100 things you can do to improve your work.

Last Saturday, Tommy Arnold gave a talk here in Vancouver about how he approaches his work doing book covers.  One of the things he talked about a lot was how to use and look at inspiration.

Tommy and I both have a HUGE folder of inspiration work, divided in sub-folders by artist name.  I literally have 30,000+ images on my iPad of work that I have found inspiring.  It was fun to collect, but I have a confession to make - except when I'm showing a friend an artist they haven't heard of, it is too unwieldy to really get a lot of value from.  At least for me, it is impossible to synthesize 30,000 paintings into an actionable direction.

Tommy's suggestion was to make a folder with 100 images.  No more - any time you find something new that inspires you, you have to delete one of the old ones.  Just 100 images that show elements of who you want to be as you improve.

Being me, I added a few more rules :)

  1. As much as possible, published/used work.  Personal sketches are great, and should not be discounted, but this should be the kind of work you want to get *paid* for.
  2. No more than 5 images per artist.  You don't want to be a cheap copy of Frazetta, or Glenn Keane, or Feng Zhu.  One of the best ways to make sure that doesn't happen is to vary up your influences.
  3. My criteria were:
    1. Narrative
    2. Design
    3. Technique
    4. Emotional Resonance
  4. For every image in the 100, I should be able to say 'why' it was included.  No "Because I liked it!" images, but actual reasons.

I'm in the process of creating my folder of 100 images now.  I pretty quickly found 100 things, but some of them are still quite weak - I expect it to shake down into a stronger, more coherent list shortly.

I set my computer's desktop background to cycle through these paintings every 5 minutes, so I will constantly be shown *something* from the list that I know I want to work on.  I'm really hoping that it stays a "breathing" thing, constantly changing and growing as I am exposed to more artwork, and as I solve problems and find new things I need to focus on.

What do you think?  Would this help you focus on where you want to go, and maybe to gauge where you are in relation to where you want to be?  Thanks for reading and sharing!