Thursday, February 10, 2011

Keeping Things Fresh

In-progress painting, ~5 hours

Before we get on with our usual blog fare, we just wanted to remind you about some of the many events coming up in the next week or so.

This Friday, Feb. 11th, both Monkey + Seal will be in Wonderland SF's group show "Just Because.." along with 16 other talented artists. The opening night reception is from 6-10pm at Wonderland SF in the Mission, 2929 24th Street to be exact.

This weekend at Big Umbrella Studios, we'll be having a super duper trunk show! There will be vegan fare and baked goods, along with other awesome vendors on Sunday, from 12-5pm at 906.5 Divisadero St (x McAllister). You should also stop on by on Saturday to see an entirely different slate of vendors and show your support. Same time, same place, different food options.

Monkey here.

I recently started taking classes at City College of San Francisco (CCSF, for those in the know). As you probably know, I already have a (expensive) degree from Academy of Art University. Why would I go back to school?

Three reasons. The first, which is NOT what this post is about, is so that my student loans might be deferred just a little bit longer.

The second, more interesting reason (but still not what this post is about) is that I wanted to get back into printmaking (other than silkscreen), and by taking printmaking classes I'd have access to some presses.

The third, most important reason is that I wanted to keep things fresh. While at the Academy, because I was pressured to paint in the style of classical realism (ie realistic paintings, rendering form, strong light sources, etc.), I ended up feeling confined and frustrated and that's how I ended up going into my current style of looser, outlined, messy-background paintings that I do now, even going so far as to sometimes including text.

However, after painting in this loose manner for the past year, I started to get a bit bored with my current style. Fortunately I had been changing up subject matter over the past year or so, but I still saw things getting a bit stale. Because I had been fortunate to have a fairly filled schedule of shows, most paintings were paintings done under a deadline, and I didn't have a lot of time to experiment.

By taking painting classes at CCSF, I've given myself the permission (and time) to paint in other styles. Instead of drawing sketches on canvas with pencil (or completely making something out of random brush strokes) like I usually do for my current body of work, I've gone back to my Academy training of painting from reference, doing quick underpaintings with paint, and (albeit stylistically) rending form instead of using line to create the image.

Painting in this way helps me to keep my speed up and is just a great way of practicing my skill set. Regardless of the finished product, I'm practicing more, which is one of the keys to success. After all, practice makes perfect with art, and it's really all about mileage. While it might not be obvious how painting in different styles helps, there are a lot of things that I can practice regardless of the style. How to get my paint to the consistency I want. Brush control. Color mixing. No matter the task, creating with paint on a daily basis is super helpful if you want to improve your craft.

All in all, I think that it is really important to keep things fresh here and there, in order to make sure that you're not getting tired of the same thing. Experimentation and trying new (or older) styles or themes can be really helpful as even if you don't learn something new that directly applies to your current style, you'll be rehearsing the basics, which will just make you stronger.

Whether taking classes at a community college or going to art school (if you haven't yet), by changing stuff up and making time for a change of pace, you'll be able to keep things fresh and, most importantly, keep art fun. After all, when art stops being fun, then it's just a job.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Secret to Surviving a Crazy Deadline

Chronos, King of Deadlines and Missed Buses

As professional artist, you will have deadlines. That is a truth that cannot really be escaped, unless you are so famous that people are willing to wait however long it takes (ala one of Seal's heroes, Yuri Norstein and his wife). But for most of us, we face deadlines, either by having to get work delivered by a certain date for a gallery show, or overnight deadlines for newspaper illustrations, etc. etc. How to survive?

Well, let's rule out avoiding the crazy deadline in the first place. Whether you procrastinated too much, or life happened, or your client is sorta nuts and expects miracles, you're in this situation and that's that.

So, what do we do? First things first is to figure out a plan. While it may seem counter-intuitive to take a quick breather and map out a game plan, this step is crucial. Seal is great at this, which makes Monkey very grateful to have her, since he tends to take action before thinking at times. Planning your course of action is very important, since time is not on your side, you want to be as efficient as possible.

By figuring out all the steps you have to take, you can figure out your priorities, and create a flowchart of action items. For something like silkscreen, figuring out a proper flowchart can save you hours of time. Since the bottlenecks in the printing process usually revolve around waiting for the screens to dry, you have to constantly jump back and forth in the process to maximize your time. If there is a part of the process that can't be sped up (ie. paint drying, etc.) try to do other things that might take you a long time that can be done in any order while that's happening (ie. going out and buying a frame, or writing up price sheets, etc.).

At the top of your priority list should be any extra materials you might need. If you can make sure that you won't run out of some crucial supply ("Nooooo, I'm out of cyan ink and it's 3am!!"), you'll save yourself crazy amounts of stress. Also, it'll help you overall as you won't get distracted with a sudden stop due to lack of materials. You want to make getting the work done as streamlined as possible.

Now that you've got your plan of action, Monkey + Seal recommend grabbing a quick snack. Monkey prefers Cliff Bars (the Blueberry ones are pretty awesome). Carbs or sugars are generally a great way to go, as you want to make sure that your blood sugar is high. You're going to probably be working harder and faster than usual, so you want to make sure that you have some readily accessible energy. Nothing is worse than going at it and then suddenly have your energy just tank on you. Also, in order to keep from crashing, it's a good idea to snack here and there if time permits to keep that blood sugar as stable as possible. Make sure you're staying hydrated - it'll help to prevent headaches and will aid in digestion.

Next - make sure that you can get rid of as many distractions as possible. If you can, turn off the phone. Close all the extraneous blog windows and social media sites. Get off twitter and facebook. Turn on some music (if you work well with music) or turn it off (if you need silence) and get some earplugs. The least amount of stuff you have vying for your attention the easier it'll be to stay focused and work more efficiently.

Finally, (here comes the hard part,) you get down to work.

There. You've somehow managed to survive another crazy deadline, and it's time for some well-deserved rest (hopefully). Now you can use the knowledge gained from this experience to make next time a bit easier. The more knowledge you have about your working habits (how long it takes to paint a 16x20 landscape, or how much ink you need to make 50 prints, etc.) the better you can plan for the future. Congratulations!

Monday, February 7, 2011

5 Qualities of Successful Artists

Today we wanted to share with you the qualities that we have seen repeated over and over again in successful artists. We've seen these qualities again and again in successful people, actually, so it doesn't just apply to artists. No matter what you want to do in life, if you develop these traits, you'll definitely achieve all your goals.

Ready for the secret formula? Here it is:

1. Be true to your Inner Artist
First off, if you aren't being true to your Inner Artist, you're never going to fully reach your goals, because if you aren't going for the goals that the Inner Artist inside you really wants with laser-accuracy, you aren't really following your dreams at all. You're getting distracted, and the fastest path to a goal is going in a direct line, right? So listen to your heart and what you really want and pursue that dream with all your heart. In the end, you really gotta do what you love.

2. Work Really, Really Hard
Pursuing that dream with all your heart is tough, because it requires a lot of work. It's drawing or painting every single day. It's staying up late at night to make sure that your project is done on time. It's doing that tenth revision even though you got bored on the second. It's relentlessly and doggedly following your goal. It's not easy, but by doing the best you can at any given time, you'll get that work done.

3. Don't Be a Jerk
At the same time, while you're chasing your dream, we don't recommend being a jerk. People with bad attitudes are just as memorable as those who are super cool, only while we're anxious to help friendly, respectful, kind, wonderful people, we're just as anxious to do our best to not work at all with the jerks.

4. Be As Generous As You Can
Going along with inspiring others to help you, be generous in return. No person makes it all on their own - we're social beings that thrive with the help from others. By being generous and giving what you can (it's also important to note that you should never give more than you realistically can), the rewards, in whatever form that they might take, will always outweigh any benefits you could have gotten by being selfish and hording information or resources.

5. Never Give Up
This one is pretty self-explanatory. While one might assume that every great is this perfect, unfailing person, the opposite is actually true. The most successful people you've met have failed many times. The difference is that these successful people have learned that failure isn't fatal, and that each failure is an opportunity to learn and grow. They've then taken those learned experiences and knowledge to come back bigger and better, and that's what's gotten them where they are.

Kinda boring, right? Not the most world-shaking revelations. Sadly, there is no magical formula for success overnight. Sometimes the road to success is longer than you might want it to be, but there are really no shortcuts. If you do discover any shortcuts, just figure out what that trade-off is, as there are always trade-offs (you just might not realize there are, depending on where your values and moral compass lie). Now that you know what you have to do, what will you do now?

Go get 'em!