Like Yiro’s picture to the left- A lot of you guys have no focus. Yiro did it on purpose for an artistic effect… But I suspect when painting or photographing with your life, you guys are probably looking for more clarity.

I hate to be a drag- but there is little focus on excellence across the board. I don’t even just mean in class… I mean in life. Everyone expects everything for nothing, and to do whatever they want with no consequences for their actions. It’s absolutely an epidemic in the US. Mediocrity is everywhere. I see it when I go out to local shops and restaurants, and especially in schools- from both students and teachers alike.

I don’t know who to blame. I’m not sure it would do any good to point it out anyway- because falling into mediocrity is a choice. You get to choose how high your standards are set for yourself. You get to choose if you’re amazing or not. You get to quit when YOU choose to quit.

Sometimes students get frustrated at their grades… but it’s not because they disagree with them- but because they just want a free pat on the back for mediocre work. Even that confuses me.. If you haven’t done your best- and someone says “wow- that’s excellent!”- why would you accept that as a compliment? YOU know it isn’t excellent. YOU know you didn’t do your best. so what does it matter if someone else says it’s great if you know it really isn’t? You quit before you gave it your all… no matter what anyone else calls it. So you’re OK with getting props for junk? How will you ever be more than you are? Only an absolute narcissist would be happy with that kind of treatment.

And the reverse is true. Who cares if you get a “D” on something you poured yourself into and did your best? If YOU know you did your best- then you can rest in that. So maybe you’re not a digital artist or a mathmetician or a scientist or a doctor. You tried your best- and that’s all you can do. It doesn’t reflect anything about YOU that it wasn’t up to another person’s standard… It just reflects how your WORK measures up to their standards. But if YOU tried your best- then YOU win. Maybe that vocation isn’t for you. Maybe you just need to practice more and learn more. Maybe you needed to learn where your weaknesses are and now you know. But it’s nothing to loose sleep over.

Be your own judge. Excellence takes time. Spending a couple hours on a photoshop document is NOT a lot of time. Excellent work takes a dozen hours or more. It takes the patience and excellence that is never satisfied with “good enough.” It keeps going until it’s just right. It’s about not stopping until you simply can’t pick out anything that’s not just how you’d want it in your work.

And this is not just about digital art. This is about life. Dancing. Cooking. Housework. Saving the planet. World peace. Being a teacher. Being a student. Being a Parent. Being a child. Being a friend…

It’s about BEING.

This is about life. What kind of grade do you deserve? What makes you any better than anyone else? You want to be treated like you’re special… What do you DO to deserve it?

I choose not to participate in the games anymore. I refuse to be mediocre in my own life. I refuse to accept it in my lab. You may get out of here with a D if you do the bottom limit of what’s required- but that will be the best. If you want higher than a “C” in here- you need to earn it.

This week- Finish your Certiport contest entry. DO NOT rely on what you already know. Learn something new to incorporate. I am giving you about 10 hours to work on this one project- I expect that your entry will reflect 10 hours of work- half of that should be new things you learned on your own. HERE IS A LINK TO TONS OF PHOTSHOP TUTORIALS TO USE. It is a great resource to get started on your trip to excellence. Of course, if you were really committed to it- you would not need me to point out the way- you’d be on it already.

UPDATE: I’m being called to the floor by students saying I don’t ever show you guys any of MY work… So I will complete a weekly assignment also- and I expect that your projects should reflect the time, effort, and energy that mine display. HERE is my first entry. Tutorial inspired, then tweaked to what I needed. Done today in one class period. Not finished, but a good start.

HERE is number 2 for the day… done during the next class period. If I can do these in 90 minutes, you should be able to knock ’em down in about 2-3 hours, easily. I’m just following the simple directions on the tutorial pages and making modifications to suit my own image and my own style. I also often mix up things from earlier tutorials in the newer ones. Easy to do when you’ve done a bunch and have some great ideas! (Updated image after more work)

Another day, another image… I’m NO LONGER accepting excuses about how the more complex looking projects “take too long.” I have no more than 4 hours in any of the images here so far… And I’m just experimenting (with the same ideas, I know) with different textures and images. Next week I’ll go for a different “feel.” But If I can do three in as many days, you can do one in five.