Approaching the halfway point through my 100 Day Project, I thought it might be a good time to reflect on the process with a critical eye, to call out some of my unconscious sneakiness and correct for bad habits.
Steering around inadequacies
It has proven a double-edged sword to post each item online. On one hand, I’d feel a deep shame to publicly miss a day or give up altogether; keeping everything private would remove that incentive to continue. But on the other hand, the prospect of posting something truly shitty is embarrassing, and so it has proven difficult to select concepts or media that I’m not already confident in.
This of course is absurd: the whole idea is to improve and expand my skill set. If I work only within safe bounds, I’m basically wasting my time. So… no more of this sort of thing!
Some of the pieces I’ve worked on have been more time-consuming to realise than others, and it’s hard to identify a clear pattern. I am probably homing in on a better understanding of which concepts/media have tight scope, and which might keep me up until 4am, but there are still surprises (in both directions, though usually for the worse).
This ties into my public posting issue, and the desire to not embarrass myself. (I am a shame-oriented individual.) One would probably consider it fair, in the spirit of the original project, after a taxing day at work and 3+ frustrating hours spent at a different computer, to down tools and admit defeat on that particular idea; sharing whatever I had to show for it at that point. Aside from the fear of public failure though, I get attached to the initial vision. If I stop and post a half-baked version, how can I revisit and finish it on a different day? That’s against the rules!
Ultimately, without being able to predict accurately how much “rabbit hole” there might be in a certain idea, I should at least be watchful for the emergent scope growth, and try to bend the concept back in a safer direction. After all, many interesting things have been discovered and created accidentally, or by taking an unplanned turn. Time is a force of resistance in my materials, so I should be working within that constraint, improvising if necessary.
I find it very interesting (and disconcerting), the degree of murkiness that can exist between behaviour and motivation. Quite often I’ll make decisions or form habits without first considering why, and if I then work backwards to the impetus, I might be surprised by the underlying reason, finding it lacking or foolish.
This exercise is certainly one of those murky examples, and I’m not yet sure whether it’s also rooted in “bad reasons”. Instead of a programmer, do I want to become an artist? An animator? Do I want to be be a fully independent game maker; a one-man, game-creating hermit, perhaps? I kind of do. But are any of those even feasible?
Maybe it’s nothing that significant, and more that I’ve felt inadequate about my artistic and design chops, needing to prove to myself I can match the more artistic of my developer peers (developeers). It’s most likely a mix of all these things, and whatever the case, if I take heed of these observations, I should come out the other side with a better skillset than I went in with, furthering most of those potential motivators to some degree.
There are a few notions that have been simmering in my brain since reading a fascinating article by a digital artist, about their decades-long progression from enthusiast to professional. The foremost concept that struck me was that the only thing that separates experts and amateurs is time and practice. It does seem obvious, but it’s never been intuitive to me. Being able to see this artist’s awkward, unconfident beginnings, and the evolution of their technique, to the point of producing beautifully crafted illustrations, really drove the point home.
The other, more technical item I took away from that article was the need to work from references while learning. This really opened things up for me, because I’ve always hated the prospect of making unoriginal content in any form. And yet, trying to be boundlessly creative while becoming familiar with a whole new medium is the perfect recipe for a gigantic fuck up. And I’ve cooked it up many times!
And so, for most of the illustrations I’ve made during this project, I’ve worked from photographs. It feels like cheating, still – and I am undoubtedly riding on the coattails of many photographers’ beautiful composition and planning work – but I have come to terms with it as a necessary part of the learning process. I would like to put together a basic gallery of everything I’ve made on the project, and when I do, I’ll be able to link to my references, easing my conscience in the process.