Sometimes its Hard to Draw, and that’s Okay

I hate to admit it, but I really haven’t drawn, or really designed, anything in about a year. That feels almost more like a lie than the half-truth it is, but on a whole, no, I really haven’t done either one, at least for myself.

In June of 2014, I was hit by a car on my skateboard, and then a month later I lost my job. Between being unemployed and injured, I thought all the free time would encourage me to really make a go of it as an artist, and it did. I did a ton of freelance work, got a part-time job doing design, and I started pushing myself to get more and more work. So fast-forward to June of 2015 and I’m tired and burned out. I’m running low on unemployment funds, I’m still taking freelance illustration and design jobs, and I’m now looking for a full-time job in my field. I lucked out and finally got one. I continued doing some freelance work here and there, but it was now just… work. In the fall of 2015 I did a piece for myself that I was really proud of, and that was it.

Right after Christmas I lost my job, and when that happened, I knew I had no choice but to get another job or do whatever it took to make it as an artist. But it also meant selling out. Big time. So I re-designed and re-coded my entire website in a week to be exactly what everyone needed it to be. I got rid of the massive illustration portfolio, all the design work I personally loved but agencies hated, and focused on getting hired. I did some freelance work for a while, but not much. And I wanted to draw, bad, but I couldn’t.

I’m telling you all of this because it may happen to you one day. Maybe not like that, maybe not that long, but the thing is this: You’re going to run into a self-confidence issue as an artist where you’re going to doubt yourself.

So what really happened? Why did I stop drawing?

Sometimes it stops being fun.

If you’re starting out by trying to be an illustrator or designer full-time, and its something you love, it may hit you one day that it’s work. I consider myself incredibly lucky that graphic design never felt like work until about 6 years into my career, and even then I made it a point to have as much fun as possible. The thing that changed that? The job and money. I started taking on roles I didn’t like to pay the bills, and it got to the point where it wasn’t that much fun. Sadly, the same was true of illustration, only a lot sooner.

When you try to make it as an illustrator, you may go in with one of two mindsets; you’re going to doing what you want how you want, or you’re just going to do whatever the client wants. The same is true of design, but with illustration I was, and still am, “You hired me to be an artist, so you’re getting ME.” The thing, though, is that it doesn’t work out that great and you really really need to compromise to get a good piece, but you need to compromise the right way. The right way to compromise is to make sure that you’re happy with the piece and that you’re working in a timeline that you’re okay with.

The worst thing? Taking work just because you need the cash. The best thing? Taking work just because you need the cash. I honestly can say that its been a mixed bag. Some of them were just paychecks, but some of them wound up being amazing because of it. Taking myself out of the piece actually opened me up to doing some amazing and creative stuff. But sometimes it really is just draining.

You just don’t feel inspired.

I think this tends to go hand-and-hand with getting old, and trust me, this is one of those things I never thought would happen. For example, I love Megadeth, but after the band was around for 20 years I heard Dave Mustaine re-use riffs and it was super obvious to me. It was annoying at first, but I actually saw how amazing it was! Imagine sitting around and playing the guitar, and the you dust off an old riff and start using it for something new.

The same is true of some of my work. It got to the point where it felt like I was just re-drawing the same poses over and over again, and unlike Mustaine I wasn’t using them in a way I was happy with. I started to doubt myself.

Or another example about getting old: Not finding things that you used to enjoy enjoyable anymore. You may have loved “Swat Kats” as a kid, but re-watching it doesn’t give you that buzz anymore. Neither does that old movie, that food, music, books… it feels like all the stuff you enjoyed and drew inspiration from doesn’t cut it anymore. And then it feels like you’re not getting anywhere with it.

You keep sketching, trying to get something going, and the next thing you know you just feel… eh.

You start to lose confidence.

One thing that happened to me was that I started to let everyone’s thoughts about what I was drawing get into my head. “Holy crap, if I draw THIS people are going to think I’m terrible! But if I draw THAT, I’m not going to like my work! But if I do THIS I may have X people like it and not Y people!” You can be your own worst critic, and letting what you think other people might say or think is going to make it worse. After doing a few art shows, I had a lot of people like my work, but I had people come up to me with their concerns about certain things, like subject matter. That got in my head more than anything else. You can be ready to deal with technique issues, but content? It made me really second guess everything.

Then you start to lose your confidence. You decide to sit down one day and you loudly declare, either to yourself, your friends, your family, online, whatever, that, “TODAY IS THE DAY I DRAW AGAIN!” So you sit down at your special place with your special tools and you decide to create! And you create… nothing. You sketch, you conceptualize, but nothing happens. You hate it. You hate everything. So you stop and decide to try again later. And then you sit down, maybe scale it back, and try again. Nothing. Eventually you decide to just do something, anything, and still… nothing. You feel like you’re not good anymore. You start losing something, but you’re not sure what the heck it is.

“I can’t come up with anything! I’m tired, I hate drawing because of everything I had to do! I can’t watch anything and get inspired! I KEEP READING ALL THESE F$#KING ARTICLES ABOUT CREATIVE BLOCK BUT I JUST FEEL EVEN SHITTIER THAN BEFORE!!! F@#K THIS!!!!!”

How to get your groove back.

This isn’t a magick wand, but it is a step: Just do something else.

Look, I’m not saying walk away from your desk, clean something, then draw. That shit only works when you’re tired for a day. We’re talking a BIG problem which needs a BIG solution. So literally do something else. Anything else.

I got to a point where I kinda just gave up and decided to stop trying to draw. I had a job, I didn’t have any commissions, and I didn’t have to do it. It wasn’t making me happy, so why do it? I also wanted to make things. So I sat around, watched a bunch of TV shows I had forgotten about, watched some new ones, read some books, and I started sketching ideas for things I wanted. “Hey, what if I redid my kitchen? What would I want that to look like?” So I started sketching it out. It was dull, I wasn’t happy, but it was something I needed to plan it out. Then I said, “Hey, I always wanted an arcade cabinet!” So I looked up plans and sketched out one. “Hey, what if I made my own guitar?!” I wound up drawing a dream guitar I could never build unless I had done woodcarving for, like, 20 years, but I enjoyed it! Then I started sketching out another guitar I liked that was easy, then designing that…

Then one day. I sat down and miraculously did the pencils for a brand new piece of art I was really proud of. I thought it was good, and one of the best things I had done! I couldn’t believe it! I didn’t finish it, I didn’t feel my inking skills were ready just yet, but I was okay with that. Plus it gave me more time to work on the concept to make sure I liked it.

I went back to watching TV again, and after a while I decided to go back and draw something else for fun. Yeah, the other piece still wasn’t done, but this would be fun. And it was!

And that’s all it takes. Do something else.

It doesn’t have to be something “epic” like, “I’M GOING TO GO FOR A WALK IN THE WOODS AS A SPIRIT QUEST!!!!!” No. Stop. Do that for fun. Stop putting your goddamn muse on a pedestal unless you have one. A girl I was interested in once put it best; “Don’t put what you desire on a pedestal.” The more you think what you want is our of reach, the more it is. Just relax and go after it when you can. Do things to help yourself try and get to that spot, but don’t make it your focus. Just have fun and enjoy yourself.

This is why we can’t have Nice Things

This is why we can't have nice things

In the past year, I’ve seen a lot of strides in the way technology and design has merged, and the line has become incredibly blurred, for better and worst. Form meets function, function dictates form, form dictates function. In the end, the relationship is, and should always be, beneficial to both parties. Nowhere is this more apparent, at least to me, than in the world of graphic and web design. In the last year, I’ve seen how technology has begun to catch up with not only with what web designers have wanted to do for years, but also what we saw in the Sci-Fi movies of the past. We’ve gotten our tablets, our phones, our ability to watch a baseball game on your phone, scan bar codes to take you to other places. We have interfaces that range from minimalist to complex, and computers are easier to use than ever.

Leading the way in this revolution is us, the designers. WE dictate how you interface with this brave new world. WE determine what works and what doesn’t. We’ve gone away from complex to minimalist, striving for form that works with functions, working in harmony with both the technology that you use and, of course, yourselves, the people using the device. In the last 10 years we’ve learned a lot of what works and doesn’t work, of how we use computers, websites, and countless other technologies, and we’ve learned more and more about what we would like to see, prefer to have happen, and what actually works.

In the past year, we’ve seen companies start to improve things and the backlash has been surprising.

Enter Facebook.

Facebook News Feed

About a month ago from this post, it was reported that Facebook was going to change the way they do their news-feed, the first real major change in years. It was a triumph of design! The new feed promised to be cleaner, brighter, easier to use, and focus on content. In a lot of ways it was trying to get back to its very roots where the feed was a simple thing that was easy to use. Over time, just like anything, it became cluttered and hard to use, and the new design fixes all of that. At the same time, there was one issue; The Ads. The truth of the matter was that it also focused on generating more revenue in ad sales by filling the feed with more ads. On the lone bright side, the ads wee designed to not be obtrusive and work with the design.

So you would imagine the reaction was going to be directed at the ads, right? No.

Instead, every single major complaint seemed directed at the DESIGN of it. “Why on earth are they re-designing it?! It isn’t broken!” “If it ain’t broke!-” “What the hell?! I’m done! I’m quitting Facebook!”

Or how about the Gawker Network? About 2 years ago I, along with countless others, complained about their last re-design, calling it an abomination and something that they would quickly get rid of. Why? Because it didn’t work. It was a interesting design, but in terms of being a blog and informative, it didn’t work on a whole. They gave users the option to also use a traditional blog layout, but it wasn’t easy. The search was never easy to find or use, let alone switching views, and it was just a mess. Finally they began rolling out, all so slowly, their new re-design which is everything right with it: Easy to use, intuitive, and simple. io9 Redesign

 

Again, people complained, and while it still hasn’t reached Gizmodo or Gawker yet, I can only imagine what the feedback will be when it does.

In my hometown of Philadelphia, we got a new logo for our tourism campaign. About 2 years ago we got a logo that basically sucked. No one liked it, it was hated, and a contest was even held by a tech blog to come up with something better to present to the Mayor’s Office and try to get them to use that instead. A logo debuted within the last year that easily surpassed it and was a welcomed design! Not cliche, not boring, and not basic, the new design was contemporary and smart.

PHL Logo

And, of course, people hated it.

This is why we can’t have nice things.

Or, more accurately, this is why its so damn hard to GET nice things.

On a few projects I’ve worked on, I’ve had clients and bosses complain about a design because it didn’t make sense to them or because it was so different. For example, say you have a page for a site where the entire point is to get you to buy something, but the way its currently laid out is cluttered, confusing, and doesn’t compel people to use your call of action. I came up with a design that was clean, fun, interesting, and still focused on all of those things. Sadly, the other person disagreed and the design was never used. In that case they wound up going with someone else who didn’t focus on those things and instead got a design that didn’t do what it really could have. In another similar case, I was asked to do something completely different than what they had while keeping some things, and instead they went for a design that was almost exactly the same.

For a few cases, I’ve been stuck trying to argue why a fully-responsive website makes more sense than something static. In fact, I can think of a few times in 2011, when the concept first started getting a lot of traction, when the idea was rebuffed since there didn’t seem to be a need at the time since smartphones were still “new”, let alone tablets. Instead they insisted on a mobile-only version, and I walked away from it.

To be honest, these stories could go on, but the point is this: We are, as a species, resistant to change. We hate it. The only time we like change is when we allow it to happen or its so subtle that we don’t even notice it. Designers, programmers, and the people who hire and manage us, the people who allow these things to happen… we all must work together and strive for the goal of making things better for not just ourselves and businesses, but on a whole. We must focus on new and upcoming markets and browsers, of how the trends in web and design are going, and not where they have been.

The way things are going, the trend is cleaner and more flexible design. The focus is on helping people, on content, on making things better while still being innovative.

Yahoo Redesign

There was a redesign for Wikipedia proposed this year that never was used, a re-imagining for Yahoo that never made it past the concept stage, and who knows how many others. When people come up with ways to make popular sites better, in ways that make sense, they need to be embraced and treated as such. We need to try and help these changes happen, if not because something may or may not be broken, but because we must always seek innovation, we must seek ways to make ourselves and our world better.

It is up to us as designers to lead the way and push for change, to be able to explain to the people who hire us why a decision makes sense. At the same time, we also must explain why the pitfalls that may come will be worth it, why the anger from the few users or people who dislike it don’t matter and it will be better in the long run. We must be the ones who maintain the standards of design because no one else will.

Tips for Designers: How To Avoid Being Taken Advantage Of

As a freelancer for going on 8 years now, I’ve learned something that anyone in the design and art business should know: How to avoid scams, or more likely, how to avoid being taken advantage of.

So here’s the difference; a scam is someone trying to get something for nothing through knowingly deceiving you and taking advantage of the fact that you may not know everything. Compare that to most people who are just going to take advantage of you because of your skills, and most likely aren’t out to harm you, but just don’t understand how a business works.

I’ve learned how to sniff out both fairly easily. Really, more than anything, just trust your instincts but other than that there is some things you can do to stay on the lookout for someone out to get you:

1. They want something for nothing, or at least close to it.

OK, lets start with an easy one.

“Hi! I want an amazing website that has Flash, great SEO, and the most cutting edge graphics EVER! Now, I can’t exactly PAY you for this awesomeness, but I can make you a partner! You can only imagine the demand for a website that tells people how ugly their baby is!”

I’ve had this happen a lot; someone has no start-up money and instead of paying a designer or developer for their thing, they instead offer a partnership. I rarely, ever, ever take an offer like that because potential income isn’t going to pay my definite bills. If something looks insanely promising or if you believe in the cause then by all means go ahead. But if someone in vague or just has a lousy idea, don’t go for it.

2. They want someone “fresh from school”.

“Hey there! We want the most amazing fashion designers possible to create designs for our new line of t-shirts! We want someone just fresh out of school who’s hungry for work! Just someone who can’t wait to explode with the best designs ever because they went to school and are just so darn fresh! So what if we expect you to work long hours and do the work of 3 other people we laid off? We want the best people! SCHOOL!!!!!!”

Whenever I see someone stress they want someone out of school, it means one thing; They’re cheap. People want cheap labor, and in this economy that make sense. I’ve seen a lot of people looking for a freelancer who was fresh out of college because they know that they need the real-world experience. Even in college I knew what to charge per-hour and per-job shouldn’t be too low, so if you are still in school, always consider what you need to pay for your loans and if you’d rather eat Romane Noodles or at least a pizza.

3. They’re TOO nice.

I had a conversation with a potential client that went like this once:

“WOW! Your work is amazing! I love it! Its the best thing EVER! WHY AREN’T YOU WORKING FOR A MAJOR COMPANY?! YOU KICK ASS! I wish I could draw like you, I can’t even draw a straight line! I am unworthy of your greatness! NOT WORTHY!!!!!! ….oh, and I can’t really pay you what you deserve…. BUT YOU’RE AWESOME!!!!”

“Kill ’em with kindness,” right?  I had a client try that once and they failed, miserably. First, my work is amazing, but I’m no Peter Chung (the dude who created Aeon Flux).

Second, as much as I’m glad someone is to like my work, let alone actually reach out and try to get me to create something for them, this level of praise just isn’t professional. If someone compliments you, that’s great, but if all they do is heap praise and barely, if at all, tell you what they want and are willing to pay, they’re not worth the time. Just walk away.

4. They’re not professional.

Or, at the very least, they don’t TRY be professional.

In your career, you’ll have clients who may not know what they want, how to properly communicate what they want and expect from you, may have poor grammar and spelling, and countless other things. So when I say “Not Professional”, look at the three things I already mentioned and think about that.

Someone who is serious about getting a designer isn’t going to ask for something for nothing, or next to it. Not only that, but they should be able to just plain communicate. In fact, after getting paid, COMMUNICATION is the most important thing in deciding to go with a client. The main thing is to make sure you’re working with a client and not just for them. A good client is like anything else in life; there should be a little bit of give-and-take.

Inspirational Music Videos

This post is a long-time coming!

When I was younger, I loved music videos. They were the only way of learning of a lot of bands when I was that age, and so many of them were cool. Nowadays, I actually try to avoid them if only because the ones in my head tend to be better.

But for you, here is a collection of the best ones I’ve ever seen, in no order at all.

Enjoy, and be inspired!

HOLE- “Celebrity Skin”

NINE INCH NAILS – “Head Like a Hole”

MARILYN MANSON – “The Beautiful People”

AEROSMITH – “Jaded”

TOOL – “Sober”

LAMB OF GOD – “Ruin”

DEVIN TOWNSEND PROJECT – “Bend it Like Bender!”

GUNS ‘N’ ROSES – “November Rain”



CYCLE SLUTS FROM HELL – “I Wish You Were a Beer”

CRADLE OF FILTH – “Born in a Burial Gown”

METALLICA – “Blackened (Seattle ’89)”

MEGADETH – “Peace Sells”

OVERKILL – “Elimination”

One of the Dumbest Thing I’ve Done to Get Freelance Work

Back in 2008, I had just gotten my first full-time job and was starting to feel really confident about my work. So I decided to try and drum up some new business by handing out stickers to people I thought might like my work.

I got to meet the metal band Meshuggah at Relapse Records and I was pretty excited. I had a bunch of CD’s with me, and I had been listening to them for about 5 years at that point. I wasn’t, and still not, the biggest fan of them in the world, but I really enjoy their work. I also want to point out that I was also there to try and get some work as an artist. Now, anyone VERY familiar with Meshuggah will know that the band members actually do a ton of the art themselves. Well, at least, the art direction. That said, I wanted to at least try.

It was my turn to meet the band, and the cool thing about Relapse Records and the meet & greets was that you could actually meet and hang around the band for a while, so I took my chance to smooze a bit. I handed out my stickers to the guys in the band, and they had this puzzled look on their face.

“Oh, these are just a little something I cooked up. I’m an artist myself.”, I said, grinning at my work.

The guys in the bands started talking to each other in some language I didn’t understand.

That’s when I realized my mistake: I had given out stickers about the 2008 US Presidential Race to a bunch of people who lived in Sweden.

Needless to say, I never heard back from them, but they all seemed to take it in stride and we all had a good laugh. Oh, and I got all my CD’s signed as well as a massive signed Obzen poster, so alls well that ends well!

PS: Oh, and on the off-side chance that the guys in Meshuggah read this… I’m still available for freelance work! – Hey, can’t blame a guy for trying, right?

How to Stay Creative and Productive as an Artist

When I look back at the last 6 months of my life, I see a constant struggle to be creative and stay creative and busy. In early October, I was on a massive creative roll! A ton of ideas and piece came to mind, and I was excited about doing them all! Well, then I wound up getting sick, which made me mad. It took me a month, but I got back to speed… only to have it happen again in December. When I got sick that time, I was out for nearly a month.

So looking back at the last month, its incredible to say the least.

I wound up taking it only a little easier than when I got sick the last time and I kept pushing myself to be as creative as possible with everything I did! Not only that, but I stopped falling into the traps we set for ourselves.

Trap #1: I can do it later.

How often do you come up with an idea on paper, only to say “Well, I can draw or do this later”? How often do you actually come back to it? Even more importantly, how often did that piece actually get worse with time?

This isn’t to say I encourage you to just do a piece of art just because its fresh in your mind, but it does tend to be the best time… well, at least for me. A teacher of mine once said it best; If you let an idea sit for too long, it can get stale and stagnant, and it won’t look as good as if you simply did it at the time you had the idea. I’ve had a few ideas fall into that trap, and in the end, they were lost to history.

If you know for a fact that by just sitting down you can knock out a piece that you’ll be happy with, if you know you’re ready for it, sit down and do it.

Trap #2: Money Shouldn’t Be the Only Motivation

Being able to make money off your art is a good thing, but it shouldn’t be the only motivation. I wrote a while ago that part of art has become merchandising, and that’s still true. Munny dolls, t-shirt designs, posters… they all are artistic venues and statements. In the end, though, if you’re going into art to make money, you will be sadly disappointed.

Trap #3: Forcing an Idea instead of Allowing Them to Come

This is a tricky trap, because it isn’t so much a trap as it is a skill. One thing I mentioned was that I wanted to get more consistent with my art, and the best, if not only, way to do that is by drawing a lot. Sometimes you’ll get an idea, put on paper, and spend a ton of time on it and it just won’t work. Sometimes you’ll knock out a piece and not be thrilled with it but it works.

The main thing is to realize when a piece isn’t working and to let it grow. If you’re spending 20 hours on a piece and all you have is the basics and it isn’t going anywhere… let it go. Move on. Maybe the piece isn’t meant to be, or maybe you need to go back to it later down the line.

Trap #4: Listening to Nothing but Praise

This is the easiest trap to fall into, and its also the easiest to realize… but it can be the hardest to escape sometimes.

Imagine going to a place where no one is really that creative. They don’t draw, they just kinda live, work, and die. You come along and you have some talent (maybe not a ton, but some) and your immediately praised for your talent and skilled. You’re thrilled with it, happy to get it, and all you do is get positive feedback. Imagine how much it would suck to go up to a major magazine, show them your stuff, and finally be told the obvious: You’re not that good.

I LOVE getting praise for my work! We all do! But to grow as an artist, no matter what your skill level, you need to take the bad with the good.

I grow incredibly suspicious whenever I don’t hear a negative criticism for a long period of time about my work. At the same time, it can get to a point where when you do hear one from someone you know and trust, yet are getting praised from everyone else, that you don’t know what to think. You need to be your harshest critic, and even online you may get more praise than you could expect.

Go on forums, get feedback, and learn how to improve. Remember: Even the best artists still get negative reviews.

Trap #5: Listening to the Critics Too Much

Listening to too many peoples opinions can actually be detrimental to a piece of art, or anything, really. Sometimes your vision and idea is actually right. Imagine if the guys in Metallica listened and decided to turn down the volume of the guitars and not play so damn fast. Metal as we know it would not even exist!

If someone is telling you that you draw too much of the same stuff (in my case, skulls, Satan, and tits), leverage that against what you want to do. Maybe that’s just what you enjoy right now and maybe that’s just what you do.

It can even get to a point where you rely on critics to finish a piece or even start one! I, sadly, fell hard into that one and it can be incredibly hard to get out of it.

Trap #6: Not Taking Any Time to Relax!!!!!

Get out of your house, go out, watch a movie, TV, read a book… just don’t spend all your time working! The reason you were so creative int he first place was because you took in the world around you. Well, if your world is just creating, its hard to do anything else outside of that. Get out, have some fun, and live!

Wacom Tablet Pen Pressure not Working in Photoshop? Here’s an Easy Fix!

Step One: Shut Down Photoshop
Step Two: Unplug your Wacom Tablet
Step Three: Reconnect your Wacom Tablet
Step Four: Turn on Photoshop

Now, if you’re still having problems, you may want to check and see it its your tablet, or try restarting your computer. If that doesn’t help, I recommend contacting Wacom and getting support.

Photo Courtesy of About.com

The Joys of PHP Coding

Back in 2002 when I first started building websites using raw HTML, I never would have imagined I would know what I do now about coding and building websites. I’ve written in the past about CSS coding, and its astounding how much I’ve learned in the last year alone about it! Not quite a CSS Ninja, but a disciple none the less.

Now, I’m learning PHP.

What is PHP? In essence, its original purpose was to help create Personal Home Pages. Its since become a way to create dynamic content that you wouldn’t be able to do with raw HTML.

Let me give you a quick rundown of why I love PHP and what this post is going to deal with:

PHP is, without a doubt, one of the easiest scripting languages to pick-up, and one of the most interesting. Mind you, I’ve worked with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript (albeit lightly with Java), and PHP is one of the easiest… after you learn a few things. PHP was created in 19954 from a hybrid of C Programming Language and Common Gateway Interface, and is written in a way that is very similar to, well, common everyday language.

Let me give you an example.

Say you want to add a copyright year to your page, but don’t like the idea of having to change it on a yearly basis because you will, most likely, simply forget its there. With PHP, you can easily add some code and you’re set!

The code can be seen here.

One of my favorite, easiest, and the most convenient uses of PHP is a time saver. Say you have a a header for your website with a ton of coding in it as well as links. If you’re like me, you may run into the problem of misspelling a link. With PHP, you can actually streamline it all and simply put your header into a new PHP document!

Take your header coding and put it into a new document called “header.php”. From there, delete the text in your original document with this: .

Now when you need to change your header, all you need to do is change the one page. You can do that with any page that tends to have static

Tips for Upcoming Web Designers

OK, I’m far enough along to announce this: There is a new website in the works.

Its not a revision of my current site; its a brand-new, never did it before site. And it is going to rock!

I just want to add this for all the upcoming designers and coders. Here are some tips for always staying fresh:

  1. ALWAYS do something different for every site you do! Back in 2008 when I redid my personal website, I broke out of my habit of using HTML Tables for the entire layout of my site and switched to CSS. This time, I’m learning how to use Javascript and PHP.
  2. DON’T always follow the heard. It’s tempting and easy, but don’t. I’ve written about my hatred of Web 2.0 a lot. It isn’t about the technology, but how bland it is. Be daring and exciting, and more people will come to your site!
  3. Learn a lot about SEO! I was talking to a friend about naming conventions and if they meant anything to SEO. In terms of CSS coding, it doesn’t, but name your images and pages what they are. And read SEO 2.0! GREAT blog!
  4. Learn some new web technology! Its smart to stay ahead of the curve, or at the very least, start catching up with everyone else. HTML 5 is coming soon, and so is CSS3. Learn some and start building your sites around them.
  5. Take a Break! If you’re like me, you can’t stand not working on a web site project until its done. Make sure you get up, have fun, and enjoy life!

Well that’s all I have for now. Stay strong and Happy New Year!

Do People Still Value Creativity?

This is just going to be a straight-out rant. No images, no examples: Just me ranting.

Do people still value creativity? The more I look at our culture and society, the less I think they do.

Its a paradox, really. In this modern age, we’re able to connect with anyone and everyone in a blink of an eye, seeing ideas and concepts we may have never imagined or thought of. There are countless blogs and websites dedicated to inspiring people to new levels and concepts, and each and every day, someone somewhere is seeing the world in a way you and I have never thought of, exposing their viewpoint, and making us question what we know.

In the end, we actually suffer from it at the same time. To me, crying “Information overload” or “we’ve bombarded with too much information all the time!” are foolish, short-sighted, and, frankly, 100% BULLSHIT arguments. we can very easily choose to not be overloaded with information. If you want to look at a baseball game on TV, you don’t need to sit at a computer typing, listening to music, and using a web search engine all at the same time, but you choose to. Same with everything. We live in an age where you can pick what you want to take in, be it as little or as much as you choose.

No, even though we are given the chance to learn multiple things, we live in an age of both instant gratification and one where we are allowed to learn as much about something as we want. When you combine the two… it gets messy.

I’ll give you an idea: In 1995, if you said you wanted to be a comic book artist, it meant going to the library, a book store, etc, and getting any information you could on the topic. How to Draw books, contact sheets, etc,… It may have only taken a day to get the info if you were diligent enough. Getting better at your craft was something else, and you knew it would take time.

Today, if you want to learn how to be a comic book artist, all you have to do is type in the question and you’re sure to get an answer in the first 10 search results.

The problem? Because you can find out so fast, some of the information you would have gained is now gone, stuff you only get by doing this physically.

One prime example is time. It may have taken you a day, a week… maybe even a month to find the information before, but in the process you were given a chance to fully digest what you wanted to do and if you even wanted to go down that path. Another is personal interaction with people. You would have to talk to or ask someone for the information. Again, this may seem minor, but chances are actually decent that you would have met someone who was more than happy to talk more about comics, someone who may have been down your road… countless things.

Can you get that online, on message boards and such? Yes. But we have such a need now to get to our goal as soon as possible that we seem to just ignore the time aspect and actually learning from these people. Honestly, didn’t you just SKIM this entire thing until you saw me write “skim” in big letters? Do you see my point?

So lets go back a bit and apply this to other things.

Anyone can get a camera, make a video, and post it online. In 1995, anyone with a camcorder and some dedication could make a video and share it with people. By 2000, you may have even been able to put it on a CD-ROM and sell it. The thing, again, was that it took time and effort to do it. It still does, and I would be nuts to say it doesn’t! You and your friends can go out after reading this, make a video for fun, and post it online.

The problem? Everyone is doing it, and no one is really rising to the top.

There are comedic troops out there making high-budget skits and quality videos, but if the content isn’t great, does it matter? And without great press or buzz, does it even matter? If a guy makes a joke in a bomb shelter and no one’s around, was it even funny?

Again, this is a problem with Instant-Gratification. We don’t want to put a lot of time and effort into things, not because we’re lazy or have short attention span, but the idea of the personal gain, of immediate fame and success has become so damn central to our world!

Instant-Gratification and the End of Thought?

I woke up this morning to watch Saturday Morning cartoons, and I got my now-weekly reminder that the networks don’t care about making cartoons anymore, or anything, for that matter. What do I mean? There are exactly 4 new shows on this year. I repeat, out of 4 networks that show dedicated children cartoons, only 4 new shows are up. Why is this?

Well, there are a lot of reasons which I wrote about on my other blog, but it basically comes down to a few things: Less Money and Low Ratings. The US Government passed a law in 1996 that cut back on advertising during kids shows, mandated 4 hours a week for children broadcasting, and stated that there had to be 2 hours of educational programming. At the same time, more and more cartoons were shown on cable. Within 10 years, after a massive animation boom, there was a massive animation bust where less and less cartoons were being made, and the few that were were being moved more and more to Canada and done in Adobe Flash.

Instant-Gratification helped to kill animation and some very creative people.

There are many creative people out there who would love to be animators or work in animation but don’t. This is due to countless factors, but we can safely say its due to both lack of money and lack of patience. Studios are cutting back animation departments, so people who would have either been future animators or storyboard artists or other things, are forced to look for other avenues to be creative. This may mean going into advertising or a corporate world where they can’t be as creative, or maybe give it up altogether. For some people, learning to animate becomes frustrating and tiring and hard, so they find Adobe Flash and learn that with even poor skills they can make a cartoon.

Does poor animation does a bad cartoon make? HELL NO! Some of my favorite cartoons are poorly animated, and they can be havens for creativity! But with limited tools, resources, and skill… well, you get Adobe Flash to animate with. Before, someone may have gotten a stop-motion camera and tried to do something with crayons, glue, and dolls. Now? They make some shapes, animate them, and call it a day. This is partly because now they can create something and be happy with it after a day of work.