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Staying Motivated as an Artist

polycounter lvl 10
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BenHenry polycounter lvl 10
Hey Polycount.
So it's been some time since I was last here. Quite a few years actually.
I'm here to discuss a topic, hoping it will lead to helping me find my fire again somehow.

I'll lead with what's happening. I'm a 3D artist, I've been playing around in that field for several years now. I started when I was 12 years old making visual effects with my older brother. I was a huge Team Fortress 2 fan at the time, and seeing as they were coming out with the earliest version of the Workshop (at the time, called "TF2 Contribute"), I decided to give a go at that for a while. And after submitting over 35 or so models to their website, they shipped one of my sets that I made with a friend (Black Market Business set if you're interested).

The fire was lit inside my little 14 year old poly-pushing heart.

So what did I do next? I spent the next few years making more content for Valve's several IP's, leading to success in both TF2 and Dota.
Keep in mind I was in high-school during this time. I didn't really care about my academics, and basically BS'd my way through it.
I was denying my siblings, my family, and my friends by working all the time, to the extent where it was simply not healthy. To that extent, I realized it wasn't healthy and started intentionally pushing myself outside. Through the ages of 15-17, I gradually stopped making art.

Here at 19 years old, I'm trying to pursue my passion again. It's never died, but it hasn't been the "stop-everything-don't-eat-food-or-play-videogames-so-you-can-make-art" like it used to be. I felt like I went from a small fish in a small pond, to suddenly a small fish in the whole ocean. I'm overwhelmed at everything that has changed over the years with software, and the general evolution of the 3D artist community. That said, I'm doing animation contract work for a medical company at the moment. That's "great" and all, but I feel like I'm going nowhere. One artist friend explained I was going through "Imposter Syndrome."
And after reading the definition of Imposter Syndrome, I feel like it describes me perfectly.

All the time, I feel like my successes were just lucky breaks. That somehow I've just had a little bit of luck, and nothing else.

So I find that whenever I start an anatomy study, or anything outside of my comfort zone, I have a very limited time before I just say "fuck that" and go do something else. I can't focus. I don't know how to make my anatomy sculpts better. I think this is partly due to hearing the constant guilt from my yelling parents telling me to get off the computer. Overhearing my Mother crying--thinking I was going to do nothing with my life but sit on my computer.
So its in part--guilt. And its also in part that I feel like I'm not succeeding, thus I don't continue making. If I don't make things, I'm not succeeding. I'm in this spiral.

I give up before I begin, and I hate that about me.

To raise the stakes, I've moved up to Seattle on my own at the age of 19. Nothing on the horizon, except for the faith that I will find a means to survive. Somehow. Is this a absolutely insane decision? Have I lost my fucking mind? I just hope someone somewhere needs an artist to do anything, and if my luck runs by me again, they find me to complete that task.

TL;DR-- I cannot stay motivated to complete anything. I need to find that fire I once had that would keep me staying up until 5am just to finish retopo-ing something.

What are your thoughts? Have any of you been here before? Any advice?

Thanks guys, sorry for the long post.
-Ben "SNIPA" Henry


  • BenHenry
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    BenHenry polycounter lvl 10
    Another veteran artist friend (not in the digital world) of mine simply gave me the "get over it", and "you'll figure it out" sort of response. Which has frankly been far from helpful.
  • pior
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    pior godlike master sticky
    I think traditional artist simply cannot comprehend how technically complex 3D art can be, especially these days. After all even the most simple Dota2 item requires ... 11 textures maps !

    My very simple advice would be to focus on creating a few pieces relying on as little tech as possible - restricted polygon budget, diffuse only. You'll be amazed how much faster things get done when working that way, which in itself is extremely motivating.

    Good luck !
  • MagicSugar
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    MagicSugar polycounter lvl 10
    BenHenry wrote: »
    Any advice?

    Looks like you have a knack for writing. You should checkout screenwriting. J.J. Abrams first sold his screenplay when he was 22.
  • cgBrad
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    cgBrad polycounter lvl 5
    At the age of 31 I find looking back on the past, nothing is more motivating than going broke. Well, maybe the embarrassment of moving back in with rents after you fail and going broke. Although I did both at one point.

    Anyways, being self employed myself I would like you to know what you feeling is completely natural. I also want to dispel the notion of "luck". There is no such thing as luck in the universe, it's all really a mathematical equation. You generally make your own luck in this life.

    (desire + talent) x # of times you try = success. I wouldn't say that's an exact scientific formula, but you get the gist of it. The more you try to do something, and the more talent and desire you have, the more likely you will have success.

    Maybe you just have to figure out who you are, and honestly I didn't figure it out for another several years after I was your age. Go out there, make mistakes, work hard, take chances, and you will succeed. Don't be afraid to fail, it's part of the process, it sucks but it'll make you stronger and better in the long run. Just because you think you are stuck now, does not mean you will feel the same in 6 months or years down the road. Life is funny like that.

    So I guess as your friend said, you'll figure it out, everyones journey is different.
  • Gardini
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    Gardini polycounter lvl 10
    Omg....Looks like I read my life now...
    But I'm 33yo now and don't speak english very well and live in Brazil...hahaha I'm fucked...ok
    I'm not very good with advices, but try to make things simpler as possible but refined, and give some time for every piece (from beginning to end). Try traditional things to de-stress. Pinterest every thing you love and access every day to keep motivated...
    And if nothing works, look for a psychologist or Yoga (the real one not that shit people do on gym) Everyone needs one at some point of life.
    GL man! I wish you all the best.
  • BagelHero
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    BagelHero greentooth
    1- You're more accomplished and aware of what you want to do than a lot of people are by your age. You're still young, take your time, and don't worry about the fire too much. That comes and goes.
    2- Beating Dustin to the punch: http://www.dustinbrown.com/getshitdone/

    You have to learn to work without the "fire". Ignore the voice that says "fuck this" and keep at it anyway. Sometimes that's for the better, but learn to recognize when it's only doing you harm. Build good habits, and post your stuff here. People here, on the hangout and on the polycount slack will help out in a pinch if you need feedback or are stuck. Start an "Anatomy with Ben" thread or something, if that's what you wanna focus on.

    And you sound like you know better than to doubt if you spending time on your art is worth it. It's a career path about as good as any, and it takes just as much work. Even if they're your family, you're not working for nothing. Pull them aside and have an honest conversation if you can. There's a lot of threads about less-than-supportive friends and parents. Have a search if you need to.

    Ech, reading this I come off pretty esoteric but tl;dr just make your way through Get Shit Done and hopefully it might give you a few ideas. Give yourself time and slowly ramp back up to feeling confident in your creations.
  • Bek
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    Bek greentooth
    BenHenry wrote: »
    I don't know how to make my anatomy sculpts better.

    Yes you do.
  • Fwap
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    Fwap Polycount Sponsor
    I found that if i keep the thought that "if i don't keep going, or if i don't finish this i won't get anywhere as an artist" in the back of my mind, i can stay relatively on track with my artwork even when i've lost motivation.
    Because it's true, no one is suffering more from your loss of motivation than yourself, so take motivation out of the equation when it comes to doing your art, and then when you do find yourself with a burst of motivation think of the things you could accomplish.
  • almighty_gir
  • Tits
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    Tits mod
    A bit like Lee said, it's not about inspiration and motivation, it's about discipline :)
  • rino
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    rino polycounter lvl 8
    oh come on. you are lazy. man the fuck up and work.

    experience being broke for couple of months and you'll see how fast you shit art.
  • slosh
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    slosh hero character
    You are still young man. A lot of it has to do with what is going on in your life as well. Once you start a family or some other responsibility pops up, trust me, you will be motivated by sheer survival instincts.
  • MrHobo
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    MrHobo polycounter lvl 11
    To echo what the others have said...

    Mentally you've hit "The Wall". Some people stay at the wall, other people climb over and some people turn around. For most people its the time when they start trying and failing. Alot.
    Its when they start trying things that they are not really confident in and requires genuine effort and discipline to get over. For character artists it's usually when its time to sit down and make a convincing non- stylized person (i.e. anatomy). It's when it stops being "fun" and starts being work.

    And the thing is Motivation isnt a thing when it comes to work and paychecks. At the end of the day this is a job. A doctor doesnt always wake up and feel motivated to go to work. A garbage man doesnt wake up and feel motivated to go to work. They do it because that's their job. Regardless of whether or not they feel motivated the job is still there and waiting to be done. Those are extreme examples but the point still stands. As an artist in the game industry you have to deliver on time and on budget regardless of whether or not you are feeling it.

    And to be honest, I think maybe its the idea of "fun" or "enjoyment" that is killing your drive. Im not saying that people do not enjoy their work, Im not saying they dont love their jobs. Im saying the reason why they do it is because its rewarding when a character, project, prop or environment is done. Its always rewarding but its not always fun.

    So take some time and ask yourself do you REALLY WANT to pursue this. Not because you can not imagine anything else but because you are committed to getting over all the walls, motivation be damned.
  • JacqueChoi
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    JacqueChoi polycounter
    Lets rephrase this entire thing.

    If you want to be a guitarist would you:

    1) Theorize about playing guitar, talk about playing guitar on online forums, procrastinate why you aren't motivated to play guitar.

    Or would you:

    2) Play guitar, practice, work around your sticking points, have fun with it (maybe go onto guitar forums, and post samples and ask for feedback on your technique).
  • Gav
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    Gav quad damage
    Dan Luvisi's episodes about making his own IP and not giving up:

    Furio's ZBrush interview (check out his stage demo as well) about just getting up and working:

    Shia's motivational speech:

    Honestly, man, without really reading this thread but having read countless others and assuming it's the same deal - you just need to get up and work. Lack of motivation and inspiration is no excuse. If you really want to do "this", make it a routine to plug away at something small..eventually it will turn into something big, or ignite the sparks of creativity.
  • BenHenry
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    BenHenry polycounter lvl 10
    All of this advice is really solid. I do understand fully that it is work, and not simply a fun inspiration powered project. I guess I know it, but do I always put that knowledge to work? That's the challenge, to which you've clearly given the solution to.

    I think something that will help me, is to start being more active on this forum. I've neglected using it in these past few years due to a few bad experiences.

    The anatomy for Ben forum is something I think I'll start first. So when you see it, shoot me with all the feedback you have.

    I definitely want to continue pursuing this. Not a doubt in my mind. I hope in time, I'll be able to share my progress and build up enough good habits to where you'll start to see finished personal works from me.

    Thanks guys.
  • Francois_K
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    Francois_K greentooth
    Pretty much what Gav and Jacque said.
    There's no secret, you gotta just do it. Fuck everything and just do it.
    There's never an excuse to not do something because when you don't , someone else will. And that someone else will get ahead of you before you know it.

    Also , start having a portfolio or Artstation. All you have right now are Steam Workshop items.
  • Add3r
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    Add3r polycounter lvl 8
    Francois_K wrote: »
    Pretty much what Gav and Jacque said.
    There's no secret, you gotta just do it. Fuck everything and just do it.
    There's never an excuse to not do something because when you don't , someone else will. And that someone else will get ahead of you before you know it.

    Also , start having a portfolio or Artstation. All you have right now are Steam Workshop items.

    ^ +whatever number we are at now. I agree with all of this.

    Don't ever second guess where you are now as luck. We are all where we are by chance, luck, being in the right place at the right time, etc etc. if you want to put it like that. Everything about my career so far has been right place at the right time and making the friends I did. I had a dev friend looking for people at High Moon for some junior level work for Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. I landed the job, then quickly fell into a lighting/technical position on the team, learned a shit load and here I am loving everything about technical environment art and lighting. Before that it didn't even cross my mind as something I could really love doing or make it a realistic specialization. If you try too hard to define your future, you will fall flat on your face a lot of the time. I thought environment art was what I'd forever be doing, who knows, I might even fall back into an env art role eventually.

    I've wanted to be in the game industry since I was pretty young (7-8yrs old or so), or rather just knew I wanted to make games. I got a tour of the current Blizzard campus right after it opened in 2007-ish, knew then that was what I wanted to do with my life and really began diving in. Found 3D art, built a basic portfolio through high school, landed a job right out of high school at a small, local, indie studio and have worked my way up since. All of my positions I have landed, I have fallen into. I mean I worked my f*cking ass off every day and night, even when employed, but I wanted it so I went out and got it. Currently 22 (just turned 22) and already have been working in the industry for nearly 5yrs now! All because I wanted it and went out and did it. Sounds like you have the same passion! Start just making cool shit man. Make games, go f*cking make em. Age is not a factor, nor is schooling, its all about YOU. YOU need to go do it. You want to be successful? YOU will have to make sacrifices, no way around that. Sure you need to live a life outside of work, hobbies, friends, etc., but you need to really dig into building your skills. Do it while you are young, have a stable income/living situation, etc.

    Trust me.

    Sorry for the wall of text. Goodluck! We, Polycount, are here for you.
  • wizo
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    wizo polycounter lvl 12
    Hey there, that situation is definitely something I am familiar with. I like what Jacques has said, you can spend a lot of time thinking and thats cool, but after that make a plan and act on it, make art. : )

    A thing to keep in mind is you need at least 2-3 art pieces that art up to "industry standards" to get attention from recruiters, yes it is not easy, but yes if you push a bit more you will stand out.

    Get some honest crits from some of the PC peeps here I'm sure it'll help out and make sure your next art piece meets the quality of current games.

    Good luck!
  • garcellano
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    garcellano greentooth
    I relate this to any other field, or in the creative field. There's definitely a hurdle for sure. I'd say start something where you can see yourself finishing, form start-to-finish. Sure there might be roadblocks and things to fix on the way, but once you give it some time and call it done, it might push you to do another piece, and then another.
  • loggie24
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    loggie24 polycounter lvl 3
    I'v been there. Hard work, dedication, consistency, persistence.. If you really want it you will get it, don't let anyone including yourself say otherwise.
  • pmiller001
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    pmiller001 greentooth
    Motivation is for chumps.
    Get out there, and slap that art in the face. Get it done.
    Discipline is the real master here.
    Olympians dont train when they FEEL like it. Neither should we. DO it because you must.
    You GOT this!
  • Rockley Bonner
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    Rockley Bonner polycounter lvl 10
    You rack a dishiprine!!!!!
  • Amsterdam Hilton Hotel
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    Amsterdam Hilton Hotel insane polycounter
    1. make it a habit
    2. use caffeine or marijuana if necessary
  • low odor
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    low odor polycounter lvl 13
    Mmmmm caffenated Marijunana..that would be a weird buzz..there are ample supply of both here in Seattle

    The Dota Mount sculpt you did looks good..

    Take a look at the War of Art: [ame="http://www.amazon.com/The-War-Art-Winning-Creative/dp/1501260626"]The War of Art: Winning the Inner Creative Battle: Steven Pressfield, George Guidall: 9781501260629: Amazon.com: Books[/ame]

    It's not a mgaic bullet, but it frames it in a way that may help you understand your lack of motivation
  • kanga
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    kanga sublime tool
    I dont think 19 is the time to worry about success. I think most people dont do what would make them happy because we have been taught to value visible achievement over personal satisfaction. Likewise, shutting yourself away and sacrificing all the other good stuff going on around you wont guarantee your success in a way you think others will appreciate (plus you miss out on meeting people that can influence your art and life for the better). The artists whose work inspires us work very hard, but the secret is they also enjoy it so its not really work :) I feel the pleasure you have in creating something shines through and others can see that, so first, breath out, relax and have some fun. There are people who dont experience even a split second of enjoyment in their whole lives so if you know that 3d can be rewarding you are ahead of the game.

    Remembering why you loved to create art in the first place will make the worry of not succeeding irrelevant.

    You dont need my plastic pearls of wisdom to tell you that though, because you already know.
  • meguskus
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    meguskus polycounter lvl 7
    It's really hard giving proper advice on motivation. I know saying "get over it" doesn't help, but it's really true - you have to realize it on your own and quite literally JUST DO IT :)

    It might help making some kind of schedule - nothing too strict or too much out of your comfort zone, just something that will help you make a productive habit. Possibly gradually increase the amount of time you spend on art, so you're not overwhelmed at the beginning. Good luck!
  • StephenVyas
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    StephenVyas polycounter lvl 16
    Motivation to me is = to a constant dissatisfaction + knowing that I have it in me to do better than what I just did + the desire to prove it to myself.

    Speaking solely for myself-That's how I stay motivated.
    No big revelation, just a simple mindset that keeps my butt in gear.

    A bigger problem may come later in our journey when we'd rather work, than be social. Missing out on life can be an equal or greater problem to have, if we don't make time for it.
    But that's another topic for another thread.
  • valuemeal
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    valuemeal polycounter lvl 6
    Young fellow, here's what you need to do

    1. Draw circles in your ketch book before drawing anything to loosen up your hands, it really works( also try prisma color col-erase 20044 blue pencils) good stuff
    2. Get paint tool sai, and get the settings at s-7 really good for line art on the computer
    3. Make some low poly fellows, shows you can do the low poly.
    4. Get a drawing group, being around other people who do this can keep you really motivated so you can bounce ideas of one another.
    5. Go to igda meetings if you can, interesting fellows are about
    6. A Never be afraid to mess up in a sketch book, you can make all sorts of drawings just to get the idea out
  • Spectral Dragon
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    Spectral Dragon polycounter lvl 2
    1. make it a habit
    2. use caffeine or marijuana if necessary

    Except #2, pretty much a simpler way of saying what I was going to say.

    The problem you are (probably) having right now is that you feel disconnected from 3d because back when you first developed a passion for it, you made your curiosity into a habit. Creating things is no longer a habit so something feels wrong.

    So, the trick is to make it a habit again. It takes roughly 30 days to form a habit, so every day you need to be making something and eventually the old spark will start to kindle again.
  • claydough
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    claydough polycounter lvl 10

    Chuck Close is the Bees Knees!

    If u have a chance to visit the national gallery check out his fanny fingerpainting. Done completely with thumbprints. ( very inspirational )


    To loosen up I had a drawing professor make us do a similar exercise of drawing popcorn using only X's n O's.
  • Ryusaki
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    Ryusaki polycounter lvl 6
    Thats pretty autistic, but on the other hand i found works like these can push one into a deep meditative flow and time and space becomes meaningless.
    Its a different kind of flow you will seldom get from digital work except maybe digital drawing.
    I could probably draw for 8 hours, but character rigging? That gives me a headache after max 2 hours and i have to do something completly different.
    I want/have to do it, but it doesn't flow.
    So if you don't find motivation, search for your flow instead. Sometimes just starting something can be enough movement to get things rolling.
  • Pain
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    Pain polycounter lvl 7
    LOL, Ben I'm in exactly the same boat with you, I've been wandering and looking for that "inspiration" for myself since 3 years ago but I'm still getting nowhere.
    One thing that is different is when I work I feel like I get a lot of improved, but I can't keep the fire lights constantly and that fucked me up.
    Now It comes to your topic and when I've read all of the comments in this thread, I realized that my real problem is the discipline. I was easily get distracted by a lot of temptation, from a lot of party with my friend, drinking every night, spend a whole day playing game every time I got an invitation, I guess from now on I MUST learn how to say NO to all off that, keep balance and working, make it as a habit.
    Thanks guys, your guys comments really motivates me a lot :).
  • EosOfOrcus
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    EosOfOrcus polycounter lvl 4
    I know how it feels. I've been this way. But here i am, I keep doing what i like and i keep getting closer and closer.

    Don't force your self go out play with your friends have some fun. Take that time and use it as inspiration. Because that's all you need to do awesome art, You don't have to stay inside to improve your skills. Take a sketchbook go outside. Try to study the shapes around you and breakdown everything to primitive shapes, keep building on that with shading and learn how to use perspective. All this will help you out with your anatomy practice and also it's going to be an asset that you can use for 3d art as well.

    If it's something about your parents that bothers you show them your passion, share with them what you are working on, keep being passionate about what you always used to love. Comfort them by working (drawing,Painting,doing anatomy studies) outside from the computer. Try to get them involved on what you like.
    They just worried about you and it's because they don't know any better about the things you are doing and how it necessary for you to use a computer to do those things.

    I have been having this issue with my older sister we have been always arguing about the time i spend on the computer. Nobody is wrong, But sometimes you have to consider what they are saying. And always keep pointing them on what you are working on and what you are passionate about, Be positive.

    You don't have to get frustrated for not finishing something. Each project you do work on it's a step for the next one. Think of each thing you are doing as a study and keep thinking of it as a way to improve.

    Dude you are great. Don't street take you down just follow the path you want and you will see that opportunities will appear keep doing what you like and share your work with people. Share your passion, Because at the end of the day that's what makes YOU.
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