anonymous asked:

Have you ever found it frustrating having to do something you don't want to (as in, doesn't tickle your fancy) but it helps pay the bills?

So, let me tell you a quick story:

My grandpa on my dad’s side came over from China when he was pretty young— grew up in Chicago. He was in high school when World War 2 broke out; he joined up, and was put in the 407th Air Service Squadron. It was part of the famed Flying Tigers fighter group, and one of the first all Chinese-American units in the military. He fixed planes. He also shot at them when they strafed the airfield. With a pistol.

He was there when the Japanese officially signed the surrender, and was honorably discharged soon after. The very first thing that he bought with his stashed up pay was a sterling silver bracelet with his serial number on it.

I keep it within sight of my desk at all times.

After the war, he went back to Chicago, but his father was already housing too many Chinese immigrant workers (up to this point, most Chinese immigrants were single men because of strict immigration laws and quotas), so he had to move to Detroit to live with an uncle and finish high school.

One of his high school teachers noted his artistic abilities, and recommended that he use his GI Bill to go to art school. Of course, his dad wouldn’t have it. So, he worked in laundromats, owned his own grocery, and later worked as an insurance salesman instead.

70 years later, I’m the graduate of an art school, and I’m taking a break from drawing to write this out.

I guess my point is this: the time that you use to pursue art has to come from somewhere. At some point, a sacrifice was made by you, or others, to allow you to have that time. Illustrators try to make a living in that intersection of art and commerce in an effort to lessen that sacrifice. There are some that are doing quite well at that. There are many, many more that are not.

Even those artists who we view as extremely successful have to sacrifice time. It just comes from other places: relationships, health, or family, etc. The real struggle then, is to find that balance on how you are spending your time.

If you know that a life spent making art is your ultimate goal, then doing things you don’t like aren’t really frustrations. They are necessities that must be done to give yourself time.

I think this is why I cringe every time I hear someone say that self-righteous creed of the “creative class”: “Do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.” That statement discounts all the hard work and sacrifices that you or others have made to be in that situation—what on Earth would entitle us to only work jobs that we love?

I don’t do this because I love it. I do it because I must.

It’s in my bones.

hey before you draw another pic of a tyrannosaurus not being able to brush its teeth or something because of its short arms or write another comment calling it a giant chicken because of its feathers remember that it was basically a bipedal semi-truck with a powerful enough set of jaws to bite through almost a foot of solid bone


Kinetic typography video narrated by Stephen Fry. Every time you want to pedantically correct someone’s vocabulary or criticize them for an imprecise word choice, just think of this video.

anonymous asked:

I know that to be a great artist takes a lot of discipline, and I am worried that I am way way way too lazy right now. How can I make myself more disciplined? How much time do you spend a day on making things?

It’s funny that you ask this, because I’ve recently been playing around with this idea of “how can I make myself more disciplined.” Here’s what’s working for me.

I randomly stumbled across a time-management system (?) called the Pomodoro technique awhile ago, and decided to try it out. Normally, I’d roll my eyes at any “technique” that has a trademark after it, but this one was simple enough that it didn’t seem too affected. The basic idea is as follows:

- Give yourself 25 minutes of uninterrupted work time.

- After 25 mins, take a short break to stretch, do other tasks, assess. 

- Every 4x 25min blocs, take a longer 15-30 minute break.

- Track all metrics, including: start times, tasks completed, times interrupted, break times, stop times. 

Here’s an example of my absolutely incomprehensible metric tracking:

Every 25 min bloc, I make a line, eventually creating a box. So every Box on my chart is 4x 25min blocs (or 4 Pomodoros, I guess).

So what does this chart say: first off, I start off really late. 10:30 AM! I tend to wake up really slow, and do other things like run, eat too much breakfast, and dick around on the net. 

Second, my peak productive hours are between 10:30AM-5PM, as I was actually increasing my rate of productivity (I started off taking 4x Pomodoros per piece, or two hours, but then as I worked, I cut it down to 3x, and even 2x right before dinner.) 

Thirdly, right after my peak productive hours, I get distracted. Hence the one interruption, then failing to complete a Box and going straight to dinner. My productivity drops as well (I’m back to 4x Pomodoros per piece). 

And this is just one day’s worth of data! I can compare this to other days to see if my assumptions really are patterns, AND most importantly, if I’m making progress.

The biggest thing for me though is the 25 minutes of uninterrupted work time. I got that timer above to solidify that as opposed to using a digital timer— I found that the tactile sensation of setting it and hearing it tick makes my brain go into “OK it’s work time” mode much easier. Make this time sacred: hide your phone, close your browser, pick music/podcasts ahead of time, gather all your supplies around you. Physically minimize your distractions when possible. 

As far as time per day goes, I consider myself a full-time illustrator, so I put in at least a full days worth of work: 8 hours minimum. But as noted above, it’s not uncommon to put in 12. I think it is important to have designated START and STOP time though, just to help put boundaries on your life. Too much work is unhealthy. Health, family, and friends always come before work in my book. 

Hope this helps! I think everyone probably has their own ways of doing things, but this is really working for me lately. 

Not Just Pedantry

The world of classic men’s clothing often feels like it’s filled with a dizzying number of arcane and archaic rules for how to get “properly” dressed. On one hand, I think people ought to not take these things too seriously. They are suggestions; not dictums. In fact, while I think these suggestions are useful, at the end of the day, you have to develop your own intuition for what looks good and dress according to your own eye. Not doing so can make you look a bit stiff; like you put on your clothes according to a “paint by numbers” diagram. 

On the other hand, these things aren’t just for pedantry. Knowing about the history of certain garments and how they’ve been classically worn can be quite useful. Take a simple issue, for example: knowing what details make a garment more or less formal. At one extreme of the formality scale is evening wear, such as the tuxedo, which is classically known as having a single button front, peak lapels, and jetted pockets. Less formal is the city suit, which can be a single- or double-breasted navy number with notch lapels and welted pockets. Less formal still would be a rustic sport coat, something like a checked tweed made with patch pockets, swelled edges, and possibly even elbow patches. The general principle here is that the more simple the piece, the more formal it’s considered, though each detail may have it’s own unique place in the canon (e.g. all things being equal, peak lapels are considered more formal than notch lapels simply because of their association with evening wear). It’s the sum of the details that make up the spirit and place of a garment. 

This may seem like a lot of unnecessary pedantry until you realize that these things could explain why a peak lapel, single breasted jacket might not look terribly right with a pair of country corduroys and Scotch-grain boots. Or why if you’re out shopping, you may want to avoid garments with contradictory details, as they’ll be harder to wear (e.g. an oxford cloth button down shirt made with French cuffs). Pairing shirts, ties, trousers, and jackets according to their formality, place (city vs. country), seasonal appeal (summer linen, winter tweed); and general aesthetic is what often leads to more successful ensembles. To do that, however, you need to know a little more about how a garment’s details defines it with respect to these dimensions.

Which is why knowing a bit about history can be useful. 

anonymous asked:

Hello John, Your work is incredible. How long did it take you to find your "voice?" I feel like I am still jumping all over the place and I don't really understand how I am supposed to focus and draw one type of thing all the time. It is making me pretty anxious, which tends to paralyze me so I haven't been doing any good work at all in a while. Thank you so much for everything you share, you are my hero!

First off, thank you!

I used to define “voice” (in regards to illustration) as “what you’re saying” combined with “how you are saying it.” Then, I’d make two fists and mash them together, as if that helped drive my point home. I’m a hand talker, guys.

I don’t know how other people define it, but for my purposes, that seemed like a reasonable definition: what and how? The big trick then, is how do you go about developing those two questions?

It’s funny that you say that I have an established voice, because I feel like I’ve only begun to scratch the surface. But, let’s take a look at the premier example of an established voice:

Ok, so that Rockwell guy. Pretty good huh? We closely associate Rockwell with hyper-rendered, almost saccharine-sweet depictions of a mythical Americana. In the majority of his illustrations, he shows us an America without murder, prostitution, sexism, and racism (although he would tackle this in other paintings later), etc. He was quoted as saying “I unconsciously decided that, even if it wasn’t an ideal world, it should be. So I painted only the ideal aspects of it - pictures in which there are no drunken slatterns or self-centered mothers…”

The key words there are “it should be.” So in countless Saturday Evening Post covers, he presented to the public an idealized America, shown in the most realistic way he knew how, in an effort to make it manifest. And in a way, he succeeded, mostly in part because we Americans are a sentimental lot. Flip on the TV and watch any commercials around Christmas, or July 4th, and tell me that America hasn’t bought into that mythology. 

So his “what”: an idealized America. “How”: realistic painting. What happens if you throw either one of those things off? Robert Weaver, one of the grandfathers of the “avant garde” within illustration, once said “I wonder how Norman Rockwell would handle this article I have to illustrate titled ‘The Psychological Complications of Being Left-Handed’?” 

It’s not that Rockwell was in any way limited by his voice. It’s that he had something very specific and personal to him that he wanted to express in the best way that he could.  And that’s how I think you should approach your own investigations towards a personal voice.

What is it that you care about? What is personal to you, and only you, that you can speak authoritatively about? What injustices do you see in the world? What stories aren’t being told that you think deserve to be? If you don’t think you can answer those questions yet, just sit down and do some writing. Start with what you know. Then branch out, get out of your head; go live your life, read books, have conversations, fall in love. All of this informs your work. 

The “how” is the technical side of this equation. It is your classes on color theory, your countless newsprint pads from figure drawing, and your experiments in your sketchbook. Honestly, it’s the easiest part. It just takes time and good practice to develop. 

And there’s one more little bit that I’d throw in there for good measure, and that’s “why?” Why are you making the work that you are? Dean Cornwell said this of Harvey Dunn’s Leonia school: “Perhaps the most valuable thing that Dunn taught us was honest dealing with our fellow men and a constant gratitude to the maker above for the privilege of seeing the sun cast shadows.” Regardless of one’s religious beliefs, I like this idea of “honesty and gratitude.” As an illustrator, artist, however you choose to define yourself, if you’re in this trade and you have the skillset, you have to ability to influence. What will you do with this ability?

For example, have you guys seen this illustration about “stop and frisk” that Richie Pope posted yesterday? Absolutely killer. I know that the subject matter is very close to Richie’s heart, and you know what? It shows, man. 

If you’re not making good work right now (and let’s be honest, that’s a hard thing to admit to yourself), then you should take heart: that means that for every failed piece, you are one step closer to finding that voice. And that means that tomorrow has the potential to be a much better place than today. You just have to keep at it.

YOU GUYS are my heroes. Images have power. Stories have power. You guys have superhuman, mutant powers. Use them for good.

This is fantastic for when people start quoting dictionaries during a discussion:

From Robot Hugs

Transcript below:

Changes in bold below.

Well, the dictionary definition of racism is -

Look, I’m going to have you pause here for a second, because I think you’re trying to make this dictionary definition about a socially complex word into an argument and it’s not going to work the way you think it will.

What’s it to you?

This is a large part of my academic research and my current career. I know a lot about this stuff, and it’s very important to me!

(linguist and information specialist)

Dictionaries are these man-made documents that are supposed to somehow be an authority on how we speak and write, but that is practically  impossible! No document could possibly capture the variations and nuances of a language.

ENGLISH: Volume 1

People seem to view dictionaries as being objective, like they don’t have a stake in what they’re describing, but that isn’t the case.  Dictionaries express a point of view, an opinion, nothing more. People insist on pointing to dictionary definitions in arguments, but they don’t consider whose opinion they’re pointing to!

Dictionaries as books describing language are historically prescriptive – that means they were meant to tell people how they should speak.  The movement to begin writing dictionaries from a descriptivist point of view – that is, to capture how people actually speak (language behaviour), was controversial and highly contentious.

“…We have seen the propped wide open in enthusiastic hospitality to miscellaneous corruptions and confusions. In fine, the anxiously awaited work that was to have crowned cisatlantic linguistic scholarship with a particular glory turns out to be a scandal and a disaster”

January 1962 Atlantic Monthly somewhat hyperbolic review of Webster’s Third Dictionary, a pointedly descriptivist body of work.

More like dick-tionary, amirate?

How crass – an offensive and uncultured colophony of degenerate speech.

Gasp! A neologism and an elision, in situ! I must record and preserve this precious language-butterfly.

The prescriptivist vs. descriptivist divide continues to this day, and most modern dictionaries for mass audiences try to straddle the two camps.

The writers and editors of popular and academic dictionaries have been overwhelmingly white, academic, straight men, and that has influenced the kind of language they have allowed in their dictionaries, and how that language is described.

Hey! We did our best!

It was (mostly) solid work!

Herbert Coleridge

Noah Webster

Frederick James Furnivall

So the language in dictionaries tends to reflect the opinions of white, straight, academic men on what is acceptable English language, including the exclusion and denigration of different dialects and usages.

For example, the struggle for the recognition of the grammatical legitimacy of African American Vernacular English has been hampered by a historical resistance by English dictionaries to include AAVE as acceptable usage.

Ahem! I think you meant to say ‘She is here’, not ’She be here’.

No, I meant what I said.

This bias within dictionaries continues to this day – while online dictionaries are more fluid and can more easily include changes and variations in language, dictionaries in general are still fairly static, and the authorities in charge of administering and editing dictionaries are still almost always white academics.

Even though many modern dictionaries are trying to capture different ways of speaking, new terms, and shifting definitions, they are still dragging behind them the weight of ‘proper usage’ and academic prescriptivism.

I’m better than this!

I’m not saying that dictionaries are useless – they’re really useful when I want to look up how to spell something, or the definition of an obscure word, or win points in scrabble.

Aha! See? “Norites” is totally a word!


Smaller speciality dictionaries and language descriptions that are written around certain groups, professions, or environments are especially useful as they are more likely to accurately capture actual use and, most importantly, are more likely to be written and edited by the actual language users in that environment.

Trans* and Gender Glossary

A guide to appropriate Aboriginal terminology

Paleontology Terms

What I’m saying is that when you look through a dictionary, especially general language dictionaries, you have to remember that it is not an objective document. It is a document with a history and a bias that is rooted in privilege, exclusion, elitism, and gatekeeping. This is why dictionary definitions are a particularly poor resource when trying to win arguments on topics like racism and other kinds of social discrimination.

The language describing systemic institutions of oppression, like racism, ableism, and transmisogyny is of more value when it is interpreted and defined by the groups it affects, not the groups in power.

Dictionaries often fail to capture how certain languages and terms have been used or excluded in ways that perpetuate oppression and violence against groups of people.

Language is spoken and signed and sung and yelled and whispered and typed; it’s invented and created and transformed and disposed.  Language doesn’t live anywhere, certainly not in one book.

I mean, quoting a book that is grounded in a history of a bunch of white men deciding what is appropriate, correct, what’s true, and what isn’t, that feels about as convincing as…

‘Well, the bible says….”

oh please.


There are people out there who are charging to give students advice about illustration, design, etc. I’m not talking about classes or anything, I mean like 15 min. chats. 

Students: hell no, don’t pay for that stuff. I learned from some amazing illustrators who took time out of their day to walk my ignorant ass through how this all works. THEY learned from people who took time out of THEIR days. We pass what we know down to the next wave, but we’re also PAYING IT FORWARD.

Nobody, and I mean nobody, has made anything of themselves without some kind of support. As one of my instructors, Mirko Ilic, put it: “We’re all standing on the shoulders of those who came before us.” 

To break that tradition by holding it hostage is pretty low in my book. 

Player Stats

In Dungeons and Dragonkin, your social justice warrior’s abilities are measured with five stats. These are:

  • Social Justice Cred (SC): This represents your SJW’s status in the social justice community, serving the purpose HP does in other systems. Doing well in fights raises it while doing poorly lowers it. If it reaches zero, your SJW dies.
  • Conviction (CON): Shows how much your SJW truly believes in their arguments. Statements such as “My identity as a toaster is real to me and nothing you say will ever change that” would be governed by conviction. It is both an offensive and defensive stat, serving the purpose of stats such as Strength and Constitution.
  • Pedantry (PED): Pedantry is a more refined stat, representing your SJW’s ability to pick out the small but significant flaws in opponents’ arguments, possibly avoiding having to confront their larger points by flooding them with minutiae. It is a nimble SJW’s stat, serving as Agility and Dexterity.
  • Jargon (JAR): Your SJW’s encyclopedic knowledge of labels, oppression schema, complex and multipurpose pronouns, and the dynamics of privilege that allows them to know exactly where they and others lie on the convoluted oppression matrix. This serves the purpose of stats such as Intelligence and Wisdom.
  • Rhetoric (RHE): This is the ability to bring up long-winded and complex arguments that are often too heavy for an opponent to even parse. If you’ve ever seen someone begin a philosophical discussion on the knowability of identity, then you know how RHE functions. A somewhat defensive stat, it takes the place of stats like Charisma and Willpower.

All four of these stats combined will represent the balance and style of your SJW, making them a unique snowflake even among others in similar situations. They are all used in combat in various ways, and each skill or ability has a base stat that it receives bonuses from.

Hopefully from the stats you can visualize the type of social justice warrior you want to play as. You could check the privilege of fiendish trollkin (or Homestuck trollkin) with your powerful and self-righteous conviction, precise and deadly pedantry, awe-inspiring and dizzying jargon, or incomprehensible and draining rhetoric.

anonymous asked:

Did you ever have a problem starting projects? I want to draw things and make a million things but then, for a reason I don't understand, I just end up not doing them. Do you think it is laziness or perfectionism or fear or what? I think about art all the time, I love it so and I think my skills are at a decent level (I didn't use to have this problem, it just showed up one day). What do you think? Thanks

I think that everything we do is fraught with fear. 

Like, I just tweeted that I’m afraid that my Photobooth is actually streaming when I’m taking awkward reference photos of myself. That’s dumb, but the underlying fear is that I’m a fraud who has somehow rolled down a hill fast enough to have some modicum of success and that my process, or lack thereof, will somehow reveal that. 

I’m afraid of seeing my receipt at the pharmacy, because my health insurance sucks and it always costs more than I think it will. I’m afraid of undercooking meat. I’m afraid that I’ll get sideswiped by an 18-wheeler on the highway when it’s windy out and I can see the truck bed wobble. I’m afraid of my cat dying. For the most part, I’m afraid of asking girls out. 

There are a million things that I’m afraid of. Some of them are legitimate, some of them are neurotic. Almost all of them aren’t really that bad, probably.

Making art is tricky, because it’s an unknown. We can’t say, “oh, it’ll be OK” because there is nothing to point to. Think about a full-sized sheet of crisp, pristinely white Rives BFK with no marks on it save the watermark. That makes me sweat just thinking about it. 

The unknown is scary. It’s uncomfortable. It’d be much easier to do something else that’s a little less pathfinder-y, don’t you think? Like playing Final Fantasy on your Gameboy, or going to trivia night at the bar. Or nursing. 

Most people seek comfort. If you’re asking this question however, then you’re not most people. 

Bernini said, “Never have I felt an errant stroke.”At the Academy, Sterling Hundley said, “get comfortable with being uncomfortable.”  It’s uncomfortable trying new processes, or drawing new things, or taking risks with your finances, or putting your personal stories out there, or walking into a magazine’s office for a portfolio drop-off, or getting rejected, or botching a job. But every time you do them, and especially every time you fail, you get better. There’s always the next, and then the next.

Until there’s not. And that’s the greatest, most legitimate fear of all: not having enough time. 

Chris Payne said, “time is the most important resource you have.” You can’t buy more of it, you can’t rent it, or whatever cliche you want to apply here. But hey, guess what:

You can control if you get up and make some damn art today. 

Also, no one ever died from a bad drawing (yet). So there’s that. 

In this life I want to:

  • make something worth a crap
  • buy my mom all the stuff she deserves
  • then die, probably.