Managing creative highs and lows over a year

AUDIOBOO 002: Managing creative highs & lows

It's been great running the Weekly modeling sessions and we are coming into our 10th week. I started the sessions in the hope of ramping up a bit of support for Silo (in its current state) and to enthuse the community in some small way. Those of you that know me well will know that I don’t follow a software company blindly and the reason I support Nevercenter is that Silo does everything that I need right now as a modeling solution (plus the guys are great).

I don’t use the Silo sculpting tools much yet as ZBrush is my long-term life partner (even though my bit-on-the-side Mudbox is very powerful now) and I would love to get more involved with UV’ing in Silo but Headus UV is meeting all my requirements right now. As a core polygon modeling solution I can’t find a better program that suits my needs both price and features and speed. The bits that are missing or buggy don’t worry me and I don’t seem to get that many crashes and those I do get are not an issue as I am a frequent saver (a learned habit). I only had one crash in the making of the Minotaur videos for example.

That said, I am coming into a very busy period of the year in terms of travelling and spending time with family and friends.

A typical year for me is like this: Spring and early summer I spend a lot of time working in my studio on personal projects, catching up with old buddies online via skype, msn, forums and more recently Twitter. I do lots of 3D training with small companies both in my studio and out in the field. I also take on lots of commercial stuff, mainly small, fast, well paid commissions where possible. By Summer I am usually reaching breakpoint and need to change my plans to avoid burnout. I spend lots of time outdoors and abroad either taking family time on a beach somewhere or some sort of walking break and supplement this with lots of diving and outdoor/nature related activities.

This summer, starting in 2 weeks, I plan to spend a couple of weeks diving wrecks in the Northern Red Sea. Then a few week back home in July and I am going to devote the month to fitness and family hoping to drop the weight I’ve put back on since Easter!. Then I’m off for a tour round the Mediterranean for a few weeks on a cruise starting Southampton (UK) then visiting Vigo, Lisbon, Seville, Cagliari, Florence, Livorno, Rome, Cannes, Gibraltar then back to the UK. Following that I’ll spend the summer vacation with my family and get ready to charge headlong into September and a very busy time for me from then right through until the following spring. The kids return to college and school, my Wife’s jobs is very busy around that time, my daily business ramps up and I start taking on new commissions and projects that lead me right into Christmas time and into the New Year brining me back to the Spring.

Interestingly I find that if I don’t have the big breaks from 3D/2D and the online life I get severe burn out and find myself getting negative with forums, bitter about my own work and I also get artists block where I sit for hours in front of a screen or my drawing table with no creative impulse at all. I find this happens to lots of my artist friends and it affects people in lots of different ways. We all seem to develop our own coping strategies for it. Mine is downtime and travelling. It works both ways though. If I am away from my Studio/artwork projects for too long I get irritated, moody, I can’t concentrate and I am generally a pain in the ass to be around. I have to be creating to keep this side of my character at bay. Playing computer games doesn’t help as it is not creating, it’s doing. When I’m in this frame of mind getting out and exercising or experiencing nature doesn’t help as it isn’t creating, inspiring maybe, but you don’t create anything. Spending time with friends is essential, but it isn’t creating. You get the picture. It’s one great big balancing act for me and I’ve been trying to perfect it and understand it my whole life it seems.

From summer 2007 until the end of 2008 I did very little art related work and I was working around the UK. I loved it for a while. It was great to be interacting, coaching, developing yad-a-yadaa. I convinced myself that my 3D/artistic time was up and I was finally moving on to a different stage in my life. Bad move! No creativity=moody bastard. Being in my car all day and travelling around I learned a great deal about myself and my own foibles. This on-off love-hate relationship with my creative side was ok. Having read extensively on the subject that year I see that it is pretty much the norm for artists from lots of different cultures, times in history and differing artistic disciplines and actually there was nothing unusual about it at all.

Please feel free to leave your comments. I'd love to hear what other people are thinking/feeling about Silo in its current build (2.xx)


May 2009

Some related links:

Beating Artistic block
Tips from painters about overcoming artistic block
Three ways to beat an artistic slump
Drawing Coach give ideas on beating the creative slump



  1. Hey Glen,

    Though I haven't participated in any of the weekly modelings sessions yet, I have really enjoyed watching them. I think the collaboration sessions are a great idea as well. I need to stop lurking and join in...I'm not very confident in my abilities though...I'm still trying to figure out basics.
    I think Silo is fantastic. I also have LightWave, but Silo seems to be a much faster modeler. I know there is a lot of doubt about Silo on the forums right now, but I don't think the creators would be supporting the site with tutorials if Silo wasn't going anywhere.
    Artists block definitely affects me too, although I call it 'creative depression'. I'll go through phases where I am really inspired, but then I will burn out again. Although I find that I NEED to be creative. I always have stories and characters floating around in my mind, and I have to write and/or draw them out, otherwise it 'builds up'. Generally I think of artists block as being a fear of failure. 3D modeling has always been intimidating for me.

    Anyway, sorry for the long winded comment. I'll try to get out of my box and join in on some of those sessions! I'm known as Ketsudan on the Silo forums.

  2. It's always good to hear how other people avoid burnout. I currently still do more programming than graphics, but as I continuing working on the graphics, I expect that ratio to continue to change... I have to admin that your participation on the blog/twitter and with silo (through the forums and the videos) is a HUGE part of why I'm using Silo again. I bought it when it was 1.4 and loved, loved, loved it. I use C4D for just about everything, and while it has most of the modeling tools, it really misses a lot of the nice features of silo. I'd pretty much given up on ever picking up interest in silo again, but your presence and activities as well as those of others on the silo forums has nudged me to get the newest version and start working with it again. I'm finding the newest version to be very nice, quite stable, missing most of the graphical glitches I'd run into before, etc. Granted, I'm not doing a lot of UV's or anything like that -- I typically just model in silo and then do everything else in Cinema, but I'm pretty pleased with where silo is at. I use to check back daily for new updates on the site but quit that a long time ago (because there were none) and had really given up on seeing anything new coming from silo. I've changed my mind on that since they're obviously putting a lot of effort (and presumably money) to get/keep/regain people's interest. I'm still very much looking forward to a new version with some of the other things that've been talked about, but Silo is at a very usable place for me right now, and I'm enjoying getting back into it. I haven't participated in any of the weekly sessions yet, either, but hope to do that soon as well.

    I know I probably already sound like a big brown nosing suck up, but I've admired your work for years and am really excited to see you blogging, on twitter and doing stuff in the silo community, and won't even begrudge you downtime/family time/busier time when that happens. :) It's good not to get burned out.

  3. Hi John,

    My advice would be join in whatever your level. I enjoying coaching/teaching modeling as much as producing models myself and there are loads of likeminded individuals out there. There is a learning curve with Sub-d modeling and you need to work through it improving and learning on each model. You will end up making a lot of very poor quality meshes but they are your testing ground and you will understand a little more of the process after each one. I used to run these weekly session and to help get new modelers used to creating a t least one mesh a week. It can get boring and often the subject isn’t that exciting but it does get you practicing different skills.
    I love Lightwave and always have however, it doesn’t come close to modeling packages like Silo for speed and ease of use. I love Maya in so many ways but it is just too damn big and needs lots of tweaking to get it to work in the way I need. Modo is perhaps the best way to go as it is a very dynamic modeling package with a robust set of rendering tools but I have always steered clear of it for some reason (even though I purchased a licence some years ago)
    The negativity is frustrating but I understand it. People want so much from Silo and because there was so much feedback from the team (Jam and Feed) in the early days people expect that level of commitment now. I personally don’t care as Silo is a damn fine product in its current form and has a fantastic toolset right out of the box. I feel confident that they are developing it further but they must have their reasons. Negativity on the forums will not help. Requesting more updates and information is the way to go I feel. I support the guys as I believe in the product. I have done this a number of software products over the years. I remember a little known product that was capable of making multi-million
    Don’t let modeling intimidate you. Take it step by step and you will be amazed how quickly you can become an amazing modeller. I have taught teenage modelers that within one year have became far more skilled that me. It’s more about your commitment to it and how quickly you can learn all the steps.

    Hi Greg,

    Glad to hear I may have helped you get back to using Silo. I was lucky enough to get a the full Maxon suite a few years back but I never really got to use it commercially. I seem to remember C4D lacked a few of the basic tools I needed to keep modeling at the speed I was used to. I’ve never stopped using Silo since getting it and I think I’ve tried every Sub-D package on the market. There was a little modeling program called CLAY3D a few years ago that had promise but it was never moved out of beta. I don’t use UV’s in Silo but I will spend some time this year leaning them. Silo UV’s cannot compare (yet!) with UVing in Headus UV. That is far and away the best UVing solution on the market today (IMHO). Thanks for the kind words and I’d love to see you joining in with the sessions if you get time.

  4. Hey Glen,

    Thanks for the reply! I think I will take your advice and make it my goal to create one model per week. So, you know people that got good in one year? Maybe I can do it too...
    I've been involved with 3D on and off (Started with LightWave) since I was 15. I just turned 20, and I have yet to do anything really spectacular, though I have at least a basic level of understanding in most areas of 3D. I'd like to get good enough to where I could do freelance work...And, of course, I still have dreams of doing my own short film.
    Anyway, I'm going to spend this week going through the Minotaur tutorial, and then you should be seeing me join in on the sessions...