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Nsio Explains: Psychological take on making art

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16th tutorial in my Nsio Explains series. This was my one hour panel session at the Animefest 2016 in Czech. This topic is something that I have wanted to talk about for a long time, but it's difficult to do in written format. Animefest was perfect opportunity because I could talk to the audience and make silly gestures while I was at it. I was hoping they would upload the panel in Youtube, but I decided to upload the slides already (download the file to see it in full size). If they upload it, I'll link to the video here and on my journal.

So this is really heavy tutorial, and for that reason I typed the text. I'm sorry about that, I can understand if you don't want to read it. But if you do, it's read from left to right. Arranging the slides in columns would have been easier to follow but I realized that when I was already done... but I was too lazy to start rearranging everything. The same descriptions are here:

1. ARTISTIC MIND - Psychological take on making art
In this session I discuss about the psychological side of making art. I’m not professor of psychology so I may use the term wrong. Most of the things I tell here are based on my own observations. Anyway, the point is to explain how the brain works, or rather how I think it works.

Most people probably focus too much on the actual art making rather than the mental side. However, I find that before you can become a great artist, you first need to orientate your mind properly. That’s why these slides are made for. I’ll also explain why it’s so difficult to become an artist. Artists think in very different way than normal people and I’ll show how they think (or how I think).

2. HOW OUR BRAIN WORK
Our mind has amazing processing capabilities, but in reality, the brain is lazy. There is just too much visual information coming to our eyes that there is no point processing it all. That’s why the brain discard a lot of it. An artist has to tap into this discarded information to truly understand what’s going on.

The brain can’t tolerate contradictions or confusion. It tries to make sense of everything. It’s surprising how easy it is to fool the brain, as seen on the example.The girl has bikinis, but when the image is partially covered, you will see a naked girl, even when you know she has bikinis. This is called amodal completion: the brain does its best to fill in the blanks, but if it can’t see bikinis, it can’t construct them.

3. NOTHING IS AS IT SEEMS 1/2
So as seen on the previous slide, your perception is being manipulated by the brain. It happens automatically. This is both good and bad thing. The good is that you avoid getting your brain overheating. The bad is that it makes it hard to become an artist because you “can’t see”.

So the first step is to bypass this filtering to learn seeing the world as it is, not the way you think it is. Optical illusions great for this because they reveal the manipulation and you can actually check the truth yourself. On the example, “Peanuts” characters are painted on the pedestrian crossing “wrong”, but from driver’s point of view it looks like the characters are actually walking on it.

4. NOTHING IS AS IT SEEMS 2/2
Here are some simple optical illusions. When white and black squares are position slightly off, it looks like the lines between them are no longer straight. On the right you can see that they are in fact straight. The two lines with arrows look different in length, but they are equal in length. The dot surrounded large or small dots appear different in size depending what’s next to it. In the reality the dots in the middle are equal in size. There are many others. I recommend searching some.

5. EITHER-OR AND INTERPRETATION
Most of us are narrow-minded. We think in “either-or” manner. Our society actually encourages into this kind of thinking, namely the language. This is why it’s so difficult for me to explain artistic concepts, because nothing I say can be taken literally. Artistic mind isn’t limited to this kind of thinking. It has no problems to deal with contradictions, such as something being both right and wrong at the same time.

The bigger problem is the result of this kind of thinking. When we interpret the message, we tend to analyse the friendliness or hostility regardless the topic and act accordingly. For example, some may consider this slide racist only because I listed “black” with negative words. No, you are completely missing the point if you think like this.

6. THE 1st BARRIER: FACING THE TRUTH
it’s so easy to ignore the truth when it’s fitting your world view. You need to be honest to yourself. Ignorant people think the world revolves around them, they are right and whine when they don’t get attention. Just because you think you are good doesn’t make you good in the eyes of the others. Pessimistic people have no strength to deal with the truth. They take critique too personally and don’t believe in their ability to learn. They still want others to like their work. That’s only natural, that’s what I want too.

Who wants to follow a bad artist? Honestly speaking, no one. You can’t expect people to like your works unconditionally. There has to be something to draw them in. So aim for that instead of delving into depression.

7. OPEN MIND

Our mind shape the reality we live in, for both good and bad. You can actively change how your mind works if you just want to. Really, no one else will do it for you. I try to change everything into positivie drive. I learned to handle critique by understanding that it’s meant to be positive, not a personal attack. I can’t avoid the feeling of being hurt completely, but I can let them pass trought me which allows me to focus on the actual message and thus improve.

If you can be negative, you might as well be positive. It will make your life much more enjoyable. However, be careful not to become one of the ignorant people. Search your feelings and accept your weaknesses, only then you will know where you need to work on.

8. THERE ARE NO RULES

For some reason we have obsession for rules. Artistic mind isn’t bound to any rule. The rules are there because they generally work so well, but they aren’t absolute at all times. There is no such rule that says that anatomy studies has to come first. You need to study anatomy, but there are many other things that are far more important in art. Besides, unless you know how to draw already, efforts spent on anatomy are easily wasted.

No rule says that you need to finish your works. If you feel anxious, allow yourself to give up and try again. This will reset your mind: the frustration will disappear and you feel refreshed. If you can’t do something, don’t worry. Try again some other time. If you fail, don’t worry. Analyse the merits and issues and mind them on your next piece.

9 . CONTRADICTING TRUTHS
The mind can’t stand contradictions because of either-or mentality as said before. Sometimes there are more than one truth and sometimes they seem to contradict each other. For example, perspective is easier that one would thinking. The rules are there to make it easier to construct. We are just taught classical perspective in unintuitive way. We are forced to think in certain way which doesn’t match the way we really perceive the world. However, we easily believe in what we are told and get stuck with concepts we don’t fully grasp but keep using them regardless.

For example, panorama view bends the rules of perspective without breaking them. If you try to construct this kind of perspective with straight lines, you won’t be able to do that.

10. MISCONCEPTIONS AND BELIEFS

Because of our narrow-mindedness, we easily misinterpret what we are told. Don’t accept everything you are told by default. Ponder the reasons behind them and try them yourself. There is a problem though: you can’t understand how things work before you have enough experience work with them, but you get the experience only by understanding how they work!

That’s why artist don’t bother to explain how to draw: you wouldn’t grasp it all in one go anyway. For that reason you need to practice. You can’t teach others before you have taught yourself. You can severely slow down an aspiring artist who trusts and believes you. That’s not to say you couldn’t help them though.

11. DOING THE OPPOSITE
We do some things in certain way only because we have always done it that way. You need to actively force yourself to take different approaches to understand why something should be done in certain way. This holds true if you are a beginner: there is no guarantee that your method are the most efficient, yet alone “correct”. For example, we draw black on white only because paper is generally white. Why not using a black paper and draw with white? Digital artist have it easy.

Also, we always talk about shading. What about drawing the lit areas instead of shadows? The resulting image looks the same, but it requires completely different way of thinking to get there.

12. MANIPULATING THE VIEWER
Just like the brain manipulates your perception, artist have this ability too. They know the concepts to make you see what they want. For example, your eyes will always wander to the black dot on this slide, whether you wanted it or not (well, that was the intention at least...) This has to do with color contrasts. Our eyes focus on anything that looks different from the rest.If  there were more black dots there and there, the eyes wouldn’t have anything to focus on. But, if they were arranged into a path, then the eyes would automatically follow this path.

So in short: you need to convince the viewer to look at your work and keep them looking at it. You do this by knowing what we our mind generally want to see (such as paths).

13. WHAT BRAIN WANT TO SEE 1/2
Star Wars, One Piece, Narute, MLP... no, those are only our desires, not what the brain wants to see.

We value technically well executed drawings, but that alone isn’t enough. As I already said, the brain wants to make sense of everything. So it’s just that simple: give it what it wants. Here we see Nitori from Touhou running. It’s not too bad, but not very interesting either. The reason is that it doesn’t make sense to your brain. You know she is running, but it doesn’t feel like she was running.  No one would look like that if they were running and we know this  even if we don’t think about. Honestly, do you like this? Does it make you interested? Unlikely

14. WHAT BRAIN WANT TO SEE 2/2
The drawing on the right looks much better already, even if it’s just a sketch. There is just enough hints for the brain to make sense of the image and constructs the finished image in your mind. For example, seemingly random lines suddenly look like stepping stones on a river. It’s fascinating how some simple lines can capture the feel of water when put in certain context. This is the key: to convince your viewers to believe the illusion you created. This is the magic normal people fail to see.

TO ACHIEVE THIS, YOU NEED TO KNOW WHAT THE BRAIN WANTS TO SEE. When you know, you also know where you need to aim for with your practices. When you do, you also begin to improve exponentially faster.
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ploopieflooper's avatar

Thank you for sharing this knowledge!

JuleSan's avatar

Thanks for sharing <3

Katze-Law's avatar
6. I ALWAYS fall in between pessimism and denial. It's hard to stay in one place. I've done art as of now and it's hard to improve when it takes too much time, lack of patience, and lack of feedback are in the mix. Not to mention the very high expectations and standards others set are very evident in just the artwork alone. The concepts, the planning, all of it...I just can't find the time nor the self-patience to carry out the pieces.

If you happen to take a look at my artwork, it's obvious that ignorance AND pessimism are present and I give up trying and just finish up.
...What I must do to find forgiveness and acceptance in my mistakes in art I wonder all the time...No, I disagree! 
         I hope someone relates.
Nsio's avatar
Yeah, art is a hard path to take and not necessarily the most enjoyable one either. It's about dealing with harsh realities voluntarily and it's easier to not do it since we aren't obliged to. Also, not everyone can reach the top even with a lot of time and effort invested in it, and no one has the responsibility to give any feedback. The more you think about it, the more discouraging it all turns out to be. It's no wonder that the path to the enlightenment is rarely trod upon.

However, if you can accept all that, it's possible to get out of the pit in the future. I don't know how old you are, but I believe you have plenty of years ahead. Things can change, and although you probably can't make it happen significantly easier or faster, you can ease your mental strain and make it happen by having some faith in yourself. The question is whether it's worth the frustration you will have to go trough, though you also have to evaluate whether you are in a position to even make that judgement. I say that because what do you know? What do you really know? About anything? That said, it's better not to make any hasty conclusions with incomplete understanding and knowledge.

Also, no one is expecting anything from you, it's you who make that assumption yourself. It's true that we all have some standards that need to be satisfied before we can call anything art, but it's also good to note that you're a beginner. No one expects good results from beginner. That said, you can allow yourself to fail for the time being so that your future-self can redeem the opportunity you created by doing so. If you are depressed, you won't do it and therefore you never create that opportunity either. If I know anything, it's the fact that you have to change in one way or another before you can aim higher. You can start by punching the depression in the face and working on your mental strength to become stronger and more capable of dealing with the harsh realities.

I can't say that you can become the best or even above average artist, but many artists have had just as humble beginnings as you. Fundamentally we all have to deal with the same feelings and problems (I believe we all can relate to your pain). Humans are tough and malleable, we can do pretty awesome things when we get serious. It's ultimately up to your willpower to change the course and take the responsibility of the consequences. There is a lot to explore and learn, so start from somewhere and build your way up from there. :)
Katze-Law's avatar
Thank you, sir. I guess that means that I must "Bravely Default" against expectations and should I fail, I must "Bravely Second", the courage to try again. ( Sorry, videogame puns...) 
   By the way, at this time I'm 19. Your tutorials are a great help!
QuakeBrothers's avatar
"there are no rules" , sorry but , no for a good artist like you maybe but for someone who struggles to learn i need rules, specially since i already wasted too much years without learning anything useful, i was during 2017 that i managed to get a schedule and finally learning
FantasyRebirth96's avatar
What a fascinating read. I very much enjoyed this. Now I don't feel to bad asking for feedback on my own drawings. Also motivates me to spend more time practicing overall and THEn moving on to actual drawing or animation.
DeekirbyDeeL's avatar
very good tutorial
also, yay Nitori :D
KuangYu-Cheng's avatar
I hope that I can favorite this twice, but sadly I can't.
RegisteredAnomaly's avatar
Nsio... my hero... really love your tutorials... so helpfull ... keep up the great work
About doing the opposite, could you do scratch art media please 
MiauTgG's avatar
My god I love this guy.
zf705's avatar
Great Tutorial
P-Dizzy8's avatar
Duuude this is amazingly inspirational, thank u so much :D
DarkLored123's avatar
How do you know which tutorials are trust-worthy as there are many out there that just show you a step by step type of thing instead of explaining how it works?
Nsio's avatar
That's indeed the problem. You can evaluate the credibility of the author by having a look how they draw themselves. Ideally you would look for tutorials that explain how things work and use several step by step tutorials as examples on how to do it. There are many ways to draw after all and you need to find what particular method works for you, or -even better- mix different methods to meet your needs.
cvbabc's avatar
Gabrianne's avatar
Thank you a lot for those tutorials!
JellyBX's avatar
I really love your explanations!
Seems really simple, yet convincing!
Thanks for your effort NSIO, i learn many things from your guide :) (Smile) 
CairyNDO's avatar
this is really great! thank you so much for taking your time and effort and creating such an amazingly useful explaination! god bless you<3
mechaW999's avatar
aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand I'm marking this.
thank you for making this.
Gray1251's avatar
6.
No one even blame me. What a shame. D:
amygdalon's avatar
nice piece of art ...
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