Hope you're all doing well! I wanted to just touch base on here as I haven't really written anything outside of Steve Lichman work in a long time. This post will probably go all over the map and might end up being super long, sorry if it goes into the weeds and seems like there's no direction! Just gonna touch on a lot of things that have helped me lately, regrets, opinions, new perspectives and all that.
I just wanna start off by saying that none of what I'm gonna talk about carries too much weight, I don't mean to say that I'm right or that any of my opinions matter. Although, at the end of the day, me posting on here in the first place feels like I'm asking for attention haha. There we go, already contradicting myself. All I really mean is that this is mostly me just thinking out loud.
Over the past few months I've been looking back at my career so far(I hate saying career btw, for some reason it just feels so goddamn stupid saying something serious like that about my artwork). I think back to when I started and all the motivation I used to have to become one of those awesome artists on ConceptArt.org who were creating all those super cool robots and spooky demons(I'm not shitting on it, there were some super spooky daemons on there). My taste just changed so dramatically since 2006, today being exactly 10 years since I first posted on the ConceptArt.org forums. Ever since then it's like I've consistently been jaded by the whole idea of the small entertainment art world. Whether it be the industry itself or the general attitude to approach/learning the skill.
When it comes to art in general, people are extremely passionate about whatever they do. After all, it's pretty much their entire life and I totally get that. But there's this approach I keep seeing to creating art that seems to boil the approach to absolutes. At this point, in the whole world of entertainment art, I think it's still pretty hard for beginners to get a good well-rounded approach online from the resources currently available. We have so many people that are saying you absolutely have to do photo-bashing in the same way that people were telling me I'd never work if I couldn't do 3D back when I started 10 years ago. Don't get me wrong, I by no means think photo-bashing is a negative thing, I just don't think it's an absolute to your potential career as an artist when you start out.
But in this same way, I see other artists just consistently shitting on all the shortcuts by putting traditional skill above all else. I'm by no means a master of anything and maybe I have no real right to get on a soap box about any of this stuff, but if you're starting out, please don't think these are your only options. There is SOO much room in the industry for whatever you want to do. You don't need to be this master traditional illustrator to be noticed. You also don't have to be this exclusively digital person that only knows how to construct images through photoshop. There are so many pros and cons to each approach w/different jobs.
And then we're at the problem of thinking of life solely as a job. This is your life and you need to do whatever it is that makes you happy and try your absolute hardest to attain it. I could have stayed on the path I was on and continued to create characters and photo-bash movie poster concepts, but that has nothing to do with what I love. What I love also doesn't have a direct line to art. Through just taking a chance and diving into little comics I've discovered that I really just want to create my own ideas. For better or for worse I want to just tell stories and have fun telling stupid jokes. Going by what everyone always told me in my immediate industry, this was not something profitable. But then again, nobody is me and for that matter, nobody is you either.
Jobs are great, freelancing and acquiring jobs is an amazing accomplishment! But a job as a personal definition can be detrimental. When people tell you that you can only do a very narrow set of approaches to your style, you rob yourself of the freedom to potentially discover what you really love. You've taken this amazing drive and ability and turned it into something that solely serves a client as efficiently as possible. Something like photo-bashing can mean the difference of a week's worth of work at times, but this, of course, serves a very distinct purpose. I'm not saying you can't create really awesome pieces of work, but that you should open yourself up to every approach. Just as you shouldn't only listen to people who agree with you, you shouldn't allow yourself to sit in an approach that keeps you comfortable.
Comfort creates stagnation and if you're not exactly where you want to be in your life then you must continue to challenge yourself. By allowing yourself to rely on quick results based approaches that facilitate tight deadlines, you rob yourself of all the planning and construction that something like watercolor would force you to focus on. And in that same vein, people who want to work on games and movies who solely focus on traditional should challenge themselves to nail down a faster digital approach so they're never stuck without an answer to an extremely tight deadline. All of the mediums available can only help lift you up and bring you even closer to your true potential. You never know what's out there until you give it a shot and learn from your mistakes.
Coming from a purely digital approach when I started, I can honestly say that I've learned more from watercolor than I ever did working digitally. But that's because I had never even considered really diving into the traditional space out of the idea that it wasn't really efficient or effective for delivering my work to a client. Because that's how I thought since I started, that it was all about the client. What I was ignoring was my own passion. I put all my focus into producing work for others and never let myself produce anything on my own. I had consistently avoided facing my own passion, always talking about what I'd do if I were in control.
We all seem to work as if we're producing those duplicate houses you see in new developments all over the place. Those houses that are created just for the sake of facilitating a need for housing rather than creating something that means anything to anyone. They're created without passion and just to meet demand. You see that all over the place in everything, we have loads of Ikeas and Walmarts and every neighborhood ends up basically looking identical to one another. But then you see just some random house built by a family and all of a sudden there's just this explosion of character and charm to the place, even if it's not very well built or whatever else. Someone built that place, that's an expression of everything that person/people understood at the time and it represents more than a demand.
It's amazing that people will pay money just to see something beautiful and unique. There are these mansions in Newport, Rhode Island here in the US that are gorgeous. You walk into these places and look out at all the unique and amazing furniture. It's this snapshot of the time and it's the taste of a family and architects and carpenters who created it all. Every piece feels like it belonged to someone and to an idea of wealth or class of the time. It all feels so personal and awesome like someone really dedicated themselves to whatever they believed perfection to look like. It makes you feel like nobody is creating anything that beautiful anymore and that all that skill has faded over the generations. Like it'd be impossible to regain that level of artistry.
As an example from my own experience making a book, Dan and I had a lot of advice come our way about how to create the book itself. Not to mention the interest we had from big groups after we had successfully funded Steve with all of your help! Everyone was saying that we shouldn't go with the quality we were putting into the book, they couldn't stop talking about the amount of money we'd save if we just did a paperback book or a regular laminated hardcover. But we wanted to do a cloth cover with gold foil stamping and thick paper on the inside. Sure, we wouldn't turn a humongous profit, but at the end of the day, it was more important to just put something out into the world that we could be proud of. And it was just amazing to me that people couldn't understand that approach.
I don't mean to say that we're all Ikea's or Walmarts, but sometimes I feel that way, not just about the industry but also myself. It seems like so many of us are just creating to fill a demand for some idea we've seen duplicated a million times over without any real personal touch or passion added to the mix. When we've streamlined our approaches to fulfill an idea of being a specific job it's like we all blend together into this assembly line that can pump out guys with machine heads and girls with goggles all day but can't produce anything honestly resembling a new idea that means much to ourselves.
All I'm trying to say is that I think it's amazingly important to devote yourself to trying new things, to continue learning and challenging yourself and to create work you're truly proud of. That you shouldn't let yourself coast on easy ideas and give yourself the out that you're making a living and therefore are successful. At the same time, I'm not saying you have to create your own thing to be successful. When I got into creating poster work/concept work for video games, I asked if I could do work in simple lines and colors without being photo-real and they let me continue to work that way. Nothing is set in stone in terms of how you approach art. Art is not a science, it's fluid and you can make it whatever you like.
Follow your own way through this and don't let people force you into little boxes by saying you'll never be successful otherwise. You're free to do whatever you like and create artwork however you like. I know a good amount of this was crazy insulting and I'm sorry. If you love what you do, don't listen to anything I'm saying, none of it really matters and this is all just my brain spilling out!
Thank you for sitting with me through all this ramble. I know it's all over the place and pretty much just stream of consciousness, but I had to vent a little bit!
I'll be back on here again pretty soon I hope!