Social Networking as a Creative Media Specialist

When I first began my artistic networking as a young artist several years ago, it kickstarted a calling that has brought me to formally pursue a career in the creative sector. Moreso than simply a means of communication; social networking is first and foremost a universal market space for media consumption.

After generating enough interest to build a relatively minor audience; I opened services and commissions – and to my own surprise, people were interested. Although the side income was still relatively sparse, reaching out onto a media platform actively changed my role from just “artist” to “paid artist.”

My own experience is reflected by other studies, such as a 2017 report by PwC’s Strategy – revealing that the growth in digital content has led to the “emergence of a cultural renaissance” – promoting growth in digital creative sectors. Furthermore, there has been an increased consumption of both traditional and digital creative media, “almost entirely due to the internet,” with more time dedicated to the industry, according to the same report. Australia is a particularly special case; with an annual increase of 11% of average hours spent consuming media between 2011 and 2013.

Whilst it is a common misconception that consumers favour traditional art, sales of digital art reveal quite the opposite; with emerging artists reaping the benefits. The trending growth of creative occupations, according to Professors such as Stuart Cunningham, is being propelled by the wider digitalisation of creative economic sectors: “Australia’s creative services are mainstream, thoroughly embedded across the economy, and growing rapidly.” It’s quite obvious that the key to successful digital sales on content is a proactive, engaging social media presence.

So, how exactly does one go about creative social networking?

Broadening connections to the likes of industry professional (whilst not necessarily contributing to a potential income) is one of the foundations for successful networking. Whilst a reply isn’t guaranteed, there is potential for genuine conversations about industry and its standards. Reaching out into the realm of professionals means being exposed to new standards; new techniques.

Michael Cuffe lectures on the foundations of an online artistic career and how to hone effective social media techniques:

To summarise:

  • Self-promotion is essential to successful social media networking.
  • Market to your targeted demographic.
  • Give a little, get a little. Provide attention to receive it.

Other benefits of social media include exposure to new influences; new techniques. Frans Johansson in The Medici Effect writes that “when you step into an intersection of fields, disciplines, or cultures, you can combine existing concepts into a large number of extraordinary new ideas.” The idea of collaboration arises; as many industry professionals are required to engage in cross-disciplinary partnerships for projects. Mark McGuinness writes that a refined, professional account is a “happy hunting ground” for potential collaborators on future projects.

As the digitization of creative media continues to expand, the application of these techniques become increasingly relevant to emerging artists. Social media, first and foremost, is one of the most useful tools available to creative media specialists when it comes to promotion and exchange of content.

Further reading:

Digital creative industries claim a growing share of the Australian economy

Content democratization: How the Internet is fueling the growth of creative economies

Image references:

Header retrieved from http://ivent.com.au/ 

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Data: the Artform

The idea that art is separate, distant from its mathematical and scientific counterparts is a myth that is being readily disputed by new radicals in the creative industry, responding to an increasingly data-saturated culture (Urist, 2015). These artists unify creative mediums with technology – using everything from self-tracking apps and their application in pieces to the reappropriation of information to form increasing abstract data and associated concepts (Grugier, 2016).

Any available data can be repurposed into artistic concepts; images, sounds, objects. Figures can be collected from databases, raw data, search engine data, statistics, and calculations from geographical, political, climatic and financial sources (Grugier, 2016).

Similar to political pieces, David McCandless transforms data such as military spending budgets to simplistic and conspicuous diagrams – an extension beyond “reducing human beings to numbers,” but more so “achieving greater awareness of complex matters in a modern world,” (Urist, 2015), in this case, allusions to the rampant military-industrial complex manifesting in higher powers (namely the United States).

Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2010/apr/01/information-is-beautiful-military-spending

image3

Matt Willey, 2060 Poster. Produced to show the impact of human activity and subsequent destruction of the Amazon rainforest. Retrieved from https://techcrunch.com/2016/05/08/the-digital-age-of-data-art/

Art along this vein is more than visually communicating data, it’s confronting the uncertain – the morally grey areas of finance, military matters and politics.

References:

Grugier, M. (2016) The Digital Age of Data Art. Retrieved from https://techcrunch.com/2016/05/08/the-digital-age-of-data-art/

McCandless, D. (2010) Information is beautiful: war games. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2010/apr/01/information-is-beautiful-military-spending

Urist, J. (2015) From Paint to Pixels. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2015/05/the-rise-of-the-data-artist/392399/

Preparation for work in the Creative Media Industry

As an artist, having a portfolio is one of the key elements of approaching a job offer / potential interview, with most of your skills as an artist measured by its content. A strong portfolio should encompass the most refined of your completed work, representative of potential for growth, proved abilities and should cater to the area of creativity being applied for – it’s no use showing photography when someone specialises in abstract art (JMC Academy). Whilst it is tempting to show off, you should prioritise strategically appealing to the employer demographic over showing off all your range of skills as an artist. When exhibiting a creative folio, The Creative Group at HOW recommends analyzing the prospective employer; their needs and objectives, before exhibiting your work. Are there certain aspects of the project that are particularly relevant; or significant? Ruth Bridgstock writes that students should have a solidified portfolio by the time graduation rolls around.

Strengthening your online presence as an artist is particularly useful for attracting attention to your content. Personalised projects, blogs, content all demonstrate passion for your career and discipline. Social media is a reservoir of potential conversations – an effective method of achieving and maintaining connections, a placeto “find and be found,” and a prime way to establish and share current work, the Creative Group writes. People are being hired entirely because of their online content.

But how does one get others to notice their online content?

Author Buchanan recommends a proactive networking approach when it comes to post-graduation career options. Getting in touch with old tutors, compiling a list of notable industry professionals and their contact details, attending industry events and contacting local career centres are “essential” for the likes of a post-graduate. This approach is useful for researching people and companies before an interview, and can be used to demonstrate knowledge about the industry.

Overall, some of the most essential preparation work for the creative industry begins with a well-structured portfolio, catered to your potential employer, but is not necessarily the solid foundation of getting a job. Work in the creative industry requires a proactive, enthusiastic approach to connecting with employers; with networking and research as its substance.

Further Reading:

How to Get a Job In the Creative Industry.

How to Present Your Creative Portfolio.

Image References:

Header retrieved from http://www.accesstomusic.co.uk/news_article_creative-media-course-in-bristol-267 

  1. Retrieved from https://www.shutterstock.com/video/clip-13126988-stock-footage-kid-boy-thinking-animation.html 

Social Media & Growth as an Artist

Social media is perhaps what first motivated me to really pursue my art – as a budding 14 year with little to no artistic talent, reaching out on an artistic platform is probably what really set me on an improvement journey. Prior to my online presence, I was quite stagnant with my art. I was drawing the same thing; same character; with no exploration into new techniques or expanding my horizons.

With my first account, I not only reached like-minded creatives, I discovered an audience, a community, and my first clients! Although my commissioners were sparse, I got an excerpts of being a freelance artist and build communication skills and relationships. Now, at 18, although still infrequent, I receive monthly commissions and get a little bit of pocket money on the side.
Reaching out meant I was exposed to new inspirations, new artistic styles and techniques. I learned to improve by setting myself against other people’s standards and appropriating their methods to progress artistically. Rather than remaining static, my expanded network led me to alternate platforms, artistic programs – a whole host of content.

Networking with others in your ‘niche’ can also act as a means of gathering feedback, and constructive criticisms on your work is one of the most definitive ways to improve. For me, I found that it acted as an alternative form of communication; I found myself sharing other people’s work, appreciating the industry, “spreading the love.” By giving a little to other people I eventually got a lot back – friendships and mutuals. Moreso than just a shared skill for art, I found people with similar passions and interests.

Broadening my connections to the likes of industry professionals helped in untold ways – and even though I wasn’t directly interacting with them, I was getting an insight into the industry and its standards. The potential for genuine conversations about industry and advice is there (and one we’re going to have to take in any case).

The moral of the story I’ve found is that whilst we can so easily get caught up in social media, it’s a valuable tool for meeting new people and improving yourself both as an artist and a person.

Income & Art: Freelancing

When I ended up telling my uncle, a successful and established businessman, that I was finally deciding to pursue my passion for art and study animation his first response was to lighten the discussion with a joke.

“What did the Science major say to the Arts major? ‘I’ll have fries with that.’”

I laughed at first, of course, but looking back it was a little disheartening. As artists, we can expect an income that is no less than sporadic, especially those that go on to freelance and rely on commission-based pay. Being a full-time freelancer is no easy task; but I can draw more than a few comparisons to starting a small business.

The road to preserving artistic freedom is more complicated than a simple freelancing job. Although few can achieve being entirely successful through their own content, it’s a goal that we can aim for.

So; what alternatives are available for struggling artists?

Whilst an artist may primarily be reliant on a part-time or full-time job to maintain a continual salary, the creation of personalised art and other projects may also be able to help one stay afloat financially. Creating such content and allowing online access is an optimal method to maintaining artistic freedom and still making some money off of it.

Patreon is an option for both freelance and professional creators to earn ongoing revenue straight from their fanbase. Options include monthly or per content release – either option useful depending on the nature of your content. Patrons receive access to unseen, exclusive content on your behalf and you receive an continual source of revenue.

Ko-Fi; a very similar site, is a less invasive alternative to Patreon. It retains similarities (namely the payment method and relatively small but numerous proceeds towards content) but remains easily accessible through substitute social media sites due to its “button” feature, which links to a donation page. Rather than requiring a primary account, Ko-Fi allows anonymous donations to content creators with the sole prior requirement being a PayPal account.

However, content production is worth nothing without a demographic. Darek Zabrocki, a concept artist, recognises the competitive nature of the freelancing industry and the need to promote oneself in a creative environment:

Right now, the internet is your most powerful weapon for promoting yourself, so use it to its limits…Promote yourself on forums, post your works on art-related websites, share other people’s works, and be social. In short, be everywhere. Someone will finally notice you.”

As discussed in my previous blog post, networking is essential for the transition into a freelance artist.

However difficult the transition may be, the creative industry is malleable – and so are our skills as artists. Collaborative projects require a variety of talents and are rarely restricted to a singular discipline. As desire for entertainment grows, so do our job possibilities.

Further reading:

What is Patreon?

How to Be a Successful Freelance Artist or Designer

Asset Production Pipeline

For my Foundations of 3D Graphics class, we were tasked with creating an asset for a video game platform. Rather than opting for an organic asset, we were required to adhere to something non-organic, perhaps a spaceship, or weapon. An important point to consider are the constraints of video game engines, primarily the total polygon count of the model.

During the preliminary stages of this assignment, I decided that I wanted to create headgear, particularly something like the old diver’s helmets of the 20th century.

My first attempts at modelling were…unsuccessful, to say the least. I found that the reference images were far too complex for my relatively beginners skills. The related tutorials I researched (on helmet designs) weren’t too informative in terms of how to construct the diving helmet. Although I found that you can construct the “cages” around the openings using splines… (detailed in a brief tutorial here), the main method of construction the tutorials used was relying on symmetry, which is obviously a problem with such an asymmetrical design.

By this point, a week or two in, I began searching for an easier alternative to the complex helmet. I decided to settle for a fire hydrant, which, although relatively simplistic, if done well, will meet the requirements of the task.

Variations on fire hydrant designs means I could potentially add other elements, such as a chain or extra bolts, like the reference pictures detailed below.

I eventually settled with this reference image, which was imported as an image plane to directly model from:

542296-fire-hydrant-with-clipping-path-stock-photo

Although I originally had trouble modelling the fire hydrant by trying to constraint the main body to a single polygon, I eventually combined several different polygons and attached them to form a single polygon before exporting the UVs.
The bolts were originally constructed separately before merging them with the main body using the same method.

When creating the chain, I used multiple copies of a modified Torus primitive, rotated, and attached to form a long chain. By using a path deform modifier in combination with a line spline, I was able to warp the chain around the hydrant protrusions to create the product below:

yewp

In terms of UV mapping, it was a relatively straight forward process, although due to increasing time constraints I had to use the automated functions of the UV editor, namely the auto-resize (resized the UVs in relation to their size on the model) and auto-packing (which packed the UVs automatically).

i qwant to die

Unfortunately during the baking process, I misinterpreted the tutorial, which required a normal map to be baked when using a combination of both a high and low poly model. Because my model was already relatively low-poly, this baking process was unnecessary, and I wasted time trying to find the error in the program.

After realising all I needed was an ID map, I went straight to texturing in Quixel!

Beginnings of the texturing process.

I definitely wanted to go with the traditional red fire hydrant motif . First starting with base materials, I then went in with secondary materials for more visual interest. Rather than leaving the main body flat, I chose to include an additional rough metallic map to add a bit of wear and character to the asset.

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screen04After a quick export using Quixel’s animation feature, I put together a short video in Adobe Premiere!

This assignment presented a new challenge in my animation journey. I often found I had to resist the urge to diligently follow provided tutorials and improvise on my own account, particularly during the modelling stages. My progression from the previous assessment to this one was ultimately quite a positive transition, especially in terms of time management and general ease, having been previously acquainted with the program. The introduction to the Quixel Suite might just have been my favourite experience in this module thus far! Texturing was inevitably made easier, and the high level of customisation (now with the addition of different maps) meant that the final product looked much better than I originally expected.

Thanks for a great first tri, guys!

Pirate’s Gold: Rendering, Compositing, Video Editing (The Finale)

Rendering

I had more than a little difficulty rendering this animation, and the entire process likely took almost two days.
My first attempt at rendering, which was left overnight, had not finished by morning – not due to any complications with the render set-up, but rather, the fact that the laptop I was borrowing went to sleep and had no background processes running. Alright, no biggie. I can render it at the campus whilst I’m staying there during the day.
…Wrong? It rendered quickly enough, in approximately 2.5 hours, whilst I did some background work, but with terrible quality.

Less than appealing. Alright, moving onto round three. I tweaked the settings so that the rendered animation would have a far higher quality. Even after leaving it to render overnight (high quality obviously means a longer rendering time) I returned to find a video with the exact same quality as my previous attempts.

A little disheartening, obviously, but I had made preparations with my friend to use their computer (which had already had the Autodesk program files installed) to render my animation overnight. And…the exact same result. It was at this point I realised I had been rendering the files into the wrong format – which explained the terrible quality.
With less than a day to turn in the assessment and time running out, I made a last ditch attempt to do a QuickSilver render. Although the quality will undoubtedly lessen, with my options narrowing, I didn’t really have much of a choice.

Because I needed to change the lighting, I went with a relatively bright skylight with an orange tint – mainly to mimic a sunset.

Compositing / Editing

Decided to head over to Adobe Premiere for the video editing effects.

In terms of compositing, in order to add authenticity to the video (since it is still meant to be an advertisement) I added an overlay, as if the animation was made for an android app. The title, “Pirate’s Gold,” was also implemented in a similar fashion, using a visual overlay.

nice

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Even though I had planned to investigate After Effects CC and further enhance the assignment, my issues with the rendering put off valuable time. I decided it was more practical to work with what the tutorial provided me with rather than risking not submitting the files on time. Besides, the new orange lighting looks great as it is – no real need to edit it further.

The audio piece I chose was simply a remix of the traditional “Pirates of the Caribbean” theme by Hans Zimmer, in a less serious, light-hearted tone by Raz Alon. Add some generic punch sound affects to enhance the action and we’re just about set to export!

Reflection

Although the experience was full of obstacles, overcoming them and gaining texturing, mapping, modelling and editing experience was fulfilling. Whilst reaffirming the fundamentals of a production pipeline I gained more insight into the 3D animation industry itself, alongside the processes and programs used to create everything from feature length films to advertisements. As this project is closing, I am eager for the freedom in my next assignment, if a bit apprehensive. I hope this experience helps to reduce my error count in future endeavor.