Honoring the Social Contract


Armand Cabrera
I’ve noticed some interesting ideas floating around now about what I’ve always thought of as work ethic and what I was thought to believe about the social contract. I was taught growing up that I could have whatever I wanted as long as I made it myself or paid for it. I don’t need other people’s ideas or talent or stuff. When I honor others right to make a living from their work, I protect my own right to the same. The social contract is secure. It’s a philosophy that is pretty straight forward and simple.
Yes, some people had better advantages than I did but their lives didn’t affect me and I just needed to work and focus and if I was smart enough I would achieve my goals. I would rise to the level of my abilities.  I was taught my desire or perceived need does not give me a license to steal from others.
That idea seems to be broken now. Many people seem to think that the world owes them something. These people think they are special just because they exist and that everything and everyone out there is fodder to help them achieve their goals. They would never pay for something they could steal.
 In the art world these entitlements manifest as stealing other peoples work and using it without permission or compensation. Allowing the thief to pretend to have skills they don’t actually have. With digital technology there is absolutely no excuse for using another’s work that isn’t your own since everyone is carrying at least a still camera and can shoot their own reference.
Don’t have a particular reference for a thing? You can model it. Need something more complex than you have the ability for? You can pay someone to make it for you as a 3d model or physical model. Can’t afford to pay someone? Then go without.
It’s lazy and immoral to take other peoples work without asking and or paying for it, always. No one should be asked to or expected to work for free. Need is not a justification for theft, ever.

Archiving Work Part 1

Cloud Storage


Armand Cabrera

Network storage has been around for quite a while but system access was limited to a company or possibly a University. In 2007 Dropbox created the first public subscription based cloud service.

At the entry level most cloud storage providers offer you free space. This is in the 5 to 10 GB with the ability to buy more storage for a monthly or yearly fee. Remeber this information is fluid and things change rapidly it is always good to do a search on cloud services to get current information. This information is relevant in January 2014.

Amazon, Apple, DropBox, Google and Microsoft all offer free space so if you have an account with one of these services you already have access to at least 5 GB of free space.

For $60 to $100 a year some companies offer unlimited storage.  As of this writing JustCloud, YouSendit, OpenDrive, Carbonite and Online Storage all offer unlimited plans for those that need a lot of space.  If you work digitally, or use video as well as photography these plans might be for you. Personally I can get by with about 1TB of space a year but as image file resolution increases so will our needs for more space.

You should know that keeping things with a cloud service can forfeit your exclusive right to that data. Many of the contracts state this in their EULA (end user license agreement) be sure to read and understand what you are giving away before you just click through that contract.

Most of these companies have basic security but the problem with services is you are pooling a lot of information into a few places. While their security is probably better than your home computer security, your home computer isn’t as likely to be hacked and information stolen just because an individual isn’t as big of a target for criminals. The other problem is when things are hacked you run a greater risk because most likely all your devices are connected to your cloud service. I have heard stories of people being locked out of all of their devices, (phone pad, laptop,) once their cloud account was hacked. Connectivity has its downside so be aware. Companies also come and go so beware just because you are with a company doesn’t mean that company can’t or won’t go out of business.

Cloud storage is cheap and easy to use but I would not depend on it as an only means of archiving my work. The threats I mentioned are lessened when you archive your work in multiple places. Personally I only use cloud storage to move and store current work and I keep that same work on magnetic drives in my studio. I do not link to my cloud storage so that if the information is compromised it doesn’t spread to everything I own. All retired work for permanent archiving is kept on physical media like Optical storage.

I use dropbox more than any other cloud storage service. If you join them, please use this link so I can get some more free space, thanks.

Archiving Work Part 2

Magnetic Storage
Armand Cabrera

Magnetic storage is what most people think of when they think of computer storage. It is the most popular form of storage for electronic devices and it is also the cheapest.  Everything from your camera to phone uses magnetic media.  For a very reasonable price you can get multiple gigabytes of space on a consumer disc no larger than the head of a thumbtack. Its portable and easy to use.That comes with a trade-off though; magnetic storage is notoriously impermanent. It is great for short term storage or transferring files from your devices but it will not survive long term storage reliably. External and internal drives are the way most of us store our files on our computers.  I use a 2 terabyte external drive for my main computer all my files and photos are kept there and not on the internal computer drive.  That drive is roughly the size of a large smart phone and uses USB connectivity.

You can now get 6 terabyte drives although 2TB to 4TB are more common.  A good 2 terabyte drive is less than $100 USD at the time of this writing with 4 TB drives around $150 USD.  Computers that are a couple of years older have trouble recognizing more than 2 TB drives sometimes so make sure you check your model and manufacturer to see if you can use the bigger drives. For most artists a terabyte is more than enough for a year of images even for digital work. That would be roughly equal to ten thousand 100 MB files.

I swap my external drive with a new one every year or so. I keep the old ones after transferring the information to optical media for more permanent storage. So far these kinds of drives seem to last about ten years before the files show serious signs of corruption which renders most of the information unreadable but I have also had drives that became unreadable in just a year or two. It is always smart to keep important things in more than one place and really important things in hardcopy.

Passion and the Professional Artist


Armand Cabrera
Towards the Coast                  24 x 30                         oil on linen
I think one of the most important things that happened when I became a professional artist was I let go of the amateur idea that artistic passion was something external from me. That my art was something separate that I had to wait for or tap into. That sort of amateur approach to art is something most professionals can’t afford in their careers. That kind of thinking will actually hold you back in your career and prevent you from achieving your full potential.
In the 1982 movie The Verdict, the main character played by actor Paul Newman says “Act if you have faith and faith will be given to you.” David Mamet is the one who wrote the screenplay for the Verdict, receiving an Oscar for his adaption and so knows something about being a successful writer. Those words are something all of us can live by in our careers.
What I believe Mamet was saying is professional artists must learn to develop and channel their creative passion with good working habits.  Creativity is like most endeavors, you improve it the more you do it. Waiting around for the right time and place or the right feeling  is a detriment to productivity and creativity.
 Professionals know their creativity is a part of them, always ready for them to express. If they struggle with their work it’s usually from distractions not that their ability has left them.  Experienced artists know to work through problems, setbacks and distractions and still produce professional level work. They know that just the act of working not only helps them produce work, but it in turn helps them produce better work.

Process versus Outcome


Armand Cabrera

I was having a discussion the other day with some people online about the importance of a degree as an artist going into the entertainment industry. It was interesting to listen to people who weren’t artists or art directors give their reasons why they thought a degree was absolutely essential. My argument has always been this is misguided, especially in the arts.

Let me state clearly I am not talking about art instruction which is a separate but sometimes overlapping endeavor. I am talking about a degree. A degree is a process; the result should be a professional portfolio. It is supposed to symbolize the satisfactory completion of a curriculum under the instruction of a master. Its veracity depends on its results, not on the degree itself. Others will make the argument that a degree shows a level of ability to follow through on something. If the portfolio is lacking doesn’t it also show the inability to determine what a waste of time it was? It can’t be both. Only the outcome matters.

To assume that getting a degree gives you a professional portfolio ignores the facts and anecdotal reports from professional artists themselves. Most of whom claim they learned nothing or very little in art school and that their real learning came afterward.  If this is true then its time to re-evaluate a degree in the arts.

With the commercialization of higher education and changes in lending practices by the banking industry prospective artists need to carefully consider what they are getting into when they take on large amounts of debt. Hard to do when you are in your late teens to early twenties and you have no or little experience with such matters. This is where councilors and advisers really need to step up and give good advice about the current economic climate and not just tow the corporate line to put money back into the institutions coffers.

The internet allows people interested in a profession like art to interact with professionals in an unprecedented way. Sites like PACT (TheProfessional Artist Client Toolkit) even provide contract templates and general price structures for interested parties in the science fiction fantasy illustrators, Video Game and entertainment, table top gaming, and comic book industry.

Online help through social media can give savvy students free access to critiques and opinions across a broad set of disciplines and experience. Portfolios of these pros are freely available to view and help the decision making process about who knows their stuff and who doesn’t. Beyond the free advice there are numerous opportunities for paid instruction for a fraction of the cost of a big school

In the end, it is important to keep your focus on acquiring a professional portfolio.  Careful consideration must be used to keep from saddling students with tens of thousands of dollars of debt which according to most studies, they won’t pay off until their 40’s or later. This delays starting a family, home purchases and retirement provisions all of which help provide security to an already difficult career as an artist.