SPREY Log #20 – The Void

A lot of things are in movement right now. Recently, the server for our game “Your Land” moved. I had no idea what extra work such a server move entails, but we’re doing good I think.

My courses are going well, although I’m permanently tired since a migraine last week. My best guess is that I didn’t have time to fully recover yet. The deadlines from the courses and freelance work won’t stop, you know. But I’m taking away from this that I have to plan better in the future, that I do have the time for my health. And also, that despite my will to crunch, I can’t crunch right now, otherwise I’ll be even more exhausted the next day. The smart move is to cap the daily workload so that things get done, but the energy level doesn’t fall even lower.

Also related to all of this, I have a fantastic teaching advice for you that you can use both as a student and as a teacher. You cannot tear down without building up. What do I mean? Imagine the typical situation where your teacher has to inform you that you are doing something wrong. They must not only show you how your way is wrong, they MUST absolutely show you how to do it instead in a way that you understand it and that you can practically apply it in the future – and that it is actually useful to you. It is irresponsible to just ‘destroy’ a student. Whatever inefficient or insufficient thing you did until now, it at least brought you here. If someone just takes it away from you, destroys your confidence in this specific part of your process and doesn’t give you something else at hand, something that YOU can actually use, your whole current process could implode from that faulty bit. Then your destroyed confidence compounds, as suddenly nothing is working anymore. And then you are left with nothing. And that is not a good place to be in psychologically. Luckily I’m resilient, so I was out of the void again after about three days. But no teacher will ever pull this on me again. And I will not be that teacher either. It is especially frustrating when you know your teacher is right, but you just can’t follow them over to the place they’re at and they can’t explain it in a way that you can go there either. You are free to ignore for now and move on, it will click later with more mileage, practical experience and research. That’s what I’m doing at least. Having a faulty way of creating for now is better than having none at all anymore.

There seems to be another level of difficulty to the whole problem that has nothing to do with an individual mentorship, it is rather a broader, conceptual problem. By now I know there is a group of artists of unknown size all over the world that is like me. I would call them visual storytellers for a lack of a better word. An artist, that cannot help but look into fictional universes and come back with long form stories or whole worlds. A writer, that is in the body of a visual artist and that has grown up on movies, tv and music videos, knows and loves their aesthetic and wants to create something that feels equally…grandiose. We do not ask for this, it comes to us. But returning to this world we are told, we cannot do this. People have the nerve to tell us both that you should start small and that you should forget it, as you need a whole team to get anything of significance off the ground. Also, there seems to be this shared sense that you have to “earn” pursuing your own stories after waiting in line for many years, drawing some rocks or otherwise support other people’s visions, jumping through all the hoops all other people had to jump through, too, and then end up with a compromised version of something you would have liked to do as the pinnacle of your corporate career. But at least you had a team working on it and the approval of a corporation. And you did everything right and according to the rulebook.

Life is too short for that. You need time to get good at storytelling. My short dip into the void showed me again that I have no time to spend on getting anyone’s approval. I need to create what I was born to create and I need not be distracted with a flurry of other things anymore. The world is pretty good at distractions by the way. You must be better.

See you next blogpost!

SPREY Log#17 – From now on you only paint

Welcome back! My break took a week longer than expected. After I filled my head up with new storytelling knowledge I knew I would need time to digest that in silence. Also, I had to go back to drawing. I felt homesick for it and for SPREY already. But I didn’t want to just jump back and do what I always do, not this time.

I can be on my own, sit and draw forever, but I ultimately cannot know where I actually stand with my art that way. What I think about myself and my art does not matter, as I am not the person hiring myself for future art jobs, so it would be great to know what potential employers would think if they were confronted with me right now. Following that logic I decided to invest in myself and ask a more experienced artist for guidance. Also I was a bit tired of being out there in the void by myself. So I booked a mentorship with concept artist and illustrator Nik Hagialas. He delivered that needed guidance from the first assessment already and so much more.

Apparently I’m not far away from the level I would need to be competitive in the concept art pro scene, but I’m not entirely there yet. That is a great thing to know. And that is also a great moment to go into a mentorship as it possibly could cut short a last, long episode of searching from further years to months. At this point I have one week of doing study and design homework behind me that was tailored to me and my specific needs. The feedback session for it is up tomorrow, so I can’t tell how it objectively went yet. But subjectively, I took so so much from it already, I feel like a new artist.

Nik has found a brilliant way of teaching. He helps you discover yourself by confronting you with a training IP brief, that means he gives you a document that describes a story, it’s setting and characters. You can choose what you want to design, environments, characters, props, vehicles, there is a need for everything in that training project. But in your four week mentorship you realistically only have time to do one thing, so you have to choose. For people like me that are interested and capable of doing many of these things, that is brilliant. I always had such a hard time to understand myself and what I should specialize in as I know that if forced, I CAN do anything. And see what happened. When I read the document I at first went for the props, of course I did. I was told you shouldn’t even try it as a character designer as too many people want to be one and clog that field. Nik told me to delete that from my memory, everyone is needed. So without that restriction I immediately, and I say immediately, went for elite android AXEL and started designing with such a fire and passion that I didn’t even recognize myself at times. Even now, if I think that there is more work to do on AXEL, I can’t help but be happy because I’m burning to continue. And other people seem to enjoy my work on AXEL as well, the spark is strong enough to ignite their interest as well. I’m grateful for the great people in my life every day. Thanks for all the critiques, feedback and suggestion this week and just thanks for being on that journey with me.

And I have no idea how Nik did this, but he also “fixed” my art further with a simple instruction. He just looked at my stuff, listened to me and my symptoms and just said “From now on you only paint and you will paint until you can paint.” I don’t know what he saw but his instinct was absolutely right. I wouldn’t say I am good at painting right now, but even when trying a bit, my art quality instantly shot up, also noticeable and mentioned by others. Also, painting skills feed from drawing skills, so I’m banking on what I kept building up over the years anyways. It was just that I shouldn’t stop at drawing, I should go further. No “being sensible” limitations. So I will paint on and see what happens down the line.

See you next blogpost!