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On the importance of foundational skills, and finding a work / life balance

I am an avid Podcast listener. It started when Mark & Brain went off the air 2 years ago and both Mark and Brian each went on to start their own private podcasts. Later I discovered Neil Degrasse Tyson's podcast, Star Talk, and Kevin Pollak's Chat Show Podcast. This week I discovered Chris Oatley's Podcast.

Unlike the other podcasts that I listen to primarily for pure entertainment, the Chris Oatley's Podcast is very relevant to me professionally. Chris Oatley was a concept artist for disney before he quit to start his own online art school. On his podcast he talks about various aspects of the business, and things that art students and struggling artists need to know to succeed in this field.

I was listening to a past episode on "Why your portfolio is being ignored", where he was talking to 3 or 4 other working artists and picking their brains on this topic. One thing that all of them could not agree on fast enough was the importance of foundational skills. (Perspective, Anatomy, Value, Color, Composition, etc.) I feel that my own foundational skills are okay, but I freely acknowledge that they could be better. I recently had a run in with this. I was working on some character concepts for a personal project of mine, just thumbnails, little more that silhouettes really, but when I showed them to an instructor whose opinion I respect, he immediately suggested that I tak two steps back and do some (a lot) of anatomy studies. I spent the rest of the term doing page after page of anatomy studies. And I still feel like I have room to improve. Chris' guests pointed out that even Art Masters always get something out of perfecting their foundational skills, and they talked about how when they are teaching foundational skills to their students they find that they are giving their own art skills a work out, and are becoming better for it. So it's something I want to be working on.

But where to find the time?!? I always feel as though there is never enough time to finish the urgent and mandatory stuff on my plate. School assignment and now stuff for my internship. This term I am working as a concept artist for the pre-production team, at school, I am taking advanced concept design, and advanced 3D modeling, and I am lucky enough to be getting to do real-world concept work for my internship. All of these are areas where I really want to do well. there is not a single area that I want to ignore, even a little bit, but it's a lot of plates to keep spinning. I feel like there aren't enough hours in the week, and that it's only a matter of time until all of these plates come crashing down.

But as the above mentioned podcast continued the guests went on to answer some questions on organization and efficiency. One of the guests talked about how one of the strategies he has used in the past is to have a big white board in his office/studio, and that he started every day by putting EVERYTHING that was on his radar onto the white board, whether he thought that he would get to it or not. He even included lunch. He would then quickly prioritized his list and got to work. And that not only did crossing things off his list help to keep him motivated, but it allowed him to stay focused on the stuff that was really important.

I don't have a white board, or even the space to put one, but I am thinking that maybe I should make a trello page for myself to serve this function, at least until I have an office with the space to put up a white board. I've never been the sort of person to keep a daily planer. The time and effort required to write everything down always feels like it could/should be better put towards actually getting stuff done. But I know that there are things that are important things that aren't urgent that are getting pushed to the side. practice of my foundational skills, personal projects, books that I should read, etc. And looking ahead I know that in the months to come I will need to find a way to devote time towards finding a job. Maybe using trello this way will be a good way to keep myself on track.

I remember reading about Boris Vallejo and his wife Julie Bell. How they would wake up each morning, sit down at their art desks, that faced each other, until lunch. then after lunch they would head to the gym to work out, the gym being where they would meet a lot of their models. After a workout they would come back home and paint some more, often with one of their models. then dinner and bed. I always thought that sounded like a perfect day to day life. When I made the decision to go back to school I was leaving a career as a personal trainer. I knew that my physical fitness was one of the sacrifices that I would have to make. I knew that it would be even harder to get it back than it was to earn in the first place. But this is something that I want bad enough I was/am willing to make that sacrifice. But since I have been in school, I keep hearing stories of how 12-14 hour days are a very common norm in this industry. I want to work as an artist. I want to make stuff. I want to contribute to the work by adding new things that had previously only ever existed in my head. But I don't want to do that to the complete exclusion of everything else that makes a complete life. One way or another I will need to find a way to carve out some balance.

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