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Scarlet Letters: Creative tips for artists

the Scarlet Letters: Notes on Making Art

This is a terrific bunch of notes on hacking your creative process, especially as it applies to visual art.

I really love the idea of not getting hung up on your failures and trying always to make rather than judge as the process is underway. It reminds me favorably of what Anne Lamott says about fearlessly producing your “shitty first draft.”

A few of the points I especially enjoyed:

  • Do NOT mix generating and editing. When you’re making a piece, don’t stop and get judgmental half-way through. If it’s a piece of crap, get that piece of crap out of your system — don’t try to fix it mid-flow. Finish it, move on.
  • Don’t be afraid to re-use elements. If each piece has to be unique, then you’re going to get hung-up when you create some bit that you like. But if you can re-use bits, then you can keep moving.
  • “Get through your first 50 failures as fast as you can.” I don’t think that we should be shooting for a place where we no longer make crappy art. A good artist is one who’s in motion making lots of art — you only think they’re so much better because they produce so much quantity that their pile of “good art” has also been able to accumulate. For every piece of crap you create, you’re one step closer to getting something you really like.
  • Let your level show. Let the world know that despite having years of investment in your art form, you’re still a beginner who doesn’t know it all. Rather than hide your thought process, let your questions be present in your work. You are a fundamentally more interesting artist if people get to see what it is that you’re struggling with, rather than just your final answers. Show your work. Talk about what you still can’t understand (unapologetically).

[Thanks for the link, Carl Caputo]

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Travis Owens's picture

As a web developer (programming,...

As a web developer (programming, graphic designer) I've always just throw together an "initial mockup" and never stopped mid-design per se. I'm glad to know somebody else believes the same concept.

But I always go back and tweak my initial mockup, I usually make more iterations and I never hit perfection before the 3rd iteration but rarely go past a 5th iteration. Of course web design is more functional based so you have to go threw this trial & error phase.

I believe this is why artists prefer oil paints, because if you don't like something you've previously done, you can always paint over it, which doesn't work in other mediums so well if at all. Almost every famous artist is well known for making changes to their oil paintings for months or more.




An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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