884: Oversaturation by Imagery

(Taken from Matt Rhodes' blog and from the Muddy Colors repost of the link)

Matt Rhodes:

"I think the internet broke my brain. - I can't draw.

That's a pretty big problem, because that's supposed to be my thing. I have all the technical knowledge and muscle memory, but as soon as pencil connects to paper it's a total system shut down. I can still create images at work at the quantity and quality to justify my salary, but my personal sketchbooks have been as dry as a bone for months.

For all of that time I've been trying to find solutions. I've tried taking a break from it in the hope that I would feel recharged. Changing mediums is typically a great way to break out of a creative slump. I've also tried forcing it, pencilling a twenty five page comic of my own, hoping it would simply break the dam. Finally, I mentioned this issue to my wife and she handed me an epiphany in five minutes:

I am completely saturated by imagery.

You see, when I try and fail to draw something, I don't just freeze up. A voice inside me screams "It's been done!". Every time I try to sketch out an idea, I see the ghosts of a dozen other iterations of the same thing. Ten thousand dragons have fought ten thousand knights in front of ten thousand castles.
Why add yet one more voice to the chittering cacophony?
I comb the internet every single day, consuming images. I have countless folders, divided into thematic subsections, for saving the images I like."

I collected the best comments I found on both posts and copy pasted them into this post. Check them out; I find them extremely helpful. One thing that helps as well in my opinion is doing new activities you never did before, freshing up your life.
I got huge inspiration folders as well and I think the focus should be to distill the world through your perception and put everything together you love. Observe and learn from other artists to find your own expression.

Fernando Acosta said..

"When talking to my friend and co-worker Thomas Pringle we came to the conclusion that cghub and artists blogs have way too many artists doing the same old ideas over and over again. so it is hard to come up with something fresh, new and exciting that keeps you going.

The solution I'm trying to come up with is to find again the reason why I like to draw in the first place. Try to take away the pressure from having to post it on my blog or "it has to be better than the last one so that I can put it in my portfolio" and just draw for myself. I don't really have to show it to anybody so I can doodle away while watching a movie or just when the moment comes. Try not to compare it with other artists work and just draw because you like it to.

It's easier said than done but I'm am trying. It's always good to take the time and take a break. I've tried to reduce my visits to cghub and facebook etc and read more about stuff I like instead."

Zoe said...

"I have struggled with this too, so please let me rant a bit about it (...).

Other commenters above me have said this and it's true: you're stuck in a very stagnant genre. Video games, movies, "concept art" have become horribly inbred in the past decade. Originality has been chased out of the system BY DESIGN. It's not that there aren't plenty of wonderful fresh new ideas -- they're just not welcome. Artists instead are rewarded for staying conservative, and repeating what's been done already albeit at a high level of technical skill.

The answer is to look at your real life! Even if your life seems "boring" compared to knights and dragons, I guarantee it's more interesting because it's real, specific, unique to you. Your experiences, your emotions, your pain, your memories, your friends. Bring more of it into your work. The cliches and conventions of your genre encourage conformity and don't let you express how the world makes you feel. Let your inner life come out through your work, even if it makes your work less commercial or "accessible" for a while.

You will get through this period of frustration and you will be a better artist when you come out the other side (...)."

Louis-Philippe St-Laurent said...

"The solution I'm currently trying out is to cut myself off. Of the 250ish RSS feeds that I was gobbling daily, I kept about 25 of the most meaningful and I only look at them once a week (Friday night, actually).

It's been a week and a half and it works. My personnal production has increased by infinity. (I started something... as opposed to doing nothing.)"

Anonymous said...

"Stop looking at your reference collection for a while. This was said above and rings true. Take a break from consuming content (...)."

Jake Ekiss said...

"Thing is, whether cognizant of it or not, your previous work was an amalgamation of other images you'd seen. How do you draw a knight without ever having seen one? You don't. You see what a knight looks like, and then you draw *your* knight. The fact that it has a label speaks of why it seems stale. It's because labeling something is grouping a set of characteristics together. A knight is a set of visual ques that let you know it's a knight. If it doesn't have some portion of those ques, it isn't a knight.
I think this may be a conceptual problem. It's not necessarily about what's the same about the thousand knights you've seen, the various recipes for that image. It's about what hasn't been added to the stew that can be. That's all these particular labels are, they're just a recipe of visual ingredients. A sandwich isn't a sandwich without bread holding some internal bits, but what those internal bits are, and the arrangement of the bread, can vary infinitely. And where "original" concepts are found isn't in the crazed half light of spontaneous invention. Often it's throwing elements at the wall that shouldn't work, and then working them until they do.

(...) The thing that makes your knight (...) special isn't that it's radically different from every other (...) knight, it's that you made it. There is an alchemy of your experiences and the reference material you bring to the piece that cannot be replicated by any other human being. That's what always helps me over this particular thought process. It's the knowledge that, while subjectively what I draw might not be mind blowingly original to everyone who sees it, it is still my unique recipe (...)."

Mary said...

"I had a similar problem to this not too long ago (though maybe not as intense). My inspiration folder was overflowing with amazing artwork but it didn't really inspire me at all, more like it intimidated me and put me off drawing even personal pieces.

I switched out my 'inspiration' folder for a purely visual one. I saved images of light bouncing of metal, animals fur, wings, lots of different materials. I have a folder for images of water alone, how it reacts in different situations etc. Also some pictures of interesting poses and facial expressions to keep myself in tune with reality, but not much of it was work by other artists, mainly photographs.

Basically what I did was remove those elements that brought me down and concentrated on a more organic/natural/personal type of work. My subject matter didn't change that much but my overall designs/pieces improved a lot, my professors at the time could tell my work was more original and was identifiable to me alone."

Eric Orchard said...

"I'm feeling pretty overwhelmed by remix culture. Everything seems like a riff on something else right now. A mash up or a satire. So I think it's important to keep pushing an original vision to counteract that. Maybe try doing some longer term personal work like a comic. I find telling a story in my own voice helps to cut through the overload of imagery and makes striving for originality a clearer path."

Scott said...

"Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: Whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it. The principle runs through all life from top to bottom."
~C. S. Lewis

Anonymous said...

"You've got to draw for the process, not the result. If you're there for the result, you're always going to be disappointed; it's all been done before, and better, and you're never as good as you want to be. You'll get disillusioned and eventually hit a block. But if you're in it because you love the process, you can draw zombies every day for a year and enjoy the last just as much as you did the first. That's the advice that helped me, at any rate."

Coconino County Times said...

"Someone said that you could use real world animals as your sketchbook subjects and draw them in unique and interesting ways. Terryl Whitlatch does this in her creature design work... literally starting from the inner skeletal and muscular structures and building on it. Combining multiple creatures in novel ways that are almost always original with a very solid understanding of the underlying forms. They are believable not to mention so well drawn that you can pour over them for hours. But from her work you can see her thought processes... and that's exciting.

Another example - think about aliens...

The word anthropomorphic always comes to mind as Matt showed in his posting - mushy is a great way to describe much of the zBrush stuff out there for sure. But as humans we love the familiar. I think when some people think of alien creature design we tend to start from human perspective and then after so many years of seeing aliens that look basically human - we see absolutely nothing original."

Mr. Chris Bjors said...
"I've been experiencing the same thing for a year and it left me almost hating my craft. Or rather, my inability to use this knowledge for anything interesting.

However, I've found that by simply unplugging the internet I am more productive. Create a new User account on your PC called Work, only install photoshop and nothing else. Don't save any bookmarks, don't use IM's just Photoshop.

This help me focus, but I'm still struggling with the discipline, being online for over 10 years is a tough habit to break. It's like an addiction to go to these forums and consume knowledge leaving you mentally exhausted before you even start working."

Paul Bonner said...

"If I may be so bold as to quote myself - "Put the books back on the shelf. Turn off the image search. Throw the phone out the window. Shut the door. Take a deep breath and set off... by yourself."