Following in the footsteps of a creative giant
With @nickang_crap, a place for a new DAILY practice
For the last few months I have been waking 2 hours earlier than I need to to write. It has been interesting. I never missed a day until I had to drive for 4 days from Berlin to the south of Spain recently. That forced break may be responsible for a change that I’m embarking on…
Have you heard of this guy called Mike Winkelmann? No? How about beeple? Yeah, I can feel a few of you nodding your heads. This guy is my major inspiration right now and I’ll tell you why.
The first reason is one that is bound to universally impress any human being: he has managed to produce one sketch a day for 5710 days in a row (according to the counter on his website). That’s over 15 years of creating and publishing art every single day. But what looks like pure insanity is, as Mike puts it himself, just a matter of discipline.
That’s the second reason I’m majorly impressed by beeple: he’s a complete no-bullshit, just get the piece of crap out the door and into the world even though it sucks kind of person. You can get a sense of this from the way he talks (if you’re intrigued, I recommend watching his first talk ever in 2015 at FITC Toronto embedded on his About page). Why does this matter? Well, he’s not selling me stuff about his creative process or how to market oneself. He hardly talks about that (you can guess why). He’s the polar opposite of “artists” whose art only appear in art courses. I love that. I trust that. The reason, in his words:
I think sometimes people concentrate a little too much on trying to come up with some great business model when they should be focusing a bit more on their craft.
Focusing on craft
What do we get in return when we focus our time and attention exclusively on craft? Beeple got lucky when he sold his The First 5000 Days art piece as an NFT for $69 million. Should we expect that? Of course not. Unlikely to happen, so better not hope for it. But should perhaps expect that even less if we haven’t painstakingly created 5000 pieces of art like he has? Damn right we should.
Anyway, why focus on craft? I’d argue that even that is besides the point. The point is to focus on learning. It can be anything. But saying “craft” helps us focus.
Case in point: I’ve launched and failed to keep up a project that I hosted on LearnDaily.life (site is down, domain released). I wanted to force myself to learn something everyday and post it up on that site as a write up. The reason I couldn’t keep up? I was, ironically, overthinking what would constitute a learning and I hesitated posting on some days. With such a broad remit as “learn something everyday,” I got paralysed by choice. Some days led to some weeks. I eventually shut it down.
The beauty of what beeple has done, and how he has managed to convince himself to do it consistently, is that it is dead simple and quantifiable: sketch one thing everyday and upload it.
sketch: the main act — as long as what you do is considered a sketch, it counts
one thing: the minimum non-zero quantity
everyday: the simplest cadence there is is to follow the sun
upload: the final act for that day’s work to be counted
My 3-step plan to use the visual advantage
One thing that has been non-obvious to me about his success is the upload part. A visual artist has the advantage over non-visual artists these days because of the dominance of Instagram and YouTube. In his words:
These platforms have been great for helping me reach an audience especially given the format of work that I do. Putting out a picture a day or short little VJ clips, these are very small, easily digestible pieces that are perfectly suited for these platforms so I feel like I’m pretty lucky to be making work that is a natural fit for these mediums.
Whereas I was working with words and uploading them as posts on the obscure website called LearnDaily.life, beeple was creating captivating images and uploading them to Instagram where millions are scrolling every minute for inspiration.
You might be saying to me, well, you’re one of those people who want the attention, huh? Well… yeah, I guess. I want feedback. The only way I’m going to get feedback is by having my stuff seen by people. So yes, I want me some attention.
My three-step plan goes like this:
Make a lot of visual crap
Gain people’s attention
Make a lot of other crap that may or may not be visual (like writing)
Plan for what… Nick? You still haven’t told us what you’re doing!
I know, I know. Let’s finally talk about that now…
I’ve started to create one web project a day. Today is day 5. Here are the last five projects in screenshots:
I’m the first to admit how very ugly and frankly uninspiring these are, even for me. But that’s not the point! I’ve learned a lot and I continue to be excited about waking up as early as I can before work each day to make one more of these.
If you visit the IG account, you’ll see my old, very visual set of projects that aren’t web-based on the profile. Those are hand-sketched on an iPad. They took much more than 2 hours to make and even though I had fun doing them, I felt like they were just not my thing at the time.
I have a lot of ideas of what to try and that’s because browsers provide a large set of tools to use to make all kinds of things. Couple that with the ability to write logic programmatically and I find myself giddy with possibilities.
So… yeah. New project. If you use Instagram, I’d be happy if you followed along:
Oh, and I forgot to mention, I’m not going to do this forever. That’s a daunting goal. I’m instead aiming for 70 days, which means 70 web projects. That’s when I’ll be packing up in Spain and driving for 4 days back to Berlin.
If, by then, I’m still learning and excited about creating a web project each day, then I might just keep going. Otherwise, well, I’d have learned a bunch.
Thanks for reading, everyone. Have a nice week ahead. Happy holidays!