Archive for March, 2010

1,000 Paintings; 10,000 Hours

Monday, March 29th, 2010


While at Bellevue’s wonderful Affogato this week, we were discussing what we did for a living and our various expertise levels in it. My girlfriend mentioned Malcolm Gladwell’s theory that 10,000 hours is a magic number: that it doesn’t necessarily take exceptional talent or passion to get good at something, but if you spend 10,000 hours doing anything you become an expert at it by default.

I’ve heard similar theories. In art school, we were told you’ve got 1,000 crap paintings in you, so you’d better get them out of the way. I’ve also found a similar sentiment about writing — there’s 1,000,000 terrible words you have to write before you’re good. Write them now so you can begin producing quality work.

I have, since college and by rough estimate:

  • Spent approximately 18,650 hours designing.
  • Spent approximately 1,000 hours making art/illustrations.
  • Spent approximately 2,000 hours writing, having written approximately 400,000 words.
  • Spent approximately 29,200 hours sleeping.

10,000 hours is apparently a lot of hours. The above are estimates, but I would have guessed I spent way more time making art and writing than I actually did.*

Outside of arbitrary numbers divisible by ten, these rules all have the same idea — practice makes perfect, which is something I can absolutely get behind.

What’s interesting is that my day job is design — the reason my hours are so high for designing is because I’m doing it for 40 - 50 hours a week, for almost nine years. Despite exceeding the magic mark for hours, I would not consider myself an expert. Good, yes… I feel confident that I can solve any visual problem you can throw me. But an “expert”? No, there are people doing bigger and better than I in the land of design. I love it, but if it wasn’t my day job, I doubt I’d get near 10,000.

I haven’t read Gladwell’s book, this isn’t a review. This is simply an observation about a theory presented second-hand. I will say seeing the time I’ve spent doing some of the things I’m passionate about makes me re-evaluate them. Ultimately, as long as I love doing it I will continue to design and write and illustrate.

But I also wonder how much time I’ve spent with family and friends, or on the road to see those friends or family, or waiting for bus or food. Time I’ve spent cooking or working out or online. I don’t want or need to quantify these.

There are 10,000 hours in 417 days. I say a well-rounded life is one spent filling those hours with passions — both professional and personal — even if you never get ground-breakingly awesome at any them.

Let’s have a beer soon.

My my, look at what a philosophical turn this took.

*Not that any number of hours incorporating a comma is something to shake a stick at. And dang, I’ve got mad skills at sleeping. Go ahead, quiz me.


Friday, March 12th, 2010

Our handheld miter saw won’t cut the 6 inch baseboards I need to cut for my room. Once those are cut, we are on the home stretch. I’ll post pictures soon. It’s looking pretty good, kids.

Polamalu LeBeau Sager
Our smallest Sager hurt his knee and I’ve been told to “restrict his movement,” which is of course absurd because he is a dog and has been known to run around in circles for no reason. But the Doc says no walks and no stairs. Yes, that’s right — the Doc instructed us that if he must go up and down stairs, he should be carried. But he better not get used to it, the bum.

In spite of my PSI portfolio showcasing a man-crushing cupcake, I am working on a very cool project for an area University. Why yes, bloody zombies and the doom-monster Cthulu totally say computer science to me. Fun stuff.

Josh also sent in his table application/fee for SPX this fall, so I guess it’s official — we’re going. Oh geeze. Even though I currently sell absolutely none of my work online (or in person, for that matter). We had a Meeting on the subject this weekend, and though we have a lot of work to do we are confident we will sell at least 1 thing. I think as long as we play to our strengths — Josh charms the crowd, I hide under the table — we will do just fine. I will meet my favorite webcomic artist’s feet. That won’t be creepy at all. If you are not familiar with SPX, you should totally go because it is the awesomest. Also, you can be the person that buys something from us. I’ll probably pay you back.

More Drawrings
Oh man, I’ve got plans. If I can put together half the stuff I want to by September I will most pleased. Did you watch the Winter Olympics closing ceremony? Oh my. Here is a hint:



Writing Progress?
Shut up.

People that are way more awesome than me

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010


Pardon me while I continue to bask in the success of my 2009 illustration project.

Here’s a VH1 Behind the Music-esque share: the original incarnation of 52ills was actually 365ills until common sense kicked in. I knew there would be days where sitting down to draw just wasn’t going to happen, not when I work full-time AND do some freelance AND try and work on my current novel. Also, @joshsager laughed like a madman when I mentioned it. So supportive, that guy.

Anyway, a weekly project won out.

Here are some people that did (or are doing) what I couldn’t.

These folks (and the brave souls I didn’t dig deep enough to find) deserve applause, admiration and very probably… a drink.

Reference vs. Theft

Monday, March 8th, 2010


I got started on a personal illustration project on Sunday morning. Said illustration includes a mountie hat.

The problem: I don’t actually know what a mountie hat looks like.

I mean, I had a good idea off the top of my head — brown with a flat wide brim, some kind of strip around the bottom of a lumpy bowl. However, to keep things accurate, I went and found some reference.

Josh brought up the question of whether this was stealing someone else’s work or not.

It’s a good question. Here’s my take on it, and I’d love to hear other ideas on the subject.

To me, using visual reference — especially from the bottomless pit that is the internet — is a fact-finding mission only. In the case of this mountie hat, I used the above link to see what the hats generally look like: to see what kind of brown they are, how proportionally wide the brim is, what kind of trim they have, and what kind of shape the upper bowl is.

I did not copy any of these hats. I did not copy parts of these hats and assemble them into a whole hat. In the end, I wound up with a hat that looks like a mountie hat, based on the information I garnered from those other hats.

I would never straight out copy someone else’s work, whatever the medium. But what about general info — size, color, where a buckle appears, etc. — is that stepping over the line? What do you think?