Hello! Last year I made a $1,000 bet
with my younger cousin. Normally when siblings make bets
it’s over something fun like doing a backflip on a motorcycle
or something crazy like that. But mine was purely artistic. So the bet was: I had to get 1,000 likes
on ArtStation, within six months for something that I’m terrible at
which is 2D painting and drawing. And to make things more interesting,
if I actually succeded, I would actually get nothing. The deal was: if I failed
I would give him $1,000 and if I succeeded I would get nothing. So why would I do that, right?
Why put myself through that? Basically, I’ve always wanted
to learn painting but somehow the motivation
was never there. And then I learned about
“Loss Aversion”. Which is that you’re much more
motivated to stick with something when you have something to lose. And it worked! For the next six months,
almost every single day I was drawing, painting, going to
drawing classes on weekends, all sorts of things. Learning to draw. And I’m pleased to say that,
with just 3 days left in the challenge, I disappointed my cousin by reaching the 1,000 likes on ArtStation. Now, I don’t say this to
impress anyone, of course. I say it because, while I learned a lot
about drawing and painting, I learned a lot more about
how to be an effective artist. Because, previous to this, the way I learned Blender was
the way most people learn new things. Which is: they learn it
when they have time, they drift around, they
watch tutorials, whatever. But when you have something
to lose, like $1,000, it really throws things into question. So what I’ve done is: I’ve distilled down
the 7 biggest lessons, the 7 biggest habits
into this presentation. And throughout it I also talk about the habits that some of the
world class professionals today use. You’ll learn what, for example,
Stephen King, Pixar and even Kanye West have in common. So, you guys interested? Alright, good, yay! The first habit is deceptively simple: Daily work. You need to be working on your task,
your artwork, whatever creative goal you have,
every single day. Now, you think of this and think
“Why every single day?”, “Why can’t I just do it
when I have time?” “If I worked 1 hour monday to friday
by the weekend that’s just 5 hours. Why can’t I just do 5 hours on
saturday or sunday?” Well, the thing is that these
large blocks of time that we imagine,
they very rarely ever pan out. And this is why most
great artists across history achieve whatever it is that they do,
writing books, music, whatever it is, by putting in time every single day. So, for example, J.K. Rowling
wrote the world of Hogwarts, Harry Potter, across 5 years.
And she did that whilst raising a child. And instead of waiting for these big,
grand moments where she’d have free time on a weekend far away when she could
block it off with the childs and the babysitter, she worked on it every
spare chance she had, every single day. Jerry Seinfeld wrote the Seinfeld series
by putting an X on the count of every single day that he wrote jokes.
And then, after he had a couple of days in a row, his next goal
was to just not break that chain. Mike Birbiglia, another comedian
and a screenwriter, found that he was putting off
writing his movie scripts because he had too many meetings
with other people. So, instead, he did something interesting
which was to make himself a meeting with his script. Everyday at the cafe.
To sit down for 2 hours at a laptop and type away.
He found, by doing that, he wouldn’t put it off. And personally, from a first-hand
experience, I can speak on daily work in that it sounds simple. Who wouldn’t
want to work every single day? Everybody would want to do it.
Why don’t people do it? And the thing is: after you’ve worked
the whole day at the office, listening to your boss ramble about stuff,
you come home, you’re tired, the last thing you want to do is punish
yourself by learning something new. Instead, you end up on Netflix, Reddit,
videogames, whatever it is. So one thing that I found worked for me
was to agree to do the smallest amount of work possible. So, in my case it was
to put the pencil on a paper and draw one line. So in days when I felt like “I can’t
do anything, I don’t wanna do anything.” “I’ve had such a tough day I just wanna
sit and relax” I’d say “Alright, can I do one line?”
So I go “I can do one line.” The thing is, by the time you
clear the table, get the notebook out, you get all your pencils ready,
you get the sharpener, the eraser, you get the chair, the lighting,
you sit down. By the time you do all that,
of course you don’t stop at one line. Before you know it, you’ve done
a couple of hours. And you’ve just lost track of time. So that “getting started” is often
the hardest part about it. Once you can do that, it’s always fine. That’s what worked for me. Obviously
it’s a much bigger topic, “Motivation”, there’s a bunch of books on it
if you’re interested. Daily Work! It always trumps
short sprints. The world “trump” looks
funny now, doesn’t it? It’s like it changed its meaning. Number 2: Volume, not perfection. Honestly speaking, who here would consider
himselves a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to their artwork?
Show of hands. Most people, right? Most artists have this affliction.
And a lot of artists would actually consider one of their strengths.
To be a perfectionist. Now, while you should be striving for
a high standard of excellence and for bettering the work
that you did last, being a perfectionist actually
undermines your growth. Because it prevents you from
reaching the next epiphany the next lesson. Ira Glass, from the famous
“This American Life” radio show said it best by saying that the
most important thing you can do is a lot of work. It’s only by going
through a volume of work that you’re gonna close the gap. I want to give a more well-known example.
Think of Picasso. Most people can really only pinpoint
sort of a handful of his work. So they go like “Yeah, that’s Picasso,
we know that.” But actually his library of work includes
800 paintings, 1,200 sculptures, 2,800 ceramics, 12,000 drawings,
and this isn’t including prints, rugs or tapestries. So Picasso has a huge volume of work,
and most of us can really only pinpoint the hits, the big ones that really
went on to success. So he has this huge volume of work.
And if you’re wondering if the volume of work had
anything to do with the success, researches say that it did.
They did a study on 15,000 musical compositions from
Beethoven, Mozart, things like that, and they found that the more compositions
that a composer produced in a 5 year period, the greater spike in
the odds that they actually created a hit. So, volume is very important. Speaking from a personal standpoint,
I found that when I was creating these 2D works, the perfectionism stage
– that last little bit where you’ve done most of the work, but is tweaking it,
zooming in really closelly, and getting the fine details in the shadows and the
lightning, all that kind of stuff – it eats up a lot of time.
An interesting thing is that you don’t actually learn a lot
in that last bit. The majority of the learning comes
in the stuff before it. When you’re putting down the big shapes,
getting the anatomy of the face… All that stuff. That’s the stuff that
you learn the most from. The stuff at the end, that’s easy.
It’s putting reference next to the thing, zooming in closely, and just
painting over it. And that’s the stuff that
eats up a lot of time. My point is that if you’re a
perfectionist, you’re not able to get to the next lesson, to get to
the next big epiphany. Volume, not perfection.
Get on with your next work. That’s number two. Number three: Steal. Right. It’s common to look at the work
of our idols and just assume that they were born to do whatever
it is they do. That Rembrandt, first time he started painting,
he just had this idea for how to paint light and shadow. Or that
Quentin Tarantino was born to make these fun, interesting stories. But that’s not how the
human brain works. It’s always built upon
the ideas before it. Our idols, the stuff that we look at
and go like “They’re such an original! how do they do this thing?”
They built upon stuff from their idols, stuff that they loved. And this is why, if you look across
history, you’ll find that most great artists recommend stealing. David Bowie says “The only art I’ll ever
study is stuff that I can steal from.” Steve Jobs openly admitted in an interview
that they are shameless about stealing their great ideas.” And you’ve got Banksy stealing the
stealing quote from Pablo Picasso. Quote: “The bad artists imitate,
the great artists steal.” Love that one. So if you’re curious, “Why are all those
people suggesting stealing?” Stealing is immoral. That’s what we
grew up with. That’s wrong. Well, there’s a difference between
good theft and bad theft. And this is outlined in the book
“Steal like an artist”. There’s a list there, but the one that
really stands out to me, the most important one
is third from the top: Stealing from many versus
stealing from one person. Steal from one person
and that’s called plagiarism. Steal from many, people can’t tell. Or, as Gary Panter put it best,
“If you have one person you’re influenced by, everyone will
say you’re the next whoever. But if you rip off a hundred people,
everyone will say you’re so original!” So one thing I would recommend
is: find your idols. Find things that you truly love right now. And this is
very easy to do with the internet world today. You can just go on
ArtStation and find stuff you love. So this is what I did: at the start of my
challenge, I started an evernote file I and just went to ArtStation
and I just copy-pasted the stuff that I love and
put it into one file. Don’t overthink it,
don’t over discriminate. I didn’t even quote the authors.
I don’t know who some of those people even are. I just copied and pasted it.
And this worked as both reference and inspiration in the future.
So when I was making a face and something wasn’t right about the eyes,
I just opened this up, went to all these different ones, and I’m like
“Oh, that’s how they did that, that’s how they did that.” And then on really dark days,
when I really wasn’t motivated to work, this also works as inspiration.
Because opening it up reminds you why you got started. Stuff that
you love, truly. Not thinking about traditional
painters or anything like that. Stuff that you truly love. That’s “Steal”. Find your idols
and steal from them. #4 Conscious Learning.
So, show of hands, who has heard that
“practice makes perfect.” Most people!
The other one of course is “if you want to get good
at something, if you want to master something, you need
10,000 hours of practice”, right? Well, I used to think this was the case.
And this was the advice that I gave to people in my podcast or my tutorials.
If someone emails and says: “I want to get good at Blender”,
I say “You gotta practice!” “Practice, practice, practice…” But that’s not all that is. Because the human brain
is wired to avoid pain. So practice can actually,
if you’re not carefull about it, it can become a source
of procrastination. We tend to think of practice like this:
The more time I put in, The greater the results will be
and it’ll be a linear graph. But really it sort of becomes
a little bit like this: You get a little bit of
growth at the start, but after that you can sort of
stagnate, with just pure practice. Before I started my challenge
I just e-mailed some people that I liked and I was like “Hey, can I ask you
a couple of questions about painting?” And one of them was the artist
Efflam Mercier. I love his work. And he said something I never
heard of before, which was that One of the biggest wastes of time is
not being conscious of what you’re doing. Or, in other words, “doodling around”. And it really didn’t ocurr to me,
until later on, what he actually meant. One thing I like to do, by myself
when I’m working at home. Just on the computer.
It’s very lonely work what I do. I don’t talk with a lot of people.
And so, at the end of the day, sometimes what I like to do is
I just like to hear people talk. So I put on my headphones
and I listen to podcasts. Bill Burr or Your Mom’s House
Podcast… A lot of comedian talk. And it’s relaxing to me.
So what I do is: I open up a notepad, I put on the earbuds, and I listen to
podcasts and I would just… sketch. Not really a goal in mind,
but I would just sketch. And what I was doing was not good.
It was really quite horrible actually. Some of them don’t even
look like people. But I thought, you know,
the age old mantra: “Practice makes perfect.”
If I just keep at it, I’ll get better. But I look through the previous work,
I flip through the pages, and I notice that from
a couple of weeks ago there wasn’t any difference
between them. I wasn’t getting better over time.
They were sort of about the same. And I thought “I’m putting in
more and more hours here, but I’m not learning.” So I thought
“Okay, I’ve got to go back and I gotta learn something.” I actually hate watching some tutorials. Some tutorials, especially
drawing theory videos can be incredibly dry stuff. My wife took this photo of me when I was
watching a facial anatomy course. One of the most boring courses
I ever sat through. But I did this, and I hated it.
At the end of the day I don’t want to challenge myself. And I’m sure you
can relate to it. After you’ve done a hard day, if you’re gonna sit down
with Blender, sometimes you just want to do what you know, right? And I hated doing this stuff.
But in this process I learned, I discovered that I completely
misremembered several facial measurements. I was drawing faces that
were totally wrong. And they never would’ve
gotten better unless I learned this. After I completed this, my faces
improved almost immediately. Just like that. Because I stopped
to relearn. Had I continued just praticing, “practice makes perfect”,
It wouldn’t have got better. So, really, this graph looks
a bit better like this. When you include conscious learning
in it, you go up a step. Your areas really improve at greater
amounts than if you were just doing practice alone.
Practice is important, don’t get me wrong. But practice alone makes perfect?
I don’t agree with it. It’s conscious learning! It’s not always
fun, but it’s the fastest way to grow. Rest! Who here has had an experience where
maybe you’re working on a scene in Blender and then you’re just stuck.
You hit a brick wall. You don’t really know what’s going on
and you’re stressed out. Who’s had that experience before? Oh, yeah, lots! Okay,
that’s good to see! Not alone there. I have this a lot. And you’ve probably
had this experience as well. That maybe you walk away and
start doing the dishes, and then suddenly you come up
with the solution. It’s weird. Maybe you’re in the shower.
You’re somewhere and you just go like “Oh yeah, I could put the
lightning on the other side, I could change the color of the shirt,
that will match the thing!” And you just think of this thing
when you’re removed from the work. This is actually a strategy that most
professional artists use. For example, Stephen King, he reckons What would he know? Stephen King, he says that any novel,
regardless of its size shouldn’t take longer than three months
to complete the first draft. But then, after the three months,
you should stop work and not look at it for six weeks.
Six weeks, do something else, go on a holiday or start another book.
Do something else. Then after that, when you come back to it, it’s like
you’re reading somebody else’s work. You see it from a completely different
perspective. One that you would never have gotten had you just sat there
and just continued to type away. From a personal experience, I drew this
Rey from Star Wars over a couple of nights and I didn’t really know where
to go with it. I was like “Hmm, black and white. Traditional,
got a black background, whatever.” I didn’t really know where to go
from there. So I took a 3 day break. I went and I just started some other
drawings and did some other stuff. Then after 3 days I came back to it.
And I remember feeling completely detached from it.
In a good way. In that I could work on it like
I wasn’t “in it” anymore. Like I could experiment with it.
So I remember seeing a brush that I’d never seen before in Photoshop,
and I just drew over the top of it. And I was like “Oooh, that was
kind of interesting.” And then within about fifteen minutes
I had this interesting effect. This sort of “force”, kind of a
weird aura about it. And I never would’ve gotten there had
I continued to work beyond those 2 days. That break, that rest period, gave me
a period where I felt detached from it. Having this rest period is very important. It’s also what we actually do now at
Blender Guru as a strategy. So if we got 3 artworks we
want to create, for like a trailer, like “Grass Essentials” trailer,
or something. Instead of doing all 3 of them. Like: we complete one
to completion, then start the next one and then the next one to completion, then
start the next one. We do all 3 of them simultaneously. We work on this one
for 1 day, this one for the next day, this one for the next day…
Then loop back. And every time you loop back to it,
and you repeat the cycle, and go through it one by one again,
you see things that you never would have seen before.
And I’m sure you can all relate to this feeling,
So that’s Rest. Take a break, and see your work
with fresh eyes. #6 is Feedback. We sort of imagine, when we think
of “original thinkers”, great artists across history, that they were
originals, so they had to thumb their nose to the critics,
the naysayers, the people that said “Oh, that’s not good, you shouldn’t
do that.” And they had to just do because they knew what they were
doing was the right thing. But if you actually look at professional
artists and you listen to interviews or biographies, you find that the
exact opposite is true. They seek feedback more than anyone. And that’s the one thing I found true
looking across musicians, writers, anything like that. They all seek
incredible amounts of feedback. So, for example, Pixar, they have a room
called the “Brain Trust”, which is that when you walk in the room, your role
is removed and you are free to speak your mind. You could be a
junior artist at Day 1, and you could sit down and you could say
“This movie sucks!” Sitting next to you could be
the CEO of Disney. And you both have equal say
and you’re not gonna get fired. You’re not gonna get any
repercussions. It’s a free process to speak your mind. And this,
Ed Catmull, the co-founder of Pixar, says is one of the most crucial
parts to their success. Because their early movie suck.
And he went on to great lenghts to remind people how bad
the first versions of their movies are. He said they are not these great
masterpieces that they just come out from day one and just make it. It’s
through a process of iteration and feedback. They change
the movie to be totally different from what they’ve started with.
That’s the only way that it gets there. And in terms of people seeking feedback,
the one person you would imagine that would be least inclined, maybe,
to seek feedback, would be this guy. Guy that’s sort of sure of
where he’s going. Kanye West. If you look at his most popular,
most celebrated album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy,
this album was unanimously loved by critics. Some people say it’s the best
hip-hop album of the last decade. Or decades, or of our generation.
Just unanimously loved by all critics. This was the work of several artists.
I actually had a look, there was 38 artists and producers that contributed
to the album. He actually rented a studio in Hawaii and then flew in
his favorite artists. People like Jay-Z, Rihanna, Drake, a bunch of people
to come and both contribute to the album but also critique it. Pusha T mentioned in
an interview the process for it. Which was that he would basically
take people in a room and say “What do you think of this?”
And he was sincerely interested in what they had to say.
And when you compare this with Pixar it sounds a very similar process.
No one is going to be persecuted, it’s true honest feedback. And that’s what
can contribute to the success. To give a 3D example,
this is sort of a 3D conference, Gnomon School. Who knows Gnomon?
You guys heard of Gnomon? They are the #1 CG school in the world.
I think they have a 97% placement rate. And I think the second school
underneath that is like 50%. Crazy, they’re doing some amazing
stuff there. And I actually came to Australia, to Melbourne, and they
had a weekend event. And I went there and I was talking with Alex Álvarez,
who is the founder. He was saying that although all students there have
a high standard of excellence in every classroom there’s about
1 or 2 people that are the rockstars. That will go on to huge amounts of
success and have no problem finding work in the future.
And so I asked him “What separates the rockstars
from all the other students?” And without missing a beat he said:
“They seek criticism, and they actually listen to it.”
He didn’t mention composition, lighting, storytelling, any of that stuff.
It was the sole thing that actually separates the rockstars from
the rest of the pack. Very interesting. And from a personal
standpoint I can vouch and say that I had this work here, wasn’t happy
with it. I posted on Twitter, and I got a bit of feedback, but I
wasn’t really sure where to go with it. I was actually at the Gnomon event,
and there was Dylan Ekren, who is a character artist from Disney. And I
came up to him and I’m like “Hey, can I show you some work?
You know, bust my balls telling what you think of it?”
And he said “Sure!” I took out my iPhone,
and straight away he pointed at it and goes “You got two different sources
of lighting” it’s very odd, back-lit and front-lit, doesn’t match. “And also
you got two different styles. You’ve got a cartoony style face
and then you’ve got some realistic hair. You have to match them up.”
Interesting. Straight away, I knew exactly what
he meant. And it only took like a minute but it saved me hours of work.
I worked on this and it improved a lot. I hope to say it improved a bit.
So that’s “Get Feedback”. It’s worth its weight in gold. #7 is to create what you love.
I personally think that motivation is a hugely overlooked area of art.
We tend to imagine that the great artists you could give them any topic
and they could make it great. That’s what we sort of imagine.
But really if you look at the work that the great artists and musicians
of today are making, it’s stuff that they are personally interested in. Christopher Nolan, he makes movies about
things that he is really interested in. About the state of mind and being trapped
in things and sci-fi sort of elements. He is really interested in this stuff.
And he builds these stories and these worlds that have a depth that you often
don’t find in some similar movies. Elon Musk! He’s not an artist, but
somewhat successful. His 3 companies, SpaceX, Tesla, SolarCity,
he created these companies because he has an interest in humanity
and seeing it succeed. So this is a personal, intrinsic
motivation. And it’s stuff that he’s interested in. I’m sure if he started a
bakery, I’m sure it would suck. He’s not a genius… Well, he’s a genius.
But the Midas touch, that myth thing I think it’s really themes that a
particular artist is interested in. To give a more artistic example,
Brian Eno, he’s a great artist, make this ambient music, he said
he got into it because he was interested in listening to music that
he wanted to hear. And that really shows through his music. And from a personal story, I remember
when I was doing some drawings, I was posting them up on Twitter
and Facebook. These little sketches and things. And pretty soon, after
a couple of months, people said “So you’re only going to draw cute girls?”
And I was like “Oh”, it affected me. I’m like “Oh, no, I’m gonna become
one of those guys who just draws cute girls.” And this was
family members telling me. People online, people on Instagram,
“Why you just draw girls?” And I was like “I gotta balance it out,
I gotta start drawing some dudes.” So I started drawing some guys.
It just didn’t work! My heart wasn’t in it.
Hector Salamanca, I love this series. But I just wasn’t interested in it.
And the effort required to make something look good…
You need that intrinsic motivation. My heart just wasn’t in it.
And I remember there was a… It was around the time that Myth Busters
was hitting their decade of being on air or something like that. And I don’t
really watch Myth Busters. I know it’s a cool show and “Science!”
all that stuff. But I wasn’t into it. But I thought all the people would like
it if I probably drew a nice picture of the two guys on it. Didn’t really work.
And I get, my heart wasn’t in it. It’s a great show, but I
just don’t watch it. After a while of having these
failed attempts, I was eating time – I’ve got 6 months
to achieve this thing, I was wasting time, and then
I had this epiphany: Who gives a shit what
people think? Who cares? And so I went back and I started
doing the stuff that I really loved. Honestly, I find girls to be a lot more
of an attractive subject than most guys. That is what I think! And there’s enough
red tape in life. The government telling you what you can do. Your boss telling
what you can work on. Art is one of the few fields where you get
to do what you truly are interested in. And so I personally think that
when you start letting other people interfere and tell you what you should and
shouldn’t do, I think it’s a big mistake. So, create what you love. You’ll make
better work – honestly you will – and you will stay motivated in the long run. That’s the summary! Daily work,
putting work every single day. Focus on habit building, very important.
Don’t be a perfectionist, although you think it’s a good thing,
it’s generally not. Find your idols, steal from them.
Conscious learning, although it kind of sucks, you do need to go through
and find what your weaknesses are and attack them. Have a break, that’s
often better than just working through it. Get feedback from everybody. It’s not a
good thing to be putting your head in the sand and going through it.
And then, finally, create what you love. Thank you!