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Hello everyone,

So for those who might have missed it, I started studying at university about 7 weeks ago and as the workload picks up I have had less and less time between school and freelance to do personal works to post. In just a few weeks I will start to take additional courses and this will turn up the time school demands by another notch.

So I will just shortly outline what I have decided to do, but any feedback etc you might have is as usual welcome.

Bi-Weekly Journals - is really fun to write, but to be honest it also takes a lot of time. I have to research and make notes, find images or make new ones to help illustrate my points and then compile it into a working text. So I have decided to discontinue it for now. It's a really fun thing to do, but right now I think I'd rather spend that time on other projects.

Spirit Project - has been developed in the shadows. This is another reason for the lack of new designs and illustration posts since I have been spending many hours planning and sketching. The project is intended to produce a complete 'World Encyclopedia', presenting the characters and creatures along with the locations they inhabit. It'll be full of 3/4 view maps, building cut away's and small storytelling illustrations and written stories. I also hope to be able to set up a Patreon Campaign for this project - I don't intend to get filthy rich, but every hour I can economically justify to spend extra on this pet project of mine right now will make a huge difference =]
More Fun - Spirit Project by CaconymDesign

Freelance - will continue. If you are interested in hiring me you can send me an email at However, please note that I will most likely be busy with other freelance obligations until the end of the year at the very least.

School - I love my new studies, as they continue to give valuable insight and knowledge that helps me get better as a designer and developer each and every day. Study time will not be decreased in any way or form, as this education is something I have been looking forward to participating in for over a year prior.

Sunday Funday- I will most likely try to take a few hours each week to myself to just draw or paint something, anything, with a very relaxed approach. I think this might be what will replace the bi-weekly Sunday journals. I will try to stream these sessions, feel free to follow me on Twitter @CaconymDraws for stream announcements. I would do it here on Deviantart, but unfortunately there doesn't seem to be any good ways to make brief announcements like that on here.

Thank you for your understanding! I know some of you have really been enjoying the bi-weekly content. You can still reach me on notes or in comments as usual =]

Have a great week!
I do get a lot of questions and interesting discussions going with you here on my journal posts. In this Journal I was thinking I should try to adress the more interesting ones and clarify my thoughts on issues such as Learning and fundamentals. Fundamentals, and to Learn Fundamentals are most likely two expressions that you see and hear a lot, yet in my opinion there doesn't seem to be a very solid understanding of what it really means. I sat down earlier this week and started to sort out and solidify my own thoughts about it and share it with you. I hope you will enjoy this bi-weekly. Also, I laced the writing with the 'results' of my own fundamental studies. Please note what I said about study 'results' in bi-weekly 02: Setting up Studies. (Also, bi weeklies is such a joke considering the irregularity of them ever since I started writing them ;) )


I feel like the basic concept of what fundamentals are are pretty easy to grasp, however it's the usage of the word on many different things that makes it very confusing to a lot of people. So let's start with agreeing on a definition. I like this one from the site…:
5. (noun) a basic principle, rule, law, or the like, that serves as the groundwork of a system; essential part.
TermBreak JensBengtsson02 by CaconymDesign
This was drawn after the first 15 weeks of design school. At this point, drawing in itself wasn't so much of a problem anymore, I could focus entirely on the
anatomy and details of the animals I wanted to draw. I remember that it was a great feeling.

The Fundamentals of What?

"The issue is not that you don't know how to draw humans. The issue is that you don't know how to draw. Yet."
I'm paraphrasing some wisdom my design teacher Kingston Chan Kingstons Portfolio dropped on my class in design school. One very confusing aspect of the word fundamentals, is that it can be used to describe many different skill sets even within the overarching 'artist' skill set. For example, while good understanding of human anatomy may be a fundamental of drawing humans, it kind of also requires you to be able to draw. This is something I have seen a lot on art forums, and it's when someone can spend months or even years posting more and more anatomy studies in their sketchbooks, while never really focusing on learning the fundamentals of drawing. Learning to draw humans means that you first need to learn drawing, and then need to learn what a human looks like. I think a lot of people study really hard and makes real effort into getting better, yet even though their anatomical knowledge increases, they never make much headway in drawing humans. This can apply to many things of course, but I think by far the 'drawing humans' trap is the most common. It's important to remember not only to study fundamentals, but to keep track of what the fundamental is a fundamental for. Another common example may be people who try to learn render materials or complex forms, not realising that what they need to do first is to learn the fundamentals of light (and colour, although I would recommend learning light before diving too deep into colour).

I have often made similar misstakes in my own studies, where I want to learn a specific skill but fail to analyse enough to see the even more fundamental principles I need to revisit and improve on first. Making misstakes and blunders are unavoidable, but it's important to know that traps like these exists and that you need to be analytical of your progress and that if something doesn't seem to work, then try to tackle it from other angles. The next time you feel frustrated about something, think a bit about it and see if there isn't some even more fundamental idea you need to understand before being able to learn this one properly.

Cars by CaconymDesign
In all these messy construction lines, there are two cars trying to peek through =]. Using only boxes as starting points, you
can 'sculpt' almost anything on a flat surface, including organic things like humans. Don't neglect the drawing fundamentals
if you really want to learn to draw.

What are the Fundamentals?

Listing fundamental skills is very devious, because as I explained previously it all depends on your goal. Learning anatomy isn't a bad idea as long as you make sure to also learn even more fundamental fundamentals such as perspective drawing and penmanship along with it. There are a few skills and theory that I personally constantly find that I, and other of my art friends, go back to frequently to learn more. In my own, rather uninformed, opinion the core fundamental skills you will always do well to invest time and effort in are as follow:
  • Perspective Drawing (hardcore plotting of 3d objects in 3d space)
  • Rendering (behaviour of light hitting basic forms in basic light setups)
  • Basic composition rules (the most basic rules of composition deals a lot with basic, clear communication. The more complex stuff comes later)
The more you understand of these most fundamental of fundamentals, the better and more effectively you will be able to learn even more complex ideas based on them. What applies to a cube could be refined into applying to a sphere, or a tree or a rock or an imaginary fantasy city. Knowing the fundamentals well will free your mind to focus on other, more creative aspects of doing art and design.
Perspective 01 by CaconymDesign
By doing complex drawing tasks like cast shadows from point lights, 
other complex drawings will not seem as intimidating anymore.


Next, I want to talk about learning, the first word in the common expression 'learning fundamentals'. There are especially two thing I like to say about learning, the first one is about how long time you need to spend to learn things, the second one deals with why it's important to spend that time. I think a lot of you will feel relieved after reading this to be honest, but again, this is just my own opinion about these matters.

10 000 hours... kind of a meme. I watched this TED talk by Josh Kaufman (Youtube) in which he explains the origin of the '10 000 hours rule'. Personally, I have been drawing and painting for about 3 years and 3 months now. I know I've had this account for longer than that, but I never took drawing seriously as something I really wanted to get good at until July 2012. So even if I had been able to draw full time for all this time (which I haven't since I've had to work day jobs for at least half of that time) there's no way I would have been able to do 10 000 hours. the 10 00 hours rule is the time necessary to master a skill. I am nowhere near mastering drawing yet of course, but I'm good enough at it to be able to work with it. So in my experience, the 20 hour rule in order to learn anything that is presented in this video is quite accurate. Also much less intimidating. You don't need to spend 10 000 hours in order to get good at drawing. You just need to start by spending 20 hours. For example, if you spend 20 hours on learning to draw perspective, you will probably learn enough to be able to start drawing humans rather well in perspective also. So in comparison, spending 20 hours on perspective on one hand or spend a few more years in learning human anatomy in the other, which one gives the quickest and most satisfying result?
Rendering Fundamental by CaconymDesign
I recently picked up my markers after years, and I've been making these small cubes just for fun and play. When
I first had to do this in school, it was pain and suffering. Now it's effortless and fun. I could not only do it, but I
could also clearly explain the theory for my classmates while doing it. When you can do something, you want to do it ;)

Passing the First Barrier

The reason I like this 20 hour rule is that there's an initial uphill, or barrier, whenever there's something new to learn. A couple of weeks ago, I attended a lecture about learning. "We can't do it just because we want to, but we will want to do it if we can do it already" said the lecturer. Once you pass this initial barrier of learning, once you spend these first 20 hours of drawing cubes in perspective, you will start to enjoy doing it. Simply because now that you know how to do it you won't need to spend the same effort to do it! It's a fantastic feeling. And once you get there, you will be more happy to spend the next 20 hours learning the next step of the subject, because you want to reach that point where, for example, drawing ellipses in perspective is no longer causing you headache, but is effortless. And so on and on. Very good artists always seem happy to dive back into fundamental studies for this very reason, while as a beginner artist one will find it very hard to get motivated to study at all. So if you want to get good, and get good fast, then I'd recommend you to take on your first 20 hours with enthusiasm and effort, and I feel quit sure that you will be amazed at what you can do and understand once you pass that first barrier. And don't feel discouraged about the seemingly simplistic task of drawing cubes. It's better to start with something achievable, because if it's easy then you will have lot's of brainpower left to find ways to learn more and start to slowly build complexity. When drawing a cube isn't a problem anymore you will automatically start to challenge yourself by drawing cubes stacked on each other, or in different angles to the camera. Variation is endless, as is the learning potential. The best way to learn is to be playful.

Thank you for reading! Before you comment, I have a short announcement:
I am looking into the possibility of once again taking on some students for tutoring. The subjects that I think I am most proficient at teaching is applied perspective drawing (or freehand perspective drawing if you please) as well as regular perspective drawing and presentation skills. This is what I was teaching the last time I had a student. A session would include critique and feedback, q and a and short theoretical demos and explanations. The hour long session rate would be 36 Euros, with the option that you can team up with one friend for the same total rate (18 per person in other words), but not more than two students at the same time or it would get messy. For now, this is only a possibility I'm looking over, but if you are interested then send me an email at so I can see if there's any interest at all. Or you could comment below, but if you send an email, I can respond directly as soon as I have decided whether to pursue tutoring again or not. Thank you, and I hope you all have a good week!

Animals by CaconymDesign
This is another study I did during fundamental training in school. Once you know enough perspective, and enough about light it's possible to start to train your
understanding of both at the same time. This still isn't 'good' in the result, but exercises like these were what stimulated my growing understanding of 'how to art'

So far in my little series on Thinking on Paper I have discussed sketchbooks, plotting your thoughts from the general to the specific, and Idea Generations. Today's topic will be how thinking of paper can be used to make you creative, even if you never thought you were creative before. In other words, we will look at how you can use Morph Charts and other tricks to come up with ideas - and some of them are bound to be good ;).

Part I: Imagination and Creativity

This might be purely semantic to a lot of you, but let's get the definitions I will be using straight. To me, imagination and creativity are two very separate things. Creativity is the processes we use to create new ideas, imagination is the mental ability to picture something inside our heads. Imagination is a huge boon to a designer -well, a huge boon to anyone really- because it helps us to quickly identify new possibilities, try out scenarios in our heads and to be accepting of new ideas and ways of doing things. In short, imagination is among the number one things we need in order for humanity to continue to grow, prosper and be nicer to each other =]. However, despite being so great, imagination is terrible when it comes to actually generating new ideas. I'm not saying it's unimportant, we have already established that. But there's a limit to our imaginations. Granted, we seem to constantly push the borders of our imagination, but have you ever heard the expression 'ahead of it's time'? In my opinion, we might as well say 'outside of our imagination'. 

For an entertainment designer, 'outside of our imagination' is a bad thing. If people can't relate to the idea, it will most likely not appeal, it will be queer and scary to us as with everything else we don't quite understand. It's the same with design for mass consumption such as fashion, furniture and other products. A too creative idea is hard to make successful. (For scientific designers, such as the oft mentioned rocket scientist (hahaha) this isn't really as much as an objection. Those guys trust what the numbers tell them and not what their guts tell them.) So we don't want our final presentation to be the craziest stuff we can think up. But in the development process we want lot's of crazy - crazy can be balanced out. Crazy is usually outside of what we can come up with using just our imagination, and so we need to have creativity tool to get there. Let's get to them in the next part.

Part II: Creativity Methods

Thumbnail sketches

Yes, that's right. Sketching and thinking on paper is the best way I know of to get creative ideas, as if you hadn't guessed from the two previous entries ;). Thumbnail sketching is a lot like brainstorming - except with drawing instead of words. Thumbnail sketching involves making a huge number of sketches to explore the so called 'solution space'. The solution space is the pretty much infinite number of potential designs that full fills your design requirements. Since it's an infinite number, the best way to get a grasp of it all i to try to find the borders of this space. This means to try out a lot of seemingly very stupid ideas, and to push them until you know you are clearly outside of the solution space. Then you can go in another direction until you are outside, and then in yet another direction, and again and again. But this is not everything thumbnailing is good for. It is also very good for 'emptying cliche's'. It's usually said that the first 20 ideas you have for a design are cliché and stereotypical, and it doesn't matter how much you think before you start to draw, you always want to break at least 20 sketches. Thumbnailing exhausts and bores your brain to the point where you will start to do stupid stuff whether you want to or not. If you want to learn more about thumbnailing, get this book, it follows through the complete development process of a student project at a school for entertainment designs. It contains the sketches including early thumbnail sketches from three students, as well as comments from both the students and their instructor.

Morph chart

A morph chart is a very structured way to find new ideas for solutions. I only very recently learned this method of thinking, but so far I have used it more and more often and I find new ways to employ it all the time. It's actually a method that has been around in design engineering for quite some time, as it was developed to find solutions to complex mechanical design problems, but with some tweaking I find that it can work ok to find solutions for more visually based problems. Let's look at an example.

Our design brief is to make a simple and small, un powered transport vehicle. (the client may have said 'small cart that can be dragged behind a person and can have stuff in it - although it of course has to be cool').

Ok, so the first thing to do is to find a number of categories to explore morphologically - I would suggest going for the most visually big elements first although since I haven't tried this out often enough to state it a a good rule of thumb. In any case, it might be good to write down as many relevant categories a you can and then chose the most relevant. Like in chess how you would put all the pieces on the board before you decide which one to move. For this example, I chose these three categories. 
  • Place to store cargo
  • Something to decrease ground friction
  • Number of that something to decrease friction
Now let's find solutions to each of these three categories, and list them in a 3x3 matrix:
Morph Chart Rubisko by CaconymDesign

And on the right you can see two simple ideas I could quickly make based on this very simple, and roughly draw, chart.

One thing to note is that what the chart does, is help you identify archetypes of solutions based on the combination of sub solutions. For every archetype, there's an infinite way of styling and arranging stuff into different designs. Therefore, the chart is very effective to use when you feel 'stuck' in the thumbnailing process. With a quick look at the chart, it i easy to find a new archetype to explore. In a simple 3x3 chart like this, there are 27 archetypes hidden. In a 4x4 there's 256 archetypes. After reading this, there's no longer any reason you should ever feel like you don't have any good ideas when you design. Even the most boring design task can yield fun and interesting solutions if you run it through this or any similar method.

Unfortunately I can't show you anything I've done for real using this way of thinking, since I just learned this 2 weeks ago and have nothing I have done with it that I can show. If you like you can try to create solutions using this chart and link in the comments, that would be really fun to see =] In any case I hope you found this useful, I was a bit rushed on time writing this and I apologise. As usual, any questions and discussions in the comments are fun and developing for me to read, and take care and I see you again soon!

So I was just going to write something short about myself, my background and what I currently do. Since I have been writing a lot about my thoughts in regards to design and drawing, I guess this really should have come a lot earlier so that you can weigh my opinions in accordance with your own goals and views as in comparison to mine.

My name is Jens (if you didn't already know) and I'm a swede, currently also living in Sweden. I grew up on a farm, where we mainly kept horses, and there were plenty of forest to run around in. On my mothers side, the family is mainly composed of engineers, designers, architects, artists etc. My dads side of the family is working class people, my dad used to be an electrician (although he's really intelligent and has struggled hard to work his way up in the world, and succeeded. I'm quite proud of him). I also have two sisters, and then two step sisters in later years.

I've always drawn more than the average kid around me, but despite growing up in the family I did, I never really realised that drawing for a living was even a valid option for a career. So after having studied the Science Program during high school, and after my year in the military, I went to University to study Industrial Engineering and Management. I loved being a student, but didn't like the potential career paths and the courses. So after two years, of which one was spent pretty much in agony about the choice to drop out. In hindsight, I should just have switched programs and begun to study Industrial Design Engineering (which is what I'm currently doing, at the same school). I was rather tired at school though, and decided I would try to pursue illustration and concept art, a goal I had had, but never dared pursuing properly, since I was 16. So in June 2012 I sat down and started to study real hard to reach a professional level. I quickly developed a lot of skill, though still pretty laughable in comparison to where I'm at now (hopefully the same will go for where I'm at in 3 years from in comparison to now). As winter came, I started to feel alone, not being able to discuss or get feedback from anyone around me about thee things, and so I decided to apply to a design school. I decided on FZD because 1. It fitted my budget, 2. I was very impressed by what I saw online and 3. They had a batch starting in just a few months from then. So I quickly built a portfolio to submit, and then submitted it and was accepted. All about my experiences in Singapore you can read in my earlier journal about it =]

After FZD it wasn't easy to find work, not for anyone I knew looking at that time either. I've heard several theories about why the job market right then was so harsh, but let's not go into that. I was lucky enough to find employment as a construction carpenter at quit small firm. During the next eight months (we're in May 2014 now) I had the amazing opportunity to learn a completely new craft, and to see a lot of cool environments and to grow my understanding about how the world around us is built and reshaped for humans. We built offices, crawled in attics and vents at hospitals and medical institutions, helped maintaining old churches and even rebuilt and expanded the morgue and crematory (I see dead people erryday, yesh) to mention a few. Anyway, it was quite busy for a while, and I tried to do as much studies and freelance I could on the side of it. In January 2015 the workload at the firm started to slow down a lot, and I felt this was the opportunity to take leave and give another serious go at my dreams. Some of my experiences building offices for designers and engineers had made me realise the importance, at last, of having a degree. So I applied for University once again, this time in Industrial Design Engineering, and was accepted. Simultaneously freelance as a concept artist/illustrator picked up in a major way, and I was even receiving mails from studios if I would be interested in applying for them!

I've decided to stick with my education until I have at least earned a bachelors degree. And this education is awesome! My school has incredible resources, workshops and labs (like a 3d printing lab, and they are even building a virtual reality lab!). My goal is still to work within the confines of the entertainment industry in the end. I believe that as games get's more advanced in terms of physics and graphics, and as virtual reality is looking to be a major thing soon, that the industry will be screaming for highly technically competent designers in the future. People who aren't just creative and can create cool looking stuff, but people who can actually create fantastical designs that will work realistically in a more and more realistic game environment.

Since I have a lot of courses passed from my first time in school, I can't study full time and will still keep up as much freelance work on the side as possible. Right now, nothing I've done is 'out there', but with some hard work and luck it would be awesome to see at least one project I have the privilege to work on realised before I graduate =]

Anyway, considering that this is supposed to be the short summary of what I've been up to, I better stop now. There will be more later, I'm sure =]
In this journal entry, I will continue to discuss the concept of 'thinking on paper'. I will specifically gear this towards entertainment design of course, but as usual my own influences usually do not come from entertainment design, but rather from a widespread array of sources. Although this isn't meant to be a scientific writing in any way, I will try to give reading directions and links while writing, for those who are interested in learning more. I will specifically in this entry talk about what the overall idea of thinking on paper means to me, and talk about some of the early major things I did wrong while trying. I will illustrate this with images of old sketchbooks. At the end of the entry there are two announcements that I'd be thrilled if you read as well. Thank you, let's begin!

Thinking on Paper: from the General to the Specific

We all think. A lot. But most if it, we forget. And it's not uncommon that, because we forget what we have previously thought about, we will soon think about it again. You might recognise it as going in circles, or being lost in your own thoughts. When you're lost in the real world, a good idea might be to make a map. Maybe start with that funny looking rock or that tree and draw it out on a piece of paper, then mark out other landmarks where you think they are in relation to each other on the paper. If you get back to the funny looking rock at one point, you can conclude that you have in fact been going in a circle. But now you have some graphic representation of it, and you can use that to plan your next expedition into the unknown. This, is thinking on paper.

Thinking on paper doesn't have to be drawing. It can be writing, or calculations, and possibly a lot of other things as well. This 3 minute video explains the basic idea of why thinking on paper is a good idea Youtube . Putting down our thoughts on paper makes the thinking process more structured, and it also makes it easier to present to others.

Specifically, for a visual entertainment designer the eternal task is to find fresh new ideas and package them in a context that makes sense within a given ip. Or if you end up more on the end of ip creation and art direction, you will be expected to be able to write and create mood boards and style sheets in order to communicate ideas to other artists, to make sure that they can work creatively within the ip-envelope that you provide. In both cases, thinking on paper skills and meta thinking will be very important skills to have. There are many different ways to think on paper, many different techniques to use. In my next bi-weekly I will talk about the ones I know, since I won't be able to fit them in here today.

Untitled by CaconymDesignWiscom Week14 e BW by CaconymDesign
Design Notes from an early assignment in school. Notes and simple sketches. Final presentation on the left - this was not even a year after I started to draw, spring 2013.

Mannerism and other Dangers to your Visual Thinking


In my previous entry I discussed how I think it's detrimental to try to keep too clean a sketchbook - it hurts the fun and the creativity that you should be allowed in your own sketchbook. In the same way, it's easy to be affected by the mannerism of your target industry that you get exposed to. Mannerism essentially is the way things are done and look like, and there's a lot of them. For example, architects draw and sketch a certain way. In entertainment design a lot of architecture is drawn as well, but it doesn't look the same as an architects sketch. Same thing if you compare fashion design with entertainment costume design, or industrial design with prop concept art (although the last two are probably the most closely related). When I started to draw, I wanted to become a professional. Therefore, I wanted my sketchbooks to look like the professional sketchbook stuff I got exposed to. I read 'The Skillful Huntsman" (a great book on visual thinking btw, but that's for the next entry) and wanted my own stuff to look like that. The danger here is that trying to conform to a certain look or way of doing things will consequently lead you down a path where someone has already been. While it's a great idea to explore and try different techniques and tools used by successful designers and artists, it's not something you should focus on while trying to solve design problems. Once I managed to get this into my thick skull, my workflow started to become way more dynamic and way more successful. Instead of trying to picture the problem as 'I need to make pro looking thumbnails', the leading questions could then become 'What kind of thumbnails and notes do I need in order to progress with this design development? What is the goals and requirements? What is the design budget?'. Every design problem has a set of specific solutions, where the set of solutions are represented by the designers that could solve it. We are all different, and if you limit yourself to mannerism and tradition you will lose out on the really great and unique solutions you can find.

Untitled by CaconymDesignAncient Kite by CaconymDesign
Page 2 and 3 of my first notes for my Grasshopper stuff that you can find in my gallery

Idea Generations

When I went to design school, our teacher in fundamental drawing, Feng Zhu, taught us a very powerful idea relating to visual development. He called it Idea Generations. It is a kind of analogue for the stages and iterations we put our thoughts into as we develop an idea. According to him, and although I couldn't understand this then, the no. 1 mistake design students make as they get into a school is that they create single generation content. Ie, we would get an idea, draw it and then put it on the board for critique. As I browse my old sketchbooks this is painfully clear to me now, it's exactly what I did at the stage where I entered design school. I thought back then that I was creative and unique, but as I look at it now it's facepalm-ingly obvious that it was just random ideas (and often badly drawn). According to Feng, a professional designer usually didn't even draw a thumbnail sketch until the idea reached the 3rd to 5th generation. So what is a generation? Let's finally get to an example. Keep in mind that while I present this in a linear fashion, nothing in this process needs to be linear.

Generation 1: Space Pirate!
Generation 2: What would a space pirate look like? Would it look more like an astronaut or a pirate? What is the setting, more like star wars or more like real world scenario?
Generation 3: List Pirate attributes: Non-uniform (they loot the gear and suit parts so it should be a bit mismatched). Weapons, dual pistols and a blade. The Jolly Roger! Lucky charms and other superstition. Etc
List Space Traveller attributes: Space suit, cables and tubes. Communication gadgets. Helmet. Etc
Generation 4: Collect reference and create a moodboard/refsheet to go with the rest.
Generation 5: Thumbnails!
Generation X: Presentation! (Much awesome, very design)

So if you recognise yourself as always going from generation 1 ideas directly to presentation, try to break out of it as soon as you can. Some people like to start to think visually in the early stages and put in more questions and research later on, and if it does for you then I won't tell you you're wrong. Personally I think and write a lot initially. In the early stages of my education I really had to spend a lot of time on this, which led to me doing crap on the presentations, but in the long run it has really paid of, and as I've gotten faster at developing my ideas I have gotten more and more time to focus on presentation. Now my primary goal is to sharpen my drawing skills to shorten and improve my presentations =]

Untitled by CaconymDesign
This would qualify as thinking on paper - no text notes at all but still very playful and quick.

Announcement 1: 
I think I have hinted at this previously, but me and some friends have been planning and wanting to build a small community for artists who are looking to have fun and improve. There are many great communities out there, but usually they are a bit too general in their purpose to get the deeper discussions and critiques that I'm personally looking for. We aim to create a community that's a bit more similar to the afternoons and evenings in design school, where a lot of the ambitious students would stay back in order to get to talk to seniors/juniors, learn from each other, solve visual problems together and just have a good time. The reason we haven't launched it is that we initially wanted to make a nice envelope (ie, a nice looking forum) but because of a lack of time and resources we haven't gotten that far. However, we're at the point where we think it would be more fun to launch it on a free forum or something anyway, and have let go of the visual ambitions and are now working on 'skillpoint challenges', a feature that we think will be very fun and helpful to those who chose to take part in the community eventually. Anyway, just putting this teaser out there, stay tuned for more.

Announcement 2: A friend is launching a patreon campaign for a character design tool. Essentially, it's a dress up doll, but backed up with some serious programming that could automise and speed up a lot of the initial sketching speed for character designs (that's how I view it at any rate, although she intend it towards the creation of RP characters ;] ). I find anything that uses computing for design interesting, as computers have no feelings to attachments to ideas and can generate things that works perfectly but you never would have considered with your brain of meat. You can go read all about it yourself if you are interested =]

That's all for this time! Please let me know if you find this stuff useful
.... I'm enjoying the simple life too much. I've finally moved into my own apartment in years, like the first first-hand contract on my own place since almost a year before I even went to Singapore. I feel so content about just cooking food in my own kitchen, organising my own stuff and enjoying being in my own home that it almost feel... wrong.

So I can't focus on writing it up today, but I have the notes for it and I promise I have a rather good one lined up, it'll be more on the subject of 'Thinking on paper'

Thank you all, and have fun!
Hi all! So I've been wanting to talk about sketchbooks, which is my favourite thing in the world. Over the three years I have been drawing I have been filling out the pages of an impressive pile of sketchbooks - so big that in fact when I returned from Singapore I brought back about seven books that I filled out during my year there. I'm notoriously bad when it comes to uploading and sharing so the only people who have ever seen those pages are my close friends. Currently I don't have those books, I've been living a bohemian lifestyle over the last year and so I only keep my active sketchbook with me, and stored the rest of them safely at my grandparents. As I will finally move to a more permanent residence in two weeks from now I plan to reunite with them and showcase parts that I like in future bi-weeklies. For this initial sketchbook journal I want to talk about sketchbooks, sketches and the elusive idea of 'thinking on paper'. I hope you will find it enjoyable.

How to use a Sketchbook

While I wouldn't say that there's any one right way to use a sketchbook, I would certainly say that there are wrong ways to use one. However, I hate to focus on negative stuff, so in this section I will talk mostly about how I like to use my sketchbook, and some of the major pitfalls I've ended up in and now do my best to avoid.

The way I like to think about my sketchbook is that it is my log book for my artistic journey, my Captain's Log. I'm very bad at dating my pages but I think it would be fun to date my entries from now on in order to keep track and also to write in it a bit more like a daily journal, about life in general. For me this is exactly what my sketchbook is, it's the anchor point between my work and my personal life and drawing as my hobby. As such I never really discriminate between making personal notes and sketches - bad sketches to beautiful ones, shopping lists to project notes and studies to purely abstract sketches and crazy experiments. I find them all throughout my sketchbook.

Untitled by CaconymDesignUntitled by CaconymDesignUntitled by CaconymDesign
Sketches from life and imagination, shopping lists and game design notes forms the mishmash of my sketchbook pages

It wasn't always like this though, one of the early struggles I had with my sketchbook was the fear of messing up, the idea that if ever someone asked to look through it some of the pages would be embarrassing and ruin the beauty. I wanted my sketchbooks to be filled with perfect drawings and this killed my motivation to draw in them! It took me a long while, but in the end I learned to simply not give a fuck, and I think my sketchbooks are even more interesting because of it. These days I never hesitate to showcase my sketchbook if someone asks me to see it.

My sketchbook is filled with things that I love! Some of it is really weird and badly draw ideas straight from my imagination, some of it is stuff I saw and wanted to draw because it's just so cool. I used to try to draw everything, anything, just because it would be good practice but I don't anymore. I find that it's far more useful to use your sketchbook only for the things that you really like - but of course I have the benefit of having a wide range of interests. The idea however, is that if you want to draw something from real life, start to look around you and try to find something that interests you, don't just draw the first thing you se. Learn to be aware of the world around you, there most certainly is something you like visible to you. (It could just be perspective you draw it from sometimes)

Thinking on Paper, an Introduction

One thing people will tell you is, if you want to become a designer, you need the ability to think on paper. Visual problem solving etc. When I first heard it I of course had no idea what it meant. I don't know if I know it now or not even, but at least now I can make a qualified guess. We all have ideas, the issue is if they will work in reality or not. For a designer, this means if they will work visually. Actually, any idea can be made to be cool, it just depends on the skill of the designer. And this is where thinking on paper comes in handy, unless you have tried an idea on paper you should never dismiss it as a possibility (that said, if you have a lot of ideas you will have to prioritise hahaha).

Untitled by CaconymDesign
Parts of notes and sketches I did for a project I never started - I fell in love with my Spirit Project instead

The first step in getting used to think on paper is get used to use paper. A sketch in this stage has the value of the idea, not much value in terms of execution. So if you haven't, you really have to get over any fears of messing up - as a designer you need to get through the bad ideas in order to find the good ones. Good execution is good for presentation purposes, but if a sketch looks bad at this stage it should be because the idea was bad, not because the rendering is bad (if the expression 'polished turd' isn't familiar to you this is a good opportunity to look it up ;] ).

The second step is to understand how 'having an idea' really works if you are a designer. I once read a claim (which I'm sceptical towards in reality, but I like for it's entertainment purposes) that said that asian monks and nuns through meditation concentrated chi in their bodies. At a low level of spirituality the chi's substance was very ethereal, more like a gas than anything else. For higher levels the chi would be represented as a liquid, reaching more and more viscosity until finally in the sages it would actually become crystals (and the claim said that crystals like these could be found in deceased nuns and monks, but this I have yet to see any proof of). I think this story is quite analogous to how I'm thinking about 'ideas'. They start out ethereal in our heads, and we start to put them down on paper (I usually begin with a few notes) and then goes through iterations, solidifying more and more until they eventually might turn out to be crystals =]. This process of solidification is what in this case would be called 'thinking on paper'. There's really no set process to achieve this, every unique idea requires it's own unique approach.

Thinking on paper is never meant to be a showcase of your process, but I find it very useful to reverse engineer my process after I'm done. To think about and analyse my own thinking seems to have helped a lot in my development of the 'thinking on paper' skill set. I can greatly recommend to try this out.

Good Sketchbook Routines

  • Keep it with you, but don't always carry it with you when you go out. It's better to designate time to sit down and draw then it is to constantly carry it but never actually using it. Only bring it when you have decide to go and find something to draw.
  • Don't ever draw in it to show it off. This is your happy place as an artist, where it's perfectly all right, even preferred, to screw up.
  • Draw what you like, the way you like it
  • Buy a cheap sketchbook - a sketchbook is to be used, and spending more than necessary is ridiculous.

Thanks for reading! I will begin school the coming week, and will not be back until I have made the move to my very own apartment in the beginning of September! Have a great time, and don't forget to follow me on twitter =] @Caconymdraws

Please let me know what you think of entries like this, and I also would love to see other people showcasing their sketchbooks as well, o if you have or if you do, please drop a link in the comments!

Untitled by CaconymDesign
Real location sketches turned into imaginary worlds, and abstract graphic designs to try to emulate a fantasy written language. A good sketchbook session in other words~

In this bi-weekly I will be discussing how starting to do 3d visualisation exercises really helped my understanding of both design and how to draw and render in 2d.

Why 3d?

There are many reasons to learn 3d. For one it's very useful in production, and more effort can go into the design and proportions rather than drawing (while in 2d sketching you might find an awesome design in front view but realise it's a disaster when viewed from the side or above). I'm really bad at 3d, and every day i wish I knew more 3d so that I could do work related things even better and faster. But this discussion won't be about the usefulness of 3d as in the usefulness of 3d drawings, but rather how it's useful in order to improve your 2d work.

If you look through my gallery, you will mostly find lineart with simple colour or marker rendering. True rendering and painting is something i didn't start to experiment with until the last year or so. When I started drawing 3 years ago, I knew that I wanted to work with design, and so I geared all my efforts on learning design thinking rather than fancy rendering.However, as I started to learn about it in school, I realised that learning new skills like rendering started to improve my design thinking even more. Again, I wasn't interested in the fancy stuff, but the ideas of patterning and shape design that's so important in rendering was something I started to carry over and use even as I was just scribbling line sketches of designs in my sketchbook.
Last summer, I started to dabble with zbrush, and just as experiments with paint had made me learn thing about design and drawing, so did learning 3d teach me a lot about rendering and design. I started sculpting crabs from reference, and this is what I learned:

1. I started to think about just how shapes and forms flow into each other. It's so much easier to study in 3d, the relationships in proportion makes so much more sense when you can see how the shell of a crab is structured. You can even sometimes start to see lines of action, with small volume changes beginning in he shell building u towards the location of a leg. Or how the legs and claws are twisted and shape differently depending on from where you look at it to support different kind of movements and forces in different directions. Instead of drawing a large quantity of creatures in an evening, I spent several evenings just studying one single species. I can recommend you to try it out!

2. I learned how the same shapes are affected as you change the lighting, which helped me start to understand rendering. It helps to start understand when the light and shadow patterns should look for a form to be described correctly in value. I guess looking at real objects in real life work equally well, but when I did this as a study for the crab anatomy I felt like I started to get this 'for free'.

My Second Sculpt by CaconymDesign
Study of a Ghost Crab. Crabs are pretty awesome. Never figured out how to render them out presentably though, but maybe in the future~

3d and Me

So if I find 3d so useful, why don't I use it more?
I would like to, but I never really learned the programs well enough to be able to transition fully into a 3d workflow. Back when i did my crabs, I had more free time, as I only had my day job as a carpenter then. Shortly after I started to also do some freelance in the evenings, and this year I have been doing as much work as I can while being in my chaotic state of finding a new home (I have an apartment that I will gain access to in September, but until then I have to couch surf pretty much). So I'm hoping to start learning 3d software again starting in September!
However, while I didn't learn 3d softwares well enough yet, I didn't give up on 3d. I just moved into traditional sculpting and modelling. I got myself some plastic clay, the kind that never dries or hardens, and I sculpted away! I use it to do form studies of stuff these days, which is why sketchbook studies have decreased a bit in quantity. I also made fantasy designs in clay, of my walrus people!
Sage by CaconymDesign
This guy above was based directly on the photo of the sculpt below to the left. The right sculpt is super cool/cute but I haven't got time to finish that one yet.
Untitled by CaconymDesignUntitled by CaconymDesign

The latest real life 3d craze started just this friday. I'm visiting my dad, and was out walking in his neighbourhood when I saw 3d puzzles for sale in a window.
I popped in and bought myself a medium sized puzzle of the Notre Dame Cathedral. Wow, o fun to assemble, and it's to scale and proportion too! Can't wait until I get my apartment, because I'm going to buy and assemble buildings from around the world and keep in my bookshelves!

That's all I have to say about that, for now. Does anyone else have some fun 3d stuff they'd like to share? I mean, I thought 3d puzzles are really great, but there might be bigger and better stuff out there that I haven't discovered yet.

Thanks for reading, have a great couple of weeks!
Hi! Sorry for the long hiatus but I'm back again. Although I'll try to keep my entries shorter and sweeter, and maybe a bit less philosophical.

The Budget

The idea of design budget was something that was never explicitly taught to me and my classmates in design school, but it's something that is essential once you actually start doing real work. 'Budget' is the idea of design limitations throughout a production chain that you need to consider as a designer. I think this is something that's absolutely self evident to designers who create 'real' products, but not as obvious when you are designing for things that will only exist inside of computers. Understanding the budget of your design is the skill that I personally believe make you professional. If you're a real skilled artist but can't grasp this idea then you will need someone just above you in the chain who does, and in most freelance and lower budget projects I have been involved in so far there are no such person.

Budget isn't just the amount of money your client is willing to spend on your part in the production, but rather the budget and resources the client is willing to spend on the complete process even after your part is done. It deals with design constraints that could be set by the production resources rather than the world setting itself. For example, if you manage to do a very cool and detailed design, perfectly consistent and awesome in the setting of the world you design for, it can still be a 'bad' design for a number of reasons. It could be that the production overall is limited in terms of the amount of time that can be spent on 3d modelling, or the resources available for animation can't handle your multi limbed creature design. It's all about maximising the bang for the buck, and to use one of the mantras Feng repeated to us pretty much every week in school 'Our job i to solve problems, not create them'

The subject i a bit hard to pinpoint, so let me just give a few examples of what I think are awesome designs given the 'budget'.

The demon in 'Paranormal Activity' might be the best designed horror creature in movies. The design is genius. And yes, I'm aware it is completely invisible ;]

The prisoners in 'Prison Architect'. If you haven't seen this go check it out. The prisoners are basically created by combining three different basic 2d shapes for the torso with three basic head shapes. I believe they are procedurally generated by the game, and while it's not the most crucial aspect of the game experience this simple yet extremely effective approach seems to add so much fun to the game (I've never played it though, but this part of the visual design really stood out to me in what I've seen of it)

Bastion's orthogonal assets. Really, orthogonals are really unsexy and as artists we don't like them. However, when they are embraced in order to bring a gameworld to life without spending a lot on 3d modelling they obviously can be made to work insanely well.

I'm sure they are way more of them that I just can't bring to mind right now. Please share in the comments if you have your own examples of a design budget well spent. I hope you enjoyed this bi-weekly even though it's very short. I hope to get back into the game of writing them again in the weeks to come!

Bye, have a great time!
Hello! This is not part of my usual bi-weekly (although they really haven't been that frequent for the last month I guess) but is more of a personal update.

I've Been on Vacation! For a week... I really needed a break from work and drawing in general so I went to stay for a few days at my friend syncUP, followed by a couple of days at my Dad's, taking the opportunity to escape from his apartment to go see other good friends I have been missing over the summer :) I had lot's of fun, but it was also quite different from my usual rut this summer in which I'm holed up in an apartment working at my laptop 24/7. I've made myself a promise to spend time outside every day now for the rest of the summer, to try to keep this energy level high =]

I'm going back to school! Prior to studying design and working freelance with art and design, I was an engineering student. I discovered that the university I used to attend now have a program that trains design and product development engineers, and I applied. I was accepted three days ago, and have now scheduled a meeting with my study councillor in a month's time from now. Quite possibly I will get to transfer at least 3 semesters worth of passed courses from my previous stay at the University into my new program, in the best case scenario I will be able to study courses from the first three years simultaneously and have a bachelor's degree in technology in 1,5 years. Possibly a masters degree in 3! (if I chose to take it that far). In the worst case scenario, I have to study at reduced speed and fill out the rest with freelance work, so the worst case scenario is far from bad even to begin with =D

The reason why I chose to do this is that in Sweden we have free tuition, I never really realised what an incredible opportunity that is until I went abroad to study. It will also give me a fixated point in my life again, which is nice as well. Studying is incredibly fun, and I'm really looking forward to it.

I have been busy! Sorry for all the lack of updates, both new drawings and journal content. I'm finding it harder and harder to balance out work with planning for the future and studies and personal projects. I' am considering ideas that would allow me to get more time into my personal work, specially my world building projects. More about that in a later journal.

I'm officially on vacation the whole day out (even though I'm home again) and I plan to spend the day doing exactly what I feel like doing! Hopefully I will feel like writing another Bi-Weekly entry later on (or finish one more likely, I have a few rough's since like a month ago) but we'll have to see! Anyway, enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Edit: Another incredible story is I've registered a twitter account, about half a decade behind the wagon but anyway. I haven't really made anything with it, but I plan to. So feel free to subscribe/follow/prenumerate or whatever nice name twitter has on their "Become my Groupie"-button. Thanks =]

Edit 2: And then I realised I actually never linked to my Twitter. #It's ok, I'm on vacation. <-see, already starting to get so pro at this twitter biz
And here it is

Bi-Weekly Journal 04

Hi! First of, Sorry that the biweekly is lagging behind a week. I still have plenty of subjects to pick from, but too little time to sit down and write a coherent text out of it, so I will be trying to aim for shorter writings from now on. Because most of the time it's better to do something small and get it done than it is to do something big that never gets close to done. And this doesn't just apply to bi-weekly journals of course, but to a lot of things. The ability to break things down into manageable chunks is important in order to get the most amount of focus on to a single task, wether it's a design, a drawing or a journal entry. So here's just a couple of small thoughts that I have had, and even told others, in the last few weeks.

Sketchbook - Colour and Light(Lion) by CaconymDesign
Even one quick sketch is better than nothing if you have limited time. They will build up over time


To get back to the rpg analogy from my very first entry, there needs to be a good balance in what you do. It's important to cultivate your own inspiration and motivation, and drawing/working all the time will most likely just make you forget why you found it fun in the first place. When I was in design school, we were encouraged to not have any free time. Everything became a matter of either doing work, or wasting time you could use to work. I think this was not the intention really on the part of the school, but when you have a body of students that are extremely motivated and hard working and the teachers tell them to sleep less and work more... the students will actually take the teachers word for it, even if it was meant to be more like a small kick in the butt. More work hours a day really doesn't help your learning much if more work hours also means that you start to impact your effectivity.

The art of Dedicated Breaks

The danger with the idea that you can't work all the time is procrastination, when you start to justify just being lazy with 'it's important to take breaks'. I think the key thing in order to identify wether you're procrastinating is to check if you are taking a dedicated break or not. A dedicated break pretty much is this: 'Ok, I have been working all day, so now for two hours before I go to sleep I'm just going to play this game', and when you play you enjoy it fully. If you feel any anxiety or guilt while taking your break you are, in my own experience, either procrastinating or on your way to become a workaholic. In either case I think the solution is to learn to take dedicated breaks. The best thing with dedicated breaks is that they go hand in hand with dedicated work!

How to make use of little time

One question I have seen a lot of lately, and which I myself had to deal with last year (and once again now) is what is the best way to improve if you only have 1-2 hrs free time to draw every day. The answer I think is to plan ahead and make sure that you always have something that is ready to be worked on. The main challenge is to overcome the second-guessing and overthinking that comes with the concept of "if I only have one hour I better use it the best possible way I can' which probably will lead to you never really even getting started. While it's true that effective use of the time would be best, it's probably better to just make sure to use it first. Things like writing simple schedules and creating study sheets and collecting reference really can take you a long way towards effective use of that time. When you get to a point where the only thing you need to do in order to get going is to pick up a pen and begin you have essentially broken down that first barrier.

Sorry again for the delay and the rather short entry. I need shorther topics/questions to discuss in the next few coming entries because of time constraints, so feel free to suggest in the comments. Take care!
Bi-Weekly Journal 03

Hi! So for this week, I don't actually have time to write extensively. Luckily, I had a back-up plan for a situation like this. Now, a caconym means something like 'bad name' or 'incorrect name', mainly related to science. It's common in science, where words are meant to be descriptive. Another, perhaps better way to put it is "I don't think that word means what you think that it means, maybe you should look it up?". However, we are surrounded by words and expressions that can cause confusion in the spheres of art and design too. You may or may not agree with my short list, but it should be fun to write anyway. Here we go:

Study - I covered this in my previous entry, but what really bugs me is the expression 'a study'. I think it would be simpler to jut say 'study this' or 'study that'. This might be because English aren't my native language, but this expression initially messed up my idea of how to study art.

Visual Library - visual library actually refers to an understanding of the visual world and our visual perception (this is a crude simplification, it's an interesting subject). However, because of the expression itself; it's very easy to get confused about what this really refers to. It's very common to think that we somehow store visual memories and experience in a part of our brain that we can access like a reference library when we draw. This is not representative for what little we know of how our brains and memories work. Visual Library is a really catchy term, but in my books it's a really strong candidate for a caconym.

Sketch - This is something that maybe just is me personally, but to me a sketch means some kind of visual that helps in the creation of some final product. By this definition, even the most detailed illustration is a sketch if it's supposed to be turned into a 3d model for a cinematic scene. If you don't think this qualifies as a caconym, wait until a client asks for a 'sketch' and you have to try to figure out how rough or refined of a sketch hey are asking for. The word just has very different definitions for everyone. Personally, I like mine because as long as it's suited to the production needs, it should suffice.

The Industry - Really, which one? Everyone wants to break in to 'the industry' but it's not actually a thing. I mean sure, the term 'breaking in to the industry' pretty much means to get your first major break towards becoming recognised as a professional artist. But still, there are a diverse amount of different industries, each with needs for different artistic skills and personalities. Once upon a time, I just wanted 'to break into the industry' as well, but it just made me very unhappy. Nowadays I just do the stuff that I personally like and find interesting, following some advice I once got "Do what you like until you get so good that someone will pay you to do it".

Fundamentals - Ok, fundamentals really isn't a caconym, but it get's misunderstood by many (including younger me). There's a big difference between 'fundamentals' and 'basics'. The fundamentals are the principles that apply to everything in visual art (drawing, painting, sculpting, photography, design and cinematography and so on). Basics are more like; reasonable starting points when you learn something. For example, when you begin to study perspective, it's reasonable to stick to cubes. Really good people still study perspective and other fundamentals, but they have moved beyond the basic stages. When I started out, everything I saw the pro's and godly artists do looked like special tricks and advanced techniques. Now I know that they aren't really, they are just studying and applying fundamentals at a more advanced level! And the only way to get to the advanced understanding is to start at the basic levels. So if you like me, are confusing fundamentals with basics; don't feel bad thinking you are still not understanding fundamentals. You will spend the rest of your artistic career studying fundamentals anyway!

Concept Artist - This is probably the most muddy term. I don't even actually know what it means. Well, I have my own interpretation, but so does everyone else. I think if you want to become a concept artist, put the label aside and focus on what it is you want to do. My experience is that people seem to shy away from the term, instead calling themselves 'designer' visual storytellers' or 'visual developers'. In the end, all art that is used to conceptualise something is concept art, but the focus of the people behind it can be very different. Again, focus on the part of it where you find the most enjoyment and think you could add the most value.

Ok, I can't think of anything else right now. Feel free to discuss/comment with confusing terms of your own. See you in two weeks, and remember, words mean something!
Bi-Weekly Journal Entry 02

Ok, so, studies. I have been asked about this before, and it seems like a nice subject to talk a bit about. In this journal I will share 3 questions that can help you set up your own effective studies, as well as sharing some key words that I like to use to structure my own studies. So without further ado, let’s get going!

Battlestation by 3four
Study of her Workstation by Truc Bui 3four . Image used with permission


How to set up Effective Studies

First off, in art we say ‘to do a study’ where in most other subjects we would say ‘to study’. For example, an artist might say to her art friends “I did this study of values yesterday night” while an engineering student would say to her classmates “I sat all night studying linear transformations in R3-space”. However if, they were talking to their moms they would probably say “I painted all night” and “I was studying math all night” respectively, making the first mom frown with worry and the second shine with pride. The effort and critical thinking in both cases should be the same though.

Secondly, while art is a visual subject, not all art related studies yield a good visual result. It’s of course more fun if it do, and as I explained in the previous entry, it might be a good idea to make your studies presentable once you are done with them, sometimes a good study could just be careful reading and reflection over a chapter in an art book.

Three Questions to get started

And now we’re ready to begin with the useful stuff. One of the greatest pitfall with studies is that as a green artist it can be hard to know how to study effectively. Most likely you see other artists do it, and you’re being told to do it, and so you just do what you see other people do. If you really want to study effectively though, it’s important to think critically about why and how you are doing what you are doing. Personally, I use three questions to help myself setting up personalised studies to address nothing that I want to study. Here they are:

  1. What is the goal of the study? Or, what do I want to learn?
  2. What process should I use? Or, how do I learn this stuff?
  3. What is redundant in my suggested process? Or, how do I get rid of unnecessary obstacles while I learn this stuff?

Ok, so number 1 seems obvious, but it’s easy to underestimate the importance of a well defined goal. If you only say; "I’m going to do a study of this master painting” you haven’t specified what you want to learn. A better example would be ‘wow, I love how Leyendecker handles the shapes of light and dark in this illustration. I want to break it down and learn how he does it”. Mindless copying is the last thing that you want to do. A lot of good artists do master studies, and they usually end up with something that looks like they only copied, but that’s just because you can’t see their thought process in the result of their study. That being said, I myself could probably benefit a lot from doing more observational studies and less analysis of things.
Landscape study by 3four
Study by Concept Artist and Illustrator Truc Bui 3four . The result is stunning, but can you guess her thought process as she studied this? Probably not, but I know she wasn't just trying to get a good painting to show off (in fact, I had to ask her to upload it online just because I wanted to feature it here). Image used with permission.

Question 2 is there to define the outlines of the study. Good things to include here is stuff like process and subgoals. For example “I’m going to collect reference of interesting reptile skulls, and then sketch to learn new things and shapes for skull structure”.

The third question is there to streamline the process somewhat before you begin. If you do a study of something, you want to free up as much brain power as possible for the learning that thing. If you want to study architecture, but can’t draw well in perspective yet, then it’s probably a better idea to draw orthogonals and focus on the proportions and details rather than being frustrated about perspective. Or, if you’re new to digital drawing and want to sharpen your linear, probably better to do that study traditionally. If you want to sharpen your digital skills, set up a study focusing on only getting used to that instead. I for example, are way more comfortable working with lines than with paint, so the only painting related studies I do are the ones where I try to learn painting.
Sketchbook - Colour and Light (Shoebill) by CaconymDesign
These guys were based on reference photos you can easily find on google. The goal of this study was improved markmaking and strong shapes of light and shadow a la Layendecker, so I saw no reason to complicate things further by doing my own designs or light setups.

The most important thing though

Now that we have gotten this far, it’s time to tell you take everything I’ve written so far quite lightly. Don’t spend hours writing a document detailing how you are going to study something just because you read this, I don’t. I just think that these are three useful things to keep in the back of my mind. The most important thing for studying is to be playful and have lot’s of fun. Look at kids, they learn by playing, why should’t we? However, even kids have structure and rules in their games, a game where you can do anything and there’s no challenges is a boring game.

Sketchbook - Birds by CaconymDesign
Not everything I call a study has some advanced plan attached to it. Last summer I was usually too tired in the evenings to do anything deep, so I just prepared sheets of reference in bulk during the weekends, so I would always have something to draw. Planning can eat up your brain energy even before you start to study, so don't overdo it. Or alternatively, plan a study for tomorrow the last thing before you go to bed. Having everything roaring to go from the moment you sit down at your workspace can be a boon to your motivation!

That concludes this Bi-weekly! I felt like we didn't even scratch the surface about what I think about this subject, but I hope you are encouraged to try to customise your own learning process from now on. Remember to always ask and answer your own questions, not the questions you think you are supposed to ask. And have fun studying stuff (if you're lucky you get to do it your whole life)!

Thank you for reading, and as always, any feedback or thoughts are welcome.

Bi-Weekly Journal Entry 01

It’s sunday morning, and I just managed to get out of bed. It’s so sunny outside that it’s almost blinding, but I can clearly see that the budding leaves on the birch outside is already much larger and greener than they were yesterday. It’s spring, and it’s also a very good morning to sit down and write about motivation.

I didn’t plan this out too much before I began to write. I started to list things that makes me feel motivated, and as I did so I realised how similar in many respects they are to the reward systems built into RPG’s. So I tried to think about in what ways it’s possible to translate these rewards to the artists’ journey.

Life of an Artist, the RPG


Every good RPG needs a good story, a red thread that keeps you moving through the world. I personally think that it’s important to have a big project to commit to, something to burn for. Something that you respect so much that you want to learn and level up in your artistic skills just to be able to progress with. In a game, this quest line is usually provided to you, but in life, you will have to define it yourself. It might be a good idea to write a timeline, preferably on a large paper or board and put it on your wall.

Sidequests and achievements

Isn’t it amazing how you can spend a couple of hours standing in a centaur camp with your rifle just to be able to rank up your achievements to champion centaur slayer, but it’s hard to sit down and do even 30 minutes of life sketches? In real life no one takes note of your amazing achievements. Unless of course, you do. Personally, I have been trying to write down my daily achievements, but I don’t really feel it you know. Maybe it’s not just the same when you keep track of it yourself, but I think it’s important to find a way to utilise this motivation boost. I will try to experiment and find a good way to do this, maybe there should be an art community for it.
Sketchbook - Colour and Light (Shoebill) by CaconymDesignStudy Platypus by CaconymDesign
I find that doing studies and grinding is more rewarding if you make a presentation of it, at least for yourself

Epic Loot

For an artist, I guess the equivalent would be epic art. Things you put in your portfolio. Results! Everybody likes loot, and regardless of how much we get told to ‘not judge a book by it’s cover’ we all do it. I guess the good thing about loot though, is that it drops as you play. Sometimes of course, you grind spiders in the forest for hours just so that you can get enough exoskeleton to craft that epic lamellar tunic you found a recipe for, but a lot of it just drops. So don’t worry so much about this, the higher level you get the more good loot you will find, it’s the way this game works :)

Leveling up and skill trees

It’s so amazing to ding a level! For every new level you have more options of skills, you can equip cooler gear and your stats increase. You can now go back to lower level areas and feel like a king! In real life though, you don’t get skill points. But it’s still important to learn new skills, and to spend time boosting the skills you already have to higher levels. Real life is really unbalanced in a certain regard, and that is that some skills will be incredibly useful in the early game, while late game skills might be completely obsolete initially. I think the most important thing is to stick to your own build, imagine where you want to be in a few years from not, and not on where you want to be tomorrow. Sometimes it’s better to grind for achievements (studies and practice) than it is to boss raid for epic loot (portfolio pieces). And don’t spend too much time in the PvP arena if you want to reach the higher levels quickly.
Sage by CaconymDesign
This illustration was the product of me playing around with clay, bringing it into
photoshop and paint in texture and background. Before I started to experiment
with sculpting rendering was hard for me to grasp.


Staying in the same area is kind of boring. Go out and explore as much as you can! Try different mediums, different process and different ways of thinking. Also, move around in a literal sense, drawing in different environments will naturally affect the way you think. Bring your sketchbook out in the forest, or to the cafe, or on the bus. Just sitting in front of your tablet in a corner of your room will make your imagination go stale


In an mmorpg, teaming up is usually the way to go! Same in this game, work together with people to make sure you stay motivated, learn from each other and have more fun. Just randomly asking for feedback online is not enough, you will benefit the most if the people you ask for critiques know your goals and ambitions.

Having a good time

Nothing can destroy your game time as much as knowing that you really shouldn’t be playing. When I sit down to play, I want to have a clear conscience. After I have done everything I have to, I will never feel bad or second guess about how to better spend my time. Multitasking slows me down, and being slow affects my motivation in a negative way.

That’s it for the first bi-weekly journal! I hope it was enjoyable to read, I did feel quite rusty about writing but hopefully it will get much easier in the weeks to come. Any feedback, discussion or suggestions for future topics are welcome. Also, please remember that all the content in these journals will be based on my personal viewpoint, and if you see it in another light, I would love to hear about it.

Thanks for reading, see you in two weeks~


So it’s been almost a year since my last entry! And you know what, ever since I did that one I’ve had this idea that I should make bi-weekly journals, but I just never got around to do it. So now I’m committing to it, beginning this sunday I will begin writing entries related to design and art. I might not be the best and brightest there is, but what I can share I'd love to share!

I don’t know exactly what I’m going to cover yet, I have a multitude of subjects to pick from, ranging from drawing specific advice to general thoughts about motivation and productivity. I think I might even throw in a few book reviews, or list links and resources I like, and why in some entry. I have already gotten questions and requests while streaming and on forums, but I’d love to get as much feedback and questions as possible. So here’s a list on things that I already have in mind:

  • What is a study, and how doe one plan and execute effective studies?
  • Thinking on paper, or how to use a sketchbook
  • Motivation 101
  • Digital vs Traditional mediums
  • Thoughts about designing video game content
  • Thoughts about sculpting
  • Stylisation vs Fundamentals
  • Geeky stuff
  • Specialisation vs broad skill sets
  • The importance of giving feedback
Suggestions from comments
  • Something relating to character design
  • Dinosaurs (or, My Collection of Dinosaur Toy Models)

…well, that’s just from the top of my head. I hope to get some feedback, either about brand new subjects to add to the list, or specific questions that could be discussed in any of the topics, or if you like dinosaurs we can talk about that too. Anything goes really. And even if I get no feedback you can still expect a journal on sunday. 

R e s i s t a n c e   i s   f u t i l e

Please Read: I first wrote this article in April 2014, about two years ago now. I have had many nice exchanges with people asking further questions about my time in Singapore and in the School. However, replying to comments, notes and emails can get a bit overwhelming for me at times so here is a few points to think about before you send me a question:
  • Can your question be answered by reading my reply to other comments, or is your question related enough that you can just post it as a reply there?
  • Can your question be answered by using google or looking at the school's webpage? I get a lot of questions regarding the curriculum, but the curriculum has changed since I went to school (12 batches of students have graduated since my graduation, just to give some perspective). I don't want to give you a second best answer if the school can easily give you the best answer.
  • If your question is in any way related to your own skill level please refrain from asking. The school have an admission system set up where they evaluate applications and portfolio, and I can neither speak for them or substitute the evaluation process. There is a reason the school have an application fee: evaluating skill and potential takes time, effort and proper knowledge.
  • If you have questions about art, design or life in general that aren't directly related to you wondering about my experience in Singapore and in FZD School then please check out my other journal entries and comment there or send me a note. I love discussing things like that, but this journal is not the right forum for it =]
 Anyway, I wish you all the best and I hope you enjoy the journal itself too! /Jens, April 2016
Untitled by CaconymDesign
Singapore is beautiful. School was too intense to explore much of course, but I want to go back and do that one day. Photo by me, during the celebration of the year of the Horse.

Hello all,

as promised in previous journal, here comes a short something about my year in FZD School of Design, in which I will try to address the questions asked to me previously. Since most of the questions I received so far can be categorised into three main categories, I will just write a few general paragraphs.

About life in Singapore and mundane things
  Life in Singapore is not hard. It's a city with a well functioning infra structure, good food and places to live. It is however rather expensive, especially if you go there to study at FZD. One of the things I personally forgot to think about before I went was the increase in expensive habits that is bound to follow such a stressful situation. In my case, I'm talking about food. I doubled my weekly food budget, twice, during my stay in Singapore. Most likely if you go there you will also find yourself justifying spending amounts of money on something that you would have thought silly in your current lifestyle. Be it taxi everyday, new restaurants everyday or just moving to a more luxurious room to sleep better, there's always something that seems worth all the money in the world after a while.

About the education and school
  FZD was a great education. There are certainly things that I've learned there that I would never have been able to pick up by myself. I do not agree with all of the schools philosophies, and there are indeed areas where the school is very weak. The classes taught by Kingston Chan were pure gold, and worth all the money I spent in my opinion. Every time I'm drawing I appreciate all the stuff I learned from Thomas Brissot in my second term, and when combining the logical design thinking of Kingston with the approach of simplicity from Eduardo, I can achieve things I never even thought was possible. I'm so happy that I had the chance to learn from all of these great people! This also makes it a bit difficult for me to give a justified opinion of the school now that many of my instructors have left it, so please forgive me for having to ask you to go find someone currently enrolled to ask instead.

About the entry level of the students
  One of the most frequent questions both me and my friends who have studied at the school is a variation of "am I good enough?".
Well, that depends on what you really mean by your question. Are you good enough to get in? Yes, you are. All of you. The school is a business, if you say that you want to study there, they will believe you and give you a shot. It is then up to you if you want to or not. Remember that if you really want to you can learn just as much or even more from your classmates as from the instructors.
The students come from very different backgrounds, and the rate of success and learning through school is sometimes surprising considering what those backgrounds are. The common denominator for the successful students are this, whatever they did before school they were pretty damn successful at that as well. It is basic math, one year of dedicated studies in drawing and design will never be able to catch up with 2 years of equally hard studies. To be a star student at FZD requires you to both be a successful individual and to have a substantial background within this field.
  What do I mean by successful? We'll it's quite subjective I guess. I don't mean to brag, but I'm the kind of person that among other things had maxed out grades in high school, did sports and even competed on an international level (School World Championship was the highest level I reached). Some people would call me an elitist, and to some degree they would be right, for me getting a second place always stings. This determination made me do rather well in school despite not having much of an background before school. Other people have other mixes, for example it's not unusual to see people with years worth of experience as architects, graphic designers, illustrators, product designers and concept artists among the successful graduates from FZD.
  Another key thing is that you really understand what concept art really is, and that you really want to do it. Like, seriously. Concept artist is a really hyped profession, and to many the notion of what concept art is seem to be a glorified version of illustration. This is ridiculous for many reasons, but most of all it's very confusing for everyone. Here is a good article on the subject: Let's get real about concept art. If you want to ask me or any other FZD student anything, and your real reason for getting in touch is really that you want someone to pat you on the back and tell you you're gonna do really well if you go to FZD, please refrain from doing so. Spending time trying to give just advice to someone only to find out that they only care about my opinion if it coincides with theirs is not fun, but if you belong to this category I also feel it's just fair to warn you now; people like you are eaten alive in an eagle's nest like FZD.
  Be very honest to yourself. Concept art is in no way better than any other profession, but it is a job where it's very obvious if you really like doing it or not. So if you rather be a Tech artist, or an illustrator, or a management consultant, go for that. Don't listen to what other people say or want, go for what you want! I'm serious, I've been there. I spent two years in a university studying Industrial Economics and management, just because I felt it was expected of me. Just because it would get me a high paying job. And I've never felt worse than I did those two years, while quitting it and pursue my dream to become a concept artist was the best decision I've ever made.

After school
  Right now, life's tough. The market right now seems to be unfavourable, but me and my friends from school are able to survive on our skills. But it's ok. If this journal was a movie, now would be that ending where everything is destroyed, but there's a great feeling of hope and good prospects for the future. Life's not perfect, things are still uncertain, going to school didn't solve everything, but it was never supposed to. Wow, this is turning quite cheesy at an alarming rate :D

Anyway, any additional questions can be asked in the comments, but I will not write another journal about this subject!
Good luck and peace! (and it's Easter, so happy Zombie day as well!)
Please Read (repeated from above): I first wrote this article in April 2014, about two years ago now. I have had many nice exchanges with people asking further questions about my time in Singapore and in the School. However, replying to comments, notes and emails can get a bit overwhelming for me at times so here is a few points to think about before you send me a question:
  • Can your question be answered by reading my reply to other comments, or is your question related enough that you can just post it as a reply there?
  • Can your question be answered by using google or looking at the school's webpage? I get a lot of questions regarding the curriculum, but the curriculum has changed since I went to school (12 batches of students have graduated since my graduation, just to give some perspective). I don't want to give you a second best answer if the school can easily give you the best answer.
  • If your question is in any way related to your own skill level please refrain from asking. The school have an admission system set up where they evaluate applications and portfolio, and I can neither speak for them or substitute the evaluation process. There is a reason the school have an application fee: evaluating skill and potential takes time, effort and proper knowledge.
  • If you have questions about art, design or life in general that aren't directly related to you wondering about my experience in Singapore and in FZD School then please check out my other journal entries and comment there or send me a note. I love discussing things like that, but this journal is not the right forum for it =]
 Anyway, I wish you all the best and I hope you enjoy the journal itself too! /Jens, April 2016

Hello all!

First of, I would like to say that I'm overwhelmed by all the support I have received from you all in the last few months. All the hours spent planning and filling out sketchbooks is worth it when I know that the final result will be appreciated. Thank you!

For those who don't know, I recently graduated from FZD School of Design in Singapore, and I have received a lot of questions about the school. Because of this, I have decided to write up a journal where I answer these questions. In fact, I am working on it currently. So I would like to invite anyone who reads this to ask any and every questions you might have so that I may answer them in my upcoming journal. I might not be able to give an answer to them all, but I intend to try.

So if you have any questions about FZD or my opinion on design education in general, please leave them in the comments. If you have asked me something before, and feel that you haven't gotten a proper answer, please ask again, I want to answer but it might have slipped by without me noticing. Thanks =D

Also, I am quite bad on doing these journals, but I had an idea that maybe I could use them as a means of sharing my sketchbook sketches. Concept art is quite confusing in a sense, because way more time is spent on sketches than on the final presentations, yet sketches are rarely given a chance to be seen. Personally I prefer to see someones sketches over their final pieces, but it might just be me.If you think this is either a good idea or a dreadful one, please let me know in the comments.

Have a great weekend!

Alright, so today I'm finally going home. Been lot's to fix and pack so I've been too busy to reply to comments and notes lately. Will fix all that when I'm back home in my frozen homeland (watching Frozen last week really made me appreciate my own culture, for the first time in my life hahaha. Amazing movie, go and see it), thanks for your patience.

In the meantime i wish you all a nice Valentines day, myself, I have a date with an airplane (Y) ;)
Be well
Hello friends, old and new!

So I have recently graduated, and in two weeks time I will leave Singapore and go home to Sweden. Another way to look at it is that I have two more weeks until I get access to my PC, and all the games of 2013 that I never got a chance to try out :D So I plan to do the most of my time left here in Singapore, sightseeing, hanging out with friends from school and to add some finishing touches to old sketches and drawings. This means that I will update quite a bit more frequently in the weeks to come, and I hope that you all will be ok with that.

Have fun and prosper! And oh, if someone happens to know anything about any open positions for game concept artist, I would be very happy and grateful to hear about it :) 
Again, be well!

First of all I would like to announce that I've now learned the correct spelling of procrastination, which along with words such as "squeeze" and "receive" have eluded me for a long long time. No cause for applause though, I've already patted myself on the back.

And so to the point; I'm currently quite busy making all the necessary arrangements before I move south for the spring. Because of this things like browsing every new post on forums and communities like deviant art, staring intensively at the wall and spending hours on rendering a funny sketch seem increasingly important. It's not easy to treat procrastination but I will certainly try to. This means that I will make myself scarce around the internet and put my tablet away for the time being. I don't think that I will be submitting anything to dA for the next 20 weeks or so, I expect that I will be quite busy with school work. Instead I will just be posting sketches and stuff on my blog, You can check it out if you like, but all the stuff I've posted up to this point has been primarily intended for old friends and so it's written in Swedish. The image content however is a bit more extensive than my gallery here on dA because I tend to post more sketches and stuff on my blog than I do here.

Although it may be a long time until next time; Until next time, thanks and have a nice day!
  • Listening to: The Who