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STREET PREY

A synthwave horror romance.

New pages every Saturday, around 8 PM CEST


 

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100 Days of SPREY – 59

Today was a big, beautiful day. How does such a day look like for you? Is it a day where the world can’t bother you in your efforts and good mood, even if it tries? A day where everything goes right? A day where everything goes your way?

For me, it is a day on that I find a solution for a big problem. The same problem could still return to me in a different form in a different cycle of my development later, but I will not be entirely helpless about it, if my solution now has any merit.

I was a bit nervous, asking myself whether I had secretly given up on Street Prey and just couldn’t face it. What if I’m never able to continue making it? What should I do about it? How do I find back into making it like before? Or should I change up the schedule? The style maybe? Everything seems so complex, impossible to solve. But then throughout the day a cascade of beautiful insights dawned upon me. I give credit to Chris Oatley’s storytelling podcast on Youtube for the inspiration. A certain passage really stuck with me. Nobody keeps you from starting to build your giant world today, telling your epic story, you will just struggle tremenduously with…about everything. Why? You have routine in nothing. Everything will be new land and a new problem jumping at you. You are almost bound to make big mistakes and try to build upon them. And even if you force yourself to go through the hell of making the project happen with all your willpower…the result might not be that great.

I very much find myself in that sentiment that I just summarized. I struggled so much. I did everything I could with what I had, but I somehow couldn’t arrive at where I wanted to be.

And here’s what Chris Oatley and the other speakers presented as different way of doing it: Start your big or small project, it does not matter, but start really really small. Solving small problems will be hard enough in the beginning, such as designing an actually GOOD prop for your comic. It is laughable. But it is true. Looking back, Street Prey had no memorable props so far. Until a few weeks ago I didn’t even know what and how important prop design actually was. And if many props constitute an environment (at least partly) and you can’t do props…guess what, then the epic environments in your head won’t happen. Maybe your head stays empty when you think about them. At least to me that used to happen a lot. I would have wished to draw better backgrounds in my comic, but I just had no ideas and did not know how to come up with some. I guess all my works would be talking heads.

So pausing SPREY for the moment was not just a crash or failure, it was a golden opportunity to realize how I was struggling, realize that I can change that and find a more sustainable way to work. Room for self-love.

Look at this small piece of sci-fi hallway I modeled in Blender today, following a tutorial by Alex Senechal. This really doesn’t look like much, but it is an important little step towards a better future for my comic and all my works. Imagine what suddenly is achievable with more practise…

The journey stays exciting!

See you next time!

Learning with onions

This is in some way a continuation of yesterday’s blog entry, but you don’t have to go back to understand this one.

I finished another piece of homework that was due last week, but I had to move to this one because of work. My task was to create a page of visual communication study about a plant topic. Still following “less is more” I chose one of the least exotic plants there is. The common onion. And while I am curious and have many things I would like to know and explore about onions, I indeed only had time for one page. And then I decided to give my everything into it, everything my tired evening self after a day of concept art with daily deadlines (at least at the moment) could muster.

This page might not even look like it, but I learned so so much. Let me share my thoughts. Maybe you can use a thing or two for your own design work, too.

  1. Too much of a good thing is a bad thing – wild ambition is no exception to that. I made a series of entomology pages about wasps last week, pouring all my passion and curiosity into them. And I expected no less than roughly eight pages about onions from me this week. But my ambition and reality just didn’t…meet. I love my work, but I am very tired in the evenings. Eight pages will not happen this week, maybe if I ignore all other homework, but that is just not an option. So I let go and told myself – do one page today, do what you can and let go, move on. Focus on one task at a time, one iteration of an exercise at a time.
  2. Trust the process. I cannot tell where this impulse came from, but I thought to myself if it is going to be one page, I will train graphic design. I chose a simple topic that was still interesting to myself and created a page like from a gardening book. I ran the full circle, research, notes and scribbles, arrangement of the elements on the page, changing from Krita to Affinity Publisher mid process for the layout and lettering/font matters, then changing back to the final polish. I am glad I followed my intuition. This is not the greatest page humanity has ever seen, but I’m glad I finished it. It was a great exercise. And it is also more than I would have expected of myself.
  3. Small things add up. In the past, and this is not even long ago, I found myself having an all-or-nothing mindset. I can either do the full thing today and have my result and reward or do not even start doing it, because what’s the point? SPREY has been a valuable factor to break that up. There is no chance SPREY can be done in a day, even the most stubborn version of me will accept that. And with many other things it’s like that as well. You can’t master a skill in a day, build a career in a day, unlearn bad habits in a day and so on. And it does not have to happen in a day. Relax. Look for the small bits of work you can do right now that do not overwhelm you. Maybe reading 10 pages of a book that will help you learn something a day, working 20 minutes on a personal project every day. And it does not have to yield a result immediately. You’ll get your results over time when the small bits of work compound, the solutions you found for very small problems compound and you suddenly deal with bigger problems to solve and it’s absolutely manageable, as the smaller ones are out of the way now. Small things do add up!

And with that, see you all next blog entry!

Design

You know there is some rapid development going on when you did this last week and it’s old news already – but for surprising reasons.

So I’m finally taking a design course. For this and other constructive reasons such as my gig I am very tired in the evenings lately. Let me tell you a bit about beginner problems that could unknowingly affect you, too, with a couple of pieces I did.

First of all, you are looking at sketches I did on the topic “design sketching”. My first mistake was that I only this week learned what design actually is – and what design principles are. Last week I did not even know I did not know this, so I actually had no chance to do my homework as it was intended to.

What am I talking about? In the following you will find pages of gorgeous nature studies. The problem is, it is not and should never have been about the rendering or art skill itself.

Designing is uncovering the internal patterns and functionings of the world and conveying them to the viewers or users in an understandable and appealing way. You have to dive deep into how the world works or fictional world would work you are working with to be believable and you also have to know a lot about the human psyche to know how to win your audience over. It is human viewers after all that you are designing for and you yourself are one, too.

Here my study group intervened. They sensed I was putting my focus into the painting and not exploring design principles, but couldn’t articulate what exactly was off. So a classical misunderstanding happened. I got the feedback I should scale back and just do linework because this exercise is about lines. No, it is not. It is just another way to create art. Design doesn’t care whether you employ lines or not as long as you are minding the design principles and your set design goals. I had none of this. Plus, I was more insecure then and that was to the detriment of the quality of my work for the rest of the week.

I had incredible luck with the carriers, though. This page itself is not so remarkable except for that is the first time I ever explored the topic. I was lucky as this sheet cought the eye of a more experienced concept artist. He seemed to know without words in what deep trouble I was and recommended me the Visual Design Basics course by Alex Senechal. My natural curiosity kicked in and I indeed bought the course and started listening on Monday. I feel unstoppable since. I’m climbing quite the steep and lonely mountain now though. Actually developing your own design sense is quite the undertaking.

If I had the time, I would redo this whole exercise with a few simple but very impactful changes. Instead of recreating the given references from the course I would first sit down and make sure I know what I’m doing and why. Design does not start with action, design starts with planning and planning starts with an intent. One possibility that I can see would be a topic such as exploring the 70:30 distribution rule and evenness of proportions or exploring patterns of nature with a very narrow range of subjects such as plants of the same type, but with small variations – so that these count. These must count.

Funny enough my insect and bird eggs go into this direction already. That was the sheet that was not commanded as official homework of my study group. I came up with that myself after watching Feng Zhu talking about less is more for design beginners. I thought to myself drawing eggs instead of full creatures must fall under this. I almost got it right.

Me and my group will continue to make mistakes. That is part of the human nature. I beg of myself to be more confident and listen to my intuition, but also keep listening to critique and giving it to others. We are all in this together.

Climbing up a cliff

At first, I did not realize I lost my way. I thought to myself, what could it hurt to take a week off? To prepare some things for the next chapter of my comic Street Prey (SPREY)? Being nice to myself for a change yielded some surprising results. My art almost instantly „improved“ now that I suddenly had a bit more time to breathe and experiment. And quick first successes made me want to exercise more. At the same time my concept art career received a massive boost with my first gig as a concept artist for a small indie studio.

Suddenly I have new perspectives for my work. Suddenly I got a first contract pay in that was very real. My true luck is not the money itself, although I appreciate the pay very much, but that it caused a massive boost in professionalism in me. I have studied hard since then, even harder than before. And this lead to more gains. And then more good things started happening to me, because it is always like this. Only if you have some momentum already you are given more. By now I‘m thinking that studying the ways of concept art and focussing on this for a future day job might be or bring me closer to my ikigai.

I am still committed to making my comic and everything else on my to do list. It just seems that the concept art training I‘m seeking out is the key to push things to a completely new level I could never have imagined sitting in my old comfort zone. How did that all start? Imagine I was browsing Artstation and Pinterest and thought I wish I could bridge the gap. I thought and wished that for a long time, months, maybe years. I wish somebody could teach me, anybody. What if I could have a shred of the Feng Zhu School of Design? And then suddenly this opportunity came up to take part in a course inspired by his school and Youtube channel. I knew it was an important decision. I would have to make time for it constantly, a lot of time, while also working my contract and continuing SPREY. I haven‘t regretted a single moment. I also took up the good habit of setting aside at least 20 minutes a day to study a bit about business. I still have no idea what I‘m doing, but I still know more than before already. Time passes really quick at the moment. I am realizing that you sometimes get the best results when you focus on one or a maximum of two projects per day. But this thesis needs more testing.

I took this day to go over the last week a bit. I realized I did so so much that I cannot sensibly squeeze this together in one blog entry. It might make it harder for you to learn something from it if you are inclined to do so. So I’ll split the week up in several entries that I will post over the next days. Hopefully I will catch up to the present, soon.

To my surprise – I drew lightnings all week as warm-ups and actually finished that mini- lightning project fornow. The first tasks in the course were all about (re)discovering simple line drawing exercises. Just by chance did I discover that lightning must indeed be my personal element. But I will not stop at this and will explore other elements in the next weeks. Learning at least the basics of how to draw them and spending more time with them and documentaries on how they work are an investment for lifetime. Fire, water, rain, earth, all the elements, weather effects and natural phenomena – that is never going to go out of fashion. You just have to find your own way of how to deal with understanding and depicting them.

See you next time!

100 Days of SPREY – 57, 58

This week turned out to be both amazing and absolutely terrifying, pushing me outside of my personal comfort zone in so many ways. My original plan was to dedicate the week to doing concept work for my own comic and start uploading a daily panel beginning next week as we are used to by now. But now I am confronted with a uniquely new situation. I made the jump and signed my first freelance contract as a 2D concept artist.

The first client is the hardest to get, the second client the second hardest one, and so on, so that step is huge no matter what scope the actual project has.

Now at least for the time of the gig I have new responsibilities that clash with the wish to keep working on my comic and general drawing exercises in the same way I was working before. What is more, while going into overdrive with research and focussed work to do my best for the gig I‘m realizing how inefficient my ways were. And I‘m shocked how bad my past art actually is. On the one hand, I was incredibly delusional. On the other hand, the delusion kept me believing I could become a professional artist one day and made me work hard to get there. I just failed to understand why the world didn‘t see my greatness. Now I understand. And it‘s okay. That all is a thing of the past now.

I have finally reached a level where I‘m employable. And now that there is no delusion clouding my perception anymore, I have the chance to actually see my strengths and weaknesses in a balanced way and get really good. I even discovered a direction that I can go with achievable goals on the way there. I will go videogame prop design. I still believe in myself as a great storyteller and I believe in Street Prey, but I also need an income. Street Prey as it is right now cannot provide that and will need much more work until it has reached a level of quality that attracts an audience. I will of course do the work, but I need to adjust my efforts in a way that I don‘t starve on the road. That too is a prerequisite to do your personal work well. I know I can learn a lot working in the art industry. A lot that will help Street Prey and any other personal work in the future.

I need some time to sort my things now and I can‘t make a prediction how long it will take. Not because I do not want to commit, but because that is the first time I am in a situation like this. So thank you for your patience and see you next blog entry!