Although this is an article about making art, I’m going to have to start by talking about playing computer games (again). As usual, there’s a good reason for this that I hope becomes obvious later. Likewise, although I’ve talked about all of the art-related stuff in this article before, it’s worth repeating (and not only because I seem to have mild writer’s block at the moment)
Even though I’m not sure when, if or even how much of it I’ll review in the future, I’ve been playing a set of “Doom II” levels called “Very Hard” recently.
As the name suggests, these levels have been designed to be as fiendishly difficult as possible. And, yet, a few hours before I wrote this article, I was able to beat the first level.
Sure, it took me something like 4-7 hours in total (and the many years of “Doom II” practice I’ve had before then). Sure, I probably saved more times in that one level than I’ve done in whole episodes of levels. Sure, I’d often have to re-play the same part of the level up to fifty times just in order to progress a little bit further. And I’d often end up in situations that looked like this:
Finally, eventually, I finished the level. I literally had to come up with clever ways to use the “rules” of ‘Doom’ to my advantage more times than I can remember. My reaction to actually finishing this level was exactly the kind of elated reaction that you would expect after achieving something that looks impossible.
So, what does any of this have to do with making art?
Well, it’s all to do with determination – something that I not only learnt from playing “Doom II” levels, but also from daily art practice. One of the great things about telling yourself that you will make a piece of art every day is that you actually have to make a piece of art every day. Whilst this might not sound too difficult, it also includes the days when you aren’t feeling inspired.
But, if there’s one thing that daily art practice teaches you, it’s that determination matters more than inspiration. If you make a piece of art every day, regardless of how good it is, you’ll quickly learn all sorts of sneaky ways to get around not feeling inspired.
You’ll learn that, with a bit of practice, still life paintings are a quick and almost inspiration-free way to make a day’s painting. You’ll learn that making new versions of your really old paintings or drawings can be a cool-looking way to get through an uninspired day. You’ll learn which types of art you can pretty much make in your sleep.
You’ll learn that, if something is out of copyright, then you can paint your own modified copy of it. You’ll learn how to take inspiration properly from things that are still in copyright. You’ll learn that even painting something totally random (if you’re feeling mildly uninspired) is better than painting nothing. Like this:
If you have determination, then a lack of inspiration won’t matter as much. Not only that, since you’re still making art when you aren’t feeling inspired, you may well find that inspiration will come a lot more often and a lot more easily.
Strange as it sounds, if being uninspired (or the possibility of totally and utterly failing at making a good painting or drawing) isn’t an huge problem to you, then you won’t feel uninspired anywhere near as often.
Not only that, if you doggedly insist on making a piece of art every day, then your art will improve significantly too. Yes, it might happen gradually. But, you’ll eventually get to the point where even your crappiest and most “uninspired” new painting looks better than your best and most inspired old painting.
So, yes, the kind of determination that you need to complete a “seemingly impossible” computer game level is exactly the kind of determination that you also need when you’re doing your art practice.
Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂