This is how the most prolific digital artist creates masterpieces
And lessons in productivity you can learn from him
Beeple is one of the most prolific digital artists of our generation. And I mean that literally.
His canvas of choice is digital art, and in addition to different art projects and films, he’s created and posted a piece of digital art every day for the last 4662 days, at the time of writing. That’s a little over 12 and a half years of creating something new every day.
No backlogs. No days off. Just sitting down and creating every day for an hour or so.
How does he do it? By not taking each piece so seriously.
The art of “sucking less”
Some people are self-deprecating about their creation. And then there’s Beeple.
On his website, you’ll find that he posts things online because
“By posting the results online, I’m “less” likely to throw down a big pile of ass-shit even though most of the time I still do because I suck ass.”
In an interview with the Atlantic, he doesn’t mince words about how he feels about his art:
Art is like taking a dump, it’s not always fun or convenient but it’s something you gotta do everyday and you shouldn’t get to hung up if the product looks like pile of crap.
You can tell he doesn’t think much about trying to make magnificent works of art every day.
That’s partially related to his goals. His goal for his “Everydays”, as he calls them, is to get better at different things.
So even if he creates garbage art each day, as long as he sucks slightly less from one day to the next, he’s still accomplishing what he’s setting out to do.
Which means he thinks about his works differently.
Part of a whole
There’s a famous parable about Pablo Picasso and a napkin which applies here.
Picasso is sitting at a cafe when a fan approaches him and asks for a quick sketch on a paper napkin, saying they’ll pay for it. He agrees, and quickly sketches a dove which he then asks an exorbitant amount for ($10,000).
The fan is flustered and says “But you just drew that in a minute!”
To which Picasso replies, “No, it has taken me 40 years to do that.”
The journey to mastery of anything has many different temptations, such as the appeal of money. The prospect of selling your art, when you have only 6 month’s experience, sounds amazing.
But it also yields fear.
When you attach a potential price tag to anything you do (even just playing around in a drawing program), suddenly the fear of the blank canvas is magnified: now you not only have to create something, but it has to be good enough to sell.
Beeple’s approach, though, seems to have helped with that exact issue:
I think doing something start to finish each day not only helps you get over the fear of starting a project, but also the fear of finishing one…at some level you need to be like, “fine, good enough.”
This is something that he talks about further when he discusses his process.
“I think people’s expectations are too high. I don’t know you expected, that in 45 minutes you’re going to come up with this amazing thing…taking your expectations down to a realistic level is the only way you’ll keep up with it.
I always have this mindset that each day is one piece. This picture that I’m making right now is 1/4000th of the project. So that’s how much I care about it.”
And thinking about the process at that scale is what helps him handle any potential challenges.
The power of scale
What if I told you that today, your creative work would be a bust? Maybe the ideas didn’t come together, maybe you were distracted, or maybe you just didn’t have enough time?
That sounds horrible if you’re thinking on the small scale. An entire day wasted, with no progress!
But on the larger scale, if it’s 1/365th of a project, then it doesn’t matter so much if one day is bad.
This can be seen in a Youtube video about his process. He meets with a Youtube digital VFX studio, where he’s working in a new environment, completely new assets, and has to figure out how to create something with a library of tools he’s never seen.
His self-deprecating nature comes through, calling his work “hot butt trash” on several occasions.
Yet he delivers something in 45 minutes, based on years of practicing with his rough drafts, that blows everyone away.
If you practice every day with something, even if the results for that day are garbage, you’re assuredly getting better.
So embrace the rough draft, or the sketch: that simple practice will get you to where you want to be.
Or, as Beeple puts it,
“It’s a numbers game: you’ve got to get rid of all those crappy ideas before you can get to the good ones.”
How garbage effort can help you
Imagine a scenario where no matter what, you could achieve whatever goal you set out to achieve.
Whether it’s being a billionaire or being an expert in your field, it would automatically happen in X amount of years.
The only caveat is that you had to put in some effort every day. Didn’t have to be 100% of your effort, but you had to actively do something or else the goal would never happen.
If you had a bad day or were feeling tired from work, would you give up on that effort for the day and your long-term goal?
Or would you put forth some garbage effort, perhaps something that you slapped together in 30 minutes?
You may think that that’s the lazy way out, that you should wait for inspiration to strike to create something amazing.
But it just might get you closer to where you want to be than you think.
I write about UX Design, Healthcare, and Productivity regularly. If you would like to learn how to communicate better with UX Designers, check out my online course.