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The Everyday Champion: A Chat with Beeple
Beeple sat down with EJ to chat about Cinema 4D, Everydays, and how to effectively learn motion design.
Every School of Motion course is full of exclusive interviews that allow you to hear and learn from incredible artists in our industry. For Cinema 4D Basecamp, we had the chance to interview one of our favorite motion design heroes. So we thought it would be really fun to share that episode with you today.
Our guest today has been cranking out new original works of art for over 11 years. Beeple, a.k.a. Mike Winkelman, is an absolute legend in the motion design world. From working on Superbowl halftime shows to a fashion deal with Louis Vuitton, Beeple's career has taken him further than he ever dreamed possible.
We sat down with Beeple to chat about his time in the industry. He's one of the hardest working folks in the business, and this podcast episode, from Cinema 4D Basecamp, will take you deeper into the mind of the everyday champion. Let the journey begin....
Beeple Show Notes
Beeple Interview Transcript
Ej Hassenfratz: Hey, everybody. It's EJ sitting in for Joey on the podcast. Now, this episode's gonna be a little bit different than normal. As you probably know, each School of Motion course contains multiple interviews with incredible MoGraph celebrities from all around the industry. For Cinema 4D Basecamp, I had the chance to interview one of my favorite motion design heroes, and I thought it would be really fun to share that episode with you today. Our guest's been cranking out new original works of art for over 11 years, and is an absolute legend in the motion design world. From working on Superbowl halftime shows to a fashion deal with Louis Vuitton, Beeple's career has taken him further than he ever dreamed possible.
Ej Hassenfratz: We sat down with Beeple, a.k.a. Mike Winkelman, to chat about his time in the industry. Mike's one of the hardest working folks in the business, and this podcast episode from Cinema 4D Basecamp will take you deeper into the mind of the Everyday champion.
Ej Hassenfratz: Never fear, Beeple is here, and he's going to be sharing a bit of his insight into how he started learning Cinema 4D, what worked for him, what didn't, and how he used his Everyday project to improve his skills. Beeple, Mike, welcome to the podcast.
Mike Winkelmann: What up?
Ej Hassenfratz: Oh, Joey's in here as well lurking in the background, stalking us as well.
Joey Korenman: Yeah, nobody cares about Joey. It's all about Mike.
Ej Hassenfratz: He's just sitting there in the corner. Let's just start out with a simple question, what the hell does Beeple stand for anyways?
Mike Winkelmann: Beeples are toys from the '80s. They are these fuzzy, and you can still buy them on eBay, they're these little teddy bear-looking things that light up when you put your hand over their eyes and they beep. They Beeple at you, I guess. Yeah, that's what I'm named for. I honestly don't fully remember that whole process. That was a long time ago. That was probably 2003, I think. Yeah, it's been quite a while since I've been doing shit under that name.
Joey Korenman: They're adorable too.
Ej Hassenfratz: Is it like a pre-Furby, less creepy, more creepy?
Mike Winkelmann: I don't know. I would say moderately as ... I wouldn't say it's very creepy-looking, because it's got real small eyes. I don't know. It doesn't look too creepy-looking to me, maybe you would look at it and be like, "Holy shit. That's creeping me the fuck out." What is creepy is a lot of times very small variances in the light will make it beep. So sometimes it will just fucking beep when, "Blllll." All of a sudden, "What the fuck was that?" Scare the fuck out of you. That part can definitely scare the shit out of you.
Ej Hassenfratz: Do you just have a room dedicated to a bunch of these toys, that you have a Beeple orchestra?
Mike Winkelmann: At one point, I did have 20 of them. My brother, for my wedding had bought a shit-ton of them, so when we came out, there was 20 of them at the head table. Nobody else in my family, my extended family, they don't know any of this shit. So I'm sure they were just like, "What the fuck are all these stuffed animals doing at the head table?" I'm sure I look like a fricking creeper, like, "Okay." Nobody else got it. Yeah, that was interesting. But at that time I had 20 of them, and I've slowly been giving them away.
Joey Korenman: "Why did we go to this wedding? This guy's whacked-out."
Mike Winkelmann: Yeah, it got creepy for a second there.
Ej Hassenfratz: That's the creepy story behind Beeple, the origins of creepy Beeple. The students out there that don't know your story, which I would hope that everyone who the heck you are, you're the most famous man in the world, the most interesting man in the world. So people who don't know your story, how did you start getting into Everydays, and talk a little bit about the whole Everyday project.
Mike Winkelmann: Sure. The Everydays are a thing I started almost 11 years now ago, and it was to get better at drawing. I saw an illustrator from the UK named Tom Judd, he's over at AnimadeTB.com, or it's Animade.TB.
Joey Korenman: Oh, yeah. Animade.
Mike Winkelmann: He did a sketch-a-day, and so at first I wanted to get better at drawing, so I also did a drawing per day and posted it on mine. This is 2007, so this is pre-Facebook, pre-Twitter, I was just posting on my web. So literally nobody saw it. I saw that was a good way to get better. I still, at the end of the year, sucked at drawing, but I was a lot better than I was a year ago. So I had always wanted to learn a 3D package, so I decided maybe I'll try doing this with Cinema 4D, and I had no experience in Cinema 4D. So if you go to my website, you can see the very first render I did day-one in Cinema 4D, when it was like, "Oh sweet." There's something about reflections or something, I was like, "This is super sweet."
Mike Winkelmann: So that's how I started, then I just kept going, because I saw it was a great way to learn stuff and test out techniques, and just stick with something. So fast forward 11 years or whatever, and same shit, different day.
Ej Hassenfratz: At what point where you like, "I want to learn 3D," was it your work that led you to the world of 3D? What led you on the path to 3D?
Mike Winkelmann: No, I think it was just seeing other people's work, and it was just like, "Oh man, this is fucking sweet." And it's just something that I had always wanted to do. And prior to that, I had probably about a year before that, I had started getting a little more heavily into After Effects, and I was actually making little primitive polygons in After Effects. Making cubes out of planes or whatever, images, and making characters, full 3D characters. Their arms were made out of cubes, and they had hands and heads, so it was extremely ... And animating them walking and shit, so it was extremely complicated and time consuming to do that. So it was actually a lot easier doing 3D in some ways, than some of the things I was trying to fake in After Effects.
Mike Winkelmann: It was just something, seeing people's work, it was like, "This is the only way to make work like that, I need to learn how to 3D package."
Ej Hassenfratz: Doing 3D in After Effects is my nightmare, making 3D cubes, oh man.
Mike Winkelmann: Now I'm so bad at After Effects, I'm just a fricking baby in there. I just don't use it that much.
Ej Hassenfratz: How did you begin learning 3D? What did you start making, because you started your drawing projects to get better at drawing. And maybe a good question for that is what did you decide on what you wanted to draw? And then second part of that question is, what were you making in 3D to begin with to help learn?
Mike Winkelmann: When I first started out, I was just making little abstract clips and stuff like that. At that time, I was just starting to make VJ clips, and I was also doing primarily what I was doing before then, I would make a lot more short films. So after about, I think three or four months of working in Cinema 4D, I started making my first short film, which is that Subprime, like a lo-fi animation that I did. That was learning what I needed to learn, and I think I was trying to learn a bit of everything in terms of dynamics and different stuff with modeling techniques, and stuff like that. This was before there was a ton of tutorials, so watching tutorials made by this guy, 3DKiwi over on C4D Café I think it was.
Mike Winkelmann: You'd have to download the QuickTimes and watch a little tutorial or whatever, I was just trying to get a sense of a bunch of things. The one thing I was not doing actually, was MoGraph, interestingly enough. Because after I released that Subprime movie, a lot of people were like, "Oh man, this is a great use of the Cloner, how did you do this stuff with Cloners?" And it's like, "Cloner? What are you talking about?" My entire short, and there're tons of things in it that would have been so much easier with Cloners, but I did not know. I never used any of the MoGraph stuff in Cinema 4D, until after I had made that piece.
Ej Hassenfratz: That's crazy. That probably would have helped out a lot. You're downloading all this stuff on 3DKiwi and all that stuff, did you find it difficult? Did you have a focus at all when you were learning? Or you were just like, "That's cool, I'm gonna learn that. Download that movie, and learn that skill."
Mike Winkelmann: I was just going around to what I thought was interesting at the time. There was another time I was doing web design for my day job, so I had absolutely no need for it for my work. I was spending most of my time at work doing 3D stuff, just because my job was insanely easy, and afforded me a ton of time to just do my own thing. I was doing, spending the majority of my day learning 3D, while I was at work. It was just any projects that people had, there was a bunch of stuff for the Milwaukee Art Museum, and stuff like that, that I was with various groups just doing little short films and little commercial-type things. I would just do anything, none of this was paid, it was all just learning stuff. I was just trying to work on as much as I could, just to get better.
Mike Winkelmann: I really didn't have any sort of direction, I guess.
Joey Korenman: Mike, I want to ask you about that a little bit, because one of the things I'm always curious about when I see someone who started with zero knowledge, and then ends up getting really good at something, is there any system that they used that someone else could use? It sounds like initially there wasn't, you were just playing with 3D and maybe using the short film that you had in your head as motivation to learn the things you needed to do. By the way, everyone listening, we're gonna be linking to everything we're talking about in the show-notes, and I highly recommend you go watch Subprime. Because I remember when it came out, and I watched it, and I immediately thought, "Wow. He learned the MoGraph tools really quickly." Somewhere I heard you say you didn't actually, you keygraphed everything in it. And there're hundreds of things, it's crazy.
Joey Korenman: But anyway, what I was gonna ask you was, as you've been doing these Everydays for a long time now, now do you have any system? I want to get better at modeling, so I'm gonna do modeling exercises, versus this seemingly random way of just trying to find things to learn.
Mike Winkelmann: Yes and no. I guess if you want to find the system, what I'm doing, it's Everydays. The system is doing something every single day. I would say is the best advice I can give to somebody, in terms of what you could copy to get better. But in terms of what I'm doing with the Everydays, I have a focus per year of what I'm trying to learn. This year, honestly I don't even remember, I think it's trying to get better at composition or something. The last couple years, I'm just trying to overall get better at making images. I haven't been super stringent on what focus. In the past, I had done ZBrush and I did V-Ray, I wanted to learn V-Ray back when V-Ray didn't suck.
Mike Winkelmann: There has been, before I did Illustrator for one year, so there has been focuses. The last couple years, I've just more been focusing on trying to get better at working faster with bringing in 3D models and stuff like that, and just improving the workflow, so that I can put stuff out really quickly. I think there would be value to focusing on certain areas, if you wanted to get better, if you wanted to get better at modeling or stuff like that. But to be honest, doing it day-in, day-out like that, I would get super bored if I had a really narrow focus. Like, "I'm gonna just jam on modeling for the next three months," that's gonna be boring as shit. I need to jump around and test out this, and try this, and do ... I just can't drill down too deep in one area every single day.
Joey Korenman: That makes sense.
Ej Hassenfratz: When you were first learning 3D and all that stuff, and I could imagine going back to when I first started learning, and I was just doing it for a job, that was for my job, and I was just doing 3D text, and putting them in some news graphics, and making 3D logs day-in and day-out. So that was my focus, to learn how to do that, and then slowly expand on that. But what were some challenges when you started learning 3D, since you were just doing it in your spare time? How did you know your focus, and did you have any issues just trying to get used to working in the 3D space and all the 3D concepts?
Mike Winkelmann: To be honest, in terms of that, I definitely think I took a different route than most people. Because like I was saying, I didn't have any clients for probably maybe the first three years of working in Cinema 4D, before I actually started getting more clients. At least two years of just making my own stuff, so I think that's good and bad. Because I think I look at, there's a lot of things that people who are forced to move in one direction know that I don't know. Like UV mapping, I literally know nothing about UV mapping.
Ej Hassenfratz: Join the club, buddy.
Mike Winkelmann: There's a lot of people, I guarantee you know more than me about it. And I could pick a lot of different things, where it's like I know very little. IK, I know very little about that. There's plenty of things. I think me being my own art director, creative director, whatever, there's a lot of times where if something's really hard, or I could watch a tutorial or I could just fucking do something different and keep moving, instead of stopping everything and finding the answer to this, I'll usually nine time out of 10 just be like, "Fuck it. I'm just gonna do something different." And not figure out how to do that thing, and just move on like, "I'm just gonna turn the camera this way, so you can't see that thing."
Mike Winkelmann: I'll take the easy way out, to keep moving forward, instead of finding the right answer. Or I'll take some super hacky cheat way of doing something, if that makes sense.
Joey Korenman: Mike, do you think that ... It's interesting, I wanted to ask you this, because I've heard you say that before I think on Ash's podcast and other podcasts, that you don't know the "right way" to do a lot of things, you just figure out another way around it. Or you hide that thing that you don't know, and you cut away from it or something. It's interesting, because I think that's actually a skill in and of itself, knowing how to fake stuff. In the world that I came from, which was far less photo-real 3D, more motion design, that was something I did every day, I'm curious, has that ever held you back in your career? Your career is not super traditional in terms of a motion design career, but do you ever feel like, "Oh shoot, the fact that I don't actually know proper best practices for topology when I'm modeling, I don't actually know how to UV," has that ever held you back? Or is it just something that maybe you don't, maybe not everyone needs to know?
Mike Winkelmann: No. I think it depends on what you want to do. I don't think it's necessarily held me back in my career as a whole, but there're certain projects where it's like, "Fuck, if I just know how to do this one thing, it would be a lot easier." So sometimes there're instances where it would be much easier to just fucking know the right way to do it, than me go through this giant bullshit workaround because I don't know that right thing. So there're certain things. The reason I will say I don't think it's held me back that much in my career, is because most of the jobs that I get aren't, I'm working on smaller teams, and I'm usually doing more design work where I don't have super specific direction that I'm taking from clients. Where it's like, "We want this exact thing." And I'm not working in bigger pipelines.
Mike Winkelmann: If I was working in a bigger pipeline on some bigger project, I will fuck that shit up. Don't fucking hire me to model some shit, or fucking light some shit, or texture whatever, because I will all these bullshit things that will fuck your pipeline up bad. That's where I think it hasn't held me back that much, because I am not usually on bigger teams where I need to do things the right way, or it's gonna fuck the next person over, if that makes sense.
Joey Korenman: When you said, I think you said it really well, you were like, "If you need me to make that exact thing," that's not what you do. And I think that it's just good for students to know that there's a million different roles you can play as a 3D artist in this industry. If you want to work on the big 4D person SYOP piece, yeah, you probably do need to know all the "right ways" to do things. But if you are working in a smaller motion design studio sense, or something like that, two-person teams, five-person teams, or you're a solo artist, you can do the Beeple thing. And you can just figure out how to make it look the way you want, even if there's 100,000 extra polygons that you've used.
Mike Winkelmann: Again, I guess I wouldn't recommend going the Beeple route of not knowing how to do shit, but yeah, I think what you're saying is correct. When you're on smaller teams, you have a little more leeway. It's gonna take longer to render, because this is fucking way un-optimized, but again, it's not like do or die most of the time.
Ej Hassenfratz: It's so hard to know, when you're a generalist and when you're a freelancer anyways, you have to wear many hats. There's only so much time in a day to really master all these little things, that's why you have SYOP, and there's one guy who's the lighting guy, and there's another guy that's the UV guy, and he knows everything inside and out. It's a specialist versus generalist thing, and then there's the Beeple, where it's the Beeple effect. Where if you're on a job, and everything just crashes, because Beeple was working on this, it's the Beeple effect. Don't mind that.
Mike Winkelmann: I think luckily for me, a lot of the projects, I'm only fucking myself over. It doesn't manage to hurt too many other people.
Ej Hassenfratz: Self-inflicted Beeple.
Mike Winkelmann: Pretty much.
Ej Hassenfratz: I think your route is a lot like a lot of people's routes, that started learning 3D before it became a more mainstream skill that a lot of companies and clients want in their projects. So you're all self-taught, I was self-taught in the same timeframe as you, where there were no tutorials really, there was no School of Motion, there wasn't even Greyscalegorilla at the time, or anything like that. And I feel like if I went back, as I'm learning, I'm figuring out, "Man, I could have been more efficient with how I learned 3D." I could have not focused on this one thing, and focused on this other thing, and been way better off. I feel like when I look back at my early 3D career, I'm like, "I wasted years beating my head against the wall." Do you feel like you had some of those moments where things you learned later on in your career with 3D or really anything with creative that you wish you picked up right when you started?
Mike Winkelmann: Yes and no. I think as technology's moved forward, you end up learning things that become useless. Even before 3D, because I was making short films and shit like that long before I picked up 3D. For probably almost six, seven years before I started doing 3D stuff, so I spent a shit-ton, I'm 36, I went to college in the early 2000s, so I learned Flash. That's just fucking useless, that was just completely goddamn light my time on fire, it is gone. So I think there're things like that, but I think those things, I guess I can't say that they're a complete waste, because from there I learned cell animation and just keyframing and shit like that. I don't necessarily ... What do you think that you feel like you learned, and now it's just like, "Wow. That was a total waste."
Ej Hassenfratz: I think for me it was trying to just make cool stuff, and following recipes, and turning on GI, and not knowing what the hell it was doing, and having an overnight render and it's not done in the morning. And my boss is like, "Hey, where's that thing?" That was a simple thing, but you effed it up, because you tried to add all these little settings and doodads and stuff with no real comprehension of what the hell I was doing.
Mike Winkelmann: But I honestly think you need to go through that, you need to learn that it's like, "Oh wait, I don't need to turn on every single thing. It literally will make no difference." I think that's a common thing, I still do that a lot, to be honest. Where I'll step back and think, "Do I really need this?" And you AB it, and it's like, "That is almost unnoticeable with that on, and it is just destroying the render." I think that's just something that you, I think you had to learn that the hard way, to be honest, to see that some of these settings and this and that is not useful. But I don't know that I would technically consider that a waste.
Ej Hassenfratz: I think another thing that I would do a lot too, and I think I would just get to the point where I'd pull a Beeple, and I'd be like, "I'm just doing this the way that I know how to do it." Is going down these rabbit holes of trying to figure out these complex setups with Expressions or Expresso, and thinking I accomplished something by doing something technically challenging. And at the end of the day, you watch a tutorial on how to do a complex technical thing, and then it goes in one ear, out the other, and you're like, "That was dumb. Why did I do that?" Because you're following a tutorial, and you're not putting it into practice, and then you forget what the hell you were doing, because it wasn't applicable.
Ej Hassenfratz: So I feel like I was chasing a lot of things, watching a tutorial, because that was cool, and you make it. And it's like, "How the hell am I gonna work that into a local news broadcast?"
Mike Winkelmann: I know exactly what you're saying. I think that though, you got better at problem solving, you got better at "Is this really ..." and seeing what's gonna be useful to learn. And learning base core things, core principles of animation or core principles of design, and seeing that those are gonna be more useful than the shiny whatever. It's a one-off thing that's not really gonna be that useful, outside of this tutorial or whatever. I think that again is another thing, I did that too, I 100% did that. I think that's something that ... I think those things give you some background knowledge though of, "I could do it this way," and then you approach things moving forward, you're like, "That took a fucking long time to set up." And then as you're moving forward, you're like, "I'm gonna not do it that way, because it took fucking forever, and it wasn't very easy to change. It was very specific to that one solution. What if I tried something else?"
Mike Winkelmann: So I feel like that's another thing, where you've got to get all these shitty ways of doing things out of the way, to figure out a quicker, easier, more elegant solution to the problems that you're looking at.
Joey Korenman: I wanted to talk about this for a second, because I don't think there's anything wrong with experimenting and turning on the GI settings on maximum, just to see what happens, plus-ambient occlusion, plus-motion blur, whatever. Just because it probably will look cooler if I do that. But the problem that I had was not even having a foundation to know what I should go on and learn. I think that if you're just throwing darts, and saying, "Ooh, I just saw a cool thing where everything was translucent and it looked like glass, so I'm gonna learn that." It just seems to take longer. And maybe taking longer isn't on its own a bad thing, but I always look at things very practically. Let me ask you this, Mike, do you think there's a way you could go back in time, knowing what you know now about the learning process, and having some basic 3D, and cut the last 11 years in half, but get the same benefit out of it?
Mike Winkelmann: To be honest, I don't know. Because when I was learning this, it was a very different environment than it is now. I literally, when I first got Cinema 4D, bought a book, because there was no videos, what do you mean videos? A book.
Ej Hassenfratz: A book, a thing with words in them?
Mike Winkelmann: An R10 book sitting on my shelf right here, so to be honest, it's hard for me to put myself in the shoes of somebody starting out now, and having a frigging ridiculous amount of information. I will say, I totally get the overload, because there're things that I want to learn, and I'm in that same boat. For instance, Unity, I would really like to learn either Unity or Unreal, but it's very daunting in terms of where to start. There are so many tutorials, and I think I feel people's apprehension and their struggle with where the fuck do you dig in. Do I think there's a quicker way to cut down on that time? I don't know. I don't know, to be honest. I was gonna say something, then I realized I had no fucking answer for that.
Joey Korenman: One of my buddies one time, he said something like, "You can't AB test life." So there is no answer to that question. But I just always, that's how my brain works.
Mike Winkelmann: It's a good question, let me think about that. If I think of something that's fucking brilliant, which is probably a long shot, I will come back to you with that.
Joey Korenman: Sounds good.
Ej Hassenfratz: I think when we were first starting learning 3D, it was totally different than it is now, where you had so little information to try to learn. And now, it's like you're completely overwhelmed. And doing tutorials for the past, I don't even know how long, like four or five years, and you can only show a certain fragment of a certain subject in a 3D software. So it's like, "I can show you a niche of a niche of a niche, I can show you how to do this one thing." You have people that are interested, when you were like, "I want to do 3D, I don't even need to do it for my job, I'm just interested in it," and you went on the 3DKiwi site, and you're just downloading stuff, "That looks cool." There was nothing out there, there's nothing out there for fundamentals. No one's putting out a YouTube video with 10,000 likes, "Fundamentals, bro." It's not a cool thing.
Mike Winkelmann: I think that's true. It's always like, "Here's how to jump into advanced or intermediate, and how to ..." It's true, there is very few videos, there are, but they're not popular. Videos that are like, "Here's how to do this super fucking boring thing that you really need to know if you are just starting out in 3D." I think everybody wants to do the fucking sexy thing, the fucking sweet thing two-weeks into learning Cinema 4D, but without those fundamentals, it's gonna be really tough to just succeed as a generalist. Because there are, like you were saying, so many different aspects of the software, and so many different rabbit holes you can go down in terms of lighting, texturing.
Mike Winkelmann: And it's changing so quickly, the things that made sense to do a couple years ago, now there's a plugin for that, it doesn't make sense to do that. You could do it, but it's not really the quickest way. It's something you always have to be keeping up with, as well.
Ej Hassenfratz: That's why just all the fundamental stuff, there's not gonna be a feature that's gonna update keyframing and animation, and just fundamentals of animation, how to time things. Unless AI takes control of everything someday, and we don't need to lay keyframes, and the keyframe system is just totally messed up. But stuff like lighting as well, good lighting is good lighting, that's not gonna change. The software's not gonna update, an entire lighting system's gonna drastically change. I feel like those subjects are things, specifically for me, I was terrible at all of those things, and still learning to get better at. If I could go back, I would have spent a lot more time on that stuff than dynamic shiny balls falling all over the place.
Mike Winkelmann: I think it's tough though, because I think it's hard, those things are hard, and there's no upper limit to them. They're very subjective, if you know lighting. You can say, "I know how to light something," and two people can say that, and one of them sucks at it, and they think they're good at it. And the other person's actually really good at it. So it's very subjective, lighting, color composition, stuff like that, animation, versus something like, "Do I know how to do this technical thing?" Either you do know how to do it, or you don't. So it makes it a lot more easily attainable goal, so I think it's natural for people to gravitate to those learning, those things they want to learn when they're starting out. Just because it's a lot easier, and you can say, "I do know this," versus "I do know lighting."
Mike Winkelmann: I wouldn't say I know lighting, I wouldn't say I know color, I wouldn't say I know composition. I would say I'm starting to learn those things, but I would no way say, "I got fucking colors done, move onto animation. Color's in the fucking bag. Done." Check that out, I don't need to fucking learn about that. It's something you're never really gonna feel like you've mastered it, and if you do feel like you've mastered it, that's probably not a good sign.
Ej Hassenfratz: Beeple's telling you, you're full of crap. You're not watching a 30-minute tutorial on color and be like, "Yep. Nailed it. Know all that. Know everything about color theory, I'm good." That's super interesting, I feel like that's a psychological thing, where it's the instant gratification. Those damn millennials. I think I'm just at the edge of the millennial thing, where you just, you want to be able to watch a tutorial and know how to do that one thing. Those more deep subjects, that's a life-long endeavor, a career-long endeavor to master the type of skills, all the fundamental aspects of lighting and 3D and animation, all that good stuff. It's those damn millennials, I'm telling you again.
Joey Korenman: I think what you just said, Mike, is pretty profound actually. That people are drawn, especially when you're learning, to do motion design, you're drawn to easy wins. You can watch a tutorial and know exactly how the Random Effector works, and say, "Yes." But to learn, and it's interesting because you said that you're working just on making better images, and I'm assuming that means things like composition, and color theory, things like that. And I can remember early in my career, completely running and sprinting towards those easy wins. Like, "Oh, now I know how Trapcode Particular works. Now I have used RealFlow."
Joey Korenman: At some point, it just dawned on me that those things weren't serving me anymore, they weren't making my work any better. I'm just curious, if you've had any, if there was any realization where you got to a point where you were like, "I know Cinema 4D good enough, I need to focus on the basics now," that made you go towards those uncomfortable things?
Mike Winkelmann: I wouldn't say that I ever got to a point where I'm like, "I know this good enough." And to be honest, I think what you're talking about, I think that's how I was too. I think that's just innate, because those are, like you're saying, they're easier things, they're the things that get you in it and get you excited about it when you're first starting out. I think what changed for me is I saw a lot of people who were making awesome pictures in fucking Photoshop. They were just fucking drawing that shit, and it looks fucking awesome. And the reason it looks awesome is because color, composition, narration, and fucking texture, and detail, and a lot of atmosphere. A lot of things that have nothing to do with getting some badass grables or some awesome fucking spec-bumps, they're things that are just innate to art in general.
Mike Winkelmann: So I think that's where seeing work that was not even 3D work, and really gravitating towards that stuff, pushed me in a direction that's like, "If I want to do better pictures, it has nothing to do with knowing, pushing more in a technical standpoint." Because that's a different technical thing, if you really understand color, you really understand value and composition. It's a different technical skill, so I don't think there was necessarily any aha-moment, it was just ... I think part of it too, to be honest, there are so many plugins and different technologies, Houdini and Redshift and blah-blah-blah, there's so much shit that it was just like, "I think I'm gonna get the most bang for my buck learning these fundamentals, versus spending another year learning another renderer that's kind of better than the one I'm using now, but it's not drastically better." More or less, for what I'm doing, it's gonna be a wash.
Mike Winkelmann: I think versus starting over with some of those things, because that's one of those things I think you can get somewhat sucked down with. If you're constantly starting over and learning new technologies, then you're never gonna really master anything. You're gonna know just a tiny bit about a million things, but you're never gonna get fast enough and good enough and proficient enough with one tool to really be able to crank out stuff. I think that's one thing I definitely try to avoid, is just learning the new shiny tool, just for the sake of learning that. I really try to, Houdini is awesome and there's people making just fucking badass shit in Houdini, but is there anything that I really need to learn Houdini for right now that's gonna push forward what I want to do and the type of work I want to do? Not really.
Mike Winkelmann: Do I really want to invest the time to learn Houdini right now? No, not really. I think being a bit conscious of your needs and what type of work you're trying to do, what you're trying to accomplish, and what tools to get you there fast, and what areas to focus your time on, I think definitely will help you get there quicker. Versus just chasing the shiny new whatever, because they're coming out faster and faster.
Joey Korenman: Totally.
Ej Hassenfratz: I think that's super smart, is that self-awareness. It's something that I lacked for a very long time, trying to chase all these tutorials and all this stuff. I think now, more than ever, especially with all these third-party renders and you've got all these other, you've got Houdini, all this other stuff. If all this stuff came out when I was learning 3D, I would be even more distracted that I was back then. Just because things were totally different, there was no third-party renderer, I don't even know if V-Ray had a C4D plugin when I started learning 3D. So that was not a distraction, but man, there's so many things. And it's self-awareness, especially for newcomers, is that your time, when you invest time in yourself, it's way more maximized when you're focused on your fundamentals.
Ej Hassenfratz: Do you want to hike, and you're like, "I am 300 pounds and out of shape, but if I buy some badass hiking shoes, I'm gonna get to the top of Kilimanjaro or something." No, no. You don't want to put in the hard work, you just want to buy that thing. I used to do that too, and sometimes my wife will be like, "I want to do this one thing, I'm just gonna buy this thing, and that will make me do it." For me, "I'm gonna buy an iPad Pro, and that will make me start sketching and drawing again." But then it's like, "No. EJ, you dumb-ass. You're just gonna buy that thing, and you're gonna draw one thing, and then just surf Twitter or Instagram."
Mike Winkelmann: I got a fucking iPad Apple Pencil sitting on my desk, that's probably seen about two hours of goddamn use since I bought it two years ago. I fucking feel you there, dude.
Ej Hassenfratz: That's a super, self-realization and just reflection is such an important thing. You do not need to buy that one thing to make you better at X.
Mike Winkelmann: Do not buy an Apple Pencil.
Ej Hassenfratz: You don't need the expensive Apple Pencil thing.
Mike Winkelmann: I think it's tough. I still get sucked into it sometimes too, for sure. I'm not trying to act like I've got all this fucking mastered, there's definitely times. Because you see all these fucking sweet plugins, it's like, "Man, that is badass. I want to try that out." Just because it's that instant reward, because it offers you this new skill, but it's tough to stay focused on, is that skill gonna be that applicable outside of the one little, after I fuck around with it for a couple hours?
Ej Hassenfratz: As far as new skills, and not learning new plugins or anything like that, is there ... I think you mentioned, are you taking this year to just focus on composition in your Everydays?
Mike Winkelmann: Yeah. I'm just trying to focus on color composition. One of the things that has changed a lot for me fairly recently-ish, in terms of my workflow, is I've started using stock models after I hit 10 years of Everydays. Before that, I had used no stock models, everything that I did was modeled by hand that day. So I wouldn't just grab an asset of whatever from wherever. I started using, opened the floodgates up at that time to use anything, in terms of ... And trying to tell more complex stories, so I'm constantly getting models and trying to, usually not just render the model and just light the model, but use that model to tell something more complex. It's just a piece of the story, instead of the model itself being the entire story.
Mike Winkelmann: That's where I'm trying to make more narrative pieces each day that give more atmosphere, and look like they have a bit of a story. Versus just, here's a picture of a 3D model.
Ej Hassenfratz: Has that helped you focus where you're gonna be going with your creative process, is having some narrative in mind? How do you even discover, how do you even figure out what the narrative's gonna be? You have to do these every single day, do you have some things that are a series and play off one another?
Mike Winkelmann: I do have a couple, a bit there. I have a couple little series that I've been adding to I guess. One of them I did was, I was super into these tankers, or shipping containers, so I had all these weird shipping container renders, clusters of shipping containers. Trying to imagine some of the bigger companies as gone out of business far in the future, Facebook and Google and shit like that. That was a little series that I have, and there's other little narrative things that I'll pick at. It's not something that it's like every single day for the next two weeks, I'm gonna do this one thing. Because again, I would get bored being locked in. It's like every week or two I'll add to that narrative.
Mike Winkelmann: I think there're things that I have going like that, but otherwise it's just trying to come up with something each day. Usually I don't have, like today, I have no idea what I'm gonna do. Most days I have no idea, it's like try to figure something out that day. I don't have three weeks planned out like, "Tuesday I'm gonna do this, then Wednesday I'm gonna frigging drop this, then Thursday, oh man, I'm gonna fucking just ..."
Ej Hassenfratz: A giant whiteboard.
Mike Winkelmann: Everyday it's just scrambling, like what's the least embarrassing thing I can do in the next two hours. I would say that's much more accurate. Most of it is trying to minimize embarrassment, I would say it's the overriding driving factor in the Everydays.
Ej Hassenfratz: Maybe, through your Everyday process, what's been your lowest point? Have you ever gotten to a point where you're like, "I can't do this anymore," and how do you overcome that?
Mike Winkelmann: No. I can't do this, I can't put a JPEG on the internet?
Ej Hassenfratz: You've never ...
Joey Korenman: There's a little more to it than that.
Mike Winkelmann: I can't put a shitty picture out? No. I never thought that.
Ej Hassenfratz: You've never woken up one day, and been like, "You know what? This Everyday thing, a little overrated. I think I'm gonna hang up the old cleats there."
Mike Winkelmann: After 10 years?
Ej Hassenfratz: You're just gonna keep going, it's just so ingrained into your day. It would be like not eating all day.
Mike Winkelmann: I don't, there's no day where it's like ... I think something a little more life altering would have to happen, because this is such a big part of my life. It would have to be a little more like, "Eh, I'm just feeling lazy today, I'm not gonna do it." No, that's not gonna happen. Your question of hitting rock bottom, I would say I hit rock bottom every other night, where it's just like, "Oh god, this is fucking terrible." Hit post, because I'm fucking out of time, I need to go to bed. There're many times where it's like, "Goddamn, this is fucking embarrassing that I'm putting this out, this is fucking trash." That is the overriding feeling I would say 75% of the time when I hit post.
Mike Winkelmann: Because there's always, I think, I don't know, to some point I guess, where I can see all the things that I should fix or could fix maybe if I had more time, in terms of just color, composition. I think my eye is critical enough at this point where I can see all the things wrong with what I'm doing, I just don't have time to fix them. Or in some cases, I don't have the skill to fix them. There is definitely ... Again, it's one day, so it's like, "I don't know, it sucks, but I'm gonna post it and move on." That's I think the beauty with the Everyday, it's not this, you have a chance tomorrow. "This sucked, tomorrow's another day. I'm gonna fucking ..." And I think it's almost motivating in some ways, if I do something really shitty the day before, it's like, "I've got to fucking try to make up for that, because yesterday was fucking just awful."
Mike Winkelmann: So there is some level of it motivating me to try harder the next day, I guess.
Ej Hassenfratz: You have to fail to get to the success. Success, the ingredients are a whole bunch of failures. I think that's super important to touch on, is that yeah, you live to create another day. If you're doing things right, you're gonna be better today than you were yesterday, and two years ago. And you just keep on pushing, keep on improving.
Joey Korenman: How long did it take you, Mike, because it was interesting when EJ asked you if you ever thought about quitting, and you pretty much instantly said, "Nah. I would have to be hit by a car twice for that to happen." I think everyone listening has probably had some experience, trying to lose weight or something, and you eat healthy for three days, and on day-four you just lose your motivation. I'm sure a lot of people have tried Everydays before, and made it 15 days. Was there a point where you just felt like you had so much momentum that it was easier to keep going than to stop?
Mike Winkelmann: Let me be clear on that, I would not consider myself a type of person who can just put their mind to anything and stick with it. So all those things you're saying, like eating good and exercising and blah-blah-blah ...
Joey Korenman: You do none of those.
Mike Winkelmann: No, I try just like anybody else. I try to do those things, and I have varying degrees of success, and three months later it's like, "Eh, I feel like we're not eating that great again." And I haven't fucking ran in probably two weeks, so I fucking fall off the horse, and get back on, and start running again. So I wouldn't, don't think across the board I'm this fucking powerhouse of goddamn determination and willpower and fucking stick-with-it-ness, whatever. No. I think I honestly feel like I got lucky, and that I was able to just build up this momentum that has continued to carry me.
Mike Winkelmann: In terms of stopping, honestly, besides just motivation, I believe more strongly now than when I started that this is the best way to get better quicker. And I still feel like there's so many things, going back to, no, I've got color, the fuck I do. I don't have any of these things, I have so much more. I look at so many people's work, and it's just like, "I am getting fucking owned. Seriously, look at that, it's fucking beautiful." So it doesn't seem like, there would be no reason to quit. My skills are definitely nowhere close to where I want to be, and just a wide spectrum of different areas. So I think that's really not something that has crossed my mind in any serious manner, I guess.
Joey Korenman: What you just said, it reminded me of one of my favorite sayings. I used to run a studio, and I would have artists underneath me that were perfectionists. I would repeat something that my dad used to tell me, which I don't know if this is good or bad, but it's "Don't let perfect be the enemy of done." This idea of, you're not really happy with what you just did, but you know it could be better, but you've got tomorrow. Tomorrow's another chance. But my question is, at this point, every practice that you do is now public, and has lots of likes and re-tweets and things like that. For someone starting out, they look at what you're doing, and they're like, "I'm not there yet, I have many years of Everydays before I ever get there."
Joey Korenman: Would you still recommend that someone starting out post publicly things they do? Do you think there's a positive effect of having that pressure on you, that now the public expects it? Or do you think that in the beginning that can actually be counterproductive?
Mike Winkelmann: No, I definitely think it's still very important to post it public. I think there's a lot of people who ... I think things have changed since when I started out. Because again, this was before, Facebook was just starting, I didn't have a Facebook account, I was already done with college, there was no Instagram, no Twitter, so everything was just posting on my site, and nobody saw it. I think up until fairly recently, the last few years I would say, if you were starting out and you posted things on the internet, nobody would see it. I think right now, I think people, I've heard some things from various people maybe being a little, I don't want to say negative on Everydays, but just questioning, hearing people chasing likes, this or that.
Mike Winkelmann: I think that's a concern for people, some people. I think the difference now versus years ago, is for whatever reason, Instagram I think in particular, their algorithm has changed or it's in a position right now where you are able to see those people who are just starting out. I think that's different, it's never been like that. There was always, 25 years ago, there was a shit-ton of fucking shitty Nirvana bands playing in garages, trying to fucking be Kurt Cobain, and they sucked, and they were terrible, and they were just fucking copycats, and nobody heard them. But now, you fucking start out and you post something, and you've been posting things for three weeks, and somebody can see it. I could see it.
Mike Winkelmann: Before that, I had no way of seeing it. If you were some shitty whatever, I would never see your work, nobody would ever see it. I think what's changed is not people starting out and doing shitty work, that's always been the case, everybody starts out and does shitty work. I think what's different now is it's easier to see that work. But I don't think that's necessarily always gonna be the case maybe, I honestly have no idea how Instagram's algorithms are gonna look three years from now. They will continue to change.
Joey Korenman: Right. It's a pretty interesting dynamic, and that's something that the students are gonna have to think about. Because doing Everydays, I think that you can do Everydays ... I've talked to a lot of illustrators, and illustrators, professional ones, definitely do Everydays, but it's called a sketchbook, and they just draw in their sketchbook every single day. But no one sees it but them, and I think that's actually, for some people, it's healthier that way, until you get to a level of competence. Because once you start posting things on the internet, you're also opening yourself up for criticism. And that could be devastating if it's not at the right time in your development.
Mike Winkelmann: I would say yes, that's true. Again, I don't want to say there's a right or wrong answer here. I completely agree with what you're saying, I think there is some value to doing sketches and keeping them in your sketchbook. If you are somebody who is very, gonna not be able to handle criticism on the internet. I think it's tough, because like I was saying, I don't think there is a right or wrong answer, I think everybody has a different path. The thing that I think benefits from putting stuff publicly is you get better at, one, it's done. To me it's much easier to do, to stick with an Everyday if you have a bit more of a objective start and end, and whether you did it or did not do it.
Mike Winkelmann: Versus if you do a sketch, you could do something that's like, "I sketched for five minutes." And then it's like, "Well, I sketched, I sketched for five minutes in my sketchbook." But if you have to post that publicly, you're not gonna do something for five minutes and want to fucking post that. It's gonna pressure you into trying harder, because you know you have to post that publicly. I think that's one of the biggest benefits, I think in terms of the feedback, you just need to be like, "Fuck the feedback." You're not probably gonna get either any sort of constructive helpful feedback on Instagram, I would say the amount of constructive helpful feedback you're gonna get on Instagram, YouTube, any of these places is extremely little
Mike Winkelmann: 99% of the time you're gonna get people saying, "That was awesome," when it probably wasn't awesome. Or you're gonna get people saying, "That's fucking stupid," when it was just like, "Okay, cool. Thank you. That doesn't fucking help me." I think the amount of useful criticism you're gonna get is shockingly low, so I would just not pay attention to that at all. If you need to disable comments, or you need to do whatever to just block yourself from looking at that, block yourself from looking at that. But I still think posting publicly, at least for me, it raises the bar of again, I'm motivated a lot by not wanting to put out embarrassing work.
Joey Korenman: I love that, it makes a lot of sense actually.
Ej Hassenfratz: I think, because I have a lot of people, and I always encourage people, when they follow a tutorial of mine, I love to see what people are working on. And then for this class, I am really pumped up to see everyone's work. I think when you put in more effort than just uploading a JPEG to the internet, just like, "Fly, fly little JPEG," and you actually maybe tag some artists that you like. Like, "Hey, check out this, what do you think?" And actually seeking out helpful feedback, and not just dope-ass likes all the time. Because I think you need to take that effort to get better.
Mike Winkelmann: Honestly, actually, I think what you're saying to me makes sense. And I think maybe me saying all social media comment is just garbage, is because I haven't engaged it and tried to make it more productive. Like you're saying, doing the things that you're saying, that makes sense to me. I think you could get a higher level of feedback by trying to engage people like that. I personally just have not done that, so I honestly think what you're saying, that does make sense. If you take the time to engage your audience, and point them in a more constructive direction I guess, is what it sounds like you're doing, that to me makes sense. I would say, don't listen to what I was saying, do what he's doing.
Ej Hassenfratz: I think it's important too, because as you were saying, as you've been creating, you're getting a more critical eye, and you're developing that taste, that whole Ira Glass Taste, that very famous little YouTube video. I think that ...
Joey Korenman: The Gap.
Ej Hassenfratz: Yeah, The Gap. I think that's very important, because even for me, I go back and watch all my old reels, and actually stumbled upon something on Creative COW. Back in the late 2000s, I would upload my reels to Creative COW, and for some reason I was on Creative COW searching for an answer to a question, and there's some answer to a question that was answered in 2009 that was helpful for right now, which is awesome in itself. But I was like, "I forgot about this whole reel section." I looked up my reel, I'm like, "Oh my god, this is embarrassingly bad."
Ej Hassenfratz: But I think that's good, because if you look on your reel from five years ago, hell, even last year, and you're like, "That was the best stuff I've ever made." I think you're not doing the right things you need to be doing to improve. Because you should be looking at your stuff that you made yesterday, and being like, "Man, I could have done that much better." Because you're slowly refining your taste, and honing your skills, and I think that's perfectly fine. I think it is hard to get constructive feedback, unless you're creating something, there's nothing to give feedback. So that's the most important part, and I think that's the part that you got right, Mike. You're just, "You know what? Hell or high water, I'm gonna get better just from sheer brute force."
Mike Winkelmann: I think the thing that's tough too, and one of the things that to me turns me off from putting too much stock into people's comments, is I don't know if I should be listening to them. There's just a lot of people where it's like, "You should do this." Should I, though? Sometimes I'll look at, occasionally I'll see people's negative comments or this or that, and I'll look them up, and it's like, "You haven't done shit, dude. Why the fuck am I listening to you?" Anybody can just post a fucking thing, it doesn't mean they know what they're talking about. That's one reason I guess I would maybe go, take people's comments with a grain of salt. I guess if I was looking for feedback, I would go more to somebody that you trust, somebody like you, or somebody who's a professor or something like that, who has a critical eye and who's done work. Somebody whose opinion you really respect.
Mike Winkelmann: And put a lot more stock into what they say, than to what SurferGirl66 says. "This is fricking whack, yo." I don't know.
Ej Hassenfratz: As far as, what about ... You're not doing Everydays, if you were not doing Everydays, I should say that, because you are doing Everydays, do you, maybe to get into the habit of posting, just maybe posting your process. What do you feel about that? If you are doing sketches, because I feel like with Instagram Stories, I'm seeing a lot of that. That's a little bit less daunting or intimidating than putting it up there, because an Instagram Story, it's like poof in a day. Do you feel like that's a good?
Mike Winkelmann: I feel like that could be a good maybe compromise I guess in some ways, if you're worried about these things sticking around. To be honest, I'm not so worried about shitty work that I've done sticking around out there, because the only, the best way to fucking get over that is to put out good work that will push that down further. I think I wouldn't get too hung up on stuff like that. I think the Instagram Stories could be a good way to do that, but to me, I like to see the progress of an artist. I like to see the whole thing, versus just, they've got 50 good things or 20 good things or whatever, 10 good things. I personally like to see the bad things, because you never know.
Mike Winkelmann: Again, if I only posted the things that I felt were really good, I guarantee you I would not post 90% of the time. If somebody else is finding some inspiration in this, or liking it, or it sparks an idea for them, it's awesome. It didn't really do that for me, I learned something, I'm not really happy with the final product, but maybe it's not my position sometimes to judge whether this is good or bad. It is what it is, I'm putting it out there, the world can judge. I don't like it, but if somebody else likes it, awesome. I think with some of these things that go away, I think that could be good.
Mike Winkelmann: Again, this is just for me. If that's doing posted works in progress or stuff like that, if that's what you feel most comfortable doing, definitely do that. I think for me, doing Everydays is the easiest way to stick to something and make sure I am doing it. Because most days, it's not convenient. Today, I've got a shit-ton of stuff to do, it is absolutely not convenient for me to do my Everyday today. If I was not doing Everydays, I would not spend an hour, two hours doing, just focusing on trying to get better at just making a picture today. I just would not do that. I think that's why it works for me, but again, everybody I think has different workflows.
Mike Winkelmann: If you're somebody who, they're more comfortable posting works in progress, and you're seeing good results with that, then I would absolutely continue to do that. I love seeing stuff like that, and seeing people, how they're going about it, and being able to follow along.
Ej Hassenfratz: As far as, it's hard to commit to an Everyday, I know you've done some more longer-form projects while you're doing Everydays as well, do you feel like you maybe learn more doing one form or another, one short-form Everyday? Or do you feel you learn a lot more when you try to take all your skills to tackle a more intense longer form project?
Mike Winkelmann: I think they feed into each other. I think there are things, and like you were saying, in terms of muscle memory, just getting quicker with the tools that you're using, I think that's something that the Everydays help with a lot, in terms of being able to get very quick just moving around Cinema 4D and doing just basic shit that you're gonna have to do day-in, day-out. Just moving the camera around, moving stuff around, rotating shit. The quicker you can get at that by just sheer muscle memory repetition, it's gonna help in all these facets.
Mike Winkelmann: But I think the VJ clips and the short films that I do, they have different obviously timelines. So they have different things, those are times when I will dig in, and "Okay, I'm gonna try to figure out how to actually do this thing that I want to." Or try to do something obviously a little more complicated that's gonna take a couple hours, where I'm not under the gun of like, "Fuck, I've got two hours to do this, and it needs to be posted in two hours." I think they teach different things, but they feed off each other in terms of one helping the other, and vice versa.
Ej Hassenfratz: Do you ever feel like you get into a rut where you feel like you're just doing the same thing over and over again, and really not learning, and you're just in a comfort zone? Do you ever get into zones like that? Because I know with character work, I'm like, "I've rigged characters, and I'm having them do the same damn movements, because they're movements I know how to do." It's almost subconscious, because this is just a movement I do, because that's what I've been doing or whatever. I'm really interested to hear what you have to say about that.
Mike Winkelmann: I 100% feel like I get into ruts of things, because I don't wake up every day and have "Oh man, here's a fresh idea and it's fucking great." That's just not, nobody's like that. I feel like you lean on certain things, and you get into comfort zones. But that again, for me personally, is where, because I'm posting it publicly, like, "Oh, another one of these? This is fucking embarrassing. Goddammit, I have a million things exactly like this." It also pushes me to try to think of new things, because I don't want to do the same fucking thing over and over. There again, minimizing embarrassment is the overriding factor that drives me forward in terms of that.
Ej Hassenfratz: It's also comforting to know that if you do get into a repetition, at least something that was super hard to figure out to begin with is now smooth sailing for you.
Mike Winkelmann: I think the fact that you've recognized that it's like, "Eh," is gonna push you to do something different. I think if you don't recognize that you're doing the same fucking thing over and over, I think that might be bad. But then I look at, I guess I don't know, because then I look at people who have developed a very signature style, and they've pushed it so far, and they're so fucking badass with it, then in one instance you could say, "This person's doing the same thing over and over, because all their pictures look the same." But those pictures look fucking badass, so I don't know that that's necessarily something I would universally worry about. I don't know. I would worry more about not doing work, than doing the same work over and over.
Ej Hassenfratz: Right. That's shouldn't be the problem. I feel as long as you're putting in the work and doing the work, then you're already getting the habit in there, that's a good habit. Whether you're learning something new every day, it doesn't really matter. As long as you stick to it, because eventually you're gonna stumble upon something where you're like, "I got better at this." Like you were saying, you're so good at something, you do it so quickly, especially for your Everydays, I'm sure you're at the point where "I got all this done in an hour, I have a whole hour left to do something else and improve on this." You can focus on different things and self-assess like, "What do I need to do now?"
Mike Winkelmann: Sure. I think it's a fine line between developing a style and pushing that style forward, and feeling like you're in a rut doing the same thing. I think if you feel like you're in a rut, then I think you will just naturally do something different. But I feel like if you don't feel like that, then I don't know, you're probably gonna keep pushing in that same direction, and that might not be a bad thing. Because you're getting better and better at doing that one thing, and if that one thing is something that resonates with people, then that's a good thing. Again, going back to the difference between having a style that you're pushing towards, and feeling like you're in a rut I guess. It's a fine line, it's something you'll just know, I guess.
Joey Korenman: If you're not having fun doing it anymore, and it's on your own time, and it's not for a client, then what the hell are you doing? You should be enjoying yourself, right?
Mike Winkelmann: Yeah. If you're like, "This sucks," then you'll just do something else. That's where I think, with doing an Everyday, you have to do something. So if you're like, "I don't like doing what I just did the last three weeks, then I have to do something else, because I don't want to fucking do that thing again, but I have to do something." Instead of feeling like you're in a rut, but then just not putting out more work, because it's like, "I'm in a rut. I don't have any other ideas."
Ej Hassenfratz: You've got to create yourself out of that box.
Mike Winkelmann: And that's I think, for me at least, the only way to do it. Because I 100% get in ruts where it's like, "Oh god, I've done this fucking whatever a million times." But the only way to get out of it is to keep pushing, until something else clicks, and you move on or push the idea forward more.
Joey Korenman: I wanted to sum up, I've been writing little tidbits down as you guys have been talking, because I always like with these podcasts to have a takeaway from it. And it's interesting, Mike, because the way that you operate in your career, and the way that you achieved success is very unique. Most people don't do it the way you did it. But I think there's a lot of lessons, you said some pretty wise things today. I'm just gonna say them out loud, just so the listener can incorporate that.
Joey Korenman: One thing that I think is really interesting is that you use embarrassment as a motivator. I've never really thought about that, I've heard that advice before, but usually it will be put like, "Make yourself publicly accountable." If you want to go on a diet, tell everybody on Facebook, "I'm going on a diet," so that people will know. But by generating this momentum of your Everydays, you would be embarrassed if you got too hungover one day, or you were too drunk, and then like, "Oh shit, I didn't do it yesterday, oh crap."
Mike Winkelmann: I would be more than embarrassed, I would be extremely disappointed in myself, and super fucking pissed. That would be a day I would never forget, I would be very pissed at myself.
Joey Korenman: And there's not much better motivation than knowing that. Another thing I wrote down from the beginning of this conversation was about just grasping at straws in the beginning, where you don't really know what you don't know, and you're not even sure what you should be learning. It's funny, because I always looked at that phase as unnecessary. I was like, "Ga, if I just had the right teacher, or the right format, I could skip that part." But you made a good point that there's a lot of value to that, and there are some lessons that you really can only learn the hard way.
Joey Korenman: I think for a 3D artist, when and where to use global illumination might be, that's probably the most common one I can think of. Also, one of the things that's really, obviously you've been doing Everydays for a long time, but the momentum that you created in the first let's say year or two, before anyone was really paying attention, that momentum is still around today. That consistency creating momentum, is something that I think somebody on day-two of their Everydays should keep in mind. That momentum didn't just happen to you overnight, it took a long time. But once it builds, it's a pretty powerful force. And it would take probably an act of Satan to derail you at this point.
Mike Winkelmann: It grows, it continues to grow, the power of that. Because if you stop something after a month, you're like, "Fuck, I did that after a month." If you stop something after a year, you're like, "Goddammit, I did that for a full year and then I stopped." You stop it after 10 fucking years, it's like, "Mother-fuck, what the fuck?"
Joey Korenman: It's like an event, yeah.
Mike Winkelmann: The longer you go, that momentum will continue to carry you, and it will be a stronger and stronger motivator.
Joey Korenman: The last thing I wrote down, which is something that I should remember more, but I think everyone taking this class should keep this in mind, is that there is always tomorrow. There's always another project. If you're doing homework assignments for this class, and you're not happy with the way the last one went, you got a bunch of notes that you didn't agree with, whatever. You're gonna have another pretty soon, there's always the next thing. Everydays are an extreme example of that, there's an infinite number of the next one. But even in your career, if you get hired at a studio and you're working on a job, and your art director tells you what you just did sucks, there's gonna be another one.
Joey Korenman: That's pretty powerful too, because artists always like to get depressed about how inadequate we are. I think that's worth remembering.
Mike Winkelmann: With Donald Trump in office, I don't know that I would say there's always gonna be a tomorrow. [crosstalk]
Joey Korenman: Short of nuclear Armageddon.
Mike Winkelmann: But I think you put things up on a pedestal, and I think just being able to recognize that there is always tomorrow to improve, that this isn't life or death. None of these things, if you don't like what you did, put on something better the next day. That's definitely a strong component of it.
Joey Korenman: Preach.
Ej Hassenfratz: I think with Instagram, one of the most important things to understand, this is something, because I listen to Gary Vaynerchuk a lot, and he said this one thing that always stuck with me. "You're almost bombarded with people that are way better than you every single day." Everyone's posting all this amazing stuff about them on Facebook, and the problem with social media is, especially Instagram, you see all these people making amazing stuff, is that you're seeing their highlight reel basically. You're seeing all their highlights of all their best days, and you're comparing that to your everyday, your day to day stuff. You're not seeing, you're just seeing the end result of all the success and all the hard work, and you're not seeing all the failures.
Ej Hassenfratz: No one's posting their failures to Instagram, no one's like, "I had a crappy day, today sucked. I did something stupid." And you post that on your Facebook update, you're not doing that. You're not saying that you did some dumb-ass thing today. I think that's really important that you realize that, do not compare yourself with everyone's best efforts, when you're just trying to start making your own things.
Mike Winkelmann: I think it's easier said than done. To be honest, I really try to limit the amount of time I'm just mindlessly looking at Instagram and shit like that. Because like you were saying, I personally find that it makes me anxious and it makes me depressed, not super depressed, but I don't find it to be helpful. I don't that if I spend 15 minutes just mindlessly looking through Instagram at all this awesome work, I don't feel like that puts me in a better place than I was 15 minutes ago. I think it's very useful for finding inspiration, and if I'm in a mindset of trying to find some idea to just light the fire of that day, of what I'm gonna do to get the ball rolling, then I find it to be very useful. But if I'm just mindlessly looking at it, it's just like you're saying, people piling on, and it's just so much fucking amazing work.
Mike Winkelmann: You take all of these people's work, at least I do, in my mind and make it into this one giant super-person, who's just dominating the fucking shit out of you. When it's like, "Wait, I just looked at 50 different people's work, and some of this stuff they might have spent a month on or whatever." So it's definitely easy, I can definitely vouch for going on social media, looking at other people's work, and feeling like shit. I think that's something you need to really try to limit as much as possible. There's enough going on.
Ej Hassenfratz: If you're consuming more media than you're actually creating, then that's where you'll feel inadequate, because you're like, "I'm looking at all this stuff, and I haven't even been working. I haven't been creating anything to even try to get good." And that's the only way you can get good is by creating and getting all the bad work out. I think for those of you out there that just don't, that might be new to Beeple, of if you just learned about him recently, you might not have even seen some of his very first works. I think it's very important.
Ej Hassenfratz: I remember at Blend, Joey, you were there, or no, this was at some other event, AE World or something, Andrew Kramer showed up and he did a little talk. "Holy crap, freaking Andrew Kramer here." And he showed his very first demo reel, and it was the worst reel I've seen in my life. It was more crappy than my crappiest reel, and it was just like ... I didn't know how to take it, I was laughing, and then on the inside I'm crying, because I'm like, "He was way worse than me, now he's so much better than me." I think it's important to see that every single person, no matter how successful they are right now, made their fair share of really crappy work. The difference between them and you is that they pushed through, they put in all the work to get to the point where they're at now.
Ej Hassenfratz: So if you want to get to the point where Beeple is now, guess what? Pull up your bootstraps, because you've got a lot of work to do. And that's the only way you're gonna get better, and not by moping around feeling sorry for yourself. You've just got to create, you need to get all the bad work out of your system. The only way you can do that is by making and failing, and sucking for a long time. I feel like I still am terrible today, but you know what? It's all about having the right mindset. Tomorrow is another day, and tomorrow's another day to improve at whatever I'm working on.
Joey Korenman: This was just super inspiring and amazing to have you on. Thank you again so much, Beeple, or Mike, or come on and share your expertise. Because you're definitely a unicorn in the MoGraph world, it's very inspiring for our students to hear about your journey. Hopefully our students are very inspired to put in the work to also get better, and maybe even try the Everyday process themselves. Is there any parting advice you'd give to our students about creating Everydays, or just being an artist in general?
Mike Winkelmann: I think I've said enough dumb shit for one day, I think I talked out of my ass enough for one day. I appreciate you guys having me on, and all the kind words and everything. Obviously want to wish good luck to everybody, keep at it and have patience, and you'll get there.
Joey Korenman: Thank you again so much for coming on, Beeple. We'll all be following your Everydays, and don't stop. Don't ever quit.
Mike Winkelmann: Promise. Thank you, sir, I appreciate it.
Ej Hassenfratz: Wow. I bet you're feeling pretty inspired to start an Everyday project right now, right? You can see all the show-notes for this episode over at School of Motion, and if you want to learn more about Cinema 4D Basecamp, you can go ahead and visit the course page on the site. Thanks you guys so much for listening in.