Saturday, December 15, 2012


Been missing a few days, but I still haven't gone a single day without drawing. Not since October 13th, anyways. That makes just over two months, but I suppose that doesn't really matter. They're just numbers.

So last night, and carrying on to this morning, I found myself very discouraged. Fact of the matter is, anyone can improve their technical skills, given time and effort. There are other skills, however, that are not so easily improved, such as the ability to generate ideas. I know that as a child, I was a wellspring of imagination, but that evaporated by the time I was thirteen or fourteen. Whenever I think about it, I get scared - what if I'll never be creative enough to succeed as an artist? I mean, on top of everything, I want to work in concept art. I can't possibly get anywhere in that field if I can't produce ideas at the drop of a hat.

Yesterday, watching Feng Zhu's latest Design Cinema video, Before and After, I was hit with the same realization. The video shows works from the application portfolios of some FZD students, and then compares it to their current (some of whom were only a few months into the one year program, while one other had graduated). While promoting the program, this video seemed to really highlight the significance of what was present in those initial portfolios, despite the demonstration of amateurish technical skills. Feng Zhu pointed out the design that was struggling to emerge. The problem wasn't that the artists were unable to come up with designs, but rather that they were unable to communicate their ideas effectively. It made me think, I could receive the best training in the world, but it wouldn't help me become successful if I'm not bringing certain things to the table.

I mentioned that to Khuyen today, and she helped shake some of my fears - for the time being, at least. She reminded me that there are things I can do to improve, and made me realize that when I draw, I seem to be skipping a crucial step. For the most part over the past month (since I stopped doing photo studies), I mostly spent my evenings marking down random lines until something started to emerge. I've never liked that process, because it always felt so horrendously hit-or-miss. Even when something great comes out, it wasn't necessarily planned from the beginning, so it feels a little cheap. I came to realize, however, that if designs and ideas are solutions, then I am entirely lacking a problem to be solved when working this way. How does one come up with a solution, if there is nothing to solve aside from a blank canvas that needs to be covered?

That motivated me a little bit. Finding something I can change, something I can do differently, reminds me that I haven't yet exhausted my options. When I got home, I dug up all of the past Industrial Design of the Week challenges and started saving off anything that seemed remotely interesting into a text file. I didn't want to look at the forum itself, along with all of the other artists' interpretations, because I didn't want my mind to be clouded with what other people had done. If I can give myself problems, then perhaps I'll have an easier time producing solutions. I'm going to try to avoid bogging myself down with technique for the time being - I won't outright ignore it, because I don't think I'm capable of that - but I'll accept for now  that my perspective and proportions will probably come out wrong. What's important are ideas.

I did one this evening - only one iteration, sadly, but I hope to do more as I get used to squeezing them out of my brain. Also, for sketching, I've moved away from Photoshop and given Autodesk Sketchbook Pro a shot (which I've had sitting around on my computer for some time, since I bought the Autodesk Suite to get my hands on Maya a few months back).

The brief detailed a "Think Tank," a tongue-in-cheek war machine powered by brains. I mostly just noodled around, and had trouble for the first while getting any sort of a bulky, tank-ish, vehicle feel. But here's what I got:

So I may or may not have mentioned in the past my plan to work for a couple years (of which I've completed six months already), before going back to school with the intent of pursuing art more seriously. For the most part, I've been aiming at The Gnomon School of Visual Effects' Entertainment Design program in Los Angeles, which still looks fantastic (and isn't too hard on my bank account). There are a few hitches though, primarily my being Canadian and the program being a bundle of individual courses at a discounted price, instead of a proper accredited program. Basically, I can't get a student visa to attend. I can (probably) attend under a tourist visa, but that would require me to return to Canada within six months, breaking up the one year program into two chunks. Not exactly desirable, and it would make renting an apartment pretty tricky. Not the kind of complications I'm overly eager to deal with.

The other option is the Feng Zhu School of Design (FZD), which is all the way in Singapore. I've been there, and I distinctly remember myself saying, "If I had to live anywhere in Southeast Asia, it would be here." Ironic. The option's starting to look far more attractive, but equally terrifying. I'm practically a homebound hermit, so the idea of moving anywhere for a year scares the crap out of me, but it's something I'm going to have to get over either way. Moving all the way across the planet, though? Hrm. On the bright side, Singapore is known for being extremely safe and clean, and everyone speaks English (more or less). I'm getting off topic - I should be focusing on why the school itself is attractive.

As I mentioned before, I've been following Feng Zhu's online videos as well as his somewhat older Gnomon DVDs, and his philosophy behind the teaching of these skills really seems, for lack of a better word, correct. I would be lying if I said I wasn't attracted by the quality of the student work, and how quickly they seem to be improving. Of course, I'll always take that with a grain of salt, but when matched up with the teaching philosophies, I suppose it makes sense. At the very least, I will apply - probably in a year or so. Since they judge portfolios primarily on the applicant's creativity/ideas/visual library/whatever you want to call it, I feel like it would be a good test to see whether I have even the slightest chance in this field. If I don't... well, I suppose I'd have to stick with programming. Until then, here's to working my ass off.

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