Anonymous asked: I know that to be a great artist takes a lot of discipline, and I am worried that I am way way way too lazy right now. How can I make myself more disciplined? How much time do you spend a day on making things?
It’s funny that you ask this, because I’ve recently been playing around with this idea of “how can I make myself more disciplined.” Here’s what’s working for me.
I randomly stumbled across a time-management system (?) called the Pomodoro technique awhile ago, and decided to try it out. Normally, I’d roll my eyes at any “technique” that has a trademark after it, but this one was simple enough that it didn’t seem too affected. The basic idea is as follows:
- Give yourself 25 minutes of uninterrupted work time.
- After 25 mins, take a short break to stretch, do other tasks, assess.
- Every 4x 25min blocs, take a longer 15-30 minute break.
- Track all metrics, including: start times, tasks completed, times interrupted, break times, stop times.
Here’s an example of my absolutely incomprehensible metric tracking:
Every 25 min bloc, I make a line, eventually creating a box. So every Box on my chart is 4x 25min blocs (or 4 Pomodoros, I guess).
So what does this chart say: first off, I start off really late. 10:30 AM! I tend to wake up really slow, and do other things like run, eat too much breakfast, and dick around on the net.
Second, my peak productive hours are between 10:30AM-5PM, as I was actually increasing my rate of productivity (I started off taking 4x Pomodoros per piece, or two hours, but then as I worked, I cut it down to 3x, and even 2x right before dinner.)
Thirdly, right after my peak productive hours, I get distracted. Hence the one interruption, then failing to complete a Box and going straight to dinner. My productivity drops as well (I’m back to 4x Pomodoros per piece).
And this is just one day’s worth of data! I can compare this to other days to see if my assumptions really are patterns, AND most importantly, if I’m making progress.
The biggest thing for me though is the 25 minutes of uninterrupted work time. I got that timer above to solidify that as opposed to using a digital timer— I found that the tactile sensation of setting it and hearing it tick makes my brain go into “OK it’s work time” mode much easier. Make this time sacred: hide your phone, close your browser, pick music/podcasts ahead of time, gather all your supplies around you. Physically minimize your distractions when possible.
As far as time per day goes, I consider myself a full-time illustrator, so I put in at least a full days worth of work: 8 hours minimum. But as noted above, it’s not uncommon to put in 12. I think it is important to have designated START and STOP time though, just to help put boundaries on your life. Too much work is unhealthy. Health, family, and friends always come before work in my book.
Hope this helps! I think everyone probably has their own ways of doing things, but this is really working for me lately.
"When Hayao Miyazaki announced his retirement from feature films last September, countless media outlets and fans around the world mourned the loss of a beloved filmmaker—Japan’s most famous since Akira Kurosawa—whose movies had brought gravitas to the country’s animation industry, long a niche interest in the West. Thanks to thought-provoking films like Akira, Ghost in the Shell, and of course, Miyazaki’s work, American interest in Japanese animation had exploded over the last three decades and made a huge cultural impact.
Critical focus, however, has stayed largely on feature films, while anime—referring specifically to Japanese animated television series—has not earned the same kind of respect. An animator like Daisuke Nishio, for example, who directed the hit Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z series, is not considered an artist like Miyazaki, whose drawings have been displayed in museums in Paris.
Demand grew over the years and spread around the world, but despite its by-the-numbers popularity, anime remained a largely subcultural taste, not helped by the social outcast otaku image that persists, even in Japan. In general, animation is still widely considered children’s entertainment, which has been difficult to overcome, and anime has added cultural boundaries to conquer.
Another obstacle standing in the way of anime’s critical acceptance is the fact that it’s a highly commercial product, reportedly drawing more than $2 billion each year. Driven by industry demands, most directors faithfully adapt popularmanga (comics) or stick to tried-and-true story lines. The shoujo (young girl) genre, for example, hits the same plot points (class field trip, hot springs vacation, Christmas party) in each version of the high school love story. Unsurprisingly, shows that have successfully infiltrated American pop culture, like Pokémon and Sailor Moon, are highly formulaic, mindless entertainment.
Of course, there are directors who have worked against the studio system. In 1995, Hideaki Anno directed the highly controversial series Neon Genesis Evangelion, which was praised for its dark tone and post-modernist exploration of psychoanalytical, religious, and sexual themes. Evangelion has been credited with advancing a more serious study of anime in Japan, but thanks in part to its use of mecha (giant mobile robots piloted by humans; think Pacific Rim’s Jaegers), it was deemed too alienating and foreign for most Western audiences at the time, despite the fact that it subverted that mecha genre.
Shortly after Evangelion ended, Shinichiro Watanabe entered the scene. Born in 1965 in Kyoto, Watanabe grew up during the golden days of Tezuka and the first anime boom. As an employee of Sunrise studio, he worked on storyboards and co-directed projects, before making his full directorial debut with Cowboy Bebop in 1998. The series, about a crew of space bounty hunters in the year 2071, referenced spaghetti westerns, film noir, and Hong Kong action movies, with each episode dedicated to a different style of music, like the titular bebop. It was a huge success, and the first anime series to show on Adult Swim when it launched in 2001. Critics loved the jazz and blues-inspired soundtrack, the elegant film noir style, and existential themes. Along with Evangelion, it’s been called one of the greatest anime series of all time, and it is arguably the single most popular “serious” anime among Americans.
In 2004, Watanabe followed Bebop with Samurai Champloo, which mixed Japan’s Edo period (samurai) with hip-hop culture (graffiti artists, etc.). Aside from being another hit, Champloo cemented Watanabe’s reputation for combining unexpected cultural influences to create his own referential style.
“When you’re making anime, if you get all of your inspiration from anime … . it’s going to lack originality and creativity, so I try to get my inspiration from different genres.” - Shinichiro Watanabe”
Despite his success, Watanabe is still relatively unknown outside of anime circles—especially compared to other Japanese filmmakers like Kurosawa, who was posthumously named one of the top five Asians of the century by Asiaweekmagazine and CNN. But while it might seem impossible for anime to ever break out, it’s not hard to imagine anime taking the same path to critical acceptance that live-action feature films did long ago.