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7 TIPS FOR THE 21-YEAR-OLD ME by Bobby Chiu

When I was a student in college working on my skills as a character designer, I’d had periods where I would sit at my desk working as hard as I could but having little to show for my efforts at the end of the day. I remember sitting there surrounded by blank pieces of paper, trying to come up with an amazing style that nobody had ever seen before. I would do one drawing and not be satisfied, so I would lay a new piece of paper over it, re-draw it with slight changes to features here and there. This would still not be good enough so I would put another piece of paper over my revision, make more minor adjustments trying to perfect this new style I was searching for. 

I did this for weeks on end, tweaking and polishing over and over, working hard every day. But in the end, did I come up with a brand new style, something amazing that nobody had ever seen before? 

No, unfortunately I didn’t. 

And how much did I improve from this experience? Not much at all. 

Spinning my wheels like this made me a little depressed and I thought to myself, “If only someone could tell me what to do to become a great artist, I would do exactly that and do it with all my heart.” 

That’s what this article is about: seven key things that I would tell the 21-year-old me, which I’ve found to contribute the most to having a successful career in art. 

1. “Focus, Bobby. Undisturbed focus, 90 minutes at a time.”

It’s actually really great to work intensely for short segments of time and take regular breaks. I’ve found that when I split my work into intense and focused 90-minutes sessions, not only do I have a good sense of urgency as the 90 minutes expire, but the regular breaks also give me wonderful, fresh looks at my work multiple times throughout the day.

2. “You have to practice, Bobby. There’s no way around it and there is no substitute for good, purposeful practice.”

There are many different ways to practice but I have found that practicing as a way of trying to learn has the greatest impact. What I mean by this is, I don’t practice drawing something just because it looks cool—I always have an objective in mind. What am I trying to learn? 

Am I studying how an artist does a certain technique or achieves a certain look? 

Am I learning muscles and other anatomy? 

I didn’t practice simply how to copy what I saw but rather I practiced fully understanding what it was that I was drawing and painting to the point that I could do it out of my imagination. 

If I had only practiced how to copy things, then I would have become a great copier. But by striving to understand what it was that I was referencing and trying to create something with the same essence and feeling, I worked multiple parts of my mind and skills.

3. “Embrace your routine, Bobby.” 

I used to be against routines. 

I used to think routines would take all the fun and excitement out of my life and lock me down. I started my own studio because I wanted to be free. 

But I’ve since discovered that I looked at it all wrong. 

Freedom isn’t necessarily a result of having spontaneity, it’s the result of having time. 

I feel the most free when I have time to do the things that I really want to do, and the best way to have a lot of time is to be better organized. Having a great routine allows me to be more productive, which gives me more time to do the other things I love to do. 

Routines are also extremely powerful for creating momentum but they only work if we make them a priority. I became better at drapery and drawing people by sketching for a few hours on the subways of Toronto every Sunday. This was part of my routine for five years and I did it consistently even if it was raining, Christmas, or my birthday. And even though subway sketching only took two or three hours every seven days, the routine helped improve my skills dramatically.

Try it yourself! Start off with something small that you know you can commit to. Do that thing consistently and you’ll quickly see the benefits of a great routine. Once you get used to it, add something new and soon you’ll have a great routine that will improve your skills and save your time.

4. “Cultivate a love for what you do, Bobby.” 

As a student, I was afraid to really, truly love doing art. Some artists get too obsessed about their art, and I didn’t want to go that crazy about my work. 

But what I found was that loving what I do doesn’t automatically make me crazy about it, and that’s a good thing. Loving art not only helps me get through the day, it makes me eagerly await the next day because each day is another opportunity to get better at doing what I love. 

Most of us who call ourselves artists love art, but like with any relationship, we have to put in the effort in to make our love affair strong and lasting. So we should all try to cultivate our passion, enthusiasm, and love for art; these can only help us on our artistic journeys. 

5. “Build a network of like-minded people, Bobby. Everything is easier when you have a group.” 

I could never do as much or go as far alone as I could with a group of like-minded people. 

I think part of the reason that I’ve had a successful career over the years is because I’m naturally curious about people. I love learning their stories and, in turn, making friends. In this way, I’ve been fortunate enough to meet many of the artists that I look up to and admire, and today, call them my friends. 

Because art is typically a solitary pursuit, many artists are naturally shy individuals, so building a network can be daunting. Nevertheless, I cannot overstate the value of having people. To get over my natural shyness, particularly when I first met my heroes, I had to consciously dig around in my mind for that little tiny piece of me that is not as shy, and expand it even if it’s just for a short period of time. I let this little piece steer the ship for a while, and that was how I got myself out there to meet interesting people or people that I didn’t know. 

Think of it this way: not meeting one person doesn’t mean missing out on that one person that you could have been friends with; it means missing out on that one person and every person that that person could have introduced you to, and one of THOSE people could have been the one to give you your dream job, been your best friend, or your wife or husband. 

Take every opportunity you can to get out there and talk with people, in person or online. Who knows where it will lead you. 

6. “Discomfort and fear can’t hurt you, Bobby. By challenging and overcoming them, you will always continue to improve.”

I have learned to challenge challenges, to be comfortable in discomfort, and to overcome my fears. By doing so, I constantly push my limits and therefore expand my potential and possibilities. I love doing things that are challenging, even when I might not know where to even start. These are the things that I live for and they have helped me to push my limits further and further. 

When I’ve been too comfortable for too long, I get unsettled. An alarm will go off in my head, compelling me to get up and do something challenging. 

Comfort is one of life’s traps and many new professionals fall into it, preventing them from continuing to learn and improve every day. The moment this happens will be the exact moment that you start to fall behind. 

The whole world keeps evolving and learning every day, so to stay relevant and to have the best chance at a successful career, we must continue to learn as well.

7. “Exercise your willpower, Bobby. When the mind is willing, the body has no choice but to follow.”

We are not born with willpower. As babies and children, we have to be taught (and taught and taught again) to resist urges, wait for rewards, and basically do the things we know we should do but don’t particularly want to. This challenge doesn’t end at adulthood, either. In fact, I’m sure we all know grown men and women who still have trouble resisting that extra slice of cake, hitting that snooze button one more time, or doing that uncomfortable and inconvenient thing in order to get the reward that they want.

Willpower is something that we can develop, like a muscle that we can grow and strengthen. To exercise it, do things that are challenging or which you don’t want to do but you know are good for you.

Willpower drains as we make decisions such as resisting what we want to have, waiting for a reward, or doing something we don’t want to do. For example, perhaps you can decline a piece of chocolate cake, but what if it was followed by brownies, ice cream, French fries, and potato chips? 

This is why I always prefer to make will-draining decisions the night before so that the following morning, I don’t have to make ANY decisions and can just jump right to the first item on my to-do list.

Follow imaginismcanvas.tumblr.com/ for more of my articles. Thanks!
"Painting Creatures with Bobby Chiu" class is now available for Self-Taught version!
 
Schoolism Fall Sale has started! $100 off all Self-Taught classes. Only 2 sales a year... this is one of them. Have a wonderful Thursday! www.schoolism.com/
On LIVESTREAM right now from 10am ET/ 7am PT until 11am ET/ 8am PT
new.livestream.com/accounts/66…

Bobby
Kei and Bobby will be at the Toronto Fan Expo this weekend!

Table A428
On livestream today at 10am ET / 7am PT
new.livestream.com/accounts/66…
Hold on to your hats... Schoolism Workshops are coming to Montreal & San Francisco.

MONTREAL - Sept 20-21, 2014
Creating Worlds with Robert Kondo (Art Director for Toy Story 3, Ratatouille, Monsters University)
Designing with Color & Light with Nathan Fowkes (How to Train Your Dragon, The Legend of Puss in Boots, Prince of Egypt)
Color Scripts with Dice Tsutsumi (Toy Story 3, Ice Age, Horton Hears a Who, Monsters University)
Environment Design with Nathan Fowkes (How to Train Your Dragon, The Legend of Puss in Boots, Prince of Egypt)

SAN FRANCISCO - Oct 6, 2014 (Tickets go on sale Tuesday August 19, 2014)
Creating Worlds with Robert Kondo (Art Director for Toy Story 3, Ratatouille, Monsters University)
Color Scripts with Dice Tsutsumi (Toy Story 3, Ice Age, Horton Hears a Who, Monsters University)
Characters for Animated Film with Daniel Arriaga (Ratatouille, Wall-E, Up, Monsters University, Wreck-It Ralph, Toy Story 3)
The Art of Story with Brenda Chapman (Brave, Prince of Egypt, Lion King, Beauty and the Beast)

Workshops coming soon...
London - Oct 11-12, 2014
Berlin - Oct 18-19, 2014
Florianopolis - Nov 8-9, 2014
Florence - Dec 16, 2014

Sign up for the Schoolism Newsletter to stay informed.

Did we miss any cities? Where else would you like to see us do a workshop in the future!
Imaginism's Bobby Chiu and Kei Acedera will be at San Diego Comicon 2014!
You can find us at...

Imaginism Booth - Table G6 (end of aisle 800)

Schoolism Booth - 2042

*this year we will have
-some originals,
-Bobby's comicon exclusive sketchbook "Creature Mix and Match",
-Pieces of Wonderland artbook, 
-Art of Niko artbook
-Prints
-iPhone cases
GOOOAAALS! The World Cup is the perfect time to talk about goals.

Setting good goals is useful to not just artists but anyone who wants to achieve something.

When I graduated college and started my career, my goals were unfocused. Basically, I just wanted to get a job doing what I love, which in my case is of course drawing and painting. That was my whole goal. I didn't aim for anything more than that, and as a result, my career went nowhere.

Then, after reflecting on my career and examining the careers of people I admired (again, not just artists), I developed a master plan for my success that basically boiled down to four things:

1. Recognize the importance of setting goals.

Let's say you have the extraordinary ability to kick a ball farther and more accurately than anyone you know. As a result, you want to become a soccer player. But then when you're on the soccer pitch and the ball comes to you, you just kick it as hard as you can in whatever direction you're facing. Just being on a pitch and kicking a ball doesn't make you a soccer player; at this stage, you are just someone who can kick a ball.

To be a proper player, you have to know the rules and of course, recognize which goal you're kicking at. Only then will your natural kicking ability be applied towards becoming a successful soccer player.

This brings us to:

2. Target specific goals.

In life, there is usually some "goalkeeper" (such as lack of education, experience, exposure, etc.) that obstructs your progress to your goal. To succeed, therefore, you have to overcome the keeper.

If your goal is very broad, you won't have a focused target to aim for; it isn't enough to just kick the ball in the general direction of the goal and hope for a lucky bounce. Don't put your life in the hands of chance and luck.

In my case, instead of peppering the keeper with shot after shot, I examined my goal (to become a professional artist) and aimed intently at a focused point like the upper corner of the net (to become a professional concept artist for movies).

Kick after kick, I attacked my specific goal. Sometimes the keeper got to them and kept them out, but slowly I started scoring more and more often until eventually the goalkeeper realized that it was futile to try to stop me and left the pitch.

3. Loose route, firm objective.

From one end of the field to the other, you might know where you're headed, but there are defenders in the way. To get around them, you and your teammates have to run plays to set up your scoring chances. But what if an astute defender disrupts your play? You can't stop the game in order to come up with a new play, so instead you improvise until you can come up with something else.

We have many ways to get to our goals. Making a specific plan is an excellent start but it's vital to remain flexible enough that you can alter your original plan to go around or overcome new, unexpected obstacles.

Dwight D. Eisenhower said, "plans are useless but planning is indispensible." Plans are rigid, but planning is loose and flexible. Grow your habit for planning—your ability to think ahead and lay out the steps in your play, and if you're impeded, devise a new route or play to the goal, all without stopping.

4. Aim high.

I don't have a soccer metaphor for this one, haha. But I don't think aiming high really needs one, does it?

As far as rules go, it's pretty straightforward: go for the highest level job you feel you can reasonably do, based on your talent, skills, and experience. If you don't get it, go for the second highest, and so on. The traditional convention of "climbing the ladder" is inefficient because, not only is it a waste of your time toiling away at a job that you're overqualified for, your company is also robbed of the true value of your services for that whole time.

When I wanted to be a professional artist, people told me that an artist's life is too hard and I wouldn't be able to do it and support myself.

But I set a specific goal, made a plan, and became an artist anyway, and things have worked out.

When I wanted to start my own studio, people said I lacked experience as an artist and as an entrepreneur and I was doomed to fail.

But I set a specific goal, made a plan, and started my own studio anyway and things have worked out.

When I wanted to work on Hollywood movies from my studio in Toronto, people said no one would let me work remotely, that's just not how things are done.

But I set a specific goal, made a plan, and wound up on feature films anyway. Clearly, there were others who felt that the way things are done isn't always the way they should be done forever and ever.

So, keep learning and making yourself really good at whatever it is that you do, whether that's art, music, computer programming, or whatever.

Humanity has thrived because of our ability to recognize and elevate amazing individuals for the benefit of the group, so keep getting better and inevitably, the world will have no choice but to notice.

Good vibes to you all!

Bobby

For art education --> www.schoolism.com
Kei and Bobby will be at S.T.A.R.T. in Singapore on June 26-28. Bobby will be doing a workshop there.

Hope to see you there!
May 15 Broadcasting LIVE TODAY at 10am ET / 7AM PT. Come join the group and draw together as we talk about art and being an artist.
 https://new.livestream.com/accounts/6693476/events/2982235
Drawing LIVE at 10am ET/7am PT on  new.livestream.com/accounts/66… 
I'm very excited to say that my class "Painting Creatures with Bobby Chiu" is now open for registration! www.schoolism.com/school.php?i…
I'm (Bobby) giving away a drawing that I'm doing during a live broadcast on Livestream!
I'll also be answering your questions about art and the business of being a concept artist for films and other things.

For more info or questions please click on the link --> www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbi…

This is happening every Thursdays 7am PT/ 10am ET

Sending positive vibes to you all!
Bobby
 
Schoolism Spring Sale has started! $100 off all Self-Taught classes. Only 2 sales a year... this is one of them. Have a wonderful Monday! www.schoolism.com/
 
Schoolism is hosting a party and everyone is invited!! 

Come hangout and meet fellow artists such as 
Paul Lasaine, Marcelo Vignali, Nathan Fowkes, Bobby Chiu & Kei Acedera

Signing from 8-10pm and venue closes at 3am.

First 150 people will get a free drink and exclusive prints that you can get signed! Admission $10.

More info --> 
www.facebook.com/events/142258…
Broadcasting LIVE TODAY at 10am ET / 7AM PT March 20. Come join the group and draw together as we talk about art and being an artist.

Here's the link to the stream new.livestream.com/accounts/66…

Click link to my FB fanpage & post your questions there if you have any.
bit.do/chiustream-march20
Bobby Chiu will be broadcasting LIVE every Thursday 10am ET / 7am PT from his Livestream channel new.livestream.com/accounts/66…

Join him as he draws live, answers questions from the audience and shares the tips that helped him with his career.
At the end of the broadcast, Bobby will pick a random person to give his drawing to anywhere in the world.

Hope to see you there!
Schoolism Team
We'll be posting even more pics on Instagram!! You can find us at...

Bobby Chiu's Instagram username: digitalbobert 

Kei Acedera's Instagram username: kei_acedera 

Schoolism LIVE Workshops are coming to Florence, Italy on March 13, 2014! 

Creature Design with Terryl Whitlatch (Star Wars, Brave, Jumanji... etc) 

Designing with Light and Color with Nathan Fowkes (How to Train Your Dragon, Prince of Egypt, Puss in Boots... etc)

Click on the image for more info!

Hi all,

Hope you can give a warm welcome to our friends :iconecala: Victoria Ying and Mike Yamada back to DA. They've just re-activated their account. These wonderful Disney artists are definitely worth a follow