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Dealing with Creative Jealousy

I came across this honest art video about jealousy and I wanted to write about my own thoughts on this. I haven’t experienced jealousy much myself, but this could be due to my mindset or my unusual mix of interests – art and computing. There have been moments where I’ve felt intimidated by the skills of others, but then I remind myself that I have my own unique angle to see things from. I have abilities that perhaps the other person doesn’t have. With creative pursuits it’s not just about the skills we have, but also our own unique approach to it and the experiences that have inspired us. Those that thrive at what they do are not necessarily the most skilled at it, but the ones that bring a new attitude to the table.

I enjoy browsing through what others have produced. When I first started programming I read through game development diaries to see what process others followed. They were way better than me, but they did have years of experience on me too. I found it inspiring as it showed me the potential for what I could become if I stuck with it. If it wasn’t for seeing other creations I’d have never considered venturing into it myself as I wouldn’t have known what was possible. I’m also thankful to those that pass down their knowledge to newcomers, allowing them to skip some hurdles along the way. Some people allow others to put them off because they can’t imagine ever being able to reach such a skill level. If we allow a goal to feel insurmountable it can prevent us from even trying; Why invest our time and energy into something that isn’t going to work out? When we view the work of others it helps to do it with the belief that we can one day get to the same point. We’re all on different journeys and we don’t have to travel at the same pace or in the same direction.

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The Source of my Creative Anxiety

Following a creative pursuit can require a lot of resilience. I love hearing the stories of other creative individuals regardless of their interests because creative anxiety is a common issue linked to many disciplines. There’s no easy way to deal with it, but neither is it an unusual problem. When we create something we are pouring much of ourselves into the project and it can be difficult to emotionally detach from the outcome. We might have been working on that same project for a long time and could have made sacrifices to bring it to completion. We risk leaving ourselves open to criticism as we attempt to share our ideas with others, hoping that they’ll understand what we are trying to accomplish.

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Consistent Practice Builds Skills

On the games programming course I did there was only myself and one other that had come from a creative background. Everybody else had taken maths and science courses prior to starting. This knocked my confidence as I was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to fit in. However, there were definitely some areas where my different mindset was a benefit. Some of our classes required us to create animations. I got a fair bit of attention for my work as only a few of us had the skills to give it a good go. Something that I heard a lot of was, ‘I could never draw like you do. I’m not creative at all.’ I appreciate the compliment, but it’s a bit of an odd thing to say when you think about it, considering that it was coming from people that hadn’t even tried to draw. If you don’t try to draw, well of course you’re never going to be good at it.

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What is Zentangle?

In my last post I wrote about how adult colouring books were a good way to unwind and encourage creativity. In seeking out new books I also came across one about Zentangles. This is another interesting way to relax creatively without requiring any skills to have a go. A Zentangle is a pattern created on a square tile. A string is drawn through a space to break it up into sections. Different patterns (tangles) are drawn in each space. The final image looks incredibly intricate, but it really just involves a series of simple and easy steps. There are already a lot of examples of tangles out there that can be used to take inspiration from.

Zentangles usually come in a certain size, and on a larger scale it’s known as Zia, which stands for Zentangle inspired art. I haven’t had much practice with Zentangles yet, but I enjoyed creating this cat image and I am proud of the final result.

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The idea behind Zentangle is to focus on each stroke, rather than the overall goal. Something might look complicated, but when broken down into small steps it really isn’t. There’s a lesson that can be learnt from that when overcoming obstacles in our own lives. If we focus on following the process instead of the overall goal then we’ll eventually get to where we want to be anyway (as explained on James Clear’s blog, ‘Forget About Setting Goals.’) Learn more about Zentangles at https://www.zentangle.com/.

The Joy of Adult Colouring Books

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Enchanted Colouring Book by Nina Tara.

Last year I noticed what looked like beautifully illustrated books for sale in the shop. The images drew me in to inspecting a bit closer (I always appreciate nice images) and I realized that they were colouring books for adults. I started to see more and more of them popping up and decided that I just really wanted to buy one. It wasn’t so much that I had a sudden urge to do some colouring in (I draw a lot in my spare time anyway,) but they seemed like really desirable things to buy. When I went in to buy my first one I was approached by a few people that were really keen to share their new found love for colouring books. It took me aback how much enthusiasm there seemed to be for them.

I think I started a bit too early as there wasn’t a lot of choice at the time, but the collection of books available has been rapidly increasing to encompass most of the shop. They seem to be available to buy from everywhere. It’s not just basic patterns or nature ones anymore either, but you can get a fair few fantasy ones. I have a Game of Thrones book and have also seen ones for Lord of The Rings and Harry Potter (Although I find the best ones are less realistic as they give you more freedom with colours.) It’s amazing how much this interest has taken off. I don’t always have the time to colour in, but I have to admit, it’s really addictive once I get started. Alongside this, the idea of mindfulness has become a more popular one and makes me wonder if we’re all just longing for that escape.

There is some doubt as to how effective colouring in can be. I get problems where my thoughts feel like they’re running too quickly. It can leave me feeling agitated and unable to concentrate, at such times I find it helps to get stuck into something creative as I’m able to do that without needing as much focus. Trying to fight it leads me to getting frustrated and pacing around. I think repetitive activities (such as the stroke of a pencil or running) can be relaxing for us because we can get into the flow of it more easily than if we were having to overcome new obstacles. Either way, I don’t think it matters so long as you enjoy it. I’ve noticed that many of us seem to carry this attitude around that something hasn’t been worthwhile if we didn’t make enough progress in the time spent doing it, but it doesn’t matter where we end up so long as the journey felt good. Other scepticism I’ve come across is in regards to how creative it really is compared to learning how to draw. Learning how to shade and work with colour requires practice in and of itself, and I’ve seen some amazing examples of colouring that I think only an experienced artist could have done. It’s also fun to compare pages as they can vary wildly despite having the same images on them. Not everybody has art skills, but they don’t need them to give colouring a go, making it a more accessible creative activity. If it leads to them wanting to pursue other creative activities then it’s a great stepping stone. Regardless, colouring in is a relaxing activity because there is no pressure to produce something that is perfect, and can be considered as a place for free experimentation.

My grandparents use to treat us to new colouring books when we were younger and getting back into them has brought fond memories back to the surface for us. My sister and I have developed a bond over colouring in. We’ve started to have sessions where we do it together and then share the results. I like to leave the door open too, so that I can hear the birds and fountain outside. It’s nice to feel, for that short while at least, like we don’t have to be rushing all over the place.

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From Animorphia by Kerry Rosanes.

I’ve always enjoyed working with colouring pencils because of the textures you can create with them. I worked with them a few times before I started to use these colouring books (see my attempts for The Little Painting Challenge – https://myinnergeekblog.wordpress.com/2015/03/30/the-little-painting-challenge/.) I’ve found that it’s a good idea to shade colours together by pressing lightly, but building up the vibrancy by going over several times. Textures can be created using techniques such as cross-hatching (shading with intersecting parallel lines.) Create a sense of form by shading in the direction of the surface. I’ve also found that when shading large areas it’s a good idea not to do it all in the same direction or it creates too many strong lines instead of a smooth finish. Check out the colour wheel for ideas on how to put colours together effectively. Strong contrasts between brightness and temperature can also help an image to jump off the page.

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Autumn Leaves

Over on Nerd In The Brain the latest Go Learn, Go Play challenge is to look at leaves.Sometimes I feel down at this time of the year as things start to die off, but there are still lots of interesting things to see just during the Autumn. With the leaves changing to all sorts of beautiful colours I decided to set out with my camera to see if I could capture them.

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The Creative Mind

There are a few creative people in my family with an interest in subjects such as art and photography. As such, I always felt like I was encouraged to be creative too, even though I later realized I had a strong interest in computers. When I studied game programming I found that it was actually quite rare to come from such a background and most of the people I talked to were better at subjects like Maths and Science. When they noticed that I was able to create decent looking sprites to put in my games they would comment on how creative I was. One of my closest friends would always put himself down, claiming that he just wasn’t capable of being creative. I always remember one of the things I learnt as a kid from a book about drawing animals, that you should never say you can’t, but that you’re learning. I believe that we restrict ourselves by forming such strong beliefs of what we’re not capable of. As such I would try to encourage my friend whenever it was required of us to do something more creative.

A lot of people seem to link creativity to skills such as painting or writing, but it’s actually beneficial in other areas too. To be creative is to be able to generate lots of ideas and then eventually hone in on a solution to a problem. Creativity isn’t a talent, but something that all people can posses. People that are considered to be creative however, tend to be more curious and inquisitive in nature. According to The Bedside Book Of Psychology by Christian Jarrett and Joannah Ginsburg (Cognition, creativity, p 64-65) people that rank high on intelligence test are usually less creative because it requires a different mindset.

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A Ranking of My Creative/Artistic Abilities

I came across this post ‘A Ranking of My Creative/Artistic Abilities‘ on the blog ‘Things Matter‘ where people have been ordering and describing what they think they are best at. I couldn’t think of a reason not to join in and give this a go, so here it is:

  1. Drawing/Painting: I come from a very creative and artistic family and so have always been encouraged to spend my time drawing and painting. I don’t get as much time to do it now as I use to, but I still like to keep up with this skill so that I can create images for the games I like to build. Whenever I have the time I will also upload images to Deviant Art.
  2. Photography: I love going out with my camera to take photos. It encourages me to go out, take an interest in things and to explore my surroundings more. I’ve enjoyed taking photos since I got my first digital camera as a kid. I upload a lot of my images to Flickr.
  3. Video Editing/Directing: I use to really enjoy putting movies together using video editing software. We use to meet up and share the movies that we created. I haven’t done this in quite a while though, but I imagine I could pick it back up again if I wanted to.
  4. Writing: I never considered myself to be great at writing, but I do enjoy doing it and took a free online course last year – start writing fiction. I also attempted NaNoWriMo. I’d like to improve this skill so that I can also write better text for my games and maybe even attempt a visual novel sometime.
  5. Editing: I need to have a bit more patience in this area. I tend to enjoy starting the creative process, but I start to get distracted by the time I get around to editing my work. I do spend a lot of time editing my photos on Photoshop however and I also have a better understanding of the importance of editing my writing.
  6. Cooking: I’m not so great at cooking (I’m the kind of person that eats to live rather than lives to eat, so food doesn’t interest me that much,) but I do try to bake something each week. You can see some of these attempts on my website, Share And Bake.
  7. Public Speaking: I don’t enjoy getting up in front of people, but I have done it in the past so I’m not incapable of it either.
  8. Dancing: I don’t feel comfortable dancing in public, but I will admit to having some fun in the privacy of my own room, in front of the computer with the music on loud.
  9. Singing: I can’t sing at all and I very rarely do even on my own. It leaves me feeling self-conscious.
  10. Acting: Other than drama at school I’ve never attempted to act before, nor do I plan to in the future.
  11. Playing Musical Instrument: Never done this before, other than messing about with keyboards and recorders when I was a little kid.

It’s Not Just About The Tools

sunset_low_qualitySometimes I worry that my work won’t be taken seriously because of the tools I’ve used to produce it. There are a few reasons for why I may not be able to use the latest or best tools, such as not being able to afford it or not having the skills to use it yet. There are times that I prefer to keep quiet about what tools or process I’ve used to develop a piece of work because I don’t feel like it makes a difference to the final piece. If I love a game or a piece of art, will knowing how it came to be change that? While I’d find it interesting, I don’t think it’d change my opinion about it.

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The Little Painting Challenge

For the past few weeks I’ve been watching a program called The Big Painting Challenge. I love watching these types of shows as it’s not only fun being able to judge the artwork for yourself, but they can also inspire you to do more art of your own. Running alongside the show is a competition called The Little Painting Challenge, the aim of which is to create a piece of artwork on a postcard.

Unfortunately for me, not all competitions accept digitally created entries, which is how I usually work. I use to experiment with lots of different materials including Watercolour, Acrylic, Pastels and pen, but then I moved mostly to digital when space and money became an issue. I still work in pencil a lot and I think people/animals and shading are my strong points, so I figured this might be the way to go.

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As I had just come back from the Canary Islands I thought it’d be cool to look through my photos for inspiration. I bought some sepia pens and attempted to draw the image I’d taken of the two chipmunks. I figured that by using a pen I could create interesting fur textures and show the different directions and lengths running over their bodies. I attempted to combine this with pencil crayons to further help emphasize form. I’m not too happy with the final image and feel I should have perhaps chosen a different chipmunk picture to work from. I needed to try and create a background to ground them, but it didn’t work out as well as I’d hoped. Working on a smaller size and with pen for the first time in ages sort of threw me off with this. I wanted to have another go at this, but ran out of time.

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I love drawing eyes; the colour and texture of the iris along with that glossy speck of light. In this one I wanted the subject to appear as though they were gazing intently at something in the distance. The light is also coming from that direction. I did this with pencil crayons to try and showcase my shading skills. I was actually using a cheap set and had limited colours to choose from so I’m surprised at how well it turned out. I think pencil crayons are sometimes overlooked as not a very serious media to use, but they can give a really interesting texture to the image. I found I was able to build up the colours in a similar way to how I work digitally.

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I thought the fastening of a corset was an interesting activity to capture as you have those feminine curves contrasted by the tensing of the muscles in pulling those laces tight. I also wanted to show some anatomical knowledge; While only a limited portion of the body is shown there is still a lot of detail, from the light depicting the spine, to the ridges of the shoulder blades and the muscles and bones making up the arms and hands. This was a tip I got from the book Drawing Basics and Video Game Art by Chris Solarski, that in creating realistic figures it is important to pay attention to the points where the bone shows through on the surface. I still need a lot of practice in perfecting my figure drawing, but I wanted to have a go at this as I particularly enjoy shading skin. I might re-create this idea digitally at some point.