The Seven Road-Tested Habits of Effective Artists

Fifteen years ago, a young construction worker named Andrew Price went in search of free 3d software to help him achieve his goal of rendering a 3D car.

He stumbled onto Blender, a just-the-ticket open source software that helps users with every aspect of 3D creation—modeling, rigging, animation, simulation, rendering, compositing, and motion tracking.

Price describes his early learning style as "playing it by ear,” sampling tutorials, some of which he couldn’t be bothered to complete.




Desire for freelance gigs led him to forge a new identity, that of a Blender Guru, whose tutorials, podcasts, and articles would help other new users get the hang of the software.

But it wasn’t declaring himself an expert that ultimately improved his artistic skills. It was holding his own feet over the fire by placing a bet with his younger cousin, who stood to gain $1000 if Price failed to rack up 1,000 “likes” by posting 2D drawings to ArtStation within a 6-month period.

(If he succeeded—which he did, 3 days before his self-imposed deadline—his cousin owed him nothing. Loss aversion proved to be a more powerful motivator than any carrot on a stick…)

In order to snag the requisite likes, Price found that he needed to revise some habits and commit to a more robust daily practice, a journey he detailed in a presentation at the 2016 Blender Conference.

Price confesses that the challenge taught him much about drawing and painting, but even more about having an effective artistic practice. His seven rules apply to any number of creative forms:

 

Andrew Price’s Rules for an Effective Artist Practice:

  1. Practice Daily

A number of prolific artists have subscribed to this belief over the years, including novelist (and mother!) JK Rowling, comedian Jerry Seinfeld, autobiographical performer Mike Birbligia, and memoirist David Sedaris.

If you feel too fried to uphold your end of the bargain, pretend to go easy on yourself with a little trick Price picked up from music producer Rick Rubin: Do the absolute minimum. You’ll likely find that performing the minimum positions you to do much more than that. Your resistance is not so much to the doing as it is to the embarking.

  1. Quantity over Perfectionism Masquerading as Quality

This harkens back to Rule Number One. Who are we to say which of our works will be judged worthy. Just keep putting it out there—remember it’s all practice, and law of averages favors those whose output is, like Picasso’s, prodigious. Don’t stand in the way of progress by splitting a single work’s endless hairs.

  1. Steal Without Ripping Off

Immerse yourself in the creative brilliance of those you admire. Then profit off your own improved efforts, a practice advocated by the likes of musician David Bowie, computer visionary Steve Jobs, and artist/social commentator Banksy.

  1. Educate Yourself

As a stand-alone, that old chestnut about practice making perfect is not sufficient to the task. Whether you seek out online tutorials, as Price did, enroll in a class, or designate a mentor, a conscientious commitment to study your craft will help you to better master it.

  1. Give yourself a break

Banging your head against the wall is not good for your brain. Price celebrates author Stephen King’s practice of giving the first draft of a new novel six weeks to marinate. Your break may be shorter. Three days may be ample to juice you up creatively. Just make sure it’s in your calendar to get back to it.

  1. Seek Feedback

Filmmaker Taika Waititirapper Kanye Westand the big gorillas at Pixar are not threatened by others' opinions. Seek them out. You may learn something.

  1. Create What You Want To

Passion projects are the key to creative longevity and pleasurable process. Don’t cater to a fickle public, or the shifting sands of fashion. Pursue the sorts of things that interest you.

Implicit in Price’s seven commandments is the notion that something may have to budge—your nightly cocktails, the number of hours spent on social media, that extra half hour in bed after the alarm goes off... Don’t neglect your familial or civic obligations, but neither should you shortchange your art. Life’s too short.

Read the transcript of Andrew Price's Blender Conference presentation here.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in NYC on Monday, December 9 when her monthly book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain celebrates Dennison’s Christmas Book (1921). Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Cy Kuckenbaker’s Time Collapse Videos Let You See Daily Life As You’ve Never Seen It Before

There are apps to track the number of daily minutes you habitually fritter away on social media, but can your smartphone help you get a handle on the automotive color preferences of midday San Diego drivers?

Or the number of planes landing at San Diego International Airport on the day after Thanksgiving?

Or, for that matter, the traffic patterns of non-professional surfers hoping to catch a wave at at Point Loma?

No, but filmmaker Cy Kuckenbaker can.




His "time collapse” videos stemmed from a desire to get to know the city in which he lives with the same vigor he brought to bear as a Peace Corps volunteer in his 20s, exploring Iraq, Africa, and Eastern Europe.

This impulse might lead others to join a club, take a class, or check out restaurants in an unfamiliar neighborhood.

For Kuckenbaker, it means setting up his camera for a fixed shot, uncertain if his experiment will even work, then spending hours and hours in the editing room, removing the time between events without altering the speed of his subjects.

It’s a form that requires a lot of patience on the part of its creator.

He estimates that he spent 2 hours editing for every second of Midday Traffic Time Collapsed and Reorganized by Color: San Diego Study #3, above, providing him ample time to listen to the following audiobooks (get your free Audible trial here):

Revolution 1989 by Victor Sebestyen

How Music Works by David Byrne

Two Years Before the Mast by Richard Henry Dana

Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart

1493 by Charles Mann

1491 by Charles Mann

With the Old Breed by E. Sledge

The Emperor of Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee

The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera

Each car was keyed out of the original shot, then ranked and reinserted based on color. 28 of the raw footage’s 462 didn’t make the cut due to erratic shape or movement. See if you can spot them in the extremely ordinary-looking original footage, below. Extra credit for spotting the empty Gatorade bottle that made it into every frame of the compression:

His studies may not reveal much about his home city to the average tourist, but Kuckenbaker himself is able to interpret the numbers in ways that go beyond mere quantity and averages, such as San Diegans’ apparent vehicular color preference:

Nationally, red is a more popular color than blue. But not San Diego. San Diego, there’s more blue than red, so it’s like, you know, an outlier. And I thought about that for a while and it’s like, personally, the way I understand the city, that makes sense to me. The sort of tone of the city, the attitude of the city—it’s an ocean city. I can see why people would think, “Well, I live in San Diego. Why would I have a red… I want a blue car!”

His Point Loma compression boiled an hour's surfing down to 2 minutes and 15 seconds that KPBS’ David Wagner heralded as “a surfer's wildest dream come true, a fantasy break where perfect waves roll in one after another like clockwork, no lulls in between.”

The raw footage and Kuckenbaker’s documentation of the After Effects technique used to composite the waves speaks to a slightly more tedious reality. No word on what audio books got him through this one, though he goes into the technical specs and quotes Joseph Conrad on his blog.

The compression of the nearly 70 arriving Black Friday flights that kicked off Kuckenbaker’s San Diego-based time collapses in 2012 feels a bit martial, especially if Ride of the Valkyries just happens to be playing in the background. It makes me worry for San Diego, and also wish for a Kuckenbaker to come collapse time in my town.

See more of Cy Kuckenbaker’s Time Collapse videos here.

via Twisted Sifter

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inkyzine.  Join her in NYC on Monday, September 9 for another season of her book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Jurassic Park Without Dinosaurs: Watch Humans Stare in Amazement at a World Stripped of CGI Creations

How many times have you encountered an otherwise perfect view spoiled by a newly erected high rise, a construction crane, or a CGI brachiosaurus?

Constantly, right?

Video editor William Hirsch makes light work of Jurassic Park’s primary attractions’ first appearance, literally erasing them from the scene.

Hirsch estimated that it took him about a week to get rid of those pesky ‘saurs using nothing fancier than After Effects’s built in tools, which include the motion tracking software Mocha.




It's equal parts ridiculous and lovely to see humans suddenly thunderstruck by the unspoiled landscape they’ve been driving through.

These days, of course, Laura Dern would have to glance up from her phone, not a paper map.

Though it's not such a stretch to imagine Jurassic Park's author's successor, the late Michael Crichton's literary heir, hard at work on a dystopian novel titled Park.

At the time of its release, Jurassic Park’s dinosaurs were a special effects game changer. Their numbers were supplemented by some non-computer-generated animatronic models, though no doubt Spielberg was apprehensive given the way his robotic sharks acted up on the set of Jaws. The human players may have had more screen time, but the dinosaurs’ 15 minutes of footage has resulted in a lasting fame, extending decades beyond the expected 15 minutes.

Unexpectedly, Hirsch’s dinosaurs, or rather, lack thereof, have generated the most excitement with regard to his project. But his attention to detail is also laudable. Above, he reveals how he tweaked the access badge dangling from the rear view mirror of the park's all-terrain vehicle.

Are we wrong to think that John Williams’ swelling original score feels more organic in this dinosaur-free context? Rivers, trees, and vast amounts of skies have been known to spur composers to such heights.

The potentially lethal prehistoric beasts are out of the way, but that line “We’re gonna make a fortune with this place” retains an air of ominous foreshadowing, given the plentiful natural resources on display. Sometimes humans can do more damage than dinosaurs.

If that feels too intense, you can also retreat to the escapist pleasures of the original, below.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in NYC on Monday, October 15 for another monthly installment of her book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Discover Rare 1980s CDs by Lou Reed, Devo & Talking Heads That Combined Music with Computer Graphics

When it first hit the market in 1982, the compact disc famously promised "perfect sound that lasts forever." But innovation has a way of marching continually on, and naturally the innovators soon started wondering: what if perfect sound isn't enough? What if consumers want something to go with it, something to look at? And so, when compact disc co-developers Sony and Philips updated its standards, they included documentation on the use of the format's channels not occupied by audio data. So was born the CD+G, which boasted "not only the CD's full, digital sound, but also video information — graphics — viewable on any television set or video monitor."

That text comes from a package scan posted by the online CD+G Museum, whose Youtube channel features rips of nearly every record released on the format, beginning with the first, the Firesign Theatre's Eat or Be Eaten.




When it came out, listeners who happened to own a CD+G-compatible player (or a CD+G-compatible video game console, my own choice at the time having been the Turbografx-16) could see that beloved "head comedy" troupe's densely layered studio production and even more densely layered humor accompanied by images rendered in psychedelic color — or as psychedelic as images can get with only sixteen colors available on the palette, not to mention a resolution of 288 pixels by 192 pixels, not much larger than a icon on the home screen of a modern smartphone. Those limitations may make CD+G graphics look unimpressive today, but just imagine what a cutting-edge novelty they must have seemed in the late 1980s when they first appeared.

Displaying lyrics for karaoke singers was the most obvious use of CD+G technology, but its short lifespan also saw a fair few experiments on such other major-label releases, all viewable at the CD+G Museum, as Lou Reed's New York, which combines lyrics with digitized photography of the eponymous city; Talking Heads' Naked, which provides musical information such as the chord changes and instruments playing on each phrase; Johann Sebastian Bach's St. Matthew Passion, which translates the libretto alongside works of art; and Devo's single "Disco Dancer," which tells the origin story of those "five Spudboys from Ohio." With these and almost every other CD+G release available at the CD+G museum, you'll have no shortage of not just background music but background visuals for your next late-80s-early-90s-themed party.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

This Is Your Kids’ Brains on Internet Algorithms: A Chilling Case Study Shows What’s Wrong with the Internet Today

Multimedia artist and writer James Bridle has a new book out, and it’s terrifying—appropriately so, I would say—in its analysis of “the dangers of trusting computers to explain (and, increasingly, run) the world,” as Adi Robertson writes at The Verge. Summing up one of his arguments in his New Dark Age: Technology and the End of the Future, Bridle writes, “We know more and more about the world, while being less and less able to do anything about it.” As Bridle tells Robertson in a short interview, he doesn’t see the problems as irremediable, provided we gain “some kind of agency within these systems.” But he insists that we must face head-on certain facts about our dystopian, sci-fi-like reality.

In the brief TED talk above, you can see Bridle do just that, beginning with an analysis of the millions of proliferating videos for children, with billions of views, on YouTube, a case study that quickly goes to some disturbing places. Videos showing a pair of hands unwrapping chocolate eggs to reveal a toy within “are like crack for little kids,” says Bridle, who watch them over and over. Autoplay ferries them on to weirder and weirder iterations, which eventually end up with dancing Hitlers and their favorite cartoon characters performing lewd and violent acts. Some of the videos seem to be made by professional animators and "wholesome kid's entertainers," some seem assembled by software, some by “people who clearly shouldn’t be around children at all.”




The algorithms that drive the bizarre universe of these videos are used to “hack the brains of very small children in return for advertising revenue,” says Bridle. “At least that what I hope they’re doing it for.” Bridle soon bridges the machinery of kids’ YouTube with the adult version. “It’s impossible to know,” he says, who’s posting these millions of videos, “or what their motives might be…. Really it’s exactly the same mechanism that’s happening across most of our digital services, where it’s impossible to know where this information is coming from.” The children’s videos are “basically fake news for kids. We’re training them from birth to click on the very first link that comes along, regardless of what the source is.”

High school and college teachers already deal with the problem of students who cannot judge good information from bad—and who cannot really be blamed for it, since millions of adults seem unable to do so as well. In surveying YouTube children’s videos, Bridle finds himself asking the same questions that arise in response to so much online content: “Is this a bot? Is this a person? Is this a troll? What does it mean that we can’t tell the difference between these things anymore?” The language of online content is a hash of popular tags meant to be read by machine algorithms, not humans. But real people performing in an “algorithmically optimized system” seem forced to “act out these increasingly bizarre combinations of words.”

Within this culture, he says, “even if you’re human, you have to end up behaving like a machine just to survive.” What makes the scenario even darker is that machines replicate the worst aspects of human behavior, not because they’re evil but because that’s what they’re taught to do. To think that technology is neutral is a dangerously naïve view, Bridle argues. Humans encode their historical biases into the data, then entrust to A.I. such critical functions as not only children’s entertainment, but also predictive policing and recommending criminal sentences. As Bridle notes in the short video above, A.I. inherits the racism of its creators, rather than acting as a “leveling force."

As we’ve seen the CEOs of tech companies taken to task for the use of their platforms for propaganda, disinformation, hate speech, and wild conspiracy theories, we’ve also seen them respond to the problem by promising to solve it with more automated machine learning algorithms. In other words, to address the issues with the same technology that created them—technology that no one really seems to understand. Letting “unaccountable systems” driven almost solely by ads control global networks with ever-increasing influence over world affairs seems wildly irresponsible, and has already created a situation, Bridle argues in his book, in which imperialism has “moved up to infrastructure level” and conspiracy theories are the most “powerful narratives of our time,” as he says below.

Bridle’s claims might themselves sound like alarmist conspiracies if they weren’t so alarmingly obvious to most anyone paying attention. In an essay on Medium he writes a much more in-depth analysis of YouTube kids’ content, developing one of the arguments in his book. Bridle is one of many writers and researchers covering this terrain. Some other good popular books on the subject come from scholars and technologists like Tim Wu and Jaron Lanier. They are well worth reading and paying attention to, even if we might disagree with some of their arguments and prescriptions.

As Bridle himself argues in his interview at The Verge, the best approach to dealing with what seems like a nightmarish situation is to develop a “systemic literacy,” learning “to think clearly about subjects that seem difficult and complex,” but which nonetheless, as we can clearly see, have tremendous impact on our everyday lives and the society our kids will inherit.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

The Van Gogh of Microsoft Excel: How a Japanese Retiree Makes Intricate Landscape Paintings with Spreadsheet Software

Just when you thought you've mastered Microsoft Excel--creating pivot tables, VLOOKUPs and the rest--you discover the feature you never knew was there. The one that lets you create Japanese landscape paintings. When Tatsuo Horiuchi retired, he found that feature and leaned on it, hard. Now 77 years old, he has enough landscape paintings to stage an exhibition--all made with the point and click of a mouse.

So what's the moral of this story? Maybe it's you're never too old to make art. Or maybe it's never too late to master those hidden features and push technology to the bleeding edge. In Tatsuo's case, he's doing both.

via Swiss Miss

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Google’s Free Photo Editing Software, the Nik Collection, Has Been Acquired by DxO & Will Live Another Day

In March of 2016, readers thrilled when Google announced that it made the Nik Collection, its professional photo editing software, free to download and use. Previously priced at $149, the now-free software gives users access to "seven desktop plug-ins that provide a powerful range of photo editing capabilities -- from filter applications that improve color correction, to retouching and creative effects."

If there was cause for celebration, it didn't last that long. Earlier this year, Google followed up with another announcement--that it planned to discontinue development of the Nik Collection, and essentially let it wither on the vine.




Now here's the latest chapter in the story. A seemingly good one. The image processing company DxO has acquired the Nik Collection from Google. Jérôme Ménière, DxO's founder and CEO, declared in a press release, “DxO revolutionized the image processing market many times over the years with its innovative solutions, and we will continue to do so with Nik’s tools, which offer new creative opportunities to millions of photographers.” Apparently the Nik Collection gets to live another day.

If you head over to DxO's website, you can still download the current Nik Collection for free. You simply need to provide your email address, and they'll send a download link to your inbox.

Also on the DxO website they've announced plans for a future iteration of the Nik Collection, saying "The new 'Nik Collection 2018 Edition' will be released mid-2018, please leave your email below to be informed when it's available." Whether that 2018 edition will stay free remains to be seen.

via Petapixel

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