An argument against being an Art Monk

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Jeff Parrott polycounter lvl 12
I posted this on my blog deal. Figured I'd repost on here since aside from my Mom (I hope) I don't think many people here visit my blog. I would really love to hear what all of you on here have to say about the subject of art time vs/and relaxation time. C&C would be great.

Artists are a motivated breed. Well maybe not in the traditional sense of what you’re thinking motivation is. Maybe we don’t strive to climb a corporate ladder or max out our 401ks. But Artists want eat, breathe, and live their art. We, as Artists have a desire to learn new techniques, push ourselves to new limits, be pushed by peers, and generally improve in our art. Ideally that is wonderful and every Artist should strive and achieve this goal of being the absolute best Artist they can be. But that is not a realistic or healthy goal.

Think about it for a second. At least one of your parents worked. Maybe your Father was an Accountant or your Mother was a Doctor. What if your parents did not feed you, clothe you, or take care of your skinned knees because they focused 100% of their energy on being the best Accountant or Doctor they could be? You most likely would be dead by now. At the very least you would have skinned up knees, be naked, and really hungry. So why should you and your approach be any different with your life?

Now please do not read the previous sentences and think “this guy wrote a great piece for me to validate slacking off and not doing any art for 6 months”. Because that could not be farther from the truth. You should stay focused and dedicated to your craft (game art I imagine if you’re reading this). You should also have a balance to the process of becoming that great Artist you want to.

Achieving that balance is the hardest part of this whole thing. I recommend for those of you that like the sort of thing that you make a schedule and stick to it. It sounds lame. But 8-10 hours of crunching polygons, textures, and animations gets you 2 hours of video game, movie, or significant other time. Maybe that whole process is a bit rigid for you. Something like make a new project then take 2-4 days off and then rinse and repeat. That is the way I tend to work nowadays. Knee deep in 3D painting, sculpting, and modeling for a couple days, month, whatever. After that an appropriate (emphasis should be on appropriate) time off. Taking 1/5 or 1/6 of the time you worked on the project off is another healthy approach.

Having this balance makes you a more rounded person, candidate for a job, and also prevents you from being burnt out. Which is when you’ve focused so long and so much on one task or set of tasks that you have trouble finding the drive to complete those tasks anymore. That is something as an Artist pushing yourself and your art to the zenith of it’s potential should avoid at all costs. You can relate it to being a runner and overtraining yourself so much that you get injured and cannot even compete.

Do you art push-ups, get your artistic abilities as maxed out as possible. Just don’t be afraid to relax every now and then. Please feel free to comment below on this.

link: http://blog.environmentartist.com/?p=851

Replies

  • Xoliul
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    Xoliul polycounter lvl 8
    It makes sense. But I think you should be a "monk" as you call it, until you can at least live of your art (get a job as an artist).
    I've gone from really hardcore always working on things as a student, to a bit more relaxed way of life when I got a teaching job (still did multiple projects at the same time, often too many), to now actually being in the industry. And doing only one digital project, preferring to spend my free time elsewhere.
  • System
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    System admin
    Isnt your second paragraph a little bit overblown? Also surely theres so many facets to art in general that you can apply experience back to your craft.

    I.e. if you were into parkour im sure that would benefit level designers outlook in some way

    - Or general life experience and moral choice scenarios / Im sure penny arcade had something to say about some things from Heavy Rain and how being a parent effected their experience.

    - What kind of painter wont go out and marvel at nature / architecture

    Point is, what kind of artist is just grinding things out 100% without considering how life experience can benefit their work?


    ...Cant quite word this right, but I think the actual art "monk" is someone whos not just doing drills, which is what you seem to be implying?
  • Gannon
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    Gannon polycounter lvl 8
    Good read and I agree with all points, It's great that people can be so passionate about wanting to do something but you can't block out the rest of the world because you're only hurting yourself. There's a fine line between passion and obsession.

    For my part of my process of inspiration, I like to out and doing things and experiencing the world. Then I can turn around and put my experiences into my art to form new stories that I can share with others.
  • [HP]
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    [HP] polycounter lvl 9
    I can agree with some of the points, bad wording here and there but what's important is that I understand the message. My girl keeps telling me the same on a weekly basis... And before that, it used to be my mom, I never listened! I even heard it from some co-workers in the past. heh

    But it's true, you risk burning out. I felt like shit this week, my sleep cycles are all fucked again. It's 3am and I'm still up working on something, and I have to get up in the morning to go to work, that may have something to do with being a night owl but it's no excuse for you to not look after yourself I guess.
    Have to do something about it, "8 hour work, 8 hour play and 8 hour sleep" is what I'm aiming at. I'm about to hit a very important milestone in my (professional) life and I'll use it as my turning point for a more healthy life.

    Also, for all your workaholics out there, make sure you make at least one or two coffee breaks per day. I have the habit of working hours in a row after lunch, all the way up to dinner time; this week I decided to go downstairs for a coffee and some fresh air and I came back refreshed and pumped to continue working. And I thought to myself, why the fuck don't I do this more often. I'm feeling that if I work long hours I end up being not productive at all, so yeah PAUSES, very important!
  • Jeff Parrott
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    Jeff Parrott polycounter lvl 12
    Good point Xoliul.

    I'm not saying take a lot of time off. Risk of getting burnt out, and discouraged would be my main argument for that. It would be hard for someone trying to break in that just can't get themselves to make art for a period of time.

    Yeah I agree Jackwhat it's a bit extreme. That was to prove a point. Probably could have found a better analogy for that. I really like what you bring up about using aspects of your life outside of art to make art (parkour, etc). Great point there too Gannon.

    Art "monk" I meant someone that just lives, breathes, and sleeps art. Doesn't seem like a healthy lifestyle to do anything at that pace. I see entry people and students trying to have that attitude and the work suffers and so does the person. That's the main motivation for writing it.

    HP yes bad writing here and there. I make words go boom! Prolly could reword a decent portion. Thanks for the feedback on that aspect.

    Sorry to hear about the feeling like shit. That's tough. Milestones definitely help. I worked at one company that I had an hour and half commute to work. I was miserable and at my heaviest weight ever. I got a different job on one of my dream IPs and a 30 minute commute. I used the extra time to exercise and get in a little early. Needless to say that was the happiest point in my professional career because I had more balance than before even though I wasn't making art for that commute. It still felt like work.
  • Perfectblue
    What about those who have not yet entered the industry such as myself? Is there really any other viable alternative than to become an "art monk" as you say until you at least land a full time job? I take small breaks and make sure I have time to spend with my Wife, but other than that the rest of my free time is devoted to developing my craft.
  • Jeff Parrott
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    Jeff Parrott polycounter lvl 12
    Perfectblue I neglected to say it's a personal choice. It depends on the person. Some people (Snefer looking at you) can mainline Red Bull and work all the time without burning out. That's amazing honestly. I've only met a handful of people in 10 or so years that can hang like that. I can't myself and most people I know can't do that. So taking small breaks, some downtime etc is great. Take your Wife out on a date night, etc. That's a fine way to get your mind off art for a few hours. Taking time off to clear your head will give you some clarity about what you're working on and the way you're going about it. I know it sounds ass backwards but it really does help to decompress for a bit.
  • Rick_D
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    Rick_D polycounter lvl 10
    [HP] wrote: »
    I can agree with some of the points, bad wording here and there but what's important is that I understand the message. My girl keeps telling me the same on a weekly basis... And before that, it used to be my mom, I never listened! I even heard it from some co-workers in the past. heh

    But it's true, you risk burning out. I felt like shit this week, my sleep cycles are all fucked again. It's 3am and I'm still up working on something, and I have to get up in the morning to go to work, that may have something to do with being a night owl but it's no excuse for you to not look after yourself I guess.
    Have to do something about it, "8 hour work, 8 hour play and 8 hour sleep" is what I'm aiming at. I'm about to hit a very important milestone in my (professional) life and I'll use it as my turning point for a more healthy life.

    Also, for all your workaholics out there, make sure you make at least one or two coffee breaks per day. I have the habit of working hours in a row after lunch, all the way up to dinner time; this week I decided to go downstairs for a coffee and some fresh air and I came back refreshed and pumped to continue working. And I thought to myself, why the fuck don't I do this more often. I'm feeling that if I work long hours I end up being not productive at all, so yeah PAUSES, very important!

    those smoke and coffee breaks are what it's all about man :)
  • System
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    System admin
    jeffro wrote: »

    Art "monk" I meant someone that just lives, breathes, and sleeps art. Doesn't seem like a healthy lifestyle to do anything at that pace. I see entry people and students trying to have that attitude and the work suffers and so does the person. That's the main motivation for writing it.


    Where I wanted to go with my thing is that someone can live and breath art without grinding out work at a desk, the way I see it is that everything factors into your growth as an artist. To call this being an art monk seems wrong, but this is probably just me being fussy with words. Like you say though, you see entry level people do it... they arent what id call a monk, this writeup seems more about how being a workaholic without experiencing other things can be detrimental, but you seem to associate that with living and breathing art, which are different things to me.
  • Jeff Parrott
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    Jeff Parrott polycounter lvl 12
    Good point Jackwhat. I need to figure out how to write that into it.
  • Canti
    For about 2-3 years i did nothing but practice modeling up to general cg practices

    Model stuff. Make game assets, hunt for more tutorials modded games etc. it was my first time exploring the CG World and it was to awesome to just take a break from. I lost all my muscle. Stopped hanging with all my friends. got healed back 3 years in school from skipping to stay home and indulge in 3D, I ignored this girl whom i had madly loved and stopped visiting my grandmother.

    Ive made soo many models and used so much software Ive forgotten names and birthdays of my family.

    I love CG sooo dam much its addicting but i seen the light not to long ago and is Currently correcting my mistakes while portioning my 3D Time. its working out better this way :D
  • Kuki
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    Kuki polygon
    Canti wrote: »
    For about 2-3 years i did nothing but practice modeling up to general cg practices

    Model stuff. Make game assets, hunt for more tutorials modded games etc. it was my first time exploring the CG World and it was to awesome to just take a break from. I lost all my muscle. Stopped hanging with all my friends. got healed back 3 years in school from skipping to stay home and indulge in 3D, I ignored this girl whom i had madly loved and stopped visiting my grandmother.

    Ive made soo many models and used so much software Ive forgotten names and birthdays of my family.

    I love CG sooo dam much its addicting but i seen the light not to long ago and is Currently correcting my mistakes while portioning my 3D Time. its working out better this way :D

    It really sounds a bit sad man, sorry to say that :)
  • Jeff Parrott
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    Jeff Parrott polycounter lvl 12
    Canti that sounds really rough. Definitely the extreme of what even I was thinking with this. Glad to hear you're turning the corner.

    I made a few edits based on what all of you were suggesting. I tried to take into account the entry level people and outside influences on art. C&C is again always great.

    ----

    Artists are extremely motivated people. Well maybe not in the traditional sense of what you’re thinking motivation is. Maybe we don’t strive to climb a corporate ladder or max out our 401ks. But Artists want to eat, breathe, and live their art. We, as Artists have a desire to learn new techniques, push ourselves to new limits, be motivated by peers, and generally improve in our art. Ideally that is wonderful and every Artist should strive and achieve this goal of being the absolute best Artist they can be. But that is not a realistic or healthy goal even when first entering the field.
    Starting out as a student or entry level Artist is extremely difficult. Not only is the act of obtaining a job hard, but also keeping the motivation, pace, and not burning out. At first glance if you want X then work, eat, and sleep X so you’ll continually get better at that and be able to start getting paid to do X. That’s a fine approach for students. The risk that comes with that amount of immersion is massive burn out, becoming stagnated, and not having time to let your artistic ‘eye’ take a break. If you are in school, work, work, work, and take a day off once a month or something similar. If you are working a day job and making art at night then do the same. Taking a day off once a month is ok. Even if it’s taking your significant other out on a date every week or two that is more than enough of a break.
    Now please do not read this and think “this guy wrote a great piece for me to validate slacking off and not doing any art for 6 months”. That could not be farther from the truth. You should stay focused and dedicated to your craft (game art I imagine if you’re reading this). You should also have a balance to the process of becoming that great Artist you want to be.
    Achieving that balance is the hardest part of this whole thing. I recommend for those of you that like schedules make one and stick to it. It sounds lame. But 8-10 hours of crunching polygons, textures, and animations gets you 2 hours of video game, movie, or significant other time. Maybe that whole process is a bit rigid for you. Create a new project then 2-4 days off and then rinse and repeat. That is the way I tend to work nowadays. Knee deep in 3D painting, sculpting, and modeling for a couple days, month, whatever the course of the piece or project takes. After that take an appropriate (emphasis should be on appropriate) time off and relax for a bit. Taking 1/5 or 1/6 of the time you worked on the project off is another healthy approach.
    Having this balance makes you a well-rounded person, better candidate for a job, and also prevents you from becoming burnt out. Which is when you’ve focused so long and so much on one task or set of tasks that you have trouble finding the drive to complete those tasks anymore. That is something as an Artist pushing yourself and your art to the zenith of it’s potential should be avoided at all costs. You can relate it to being a runner and overtraining yourself so much that you get injured and cannot even compete.
    Taking that time off also allows you to bring other influences into your art. Go to Disneyland (if you’re near by) and try to not be inspired to want to make art with all the amazing set designs. Go see a movie and work in some of the places, concepts, and ideas from that movie into a future piece. Taking that all-important break will motivate you in areas you were not previously thinking about. Incorporating a hobby into your art is another amazing motivating thing to do. If you like to skateboard on the weekends take a day and go to a skate park. Maybe take pictures of the park and make that your next project. It will force you to take time off to do some “research”.
    Do you art push-ups, get your artistic abilities as maxed out as possible. Just don’t be afraid to relax every now and then.
  • passerby
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    passerby polycounter lvl 6
    really if your grinding a away at something with 100% of your time, your not a artist, your creativity and the output of it relies on your experiences, so if your spending most of your life in a office or at home on a computer, you really don't got any experiences to draw from.

    also in game art you spend a large amount of time essentially trying to recreate elements of the world in meshes and textures, so even if your not creating something new, you should be using the world around you for a reference.

    also don't know if it's just me but i find i tend to feel more creative and have better ideas, when i come back to things fresh after spending a few days with my significant other, or have been doing something active, your body and brain just work better if you exercise all parts of them, and not point your self down a narrow path for weeks on end.
  • dpaynter26
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    dpaynter26 polycounter lvl 6
    as i was reading this i got about halfway through your initial post and started to wonder if you were talking directly to me, the problem with that is my situation is a bit backwards and until lately ive felt like its too late, i got burned out, i used to be so motivated, worked on a great full conversion mod project in my first year of school and went to gdc2009 with it and everything, i pushed myself and got pushed to the point of loving art, loving modeling and loving looking at it, but i find it so hard to do it myself, i feel completely uncreative and i feel like im wasting my life away trying to find motivation again :(, over the past few days or so ive started to get more and more motivated but as HP said my sleep schedule is also all screwed up, it's 10:15 am here and i havent been to sleep since 8PM lastnight, i cant get my days and nights turned around and i always seem to want to do art when im so tired i cant stay awake, i tell myself ill do it when i get up but then everything else takes precedence, as of right now im going through an extremely rough patch with my fiancee, technically as of now my ex-fiancee hopefully to be changed soon, but even she wants me to work on my art and do good for myself whether shes a part of my life or not, i want to be good at making game art, sometimes im scared im digging myself into a hole because i cant really create anything to model and it's sort of hard to find reference for myself, i want to be an environment artist and i always want to work on a project with a team, like if a friend and i were to make an environment for udk or cryengine or something i feel like that would be motivation enough to jumpstart my engines so to speak, in fact i just posted a thread about making friends and talked about a team effort project, im always wanting to learn and love everything about modeling but i feel like im never good enough to actually create work like everyone else on this forum, all-in-all i want to say thank you for your post, even if it's just for the next few hours it has made me feel better and want to try harder, i know some people can burn themselves out on something and never come back but im not going to give up on the game art world, it's been my dream since goldeneye 64 and im not stopping soon, hopefully ill find a healthy balance between personal time for relaxation and other issues and making art, i want it to actually feel fun to model again and not just be such a serious matter and drain me, thank you for your post jefro and everyone else posting afterwards and if any of you have any advice or ways to help that you want to share please do, i can use all the help i can get, and good luck to you all :D
    EDIT:
    Also Jeff as i just realized when looking at your blog, you're a course director at full sail, im a student at full sail and up until september i was an on campus student, right now im Tim Bowsers Teachers Assistant and working with him for the second time on ESPN work, it makes me feel even better to see someone from school, course director or student its nice, thank you, really
  • Jeff Parrott
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    Jeff Parrott polycounter lvl 12
    passeryby You're totally right. You're not an Artist if you're not looking at how the world (things around you) are built. I definitely fall into the breaks help category. If I'm stuck on a model, texture, whatever I tend to take a break walk around, go see a movie, do a landscape painting outside, etc and I usually get struck by the idea lightning bolt and solve whatever art problem I was wrestling with instantly. Good comments.

    dpaynter26 hopefully you get things worked out. Sounds like you're moving forward. Just keep making art and make sure to keep a balance to life. That's extremely important. Glad this made sense and hopefully helps you moving forward.
  • dpaynter26
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    dpaynter26 polycounter lvl 6
    Thank You :) jeffro it means more than you know :) sorry for being mushy everyone, needed to get that off my chest and didnt realize how much i wrote rofl
  • JacqueChoi
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    JacqueChoi greentooth
    Art is like WoW.


    Some people are level 60 specced out in L337 gear from birth. They have +win mod enabled, and are just awesome (Let's call them Russian-Koreans). While others have friends and peers that can help uber level them to get to level 65+.

    The higher up you go, the harder it is to get there, and the more time it will take.


    Unfortunately, most people start from level 1, (but some well rounded life experience will start you at level 20).


    Anyways, if the goal is to become a level 85, most people just have to grind grind grind instances to get there. The danger in that, is they might end up as a shitty player who is good at nothing but instances. Others dabble in some PvP, level up their cooking/fishing skills, do some weekly raids and do their dailies. You will also become better at WoW when you play different classes, understand the theories of how the different roles within a team work, optimizing your playtime, and knowing the in's and out's of every role will allow you to become better at your main one.




    The point I'm trying to get at, is I god damn I miss playing WoW, and I can't wait till Diablo 3 comes out.
  • Jeff Parrott
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    Jeff Parrott polycounter lvl 12
    LOL! Jacque you're awesome with the analogy. Damn, now I really want Diablo 3 to come out already.
  • dpaynter26
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    dpaynter26 polycounter lvl 6
    ROFL! i cant believe you just perfectly described everything using WoW as reference, well i guess if the shoe fits, btw since reading this thread this morning i have actually been modeling...completed a task that needed to be done a week ago, almost got in trouble :( but things are starting to look up, i actually feel like it turned out alright, when the nda is up i will show you all :) even though it's nothing compared to your guys stuff. I swear I think this thread should be a must read for anyone new to polycount lol
  • TomDunne
    Actually, being Art Monk is a great idea. Not only do you have nearly 1000 career catches and more than 12,000 receiving yards, you're now in the Pro Football Hall of Fame! You also banked a whole lot more cheddar than video game artists do.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Art_Monk
  • Jeff Parrott
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    Jeff Parrott polycounter lvl 12
    HAHA! Totally forgot about that dude. Maybe I need to put a disclaimer in the piece in case anyone is thinking that's what I'm talking about.
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