Friday, April 10, 2009

Ninja Mountain Podcast #11 - Ninjas gone WILD

Welcome to episode 11 of the Ninja Mountain Podcast! This week you'll delight in discussion, debate, dialogue and diatribe. We can't think of anything you'd rather do with an hour and a half of your precious time than listen to Andy, Scott, Jon, Patrick and Jeremy ramble on about artiness - can you?

And we're totally rockin' the iTunes

Show notes:

Illustration Magazine
Illustration Magazine's Blog
What is Lager?
Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud
Comics and Sequential Art by Will Eisner
Graphic Storytelling & Visual Narrative


Jan said...


All morning I was thinking "What did I forget?!"

Of course - to check if new NM episode was out! And it was!


Jon said...

I would like to offer a preemptive apology for TALKING SO DAMNED MUCH!

Jan said...

Jon, don't worry, you're a funny guy. I liked that story about drawing pirates - it was just so true, I think "What the hell am I doing?" quite often. And you don't like Cintiq! that's a big plus.

Anyway, a very good episode. I'm glad Patrick is back with his killer one-liners ;)

Joe Slucher said...

Not done listening yet but best episode for me yet. I really needed to hear that bit about when you're working and the creativity isn't there and you need to switch things up or get up for a moment. Wish I'd heard it around Wednesday.

Ninja Mountain said...

I do believe I managed to talk FAR more than you, Jon.
I think we were in a competition to see who could be hoarser at the end of the episode.
I'm still gargling salt water as I type this...;)

I think someone edited out my half-hour dissertation on how to bake the perfect pan of brownies...


Ninja Mountain said...

Jan - thanks for the compliment. My one-liners need a break every now and then I guess... :)

Joe - glad to be of help! Now go take a walk around the block!

Jon and Jer - don't worry about talking too much. You guys were En Fuego!

Also - I'm the first person to comment on this thread who's name doesn't start with "J". That's just weird.


(or Jatrick?)

thedarkcloak said...

mmm... Ninja Brownies...

will that be a bonus episode?

Leif Peng said...

Great episode! Very interesting hearing how you guys manage your schedules... quite a bit better than I do my own, I'm embarrassed to admit - but hey, some excellent advice which i may even heed ;^)

The discussion on what makes a good illustration (with its sidebar into mid-20th century illustration) was especially interesting to me. I'm one of those illustrators who still works in the 'old' mainstream of general circulation magazines and you guys, I think, were absolutely correct: fantasy/comics/gaming really is the new mainstream for literal realism. I often look at what you guys, as a niche industry, are doing with some envy - you're drawing and painting really cool monsters etc. in the classic mid-20th century style I love so much.

I sure hope Patrick's theory, or feeling, that photography may at last be ending its 50 - year run as the preferred visual medium of art directors... and that illustration - classical illustration - may yet make a resurgence, is correct.

*Also just want to say how refreshing Patrick's attitude is about the nature of his work - seeing himself less as 'an artist' and more as a storyteller rings true to me, although I think of myself as a visual problem-solver: my client needs a visual solution to get their message across... that's where I come in.

All of you seem to really grasp this concept well, but I notice Patrick has come back around to reinforce it time and again in these podcasts, and I really appreciate that. A lot of illustrators today seem to miss this point.

Again, great work, guys! Keep 'em coming!

Cacodaemonia said...

YES. COFFEE. The most important part of the day.

Glad to have you back, Patrick. I'm the same with you, about being most creative at night. Unfortunately, I don't often get to work much in the evening.

I really enjoyed the discussion about managing your time each day. Lately I've been feeling like I spend too much time doing non-drawing things, but I'm quite reassured after hearing that you all have to devote a bit of time to email, networking, checking forums, and such. The Internet, she is a demanding mistress. But really, that "Out Side" place isn't so bad! I walk my dogs there every day, and don't usually almost get run over by cars. ;P

I find that I like to listen to the show when I'm working - it really inspires and motivates me! Thanks again guys! <3

Ninja Mountain said...

Leif - thanks for all the kind words. That "storyteller" idea is a philosophy I've had almost since I started illustrating, and it's something I think about a lot.

And I think your idea about being a problem-solver can be quite apt as well, not only with getting just the right image, but where layout and adding text elements is concerned. Good point.

Thanks for your feedback!

Ninja Mountain said...

Caco - glad to be back, thanks!!

I never got a chance to mention during the show, but unlike the other guys I REALLY HATE COFFEE! So my drug of choice in the morning is diet soda (Diet Dr. Pepper or Coke Zero). It hasn't rotted my insides yet, and I suspect it can't be half as bad for me as coffee. But really I just don't like coffee flavor, even in chocolate or desserts. :^P


Ninja Mountain said...


In truth, my daily ritual makes use of decaffeinated coffee. I hate the very idea of caffeine addiction, but enjoy the taste of a cuppa. :)

Have to agree with Patrick that I do see myself more as a storyteller. I often have to tell myself, " You're not here to prove that you can draw and paint, Jeremy. Tell the story!"

As an example of this philosophy...

Here's a thought I came across in a Frazetta book...
I'm paraphrasing based on my understanding of the statement...
Sometimes technique has to suffer in the pursuit of storytelling. The technique you favor for its beautiful results may be inappropriate to the message of the image. (ie. Sometimes, ugliness of technique is the answer).

Thank, God, 'cuz sometimes my technique IS downright homely...LOL.

Daniel Hardesty said...

GREAT podcast gentlemen, and a great way to start the week after the Easter holiday!! I apologize ahead of time for the long post ahead, but this edition really has me chomping at the bit to dialogue more about the chat that all of you had this time.

It was really quite fascinating and engaging to hear the discussion concerning illustration and what makes an illustrator an illustrator. Really good stuff! The comment that really got me thinking was Patrick’s observation that illustrators are really entertainers. Being an illustrator, and being one who sub-consciously has tried to figure this principle out, I’ve never been able to articulate it that succinctly. It was refreshing to hear this comment and the following, exciting to be sitting at my desk here on Monday morning scribbling notes on post-it sheets. LOL! I have been enlightened!

It did bring up a few observations and questions for me, some of which are part of an ongoing conversation that I’ve had with one of my co-workers and fellow artists.

Patrick stated that illustrators are more than just an artist in a utilitarian sense, they are entertainers and must think as entertainers. This involves things outside the “art” realm. Not just composition, technique, materials, etc., but other topics such as philosophy, science, psychology, etc. All of these topics are things that someone like a movie director or even a writer might think of. However, for some reason the artist, specifically illustrators, are not often regarded as having the same knowledge base or capable of the same creative power as someone like a movie director or writer, at least in some of my experience. I don’t bring this up to whine…okay, maybe a bit, LOL…but more so to flesh out the point that maybe this is why sometimes tension, conflict, and misunderstanding can develop between those who are giving the work and those who are actually doing the work. There’s not a basic understanding that the illustrator is pulling on all of these things from his/her own personal knowledge and experience to deliver the product, not just “doodling”. The creative process in its entirety and in this vein is not something that the average art director or the person calling the shots would ever even think about, and is key! And no Jon, I don’t think you’re being a “twat” by bringing up that this should be basic understanding. Unfortunately, I think that many problems exist because the “powers that be” don’t have this knowledge and illustrators are forced to work around and through this to create, which often is stifling and unpleasant. Granted, the work needs to get done and be sold, so maybe I should just shut up and get to work, eh? ☺

Another point I wanted ask about concerned the lack of information the artist has at times because of not being involved in the entire conversation surrounding a particular job. I think one of you guys stated it as “not being part of the contextual conversation” (Jeremy?). How do you deal with that? I’m assuming it happens on a regular basis and I’m wondering how far you guys go to push back, insert your own opinions and experience (heh heh…based on my previous paragraph), or do you just remember that they’re paying the bill, buckle down, and just paint the black dragon about to attack “not quite so scary” because of what the client’s 7 yr. old daughter said one night at the dinner table?

Again, thanks for indulging me with this long post. I could very well be just exhibiting my inexperience and bias through the whole thing and if so just go ahead feel free to correct my rant and/or ignore it. The conversation you had was awesome and has me really thinking and excited about the whole creative process. And if you’ve made it this far, I appreciate you taking up your valuable “internet” time for my ramblings!


Jon said...

I do believe it was I muttering on about contextualisation, and how very often in our little niche of gaming art (and similar) we often don't get any say in that part of the process.

Speaking for myself I think you fairly quickly get a handle on which jobs are a negotiated creative processes and in which ones you are following orders.

Its very rare in our field to get to do much design work where we can influence the balance of text to image, or deal with the "politics of imagery" if you will.

However, that said, part of being successful is in some ways being able to match and present your own ideas to those that the client finds relevant. That can go beyond merely doing as you're instructed, but doesn't go beyond your remit.

A classic example of this would be in the Games Workshop IP of Warhammer 40k, which a number of us on Ninja Mountain dealt with fairly regularly with the Sabertooth Collectible Card Games (as well as work for The Black Library). Very often you can pose (for example) a space marine however you like within the limits of his armour. You can present multiple ideas for viewpoints and particulars of a given narrative that fits the brief. You cannot and indeed must not however redesign his equipment - that's a fool's errand, and would do nothing but show you didn't understand the gig.

So much like finding the interest in things, like we spoke about last week, there's a skill in finding the level of the gig, its boundaries, and pitching your involvement in the correct way to satisfy yourself and the client. Always with the emphasis on the client once you have agreed to the gig. If following tight instruction, or having more input at the baseline creative stages are very significant to you then you need to pick your gigs accordingly.

Of course that's the ideal. Some jobs do involve following what we might regard as silly instruction. But like you say - the boss is paying the bill, so you knuckle down. Sometimes that can be because you're working for a "civillian", untrained art director who just has no clue about visuals, and is deferring to their other half/child/dog. Other times you're working for companies who art direct by committee, and you have no access to discussion with that committee. Other (very important) times the art director actually knows far better than we the illustrator and we're just not seeing the whole picture, or are mistaking an opportunity to learn something for overly tight art or strange direction.

To my mind this a core place where it is important to remember our role in the process as illustrators. Sometimes we are being hired for a wider creative input, sometimes just to draw the described scene as directly as possible. On occasions extra input is welcomed, and providing such sets us apart as a forthcoming creative. Sometimes it just isn't our remit on that given job and we need to shut up and get it done as per the brief, without building up our part. Get that wrong and we can become a time-sink and even a liability to an AD.

Its very rare to be hired purely as "an Artist" if you catch my meaning. You very rarely just get to do what you want and get paid for it. It can happen, and some people like it, some don't. But its amazing to me how many beginner illustrators I speak to who expect this rather extraordinary situation to be the norm.

As mentioned this is all pretty specific to our little niche. Other fields come with a variety of other freedoms and restrictions, and the few different fields I've personally worked in require even more rambling, and no one wants that!

higherdepths said...

Speaking of time management, I use Mozilla Sunbird, I recommend trying it out for calendar and notification uses, I've managed to keep a much better overview of my jobs with it.

Purdy said...

Oh, I was meant to thank Andy for the wonderful sign out impression he did of me. Infact he did it better than I ever could! :)
A great podcast guys, sorry I couldn't be there at the end. :)

ATOM said...

Thanks again guys, I loved it!

P.J. Magalhães said...

One of the best ones yet. I have had the biggest issues with time management and what i finally discovered is that you have to be involved in the process of actually finding out what works and what doesn't instead of hoping to stumble upon it. More important than that, i found that once you have a day that really worked you write down somewhere what you did, so that on days you cannot figure out what is going wrong you can refer back to that.

I have been coming up with a short list of things i do that are really effective for me.

It was also great that you guys touched on health because i always thought it was sad that people relied on 'drugs' (coffee, energy drinks etc) to get them through and now, after art school, i am having to try to lose weight AND ween myself off coffee. :( Very important to stay on top of these things.

Thanks again guys.

Patrick said...

Hey, glad you liked it. I do remember that was a pretty good episode. I like it when Jon talks a lot... ;) Thanks for commenting!