Persist – Creativity Inc Letter

Leave a comment

creativity-inc

In Creativity Inc, Ed Catmull describes a letter he received from Pixar animator Austin Madison, which he found particularly uplifting when it came to protecting and promoting Pixar’s culture.

To whom it may inspire,

I, like many of you artists out there constantly shift between two states. The first, and far more preferable of the two is white hot, in the zone, seat of the pants, firing on all cylinders creative mode.

This is when you lay your pen down and the ideas pour out like wine from a royal chalice. This happens about 3% of the time.

The other 97% of the time I am in the frustrated, struggling, office corner full of crumpled up paper mode.

The important thing is to slog diligently through this quagmire of discouragement and despair. Put on some audio commentary and listen to the stories of professionals who have been making films for decades going through the same slings and arrows of outrageous production problems.

In a word – persist.

Persist on telling your story. Persist on reaching your audience. Persist on staying true to your vision.

I think this is a great letter. The audio commentary Austin refers to is what you find in your blu ray DVD. Turn it on sometime. Listen to the struggles the artists and directors when through making that movie.

You’ll see it’s not magic. It’s a lot of hard work. But through the hard work, and persistence, magic can happen. And that is what we all love.

Advertisements

How Artists Give Depth – Perceiving Relationships

Leave a comment

Look at this drawing. There is a lot going on.

perspective

Notice how horizontal edges that fall on the horizon are flat?
Also notice how any horizontal edges above the horizon converge down?
And how horizontal edges below the horizon converge up?

“Art is a lie that makes us realize the truth.” – Pablo Picasso, 1923

“Point of view is worth 80 points of IQ.” – Alan Kay, Computer Scientist

These concepts are part of the perspective paradox. We know alls sides of a square have equal length sides, yet if we want to draw one with perspective, that ‘rule’ needs to be broken.

Art has concepts that helps artists deal with perspective. One of them is vanishing points.

Vanishing Points

The vanishing point is that level on the horizon the artists eventually sees all lines of perspective converging. It’s that classic road fading off into the horizon.

When we do this a couple of things happen.

  1. Horizontal edges that are below the horizon converge up.
  2. Horizontal edge below converge down.
  3. And those on the horizon are flat.

Get this wrong in your drawing and things are going to look weird. So it’s a maxim artists use to maintain perspective.

Here’s a building I happen to be sitting inside.

perspective-lines-photo

Can you see the vanishing point? Here is me trying to capture it.

vanishing-point-building

If an artist were doing this for real, they would be way more careful than I am (I just eyeballed it). But you can see it. It’s there in every picture with depth.

The trick is identifying the vanishing points in your drawings, respecting them, and then drawing everything else in a way that respects them.

Easier said than done. Here is me trying to fill in some detail.

filling-in-detail

It’s OK (in that I picked a vanishing point). But you can see how bad it looks if you get the horizontal edges wrong.

getting-it-wrong

Here’s a beautiful drawing (with lots of challenging perspective lines) by Alex Eben Meyer.

eben_meyer_times_dining

Anyways, as a software programmer learning to draw, what I take away from all this is there are rules of thumb, design patterns, and maxims in art, just like there are in software and anything else.

I enjoy learning about these because it helps me see the world differently, in ways I couldn’t before.

Vanishing lines are neat. You need to respect them, else your drawing will come out all funny and the human eye will reject.

More drawing posts:
How Artists Draw the Hard Parts – Negative Spaces
Modified Contour Drawing Exercise
Drawing on the right side of the brain
Three exercises to get you going
Vases and faces
Drawing upside down
Use contour drawing to see things differently

Betty’s excellent book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.

Upside-Down Drawing: an exercise to reduce mental conflict

14 Comments

Something that’s beginning to dawn on me as I work through Betty’s book, is that it isn’t learning to draw that’s important, it’s learning how to perceive things differently.

This exercise, drawing upside down, is designed to do exactly that.

Instead of looking at a picture right side up and going – “House”.

But tipping it upside down you perceive things completely differently.
Instead of seeing: “Roof, chimney, shingles, window.” You see lines, forms, and detail indescribable in everyday language.

So your verbal left brain shuts down, and your right side (drawing brain) kicks in.

For example, here’s a portrait of Igor Stravinsky by Pablo Picasso. Try drawing this upside down (should take about 40min).

drawing-upside-down

As you are drawing, note how you are focusing on line and form, and not words.

Here’s my attempt.

my-attempt-right-side-up

Not bad! Spacing was the hardest thing to get right (you can see how the head just kind of hangs out there. Yet when you compare it with the original it’s pretty good.

drawing-rightside-up

This exercise is probably the greatest hack for taking anyone who hasn’t drawn since junior high, and re-activating the right sided brain.

Also notice how the most complicated parts of the picture, the crossing fingers, are drawn quite well. For most students, this is the finest part of the drawing. Why? Because the students didn’t know what they were drawing! They simply drew what they saw, just as they saw it – one of the most important keys to drawing well.

Betty also points out that when it came to drawing the face, there was probably a lot of erasing. Why? Because we knew what we were drawing, maybe starting talking to yourself, and inadvertently kicked in the the language dominant left brain. This verbalization doesn’t help.

Give it a try! Even better buy Betty’s book and see for yourself.

Be thankful for your Art

Leave a comment

Not everyone has a project they get up at 4am every morning to work on.
Most people would rather watch TV then write a blog post are create a great piece of work.

But that’s changing.

When I finished writing Samurai I was stressed. Not because I was worried about how the book would sell, or how popular it would get. I was stressed because I didn’t know what I was going to work on next.

This is nothing new. Startups suffer this when they get acquired. Directors when they finish movies. And authors when they finish books. They become vagabonds. Wandering the desert in search of their next project. And they are miserable until they find it.

So if you’ve found your passion, and you’ve got a great project you are working on. Enjoy it.

And never take for granted the joy that comes from working on it – because of course it’s not work.

%d bloggers like this: