Show Your Work! – part 3

Share something small every day

Send out a daily dispatch

Share something every day, based on where you are in your process. It shows people that you’re alive and producing work on a regular basis, and complements a portfolio (especially a sparse one).
The other benefit from the daily digest is the quantity of work – 90% of output is junk; accept that and make enough that it doesn’t matter.

“One day at a time […] is simple but it isn’t easy: out requires incredible support and fastidious structuring”

Russell Brand

The “so what?” test

Be open; share unfinished work, finished work, upcoming events – not personal stuff. Share because it can help or entertain (preferably both). Every time you share something, ask what it contributes – why should anyone care?

“Post as though everyone who can read it has the power to fire you.”

Lauren Cerand

Turn your flow into stock

Flow is your daily digest – posts, tweets and daily updates.
Stock is durable content – stuff that’s still relevant or interesting months or years later.
The balance is to maintain flow, while building stock. The best way to generate stock is to collect, organise and expand on your flow. Revisit old ideas to find patterns (in ideas as well as behaviour), and turn those into larger works.

Build a good (domain) name

Depending on other people’s services is always a calculated risk. A personal website and domain gives you a stable base that won’t disappear overnight.
Blogs turn flow into stock – they build up into a professional autobiography, documenting your development across years.

Composition 101

I’ve been reviewing my fundamentals recently, which led me to digging out some videos on composition. While I’m under no illusion that some of them are pitched at a very low level, practice is always worthwhile, though, so I knocked out a few examples to help cement my understanding.

 Basic concepts


  • The focal point is positioned in the centre
  • One point perspective directs the eye to the focal point
  • Keeping the upper region simple enables the eye to move freely
  • Foreground elements block in the shot and direct the eye

Rule of thirds

  • The horizon line often correlates with one of the horizontal thirds
  • The eye will tend towards lines or intersections, so objects of interest should be placed on or near them
  • When blocking out areas, use the thirds to create a balanced composition

Background, midground, foreground

  • Each element supports the others, giving context, tension and narrative
  • Elements complement each other
  • Aerial/environmental perspective can play a significant part in this composition type

Focal point (contrast) and focal point (detail)

  • Focal points indicate the area of most importance in a painting
  • The eye goes to areas of highest contrast and fine detail


  • Symmetry indicates unity and balance
  • Asymmetry creates feelings of tension and unease
  • A tilted horizon line, off-centre or unbalanced subjects are discomforting

More advanced concepts


The arrangement of structured importance in an image.
Faces and hands usually come top of the list, IIRC, but other elements can supersede them is you work it right. In these cases, the artist should downplay the face/hands as required.

Rhythm and movement

Position and spacing of objects to create a sense of movement.
The suggestion of literal movement (forces and overall eye movement through the piece). Repeated objects, subliminal lines.


Similar elements with different characteristics, lacking uniformity.
Natural variation between organic objects. Not a total difference (circles vs. triangles), but differences in size, rotation and proportion between similar objects.


A feeling of wholeness.
A harmony with the vision of an image and its elements. Everything in the scene feels like it belongs and supports the overall feeling of the picture. Items can be made dissonant on purpose (focal point?)


Even distributions within the image plane while retaining the necessary Hierarchy.
Non-focal elements should balance the composition.


Markings or edges creating strong directions.
Vertical lines suggest strength, structure, height. Man-made, powerful. Horizontal lines imply natural, landscape, horizon, calmness and stability. Diagonals indicate chaos, disquiet, movement and the unnatural.


Opposing ideas used together to add interest.
Contrast isn’t just to do with value, but can include edges (hard vs. soft/hidden), colour (warm vs. cool), shape (round vs. square), line (curved vs. straight), scale (small vs. large), detail (heavily detailed vs. lightly detailed), alignment (good vs. evil, or narrative contrast) and structure (simple vs. complex).


Show Your Work! – part 2

Think process not product

Take people behind the scenes

Artwork vs. art work
By using social media, an artist can share as much or as little with their audience as they like with no cost.

“By putting things out there, consistently, you can form a relationship with your customers. It allows then to see the person behind the products.” (It Will Be Exhilarating, Provost and Gerhardt, quoted in Show Your Work! pp38)

Become a documentarian of what you do

There are people who would be interested in what you do, if you present it in the right way.
In terms of building an audience, the process can more valuable than the product, and especially if your products aren’t readily shared. By taking the hidden and discarded bits of art work and making them visible, you can build a parallel body of work that functions as a development sketchbook.


  • Research
  • Reference
  • Drawings
  • Plans
  • Sketches
  • Interviews
  • Audio (playlists, notes to self, thoughts)
  • Photographs
  • Video (livestream, process videos)
  • Pinboards (Pinterest)
  • Journals
  • Drafts
  • Prototypes
  • Demos
  • Diagrams
  • Notes
  • Inspiration
  • Scrapbooks
  • Stories
  • Collections

Recommended reading

  • Art and Fear, Bayles and Orland
  • It will be Exhilarating, Provost and Gerhardt

Show Your Work – part 1

Show Your Work, by Austin Kleon

You don’t have to be  a genius

Find a scenius

“Lone genius” is a dangerous myth, actively detrimental to success. Being part of a community (a “scenius”) is far more valuable than going alone – sharing ideas freely creates more ideas and each contribution, however small, is worthwhile. Shared resources, networking and an “ecology of talent” will get you further than you’ll get alone.

Internet communities, blogs, email division lists, chat servers – all sceniuses (scenii?).

“Stop asking what others can do for us, and start asking what we can do for others.” (pp12)

Be an amateur

Amateur – an enthusiast who pursues their passion regardless of the potential for fame, money or carer.

Unconstrained by the need to perform, amateurs are free to experiment with new things, follow ideas and whims share, geek out and celebrate their passions. They aren’t afraid of looking foolish if something doesn’t work out because they love engaging in their passion. The hallmark of an amateur is ‘learning out loud’ – succeeding and failing publicly and unashamedly.

Find a scenius, look at what others are sharing and – more importantly – what they aren’t sharing, and look at how toy can fill that vacancy. Do what you love and people will come to you.

You can’t find your voice if you don’t use it

Your voice is an intrinsic part of how you think about the world, informing what medium you use and how you use it, but the only way to find your voice is to talk about the things you love and that inspire you and why.

“If your work isn’t online, it doesn’t exist.” (pp23)

If you want people to know who you are and what you do, speak up.

Read obituaries

One day, you will die.

Staying mindful of that unassailable fact keeps you focused on the importance of every single day. Kleon calls obituaries “near-death experiences for cowards”. Seeing the sum of a person’s life in print, thinking about death every morning, makes them want to go out and live.

Recommended reading:

  • Cognitive Surplus, Clay Shirkey
  • We Learn Nothing, Tim Kreider