Andrew Serong

A hobby blog. Expect cats.

A Month of Monsters

March 10, 2011

Tonight I uploaded the final monster for my Month of Monsters project I did last year. The resting place for this project is a little tumblr page which you can find over here.

It's been fun revisiting these drawings six months on. I'm not sure now how long I think it's worthwhile to maintain a project of drawing or writing something to the point of completion, every day. There's a certain level of discipline and abstraction to the task that I really quite like, but at the same time I think the idea misses something quite elemental about creativity for me. I like working on something, stopping half-way, changing my mind, going back, reworking something, and allowing whatever it is I'm working on to grow, almost of its own accord.

I certainly find that with writing. It's almost like I'm putting words down on the page to get out the incorrect words, so that I can find the right ones when I'm editing. Which, funnily enough, I think is the same with animation.

I'm not an illustrator, and I haven't been trained as such, but I do so love to draw. I'm working on a 30-second animation at the moment, and I'm restricting myself to working in a cel-style method. I'm painting each cel as a separate layer in Photoshop, then compositing in After Effects. But I'm going through the traditional stages... first creating a pencil test of a scene, next doing the clean-up, and refining the lines, then finally on to ink & paint.

The process of cleaning up the rough pencil test is the same as what I love about writing. The initial pencil tests are rubbish, but the ideas are forming, and I can gauge what is and isn't working. It's the next stage where I get to pick a specific line, and the effect is the illusion that I can draw much better than I can. It's really just tracing something incorrect, and fixing it. Or to put it differently, it's searching for something, in the moment. I think this is the same with songwriting, when you keep agonising over a chord progression, trying to get the rhythm right. It's the same when practicing a monologue, when you return to the beginning to find that freshness all over again, yet hitting the key words you found last time.

I suppose the idea of drawing something different each day is to experience that return, that sense of starting from scratch, leaving behind the work of yesterday, and building it anew.

But ultimately, this daily practice is something you want to apply to a larger work. A work which benefits from that attention to detail, and process of refining. Of crafting a story-shape, of whittling down a song-structure, of perfecting a sequence of physical actions in a scene.

Drawing a monster a day, or writing a novel in a month, these challenges help liberate the mind from a desire to do good, or a desire to serve an aesthetic goal, and instead serve one entirely arbitrary. And thanks to its arbitrariness, be absolved of any sense of pressure, expectation, guilt, or shame, at level of progress, or quality of work.

That's a very fine thing to experience, and a lovely hobby to be had, indeed. But now, I'm moving on to my longer term projects (by that I mean, things which take longer than a day to complete), with the knowledge that if I get lost, I can always return to a project like the Monster a Day again, making something complete once a day, if just to get back in the practice.

Besides, it's a whole heap of fun.

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