on my ability to get to work, after work.

First, Take A Break

If you work a long day, the first thing required is a break. Last night, I arrived home from work at 6pm. I put on some left over home-made chicken soup on the stove, and put some bread in the toaster. I changed into warm, comfortable clothes (it is unusually cold in San Francisco this week), sat down with dinner, and read some comics.

Eating dinner and reading comics is an activity that relaxes me. I can get absorbed in the activity, without it requiring too much thought. After an hour, I felt refreshed and ready to work on something, much more so than if I hadn’t taken the hour off.

My activities during this break effect the rest of my evening. When I spend an hour on my computer, or watching a TV show or 2, I don’t feel quite relaxed afterwards. Reading relaxes me, and is different enough of an activity that I don’t feel like I am still working.

The key is to do something you enjoy for an hour. That may be reading, spending time with family, talking on the phone with people, folding laundry, or just about anything. I know what works for me, and I’m pretty sure what works for me won’t work for everybody, so this requires some brainstorming on your part.

This hour is my transition hour, and I take full advantage. I relax, eat, take care of chores like dishes or laundry, and remove distractions.

Removing distractions has been so important it gets an entire subsection. Look:

Remove Distractions

There is no greater enemy to productivity than my computer. This is strange to say, because my computers are indispensable tools for everything I do (this is an internet business after all). My entire sales, marketing, and success plan depends on both me and you (my customer) using computers all the time.

My computer is incredibly useful, sometimes. For others, like making art, it is a distraction. When my computer is on, I usually have iTunes open, my email running, Twitter open, my RSS reader waiting, and if I am a real glutton for punishment, I’ll have Facebook fired up.

Being so connected keeps me from getting anything done.

In fact, when I sit down to write in the mornings (like I am doing now), I don’t fire up any applications other than text editors. I know that if I even glance at my email, I have lost time. My attention shifts to that, and it takes time to get it back, if I get it back at all.

My computer is my Number 1 source of distraction. I know I have to remove this to get anything done. Your distraction may not be a computer. It may be television, a family, the telephone, or even that pile of unfolded laundry that you keep thinking of.

During your relax time and your work time, get rid of distractions.

Facilitate Work with Cleanliness

I have been stopped stopped dead in my tracks from working on my art by a big mess.

I have two main work areas in my small studio apartment. The first is in the main room, I have a work table set up. This is where I do my printing, and anything else that requires a lot of flat surface space. When I work at that table, I usually use my coffee table and surrounding floor as a staging area, and secondary storage.

My second work area is my desk next to my kitchen area. My apartment is quite small, about 450 square feet. Pretty much everything in here has to pull double or triple duty. This desk is my work desk, kitchen table, and drawing table all wrapped in to one. When I draw or carve a block, I work at my desk.

Both of these areas are often overcome by one of my less desirable habits — I am messy.

My apartment is entropy in action, slowly changing shape from order to chaos. I have to continuously work to keep it clean. I take stuff out, don’t put it away, move stuff around, and generally make a mess.

When my work area is a mess, I am far less likely to get any work done, because I know I have to clean up, and I rather dislike spending time cleaning up.

When I constantly put a little diligence into keeping my work areas clean, it is far easier to come home after a long day at DayJob and get to work for the evening.

If you can dedicate an area of your home just to working, that is best. You can make that space be the “work only” space, and not use it when you are not building your business part time. If you have to use your every day areas of your home, keep them clean, and it will be far easier to get to work.

What About You?

Are you building a new business part time? Using your hours after work? What do you do to maintain energy and focus after a long day at work? Let me know in the comments.

Thinking in layers, Part 2: Order Matters

Friday, December 4th, 2009

Now I’m gonna really mess things up.

Last time I talked about how colors mix together on paper after they are printed, which increases the total number of colors you can get from any number of blocks. By overlapping the areas that blocks print, 2 blocks can print a total of 3 colors, 3 blocks can print 7 colors, and 4 blocks can print 15 colors.

The order that those blocks are printed influences what the mixed color is, as well. If one color is printed on top of another, the color created by the overlap of those two colors isn’t the same if the printing order is reversed.

This quickly ads up to a whole lot of possibilities and choices to make.

Here’s a look at this phenomenon:

Colors mix differently with different printing orders

Colors mix differently with different printing orders

The picture above shows the same two panels of color, but on the left, the green panel is on top of the orange panel. On the right, the orange panel is on top of the green panel. The resulting color created where these two colors overlap is different depending on which color is on top.

In the above example, the mixed color can be a brownish shade of either of the colors. The trick is, it can’t be both. One of the artistic decisions of a printmaker is which order to print the blocks, and which colors will be on the print as a result.

Typically, an artist/printer will print a number of trial prints, trying out different color combinations until settling on a color combination for the final edition. These trials can be as lengthy a part of the printing process as printing the edition, but it is worth it.

The final print often benefits from this type of experimentation. Colors do not always mix the way that we intend them to in our mind, the only way to figure out how two colors will look is to mix them up and put them on paper.

Some considerations:

1. The colors will mix differently based on how transparent the colors are. In the above image, the transparency of each panel of color is set to 67%. This isn’t the exact equivalent of working with inks, but it is close enough to convey the concept. Printing inks are mostly opaque out of the tube or can, transparency is created by adding a transparent medium. I consider this transparent medium the most important can of ink that I have.

A more transparent color has less effect on the colors beneath it

A more transparent color has less effect on the colors beneath it

The more transparent medium I add to the ink, the more transparent it is (duh). The thing to keep in mind is that if a very transparent color is printed over another color, it won’t effect the color underneath much. It will show up a bit on the white of the paper, but the pigment underneath it will overpower the transparent color.

The image at the left is the same two colors as above, but the transparency is increased quite a bit on the green color. This image was created with photoshop, so it does not completely represent how inks behave when printed on paper. If this was printed on paper, the light green color would probably be more visible where printed on the white paper, but hardly perceptible where printed over the orange. If this were printed on paper, the areas where the very transparent green ink overlaps the orange would probably look more like a glossy coating over the orange than anything else.

2. Some colors print more strongly than others. The CMYK process colors (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, blacK) are usually printed in that order. If a yellow ink is printed underneath a blue or red hued ink, it will not be very visible. The other colors printed over the yellow ink will dominate it and wash it out. Yellow is usually printed on top of the other colors to give it a fighting chance.

Yellow seems to be the weakest link amongst ink colors. Green and Orange can inherit some of this weakness as well, if those colors are created by mixing yellow ink. (Greens and oranges straight from the can or tube can be a bit stronger than home mixed versions)

Ok, enough color science for today. I’ve gotta go to work at DayJob now!

Thinking in Layers

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

I’ve been working on a new block for a couple days now, and this one has been a bit of a challenge. I know that this block is going to have a companion block that goes with it, and the two will take advantage of how colors mix when they are printed in layers.

Two separate colors

Two separate colors

One block for every color

Generally, with woodblock printing, for each block, you have one color that is printed. To create a print with three colors, three blocks are needed.

You can see this to the left, in the beautiful image I whipped up to demonstrate this. It would take two woodblocks to print this beautiful work of art.

(Aren’t the colors lovely? Well, at least they demonstrate the point well)

With opaque ink, one-block-one-color is true. Each layer of ink will cover up any other layers of ink under it. With out-of-the-tube ink from your local art store, this is the sort of behavior an artist can expect from their ink.

This is a bit limiting, and luckily for us there is a way to get more from our blocks and from our color by using a little bit of transparency in the ink.

I cheat the system 

My most important ink I have is transparent. It is just ink medium, without any pigment. I add this to my other inks, which are opaque, to add some transparency. The more transparent medium I add, the more transparent the ink becomes.

This creates opportunity, and along with opportunity comes complexity.

Two colors overlap to create a third color

Two colors overlap to create a third color

Transparency allows the ink to mix on the paper, so that one color will show through another color a bit. They mix to create a third color.

This neat little image on the right I whipped up in Photoshop shows how this works. When two blocks overlap, and transparent ink is used, a third color is created where they overlap. Using this technique, 2 blocks can print 3 colors.

Extending this out to more blocks, 3 blocks can print 7 colors. 4 blocks can print more colors than I care to figure out (11 15, I think, but it is early in the morning).

This hurts my head to think about

My current block is giving me quite a challenge, because I know that it will be printed with another block, and the two will interact to create a third color. When I carve the block, I have to keep in mind that some areas that I carve will be left white on the final print, and some areas will be filled in with the second block. Some areas will be defined by how the two blocks overlap, and I have to leave those areas intact, so that the two colors can print together.

It is interesting to carve a block in this way. Often, I carve blocks with a “black and white” frame of mind. Color will print on the block, except where I carve away.

With this block, I am considering the shapes that this block will print, the shapes the second block will print, the areas where they overlap, and the areas left white by the paper.

I finished carving the first of these two blocks last night (took 3 evenings). I have a busy couple of days coming up, keeping me from my art through the weekend, so I won’t get to the second block till early next week, but look for updates then.

Be An Artist: Get a Sketch Book Today

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

[Be An Artist is a new series of posts I am starting – each gives a quick, actionable tip to help you start making art today]

The artists most valuable tool is his sketch book.

It is also a good test of your commitment to art.

One of the two most important things I need to do every day is draw. (the other is to write, which I’m doing now)

I actually didn’t get any time for drawing yesterday. I spent the entire weekend in front of my computer writing the emails and recording some audio content I am going to send you when you sign up for my newsletter.

By the end of the day yesterday I was pretty fried, and didn’t get to it. I should have though.

Anyway, enough about me, onwards to you!

What do you need?

Getting started with a sketch book is pretty low overhead. It doesn’t require much. For about $20, you can be in and out of the art store with everything you need.

Required items:

  • A sketch book
  • Some pencils
  • A pencil sharpener

That’s it.

Take some time when you are buying your sketch book. You are going to be stuck with it for a while, so make sure it is something you like. Don’t get too nice of a sketch book though, I don’t want you to have something so nice that you are hesitant to “mess it up”.

I use regular old pencils that I you can get anywhere, and a cheap plastic pencil sharpener, the kind you can get at your local drug store.

Glenmorangie Bottle - Ink and Colored Pencil

Glenmorangie Bottle - Ink and Colored Pencil

For Over Achievers

For those of you that aren’t satisfied with mere graphite, here’s a few more things you can get to spice up the sketch book.

  • Eraser
  • Colored Pencils
  • Oil Pastels
  • Pens/Markers

This will give you the ability to mess around with some color, and do more in depth drawings in your sketch book.

What to draw?

Good question. It doesn’t matter though.

I even draw myself - Oil Pastel Sketch

I even draw myself - Oil Pastel Sketch

An artist’s sketchbook is for herself, not for others. It is a tool to improve and hone the skills an artist needs. to this end, it doesn’t matter what you draw, it only matters that you draw.

I like to draw whatever is around me.

If I am drinking a cup of coffee, I’ll draw that. If I am sitting on my bed, looking at my desk, I’ll draw that. If I just bought a bottle of Scotch, I’ll draw that.

The what isn’t as important as the how. The point of the sketch book is to improve the skills of seeing, processing what you see, and turning that into line.

Create a habit

The best way to make sure that you draw on a regular basis is to make it part of your daily routine.

I draw in the evenings, after I get home from work. I draw for an hour. I either make it the first thing I do when I get home from work, or the last thing I do before I go to bed.

I need this sort of structure and habit, but another structure might work better for you. It does take effort though to make it happen.

You will be pleased with the work you do, as long as you stick with it, and your progress will amaze yourself.

= = = = = = = = =

The images in this post are from my Flickr account. Check it out by clicking here. There’s not much on it yet, but I am starting to fill it up.

Your 1 Most Important Activity

Friday, November 20th, 2009

Something you can do today is more important than everything else you will do.

Jack Daniel's Bottle Sketch

Jack Daniel's Bottle Sketch

There is one activity, one thing, that will help you to get what you want, create your masterpiece, or advance your career.

For me, this is drawing.

Despite all of the marketing I may be able to muster, the success of my art is going to depend ultimately on the quality of my art. Since I am not an abstract expressionist, I need to be able to draw (though I would argue that even abstract need to have strong drawing skills).

Drawing is the primary skill that all of my artwork flows from. Without drawing, I can not make art. I would then have nothing to sell and nothing to market.

I need strong drawing skills.

I have recently started a habit of drawing every day, for around an hour. Implementing a habit takes time, but I know that I need to implement this habit as a non-negotiable habit. It is, after all, the most important thing I can do.

I have started very simply. I draw things that are around me. A couple nights ago I drew the desk in my office. Last night, an empty whiskey bottle. What I draw isn’t as important as just doing it. The ability to transform lines into an image, and to recreate what I see on paper is a fundamental skill.

I will not succeed without it.

Everybody has a “most important thing”

This idea does not just apply to artists and drawing.

Whatever you are creating, one thing is the most important thing to do today. If you are a blogger, writing is the most important thing for you to do. If you create iPhone apps, writing code is the most important thing to do. If you are dieting, then exercise is the most important thing for you to do.

The people who succeed are the people that do their most important activity every day, no matter what.

What is your most important thing?

What is that most important activity?

It is the one thing that you cannot have success without.

If I did not have this website, my email newsletter, and mobs of admirers, there is a chance I could succeed on skill alone. It may not be likely, but it is possible.

The successful people are going to be those that do whatever they need to do to succeed, every day. If you do it so much it becomes habit, all the better.

Overachievers are ok too

I lied. I actually have two most important things. One is drawing. The other is writing.

I have two jobs. One is as an artist. The second is as a marketer. The success of each is supported by success of the other.

As a marketer, my most important activity is writing. I’ve written about my morning power hour elsewhere, but maybe I’ll bring it back up here one of these days.

My alarm goes off at 5:45 every morning, so that I can sit at my computer from 6:00 to 7:00 am and write. I write blog posts, email newsletters, sales copy, etc. The important thing is that I write. Sometimes I have no idea what I am going to write, and that’s when I produce that blog post that kinda sucks.

It is more important to write something badly than to not write at all.

I separate my two jobs into morning and evening. In the morning, before I go to DayJob, I am a marketer. When I get home from DayJob, I am an artist. Each of these times has its most important thing to do.

What is your most important thing to do? Leave me a comment and let me know.

Why Printmaking? (A Study in Polarity)

Thursday, October 29th, 2009

Why don’t I just paint, or draw, or sculpt, or something like that?

It might be easier, and less time consuming. I might be able to whip out art much quicker. I wouldn’t have to explain the difference between printmade original art and industrial produced prints of art (ie. posters).

I love printmaking because the process of creating the print is so relevant to the final product. Of course, the process of every type of art impacts the final work of art that you make. How the paint is manipulated on the canvas decides how the painting will look, how the metal or clay is moved, welded and joined decides how the sculpture will look.

With painting, drawing, and sculpture, the work done has a direct impact on the final result. Printmaking is a little more indirect. The artist carves a block of wood, which is arguably where the talent to create an image comes into play, but then that block is printed, which is more of a technical process than an artistic one.

The process of transferring the ink from a printing plate or block to paper is very technical. It requires precision and proper methods.

Printmaking requires two sides of me: the artist and the engineer.

The artist in me creates the image, decides how it will look, carves the block, decides what colors should be used, and what feeling or thought I want to put into the finished art.

The engineer takes over to figure out how to mix the inks, how transparent the ink should be, how to line up the multiple blocks so that the print registers well, how much pressure is required to transfer the ink, and how much drying time is required before the next layer of ink is applied.

Both parts of this process interest me, and engage me. In order to make a print, I have to engage my creative side, as well as my technical side, and so I feel much more balanced when creating prints.

Printmaking engages these two sides to me like no other method does. Painting, and even drawing to a degree, are much more of a purely creative endeavor for me, and my paintings tend to be more emotionally charged than my prints, because painting does not require the same balance of my different ways of thinking like printmaking does.

This makes a little more sense knowing that by day, I am an engineer. I am registered as a Professional Mechanical Engineer in California, and spend my days designing water treatment and utility systems.

My job is all technical all the time, so I need art to create that balance in my life between those two poles. As a printmaker, both of those poles have to work together to create my final product.

That’s why printmaking is such good stuff.