Journal Entry Ranger Jonathan Mbekezeli
Zimbabwe, Hwange National Park. Rhinoceros re-introduction program. March, 2157
Our little Rhino orphan Farai is doing much better than she was 3 months ago. We found her barely alive next to the corpse of her mother who was taken by poachers. Since she was just a few weeks old her horn was too small so they left her to die. When we found her she was dehydrated, distraught, and exhausted.
We brought her back to base and got her back on her feet. It had never been tried before but we introduced her to our old Rhino drone Mbangura. I don’t know much about drone AI systems or any of that stuff but Mbangura seems to enjoy looking after little Farai! An Oxpecker hangar was installed on Mbangura and we let the two of them roam around the area outside of HQ. Mbangura takes Farai around the reserve and shows her where the water holes are, all the different animals in the park, and watches over her at night. He brings Farai back to HQ so we can give her milk and check on her health.
Farai is a cute one. She’s very animated and curious. She’s gotten into a few tough spots with some of the other rhinos but with Mbangura around she has nothing to worry about.
Researches from around the world have come to see the pair. Drone specialists are especially interested in Mbangura, specifically his AI core. The shift in protocol was unexpected and unprecedented. Mbangura is an old combat drone we received from the military. We used him extensively in busting poaching activity and he’s fought with other drones on multiple occassions. For him to be displaying what appears to be natural parental animal-like behavior has become an issue of intense speculation. We’ve argued to keep Mbangura with Farai, and so far we’ve succeeded. I don’t know what’s going to happen next or how long we can keep him.
All I know is that Farai can’t lose another parent.
Bob Kuhn (1920 - 2007)
Bob Kuhn was an illustrator during the 20th Century. He had a long career as an illustrator doing various book covers and spot illustrations for magazines. He also did many fine art paintings during his later career. Kuhn is best known for his wildlife painting which consisted of essentially his entire career.
There is a book available that catalogues his career as an artist called Drawing on Instinct. More of his work can viewed at the WildLifeArt.org website which I’ve attached as the source.
Stanley Meltzoff (March 27,1917 - November 9, 2006)
Meltzoff had a long career as an illustrator. His early career started with him being a correspondent during WWII to a major publication at the time. Afterwards he did numerous book covers, spot illustrations for magazines, and teaching positions at different institutions. The advent of color photography put him out of work so he turned to painting game fish like Marlin and Tuna. Subsequently this work is what most associate with him today. Incredible paintings. They look better than most photos i’ve seen of the same animals. He handles underwater atmospherics and caustic effects so well. I love it.
More of his work can be viewed on his website. There’s a publication of his work available and some of his paintings are still floating around for sale. Check it out!
Orca drone on patrol for the EPA in Prince William Sound south of Valdez, Alaska.
Awhile back I said that expectation will be the death of you.
I’d like to say that envy will be too.
I know it’s tough but don’t compare yourself to other people. By all means get inspired by their example, but don’t compare their success to your lack there of. Don’t belittle your achievements in light of theirs. It’s unhealthy, discouraging, and quite frankly it’s not being fair to yourself.
Everyone is different. We all have our strengths and weaknesses. Though many people can do the same skill/trade/job their approaches, mindsets, and personalities can vary in minor or major ways. Not to mention some people have just been doing “skill/trade/job x” for a long time. Good luck trying to time travel to make up the difference.
Another tough one is age… it’s hard to look success in the face when they’re 1…2…3 years younger than you. That person could be slightly older than you, or…*Gasp*… the same age! Don’t get discouraged. Don’t get green in the face with envy. The factors going into that persons success can be huge and varied. Comparing your choices and experiences with that person’s doesn’t really do you much good in the present. Simple fact is they’ve probably been doing what they do longer than you have.
It’s tough. I have to catch myself all the time and even then it’s not much of a condolence when I do. As an artist I’m bombarded left and right with work that is far superior than mine by people my age, or art by long time vets with beautiful nuances only experience could bring, or both. Success stories fill the news feed on a daily, almost hourly, basis. I’m happy for those people. Their hard work and dedication has brought them far and they deserve their success. But I have my low moments just like everyone else and it’s in those moments that I try hard to catch myself from running down the comparison path.
So in closing be fair to yourself and don’t compare to others. Learn from their example and realize that you are not that person. Take that energy you would spend using to compare yourself and use it to make something for yourself. Life is short and your life is your own so don’t compare it others.
Big Five the game! Or at least what it could look like :)
The importance of your friends/peers.
Your peers and your friends are important people and hopefully this is just a friendly reminder to you all. If not… I feel sorry for you.
The people you choose to associate with are extensions of your personality. They inform your mentality and behavior and you do the same for them. Be aware of the effects they have on you and you have on them.
Associate yourself with people who bring out the best in you and help you to be more than what you are now. These people don’t have to be in the same field of work as you, they don’t have to be of the same culture, ethnicity, or age group. They don’t even need to agree with you! Find these people and keep them close. They are both amplifiers and sounding boards of the current you and can help you on your path of growing into “the strongest version of yourself” as Elliot Hulse would say.
This is not easy. Finding these people is like fishing in the dark and that’s what you’ll be doing most of the time, but that’s also the best part about it. Meeting people and learning about their story and who they are is fun. Everyone is unique and has experiences that are unique to them alone. Get to know them and hopefully through your interactions with others you can start to form that special group of people called your friends.
What’s the difference between friends and peers?
In my words I’d say that peers are people you interact with that are on a similar path with, i.e co-workers, fellow students, or members of a group that you’re in. Friends are people who don’t have to be on the same path as you, but there is a sense of a deeper relation between both of you. Shared experiences, selfless assistance to one another, and genuine honesty are some things I can think of that friends share amongst each other.
Peers have a similar effect on an individual as a friend would. You don’t have to be friends with your peers, but just because you aren’t friends does not mean you have/should have a negative relationship with them. You’re in the same boat and what you do effects them and vice versa.
Over the years you will shed friends of old to bring in new ones. This is not a bad thing. It’s the natural way of things and you should appreciate all the previous relationships, good, bad, romantic, or otherwise, that you’ve had. They have shaped the person you are today and hopefully will have taught you a bit about yourself.
This post got a bit long… I sincerely hope that you value and appreciate your friends and peers. They are the most valuable asset in this world next to your mind and your body. Maintain these relationships and keep them healthy. You’ll never know when you’ll need an extra hand or where the next opportunity will come from. Be aware of how these interactions are shaping you and associate with people who you can grow with.
Life is too short to hang out with people who are dull, whiny, boring, or who are holding you back.
Here’s another lesson I’ve learned that I want to share with you guys. It’s possibly one of the most poignant lessons I’ve learned as well.
Expectations will be the death of you.
Expecting to get the things you want is setting yourself up for potentially colossal disappointment.
So you got a degree and portfolio. Good job. Don’t expect a job right out the door.
You met the AD from your favorite game company at a portfolio review and he/she likes your work. Don’t expect to get a job from that either.
You’re getting featured on websites and people respond to your work. That’s fantastic, but don’t expect anything from that as well.
Expecting something is essentially already getting what you want… IN YOUR HEAD. You’re already seeing and feeling yourself in that state of happiness and bliss…IN YOUR HEAD. Things happening in your head are not happening in reality and reality has a tendency to hit like truck when it eventually rolls around.
I’ve experienced these situations in my own life. I, in my naivety, expected to get a job in a big company shortly after I graduated. Ha! Fat chance. I found out the hard way that my work wasn’t up to par and that there were many much more qualified people out there than me. I took classes and met lots of working pros expecting that to take me to where I wanted to go. Nope. I kept setting myself up for disappointment because I expected more than what reality was giving me. The ironic part is that I had things pretty good, but my expectations blinded me to that fact.
Here’s a funky situation. You apply for a full time job at your favorite company. They respond positively and the future is looking great. Unfortunately they end up using you for short term freelance. Sucks huh….WTF?!!!?!?!?! You’re still doing work for them, you came out with a job, and you’re going to get paid at the end of it. What’s wrong with that? With expectations so high it’s easy to get disappointed by smaller victories.
I’m probably coming off as very cynical right now, but that’s not my intention. What I’m trying to say is that expecting things to happen and forecasting grand success because of some minor incident or simple interaction is not healthy. In fact it can be very detrimental. Nothing brings me down more than being disappointed.
What I am suggesting is to go in with no expectations and be open to the possibilities. Keep an open mind, be confident in yourself, keep hoping, keep dreaming, and expect nothing.
The only thing you can expect is that the Sun will rise in the morning, set in the evening, and we all die eventually. So morbid huh…
:D !HAPPY FACE! :D
Rob here again!
This is my guide to design acquired through both personal experiences and advice from other artists. When I say “design” I mean the type of work you’ll see in the “art of books” for films and games. Characters, props, costumes, environments, vehicles, etc. etc.
A bit about myself. I’m an illustrator/concept artist living in LA. I had a job working on a theme park project, but after a year of that I decided to leave that job and jump back onto pursuing my goal of working for a AAA game company. Currently I’m working on updating my portfolio and taking on freelance every so often.
This is a list of 10 things I’ve learned and observed in the past few years as I’ve been doing my work or working on other peoples projects. These are not meant to be followed to the T. These are meant to provide rough (emphasis on rough) guidelines to the design process as I’ve experienced it and to get you thinking about the idea of designing itself.These tips are intended for beginners, but hopefully you pros out there can corroborate or expand on some of these ideas should you agree with any of them.
Let’s get started!
Stuff I’ve learned about design 1: Find a purpose for what you’re designing and stick to it. Build your thing (Character, prop, vehicle, etc) around that central purpose and make sure the supporting bits and pieces support that too. Make sure that your character is wearing clothing that fits him/her as a character but also their greater role in the world he/she is a part of. The vehicle that you designed is suited for it’s role as an APC, or a luxury transport vehicle, or a taxi! Whatever it is, the thing that you’re designing should fit that role that you’ve decided for it.
Stuff I’ve learned about design 2: It’s more than just pretty pictures, cool looking stuff, and technical skill. It’s about knowledge.
Being a good designer is more than just technical skills, photoshop tricks, and cool shapes. All of the great painters, illustrators, concept artists and designers I’ve met have had one characteristic in common with each other:
They’re incredibly smart people.
They’re informed. They know a lot about many different subjects and fields of study. These other interests feed back into their work in a very genuine and smart manner making their work all the better for it.
Ideas come from an educated and well fed mind. Feeding your mind all kinds of different things can yield some very interesting results. Augmenting your knowledge base with new things will help expand the ideas you already have. Seek things your are unfamiliar with. Ask questions as to why things function the way they do. Why ancient cultures participated in certain rituals at certain time of the year. How the wavy pattern on a kris knife is achieved and what they symbolize. Learn about things you heard about in school that were mentioned in your history books. I’m sure you don’t know nearly as much about art history than you think you do (this includes me.) Trivial knowledge could end up not being so trivial!
Knowledge comes from asking questions, finding answers, and from experience. Technical skill is very important when it comes to designing but I believe that knowledge and information are just as important if not more so.
Stuff I’ve learned about design 3: Research and reference are your friends.
This is related to my previous post about knowledge. Research is the backbone to designing. It can take on many different forms including books, pictures, data, and audio. Research is important because it gives you the knowledge you’ll need to pull off whatever you’re designing. Reference gives you the visual keys you’ll need when you’re in the thick of it.
We all know what a car looks like, but when you’re designing a car what are those little details that really sell it as a car? The wheel proportioning and placement, the curves of the body, the positioning and shape of the lights, how the door’s open, etc etc.
Researching these types of questions will help strengthen your concept while gathering proper reference will help in your execution.
*Disclaimer* Don’t get caught in the rabbit-hole that is researching. I don’t know how many times I’ve gone off track during the researching stage. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. You could stumble on new things you wouldn’t have considered which is great! Just make sure you’re aware of the passage of time. Researching could easily turn into a form of procrastination if you’re not on top of it.
Stuff I’ve learned about design 4: Tell a story with your designs.
Tell stories with your designs. What does this thing you’ve designed do? What is it used for? Who would use this? Who is this character and why are they special? How does this thing fit into the bigger idea?
Add elements that give your designs history. Nothing is really that convincing if their isn’t some sense of history/background. Examples include wear and tear as well as decals on mechanical things, cultural cues and accessories on characters, and adding age and weathering to structures. These types of things, or lack there of, cue the viewer into a bigger picture than just the design itself. It’s very exciting to see a design that is well thought out and has a story to go with it. Better yet when more ideas stem from just that 1 image.
I’m not saying you need to write a novel for everything you come up with, but have an idea of where it fits in in relation to everything else. It’s kind of like putting a puzzle together that you’re creating at the same time. You have some pieces of the puzzle now you just need to make the other pieces to complete it.
Stories are a crucial part of the design process. They ground your designs in a world and help make them all the more believable and exciting!
Stuff I’ve learned about design 5: The trap of too much ideation.
Ideation is fun. Lots of concept sketches, speed painting, silhouettes, and thumbnail studies, etc, etc. The blue sky stage where anything goes, all ideas are valid, and the sky is the limit. It’s great!
Just be careful of doing too much ideation. I’ve noticed in my experience that there’s a certain point where the concepting and sketching needs to stop and the real work needs to begin. This is usually when the ideas start stagnating and start looking frighteningly similar to each other.
There’s also the case of having too many options. Barry Schwartz summed it up in his Ted Talk called the “Paradox of Choice”. He highlighted the instance of when having too many options actually leads to indecision, and with so many options it’s actually possible to be unhappy with your decision even if its the right one!. I’ve experienced this situation where I developed so many possibilities that I didn’t know which one to pick and I was indeed not pleased with my final decision which killed all incentive to follow through. Not fun at all.
Endless concepting can also become a form of procrastination. It’s pretty comfy when there’s no rules and anything goes. Don’t get trapped into not following through.
So in closing have fun with your ideas and explore the possibilities, just don’t forget about the bigger picture and following through with your goal.
Stuff I’ve learned about design 6: Write it down. You’ll forget.
So you’re out of the house… maybe you’re getting a bite to eat, chillin with friends, taking a walk, or you’re at the office. Suddenly….BAM… this great idea hits you that’s related to one of your projects, and it’s fantastic! But you can’t work on that right now. It’ll have to wait. You get home…. and you go about your business as if nothing ever happened…..AUGHHHHHHHH!!
I cannot stress the importance of recording your ideas. Be it in a journal, a text document, drawings in a sketchbook, or drawings on a napkin or envelope, make sure you get it out of your head.
Life can be pretty overwhelming at times. In this day and age of the internet, social media, youtube, advertising, and the daily responsibilities we each have to deal with it’s easy for things to get lost or entirely forgotten. Recording your thoughts and ideas is incredibly important.
I know everyone hears this all the time but carry a sketchbook or a journal. Yes, yes, yes, how many times have you been told that… but there’s a reason it’s repeated so much. That’s why we have sketchbooks and journals.
Be diligent. When those moments do come up realize it for what it is and do yourself a favor. Write it down. You’ll forget.
Stuff I’ve learned about design 7: Some thoughts on originality.
Originality is that mystical Unicorn we’re all chasing after. Its shiny, ethereal, fleeting, and tantalizing. It beckons us forward and blinds us with promises of grandeur and fame. In our never ending chase to catch one we find out that our prized unicorn is actually a one horned antelope or some other unfortunate creature. At one point the idea of Unicorns was attributed to Rhinos!
My point being that originality is hard to come by these days and those that are chasing it, for the most part, are chasing something that already exists.
I think the new path to go in this day and age is to be different. What do I mean by “be different?” Being different means taking the path less traveled. Pursuing the ideas that no one either A: wants to, or B: has considered.
Being different is stringing together unrelated ideas, pursuing untouched topics, and generally avoiding what everyone else is doing. Be on the lookout for interesting ideas, topics, and situations. They might be the catalyst for something new and exciting!
Stuff I’ve learned about design 8: Piecing your idea together.
This one will be a bit more personal. Sometimes you’ll be on to something but you don’t know what to do with it. The concept is there but there isn’t a story, or maybe you have a story but you don’t know what to do with the visuals. This is where research, perseverance, and creativity come into play.
The current thing I’m on right now, African Anti-Poaching mechas, came about through chance. If you guys remember earlier in the year I posted the Riot Bear, the first Vulture (with the split wings and red head), and the Barn Owls. I had the idea of mecha animals but I didn’t know what to do with it. I had no story and no world for them to inhabit. What use would mecha animals be in a story other than just….cool shit??
I didn’t know, so I pushed that aside for a bit and figured I’d go about painting another animal just for the heck of it. It was fun and something new, so might as well run with it. I didn’t know what I wanted to design so I hit up Youtube. I figured Africa has some pretty cool animals. Rhinos, Elephants, Lions, etc. It would be cool to design a Rhino! This is what changed everything. So I type in “Rhino Documentary” and I’m shocked to see endless videos and documentaries about Rhino poaching. Video footage of Rhino’s having their horns viciously cut off and left to die. Even worse are the survivors wandering around with a bloody stump on their face. This was also my introduction to the concept of anti-poaching. How rangers are paid to protect these animals through force. Trekking through the Bush at night tracking poachers, trailing herds of animals during the day for their protection, and the application of UAV’s. Pretty cool stuff.
Then it clicked! UAV’s, anti-poaching, rangers, Africa, Big Five game animals…… Anti-poaching Animal drones!! The pieces fell together and I’ve been running with it ever since.
The lesson here is don’t give up on your ideas just because things aren’t working at the moment. Maybe you’re missing a few key bits of knowledge or just need the inspiration from a third party to make things click. Struggle through and, with a bit of hard work, your efforts will be rewarded.
Stuff I’ve learned about design 9: Apply your designs.
You’ve got a badass character, robot, vehicle, costume, prop, weapon, building, etc. etc. Whatever it is you’ve designed, it’s done! It has a great layout and a wonderfully crafted description about what it does and how it works. All the cool bits and text that make it even cooler.
That’s great! Congratulations!! Now let’s see it in action.
Let’s see your mecha duking it out with 10 story tall monster. Let’s see your vehicle blasting over the sand dunes on some far away planet. Let’s see your hero character with his/her hero prop doing their thing. Let’s see your intricate armor suit assembling itself over your future soldier.
A lot of designs I’ve seen recently, including my own, exist in a vacuum. They look good as a design and as individual art pieces but that’s about it. The next step is putting things together in context to one another and building up the world they inhabit.
A good description gives life to something, but to actually see it interacting with the world around it takes it to the next level.
Also. If you don’t have the skills or know how to take your work to the next level, whatever that may be, find someone who does. There is no shame in asking others for an assist and if things end up working out well you’ll both be better off because of it.
Stuff I’ve learned about design 10: Design what makes you happy.
Design what makes you happy. It’s pretty obvious when you look at someones work whether they enjoyed doing it or if it was torture. There’s something about the quality of the work or the presentation. It varies from person to person but you can tell. It lacks the creative energy unique to that person.
Do the work you love and enjoy it immensely. It makes the work all the more gratifying and people respond to the energy that was put into it. Design stuff that gets you pumped and gets your mind racing with the possibilities. You won’t regret it….how could you???
I know this probably sounds like some wishy washy spiritual mumbo jumbo and I know there is definitely a degreee of professionalism involved with design when it comes to paid jobs and projects. Just don’t forget what gets you excited to wake up in the morning and jump at your drawing utensils. Passion is a word we hear a lot these days, but it’s the thing that separates the wannabes from the pros and the wishers from the doers. Be passionate and create the things you love.
So yep. That’s all folks! Hopefully these were helpful in some way. To the pro’s: Thanks for the support. To the beginners: Keep working hard and don’t lose sight!
Rob Chew 10-07-2013