Friday, June 27, 2008

The 'Sweet Spot'

Given that my last post was on my theory of the ‘Talent Monkey’, I thought I’d use today’s post to scare off the last of my readers with a further insight into my diseased mind.

Yesterday was the Talent Monkey. Today I want to talk about the ‘Sweet Spot’.

It’s only after typing the above sentence that I realized how pornographic it sounds….awesome.

Ok, pornography aside, the ‘sweet spot’ is the level of success I want from any drawing I do. It may surprise you to learn that ‘total success’ is not what I’m after…at least not at this point in my drawing ‘career’.

Basically, I really want my drawing to be at about 80% ‘successful’… I want it to look 80% like the picture in my head.

Here’s why:

Drawing always involves ‘luck’ until you get really, really good. In fact, even when you get really good luck still plays a part. Even when you’re a professional with ‘+10 drawing skill’, you’re going to roll a critical failure from time to time. Basically, the better you get at drawing, luck becomes less and less of a factor, but it’s always there.

Sometimes I can put down a line that is absolutely perfect with that first stroke. All I have to do is darken it to get my final line. That’s luck, plain and simple…and it almost never happens. Most of the time I put down a line and then I have to constantly adjust, tweak, erase and start over it to get it ‘right’. I’d say this is the normal sate of affairs for most artists, both amateur and professional. It’s just the better you get, the less tweaking you need to do.

Well, this is interesting and all, but what does it have to do with me not actually wanting a drawing to turn out ‘perfectly’?

Ok, let’s say I’m at my drawing table and the Talent Monkey is on my back, and he’s decided to be unkind. This happens a lot, and means my drawing achieves about a 30% or lower ‘success rate’.

When this happens I get really frustrated, which means I stop drawing and the absolute last thing I want to do for a few days is pick up a pencil.

However, it’s also possible to catch the Talent Monkey in a really good mood. This is a rare experience. It’s three natural twenties in a row. He doesn’t just grace you with a pinch of talent dust. He’s heaping the stuff on you with a shovel.

When this happens I sit back, look at my drawing and just think ‘wow’. This happens once every few months and I end up with something that I look at and think ‘I can’t believe *I* drew that!’

So? That’s great, right? What’s with this 80% business? Isn’t it awesome when you end up with something that looks better than the way you originally pictured it?

In a word, no.

Here’s the thing. When you catch the Talent Monkey just after he scored a threesome with the Inspiration Triplets, you know it’s going to be a long while before you produce anything close to what you just did.

Basically, that’s what happened to me yesterday. I sat down to do a quick sketch just to pass the time while Sunny was watching ‘Clean House’ (I hate that show with the burning intensity of a thousand suns) and about an hour later I looked at my drawing and said ‘Wow’.

Now, just to be clear, I could post this picture and no one would think it was spectacular. However, as the guy who drew it, I know it surpassed my actual skill level by a significant amount.

Think of it like this. If it normally takes you five minutes to run a race, when you somehow manage to run that race in two and a half minutes it’s a major achievement for you, even if the people you’re racing against can run it in two minutes easily.

So why does this mean drawing something really great is a bad thing?

Well, it’s a bad thing because today the absolute last thing I want to do is draw because I know that the Talent Monkey is never in a good mood for long. If I sit down at that drawing table today, I know I’m in for nothing but frustration, because it’ll be near impossible to follow what I did yesterday.

Ah-hah! I hear you say. But what if you draw something today and do match what you achieved yesterday…or even surpass it?

Well, to tell the truth, that would be absolutely fucking awful.

It’s like dodging bullets. You might dodge the first, and if you somehow manage to dodge the second…you just know the third is going to hit you right in the balls.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the ‘Sweet Spot’. The level of success that is good enough to keep you motivated (Hey, I’m really getting better and this), and bad enough to not totally de-motivate you (Well, that’s it, I’ll never draw something this good again…fuck it.)


OzzyC said...

...sweet spot...
...+10 drawing skill...
...talent monkey...

I love reading your shit!

Paulius said...

Hey! Can I put that on the back of my first novel?

"A scintillating read!" - Daily Mail

"An deep, yet entertaining exploration of the human condition" - The New York Times.

"I love reading your shit!" - OzzyC