The Alchemy of Creation

Did I grab your attention with that epic title? Well it’s fitting. What we’re talking about today is life changing. Literally.

There’s a phrase the old alchemists used to use: Solve et Coagula. Roughly it means dissolve, then come together. Break something down into it’s parts, analyze them, then reassemble them in a different form. In other words, to create, you must destroy. Now, we all know the alchemists were misguided. It’s not possible to literally transmute lead in to gold (at least not without a particle accelerator) but figuratively, they may have been on to something.  After all, if you want to make an omelette, you have to break a few eggs.

No matter how deep you go, this concept of Solve et Coagula applies to all levels of the creative process. On the surface level, what do you sketch on if you don’t chop down trees to make sketch paper? How do you sculpt without ripping clay or marble out of the ground?

And once you do have your marble, you have to destroy it and break it down in a selective way, leaving behind only that which adds to your design. Art is a destructive process as much as it is creative.

Going deeper, you must be willing to destroy your own creations in order to improve them. Sometimes literally, sometimes not. We have to be willing to see our work objectively. Where is it good, but where is it bad? A lot of artists have no problem seeing where their work is bad, in fact many are overly critical, and that’s a good thing. But sometimes we can be too protective or precious about a piece of art that we’re especially proud of. Or even worse, just because we took a long time to create it and we’re too lazy to do it again. And so we reject honest criticism from people who’s artistic sensibilities we would normally trust.  (If you don’t trust their artistic eye, why are you asking their opinion anyway?)

What are we trying to do? What are we trying to create beyond good 3D characters, props, and environments? Ultimately we’re trying to create a certain life for ourselves. We’re not just creating art, we’re recreating ourselves into artists. And, as we’ve been saying, creation is a destructive process, That concept applies at this deeper level as well. This is the hardest aspect of this idea to accept, and it’s even harder to put it in to practice. How do you expect to make a sculpture without ripping clay out of the earth? How do you expect to form it into a piece of art without tearing most of it off from the whole and discarding it? And how do you expect to create the life of an artist for yourself without destroying your old life? The lives of the artist and the non-artist are not the same, and you can’t have both.

Every thing we do is a sacrifice of something else. Every single action we take, we do to the exclusion of everything else. If you’re sleeping, you’re not eating. If you eating, you’re not jogging. If you’re playing video games, you’re not practicing your art. If you’re practicing you’re art, you’re not doing literally everything else you could be doing. How much you chose to sacrifice in order to improve your art is up to you.

We’re getting a little heady so let’s bring this back down to earth. If you want to get good at zbrush, you may have to quit your WoW guild and give up your position on the League of Legends leaderboards.  You may have to give up your nightly 6 hour Netflix binge sesh. The most successful 3D artists are the ones who live and breathe their craft.  While you’re learning the modeling pipeline, you also need to be teaching yourself discipline.  Because more important than motivation and inspiration, is the ability to work even when you don’t want to.  Or did you think that all it takes to be a 3D artist is to get a degree and then go to work at a game studio 9-5? There are only so many hours in a day and only so many days in a lifetime. How many hours a day are you spending on improving your art? How you spend your time is how you spend your days. And how you spend your days is how you spend your life.

Solve et Coagula. You have to destroy if you want to create.

As long as I’m using overly-grandiose language to describe basic truths about life, I might as well leave you with an equally over-the-top quote:

“Step into the fire of self-discovery. This fire will not burn you, it will only burn what you are not.” – Mooji



Motivational Monday: Single Tasking

If you aren’t subscribed to Ryan Kingslien’s email list, you should be.


I found today’s motivational message to be very helpful. It speaks directly to my weakness. I’ll copy/paste it here, but I suggest that you sign up for the list yourself. Also go find Ryan Kingslien on any form of social media you can and add/follow/subscribe to him. He’s an amazing artist and an even better motivator.


In the distraction-rich environment that we work and play in today it’s easy to forget that FOCUS is one of our super-powers. Linear FOCUS on the steps and THE WORK that matters makes all the difference in the world when we are creating.

One tool that we can use to get better at this is: SINGLE TASKING.

Pushing That Drug

Ever switch over to Facebook to check a message only to “wake up” about 30 minutes later and wonder why you’re looking at a video of a guy sneaking up on people at the beach showers to add shampoo to their hair? What was I doing before checking that message?

You’re on the DRIP of DOPAMINE.

One study showed that multi-tasking could lower your IQ by as much as 15 points to return you to an 8th grade level not to mention the cognitive load that switching from one task to another creates on the brain.

Today, we know that human are built for single tasking but distraction is a multi-billion dollar business today and there are a few undisputed kings. Facebook being one of them.

The real problem with multi-tasking is not the IQ thing, though. It’s not the loss of time. It’s the addiction to DOPAMINE that comes with it.

When you switch from one small task to another small task like checking email, reading that cool facebook post, checking artstation, writing a message, etc you get a little hit of Dopamine… and it feels good… in the moment…

Are You Speed Dating Your Art Work?

Dopamine is not, though, FULFILLMENT. It is excitement.

Here’s the rub:


Getting excited may get the conversation moving but it’s going to take a WHOLE LOT MORE before it becomes a successful marriage.

So, I have a question for you: Are you treating your art like a one-night stand? Are you that guy?

If you’re sitting around waiting for the perfect piece of art to spring from you’re hands, I’ve just met this Nigerian prince that needs your help…

What To Do

Turn OFF Facebook. Turn off your phone. Close your Inbox. Unplug your computer from the internet.

Do THIS not because you’ll finally be able to get some work done.

Do THIS because this is how you TRAIN your brain to do the REAL WORK that needs to be done. To push forward when the Dopamine is not coming. To stay focused, committed to your work when you’re not sure it’s even going to work out.

Do THIS because this is how you build real muscle into you abilities.

And sign up for Jason Martin’s character creation course for games HERE. It’s early registration so you save 25% if you sign up today but that ends May 29th.

Much Love,