Our first creator interview is with cartoonist Steve Ogden, of Magnificatz fame!
- Who are you and how long have you been working as an artist?
Steve Ogden. In my spare time, I’m the artist, writer and creator of Moon Town, Croaker’s Gorge and the syndicated comic strip Magnificatz. In my day job, I am an Art Director for Firaxis Games.
- How do you personally define art block? How often do you get art block?
It’s the art version of writer’s block, that feeling that you don’t have any ideas, fear of the blank page. I don’t often get it. I have the opposite problem: too many ideas.
- What are some specific strategies you employ when dealing with art block?
I used to ride horses, and I learned from a very early age that if and when you got thrown off your horse (it happens… they roll, they buck, they throw you right off) the most important thing was to GET UP AND GET BACK ON THAT HORSE. Because if you don’t, you develop a fear, and you won’t want to get back on next time. It’s conditioning.
Which informs my strategy. You only get better at things by doing them. You get better at writing by writing, better at designing games by designing games, better at dancing by dancing, etc. In the same way, you only break the block by doing the very thing that’s blocked. So I would recommend sitting at the desk, getting a sheet of paper (or a fresh canvas in your drawing program) and drawing SOMETHING. Anything. Drawing starts to break the block. Drawing more breaks it more. Conversely, the longer you stay away from your desk because you feel blocked, the greater the chance you will remain blocked. You will develop a fear of a blank page. Fear and self-doubt will stop you unless you take action. The block is really just a negative self-reinforcing downward spiral. Taking action is a positive self-reinforcing upward spiral. Go for the positive.
Now – if your problem is Lack of Ideas, this advice may sound like telling someone with anxiety just to Not Let it Bother Them. I hear you, but this is not that. Idea Generation is a skill that must be cultivated, but I can help you start: don’t have an idea? Go to Google and click the “I’m Feeling Lucky” button (You may have to enable a browser extension to do this. Google it.) But this button magically provides a random subject. For the purposes of getting over your block, that random subject is now the idea. Draw it.
Repeat this exercise as necessary. The most important thing is that you need to actually do the work to get out of the slump. The second most important thing is to believe it will work. It will.
- Describe the biggest obstacle / challenge you’ve encountered working as an artist and how you overcame it.
Well, I’ll give you two for one. Lack of time and lack of energy. Lack of time, I still haven’t overcome, but I’m learning to pick away at my work a little bit. I used to feel if I didn’t have 3 straight hours of unbroken time to work on my stuff, I couldn’t do anything. These days, work and home life have me pretty busy, so I have to look for little chunks of time between things. A half-hour in the morning between my coffee and cereal, or between dinner and bed. Mundane, I know, but it’s the only way I can get anything done because right now, I can’t have 3 hours straight to do whatever I want. It’s important to honor your responsibilities to work and family as well as to your art, but there’s also downtime which is really important. I think a lot about how I spend my time, what’s relaxation and what’s procrastination. In 6 months, how will I feel about how I spent my evenings this month? Streaming Netflix is fun, but if I do it too often at the expense of working on my own stuff, what will I have accomplished? Sooner or later it comes down to time management and just trying to be more efficient.
As for lack of energy, your body is a machine, and like a machine, you can’t run it non-stop without proper maintenance. We need proper nutrition, regular exercise and SLEEP. No one gets enough sleep, but the closer you can get to 8 hours, the better off you’ll be. You may think you don’t have time to work out or sleep, but I promise you that you’ll have more energy for your work if you spend that time. It pays off.
Time and Energy are resource problems to be solved like any other. The rest is discipline. 🙂
“Every day it gets a little easier… But you gotta do it every day — that’s the hard part. But it does get easier.”Jogging Baboon from BoJack Horseman
- Where can we see more of your work online?