Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Debrief - Learn - Plan ahead

The year isn't over yet, and I've still got work to do, but I feel in a reflective mood today, and think its time to look back over the past two semesters, and evaluate the pro's and the cons, after all, the first step to fixing a problem is recognising its there.

Its easy to dwell on the shortcomings, especially for someone as critical, and at times 'pessimistic', as myself. But lets not forget the progressions I've made as a game artist this year. My learning has by no means plateau'd and I feel progression as well as see it.

Both 3d work and 2d work has progressed, and I feel much more confident as a 3d artist. in the 1st year, and before, I was 'afraid' of Specular, Normal etc. maps. But this second year has pushed my boundaries further. Now, not only am I confident in my ability to use more complicated maps, but I'm also doing so on a frequent basis as part of our group project.
My 2d knowledge and skill has expanded, not as noticeably, and by no means on a level par with my 3d work, but its still improving, and while I'll never admit that I'm a 'good' 2d artist, I'm starting to feel like I'm getting the gist of it.

However, its not all been a bed of roses, and there are certain aspects that could, and should have been handled with a lot more care and seriousness. a.k.a there were some 'Borks'.
But, I shouldn't shy away from these facts, and try to pretend they didn't happen, then did, and I CAN change them with the right mental attitude, and so it starts, here and now.

Ok so the biggie was 'Attendance', I cant lie, it was pretty fucking shocking. I got far too comfortable with waking up late and going to bed later, I will make a small excuse and say this was not an easy habit to get out of. but that by no means justifies the error. This sadly had a knock on effect with missing work, having to play catch up rather than putting in extra hours, and basically caused a whole backlash which has left my with my tail between my legs for the second semester.

So WHY was attendance so bad? As mentioned, late nights and late mornings. Late nights are acceptable if one is able to force themselves to wake up early in the morning. I was evidentially not as good at this as I gave myself credit for.
So why was I going to bed so late? This one isn't as predictable as one might think. It really wasn't all partying, in fact towards the the second semester I was dangerously low on cash and spent my nights 'in', most often playing video games on-line, late into the night. As I recall, I just wouldn't feel tired till 3- 4am, sometimes, out of pure habbit, I just wouldn't go to bed until these times, almost not allowing myself to, and THIS was the cause of the attendance problem.

So, now that I recognise the cause to that problem, what measures do I put in place to make sure it doesn't happen again? - Well, its really a case of self-discipline, only I can tell myself to go to bed, but thankfully I can impose a few new rules on myself that will help put an end to this:

1: Do not start playing a game after 12:30AM. - (To stop me getting 'hooked' and stop feeling tired)
2: Only 'go out' on a night that does not fall on a lecture the following day. - (Fairly simple idea really)
3: Must wake up, and stay up before 10am on weekdays, regardless of lectures. - (this will keep me in a good sleeping habbit)

So, these measures have been put in place to increase productivity, and to ensure a good sleeping pattern which will enable me to counter the effects of the Attendance problem.
Its a shame these 'realisations' have come so late, but better now then never at all.

Another problem I've noticed this year, is that I've been almost 'shying' away from 2d work, almost as if I'm 'afraid' of it for some preposterous reason. However, this has meant I've often been late or rushing when it comes to doing the work. This default reaction to 2d work MUST stop as its really holding me back.

Whats causing this problem? Humans always seek out what we enjoy, when we don't enjoy something we always put it to the back of our brain, or try to avoid it. These symptoms are the same as that which I experience with 2d work, and so to fix this problem, it seems I must engineer a way for me to 'enjoy' painting.

What measures must I put in place in order to 'enjoy' painting? Well, this one's a toughy, and there isn't much one can do to force someone to like something. However, a lot fo the time, if we don't enjoy something, its because we aren't good at it. After a search on the google-a-tron I read a great idea, that in order to find enjoyment in something, we should 'figure out what we can learn from it'. So, I came up with this:

1: When attempting a piece of work, combine it with a relevant tutorial - (this way, I'm not only getting work done, but I'm also able to feel the buzz of learning while I do it)
2: Evaluate all work with current work to remind on self of the learning progress - (Not all work beats what you did previously, this is especially prominent with 2d work, and this should be taken into account, however, when it does its great to see it.)
3: De-stress the work, by getting it done ahead of schedule. - (A bit late for this, but this is something I'm going to be focussing on in the third and final year).

So, these measures should hopefully help alleviate the negative reaction I have towards 2d work, and as I get better, this issue should be easier and easier to bypass.

There aren't a whole load of things wrong with this second year, but those that did go wrong, went wrong, with an effect on almost everything. However, I am confident that lessons learned from that, are valuable, and should be taken into account. I can't magic back the lecture time I've missed, but I can learn valuable lessons from mistakes made.

So, onwards to the future, what have I got in store?

Well, I'm not giving up, by any fucking means, this course is a major investment, and I'll be fucked if I'm letting it go to waste. I've got plans for the summer, and plans for next year.

Inspired by 'Cameron' I purchased, as said in a previous blog post, a brilliant tutorial DVD about next gen character creation utilising zBrush, and also inspired by the work of other on the course, I'm going to spend my free time during summer burred deep in zBrush learning it. My plans for the summer are as follows:

Create a next gen sculpted character using lessons from the DVD.
Create a small game environment based on my house in UnrealEd.
Fill a Sketchbook with drawings from life.
Summer project.

These three objectives are to be completed by the start of next year,I'll go into a bit more detail:

Character design: I love character design, while I'm realistic enough to realise that I'm more likely to get into the games industry as an environment artist, I still want to build up a knowledge of character design, that I can then expand once I'm working in the industry.

Environment: I've decided environments are to be my bread and butter, thankfully I also really enjoy working within the Unreal Editor and would quite happily do it as a job. I plan on making part, or all of my house in Unreal, this would form as a prep piece for my FMP, which I am planning on making an environment piece. I want to include, if I have time, an external part of the house, as 'exteriors' seem pretty difficult to me.

Sketchbook: I've missed too much 2d work this year, and rather than say 'oh well' I'm going to hit the sketchbook hard in preparation for next year. After next year, I need to go out and get a job, a scary prospect, and this summer is the most 'free' time I'm going to have before that massive undertaking, I'd better make up for that which I lost this year.

So, to conclude, this year has had ups and downs. I've been debilitated by my own laziness, and held back by late mornings. But I'm not giving up. I've learned valuable lessons about myself during the whole experience, and all I can say is:

Don't give up on me now, I'm so god-damn close. I've had a shit year, but by god I'll show you what I'm capable of in the third year...

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