Transcription excerpt from Craig Mullins talk at THU

Can't draw while eating

Transcription excerpt from Craig Mullins talk at THU

Postby BluePup » Thu Nov 12, 2015 11:45 pm

There were a few questions towards the end that I found so compelling to listen to that I decided it was worth the 30 minutes or so it tool to transcribe them. This is probably the last 20 minutes of an hour and a half talk.

I hope you get something out of it.

Q: Did you ever have any struggles with your inner critic? And if so, what steps did you take to make that manageable?

Uhm... I do have problems with my internal critic but it's part of my process that... It's part of a larger talk on art education and rules.

I spoke a little bit about it yesterday.. are you guys familiar with a book of Edgar Payne's on composition? How many people know that book? Not too many. Edgar Payne was a landscape painter 100 years ago. He came up with a really cool little book on the principles of landscape painting. As I look through it, and you guys can look it up, I can't think of anything more damaging than looking at that book and rules that are involved and letting them into your head.

It's stuff that's to obv.. "Don't put the horizon line in the middle of the picture." And so much formula and crap is taught at different points in art education, it's really difficult to know when someone's teaching you some really good basic wisdom, information that you can always rely on and formulaic crap that clogs you up like calcium in your brain.
I have a very deep distrust of the things that I have learned and been taught and that they are relevant in the context to a certain genre or certain culture at best. That they are not universal. And if I really want my work to evolve and change and develop, I have to get them out of my head.

And if I get these rules of composition out of my brain, what do I have left to tell me whether what I'm doing is good or bad? I'm out there all alone, I have my inner critic.

In order to make that work, your inner critic has to be very very fierce and not accept the first solution, or it needs to be very severe.
And that leads to an unpleasant artistic life sometimes because you're always beating yourself up. It's never good enough. Ever.
I said yesterday in my talk, I don't understand why I'm here, I feel that half the people in this room can probably draw better than I can and maybe the only reason I am here is I was there first.
If you ever find any way of not destroying yourself critique wise... I've tried it the other way, of becoming a zen buddhist, completely ignoring your ego totally and getting rid of it.
You can't do anything. You can't do any artwork at all. At some level you've gotta believe you're the greatest thing since sliced bread just to get out of bed and do your artwork in the morning.
Think of the hubris of doing the artwork... you're doing something that Rembrandt did, you’re doing something all of these old masters did, and what, you think you have something to offer do you? Well, probably not.
So it's easy to get down on yourself and I don't have any solutions for that. Because being hard on myself is part of the way I try to do things in an intuitive way. And I pay for that freedom by being hard on myself.


Q: After all these years, have you reached your goals as an artist, and as a human being, what's your next goal?

A: What's my next goal? relax. I've been beating myself into dust for a long time. I don't have any more mountains to climb. To a certain extent, would you ask the same question of a plumber?
"You've been cleaning pipes for 20 years. You've reached the vista of cleaning pipes?" I think of myself as a worker that way. There is nothing inherently special in being an artist, to me people that are artists that can only work with their inspiration, you just need to get at it and be a worker. I don't think of any big meta terms about me or my work, it's a little pretentious to do that. I saw one artist where they put the entrance page is the painting they've done, and then they put the date, of the year they were born in parenthesis, and then a dash and then nothing - and it said, "Art history is not dead yet." Or people who write their website in the third person. Please.
So I'm kind of a worker bee.

Q: Could you touch you had prepared and go into that. There's a lot of us that still have aspirations of working in concept art.

A: "Umm.. Yeah." Most of the things that I was going to talk about I worked into the answers to these questions. Advice to people who want to become concept artists. It depends on their long term and short term needs. Like I was talking about earlier with these schools. Do you have the resources to afford a good liberal arts education? By that I mean a broad education in becoming a capable illustrator and delineator? If you can afford that, it's clearly the best way to go. You will be employable if you have good basic skills.
But it takes a long time and is expensive You need a job right away.. The other way to do it is go to a trade school, learn a narrow slot and narrow skill.
"I retopologize feet." That's what I do really well. You get put in the slot and get to work right away.

Then it's up to you to go back and learn the fundamentals on your own that you had to short change in order to get a job in the short term. But I don't think you can do both. Any school that tells you you can draw like Iain mccaig in six months. It's not gonna happen. I don't think any school does that, but it's implied. Of course they imply things, of how wonderful the school is, but it's not actual. You just can't expect that.


You know um... guys try to think back to when you first saw the work of your favorite artists. When's the first time I saw a significant number of works by that person. DId you feel your mind getting wrenched open like a metal can?

That it's getting physically bigger, that the universe you lived in is getting bigger and better that each piece you looked at, each one is a revelation?

When you do artwork, like in Quantum physics, they say the idea is that there are these universes creating and collapsing all the time. When I take a piece of paper and make a single mark on it, I have made a universe.

And every artwork is it's own universe and is it's own set of physical laws, and you're creating it. You are the god of that. And you can go anywhere and do anything with it. There are no rules with it. Stay away from rules.

It's so difficult to let the formulas go. For instance, I love the brandywine school, it's a very formulaic school. I loved working in that genre and all the answers are there. I could spend the rest of my career doing cheap Dean Cornwell ripoffs. But getting that out of my head, once you've know something it's difficult to get out of that. That's what I'm saying, you make a piece of paper you making another universe. It doesn't have to be what these horrible formulas are telling you. And the formulas have their uses. They might have been very instructive and very comforting to you in your period of development. But at a certain point you have to move on from them and make new formulas to infect other people, like memes.

And that's kind of what you should be thinking about in the work you're doing personally, like manga, or Glen Keane designing his characters. It's a genre of art that was invented by generally one people over a long period of time, and that’s what I’m talking about, like a formula.

My kids are drawing now, and I would love for them to draw something other than a higher order of organization like manga, something that's predigested, I would like for them to go back to reality first rather than a highly stylized way right away.

But when you really can accept that you're creating a new world with every drawing, that you can let go of those formulas, you can be the one who will create over a long period of time a new genre of your own, it becomes your own style. And other people looking at your work, they will have same reaction that you did to that favorite artist. That feeling of having your mind expanded with each image that you look at.

And to me it's very important. I can't look at a painting. It's fascinating to look at the differences between a painting of an artist and their entire work because each piece supports every other piece and it is a completely different experience to look at 50 paintings by a certain artist as opposed to one. And it's far more effective to me to look at a wide number of paintings of a particular artist.

I remember my Mum and Dad bought my the Carter Ratcliffe Sargent book and just looking when I was 20 and just looking through it, I still remember turning each page and thinking 'these are my people!' The idea that he was painting random snapshots of back corners with bad composition and horrible lighting... YES! I loved that.

I think to wrap it up, that really is the reason why we look at art, that is the reason why we make it, that one day eventually you might be that wizard that opens up someone else's mind, that expands their world and changes it forever.

And that's what I've always tried to do. I've tried to make worlds that people can get lost in. certain aspects of narrative that get left dangling to draw the viewer in. I've gotten emails of people putting the most amazing interpretations on the paintings that I do. And none of it was intentional, maybe some of it was subconscious, but your goal has to be to create artwork and something that is rich enough that holds people's attention, for longer than simply.. it's an illustration or something.

The highest aspiration is if your illustration outlives the project for which it was made, and I think that should be everybody’s goal here. To do artwork on that level. If you're stuck retopping feet in a chain somewhere, then it has to be after work then.

But don't give up because you'll get there.


Q: Do you take inspiration by some other artists or by history itself?

A: Um, both. But you know, I really feel it is important to balance out exposure to other artists and exposure to the world and life in general, because art is about both of them. And I find that especially in our world it tends to be biased towards the incestuous a little too much. So I say, go and get rid of your "art of" books and get rid of you goodbrush links and go out into the world and don't make art about other art. I'm as guilty as that as anybody. And it's a tendency I have to get away from.

End of presentation
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Re: Transcription excerpt from Craig Mullins talk at THU

Postby ubem » Fri Nov 20, 2015 2:27 pm

Wow so much wisdom in here, it's very enlightening and helped me confirm my experiences with my inner critic and how to develop your own "style".

Seems like a lot of words to transcribe, thank you for posting!
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Re: Transcription excerpt from Craig Mullins talk at THU

Postby Henri » Thu Dec 10, 2015 11:53 am

woah! thanks for sharing! <3
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Re: Transcription excerpt from Craig Mullins talk at THU

Postby Caleb-Brown » Thu Dec 10, 2015 11:49 pm

So important! everyone should read/ hear this!!
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