It’s been a while since I’ve given an update about my original work, so this post will have some of that as well as some musing about a behaviour I’ve noticed myself exhibiting for a while now (which, as you can tell by the title, has something to do with time management.)
But first up, what have I been up to? I swear, I’ve actually been hard at work. In the middle of January, I decided to use the last half of the month to try and finish off the second draft of my original story. I managed to get through a week or so of something like a self-imposed NaNoWriMo, writing 1,667 words each day. I got to a certain point, where I just thought: “Man, if I keep going with the way I planned this story, I’m going to end up with something really messy. Still.” I say “still,” because if you’ve been following my blog you know that I’ve done nothing in the past year but revise outlines and drafts to pluck out elements and streamline my story. The last time I wrote about my original project, I talked about eliminating one of the main characters and his arc entirely. And as I tried to move forward with that in mind, I still found myself stumbling over multiple other elements.
Well, you guys know the drill by now. I stopped my self-imposed NaNoWriMo, and I underwent a severe streamlining. I looked at my story and pulled out the seams. I brainstormed ideas for new scenarios, considering nothing in my story right now was set in stone. In the end I ended up with something still similar to the original, but with certain threads so watered down that I would most likely have to do a complete rewrite of the first half. It’s a bit of a bummer, because I was hoping that the second draft would provide the foundation for major edits, but as it is, I can’t use it as a base.
In any case, I do feel like I’m getting a better handle at streamlining, so perhaps I’ll write a post about that some time.
Anyway, I’m letting my story sit in the shadows for a bit, and I hope I look at it with fresher eyes and better energy by the time I decide to pick it up. I’m still hoping to finish off the second draft by the end of March as I had planned earlier this year. That would give me enough time to do a rewrite and then attack the multiple edits it needs. (And then perhaps I can think about sending it off to an editor and beta readers.)
So for the past week and a half, I’ve been working on some art. As you know, I purchased a year-long subscription to Schoolism last December. I sped through the Gesture Drawing course, and now I’m taking my sweet, sweet time with Nathan Fowke’s Pictorial Composition course. Composition has been something I’ve struggled with for a long time, and out of misguided belief, ignored for a really long time as well. In the first lecture, Nathan talks about artists who think art is all about rendering and try to become experts on rendering things a certain way, only to step back and find their work lacking time and time again. That’s me, guys. That sums me up perfectly. But that also means that this course is probably perfect for me.
So in January, I took two weeks to watch all the lectures and several of their feedback videos. After my little sting with NaNoWriMo, I decided to finally tackle the assignments.
The first lecture is taking 3 pictures and doing 3 sets of studies: a) a three-value study, b) a full-value study, and c) a color study.
The first picture in each set is the original. And as you can see, there’s only 2 sets. What happened to the last one? Ahh you guys, I got impatient, that’s what. Each of these studies took me hours! The first one probably took me about half-an-hour, but by the time I got to the colour studies, I was spending days on it! The assignment required that I use less than an hour to make each study, but… I found that I just couldn’t deliver a satisfying result in under and hour. (I also redid the Up screenshot twice for each study, so technically that counts as 2 sets? Hah, no.) So I thought, maybe I should just move on and keep the lesson in mind.
Now I’m working my way through the second lecture. This one is about making 5 original compositions using “unity with variety.” I managed to make 4 sketches yesterday to plan out my compositions and I was rather satisfied with my ideas. They were a combination of fanart and art for my story.
Then today, I took one of them (it’s a scene from the lovely book The Queen of Attolia) and I started my full-value rendering. I quickly realized that even in black-and-white, the idea of the sketch has been drowned out. The unifying elements have become unidentifiable, and it looks rather chaotic. I’ll do you guys a favour and not post it here. But basically, I think what’s happening is that my lack of light & colour knowledge is slipping through. And even though I don’t need to colour this comp, I know that the reason I’ve always struggled with colouring my sketches is because I don’t have a solid foundation on light.
So I decided that since I’m taking my time with the pictorial composition course, it wouldn’t hurt to switch for a little bit to one of the light & colour courses. So now, I’m trying out Tonko House’s course on that.
Do you guys see a pattern in the two incidents above? I see that every time something seems to be blocking me, I stop what I’m doing and turn to another activity to try and fix it. And I’m wondering if this counts as procrastination.
Now, if you’ve known me for some time now, you know that I am one of the most impatient people one earth. Impatience is my mortal flaw. Even now, I still plan to release my story some time near the end of this year, and thought of pushing it off one more year sets my teeth on edge.
I tried to tell myself that there’s no point in releasing a product if it’s not the best that I can make it. Unlike software, a novel is not something I can iterate on once it’s out there and people have consumed it. And because I’m all about efficiency, I don’t see a point in persevering through an activity if I know I’m not well equipped for it. This is the rationalization I’ve used to justify re-outlining again and again and watching more art tutorials.
However I also can’t help but wonder if this is somehow a procrastination tactic. Because at the end of the day, I still don’t have a finished second draft and I’m not actually producing the art I want to make. It’s a bit of a chicken and egg problem, isn’t it? How do I write/draw what I want if I don’t know how to do it? But as artists, we all know the saying, “You don’t get better at art by not making art.” And yet, there’s practising, and then there’s learning. Not all practice is created equal.
I’m really quite torn now that I think about it. Hm. What do you guys do when you’re not producing results you want? Do you persevere and hope that the practice will make you better? Or do you take some time out for studying?