A very intelligent man once said,
The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources.
That person was Albert Einstein.
Recently, I received a email from a colleague who very kindly, complimented my work. He then went on to write:
I don’t know the status quo between fellow renderers, but if it is anything like the architectural community then there is a free flow of information and knowledge tempered by the fact that our peers and friends are our competitors. If you wouldn’t mind talking to someone who is a few years your junior, then please feel free to email me.
First, let me add by saying that “a free flow of information” and it being “tempered” are two, totally different concepts. You cannot have a “free flow” of information if it’s being limited in the first place.
When I started out as a graphics artist, I read all the books, online tutorials, and forums that I could find. I taught myself everything because I couldn’t afford several thousands of dollars in classes at the time. The information that existed out on the web was fairly limited. As I joined forums, I would start asking questions of other artists whose work I admired – hoping that they would part with a morsel of their techniques so that I could learn from them.
More often than not, I was met with a flat-out refusal. Artists simply didn’t reply. A step up from that were the people who replied, but for one reason or another didn’t fully explain how or what they did to achieve an image. A good portion of their lack of explanation I blame on them not being able to clearly communicate to another person. These artists that I’d admire could go through the process, but in order to discuss their methods, I found that they often lacked the “socialization tools” to break an idea or technique down into simpler terms.
This brings me to my second Albert Einstein quote (which has often been misquoted and paraphrased):
It can scarcely be denied that the supreme goal of all theory is to make the irreducible basic elements as simple and as few as possible without having to surrender the adequate representation of a single datum of experience.
In other words, try to keep things as simple as possible. The majority of people in this world struggle with breaking down complex ideas into their step-by-step components.
I’d like to add another point to some artists’ perceived “lack of assistance” in tutoring others. Some people are simply busy, or they might even be lazy. However, time and experience has taught me that if someone’s work is really good, then there’s probably a good chance that they are simply very busy.
Another point worth mentioning is that other artists may not want to get involved with your problems. On many occasions, I’ve encountered situations in which you start helping someone out, and you’ll find yourself spending weeks trying to solve somebody else’s problem that wasn’t even your own to begin with. Could you blame someone for not wanting to help you out? I’m sure that most people have much better things to do with their free time.
Last but not least is competition. Some view competition as healthy, and others view it negatively. The fact is that most of us struggle in this world. Not everyone is out to become rich, or if they are – they’re often struggling to even get to that level in the first place. Greed aside, there are those of us whom simply want to put food on our tables and eventually retire some day. All that we ask for is that we try to enjoy our jobs, and that we try to live comfortably within our means.
If I told you that “I knew the secret to becoming rich overnight”, would you want to know? Of course you would.
If I said, “I know of a method to press a button and out pops a remarkable piece of art instantly”, would you want to know that too? Yes.
How about, “my restaurant has a signature dish that people come to try from all around the world.” Would you want to know that recipe? The better question is, “would I be willing to share my recipe to you?” If I give you the recipe, than others will be able to quickly reproduce that dish, and I will probably harm my own livelihood. I’m not trying to be a “greedy” by not sharing, but rather I’m trying to protect myself and business from falling apart. Everything I worked towards revolves around this one dish, and to give it away would be suicide.
There’s a concept that dates back to the time of early man, in which a person learns over a period of time the techniques used to get to a certain point of expertise. It’s called an apprenticeship. A person simply doesn’t pick up a hammer one day and declares themselves a blacksmith the next. Does a master blacksmith know some secret techniques to achieve certain results? Yes, a master probably does.
The same concept of apprenticeship applies to almost every creative field. A person starting out should probably learn the underlying techniques to get from Point A to Point B. This in turn gives them a better understanding of the entire process, and will help them appreciate the beauty and simplicity of these shortcuts later on. It also gives the apprentice the tools needed to help solve other issues instead of just relying on this “one trick pony.”
In today’s world, a lot of people think they are entitled to a handout. In part, I blame this on impatience and shorter attention spans. Some people simply don’t want to go through all of the hard work to get to the end result. However, I had to struggle all of these years through having to teach myself to get to where I’m currently at, so why shouldn’t you? Isn’t that only fair?
There is no such thing as a complete “free flow of information.” As long as there are people in this world, this philosophical concept will never truly exist. The sharing of ideas and techniques are more representative of a faucet that has been intentionally left partially open to drain.