spratt's soapbox

Apparently my 10 year high school reunion is this weekend. While too busy to go, it did prompt me to do a deep dive through some old art from a decade ago during my last semester of Walton high school (as well as some truly harrowing photos of me as an angsty teenager). At that point I didn’t even know that I wanted to be an artist (or if that was even a real job) – but a deep fear of any career relating to math, an obsessive desire for self-improvement, and 10 years of drawing shitty drawing after shitty drawing, it eventually clicked enough that I understood that human faces didn’t look like … that. 

Now, I don’t wanna sell the whole generic motivational idea of: “SEE anyone can make it, just work really hard, look at me” line of thinking as I had/have numerous advantages that others do not – with what I look like, where I come from, what I believe, or what I was told I can reach for, never being an impedance. That being said, for any young person reading this that hasn’t been lost to cynicism yet: Man I hope you get the chance to try to do something you love. I hope you have the opportunities you should and people that tell you that you can. I hope that the only barriers for your success are talent and hard work – because that shit can be built even when everything else seems broken. And if the barriers you face are bigger than that, I hope you overcome them against the odds, working harder than I had to even when you shouldn’t have to, just so that the world gets to see what you can do too.

anonymous asked:

You're an extremely talented artist that could represent anything. Why do you choose to depict celebrities and iconic figures? I believe your artwork could have so much more merit and can contribute much more to society then just entertainment. You even have your symbol as the golden spiral, which I find rather smug for an artist who creates "fan art". I don't intend to offend, it just greatly bothers me to see such a talented artist create advertisement and I would like to know why.

Oh boy.

“Smug” is arbitrarily thinking that one entire genre of art is less than another. 

“Smug” is anonymous back-handed compliments that insult an entire group of artists while trying to police what I choose to make.

“Smug” is thinking that you bestow merit to art and decide its value or contribution to society — or that it needs to do that to begin with.

“Smug” is believing that advertisements are something that automatically lessens art when some of the best painters and works throughout art history, from Leonardo to Caravaggio to Rockwell and Leyendecker have worked in advertising for clients (churches included).

“Smug” is looking at my portfolio of hundreds of paintings over 3 years that cover dozens of genres, styles, subject matters, clients, and sits everywhere from the internet, to billboards, album covers, magazine covers, galleries, newspapers, movie posters, bus-sides, books, homes of friends, strangers, and celebrities, and still choosing to think that I am one thing — a thing that is just as valuable to me as everything I’m paid for professionally.

“Smug” is being a smug dicklet and throwing in “I don’t intend to offend” to cushion the smug dickletishness of it all.

“Smug” is not seeing a simplistic connection between realism in painting and the golden rule that is genre-irrelevant, but again insulting an entire group of artists while commenting on something you haven’t bothered to understand. 

But most of all, “Smug” is thinking that I, or any artist, owes you anything. We can make whatever we want, however we want to. I will keep making advertisements, I will keep making album covers, I will keep making posters for games and movies, I will keep making all that I’m hired to do and choose to take on, but I will also keep making fan art because despite the merit or value that you’ve decided it has — I want to — and that’s all the reason I need.

Take your soggy waffle compliments and fuck the fuck off. Viva la fan art.

10 Things I've Learned In The 2 Years Since I Graduated From Art School

I graduated from art school 2 years ago, here are some things I think I’ve learned. In the words of my current client, Donald Glover: “I’m not saying this thing is true or not, I’m just saying it’s what I learned.”

  1. Creativity Is Recession Proof” were the words plastered over the novelty T-shirt I bought in college, and it turned out to be the most honest piece of clothing I have ever, and likely will ever own. Sadly… it also shows my nipples. 
  2. The Internet is the world’s most powerful tool. With great power, comes… you know the rest… or maybe you don’t, since you’re scrolling through facebook or tumblr. The way you share creations is almost as important as the creations themselves.
  3. Advertising is worth the shame. My first illustration job out of college paid 20 dollars an image – a feeling not unlike getting mugged by a paraplegic sloth – yet every time those 20 dollars filled an empty wallet, my name and sites were sent off into the ether to hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people. Now some of those people pay me 100x-1000x that for illustrations. Why? Maybe because I make nice things, but more likely? Because with every underpaid image I made, I made someone, somewhere, remember my name. 
  4. Don’t “fuck the haters”, embrace the hivemind. The “haters” will come in many forms: sometimes with criticism based on personal preference, sometimes with nonsensical attacks that seem like youtube commenter vomit, and sometimes with actual advice disguised as “hate”, saying what you’re doing wrong and what you could be doing better. Not everyone is a sage, not everyone is right, but they are worth listening to, if only to put a pin in to see if you hear something like that again. You will literally never be above improvement. There is no plateau, keep climbing, and pay attention to what’s around you, even the guy shouting through a megaphone while jackhammering directly underneath a potential avalanche. 
  5. Waiting for inspiration is like waiting at the DMV: It lasts forever and if you don’t know enough, you’ll probably still fail at the end. Nike your problems away by just doing it… “it” being something. You can wait and wait for good ideas, you can consume books, magazines, websites, and music by the truckload, desperate for something to trigger some sort of eureka moment, but if you just write your shitty lyric down, lay your shitty brush stroke down, or take your shitty photo, you’re on the right to track to actually making something good. I have made many terrible things, some of which remain terrible but served as stepping stones to better things, some I transformed into rather nice things, and I learned more about myself, the world, my work, technique, appeal, and a million other tiny factors from simply doing something, even when it failed.
  6. Work to play. Be an idiot when you’re young, like… college-young. I was quite an idiot in college but I could have been even more of one and probably have been just fine. However, when you leave… leave the party there. If you give up a lot when you leave your childhood behind, and put your all into boring grown-up things like “work”, “money”, and “responsibility”, it genuinely doesn’t take much time to get the freedom you had in college back. The only difference is that instead of keeping the party going to distract yourself from a job you hate and rent you can barely pay, you can kick back and enjoy the party when you choose to on your own terms, if you even care about doing so at all. In other words: Stop it with this YOLO nonsense, why you are taking a filthy-rich, diamond-selling recording artist who was on a Canadian TV show’s acronym of wisdom to mean: “be an idiot always and forever because fuck it, I’m young”, is beyond me. He worked hard to be able to wear $6000 socks, he didn’t “You Only Live Once” his way to them.
  7. There are a lot of people more talented than you, that’s something you should know, but never accept. I’m regularly embarrassed by the quality of my work when I look at the hordes of artists superior to me, but you have time to spend, knowledge to gain, and skills to practice for the rest of your life. Your place amongst the world has no finality to it, you can always be more.
  8. A friend who will stab you with a knife in the front is worth your weight in unicorn blood. Friends will back pat and backstab, occasionally becoming bloat and baggage, but if you should be so lucky as to find a person who cares about your success enough that they will outwardly knock you down a peg or ten with the truth so that you can better yourself, don’t toss them for the easier friend. Even lone-wolf-alpha-dog-max-payne-type people need a little help along the way.
  9. Karma is a pretty damn good business model. I have hunted for clients before. I have barked up their trees, aggressive and hungry for work, failing to get it every time. I have also done a lot of personal work, just for fun, but executed seriously. Many of these would be labelled as “fan art” – depictions of pop-culture icons with my own odd twist that I put out into the world – some of which I pour dozens of hours into. Traditionally, when I finish work with a client, I ask: “So, how did you find me?” almost every time the answer is: work of mine they saw on the web that I did for shits and giggles. I put good in, and in time (thanks to item #2), I get good out. There is no science or stability to this beyond the notion that if you work hard enough and if you can make your work seen, you will be rewarded. These are the naive musings of a 23 year-old, remember?
  10. “Art” is a shitty word that people will tack on to anything these days. Just focus on creating, whatever that may be, however that may be, do it well, and do it because you love it.

I consider creativity to be mostly associated with innate ability to connect ideas, but this is heavily honed and individualized through environment and experience. Your ability to craft new thoughts isn’t just fabricated from nothingness – it’s evoked from linking information together, seeing commonalities, and sorting through it all. Where you live, how you’ve been raised, what you believe, what you’ve believed, the books you’ve read, the pictures seen and taken, the stories you’ve told and been told, the sounds you’ve heard, fists thrown, cuts bled and felt, the feelings for others: strong or mild, the tastes, smells, colors, travels, time passed, and even the blur of imagery you passively consume as you scroll through your screen: the more of the world that you absorb and connect – the easier it is to make sense of it visually in your own unique way.

This is why I encourage technical understanding and relentless practice over anything else: Your life will dictate so much of what you create as an artist, the best you can do is to never let your skill set limit how you’re able to express it.

Being a good artist isn’t altogether different from being a good writer, physicist, athlete, doctor, lawyer, panther, or any other profession/wild animal. There is a back catalog of preexisting rules, guidelines, techniques, history, and even ethics and culture – all of which need to be studied and applied practically through relentless practice.

Art, in its most technical and creative forms – isn’t something that belongs to these special gifted snowflakes – it’s for anyone. How relatively good or knowledgable you get at it, is just a simple matter of much you’re willing to let it consume and permeate every fiber of your being. That willingness to put your entirety into something to the point of obsession, regardless of what it is – that … that’s something that might not be in everyone.

anonymous asked:

Hey Sam, I'm trying to find my style in illustration. How did you find yours?

Today I was waiting to cross the street at a corner in Brooklyn. Now, in New York, animals are pretty cozy being near humans and you really need to aggressively invade their space for them to flee in the same way a non-city-dwelling self-preserving animal would. So when I was standing at this street corner and this tiny bird was unflinching, walking near my feet, and then started awkwardly hopping directly in front of a car making a turn, I panicked and jolted after it to herd it away from being crushed. While this definitely angered the driver, I did succeed in getting the little thing onto the sidewalk — however, I quickly noticed that its wing had clearly been extremely banged up.

I don’t particularly like animals, I’ve never owned a pet, and am not a terribly compassionate person, but I do have the bare-minimum feeling of “I don’t like seeing things die” so for the next 10 minutes I chased and scooped this little fucking bird around trying to keep it on the sidewalk because it kept hobbling back into the middle of the street. At one point my scoop-throw resulted in it getting solid hang time and seemingly soaring off, only for it to quickly arc back towards me in a boomerang fashion and hop back into traffic. I looked like an absolute idiot, I’m sure that I got all kinds of weird bird diseases in the process, but I was so frustrated by this bird’s poor decision making that for those 10 minutes, I kept with it. It hopped to its near death, I scurried after it and scooped it back onto the sidewalk. Hopped again, scurried, scooped, saved, then back again. It was like helping every friend anyone has ever had who makes terrible choices and then continues to make them. Eventually though, my patience wore thin and I wasn’t about to take it home, nurse it back to health with a tiny yet adorable wing bandage, and become emotionally invested in its well-being only for it to one day fly away. So I walked away. Most people did just that from the get go, others stood and watched, some would make awkward little half-steps to try to help too, and after I left, maybe someone far better took on the potential heartbreak and made a micro-wing-splint out of toothpicks and tissue paper, then lovingly named it Pidgeotto … but I was presented with a situation and I handled it in the way that felt natural to me. It was exactly what I would do. There were a million other things to do instead that could’ve been more helpful, more interesting, more evil, more apathetic, and everything in between — but this particular set of actions was mine — the most natural thing I could do.

I tell you this dumb little story as a response to your very explicitly artsy question, because a) deal with it and 2) style just isn’t formed through a plan. It’s not a set of rules and guidelines that you follow and check off as you create a painting. If I need to lay down a brushstroke, I’m not thinking how I should do that, the length, the pressure, the speed, the color, the variation, the texture — I’m just laying a line down in the way that feels most natural to me in that moment. I can gather a thousand images that other people have made and say “I like these colors or this lighting or this line work or this composition or this whatever” and I do, but at the end of the day, I can only like those styles passively because when pen meets paper (so to speak), my personality and affinity for doing things in my own way will always beat out what’s right, wrong, better, worse, trendier, sexier, uglier, or different. We CAN follow guidelines to make our work look like other work or to do what seems like the most obvious choice when confronted with an injured bird with very poor self-preservation skills, but I found my style through dumb little situations like these where I wasn’t following a bible of moral or artistic codes, just by doing exactly what I would do. Not my fantasy version of myself who can paint exactly like Caravaggio and heroically slow-motion dived to save an innocent bird from an Escalade driven by Hitler while Natalie Dormer watched, but the one who paints like I do and bumbles around swearing at a bird to not get itself killed for 10 minutes and then giving up because there was a clear language barrier between us and I wasn’t prepared for a long-term commitment with pidgeotto.

anonymous asked:

What, in your opinion, has been the biggest effect of the internet on art?How do you get noticed in the contemporary art scene when there are so many artists on the internet and social media? With so much plagiarism and emulations of artworks, how do you keep your artworks so original? How do you make sure you style is distinct so that people know it is yours?How different is it selling art online then in a gallery? What are the main differences?What inspires you and helps you come upwith ideas?

1-2. What, in your opinion, has been the biggest effect of the internet on art? How do you get noticed in the contemporary art scene when there are so many artists on the internet and social media?

The Internet has allowed more people to discover art, do so easier, and thus enabled more people to be and aspire to be artists — and I think that’s neato burrito. There’s no magic recipe for getting noticed because different people, different styles, and different subject matters resonate in different ways with vastly different groups of people. I once genuinely believed I had an answer to this question like a big ‘ol idiot, but that was hilariously naive as what worked for me was based on such a specific series of choices and moments. Vague answers blow but straight up lying is worse so to that I say: “I don’t know, I have a billion theories that I could talk about for days.” That said, one small aspect that I do believe helps strongly is being a real person with a name, a personality, a voice, and a face that people can like and dislike. 

3-4. With so much plagiarism and emulations of artworks, how do you keep your artworks so original? How do you make sure you style is distinct so that people know it is yours?

Well, not plagiarizing other people’s work is really the key here. While creating something wholly original from start to finish in a vacuum is always an option if you’re a witch or exist in a less interesting parallel universe, it’s not really a realistic standard nor a realistic thing that you would ever need to do — even some of the most imaginative/”original” scenes people have created are researched and remixed. More likely you have source materials — either through ideas or references, that you can choose how to handle. If you want to copy one source directly — maybe it’s a press shot, advertisement, or still created by other people — you’re obviously welcome to do that (it can even be good practice), but for whatever you make to be substantive and valuable on its own merits (mostly in regards to anyone who would hire you), or be original even though it’s not wholly so — it shouldn’t exist anywhere else in that specific form.

It should be made having referenced the source material, materials beyond that source, references created on your own, and tied together through a technical understanding and personal treatment. When I’m painting Freddie Mercury, I can’t have the majestic snowflake that is the lead singer of Queen stand in front of me, but also just copying existing photos of him would add nothing to me painting him — so I have a folder on my computer with literally hundreds of photos, both of him and not, videos of him performing or speaking, and embarrassing pictures of myself in gym shorts and leather jacket that I took after researching him and sketching out poses — all of which then contributed to me having a full enough understanding of him to paint an image of him that is very Freddie Mercury, but from the light to the pose, to the expression, the colors, the brushwork, to the composition — doesn’t exist anywhere else in any form. It’s not a masterful achievement, it’s simply effort put into making one new thing from many existing things, and years. This isn’t the only way to do things — not even close — but much like your personality is distinct in how much you understand certain areas of knowledge, your work becomes distinct through your understanding of it as well. Personality, in humans and in art, is really just your individual interpretation of knowledge. Style is often taught as a “thing” you add to your work to give it a “hook”, when more often it’s just the natural progression of us figuring out how to interpret what we know. Especially when dealing with realism, it’s a lot of work simply to make something new of old ideas, no matter how many — but it’s worth it because it can (not always, I’ve failed many times, but it can) stand on it own legs, rather than on the legs of someone else’s existing interpretation.

5-6. How different is it selling art online then in a gallery? What are the main differences?

Very. Seeing something in person as a tangible object makes people more likely to respect it and thus pay more for it. However seeing and being able to buy something online without leaving your home is both convenient, often more affordable for the consumer because it’s deemed less valuable than on a white wall (however, will then sell more of), but most importantly (and I think this is why the Internet and Art together are the bee’s knees) — art online is largely stripped of the arbitrarily pretentious vibes of the common gallery that alienate people not normally into art from buying or even just appreciating it in some form. I don’t particularly *love* galleries because they push away a large number of people who aren’t already inclined to appreciate art — they have definitely have value and purpose, but can definitely be off-putting.

7. What inspires you and helps you come up with ideas? This is literally the worst fucking art question there is — it is the soggy floor waffle of questions and everyone knows it. It’s garbage. Garbage garbage garbage. Garbage. Just awful. There is no question more vague yet with more obvious and similarly useless answers. It’s just the worst. The absolute worst. It’s not your fault either grey-face. Art education makes it seem like it’s a question that should be asked — that has meaningful responses — but it’s just the underside of a desk used by someone that constantly picks their nose. You know what you’re going to find and it’s not going to be remotely helpful. Neither was this.

luxuryofconviction  asked:

How do you feel about the use of photographic references in the making of photorealistic/realistic portraiture or paintings? I've recently found that using reference photos has allowed me to elevate my paintings considerably, but I always feel like a hack when I do--and people always seem to be disappointed when they find out that I used a reference photo. Advice? [Some paintings at elosee(.)tumblr(.)com if you're curious]

Well first, do understand that the vast majority of the best realist artists in the world use photo references in some form. Not just now, but since photography became available, artists from Courbet to better known like Rockwell used reference heavily — hell, even the magical master painters we learn about in art history were doing everything possible and utilizing the latest technology in order to reference reality to make their works. That ranged from technical devices to grid out the scene in front of them to make capturing proportions easier, to physically dissecting musculature as reference. If you feel inadequate for using what literally some of the greatest artists in history use, that seems rather strange to me.

Now, while I think that how you use reference is entirely up to you, do understand that it comes in many forms and people respect its use to wildly varying degrees. There are hyper-realistic artists who literally just painstakingly replicate a single photo in various mediums. Some of these artists are massively respected, but creatively — many just view them as human printers, a technical marvel, but nothing more. 

Many comic artists these days actually use 3d programs to create rough cityscapes and buildings in perspective that would be very complicated to freehand, even one of the gods of illustration, James Gurney (of Dinotopia fame) uses references, both photos and actual miniature models of dinosaurs that he lights and shoots. Does this lessen their work? I don’t think so — if anything, it shows an astounding levels of creativity utilizing multiple art forms and technologies to better your craft. Hell, a ton of concept artists literally use photos and 3d renders by their fellow staffed artists as portions of their paintings. A concept artist’s utility is often to bring to life ideas of a team and doing this makes sense in their workflow: not needing to replicate existing assets, while still employing an incredible amount of understanding of form, function, light, and space. 

For me? Though several years ago reference was used individually and directly in many instances as I tried to grasp the basics of realism, as I’ve worked to improve my understanding of form and light, this changed years ago and continues to. I use many, many references of the people I draw so that I can make a pose, expression, and light that exists only where I’ve created it — and if I have an established area to reference, I can imagine the rest. Things like the Janelle Monáe covers for example, they gave me thousands of photos, but neither of the final images they wanted existed in any form — expressions, hand positions, emotions, body language, lighting, hair styles, clothing, accessories, environments, they’re all things that don’t exist yet, but tiny fragments of them do scattered across a thousand pictures that helped make the final paintings possible. There were times when I painted her mouth closed but because I had a full sense of what she looked like in every angle in many expressions, when they wanted me to redo it with it open, while keeping her other features in line, that was a simple request. When I had to design her neck piece or reflective skull from imagination, that was fine because I had a reference for how the light worked on skin and cloth so I did similar research in my studio of how it might reflect and refract across some imaginary space-age chrome. For me, this is where I feel happiest. Where reference plays a large role, but it’s observed, researched, and understood instead of directly replicated. I struggle constantly and I’ll be spending my life trying and failing to figure it out, but that’s exactly why I love it — it’s observational problem-solving. That’s not how YOU need to use it, but like most debates in the art world, how you do anything will be judged in a mostly arbitrary manner that negates history as much as it expects you to adhere to its misconceptions.

My best advice is to create how you feel best about what you’re making. I place labyrinthian limits on how I make things simply because I feel better about it when I’m solving my mistakes instead of shortcutting around them. You should enjoy creating things and if you’re doubting yourself, create new rules that makes it exciting and fun again. Often the challenges we place on ourselves elevate our capacities the most.

anonymous asked:

Sam I need your help. During critique, my classmate told me, "Your realistic rendering is too much for this project." Basically we had to reconstruct a self portrait by cutting a grid on our self portraits and rearranging the squares into a new composition. How do you feel about this? I feel very discouraged doing realism and I'm pretty much the outcast to this "conceptual/abstract" art school.

Art education should absolutely challenge you to think and create things that you don’t want to and in ways you don’t want to. Students, hell — people, even the smartest and most talented ones, are stupid in contrast to the many wells of knowledge that are in front of them. Your peer critiques should challenge you, not agree with your preference — it helps open you up to new ideas and new tastes in the long run.

I think of it a lot like food actually. Kids are often given fairly simple and repetitive foods when they’re younger — sometimes it’s just what they like, sometimes it’s entirely based on the convenience and history of their parents, and sometimes it’s because dinosaur chicken nuggets are amazing. But as people grow older, many venture outside of their sauceless, spice-less, and dinosaur-shaped processed food staples, and get a little freaky-deaky with their dinner. It’s not all great, but you try it, and gradually start building a palette and preference for certain aspects of many different dishes.

When I first moved to Brooklyn and saw the widespread hipster menu items of grass-fed organic truffle-wrapped gluten-free whateverthefuck covered with a something reduction and shmancy aioli sauce — I thought: this is pretentious, overly complicated, and weird — not unlike how I felt about abstract art for a very long time. But I tried that obnoxious food and despite my preconceived notions — really enjoyed many aspects of it. I didn’t care about the gluten-ness or organic-ness of it all, the backstory statement of a food was still as obnoxious as an abstract painting’s artist statement, and they could easily rename it “yummy food ball” , but it was damn good and opened me up to many more kinds of food, and even ways to bring elements of it into the foods I was more comfortable with.

I’m with you: I love my realism. I love my dinosaur chicken nuggets. But when it comes down to it, how I create things today is a product of trying new ways to make it. Non-objective and abstract art made me see color, texture, composition, and negative space in a way that realism never did. As frustrating as education on every level is, as fundamentally flawed as it is in numerous other ways, you will have time to do things YOUR way and on YOUR terms. For now, be annoyed, be frustrated, challenge it, but don’t make the mistake that many people do (including myself for a period of time), where you just dismiss other ways to create. You can find merit in many areas of life if you immerse yourself in them, even ones that at first seem a little freaky-deaky. 

anonymous asked:

Do you constantly look at artists and compare yourself to them? How do you keep yourself so grounded but also being bigger and better than other artists? (honestly) how do you place yourself between artists you look up to and artists you are "sort of" competing with?

I’m only grounded if you mean “accepting of current reality.”

The very obvious current realities are that: there are MANY artists far more talented and experienced than myself, I have MANY flaws and shortcomings on my own without putting me among others, though I often feel old and curmudgeony — I’m only 25 and have a lifetime to improve, anything I’ve achieved that might feel decent to one person is minuscule on someone else’s scale, I’m not competing with anyone because that’s not the way the painting/illustration world works (it’s not like Drew Struzan has insecure rap feuds with James Gurney about who has finer kolinsky sable brushes), and quite frankly: me acting or feeling anything more than this is bullshit and detrimental to my betterment as a person and artist.

I don’t worry about what other people are doing or try to place myself among them because … whatever I do or don’t accomplish in life or in art is simply not contingent on them. Fabricating a hierarchy among a group of people and then trying to plop myself among or above some of them instead of working on myself? That just provokes ego, madness, lies, and twatwafflery as people scramble to seem bigger and better than one another (seem being the key word). I just wanna make things and get better at making them — accepting my own massive room for improvement is basic reality (a reality that exists regardless of anyone else) — it’s the people who believe they’ve already figured it out that I’d question.

Look, I spent the vast majority of my life waking up at 1pm and wasting most of my day doing some variation of “nothing”. I was a below average student prior to college and a well-below average human during. I didn’t find some useful tidbit of information or motivational quote to stop being this way, I didn’t gradually gain a work ethic by following certain steps, can’t say I found spiritual powers, and I’ve never stopped being the easily distracted person that I’ve always been. Bees.

It’s not a rare secret or hidden factoid that to get good at anything you need to put an enormous amount of time and effort into it. It’s truly the most basic shit in the world – I know it’s hard to do, that’s why people write 300 page self-help books about it: getting people to buy a book they’ll never read to help themselves is easier than actually doing anything. All I did to change is: one day, I just decided to actually do it. I woke up early, got coffee, got shit done, then continued to get shit done for nearly every hour I was awake, and have been repeating that ever since.

That’s it. Put your time and effort into things that are meaningful to you and give up the rest. It’s basic. Wake up earlier. Do unimportant things less. Work more. Work when you’re feeling uninspired, when you’re sick, when you’re tired, when you want to go oontz oontz clubbing, when you want to quit everything and lay on the ground scrolling through tumblr … just … work instead. If sitting cross-legged with a laptop on your bed eating cronuts and watching that show about that thing you don’t even like on Netflix, fulfills you, then … go nuts. But if you feel guilty about it? Go get shit done. Sorry for yelling. I love you.

I made no sacrifices as melodramatic or as biblical as say… slicing open a goat on an alter and rolling in its blood… but several common aspects of life were given up, occasionally in extremes when I graduated from college, and a few I still largely keep out. While if you’re one of the special lotus blossoms who attended my NHIA lecture, you already are on top of this, when I left school, I was essentially asked what I was willing to give up to succeed as an artist. 

Not what I would DO to succeed, but what I would GIVE UP.

I answered: everything. I would give up everything.

This vague “everything” ranged from sweeping changes to my social and personal life down to substances and content consumed to entire aspects of my personality. These things removed aren’t all HORRIBLE, EVIL, things, but especially for my first year trying to improve, they were some of the most distracting constants in my life that I knew I needed to ditch or change to try to make it.

ALCOHOL: I drank and partied a ton in college, less than some, but I was regularly pushed to the limits of my own stupidity. I removed that from my life entirely for about a year, and since then I keep such things very moderate – and only unleashing college-level stupidity on very special occasions.

LADY FRIENDS: My longest stretch without a girlfriend in college was about 4 weeks, I was in love with the idea of serial monogamy, I was a total sap. I still had and have relationships since I left, but they are either very distant and not something that eats into my time working, or very surface level and thus devoid of any of the emotional displacement of energy that makes most people go insane and want to velociraptor their faces off just thinking about their significant other. Easy, breezy, brief.

NON-LADY FRIENDS: In college, though they were ever-changing, I was constantly swept up in friend circles of 20-30-40 people who did EVERYTHING together. This is a fantastic, beautiful, crazy, dramatic, and worthwhile experience, but not one that a) allows you to get much done, or b) offers stability or independence. When I left, I cut it down to a core few, and since then, like most people do far younger than I did, It clicked that the quality few always trump quantity.

CASH MONEY: For much of my life, when I made money, I spent it. I never listened to my parents about saving it little by little, so when I left school, I decided they may be on to something, and spent my first year stingy as can be. Pinching the hell out of every penny. It sucked. It felt embarrassing, especially since when working at Gizmodo that first year, I was only making 20 bucks an illustration. But it paid off, I moved to New York with every cent I’d saved, I invested back into myself and my business, it’s gone quite well, and now I just don’t ever have to think about it. If I hadn’t been so extreme in my thriftiness initially, there are MANY opportunities, huge ones, that I would have missed later on that really built my career.

WASTING MY LIFE AWAY ON THE WEB: I was glued to the Internet long before tumblr existed, I wasted away my days on forums, blogs, writing fan fiction (seriously), and frequenting gaming websites, never getting anything done or learning anything new, just consuming content that never helped me at much of anything. So that first year out of school, I spent all of that time learning how social media worked and the pathways that information flowed through Internet instead of digesting cat picture after cat picture. I’ve eased up substantially since then, but I still keep things at a minimum, and the time spent is mostly to learn or share, not endlessly scroll through nothingness – I don’t do boredom.

DIAL DOWN THE DOUCHE JUST A NOTCH: I had always been told that I was very stubborn and set in my ways, thinking I have the answers and that the answers were set in stone. Stubborn makes it sound endearing so I long agreed with it. It’s a word many like to use, but if I’m being honest, being stubborn mostly just feels like being narrow-mindedness and egotistical. Though perhaps the least tangible, the biggest thing I’ve (attempted) to give up and continue to attempt to, is an ego. I was really riding high when I left college. Despite all of the distractions mentioned, compared to highschool me, I had turned my life around and thought I was on top of the world, ready to tackle its obstacles.

I think ego is very perceptual. Depending on who you ask, it varies in size, ex:  A super nice girl at my last lecture made it sound like it’s non-existent, but I’ve encountered many who view it as a giant triceratops of one, and I think either is valid, though that girl definitely gets my favoritism for obvious reasons. I wouldn’t post my artwork and my thoughts if I didn’t at least have some confidence in them, (the crippling fear and self-loathing is less seen by people), but what changed a couple years ago was simply checking myself (before the wrecking of said self). What I mean by that is, I believe in being true to who you are – if you’re confident, be confident – don’t fake your way through being humble just because you’ll get less shit for it. It’s easy to be something that’s never disagreeable. But at the same time, your confidence must always come with rules, fine print, and a very unflattering mirror. Know who you are, what you’re good at, and what you’ve done, but never make it more than it is. Never put yourself above anything or outside the crossfire of criticism. For me, I needed very badly to just let go and understand that my knowledge is rewritten and expanded on a daily basis, my work has a million miles to grow, my viewpoints on the world will only extend as far as I’ve dared to look, and that a balance does exist out there where I can care passionately about what I do, feel empowered by sharing it, and not do so while being a ginormous twat waffle in the process. It’s not the search for false humility, but rather just understanding my place, my REAL place, knowing that it’s not that high, and communicating at least a vague awareness of it while I try to grow. Even writing this out makes me feel like a breakfast food/insult combo – this is very much so a work in progress for me.


Sacrificing/giving up the things in life that are often viewed as just common place things or everyday indulgences, can actually give you a little momentum – it can bring clarity to what you’re doing. You don’t need to become a saint, it’s not some religiously-induced choice, it’s a personal one solely made to eliminate distractions when you have a goal in mind that demands your full attention. Since I was asked this question by a professor when I graduated, it’s now the same question I throw back at everyone who ever asks me what they need to do to succeed as an artist. The things you need to do to succeed are obvious: time, effort, passion, practice, knowledge. End of list. 

But what are you willing to give up?

Personally, I believe that artist’s block is caused by 2 main things: 

  1. A relentless fear of being unable to create something truly original and successful.
  2. Laziness.

The first is fairly straight-forward. While I’m sure there are people out there who don’t analyze and think about their every action, most content-creators don’t fall into that category. As a result, it’s very easy to have a brief, electric, idea in your mind, and if you don’t start executing it quickly enough, you can become creatively impotent thinking that it’s been done, can’t be done properly, or won’t be noticed/shared/respected. One moment like this can cause a chain of thoughts that keeps you from even putting pen to paper/screen/canvas. As I mentioned in my 10 Things I Learned In The 2 Years Since I Graduated From Art School, your best fix is to just do it, “it” being something, anything.

The latter of the two causes, Laziness – I actually believe is the more common issue, just the less admitted one. The first reason gives people an excuse, but no one likes laziness to be their excuse. “Art” in its most traditional sense (despite its current definition of: “anything…literally…anything”), is really not a genetically (or god)-given skill. It’s a technical ability and understanding that is honed and matured through practice and time (Yes, there are always brilliant exceptions to this rule, but they’re the vast minority). That’s not just how well you can shade, sing, or sculpt, but how you understand light/shadow, rhythm, or movement. Technical ability extends to the conceptual: the idea-having, abstract, and less concrete parts of creative-trades. Coming up with an idea for a painting, a book, or a song… it’s rarely this “eureka” moment, but rather the culmination and synthesizing of your ideas, existing ideas, and things you’ve seen and heard, all coming together over time to create something “new”, even if it’s not actually new at all. Where laziness comes into all of this, is that people use their lack of inspiration – this necessity for eureka moments – as excuses for everything when finding inspiration is as easy as finding a Bruno Mars song that I hate. It requires such little effort to be inspired these days thanks to the Internet, you just have to not use it like you’ve just done a line of coke in the middle of a squirrel-filled plastic-ball pit while a bubble-machine fills the air with rainbow soapy balls of wonder underneath a disco-ball.

As I’ve said before, having the Internet is a big deal. We have pretty much any visual we could ever imagine at our fingertips and that over-saturation of imagery can be daunting… if you don’t SLOOWWWW DOOOWWWNNN. Seeing something on facebook or tumblr and instantly clicking “like or reblog” does NOT mean you have absorbed content. It means that in the midst of endless scrolling, you have paused for .2 seconds to express to the world “I LIKE THIS THING, OH SHINY THING, *CLICK* OK GTG BYE… OH I LIKE THIS THING, *CLICK* OK GOTTA— OH MY GOD THAT THING!…” and so on. Just chill. Look at the artwork, listen to the music, watch the full youtube video…. it’s like the Internet version of stopping to smell the roses, except instead of essentially useless flowers, it’s the entire Web filled with the creations of millions of different people in every medium and format imaginable.

So, advice on artist’s block in easily digestible format (tl;dr as some of you call it):

-Make something. Light bulbs don’t actually pop up above your head causing you to vomit up creativity and unicorns. Start something before you get too afraid to make anything.

-Don’t use “lack of inspiration” as an excuse. Slow the hell down and appreciate the endless chocolate-fountain of artistic brilliance and horror that is The Internet. 

anonymous asked:

Generally it seems you only draw women who are society's brand of "beautiful". Since you're an artist, you have an eye for what's aesthetically pleasing to you (which is fine) but does your appreciation for typical idealized women in art translate to shallowness in the real world as far as who you date and are attracted to? As in, do you only like/date models and skinny girls?

People often divide physical attraction into two categories: 1) People who say that you have to look a certain way and 2) People who say that it doesn’t matter what you look like and that it’s only what’s “on the inside that counts”. Much like being purely liberal or purely conservative, this is a narrow-minded approach that manifests as either incredibly blunt, stubborn, and harsh or extremely open, accepting, and VERY vocal. You’re either shallow or you’re not in many people’s eyes and I think it’s a tragedy that a middle ground seems incapable of existing.

I have been with women who are idealized female perfection and also with some who don’t meet the societal brand of beauty that you mention. My openness to that doesn’t strip me of the “shallow” label. I’m human, a guy, and a victim to photoshop’s effects on what people should look like. I don’t hide that or attempt to veil it in hyperboles like “Everyone is beautiful to me”. However, understand that model-quality cookie-cutter women are fucking everywhere. So many girls, both on tumblr and that I know personally–put certain body-types and facial structures on these pedestals–abusing themselves verbally and physically because they’re not “that”. Well, “that” is EVERYWHERE, try spending time on not being a shitty person. A thin waist and nice chest are nice to look at but they are far from rare and instantly forgettable if they don’t come with a brain as genetically gifted.

The mistake many girls with those things make–is that they think it makes them special in any sort of way. As if it is an accomplishment by their own achievement that they have good genetics, can avoid fast food, and apply makeup. I don’t want to generalize the modelesque masses, but from my experience–the self-appreciation of (many of) their at-birth-features results in an utter lack of effort in all other facets of what makes someone an attractive person. In that sense, the very shallowness that might draw me to talk to the girl who reminds me of Christina Hendricks can manifest itself in a completely different brand of shallowness (which is just a more socially acceptable form of it) that repels me when she starts talking about how she just loves to go out and get blackout drunk with her girlfraaands and dance up on creepy old dudes to get free vodka-roofie-crans. 

You group who I am attracted to and who I would date in the same category. While there is overlap, the two are very different things. In other words, I am judgmental of people’s appearances when applied to my initial, gut, attraction to them. However, just as quickly (and much stronger) does my judgment of them as human beings kick in. It’s incredibly easy to fuck someone gorgeous, it’s unbelievably hard to find someone gorgeous that you want to talk to every day. As I said, the model-quality cookie-cutter women are everywhere–but genuinely good and smart people, no matter how “beautiful” or “ugly” on the outside they may be, are rare and valuable (in general, not just in the realm of “romance”). At the end of the day, don’t assign yourself some manifesto on attraction. It is just as easy to turn down the beautiful and brainless as it is the bland and brilliant… For me, I pursue a balance of the best of both worlds with an open mind and I highly recommend avoiding seeing attraction as something so surface-level and black and white. There are very few things in life I “only” do in one way… It’d be pretty hard to learn or experience anything unique if you only lived one way.

steventhehun-deactivated2013021  asked:

Do you believe that originality is dead?

Not at all–but I think people’s definition of it is skewed to mean something truly and 100% new brought into the world.

Bread was bread and cheese was cheese, but some brilliant mind combined them and cooked them to make the grilled cheese sammich and it’s a magical, completely original thing despite it simply being a recipe of two incredibly unoriginal, preexisting foods. In other words, as a society, we build from our pasts and the new things we make–the innovations and unique things that we create, shouldn’t need to start on some imaginary clean slate to be deemed original. 

At 17 I had virtually zero artistic experience beyond highschool doodling, no desire to be an artist, not a clue how to paint, didn’t know what a still-life was, spent most days in the back of class hidden under a mop of hair hoping that no one would see me, and though that was 7 years ago, the Internet was a very different place. My social media presence was a long-ago-deleted myspace filled with angsty punk rock lyrics and musings about whether or not I would ever get a girlfriend.

To say that you have a head start and talent out your ass is a gross understatement. It’s also a recipe for disaster if you keep ‘hating art at school’.

When I showed up to class on my first day at art school, I knew the least of anyone in my class. There were a few kids who got accepted and given full rides for their highschool portfolios. I was in awe of them, they were my gods and goddesses. These guys and girls could decently replicate fucking Michelangelo drawings while I excruciated over the most basic sketch of an egg. These were the prodigies, the geniuses, the talented and the destined – 6 years later and my once idols aren’t doing anything art-related and as much as I’d like to say that shitty hands were dealt, their stories are more predictable. I remember having a conversation with one of them my freshman year that at the time simply impressed me because of how damn good this kid could draw, but in retrospect was quite blatantly the beginning of the end – the stagnation of brilliance. They said: “Have you seen the professor’s drawings? If this is all I have teaching me, it’s pretty clear I have nothing left to learn from this school." 

Don’t let yourself turn into that kid. Push yourself while you’re young by letting others push you. Paint things you don’t want to paint and you’ll understand them. Understand them and you might like them, and if you still don’t? Well shit, you’ve made an educated push forward towards defining who you are as a person and an artist instead of arbitrarily branding yourself a certain way because that’s "how you feel”. Art, well, ehh… fuck art – “making things” is hard. It takes time, work, passion… these are things you know, but much like knowledge about any other facet of life, it advances through challenge. Challenge isn’t a linear scale of difficulty, it’s something filled with variables and even seemingly simple things can feel impossible when unfamiliar or even presented in an unfamiliar manner. That unfamiliar, that unknown – it pushes us. We often “hate” it. I have “hated” certain classes, certain teachers, certain assignments, certain jobs, certain clients… but I have built the skills I’ve obtained thus far and will continue to build them for my entire life, through late-stage obsession, a relentless desire to understand this world that still feels vast and new to me, and battling, beating, and developing new ways to tackle the obstacles of the job – not finding a way out of or around them.

You’re an artist and you feel boxed in?


You can do a lot with a box, don’t throw it away just yet.

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Normally, I feel that whenever I answer questions here, whatever perspective I have to offer will suffice, but this one left me with a laundry list of opinions, most of which conflicted with one another. While it would probably be most expected for me to think that art can change the world, and it’s other professions that serve a more tangible purpose that would look down on art as a career choice – if I’m being honest, my gut feeling was that me deciding to become an artist and continuing to be one IS incredibly selfish and narcissistic. Even when I engage with people considering following a similar career path, my words of encouragement boil down to “I love what I do, it fulfills me immensely”. From artist to artist, that’s exactly what you’d expect, but suddenly I considered the possibility that all of my artistic “advice” was just perpetuating a cycle of selfishness – encouraging people to pursue things only to make themselves happy. Having an impact on the world was never even a consideration, I just… like making things.

Is what I do, is what all artists do, just for themselves? Are we really just choosing a path that puts a smile on our faces when we should be picking careers that tangibly assist people? I was at a loss. I knew that I lacked the proper perspective to answer this question in full on my own.

Thankfully, two of my brothers happen to be in fairly interesting careers that contrast my own as an illustrator: a Doctor and a Rabbi. While we sat around a coffee table in Manhattan eating Thai food – my niece running around in circles holding a Superman action figure, and my 6 month old nephew smiling in a dapper baby outfit while he happily filled his diaper – I broached the question to see what two people who respectively save lives and save souls, would have to say about this. However, unlike myself, they almost immediately dismissed it as absurd.

The narcissism and selfishness was one of the first things they tried to dismantle – saying every profession, no matter how seemingly noble by label, attracts people who do it entirely for themselves, a doctor being no exception. I argued back saying that in these instances though, regardless of the reasons FOR pursuing these practical professions, a doctor still saves lives.

Next on the chopping block, they dissected the notion that artists have no real impact on the world. There were a slew of very expected and easily rebuked statements thrown around. When I told my Rabbi brother that the impact he has on his congregation and community is deep, profound, instantaneously noticeable, and that I don’t have a damn clue whether anything I’ve ever made has affected anyone, he was just his usual humble self and in denial of that fact. But my other brother said something that if there were ever a statement that gave any sort of real answer to a question layered with so many existential onion rings, I felt this was it. He said, and I’m paraphrasing here, “Sam, just look at history, Doctors, Engineers, and Scientists are the people who have an impact in the world and matter the most? If anything you could make a strong argument that these are the professions that are extraneous. Art pre-dates medicine, science, and engineering by very wide margins. Art has grown and expanded exponentially throughout history, it has transformed language and sold belief systems to entire nations. I gain more from looking at a beautiful painting or listening to good music than I ever do from how something is engineered. I mean even on a really basic level of what I do, without artists, what the hell would us doctors learn from? You have no idea how much the field of medicine relies on illustration.”

I didn’t have an argument for that. It was historically sound.

While I’m not sure that I have a definitive answer to your question, after filling my perspective and knowledge gaps from my brothers, I will say this: It’s a slippery slope to say that artists don’t impact the world. Art’s effects may not be as tangible as the aforementioned career alternatives, but it’s still around, broader and more widespread than ever, permeating ever facet of our human-made world. Its effects may not be as quantifiable as how many years a Doctor has kept a person alive, but as most doctors will tell you, quantity of life is not nearly as valuable as the quality of it, yet their job demands that they deliver the number over the experience.

Art demands nothing, we just make it. We express, we depict, and we rage on whether or not our impact can be put into numbers.

The Difference Between A Wacom Pen Tablet and A Mouse

For people unfamiliar with digital art, the concept behind how it’s even done makes little sense but the really key thing that enables it, are wacom tablets. To illustrate this, here are just two examples of what using a pen over a mouse means using continuous brushstrokes. I think of it as: if a mouse is a pistol and a click is a bullet, a wacom pen is Iron Man and using it is like having a salvo of laser-guided fly-by-wire rockets… that play Black Sabbath. 

A mouse, you click once or click and hold, it has one degree of pressure. A wacom pen is like, well, a real pen or a brush, just much more versatile. The relation between the tablet surface and the pen is one that allows it to pick up how hard you’re pressing, the angle the pen is being held at, and the way it’s being rotated in your hands. This allows single brush strokes to control opacity, scatter, texture, thickness, color mixing, and direction. I give such basic examples, because I think it’s there that you can see: “This is what you can do with literally a 1 second brushstroke” Skill-level and experience are irrelevant to being able to do basic tasks like loosely mixing two colors and laying down a line.

EDIT: No, this post was not sponsored by Wacom. When the tools you use enable you to do what you love for a handsome living AND can help others who might not know about them, you can praise them without being paid to do so. Hell, even if you like something, you can praise it without being paid for it.

I think this one is best said bluntly, so I’ll be brief:

If you aren’t prepared to be actively creating artwork and/or promoting it 8+ hours a day, then let it be a hobby for you. Don’t expect a career and a solid income from something that isn’t even getting the equivalent time of an average 9-5 job.

However, If you’re ready to make the sacrifice of treating art as your life instead of “the fun and easy thing to do” – then start gathering up your cheesy text-over-image motivational quotes, because you can fucking do it and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.