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STREET PREY

A synthwave horror romance.

New pages every Saturday, around 8 PM CEST


 

Latest Posts

On Color

I thought it was time to talk about something that is so important to me that I even carry it in my name. Let’s talk about colors today and my difficult relationship with them.

What happened?

When you have a drive to draw as a beginner, you don’t question it. You just follow your intuition. That’s what I did as a child and throughout my teens. Sometimes I achieved astounding results this way. I wouldn’t have been able to tell you what I had done or to replicate it but some of my early pieces had no business of being as good as they were for the circumstances. I had no control though, so sometimes, on days where my intuition just didn’t work, I couldn’t achieve anything. But looking at my good pieces I had an expectation to be at least that good all the time. I was mercifully unaware what the Dunning Kruger effect is and that it all probably wasn’t that good in the first place because I didn’t know enough to properly judge it. But it was nothing short of perfect in my own head. I was very surprised when other people didn’t see it that way and so I desperately tried to get better so that I would get the recognition I deserved. I iterate – I was a teen thinking and behaving like a teen. And what always came back, again and again, was people complimenting me for my colors, so I thought that was the thing I was best at.

My earlier art training

From what I know about art and training art today I then took a very very difficult path from there and throughout my twens. And I’m not talking about something like training in an inefficient way or not working through the best courses. It is true that I never had or could find a mentor when it probably would have mattered. Time could have been saved, but ultimately it doesn’t matter. One way or the other you get to a point where you know enough to be your own mentor.

My big problem was that I destroyed myself with the rebuilding taking over a decade. I’m talking about a metaphorical destruction. If you take a “talented” young person and teach them how wrong they are and how art actually works, you have a good chance of “destroying” their old confident art self. It is a necessary destruction as alas, the art fundamentals do not care, they just are and they are not tolerant of quirks that hinder their execution. On an ideal learning path the person then struggles for 2-3 maybe 4 years to get all the fundies in and then is free to return to their own self in the process maybe even throwing some of the fundamentals out of the window again. I needed roughly a decade, maybe more, because I couldn’t just train 4 years in peace, didn’t immediately know how to train and why and wasn’t exactly uninterrupted. And now imagine the agony of that time. You are robbed of your confidence. Now that you don’t trust your intuition anymore, nothing works when you draw for yourself, the amount of things you don’t know to use but have to train is overwhelming and the practise pieces do not look good either. You work hard and have nothing to show for it. If you expected results fast, you are very disappointed. And then of course, you will have other things in life that require that you tend to them, too. A day job. There are far too many opportunities for distraction. It is understandable that many quit, try to be sensible or just don’t want to suffer so much. Can an art school bring you through that time better? Maybe. It depends on what your art goals are and what courses and teachers you get. Nothing is ever guaranteed. I can’t complain about the self-teaching experience once I learned how to learn and train and that execution and practise will trump pure theory anytime.

So now I am competent enough, have enough control that I can predict what I will do and how to get to a certain outcome in art or how to research and practise to do that. The learning and developing will never stop, but I’m good enough to solve most problems thrown at me to take money for it, which my clients agree on. Now it is time for me to return to my natural state, too. I have avoided dealing with colors on a deeper level so far for the fear of pain, even more pain than with all the other things. Color is emotion and strong emotions still scare me. I already told you how I had to sometimes turn emotion completely off to get through university and lawyer training. No wonder I couldn’t just go home and create awesome emotional and colorful art in the evenings. I could have done a lot of things better back then, even law could have been easier, but that is just the wisdom of hindsight. I’m glad I came through and didn’t give up on art or myself. It is almost a miracle, but I never questioned that I should do art, that I should tell stories and that that’s what I’m here for. I sometimes just would have wished it was something more respectable or a less adventurous and insecure thing and I’m not sure whether these are my own doubts or just doubts instilled by society and education.

How I will train color now

I have watched color theory videos before. Apparently you can learn anything there is to know about the theoretical use of color in under an hour. Then you know how to construct your color schemes. Add some knowledge about how light behaves and the psychological color meaning chart of your choice and you should be good. Well, then you ought to experiment for years until you actually can make use of all of this intuitively. That’s a grim prospect. It rings true though. You don’t fall from the sky with intuition AND control AND a personal style that you cultivated over years. 2021 is a year in which I look into things I have avoided for a long time and finally bring them to an end. Usually, even if I encounter strong pain or shame, it is never as bad or lethal as my brain imagined it to be. My pride has received a couple of lethal wounds already, but even my pride and ego didn’t die from it. I am surprised how I suddenly can admit to myself how I feel and how I felt. It is ironic that I called myself Styxcolor when color is the one problematic fundie that I needlessly feared most for a long time. Maybe I also thought going back to color was the big treat at the end of the road, finally allowed to be myself again, without even understanding the implications of this.

So this time around when dealing with color I have a chance to do everything better. Let’s see how it goes. I’ll keep you updated on things once a first ruleset has crystalized out of unrelated ideas and requirements and problems found while doing work. I will deliberately not create a training regiment, as I actually do not have time for extra training right now that does not serve projects, but I can train while problemsolving within projects. That’s a big change and I wonder whether it will help me. I kind of “graduated” from just drawing practise pieces without a context. You never graduate from training itself, but I guess you don’t train to high jump if you actually compete in sprint next week.

Creative Survival

I talked to you about how to get more work out in the blog post before, but today I’m returning with a blog about a related topic. Creative survival. I might possibly return to this topic somewhen later in this blog, but here’s the wisdom I have to offer about this right now.

Why creative survival at all? Yesterday I finally finished working through concept artist Nik Hagialas’s “Art RPG”, a great introduction course to concept design. I’m immediately embarking on the follow up “Creature of the Deep” right now. The book doesn’t waste any time either, the first task is a profound one already. Before you even take a shot at the drawing tasks, the author wants you to think about a time you have overcome a huge obstacle and see what you can learn about your strategies – and then apply them on large creative projects that can feel like a huge calamity at times, too. I thought to myself, if I’m writing it down, why don’t I blog about it, so that others have something from it, too?

1. What is a strategy

First of all I had to do a websearch what a strategy is. Originally, this is the art and science of leading and moving an army. Imagine it like this – you and me can decide to go for a walk on a whim, but try to move thousands of armed people in a sensible way, even on a day march from one camp to another. That requires planning effort and foresight how the movement of the troops might impact the troops themselves, the locals, the area itself, what to do when something goes wrong during the operation.

Businesspeople have adopted the term strategy for the context of the development of companies, too. After all, leadership has to “lead and move” the employees and ressources of a company towards defined company goals and predict as well as possible how employees, clients, competitors, markets, governments or any other players will react, how it impacts the company assets, the environment and other circumstances and what to do when things go terribly wrong.

If you are reading this you are probably not an army or a multinational corporation. Most people don’t have or want a complicated manual on how to govern themselves and go about reaching their goals. Yet we could profit from looking into how they solve problems efficiently and successfully. You have goals you set yourself, too. You want to get things done, go places with your career.

Also, everyone will have a certain amount of survival strategies already without naming them as such. If you are in unexplicable and lasting strong pain you make a doctor’s appointment to find and eradicate the cause of your pain. If you run out of money you are looking for a job or apply for welfare to help you through the worst.

2. My academic paper nightmare

So how did I go on about big challenges in my life? Preferably one with lessons that seem like they could be easily applied to art, too? The first thing that comes to my mind was having to write many many papers in university. One in particularly, the biggest and last one that counted directly into my final grade, was a dreaded and awful thing, but I actually have no residual bad feelings about it. No grudge. It started off horribly. I had a time limit, although I’m not sure how long, I think it was a month. Day one when I got my topic the secretary accused me of forging one of my report cards of a previous course that qualified me to attempt this paper at all.

I did still brainstorm how to tackle my paper’s topic and collect some first ressources like I planned to in the library of the university the same day, but I also had to exchange some e-mails with university administration and student office and make a couple of visits in more offices over the next days. It did not help that I also some heightened pressure to succeed from an unsuccessful attempt before, I was absolutely not allowed to fail this one or I couldn’t graduate. But that day, that time, I employed a harsh strategy to go through the nightmare: I suppressed all my emotions, I shut myself out. People tell you, you have to acknowledge, respect and feel your feelings, yes, you do, but not in the circumstances I just described. If I had listened to my fear, my rightful anger (I hadn’t forged anything), my sadness, the agony of academic pressure I would most definitely have done or written or said something stupid and botched everything in the first week, even before and outside writing the actual paper. Or I would have deleted myself. Instead, I focussed on the work and work only. There was just proving my academic certificates and report cards were real and writing the paper, and I made sure to put most of my energy into writing the paper. I did not shut off my critical thinking though and have some thoughts on my university, the secretary, hierarchies and other topics, but that here is not the place for them. Administration confirmed the authenticity of my certificate, I wrote and finished the paper and got a good grade, graduated, and the bold secretary hopefully doesn’t carelessly accuse other students of forgery today.

3. Learning from this for art

Now I wonder, how can this help you and me in art? Obviously, you do not get graded and you set most deadlines yourself or negotiate them with customers. Also it’s hard to question your qualifications unless you outright lie on your resume or accuse yourself via impostor syndrome. If the latter happens, just ignore it. It goes away when you do the work and get ahead in your art career. If you listen to impostor syndrome, you don’t get your work done and end up in a self-fulfilling prophecy where your self-doubt keeps you from getting things done while getting nothing done in return feeds your self-doubt.

Other than that, I do not wish it to you but you might get into circumstances where you reach stress levels that are a threat to your wellbeing. Long term creative projects can do that to you. Usually it’s not the project alone, but personal problems and very unlucky other circumstances joining the mix. Temporary(!) shutting off your emotions and fighting until the bitter end to get the job done might be a way to do it. It would be preferable to not end up in a situation like that at all, but if it happens, that might be a way to get you through it. And please be gentle with yourself afterwards. I think I came through this experience at university so well, because I didn’t try to make harsh survival mode my default mode for the rest of my training. Also, I worked through that experience in private later, taking some time to heal from it. There is no shame in doing that or in seeking professional help to help you doing that.

4. Academic papers and long term creative projects – birds of a feather?

Maybe writing an academic paper is not that different from getting a long term creative project done. You set or are given a goal in the beginning, you brainstorm how you want to approach it and what you need for it, you collect information and whatever ressources you decided you need, then you work on it…probably every day. You must live with the pressure that you will not see results immediately, that some days will be bad despite best efforts, days in which you do nothing hurt you, so better not procrastinate at all, but that you also may not do too much per day, otherwise you spend your energy too fast and burn out.

And then don’t forget that you get numb in the end. What do I mean by that? When you have spent weeks, months or even years with a thing, you are too close to it. You cannot tell whether it is good or bad and you will not see obvious flaws, and probably you don’t even want to see anything anymore, just get it done. You are numb. Therefore do not plan on finishing the evening before due date. You need time to let other people check your work. If the scope of the work is really big, also think about breaking it down in smaller parts that people can check for you without going numb themselves. If it’s a private project and you haven’t announced a release date yet, maybe even take a couple of weeks off yourself and either relax or work on other things or a mix of both, then return to the thing like someone who hasn’t created it themselves and experience it as a reader or player. You will be surprised what you will discover, what a difference in perception that break can make.

That’s it for today. Happy creating, everyone!

3 tips for getting more work out

Buckle up, it’s quick advice time!

1) Daily word count

I have rediscovered a piece of advice that seems to help to get more writing done. Have a daily word count to meet. It sounds weird to measure texts like that, as the word count tells you nothing about the quality of what you got. And that’s the thing, it is not about the quality. It is about getting you into writing mode at all, writing anything. If it turns out to be something that you will completely cut later, well, that could have happened with your “regular” writing, too. 500-1000 words seems to be enough for the getting into the writing zone effect. You can of course always do more, but don’t expect too much too quickly from you, especially if your focus is short.

You can probably apply this to art tasks such as making thumbnails, too. I will definitely try that out.

2) Rule of thumb anti- burn-out formula

Never give the full 100%. That sounds like a terrible piece of advice, I know. It’s even weirder when I say it, because I’m notorious for sky high ambition. I therefore had my share of burn-out experiences though and couldn’t ever figure out why until recently.

My work cycles used to look like this: raw powerful bursts of work, never letting any energy lie on the table if it was available, followed by periods of equally harsh exhaustion. Usually, the energy was spent so brutally, that there wasn’t any left to end a project if it took too long. I was too badly hurt in the end to bring myself to lay finishing touches onto it. There are a couple of zines I started the world never saw, more than a couple of unfinished scripts for stories. Hordes of unfinished drawings. My webcomic once made a months long break between chapter 2 and 3 for the same reason. The will to continue it was there every day, but just not the energy.

This could have been avoided or mitigated if I had explicitly restricted myself in the doses of daily work. I was trying to appear hard working before myself and others, but work is not about appearances. Although a lot of people will judge you by appearances alone, in the end your work must produce results. If your work can produce predictable, repeatable results of a quality people are willing to pay you for, congratulations, you have turned pro. So when your goal is to turn pro or even to just enjoy what you are doing, you do not want to survive projects barely and dread the next one for the anticipated pains and further exhaustion. Instead draw a clear line between what you have actually seen and experienced yourself do and what you think you ought do and do not go for the fantasy goals and workloads your pride tells you to go for. Most of your days will be average, some bad, only very few ideal. If you have a daily workload that you can fulfill even on your worst days you are better off than someone who has to rely on the good days. You will definitely get more done long term. And you will probably be less stressed out about it.

So do not give the full 100%. You are not holding back, you are not lazy, you are protecting your ability to do work consistently and to FINISH things.

3) Things have ends

This is another aspect of finishing projects. Now especially people who start projects easily but have a hard time finishing them listen up. One of the things that costs you so much energy when wrapping things up is letting go. You have made great experiences, possibly leveled up several times while working on your thing. Of course, you would not want to lose that feeling. Making progress towards a goal is addictive and sometimes possibly more rewarding than the feeling of actually having finished. You also might be deeply in love with your characters and not want to “lose” them either. I am guilty of multiple accounts of this. Once a project is finished, a story told, you have to say goodbye. Even if you were to tell the story of a character from birth to last breath because you love them so and want to drag out until you have to part ways again, you will one day arrive at the last breath. It is the same as with how fleeting life can feel when people come and go, places decay and emerge, things change. Things change all the time and you can’t plan and prepare for everything. Do not be afraid to live life even if that is so. That we do not have people and things forever gives them value, let’s us appreciate them more. The same goes for telling stories which in a way are depictions of life, so they will share some of it’s traits. As a child I have always wondered what fictitional characters do after their stories are told. Do they sit in a little farmhouse and stare at a wall, never having a big adventure again? That seemed more dreadful to me than writing them into ever escalating conflicts that get boring, once you have them overcome any possible challenge and saving not only the world but the whole universe. You can’t escalate from that.

As I have gained some more life experience since then I’m coming to terms with ageing, death(at least a bit) and how the passing of time actually feels. Yes, it is possible that someone does one big deed in their life, has a glorious youth, but then that is it. They do found a family, stare at walls and screens and then they fade. We all do. Some people are late bloomers and have their time later in life. Some are adventurers that never retire. There is no one right way to live. You don’t notice the passing of time from day to day. You would not notice that you yourself fade but you will notice it very painfully at times in the loved ones around you. Creative creations can have a spot in your heart comparable to that. That is okay. You are passionate about them. Yet any creation we can make has a form and the form dictates that it is finite. Value them for what they are. Also value yourself. You give time and energy of your own life and pour it into works that can be enjoyed by so many people now and later, when you are long gone. Things have ends, we have ends, and yet you are on your creative journey and happy to create. So dare to finish your creations and move on to the next.

Originality, the dreaded magnum opus and you

Rereading my pile of notes for past and upcoming blog entries – harshly disagreeing with you from weeks ago is a hilarious thing and it is a thing indeed! What has happened? As mentioned in the last blogpost, the lasting pressure to succeed is gone like a migraine. There is no need to beat myself up over things, insecurities are at bay. There is no need to become so dense about achieving that you start making stupid mistakes because you can’t even see what’s right before you anymore.

What happened? Amongst other things, I made an important discovery. I learned that everything I could hope to do in and with my creations has been done in one form or the other already. After all, works and ideas that inspire me, already exist and will also inspire others! And more works will be created with the potential to inspire future creators. Of course, there aren’t ever 1:1 matches that would make you creating your own version obsolete. There is always room for your version in your voice. But if I die tomorrow, nothing is truly lost. In the most optimistic case, one or two good original ideas I could have in my lifetime would die with me, and a creator voice vanishes in the big choir that doesn’t even sing together. But mostly, it would not affect culture in any way. I’d still feel sorry for my characters who can’t write their stories themselves, but the ideas underlying the characters do not die. They can return in other forms.

This is not self-defeating, on the contrary. Imagine the pressure you are under if you believe you are the chosen one and your future creations are so important that your premature death means the death of something new, that never was before and never will be if you – and only you – aren’t there to create it. In a way, there is some truth in that. You cannot be replicated. But creating something on a cosmic level of originality… these are expectations you cannot possibly fulfill, even if you are objectively good at your craft. At least you can’t force it.

I felt huge relief when I saw everything is safe. I still intend of having a lifetime full of creative endeavors, telling my stories and living life. Even if I fail, I cannot fail so hard an idea or a whole culture dies. I’m free. I am free to create whatever pleases me and I’m free to enjoy it no matter what I believe it’s value is. I had the looming shadow of an anticipated magnum opus over me that kept me from fully enjoying doing the smaller things. A magnum opus is a defining creative work a successful creator is mostly known for. Of course, if you yourself would know what that work is, why would you want to work on anything else? Most decide to wait to work on it for a couple of years, get good first or worse, wait until they feel ready which will never happen. The thing is, you as the creator do not get to decide what work of yours is the most popular one. Your audience and your audience alone makes that decision. So don’t worry about it and create your things, treating them equal and allowing yourself to enjoy them equally. What the dream of a magnum opus is good for on the other hand is bringing you through the difficult years in the beginning where you have to build up your skills from zero. Having a big dream definitely helps to deal with the frustrations of skill and ambitions never matching. You just have to be ready to let go off of the dream later when it doesn’t serve you anymore. And I’m not talking about giving it up. Imagine a situation where you as a child decide what you want to make and how you want to make it and how it is supposed to be. Later, as an adult, you have learned that things actually don’t work this way in reality, you know your craft and your personal limitations and your flawless work from back then actually has some brutal flaws that would keep it from becoming an enjoyable experience for people that aren’t you. Wouldn’t you want to adapt it? Wouldn’t it be an act of love to undo the magnum opus status of your own creation so that you can properly challenge and improve all aspects of it? And what if you have created things that are clearly better in the meantime? How would you deal with that emotionally?

I am lucky Street Prey(SPREY) was never meant as my magnum opus. Actually, it was a quick idea from a subway ride somewhere in 2011. SPREY just ended up as the thing that made it through and that I’m making right now. And I can take the unhealthy pressure out of that, too. There is no need to rush anymore. I have been and I am deeply in love with SPREY, every day, every working session I spend with it. I guess I will look back on this time and say SPREY was the project I figured a lot of things out with. SPREY that killed my future and gave me one.

A challenge in writing

Blogging is great. It helped me to get through some stressful times by blogging daily reminders about my mission and my general thoughts about my progress to myself. Also, it made me write. Don’t underestimate the power of giving your thoughts and ideas a written form over a prolonged period of time. That’s how you get better at writing. And it changes something. My confidence to write anything down went up. Lately though, my original way of blogging stopped working for me and I only realized that after a couple of troublesome months.

How were things before? I took “just write” as a guiding principle and was writing like the words and topics would come. There is nothing wrong with that. Most writing starts like this. What else informed my writing though – I was under pressure a lot and worrying about how to get to success as fast as possible please. I didn’t really define what that success was and I couldn’t. Things began and ended in comfort and comfort was what I reaped. Seeking comfort is not a thing that brings you ahead in life though. You will not live a life if you want to avoid the pains it brings. For the sake of it I was not always daring to observe things as they were or think thoughts until their end. It’s hard to do that when you are rushing by and hoping you are not hurting already or hurting yourself more. You cannot escape the pain though, not without even bigger pain later on once you can’t run anymore. And delayed pain that comes back to you has the potential to be even deeper. Regret and shame are never far away, but you can have them without any particular reason as well.

So what? I’m telling you to not live in your comfort zone? You’ve heard that before. Have you considered how deep such a comfort zone can run as described in the paragraph before? Things are getting better for me lately. I would say I have found calm in myself that is not temporary. And that is also what causes problems for this blog right now. I’m feeling the lack of the spite and pressure that usually was there and don’t know what to do with that gap. I am not lacking anything that I would miss. I can still work. I can work even better than before. But I guess I wasn’t ready for a good change, good emotion. I am questioning myself, how can I be so at peace and happy when I’m not “there” yet with my life. I haven’t made it yet. I guess you don’t need approval or certain metrics to be allowed to feel a certain way. There is a lot of work to do on the way ahead, but I’ll gladly face everything.

So dealing with one’s own emotional development is a thing, at least it is a thing for me on my road. You could encounter something like this on your road, too, and when it happens, you have an edge now. You are not hit by absolute surprise. You can ask one question more what it could be that blocks your path. Embrace that you change. Be curious about it. Dare to feel what you feel and feel it until it is over. You will meet the peace you made with yourself on paper again when you look at your writing or sketches later. And don’t forget that you are in charge and don’t have to accept you developing into something you don’t like. You are free after all.