This probably isn’t for everyone, but I thought that I’d talk about something that I tend to do quite often when I’m making art. I am, of course, talking about watching DVDs in the background (usually whilst both listening via headphones and keeping the subtitles on, to avoid missing any of the dialogue).
Again, this isn’t for everyone. Some people prefer to work in absolute silence, some people just like to listen to music and some people actually prefer to have other people in the general vicinity when making art. For me, solitude and non-interactive background things (eg: TV shows, music etc..) seem to work best. But, different things work for different people.
Likewise, it’s only possible to do this if you make traditional (eg: completely non-digital) or semi-traditional art that mostly uses fairly portable materials.
For example, whilst I heavily edit/process most of my art on the computer after I’ve scanned it, the actual drawing (and painting, using watercolour pencils) usually takes place in a sketchbook that is resting on my knee whilst I’m watching DVDs on my computer.
But, what are the advantages of watching DVDs whilst making art?
1) Time limits: If you’re making art regularly, then it’s often good to set yourself time limits. If you can make a fairly decent painting or drawing within 1-2 hours, then this level of efficiency is probably going to help you out when you’re making more time-intensive things, like comics projects.
In addition to this, setting a time limit also means that you’ll quickly learn to actually finish most of the pieces of art that you start making. It stops you from turning into a perfectionist who never finishes anything.
And, if you’re watching TV shows (or possibly shorter films) on DVD whilst you’re making art, then it’s a lot easier to set a time limit. After all, you can tell yourself that you’re going to finish your artwork within the time it takes you to watch 1-2 episodes of a TV show, or one 90 minute film. This can also sometimes (but not always) help you to prevent yourself from binge-watching your DVDs too.
2) Physicality And Ritual: This might just be my traditionalist side, but there’s something good about the actual physicality of using a DVD (rather than just watching modern streaming video).
Since making semi-traditional art is often at least a slightly physical experience, it just feels right that the things in the background should also share this quality too. I mean, if computers could play VHS tapes, then this would be even better. But, they can’t, so DVDs are a good substitute.
In addition to this, actually getting the DVD out of it’s case and putting it in your computer can add an interesting element of ritual to the whole experience too. The only downside is the other ritual of replacing the DVD drive every couple of years….
Whilst every artist probably has their own “rituals” (and mine also include things like drawing guide lines on the sketchbook page I’ll be using etc..), these sorts of things can help you to get into the mood for creating things.
3) Purpose: One of the strange things that I noticed after I’d been painting or drawing whilst watching DVDs for a while is that, if I watch a DVD when I’m not painting something, I’ll sometimes feel like something’s missing. I’ll sometimes feel like I’m wasting my time.
In other words, making art whilst watching DVDs can turn what is typically a fairly passive and “lazy” experience into something that feels a lot more productive. Plus, the incentive of watching a DVD can help you to feel motivated to keep up your art practice on the days when you are feeling less enthusiastic.
4) Inspiration: Watching a DVD in the background whilst making art can help you to feel more inspired in at least a couple of different ways.
First of all, having a background distraction can be useful to take your mind off of any feelings of uninspiration for a few minutes. If you’re thinking about the story of the film or TV show you’re watching, then you’re less likely to be thinking things like “Oh god! What should I paint?!?!“, “I can’t think of anything!!” etc… And, as any creative person will tell you, these kinds of thoughts only make you feel more uninspired.
Whilst you shouldn’t procrastinate for too long (see #1 on this list), a small amount of distraction can sometimes help to shake you out of an uninspired mood.
Secondly, you can also take inspiration from the things that you’re watching too. Whilst you need to know how to take inspiration properly (and the difference between inspiration and plagiarism) before you do this, it can be surprisingly useful.
In general, I’ve found that TV shows will sometimes give you a general direction that you can take your art in. Whilst you’ll still obviously have to work out a lot for yourself, having some hint of which genre you can use takes some of the uncertainty out of planning a painting or drawing.
For example, here’s a preview of what my art looked like when I was watching a cyberpunk anime series called “Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex”:
And here’s a preview of what one of my paintings looked like when I watched season one of “Twin Peaks”, as you can see, it has more of a 1980s/90s kind of look – as well as some slight strangeness too.
So, watching DVDs whilst drawing or painting can help you try out different genres of art and, whilst it may not make you feel completely inspired, it will at least point you in a particular direction.
Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂