Killing your darlings

Time in relation to art is a funny thing, because the amount of time spent is in no way an indication of it's quality. Sometimes time does benefit a piece of work, but artists can also spend so much time on something that's BAD. Why?

One theory: the vision becomes precious.

Recently my instructors have been pushing for more iteration. Try a composition 50 ways and then figure out which one works best. If you've exhausted all the options at the beginning, then you can be confident in the direction you take and possibly stumble upon something you never would've thought of the first 10 times. This can be difficult if there's a particular vision that sticks in our mind. We think we can already see the perfectly finished piece and we just want to jump in and work on it, and work on it, and work on it... only to realize there was probably a better solution.

BUT I ALREADY DID SO MUCH WORK!... So what? If it's not clear, it's not successful.

I'd rather start over again, and again, than settle for something I can tell isn't working. I'm not saying starting over is always the answer, but it's important to be open to change and explore all the options. Most important is not getting precious about a piece of work. Care about what you do, but know that at some point you may have to let go of what you thought it should be, for it become what it needs to be. 

“In writing, you must kill all your darlings.”
— William Faulkner

I mostly hear animators say this, but I love hearing about a character wanting to do something as their working. Glen Keane was talking about the end of Part of Your World when Ariel reaches her hand out of the grotto, and he said "I didn't want Ariel to do that... but I couldn't stop her, she did it."

Our artwork has a mind of it's own. In entertainment we're working with characters, and they become real. Listen to your work, and respond. 

 

Posted on July 2, 2016 .

Happiness

Tis the season to be jolly... so let's talk about happiness.

Thankfully this has been surrounding me a lot recently. Not just because of the season, but because I've chosen to live happier. It seems simple but it's not always an easy decision to make. Of course we all want to be happy, but sometimes there are less than pleasant circumstances that make it difficult to see the brighter side.

There are two things I've learned that make happiness a little easier.

1. I can't change the negativity others bring, but I can change my reactions and who I surround myself with. Again, not always so easy. Sometimes the negativity can come from the closest people to you. Family and friends should have your best interest in mind, but they may not be able to fully understand the journey you're on, and that's okay. There are also just some haters out there too, it's unavoidable. The only thing to do is to trust yourself and know that you will find your people. The people that do understand, that share your mindset, and will push you to succeed. When you find them, spend your time with those that make you better and support the person you're becoming.

2. Happiness is not a place of arrival, it's a choice to make every day. "I'll be happy when..." has to be the worst way to start a sentence. There's no job, no vacation, no event that can dictate a schedule for your happiness. If you're waiting for "that thing" to happen, then you'll miss it, every time. It's important to have goals, and yes reaching them will bring a sense of joy, but that's just one brief moment. Don't let where you want to be, stop you from being happy where you are. It comes down to the cliche of enjoying the journey, and I didn't fully understand it until now.

“Happiness can be born out of pain and struggle, out of striving for worthwhile things. When you feel that you are in control of your life and an active participant in the content of your life, that’s when you come closest to feeling a sense of joy.”
— Don Hahn, author of Brainstorm.

I usually like to write about things I struggle with because I know I'm not the only one, and it's always comforting to hear others speak up about theirs... But right now I couldn't be happier, and I want to share these good moments too. Do I have it all figured out? Definitely not. Do I have everything I could possibly want? Of course not. I'm just trying to be the best version of myself that I can. That means being thankful for what I have, optimistic about the future, and choosing to be happy exactly where I am.

Posted on December 17, 2015 .

Life of the Hustle

After two nonstop years at Art Center, it was clear I needed to pump the brakes. Last term I was spending 12-18 hours at school and I was burnt out. So this semester I decided to take a leave of absence. The first couple weeks were spent at home in Florida visiting my family and friends, and I didn't do one piece of art. Taking time off is important. It's a chance to recharge and sometimes re-evaluate things.

I came back to L.A. and less than 24 hours later I was at Art Center. I'm also taking classes at Concept Design Academy and the Animation Guild. Plus an artistic competition that is now in full swing. I'm still in the computer labs or at school at least 5 days a week. People think I'm crazy, but the hustle never stops. 

There's a lot of cliches on working hard and doing what it takes, and I love hearing those motivational messages. However, they're only background noise if we don't act on them. Every successful person will tell you how much they worked to get to where they are, and it's terrifying. There was nothing I was doing that I was willing to give up such a huge part of my life for, until I found my passion. So since I'm working toward that, it's not a sacrifice. I'm still terrified, but for different reasons. I still make sacrifices, but for the right reasons.

After hearing everyone else talk about their hard work and success, I decided it was time to do some of my own. It can be a trap if you listen to those things and don't go out and do it yourself. Don't live vicariously through other people's hard work. Don't convince yourself that you've put in the same amount of effort when you haven't. If you're not seeing results, there's a reason. Look at what you're currently doing, and look at what you could be doing. I realized I could be doing more, so I am.

The path to following your dreams is not as idyllic as it sounds. It's a struggle every step of the way, but it's not impossible. Believe in it and do it.

Posted on December 5, 2015 .

Perseverance

If I had to sum up my experience at Art Center thus far, with one word...

per·se·ver·ance (ˌpərsəˈvirəns/) noun: steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.

The struggle is real, let's be honest. It's been very real for me these past few weeks. Each term there's usually a moment of panic, frustration, or exhaustion. However this was an overwhelming lack of motivation, and it's probably the longest I've ever been down. Getting stuck in a rut is bad, but it's worse when you can't find a way to get out. I tried my usual methods of reinvigoration, but nothing seemed to stick. I talked to my teachers, mentors, and other students about it but nothing changed.

I pushed though. I came to school almost every day and tried to do some piece of work. I couldn't wait for the moment that I felt inspired or ready, because I had no idea when that feeling was going to come back. At Art Center you DO NOT want to fall behind in your classes. I already had the flu this term and was in bed for about 8 days, so there wasn't any more room for me to slack off. So I did the work. It may not have been my best, it may have been incredibly difficult, but I persevered.

That's all you can do sometimes. There's no secret, no magic formula, no right time. You can't wait for the motivation, you just need to have the will-power to push forward and have faith that there's a light at the end of the tunnel. Keeping that faith is hard, because you won't always get what you want and it will seem like an endless tunnel. Just know, that we've all been there, and we will all be there again. There will always be mountain tops, valleys, and plateaus but it's all a part of a great journey. I'm going to quote a very famous wizard with a killer beard...

“Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”
— Dumbledore

I'm finally coming out the other side of the tunnel. There are 4 weeks left in the term and I know I can't give up now. I just know that all this frustration will eventually lead me to my big dream. No matter how bad I feel, I remind myself everyday that I will make it there soon. My passion for my dreams is so strong that it keeps me going for at least another day, another project, another rut... and we just keep moving forward.

Posted on March 16, 2015 .

Creative Confidence

The saying goes: "You can do anything you set your mind to". So as kids we all want to be astronauts, firemen, or doctors (none of these were actually on my list to be honest). Then we get older and discover that these goals are very difficult to obtain, we find other interests, or maybe even just settle for something that will pay the bills. We may never return to those dreams, or think about "what we want to be when we grow up". Some people might even say that you will never amount to anything and even if they try to say it in the nicest way possible, you'll always have that in the back of your mind... You can't do it. Well I'm already beyond the things people thought I would never be able to achieve, and you can do it too. If you want it you can get it, do it, be it. What they don't tell you is that the journey may be long, difficult, and frustrating, and you'll begin to wonder if that dream is worth all the trouble... Why is it so difficult? Does this mean I shouldn't be doing this? Do I have any talent?

“I got accused over the years of being a fine draftsman. Actually, I don’t really draw that well. It’s just that I don’t stop trying as quickly. I keep at it. I happen to have high standards and I try to meet them. I have to struggle like hell to make a drawing look good.”
— Milt Kahl

Many of Disney's famous animators, the Nine Old Men have been quoted saying similar things. Milt Kahl is one of the best of them all, and if he had to struggle, then don't be surprised when it's not so easy for you. So many of the people you admire went through years of failure before they got to where they are, you just don't see it. So all of a sudden they seem to be creating amazing things, and all you know is the final product. The product from years of struggle and failure, that will no doubt continue, no matter how "talented" someone is. In my opinion, talent isn't anything more than willpower. The true talent is the self motivation to go and work as hard as you can for the thing you want. That's why they're so good. 

With that said, I'm surrounded my enormous amounts of talented people at my school. They've done the work and surpassed their awkward, horrible art phases, and are beginning to create wonderful things. It's ridiculously intimidating. Some say that you should surround yourself with people that are better than you, but it's hard not to let it kill your confidence. I don't know where I fit in among these people yet, I just know that I have to be patient and work harder. Comparing myself to people with more experience is useless, I need to focus on getting that experience so I can be as good if not better. So that is exactly what I intend to do and hopefully I will look back at all the trouble, and it will be worth it.

Posted on March 19, 2014 .

Paint The Sky

I want you to look back to some of the pictures you colored as a kid, or any of the kids you know now. If the pictures are anything like mine, the clouds will be blue. My art teacher in about 4th or 5th grade saw me doing this one day and said clouds are white, the sky is blue. Obviously I knew this, but I replied with a surprised "Oh!" as if I didn't even realize I was doing it.

I've been trying to think about why this happens. Are we trying to save our crayons? Are the rounded shapes more fun to color? Do we not want the large sky background to distract from the rest of the image? Is it just being lazy?  Is it the easy way out of coloring in the whole big blue sky? (You'll probably have to ask a child and see what their answer is, when you do I'd be interested to hear the answer).

It seems that artists today still do something the quick or easy way without even realizing they're doing it. I probably have, but I don't want to. Art is most interesting to me when it challenges the viewer, and if you're the artist it's more fun to do something challenging. Where's the fun in doing the same old thing?! Go explore the big blue sky!

Posted on February 7, 2014 .