Jon Troy Nickle (Hazardous) wrote a very emotional and brilliant post over on Polycount about how to get good in the art industry (but it applies to everything in life) and it is really something I need to learn to follow myself to be able to become a top artist like I want to be, instead of being so lazy after work!
Essentially he says to pick up a pencil and draw. Simple as that. Do some work! Don’t worry how good or bad the outcome will be, just do it, and do it again and again until you think you are good and then practice even more to become even better.
I have made the sentences that I find the most important bold (even though it does not show up well on my blog), but I would recommend reading through the rest of it if you have time.
Everyone’s a n00b at some point. Everyone asks stupid questions, annoys some pro until he blows a gasket and says dumb shit on forums. Then I thought – why are these people coming to me for answers? I am the least qualified person to provide guidance or help. My path to where I’m at is so fucking weird to me, it doesn’t seem like good advice to give out. It REALLY doesn’t, so I’m not going to tell people what I did, because what I did is the WRONG WAY.
Then as my career went on, I talked to other artists and artists that talk to me, veterans, revered artists, 3d and 2d, some working in big AAA stuff, others working in mobile stuff. Some drawing comics, some sculpting in clay, some working in film! Some of them become very good friends, and with them, I’m able to really get into the nuts and bolts of what got them there – I’m talking about the Slipgatescentral’s the haikai’s, the Gav’s – guys that are really fucken good. That’s when I discover that their experience to becoming an art god (and being successful at this career) is pretty damned similar – it’s a pattern that’s remarkably similar for all the artists that we all raise up on the ‘I gotta be as good as this artist’ platform.
Over the years, that got me thinking. It’s something I spent an awful lot of time thinking about.
My experience and my path to get where I am, is not crazy at all, sure some decisions are unique to me, but I’m not special, and the path I took to get there is even less special.
When you’re a n00b artist, the answer is so simple that it doesn’t even make any sense, you just aren’t equipped with the experience to absorb what it means.
Put in the time.
Scared of the results being shit? Doesn’t matter.
Scared of making yourself hate your work? Doesn’t matter.
Scared of not knowing what to draw? Doesn’t fucking matter.
Scared you’re doing it wrong? Doesn’t mother fucking matter.
Picking up the pencil right now and drawing a funny looking penis with hairy balls on the paper – ALL THAT MATTERS.
Not how good the balls or the cockhead look – all that matters is that you did it.
So do another one. This time draw it pounding a sheep in the buttcrack. Draw the sheep eating a farmers leg, draw the farmer holding an axe about to bring it down on the sheep’s spine, draw a horned goat in mid leap attempting to save his wooly buddy, draw the farmer’s wife with a loaded gun aimed at the goat. Boom you just told a little story. ‘My day at the farm!’ Quality? Shit. WHO CARES. It’s better than sitting there passing that time and doing nothing, trust me IT IS. And you have to believe me that it was worth it. As someone asking for advice, believe me when I say… it’s worth it no matter how fucking piss poor, terrible your skill is.
But thats not enough, still the students ask, but HOW do you get good, what tools do you use, what tricks do you have to get good, how do you stay motivated, there must be something that gives you the edge. Very rarely, some are satisfied with the answers, they just ‘get it’ somehow. But most feel like my advice ripped them off somehow, I can see in their faces when I talk to them, I can hear it in their voices when I skype them, I can feel shift in conversation when I IM them. It wasn’t the thunderbolt from the heavens they were looking for.
That ‘AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH I fucken get it!!!’ Moment was not present in my answer.
Now Deviantart makes it really easy for me to keep track of those same artists, I can with a click jump back to their folio, to see where they are at now. I store all of my conversations, notes, all of our exchanges. I’ve been able to watch some young artists grow over a 5 year period – (it makes me feel really fucken old) And I’ve been able to watch some students flounder – still asking the same questions, still struggling with the same problems they have been for 5 goddamn years.
Out of the hundreds, Literally HUNDREDS of students that have asked me stuff, there is only a few that still add artwork to their folios more frequently than once a year. And in those students, you can also see the pattern emerging. They are slowly leaving the others behind, they are getting better, more skilled, and they are even starting to pick-up freelance work. They are rising up above the sea of n00bs all on their own – They also stopped asking for advice, because they realize what they are doing, works. And there’s no other way, but to keep doing it, and keep posting your results even when you can’t be bothered.
However, the same students that TOLD me so eagerly, I need to get a job, I want to work in games, I need to be a killer artist!!! Folio’s empty. Journals that talk about playing Dota or league of legends, art? none. They seem to never get it, always asking ‘How do I get a job?! It’s really tough out there for students!’ Some even come back to tell me they feel guilty for pissing their lives away and are fucking up and need to get back on track!
I applaud their persistence yet the advice remains the same. It didn’t change from last time you asked!
Stop playing games, hanging out with your friends, and make your folio. You’re a student, now is the absolute best time to be working on it – trust me, you do not want to be an old bastard like me trying to build your folio when you have more serious things to worry about, it gets infinitely harder to do. I have no question there are a tonne of artists here at polycount that would attest to that. Don’t fucking waste the opportunity you have RIGHT NOW. Your friends will be there in 6 months’ time and if they give you the flick, fuckem you’ll make more through your art! Take control of your shit! you’re the boss and you CAN do it.
I just wish they’d truly listen to the little artist voice inside that pushed them to reach out over and over again. Its starving and dying in there, its food is not playing games, its food isn’t fucking about getting drunk, watching days of your life go past without doing anything, it needs hairy balls and cocks drawn on paper to survive.
‘I can’t do it, it’s hard, I don’t know where to start ‘
Yes!!! It’s fucking hard!!! I’ve been through it, I’ve been through my own set of problems, I climbed my own mountains, without telling you my life story, have the foresight to understand that even though you are a student and I have 10 years of experience doing this job, we are the same!!! We are cut from the same fucking stone you and me. I’m trying to help you, I’m telling you what I did to ‘get there’ and you won’t listen to the words. You won’t! You refuse to help yourself, even though you’re asking for help!! TAKE CONTROL OF YOUR SHIT!!
I have reached this point with dozens of students, and it’s taught me a few things. Firstly, no matter what I say, or how often I say it – the words can only be received, whether they are digested, fathomed or understood is up to the recipient. Secondly, what they do after talking with me about the problem isn’t up to me. From that moment onwards it’s all up to them.
They are alone again.
They need to figure out for themselves how to move past the point of sitting there doing nothing now, to sitting there and doing something, and NOT going to play a game or watch a movie, but to go and start making art.
And it’s within that tiny little statement where *everyone* is remarkably unique.
What makes YOU go, ‘okay I am now going to pick up my pencil and start drawing hairy balls on paper’ is completely unknown to anyone else but you.
You won’t find the answer to that riddle no matter how many questions you ask on what forums, how many awesome reference pics you find, or how many epic artists you befriend, or how many threads you create. No one has that answer. And there is no substitute for putting in the time. Remember that.
Knowing that the ultimate point of this dance of questions comes down to something that is unique to every person, knowing that before the student even asks the first question – already knowing that I really can’t help them with that magic bullet that switches them on and turns them into art machines, what do I say?
I look at the people I’ve respected in my life, and recalled how they treated me, and what makes them special – why did I listen to them? What habits do I have from when I was a child, how come I kept them? I find out what it was. For me, it was people who were honest, and straightforward if that mean hurting my feelings, punishing me for making mistakes, making me cry – then so be it.
I don’t remember people who treated me nicely, told me my work was great, coddled me and told me everything’s ok (except my mom! of course). I remember the people that took me to heightened peaks of emotional state – and encouraged me to fly on my own. People that gave me bloody knees, got my hands dirty, encouraged me to take a plunge into the unknown and abandon my fears. Those people made me a much stronger person. And that kind of person, is who I would like to be for others if they need it – because that’s all I know, that’s what worked for me and I try to share that.