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  1. #1
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    What do you think about when you art?

    I read in "Talent is Overrated" by Geoff Colvin that what separates pros from amateurs is what they think about during the creation process.

    For those of you who have not read this book, he states that pros actively control the process whereas amateurs lose themselves in it.

    An example he gives is people who play golf for recreation will play without any thought, because their aim is to relax/ decompress from work/life.
    But a pro golfer, such a Tiger Woods, can stop his golf club on the downswing if he feels any doubt about being able to perform correctly. I googled this, and apparently he has done it many times: when someone coughs in the audience, when he feels his back pulling unnaturally, etc.

    Same with pro runners who control their breath and pace while everyone else is just hoping for the run to be over (true for me lol )

    My question to you, what do you think about when you are creating? When your pencil/brush is on the paper is your brain running with a million thoughts or is it blank and you are letting instinct guide you?

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  3. #2
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    I'm usually thinking 'and this bit curves like this...there's a dip here...no, that angle should be sharper than that...'. But thanks to my art teacher in school, I never think 'this ARM should be curved more' or 'the CHEEK BONE dips in here'. She taught me to look at a subject as just shapes, and not actively think about what exactly it is. It's really helped actually; I draw better when I stop think 'this is a leg...' haha.

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    It varies depending on what I'm working on but I generally hear phrases I've read around CA.org. I did some life drawing yesterday and this was some of my thought process along the way:

    "Measure accurately. Invest the time getting it right in the beginning and you'll save time in the long run.

    Block in the measurements and the draw the form in using your guidelines.

    Slowly render the whole form together, building up as you go. General shapes and values first to more specific details later.

    General anatomy thoughts from Loomis about ideal proportions, etc."

    Things like that.

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    And then God said, "Let us make man in our likeness and our image. Let us make him ridiculously hard to draw so that poor artists everywhere will have to spend 10,000+ hours failing repeatedly before they can begin to capture the form and likeness onto a two-dimensional surface." And there was man. And it was good. And artists everywhere lost their minds.
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  6. #4
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    "Should this be more blue? Wait, that's too blue... More yellow... Now it's too yellow... Argh, why did I do that UNDO... Oh wait, there's no undo in traditional, haha, whoops... Is the arm too long, oh crap, it is... ERASE FIX AAAUUUGH ERASER SMUDGE fuuuuuuuuuuuu....!!! Why does that angle look screwy... CHECK DOUBLE-CHECK oh I see what I did, well that was stupid... Would this look better if I got rid of that... Or maybe if I move that over there, or, oh heck I should just change this entire section REPAINT, RAWR!! There. Better."

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  8. #5
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    It depends on what kind of task I'm working on. If it's more creatively tasking, like doing thumbnails, analyzing the composition, exploring different poses or designs, etc, that requires a lot of focus. But if I'm performing more perfunctory processes, like rendering, smoothing, tidying up messy areas, then I easily get bored if I don't have something else to think about so I'll put on some music or a podcast if I don't have something on my mind.

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  10. #6
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    Thou thinkest therefore thou art.

    Last edited by tobbA; July 2nd, 2012 at 10:53 AM.
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    Mostly sound effects.

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  13. #8
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    I look at a line or curve and try to SEE it with my "right brain". So I imagine that line or curve as a contour of something else, like a human figure, animal, plant, anything other than what it is.

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    What do I think about? How much I like the idea of not starving.

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  17. #11
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    "What the hell am I doing oh god oh god is this right no wait what". Nah, more like trying to foresee the future and how to get there.

    Last edited by LORD M; July 1st, 2012 at 09:52 PM.
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  18. #12
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    lol! at everyone's responses. I guess most people have brain chatter in the background when they draw.

    Quote Originally Posted by Shorinji_Knight View Post
    Mostly sound effects.
    and this... I gotta admit, kinda happens to me too *pew pew pew*

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  19. #13
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    it depends on what I am doing, If I'm doing a quick sketch from my imagination I usually don't think.
    If I'm going for a specific pose inside a composition etc I usually think about the emotions, directions and proportions that I am seeking in that pose.
    but yeah it goes more smoothly for me when I don't think consciously on how I do stuff and just draw..
    When I'm doing a study or trying to modify the way I work I sometimes consciously bring myself to a struggle, I remember my art teacher asking "Is this really what you see?" as I try to make things look right, but that is essential for learning even if my mind can do this on automate.

    I sometimes try to control the emotion I go for and the state of mind I am in, meditating on the graceful movement of a beautiful woman or on chaos tends to indirectly affect my drawing.

    But again like I said and that is true for all things in life, the magic happens when I do not think of how I am doing whatever it is I am doing and my subconscious takes over, but for that to happen doubt must be abandoned and I am lost in whatever mental image I conjured.
    (and because I fall in love with what I made it may be that I put it down and come back to it and I don't like it anymore)

    TL;DR
    I noticed that I really like when I'm having a conversation with someone while drawing (making sound effects and singing also sometimes) the downside to it that there are people around me who might get the wrong idea and think I am not paying them any attention.

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  20. #14
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    Actually... I probably think stuff like "am I doing this right? Maybe I am. Maybe I'm not. Uhhh... Didn't turn out very well. That'll have to do. Wow, that's awesome! I'm a genius. Hmm... Maybe that wasn't so good after all." Etc.

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  21. #15
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    "oh shit that looks wrong" "oh god now it looks worse" "what the hell is it supposed to be I cant even tell anymore" "oooh that one line looks nice" "nope now I cant see it through all of the corrections" "hey look I made flurmrmermemr"

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  22. #16
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    I think about things, but they don't turn into words. I know I'm kind of focusing on color, tone, line, shape, statement, all that -- but I don't actually think in words. It's kind of a static hum that goes on when I'm in the middle of drawing or painting.

    Probably why I have to listen to music when getting started; after about 5-10 minutes I don't even notice when the music stops playing. After about 3-4 hours the hum stops and it feels like waking up from some kind of sleep, and then I go grab coffee.

    .....that sounds incredibly nutty now that I think of it. Maybe that makes me an amateur

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  23. #17
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    squelching acid loops

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  24. #18
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    I had an unusual experience tonight. This girl, one of my wife's friends, asked me for my thoughts on a relationship matter, while I was sitting on the couch drawing stuff in front of me. I don't know her that well and I can be a little rigid and awkward when I talk to girls anyway, so my drawing hand went into nervous autopilot mode as I tried to think and talk to her without sounding stupid. It went on for some time, until after I got done giving her my thoughts, I looked down and realized I had drawn almost the entire living room without realizing it.

    I wanted to be like, "Can you come by every day and ask me questions? This is great practice!"

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    And then God said, "Let us make man in our likeness and our image. Let us make him ridiculously hard to draw so that poor artists everywhere will have to spend 10,000+ hours failing repeatedly before they can begin to capture the form and likeness onto a two-dimensional surface." And there was man. And it was good. And artists everywhere lost their minds.
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  25. #19
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    I tend to bounce between "Oh this is better than I thought it would be," and "Sweet Jesus, where's my eraser?"

    "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."
    Lao-tzu, Chinese philosopher (604 BC - 531 BC)

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    @Medelo This is my experience too, I try so hard not to autopilot but sometimes it happens anyway, and when I snap out of it I realize I finished the whole picture
    I'm not really qualified to judge your art because my skills< your skills but I looked at your sketchbook, it's good!

    @brian thanks for posting this! I can't talk when I draw (too distracting, might say something rude by accident) and can't draw when I talk(turns off my observation mode ) Just because you said this though, I am going to try to lifedraw something while I carry on a conversation and see what the final pic looks like.

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  27. #21
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    "Stop worrying!"

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    A smooth sea never made a skillful sailor.

    Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so."
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  28. #22
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    I'm not sure Geoff Colvin's theory is right. In fact, if I was going to theorize something I'd say the opposite. Having been a beginner at everything from running to martial arts to drawing, in the beginning you're aware of everything and everything has to be done consciously, which makes things very awkward. The further you go the more tasks you can automate, so your decisions can happen on a higher level of abstraction. You no longer need to think about how to do a punch for example, so you're free to think about your overall strategy.

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  29. #23
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    I think with my hands sometimes when I am drawing, I use them to help me visualize. Also i'm usually thinking things like "Why do those little white dots keep ruining my values? What am I doing wrong?", "How the hell would a light source hit this, wait what is my light source? (When drawing from imagination)", and the occasional, and always so sweet: "Awwww snap! This is fun! And it looks good!". Also sometimes I realize how much better I have gotten when I work, and it makes me feel good.

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  30. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by vineris View Post
    I'm not sure Geoff Colvin's theory is right. In fact, if I was going to theorize something I'd say the opposite. Having been a beginner at everything from running to martial arts to drawing, in the beginning you're aware of everything and everything has to be done consciously, which makes things very awkward. The further you go the more tasks you can automate, so your decisions can happen on a higher level of abstraction. You no longer need to think about how to do a punch for example, so you're free to think about your overall strategy.
    That's true, and I think what you are saying actually supports this too.
    If I remember correctly, he was only talking about the specific case of breaking the plateau (should have mentioned it earlier but I didn't remember). They advance their skill (almost automatically by just putting in mileage) and then cannot go any further because they are automating/not paying attention/unable to execute specific things that enable them to break the plateau (higher abstractions) , such as strategy.

    But either of you may be right. It is just a theory after all!

    On a similar note, in the same book he discusses the concept of "deliberate practice" for some length as well (that good practice must adhere to a set of criteria and will probably not be fun, but doing it will make you great). Which has been proven multiple times here

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  31. #25
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    I'm relatively certain Jimmy Page doesn't think about playing the guitar when he's on stage...I imagine he goes somewhere else. Of course that is performance rather than visual recording so the analogy may not hold.

    I think it is a combination of "autopilot" at certain stages (once you have progressed to the point where technical application is second nature) and deliberate, intentional mark making and analysis mainly toward the finish. But it takes years of effort to get to that place.

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  32. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by TTKK View Post
    That's true, and I think what you are saying actually supports this too.
    If I remember correctly, he was only talking about the specific case of breaking the plateau (should have mentioned it earlier but I didn't remember). They advance their skill (almost automatically by just putting in mileage) and then cannot go any further because they are automating/not paying attention/unable to execute specific things that enable them to break the plateau (higher abstractions) , such as strategy.
    Also if you automate a mistake then you just keep making that mistake. In order to get beyond it you must realize that something is not working, track that mistake down and make changes until you correct it.

    JeffX99 may have hit on something. Lots of things have "practice" mode and "performance" mode. Football practice is not the same as a football game. Martial arts class is not the same as fighting. Your sketchbook is not the same as a finished piece.

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  33. #27
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    To the OP:
    Usually nothing. Except maybe the image I have in my mind I'm playing with.



    May or may not be relevant. But.....
    I like all of Cleese's videos talking about creativity ever since a thread in the lounge.
    Makes sense of why at certain times and settings I get into a much easier state of mind when drawing compared to others.





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  34. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by TTKK View Post
    I read in "Talent is Overrated" by Geoff Colvin that what separates pros from amateurs is what they think about during the creation process.
    For those of you who have not read this book, he states that pros actively control the process whereas amateurs lose themselves in it.
    From a technical standpoint, I think I can somewhat support that. If you're big on abstract work, sometimes you don't think about the process at all

    An example he gives is people who play golf for recreation will play without any thought, because their aim is to relax/ decompress from work/life.
    But a pro golfer, such a Tiger Woods, can stop his golf club on the downswing if he feels any doubt about being able to perform correctly. I googled this, and apparently he has done it many times: when someone coughs in the audience, when he feels his back pulling unnaturally, etc.

    Same with pro runners who control their breath and pace while everyone else is just hoping for the run to be over (true for me lol )
    From a technique standpoint I can agree with this. Professionals can control their technique, and they usually know what the end result will be, or they have a good idea of what may happen. I have no doubt that Tiger Woods has a few things running through his mind as he plays, or that a runner can control their breathing, their stride, and even how their foot lands. It's all about technique.

    For artists - you can feel when you're getting too tight with details, you can tell when your muscles are getting to a point where you're losing control, you can tell when your paint is too thick or thin, etc..


    My question to you, what do you think about when you are creating? When your pencil/brush is on the paper is your brain running with a million thoughts or is it blank and you are letting instinct guide you?
    My general thought process involves getting the guidelines down, backing off and thinking about if the pose will work or not. Will the perspective help or hurt, how will this muscle look, does it look like the person is sinking into the ground, etc. Then fine tune. Work loose to tight, big to small. Also, I usually think about the task at hand, and sometimes I think about the artists who have influenced my desire to do art, sometimes my style (i try to emulate Todd McFarland sometimes and I fail miserably).

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  35. #29
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    I go into my own little world when I paint. I'm thinking what brush I want to use and what colors. It's not really the greatest answer but it's honest.

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    "this isn't perfect or professional enough."
    "needs more details and textures."
    "I suck at art."
    "Try Harder."
    "look at matt khor and feng zhu videos."
    "give up."
    "shut up me!"
    "draw in the sketchbook."
    and etc

    long story short thinking too much while drawing can ruin your composition and focus

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    Everything is permitted
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