Wednesday 11 March 2015

Destroying your Dreams for Fun and Profit

When I start creating something (or planning to), I usually have a vision. I'm going to write, draw, paint or program this really cool thing.

The more I sit and think about it, the more awesome it gets.  Yet, as soon as I put pen to paper, the pain starts.

I start sketching, and .. I dunno, it doesn't look quite right.  I keep going and before long I'm holding my head in my hands. What is this ill-formed monstrosity that's emerging on my paper?

This isn't coming out right..
This isn't how I imagined it..
What's going on?
This sucks!

All that's happening is my blundering efforts are doing nothing but failing to live up to my vision. Aaugh!

This can last an uncomfortably long time. Sometimes, I quit.

You're not what I had in mind

The Trough of Creativity

This has happened to me enough times that I noticed, and named it the Trough of Creativity.

Things start awesome, then soon degenerate into a wilderness, and feelings of regret that I ever started.

'Trough' - like a low place, with potato peelings. And mold. Not the sort of mode that feels like 'art happening here, man.'

If I persist, however, something interesting happens: a new thing begins to take shape. It doesn't look like my vision, but, I dunno, that bit is sorta neat.

Before too long, I'm happily clucking away, adding detail to something that I'm happy with. Something unexpected. Something real.

This is the trough of creativity - for an illustration, I can get out of the trough in about an hour of steady work. The main problem is that psyching myself up to begin the descent can take weeks!

Visions are Empty Lies

The main problem is that my 'vision' of my project is deceptive. I think that I've got a clear picture in my head of how it's going to look. The more time I spend thinking about it, the clearer that picture gets.. or so I think. All that's left is to draw it, write it, right?

What I really have is a clear picture of how awesome it's going to look. How awesome? Really awesome. I can totally imagine myself, looking at the finished artwork, feeling like a million bucks. The figure's stance? Out of this world. My grasp of lighting? Divine!

Just like in dreams - I'm reading a book, but when I wake up, I can't remember what it said. This happens because the book didn't say anything. All the parts of my brain that process language were happily asleep; the part that knows what it feels like to read a book was dreaming.

My daydreams are just the same - exciting, tantalizing, but almost entirely devoid of useful detail.

The worst part is that I can't tell. I think my vision is all worked out but for the doing. This is the ghost's lie.

To Begin, First Kill Your Dream

This is painfully obvious once I start the business of actually creating. I can have a vision of holistic beauty without imagining any actual details. For a real-life piece of art, however, the holistic impressions only come from the parts working together: there need to be parts, or there's no whole!

What keeps me from entering the trough is this:

I believe the vision is real, and I don't want to damage it.

I'm scared, because my unconscious knows that as soon as I start, my precious daydream is going to be blown away like a puff of smoke.

And yet, this is the only way to begin.

The Will o' the Wisp

I think the proper use of vision is as motivation.  The hunger to create shows up like a will o' wisp; the only thing it's going to do is lead you off the path and into the swamps. But that's as far as it goes.

If you want to go any further, you're on your own.

Better keep moving.

Sunday 1 March 2015

Quick Dungeon Method

I've been wanting to do this for a while but never made the time. Here's a video of my process for making an 'old blue' map.

I made a couple of mistakes on the video, notably setting the recording framerate to "ass", but there you go - better luck next time.

My process for making these is completely different from my hand-drawn maps, which should be obvious immediately.  The Photoshop template I'm using has a bunch of useful layer effects all ready to go.

Instead of drawing walls, I'm painting floor space.  I'm literally just grabbing basic shapes for brushes and painting in white, and the outlines grid and get added automatically.

It's a shame I didn't manage to record my mouse cursor, as I think that would make it all a bit clearer - instead of rooms appearing, you'd see me dragging a square brush around for corridors and rectangles, and then using circles and hexagons to make the various notches.

What's fun about this is that I can build up a complex outline a bit at a time (see 1:30 to 2:30) instead of knowing in advance what the outline of the room is going to be.

 Architectural adornments like this don't do anything for grid-based fights, but I hope they convey an baroque impression that would affect the GM's description of the place.  Room #6 is clearly not a crude stone room.

The texture I lay down from 7:40 to 8:15 isn't lost, I just hide it and bring parts back with a chunky 'boulder' brush. (You can then see me go around twice with a 'pebble' brush.)

The final product is a bit simplistic; it's not as lovingly crafted as hand-drawn ones, but it's really, really fast.