7 Tips for the 21-Year-Old Me
by Bobby Chiu
When I was a student in college working on my skills as a character designer, I’d had periods where I would sit at my desk working as hard as I could but having little to show for my efforts at the end of the day. I remember sitting there surrounded by blank pieces of paper, trying to come up with an amazing style that nobody had ever seen before. I would do one drawing and not be satisfied, so I would lay a new piece of paper over it, re-draw it with slight changes to features here and there. This would still not be good enough so I would put another piece of paper over my revision, make more minor adjustments trying to perfect this new style I was searching for.
I did this for weeks on end, tweaking and polishing over and over, working hard every day. But in the end, did I come up with a brand new style, something amazing that nobody had ever seen before?
No, unfortunately I didn’t.
And how much did I improve from this experience? Not much at all.
Spinning my wheels like this made me a little depressed and I thought to myself, “If only someone could tell me what to do to become a great artist, I would do exactly that and do it with all my heart.”
That’s what this article is about: seven key things that I would tell the 21-year-old me, which I’ve found to have contributed the most to having a successful career in art.
1. “Focus, Bobby. Undisturbed focus, 90 minutes at a time.”
It’s actually really great to work intensely for short segments of time and take regular breaks. I’ve found that when I split my work into intense and focused 90-minutes sessions, not only do I have a good sense of urgency as the 90 minutes expire, but the regular breaks also give me wonderful, fresh looks at my work multiple times throughout the day.
2. “You have to practice, Bobby. There’s no way around it and there is no substitute for good, purposeful practice.”
There are many different ways to practice but I have found that practicing as a way of trying to learn has the greatest impact. What I mean by this is, I don’t practice drawing something just because it looks cool—I always have an objective in mind. What am I trying to learn?
Am I studying how an artist does a certain technique or achieves a certain look?
Am I learning muscles and other anatomy?
I didn’t practice simply how to copy what I saw but rather I practiced fully understanding what it was that I was drawing and painting to the point that I could do it out of my imagination.
If I had only practiced how to copy things, then I would have become a great copier. But by striving to understand what it was that I was referencing and trying to create something with the same essence and feeling, I worked multiple parts of my mind and skills.
3. “Embrace your routine, Bobby.”
I used to be against routines.
I used to think routines would take all the fun and excitement out of my life and lock me down. I started my own studio because I wanted to be free.
But I’ve since discovered that I looked at it all wrong.
Freedom isn’t necessarily a result of having spontaneity, it’s the result of having time.
I feel the most free when I have time to do the things that I really want to do, and the best way to have a lot of time is to be better organized. Having a great routine allows me to be more productive, which gives me more time to do the other things I love to do.
Routines are also extremely powerful for creating momentum but they only work if we make them a priority. I became better at drapery and drawing people by sketching for a few hours on the subways of Toronto every Sunday. This was part of my routine for five years and I did it consistently even if it was raining, Christmas, or my birthday. And even though subway sketching only took two or three hours every seven days, the routine helped improve my skills dramatically.
Try it yourself! Start off with something small that you know you can commit to. Do that thing consistently and you’ll quickly see the benefits of a great routine. Once you get used to it, add something new and soon you’ll have a great routine that will improve your skills and save your time.
4. “Cultivate a love for what you do, Bobby.”
As a student, I was afraid to really, truly love doing art. Some artists get too obsessed about their art, and I didn’t want to go that crazy about my work.
But what I found was that loving what I do doesn’t automatically make me crazy about it, and that’s a good thing. Loving art not only helps me get through the day, it makes me eagerly await the next day because each day is another opportunity to get better at doing what I love.
Most of us who call ourselves artists love art, but like with any relationship, we have to put in the effort in to make our love affair strong and lasting. So we should all try to cultivate our passion, enthusiasm, and love for art; these can only help us on our artistic journeys.
5. “Build a network of like-minded people, Bobby. Everything is easier when you have a group.”
I could never do as much or go as far alone as I could with a group of like-minded people.
I think part of the reason that I’ve had a successful career over the years is because I’m naturally curious about people. I love learning their stories and, in turn, making friends. In this way, I’ve been fortunate enough to meet many of the artists that I look up to and admire, and today, call them my friends.
Because art is typically a solitary pursuit, many artists are naturally shy individuals, so building a network can be daunting. Nevertheless, I cannot overstate the value of having people. To get over my natural shyness, particularly when I first met my heroes, I had to consciously dig around in my mind for that little tiny piece of me that is not as shy, and expand it even if it’s just for a short period of time. I let this little piece steer the ship for a while, and that was how I got myself out there to meet interesting people or people that I didn’t know.
Think of it this way: not meeting one person doesn’t mean missing out on that one person that you could have been friends with; it means missing out on that one person and every person that that person could have introduced you to, and one of THOSE people could have been the one to give you your dream job, been your best friend, or your wife or husband.
Take every opportunity you can to get out there and talk with people, in person or online. Who knows where it will lead you.
6. “Discomfort and fear can’t hurt you, Bobby. By challenging and overcoming them, you will always continue to improve.”
I have learned to challenge challenges, to be comfortable in discomfort, and to overcome my fears. By doing so, I constantly push my limits and therefore expand my potential and possibilities. I love doing things that are challenging, even when I might not know where to even start. These are the things that I live for and they have helped me to push my limits further and further.
When I’ve been too comfortable for too long, I get unsettled. An alarm will go off in my head, compelling me to get up and do something challenging.
Comfort is one of life’s traps and many new professionals fall into it, preventing them from continuing to learn and improve every day. The moment this happens will be the exact moment that you start to fall behind.
The whole world keeps evolving and learning every day, so to stay relevant and to have the best chance at a successful career, we must continue to learn as well.
7. “Exercise your willpower, Bobby. When the mind is willing, the body has no choice but to follow.”
We are not born with willpower. As babies and children, we have to be taught (and taught and taught again) to resist urges, wait for rewards, and basically do the things we know we should do but don’t particularly want to. This challenge doesn’t end at adulthood, either. In fact, I’m sure we all know grown men and women who still have trouble resisting that extra slice of cake, hitting that snooze button one more time, or doing that uncomfortable and inconvenient thing in order to get the reward that they want.
Willpower is something that we can develop, like a muscle that we can grow and strengthen. To exercise it, do things that are challenging or which you don’t want to do but you know are good for you.
Willpower drains as we make decisions such as resisting what we want to have, waiting for a reward, or doing something we don’t want to do. For example, perhaps you can decline a piece of chocolate cake, but what if it was followed by brownies, ice cream, French fries, and potato chips?
This is why I always prefer to make will-draining decisions the night before so that the following morning, I don’t have to make ANY decisions and can just jump right to the first item on my to-do list.
Do Not Link allows skeptics to ethically link to content we wish to criticize, without unintentionally promoting it.
So you know how when you criticise an article on a horrible site like the Daily Mail and link so people can see the original page, search engines see that as “someone is interested in this page,” and activity by people criticising the page looks just like activity by people liking it? So the horrible site goes up the Google search results? And the horrible site goes “whooo, lots of hits and links, guess that article was popular” and decides to create more horrible articles like it?
When you’re linking to horrible sites, use DNL: from the user end it works like tinyurl or bit.ly, but it doesn’t give the website attention.
Did you guys know that carrots are actually bad for rabbits? They’re too high in sugar and can lead to tooth decay and other serious health defects in our furry little friends. So why did Bugs Bunny eat them all the time? Because of Clark Gable, that’s why.
The reference might not seem so obvious to us know, but when Bugs first appeared in theaters over seventy years ago the audience immediately understood that when Bugs ate a carrot and talked with his mouth full; he was parodying Clark Cable in Frank Capra’s It Happened One Night (1934).
It turns out that, according to Friz Freleng’s unpublished memoirs, that It Happened One Night was one the animators favorite films and that at least three characteristics of Bugs Bunny are based on the film. Besides Clark Gable inspiring Bugs’ carrot addiction; his personality was based on Oscar Shapely, a minor character in the film who consistently referred to Gable as Doc. Not only that, the famous Rabbit was named after Bugs Dooley; an imaginary character mentioned in the film.
Sure, It Happened One Night is considered to be one the best romantic comedies of all time, and it might have been directed by Frank Capra, who’s arguably the greatest American film director ever; but this might be one of those rare cases where the parody has outlived the original reference.
As we expect more from technology, do we expect less from each other? Sherry Turkle studies how our devices and online personas are redefining human connection and communication — and asks us to think deeply about the new kinds of connection we want to have.
How dog breeders have “improved” breeds over the past 100 years.
- The basset hound never used to sit so low. The dog has suffered changes to his rear leg structure, has excessive skin, vertebrae problems, droopy eyes that are prone to ectropion and entropion, and excessively large ears.
- The bull terrier used to be an athletic dog, but over the years his snout was mutated to be oversized and bending downwards, leading to respiratory issues. Many bull terriers have supernumerary teeth and are compulsive tail chasers and air biters owing to brain deformities.
- The boxer now has a much shorter face with an extremely short snout. The hindquarters are also lower. Like all brachycephalic dogs, the boxer has difficulty controlling his temperature in hot weather, meaning they are prone to overheating and collapsing in the summer. The boxer also has one of the highest cancer rates among dog breeds and many modern day boxers suffer from seizures.
- The english bulldog has evolved into a creature that suffers from almost every known disease. A kennel club survey conducted in 2004 found that they die on average at only 6 years and 4 months old. They cannot mate without human intervention, and cannot give birth naturally due to their giant heads. There is no such thing as a truly healthy bulldog.
- The dachshund, at one time, used to have functional legs and necks for their size. Their backs and legs have gotten longer, chest jutted forward, and legs have shrunk to such proportions that there is barely any clearance between their chest and the floor. Obese dachshunds usually have to actually drag their bellies across the ground. Their risk for intervertebral disc disease - which can result in paralysis - is extremely high. They are also prone to achrondoplastic related pathologies, progressive retinal apathy, and problems with their legs and joints.
- Pugs are the most inbred breed of dog in existence - an investigation carried out found that amongst the 10,000 pugs found in the UK are so inbred, the gene pool consists of the equivalent of only 50 individuals. They are extremely brachycephalic, and suffer severely from all the associated problems - the folds in their face frequently get infected, they struggle to breathe (making snoring/snorting/huffing noises even without moving), they have high blood pressure, low oxygenation, often collapse and die in the summer or if allowed to overheat, dentition problems due to their skulls being so curled in, and perhaps most shocking - their double curled tail is actually a genetic defect, and in its most serious forms leads to paralysis and many dogs needed a wheelchair or being euthanised if this progresses. These dogs are usually culled if they fail to produce this ‘attractive’ trait.
Healthy puppies that do not succumb to these ridiculous modern day breed standards are usually culled. One very heartbreaking example is the rhodesian ridgeback. The ridge is actually a genetic deformity - a mild form of spinal bifida - and puppies born without this ridge are healthy - but since the ridge is their namesake, healthy puppies are normally culled at birth and only those with noticeable ridges are bred from, thus passing the disability down to future dogs. Below is a ridgeback alongside a healthy, ridgeless dog.
3 to 4 million dogs and cats are killed every year because shelters are too full…. people are choosing to buy from breeders or shops instead of offering them a home.
Homeless animals outnumber homeless people by 5:1.
Only 1 in 10 dogs will ever find a permanent home.
25 PER CENT OF DOGS THAT ENTER SHELTERS ARE PUREBREEDS.
Please consider adopting a homeless dog. Please don’t encourage breeding these animals when there are so many being killed every year. Breeding is a profit, not “just” a hobby, and even if you think your breeder is reputable, they are still churning out puppies into a world where pets are seen as disposable.
Fuck breeders. All about money. Meanwhile, the dogs that are constantly bred suffer extreme health problems, while all the dogs that are left at the shelters are killed because no one adopted them.
this is so sad LET ME ADOPT ALL OF THE DOGS.
This is one of my unpopular opinions. I believe all (or at least most) pedigree dog breeding should be banned.
But I normally don’t talk about it cause people are very attached to their fav breeds and I understand how adorable a lot of them are (like pugs).
But everything here is 100% true. I honestly believe pedigree dog breeding is animal abuse.
If you don’t believe me watch this documentary Pedigree Dogs Exposed.
Edit: the film is very sad and can be hard to watch.
Just finished watching the documentary and oh my god, “hard to watch” is no joke
This hit me like a ton of bricks. I’m still feeling a little nauseous after this realization.
Carl Zimmer, an elegant peacock among science writers, delivers this lesson on where bird feathers came from. The shared anatomy between dinosaurs and birds extends beyond the wishbone to their equally functional and extravagant plumage. Recent fossil finds give us hints about the colors and forms that adorned some prehistoric reptiles, from frilly crests to fuzzy proto-wings.
Dinosaurs didn’t take to the air for tens of millions of years after the first feathers showed up, and we don’t yet know exactly how that happened. But we know that the evolution of these delicate, beautiful and functional forms carried some dinosaurs aloft to a higher branch on the tree of life, and from that branch lept the first bird.
(view the full lesson at TED-Ed)
- First off the “stop-motion animation” is simply the art of moving an object frame by frame and taking snap-shots, then running them together so it looks as though the object is moving. Simple.
- Stop-motion not always mean “claymation.” In fact the majority of the most popular stop-motion animated films are not done that way. Claymation simply means animation done with clay. We see this particular technique in the popular Wallace and Gromit by Aardman Studios.
- Films like The Nightmare Before Christmas, Corpse Bride, Coraline, ParaNorman and many more use puppet animation. In simple terms they use something much like a solidified doll with clothing, hair and a structured body to move frame by frame. Simple. Not clay.
- Tim Burton has very little to do with most stop-motion films, though people refuse to believe that. In fact he wasn’t even the director of Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas. He simply provided the story and characters. He brought the story, characters and was a co-director of Corpse Bride, a producer on James and the Giant Peach and the director/ creator of the recently released Frankenweenie. That’s all. Nothing else. Aside from his short film Vincent.
- If anything, Henry Selick is the king of eerie stop-motion films. He was the director of the Nightmare Before Christmas, James and the Giant Peach, Coraline, and the up and coming Shadow King. He provided a lot of the artistic style to these films.
- Laika is “the stop-motion studio” now. It created Coraline, ParaNorman and next year The Boxtrolls. It is dedicated to producing stop-motion animated films.
- Laika has roots with Will Vinton Studios, what I mean is they were created when that studio closed down. Will Vinton Studios created many of the early claymation films and more, including The California Raisins. Laika actually owns the word “claymation.”
- MacKinnon and Saunders constructs the puppets for nearly every puppet animation to date, everything from Corpse Bride and Fantastic Mr. Fox to Bob the Builder and those Puffs tissue kids.
- Rankin/Bass films (the classic 60s-80s Christmas specials) are a core in the stop-motion industry and often said to be a source of inspiration for many stop-motion animation directors. Not many people know that they were created in Japan. (more so the 2D films animated by Topcraft which later went on to create Studio Ghibli).