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letter to a student

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fattkid polycounter lvl 14
Hey folks,

I was recently emailed by a student who is working getting into the art/concept/3D field, but is "doing it on her own", taking classes when and where she can, while she's working etc, not going the conventional route of a 2 or 4 year school. 

I did the same thing, creating a bit of an a la carte education for myself, so I shared some of my thoughts and experiences with her in an attempt to offer a little advice or insight. Figured I would post it here in case anyone else out there might find it helpful.

"I'm more or less going to ramble stream of conscious here a bit - in an attempt to throw as many thoughts or ideas out as I can - might be a little discordant, but hopefully I'll cover more ground....

..........my first "Pro Tip" - The old adage "kill two birds with one stone". The idea is be productive on multiple fronts at once in an attempt to maximize your time value. Here is a good example from my journey -

1 - So, one of my jobs was a restaurant job, both in a restaurant and catering. So, I was making some money, which I needed. That's Value #1. Then, I would always bring my sketchbook with me. So any chance I had, I would sketch. That's Value #2. So, if I'm making money, and sketching at the same time, that's killing two birds with one stone. Then, I would always eat at the job, and take food home with me if or when I could. That's Value #3. It would save me time, cuz I wouldn't have to prepare meals or shop as much, and it would save me money. Value #4 was the social interaction. Since I was living the life of an artistic hermit, I didn't get out much or have fun much or socialize, which is good for ones spirits. But the job was cool and fun, whether I was vibing with my coworkers or customers - I had some quality interactions with folks. So that helped me keep my sanity while living a bit of an isolated life. Value #5 of the situation was the networking opportunities. I would fairly often come across other artists, or game artists, or other cool folks in the world I was trying to make my way to. It was good just to talk to them. In fact, my first job, I got while I was catering for a game company. I tracked down the art director, in a professional, courteous way - to just talk shop, see what they needed or where looking for, asked for advice etc. (another important idea - Think about what your client needs - It's easy to only think about what you want or need, but a big part of the success equation is meeting others needs - what they want - providing them with solutions). Anyway, I pitched this guy for an internship and I got it. It was unpaid, but to me, paying zero for a legit professional education seemed like a great value - as opposed to paying schools for info that wouldn't be as good as what I learned on the job. Also, through this job, I got my first paying gig, which led to my first full time gig.

So, in summary, I was able to be productive on 5 fronts, more or less at once;

1) Making money

2) Drawing in my sketchbook and improving my art skills

3) Free food = less money spent = more money

4) Fun and social interaction to keep my sanity

5) Networking

See what I mean? I was able to be productive on multiple fronts at once - instead of just one or two areas.  And if you can do this on a regular basis - however that may be - Being productive in multiple areas at once - it creates a certain level of momentum or compound interest, where, all these values combined, tend to multiply or increase your progress exponentially. I felt like this was a critical success component for me. I didn't have the luxuries or benefits of a full time student somewhere, so I had try and be "exponentially productive" to keep up with them and get as good as them.

 "As a prideful youth I thought that I was able to draw anything on my own, and fundamentals classes bored me. I was circling around in my own comfort zone and continued to stay there for years until I realized that I was unable to create anything else" - Yep! I had this same realization. Drawing was always a hobby of mine, and I thought I was pretty good - I cold draw skulls and demons and cool stuff, so I figured I was cool. Then, when I got that first job as an intern, and saw real artists and illustrators, I pretty much stopped dead in my tracks and thought "Aw shit. I still have a long ways to go." It was shortly after that when I really committed to drawing full time. I managed to get a small 1 year scholarship at a great traditional art school (Gage Academy of Art in Seattle if you curious). And it was just one solid year of life drawing, master copies, anatomy study etc. A little painting as well. At that time I also made a commitment to myself to draw every day for 30 days. No matter what. And I did it. Then I figured I would keep going, and do another month, for 2 months total of drawing every day. And I did it. At that point, it was starting to become habit, and because I was seeing progress, it became a bit less like work and more like an enjoyable, zen like endeavor. So then I decided to just draw every day for as long as I could. I made it 15 months straight, drawing every day. Some days might have only been a 15 minute sketch, but every day was pencil to paper. What stopped me from drawing every day was one summer where I was working 3 jobs at once - I had a day job doing some freelance 3D for a game company, a night job bouncing at bars, and a weekend job working at the restaurant and catering. Sometimes I was literally down to only being able to draw when I was sitting at red lights going from job to job. It was exhausting and stressful, and I felt my drawing wasn't super productive at that point anyway, and the stress to draw everyday added to the stress I was already under, so I stopped. But it was a very powerful and productive endeavor to do that. Point being - always focus on becoming a better artist - it's universal - it will serve you on every job you do, and it will make you more marketable and desirable, which in turn will bring better, cooler, better paying, jobs your way. And eventually, when yo get really good, you can start living life more on your own terms, which is a good long term thing to think about and shoot for, for overall satisfaction and fulfillment in life, and having more control over your destiny.

Another Pro Tip -everything you know, learn, and can imagine can be fuel and inspiration for art. Point being, I have no idea what the field of Health Policy entails, but you probably learned some things or had some insights or experiences that might help inform or inspire your creative pursuits, whether directly, or indirectly. If so, you will have some experience/knowledge that many artists around you don't have. Which can be a little bit of a commodity. Leverage it, if you can. In my case, I've always been an athlete and a gym rat, so I have a pretty advanced understanding of anatomy, biology etc. That served me incredibly well as a character artist and creature designer. A more in depth knowledge or experience base that a majority of my peers don't have, or not nearly as much of. Your robotics work also sounds very educational and insightful. That cold pay dividends in your art an design efforts.

Also - With your previous education, you appear to have a track record of being productive, successful, and getting things done. So your previous education was good training - developing your time management skills, organizational skills, developing learning strategies. This will help you in your new pursuits and endeavors. And, may give you some advantage over your peers, who aren't as accomplished academically or professionally. I got a late start on my career - started going to school at 26 - got my first industry job at 30. So, the handful of years before that, working construction, driving trucks, living life etc were valuable experiences - gave me a much better perspective on how things work, what I want etc. I had quite few peers over the years that didn't really have much life experience - they tended to be bit lazier, more complacent, less motivated etc. And it wasn't necessarily because they were slackers, though some were -But because they had no real frame of reference, or context, for their situation. One of my greatest motivators was driving to school in the winter (up in Seattle), and seeing construction workers, building homes etc., at 7 am in December - it's 38 degrees out, and those guys were getting up at 5am to go out and swing a hammer and dig holes in frozen earth. Fuck that. Never, ever, do I want to do that again. That was very motivating. No matter how tired or depressed I was, seeing that inspired me like nothing else. Working construction and manual labor was some experience that I had, that most of my peers didn't. Because of that, I was way more motivated, and I took much less for granted. So, whatever you've done in the past or accomplished has most likely helped lay down a foundation for your future success, and perhaps, is one more advantage you may have.

I would highly recommend doing life drawing once a week, no matter what. It is really on of the best artistic skill development practices there are. For so many reason. Obviously, academically, knowing the human form and anatomy is necessary to do characters and creatures etc. That's a given. But even if you aren't doing that, you are training your powers of perception and interpretation - what are you seeing? How much are you seeing? What did you not see? How are you translating and interpreting it? That is art, no matter what the medium or subject. I've done a lot of characters and creatures over my career - and I've been pretty successful - and it's from hundreds and hundreds of life drawing sessions over the years. But, what most people don't realize - is everything you learn drawing the figure carries over to other subjects. Silhouette, proportion, gesture, rhythm, structure, flow. I apply all these principles to everything I do - from designing vehicles to taking photographs. Did it occur to you that a vehicle can have gesture, structure, attitude and flow? It can. And if it does, it can look pretty cool. As you learn fundamentals of life drawing (sculpture is also very similar in this regard) - look around you for examples - in things like architecture or vehicle design, or even nature. Especially high end vehicles like Porsches, Ferraris etc - Look for the gesture, flow, rhythm, posture, attitude, stance etc. It's interesting how interrelated and universal it all can be. Master copies are also great training. 

"still figuring out what kind of "artist" I am trying to become" - Explore as you see fit, that's definitely part of the journey - but don't forget the rule being "exponentially productive". There is a lot of crossover in the different fields/skills etc. So when you are learning one thing -say, painting landscapes, try to identify anything that you can apply to the other areas, say, character design. So, how wold painting a background environment for a character concept be the same, similar, or different than painting an actual environment? When learning about lighting and mood - how might that apply to a character concept? How might you use those concepts to sell a character's personality or essence? How might the gesture, proportion and rhythm of a character design carry over or translate to an environment design? If you are designing vehicles, think about how that might apply to robots, which would be considered a character. In which case, learning about vehicles and machinery can help you become a better character artist. So, always try to learn or apply more than one thing at a time if you can. As you get good at this, you'll see all the interrelationships and similarities of everything around you - and you'll constantly be inspired with ideas, and ideally, cool and unique ideas. Usually a good or cool idea or design, is just some combination of cool or unique designs. Another example - when I am gathering reference for a design - say a bad ass attack helicopter - Of course I'll have some cool helicopters in my reference folder - but I might also have sport bikes, military vehicles, insects, power tools, construction equipment etc. It's all about broadening your perspective.

Community - yeah, like we talked about before - the more you can be around fellow artists, the more of a support structure you will have. The more motivated you will be or stay. Also, the more you will learn, Art is a team sport. A big part of your growth will be what you learn from others. I've found the best artists are ones who are always open to learn and absorb from whoever, wherever. Again -exponential progress. The reverse of that - folks that think they know everything - tend to not be as good artists - they are unable to learn from others, and wind up shooting themselves in the foot because being the guy that knows everything is more important than being a better artist.

Another thing I've done that seemed productive. As an artist, I always have a long ass list of things I want to do and learn. And I might be learning something, when a good opportunity comes my way to learn something else on that list. For example, I might be going through a creature design phase, when I wind up at a job working with some guy who is a bad ass weapon designer, which is also on my list of things to do/learn/explore. Well, I'll put my creature design stuff that I'm practicing on hold, to learn as much as I can from this bad ass weapon designer. All things being equal in regards to time spent, you'll learn more, and become a better artist, learning from the weapon guy/learning opportunity than doing whatever on your own. You can go back to doing your creature stuff on your own later - Learn from this master while you have the chance. Or it could be a more circumstantial thing. Maybe you have been working on fantasy type stuff in your free time, but you get a 3 month job working on a sci fi project. I would put that fantasy stuff on hold, and dive into sci fi design. Absorb as much as you can in that time. Your overall evolution and progress as an artist will be substantially more after 3 months of devouring sci fi stuff while on  a sci fi job, instead of going home and doing fantasy stuff. I call it "leveraging momentum". Then, after said 3 month contract, you can get back to your fantasy stuff. Also, while you are working on that sci fi stuff, ask yourself how you might be able to apply it other areas. For example, how might you be able to apply what you learned about sci fi design to your fantasy characters when you get back to them? The sci fi experience might actually help your fantasy stuff when you get back to it. Like I mentioned before - a good idea is often just a combination of good ideas. So yeah, be flexible and nimble in your studies - be willing to switch gears and take advantage of cool learning opportunities when they come your way. A lot of Bruce Lee's martial arts philosophy applies directly to art - being fluid and adaptable, and absorbing what is useful from wherever you find it.

Exercise - it's a scientific fact that exercise improves cognitive function. Working out will make your brain work better. Which will help you be more productive. And since most of your peers probably don't exercise much, doing so will give you an advantage. Also, it is stress relief. Which will keep you healthier. And if you are healthier, you will be more productive. Also, it's a bit meditative. It will help you take your mind off things - just focusing on your breath, or your movement, or whatever. Which is healthy. And, like when you are falling asleep and you suddenly have a great idea or a solution to a problem, exercise can do that to. When you are not thinking about something, it gives your subconscious some time to figure things out. 

Compound Interest - One of the keys to long term success and mastery is, in my experience, the little things. People always focus on the big things, as they should, but don't always pay attention to, consider, or apply all these little things I'm telling you about. The little things don't seem like much, in and of themselves. And they aren't, really. But when you do them, all the time, as best you can, it adds up over time. Leveraging opportunities, compounding or stacking knowledge, leveraging momentum, exponential productivity etc. And not only does it add up, it compounds. Do you know what compound interest is? Say you invest 10 thousand dollars. And every year, you make a 10 percent return on that money. The first few years won't be much. But 20 years later, suddenly you have a million dollars or some crazy amount. (Not sure about the math - I'm an artist, but you get the point). 

One more thing. A book. The War Of Art by Steven Pressfield. It's a small book - a fairly light read. I kept it with me all the time. I read it and reread it like a bible. When I was at the gym at midnight after a 16 hour day of school, work, studying etc. In between sets, I would just open the book to random pages and read them for inspiration. It kept me going. Kept me inspired. Reminded me that anything worth having is not easy.  It's probably gonna take longer than I expect. You gotta earn it. You gotta pay your dues. You have to "suffer". It's that suffering that helps you realize the significance of your goals, your dreams, and perhaps more importantly, who you are, as a person, and what your destiny is. In  away, "suffering" is fuel. It's perhaps an odd sentiment, but if you look at great individuals throughout history, in any field - the odds are good they suffered, faced adversity, they were down and out and hopeless. But they endured. And why not. If you are down and out, what do you have to lose? And what else are you going to do anyway? You only have one ticket on this ride of life. You wanna play it safe and ride on the kiddie rides? Or you wanna jump on the big kid ride?

Often times, success can come down to just doing what others don't want to do. Perseverance. That's it. Not being smarter, better, or more talented. Simply just willing to endure. To be the last man or woman standing. That's it.

Education - In Seattle, hung out at Gage academy for all my traditional/foundational training, watched Gnomon vids and online tutorials to learn 3D, frequented Conceptart.org to learn design, Polycount to learn game art, and online CGworkshops for more specialized 3D training. I also hung out with sketch groups and attended life drawing sessions more or less weekly. It's definitely a bit more work and effort creating your own education - but the trade off is that my education was tailored specifically to the things I wanted to do.  And, I didn't wind up with an ass load of debt.  Also, one might argue, that I received a superior education compared to most conventional schools or programs. 

And one more thing. The concept of Risk. As they say, the bigger the risk, the bigger the pay off. Again, anyone that did anything substantial or great in history, most likely took risks. A risk in a lot of ways is the chasm between mediocrity and exceptional. An ordinary life and an extraordinary life. But, there is a big difference between a risk, and a calculated risk. What I am encouraging is "Calculated Risk". What this means is, that when you do the math in your head, the odds appear to be good that it will work out in your favor. My general rule of thumb was that if I felt I had around a 70% chance of success, I should absolutely consider it. How I determined that percentage was more or less a gut feeling based on what I knew at the time. I would also consider the failure factor. Where would I be, and what would my situation be, if I fail? Will I lose all my money? Will I be homeless? What might I lose? More than likely, if it doesn't work out, things probably won't be terrible. And it's not exactly bad if it doesn't work out anyway. You might learn a valuable lesson. You might wind up on a path you didn't see before, or couldn't have got to without taking that chance. Interestingly, often times you will come across doors or paths to growth or opportunity, that you never expected, when you take chances. It's interesting how the universe will accommodate you when you act boldly and follow your heart and your vision. Or, it might not work out well at all. You might wind up (metaphorically) bruised and battered. But that's not a bad thing either. Like being a good fighter, knowing how to take a punch and a bit of an ass kicking is part of being successful.  Same thing in life. You're gonna take some hits whether you want to or not, whether you take risks or not. No matter what though, there will always be one good thing when you take a risk. You will have acted courageously. And courage is one of the keys to success in everything.

Some examples of "risks" that I took;

- I had an opportunity to go to school at 26 to study computer graphics. (Through a state program for laid off workers) Art was my dream. I had very little money, no experience with computers, no idea what computer animation was, and parents who did not support or encourage me. I took a chance. I stepped into the abyss and went for it. I sold what few stocks I had, cashed in my dinky ass 401k, and applied for a bunch or credit cards. I didn't have anyone to cosign loans for me, so I financed most of my education and expenses with credit cards, transferring balances from one 0% introductory rate card to another.

 - After a year of community college, I found most of my learning was on my own via the internet and the miracle of Gnomon videos. Also, in school, I was spending my precious time and money on classes that would not help me get a job as a 3D artist. Whether it was English classes or video editing, it was a poor use of my time, effort an money. So I dropped out of school to study on my own. I  spent roughly 2 years studying on my own, and managed to get a an internship, that lead to a job.

- One of my side jobs while I was in school was bouncing at bars. One of the clubs I worked at was notoriously dangerous. I was actually shot at once. But I went back the next week to do it again. Over and over. Why? Because I could make $500 a night cash. I was pretty confident I cold handle myself there so I went for it. And it made a big difference in helping me finance my education. 

- After 5 years or so at my first job, I got a bit restless and wanted to see what else I cold do. Also, this was when ZBrush was still pretty new. So I quit my job to spend 6 months learning ZBrush and getting a portfolio of characters and creature together.  It wound up taking closer to 8 months, but I wound up landing one of the coolest jobs I've had in my entire career with the work I did in that time. Which in turn helped me grow a lot as an artist and get to the next level.

- A few more years later, still in Seattle and getting a little restless again, I started to think about heading to L.A. -To jump in the mix with the big fishes and the bad asses to see what sort of cool stuff I could learn and do. I moved to L.A. by myself. I had no job, and wasn't sure where I would live. Just brought my computer, my clothes, my favorite books, and a mat to sleep on. I did have a friends couch to crash on lined up in Anaheim. The first year was pretty rough. Pretty stressful. Non stop freelancing and hustling and trying to stay afloat. But I just kept persevering, learning,and and pushing myself. And a few years later, I'm living the dream. Got a nice place a few miles from the ocean, cool roommates, awesome job at a great studio, and my daily driver is an Italian superbike. 

So yeah, that's that's basic lowdown on how I was able to make my dreams happen without taking the conventional schooling route. It wasn't easy. In some cases it was pretty brutal. But I was blessed with an opportunity to do something I loved for a living, so went all in and didn't look back."

So yeah, thought this would be cool to share, if it helps or inspires anyone out there.......


  • Eric Chadwick
    "so went all in and didn't look back." Caught you looking back! Ha.

    Great post, thanks for sharing!

    Added a link to this thread in the wiki
  • pangaea
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    pangaea polycounter lvl 5
    Nice read

    On the investment advice. If you made 10% return on 10,000 every year for 20 years, you would only have 67,274. It would actually take 49 years to reach a million pounds with that return of investment each year.
  • EarthQuake
    pangaea said:
    Nice read

    On the investment advice. If you made 10% return on 10,000 every year for 20 years, you would only have 67,274. It would actually take 49 years to reach a million pounds with that return of investment each year.
    Huh? A quick check with a compound interest calculator puts 10k over 20 years at 10% return at $630k, 25 years for $1m.
  • ZacD
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    ZacD sublime tool
    Maybe that's including inflation? Still seems way off.
  • RyanB
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    RyanB Polycount Sponsor
    pangaea said:
    Nice read

    On the investment advice. If you made 10% return on 10,000 every year for 20 years, you would only have 67,274. It would actually take 49 years to reach a million pounds with that return of investment each year.
    20 years
    10,000 * 1.1^20 = 67275.00

    25 years
    10,000 * 1.10^25 = 108347.06

    49 years
    10,000 * 1.10^49 = 1067189.57

  • ZacD
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    ZacD sublime tool
    That's not including +$10,000 every year, just $10,000 +return every year. But still, at 3% inflation, your million dollars in 25 years is going to be worth $500,000 today. That's still doubling the $250,000 you put in, and it will obviously compound more with more money in it. 
  • melli06
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    melli06 polycounter lvl 2
    Thanks so so so much! Gonna give this a bump I figure as plenty of people need to see this!
  • fattkid
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    fattkid polycounter lvl 14
    Hey folks - since some folks found my last post interesting or helpful - I thought I would post another one - to the same student as before - 

    Discalimer: These are just my thoughts, ideas, perspectives etc. - I don't claim to know everything or anything - Some things be debatable, or might not be PC or whatever - But it's my take on things, for whatever it's worth, to who ever might be interested......

    Thanks for your advice. For me being motivated is not really a difficult subject. My problem lies in letting my drive push me overboard, where I end up jeopardizing my health and social relationships. 

    - Same here. And I've struggled with that for many years. Here are some conclusions I came to about that - I don't think being focused and determined to create the life you want is necessarily a bad thing - In  a lot of ways, it's a matter of perspective.....

    1) If you're going to do something exceptional. or extraordinary, or anything different, above and beyond the norm, or the status quo, you will have to act and behave in a manner that is different than the status quo - if you try to adhere to the social conventions of "balance", or spending a fair amount of time doing what ordinary folks do, you will not have time for the necessary effort to rise above or live beyond said status quo. You'll wind up being somewhat ordinary, because you are living by the rules of ordinary folks. Know what I mean? Hard working folks can be "shamed" for putting in too much effort, by, more often than not, people who aren't willing to put in the required effort to live their dreams. Like crabs in a bucket - when one crab almost climbs out, the other crabs pull them back down again. Kicking ass in life can be seen as threatening by people who don't have what it takes to kick ass in life and pursue their dreams. So, you might be shamed for not conforming to the general standards of mediocrity. 

    2) Do you think Elon Musk puts in a 40 hour work week, and then goes home and watches ESPN, The Walking Dead, and goes out drinking with his friends, like most people do? Fuck no. He dedicates every minute of his life to his goals, passions and visions. And that is why he is exceptional. He rises above mediocrity and the status quo, by not living like the average person, who isn't particularly driven, motivated or inspired. If you want to do something extraordinary, you can't live an ordinary life. Most people aren't busting their ass for years on end, putting their heart and soul into their dreams. 

    I'm not saying you should completely neglect your social engagements or relationships - it's good for you and helps keep you happier and grounded. Relationships are necessary. Just understand that, what I did, and what you are going to do, is a bit unusual by ordinary terms. It's a lifestyle. You will have to make some sacrifices. There will be some long days and lonely nights, where you might feel somewhat alone or adrift. Or unsure of your decisions to commit to this. But that is part of the process too. You have to focus on your vision and your dreams. It's a bit of a battle really. You have to sometimes think of yourself a s a little bit of a warrior. You have to be ready and willing to endure and fight. 

    But in the long run, the pay off is well worth it. It will take some time to reap those rewards. The first few years, you will be putting in  a lot of effort and might not get the "returns' you would like or are hoping for, as soon as you would like. But that is part of the process. You need to spend a few years "investing" your effort, before you start to see returns on that investment. But, like I mentioned before, it's a matter of compound interest. The longer you invest, the bigger and more often you will see "returns', or pay offs for your effort over time.

    3) As you make your way on this journey, and improve as an artist, and start living the life you want, you will get to meet many very cool people. Talented, interesting, unique, inspiring, intelligent, fascinating people. People that you most likely would never have met otherwise. People that you may enjoy the company of much more than the folks in your social circle now. And that is one of the coolest parts of this journey. All the fascinating, cool folks you'll meet, befriend, hang out with etc. That will take some time as well.  But 10 years from now, you'll probably look back on all your sacrifices early on, and think how worth it it really was, to be living the life you want, on your own terms, surrounded by a whole bunch of the coolest people you've ever met.   

    As time goes on, you will meet lots of people just like you, who you will be able to hang out with, without compromising your goals etc. In fact, they will be conducive to your goals, and help you get better and get to where you want to be. 

    HEALTH - That is important. I've sacrificed a lot of relationships or opportunities to make my thing happen. But I have made it a point to try not to sacrifice my health. I might not have always done the best job at that. I put in a lot of long hours, and drank my fair share of coffee and  Red Bulls (at least they were the sugar free ones) - 
    But, point being, you need to maintain your health. 

    Exercise. Move. Get your blood pumping, Get your sweat on. You have to. For so many reasons. Exercise will make your brain work better. It will improve your cognitive capacity. It will release stress. It will stimulate your mind and imagination. It will give you a break or rest from whatever you're working on. It will give you more energy, to work harder and longer, in the long run. Maintaining your health, through exercise and nutrition, will give you a competitive advantage over your peers who do not do that. Exercise and nutrition are performance enhancers. Yoga is one of the best things you can do. And meditation. But whatever works, especially if you really enjoy it. This is a long haul. So you need to think long term when it comes to your physical and mental well being. 

    I currently work as a server at a restaurant, and it was really taxing on my wrists. I started feeling wrist pain for the first time in my life, so I trained myself to do my job with my left hand. But then, my left hand started to feel the same pain, so I had to quit my job in order to make sure I don't sabotage my artistic efforts. I'm currently looking around for another similar job that won't take as much out of my hands (it was a very, very busy shop). 

    I have had wrist issues off and on over the years. One thing that always helped me, was going to the gym, and training my arms. Biceps, triceps, forearms etc. This might sound counter intuitive, but it worked for me. Reason being, sore wrists are from over use of certain muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints etc. So you need to offset this overuse of the affected areas, by training the other areas - opposing muscles, tendons etc. to counter balance the irritated ones. Every muscle has a counter muscle that balances it and does the opposite action - training those opposing muscle groups will help "balance" the stress on the area - therefore, stabilizing it. Strengthening the opposing muscle groups will help stabilize the affected areas. Like training your abs to help with back problems. So, give your muscles a good once over on a semi regular basis to keep them all balanced with each other. 

    Also, turmeric is a good natural anti inflammation supplement. Check it out on Amazon, and read the reviews. Also, Glucosamine, MSM, and Chrondriton. As well as fish oils and healthy fats will help with connective tissue well being.

    That being said, you might have a legitimate issue with your wrists. So be smart. But, often times, things like this can be managed or mitigated with the things I mentioned above.

    I also busted my knee from running a bit too much lately. 
    I'm not a fan of running. Not that one should never do it - it's just that it is really a pretty high impact exercise. Especially on pavement!!! Never in the evolutionary history of man has he ever ran on concrete - until now! Point being, we are not designed to run on concrete. That can funk up your knees and low back pretty good. If you want to run, find a high school track or football field somewhere. Run on something semi soft. Even a park. Run around the perimeter in the grass. Barefoot is best. It feels good to run and walk on the earth in bare feet. I think it is actually a healthy thing to do. Staying connected to the earth is never a bad thing.

    So I am constantly seen in an arm brace and/or a knee brace.... haha. Being stuck at home icing your wrist every hour is kind of tiring. 

    I have some back issues that I have been struggling with over the last few years. It kind of sucks. But you know what? Sometimes, that is the price you pay for being a warrior. Doing battle for your dreams and the life you want. I'll take my dream life and my bad back over a healthy back and a life of mediocrity any day. And besides - science is making great strides in health management and injury repair - 10 years from now, we'll prolly be able to fix anything with just a few stem cell injections. Or, at least, that's what I'm banking on.

    I also have a tendency to be overly competitive and start viewing normal interactions with people as a waste of time I could be used to developing my skill.... 

    Excellent! I'm the exact same way. I have no TV. I rarely watch movies. I rarely go out or socialize. I try to spend every minute of every day learning, growing and evolving. Maybe it's  a little compulsive, or manic, or whatever - but that is also how people like Elon Musk do incredible stuff. How most people do incredible stuff. This impatience, is really your brain, or perhaps your heart, telling you - this activity, this time spent, is not getting you closer to fulfilling your potential. I'm by no means a religious person, but there is no arguing that this apparent reality we are living in, is a divine, harmonious design. And my theory is that, to be as unified, and in sync, and in harmony with the divinity of all this, one must fulfill their potential, to put their heart and soul into manifesting their dreams and vision. And to me, that is much more important than any sort of social conformity. 

    I would go ape shit if I had to go to  a baseball game and sit there for 5 hours. Just like you, I would spend the whole time thinking about what I could have done, accomplished, worked on, or learned in that half of a day. Time is the most precious, scarce resource we have. I'm very particular how I spend my time. 

    Your "impatience" is a gift. It is a powerful tool. It will help you succeed. It is one of the things that separate you from an ordinary person living an ordinary life. Many great people throughout history - Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Albert Einstein - were, by our conventional standards, in some form or other - mentally "unbalanced" or "unhealthy" - Whether it was "manic depression", "bi polar disorder", "ADHD" etc. - These things we've been programmed to believe are "disorders" or unhealthy things, are what often drive people to do great things. Don't get me wrong - these mental proclivities are a double edged sword - fits of depression can be debilitating - being bi polar can be exhausting and a real strain on your relationships, ADHD can make your life more difficult when you lose your car keys every day or can't get any where on time. These things are to be respected, and managed, if need be. But just know, these things that can be potentially detrimental to ones physical, mental, emotional, social well being, can also be your most powerful asset. Understanding them, and learning how to manage and leverage them, can almost be like a super power. 

    Consequentially, the lesson I'm trying to focus on is patience, balance, and self-care. Basically knowing when to push and when to back off. I'm waking at 5 on the weekdays to take yoga lessons to keep my mind and body conditioned for the day so that I can tell when I should back off (otherwise I am 100% gas pedal :D). If you have any experience or advice for wrist pain, please let me know!! 

    Patience, self care and balance are important skills to develop and practice. Knowing when to push and when to back off is also another skill that is very important to develop. The fact that you are aware of this, and practicing it, means you are probably doing it right, or at least, getting the hang of it. It takes time. Awareness is the most important part, Which you have. 

    In regards to your comment about breaking down goals, I have been trying to do that more. I used to be really scattered and perfectionist about art goals, and since then I have developed a system of creating small achievable daily goals. I make sure all my sketches serve a very specific purpose, and once that goal is achieved I back off, instead of trying to make it "perfect" in every way. Then I look at it and try to note what my strengths are, what I have improved, and what I need to improve further, and keep that in mind for the next exercise/sketch. I did this loosely over break, but now that I'm taking three classes (two at CDA and one online) I am also doing my homework in a way that builds on each other, like I'll move between different assignments in my various classes in order to create one single flow oriented towards understanding environment design better as a whole. Because of this I am trying to keep my workflow fluid, because instead of just doing an assignment earlier to "get it done" or because it is due earlier than the others, I will do it when I feel like it fits in the flow better. Basically I am trying to create one unified class out of all my classes. I think this is important for someone doing independent study, anyway, since no one is handing out structure to you on a platter. Let me know if you have any thoughts regarding my current process. I would love to be able to sit down with you at the end of the quarter and look over the progress like you mentioned. 

    What you mentioned above is excellent. It is exactly what I did. You need to get the most "bang for your buck" with everything you do. Another term, or way to look at is "using leverage". When learning one thing, can help you in another area. All of art is related. Drawing can teach you important things about painting. Painting can teach you important things about sculpture. Everything informs something else. Nothing exists in an isolated vacuum. The skill is learning to see and make those connections. For example, I'm pretty good at designing or creating characters and creatures, as well as vehicles. That would seem like two totally different subjects, at opposite ends of a spectrum. But, they are also very similar and closely related. For the most part, a vehicle, is a character. It has a purpose, and attitude, a personality. And the reverse is true. A creature, is really, just a machine. An organic machine, but a machine non the less.

    Learning to see or create those connections, and learning how to use one subject to help you inform, explore or learn, or design another thing, creates exponential progress. Like I said before, compound interest.

    And like you mentioned, being fluid. Being able to move your efforts or attention smoothly between the different subjects - learning how to bridge the gaps or differences between different subjects, by recognizing the similarities, and leveraging them, is powerful. It's like an MMA fighter. They have many different types of skills, from wrestling, to boxing, to kickboxing, and perhaps some judo, or whatever. Many different types of martial arts, combined together, and using the right one, at the right time, and moving fluidly between them. Just like in art. Just like you are learning to do.

    Also, it sounds like you are seeing the "big picture"- instead of just focusing on one class or subject at a time, in isolation, you are taking a few steps back, and seeing the big picture, and learning how to manage and leverage your efforts.

    Also, the way you are tailoring your specific assignments to help inform or push other areas is very smart. I did and do that too. You might not do the assignment exactly as asked, but if you do it in a way that helps you see or learn on multiple different fronts at once, it winds up being a more effective or productive approach. In some cases, I would do this, and not get a very good "grade" on said assignment. But I didn't give a shit about grades, (other than enough to get a student loan or not get dropped from whatever class) - I just focused on the big picture - becoming the best artist I can be. Essentially being a bit of an "Art Ninja" - just like Bruce Lee. It seems to me, most folks aren't insightful enough to see like this. So you might get some shit for it. In fact, you'll probably get shit for doing lots of things that will help you be successful. 

    Receiving shit from others for not conforming has been the story of my life - Parents, peers, teachers, whoever. And I used to feel guilty - or a little ashamed - But, that is because I did not know any better at the time. Now, those same people look up to me, and respect me, and compliment me, or tell me how jealous they are of my life etc. Turns out, I was just a bit of an exceptional person, who was a little smarter and little more insightful, than all the ordinary, mediocre people around me who constantly tried to discourage or sabotage my efforts. So, if people give you shit, or shame you, or try to make you feel guilty for following your dreams of creating the life you want - remember - even if they're loved ones - they might just be ordinary people, destined for a life of conformity, complacency, and mediocrity, who just don't know any better. That might sound harsh, or narcissistic, or whatever. And maybe it is. But that world view has helped me make my stuff happen, and not be thrown off course by other peoples expectations.

    Been noticing something you mentioned earlier. Last term, I was studying shadow shapes and line weight in compositions for figure drawing. I started applying these to some comic sketches that I enjoy doing, and realized how it had helped me create more interesting compositions in comics as well. Now I am studying environment design, and am trying to see "gesture" and "life" in landscapes and scenes as well. This is proving to be very difficult as environments are currently my weakest subject (but strangely my weakest subject matters seem to draw me in the most). But keeping that conscious intention in mind is helping me out a lot.

    Cool - you are seeing the interrelationships and interconnections of everything, and how they all relate and inform each other. It sounds a little hippy woo woo to say that, but it is, in fact, true. When we meet up, we can look at some environments, or perhaps some landscape photographs, to explore the idea of gesture, flow, and visual weight in an environment. And then, we can take these things we see in a landscape photo, and try to see those same things in say, some creature or character or vehicle designs. Again, the most important thing here - is you're awareness. The fact that you know it exists, and you are looking for it, means you are on your way to seeing it.

    I do not have an Audible subscription but it would be helpful to have something to listen to while driving between my home and Pasadena. What are your recommendations?

    I have a fair amount of cool books that I found motivating, inspiring, educational, insightful etc. I'll pass them along as I remember them - but here is one that I consider a must have and must read/listen. I have listened to this book many times. What is cool about it, is you can just start listening at any point in the book - even just for 20 minutes here and there, when you have time. Highly recommend!

    Check out this great listen on Audible.com. "The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way." (Marcus Aurelius) We are stuck, stymied, frustrated. But it needn't be this way. There is a formula for success that's been followed by the icons of history - from John ...
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