6 things I Learned from Thesis, or How to Steal Time.

7  Things I Learned from Thesis


About a month ago, after 7 long years, I finally graduated from college. What that exactly means for me, outside of the safety net of school being gone, is that CCA has decided that i am qualified (enough) to doodle for a living. Because of this, I’ve been thinking a lot about this past semester, the future, and how quickly I can down a six pack while sitting in my boxers with my cats (because ya know. College.), and I’ve kind of come up with a list of a few things that I wish I had known or thought about before hand because if i did, i would’ve probably had a few extra weeks where I didn’t have to put pants on or get out of bed.


And, just to get this shameless plug out of the way because I’ve been in my cave working for  months on it, you can check out my finished thesis HERE on my website toward the bottom.


I encourage any of the rest of you freaks and weirdos who’ve already graduated or are going to be graduating to add to it, post something relevant,  reasons why I am way cooler than Chris Koehler, or reasons why  this list is utterly wrong. (But be nice about it, I’m fragile)

Alright. So:



Those of you going into the fall semester have a few months. You could probably have most of your sketches or thumbs done. I know someone who knew what he was doing enough to where he finished a piece or two before school even started. I wasted three weeks at the beginning of the semester switching topics and trying to find one that I was interested in and would work. (This freaked one of my advisors out, apparently. Still finished.)

All of them were cool ideas, but it wasn’t until I started planning and sketching them out that I realized some of them just wouldn’t work. If you’re doing 10 reasons why Chris Koehler isn’t as handsome as I am, research those ten reasons and do a few thumbnails.  Don’t waste your break procrastinating because it will bite you in the ass. Sometimes you don’t realize an idea isn’t working until you start to hash it out. In short:  Don’t come in the first day and say this is my idea. It may not work and that sucks. Have some sketches, notes, research. Do the leg work up front and you will have a solid few extra weeks to do good work. Or to drink until you completely forget about the real world. 



(Theres always the bottle deposit to make your rent…)



I procrastinated this part until the very end, and guess what? It sucked. I had to go to three different frame shops to get 9 frames that were what I wanted and exactly the same. Since I have a car, it wasn’t nearly as bad as it could’ve been, but driving to Emeryville, then Bezerkley, then back to the city really sucked. Granted, part of that was because the Aaron Brothers in the city is staffed by lazy buttholes who can’t be bother to, you know, do their job, but still.  Stephanie Gobby bought all of her frames at the beginning of the semester, and as she finished her pieces she would slap them in the frames. Easy storage, and it can give you an extra week or two at the end of the semester. Sometimes you don’t want or need frames. That’s cool, and if that’s the case you should buy me a burrito from all that money you’re saving.



(I imagine its hard to find good employees in hell. Which is where every Aaron Brother’s store is located.)



Think about the size you want to work at before thesis. I really like to work at 11 x 17 on arches 300lb cold press paper. That said, I also like to use like 4 or 5 other kinds of paper that give different textures than arches, some of it hotpress, some Bristol vellum, some made from the tanned remains of those that have crossed Bob Ciano. Because of this, one of my pieces was a slightly different size than the other 9, and it looked weird altogether because there was no reason for it. It also didn’t fit in my frame. So I had to rework it. Work at a size you enjoy that’s going to allow you to do great work, but realize that if you’re choosing to frame your work the weirder the size the harder it will be to find frames.




I want to start off by saying that my advisors were kick ass. (Randy Chavez and Robert Hunt) That being said, keep in mind that just because you’re assigned a specific two people doesn’t mean you can’t get advice from other instructors and people. I got some great feedback from Chris Koehler when I hit a rut and it really helped me focus myself toward a good direction. I got some great feedback from the two “R”s throughout the semester, and I actually learned some photoshop from Robert. (Which I think is kind of hilarious. “I don’t know much photoshop, but here, I’m going to do some voodoo and use these tools you didnt know existed.”) Randy was brutally honest in telling me that something wasn’t working. (I knew it but I didn’t really want to admit it. I ended up redoing the entire piece.) I pestered Owen Smith because he really doesn’t have much going on at school these days. (Seriously though, I think he’s been sleeping there… ) You have Bob Ciano to pester as well, and he’s got some killer stories and will always have something relevant to show you or some funky idea that you would’ve never thought of.  Use these resources, but also realize that they will not always be right and if you disagree with them then don’t take the advice. Same thing goes for your fellow students. Get feedback, but take it with a grain of salt. Also, its on you to make the effort with your advisors. The easier you make it on them, the better advice and critique you’ll get. Thrusting something in front of them and saying “Um… so here.” won’t really get you much help. Articulate what you need from them and it’ll be easier to get it. I never had a problem getting feedback, because I worked around their schedules and had prepared what I needed from them. I also may or may not have stalked and/or cornered a few people, but hey. I got my critique.



(They cowered in fear of how persistent I can be… and then got restraining orders.)




Be able to admit when you’re rushing something, forcing it, or full of shit. I did all of my legwork first, and got my thumbs knocked out, reference shot and sketches done before I started doing my finals. This is a terrible idea. Don’t do it. I got burnt out and I wound up having to repaint an entire piece because I just wanted to be done and I had been painting for like a month straight just about every day.  It may seem smart to do it this way but what i realized is that it kind of screwed me because I stopped learning and it became much more mundane and mindless. When I realized this, I started to just rework my sketches and reshoot reference for just the piece i was working on, and they became a lot more fun again. All that work I had done previously was kind of moot though, and I wasted a lot of time. So dont be afraid to be honest with yourself in what you can accomplish, and don’t let idealism get in the way of doing good work.  You are not an assembly line in 1920′s Detroit.



(If you were present day Detroit you’d probably have never made it this far anyway. )



I was always way ahead of schedule. Granted, that schedule changed about every other week, but I do kind of wish I had better planned when I was supposed to finish. I had actually intended to give myself about a week or two to get my promos printed and all that (and I actually hit that mark almost exactly), but stuff comes up and it sucks to pay $65 more so you can pick up your promos two business days early.




Your teachers are there because they like teaching. Most of them are humans and will be willing to help you out if you can show them that you take them seriously, and you have the motivation and drive to succeed. They will be your competition and colleagues someday very soon. Use them as a resource, don’t be afraid to talk to them, and ask for help if you need it. I’ve probably gotten more of an education just from the relationships I’ve built with my teachers and the things they’ve told me than I did from some of the classes I paid a lot of money to be in. Plus, I got to be an awesome vampire, a  cowboy, and at least part of my back and hand is out there somewhere holding a scotch glass probably looking very dapper. Don’t be afraid to speak up, and don’t be intimidated. Remember they have a lot of experience doing what you want to be doing, and often can help steer you in the direction you want to head.


With all that being said, the batch of students coming up in the next couple years are fantastic. I cant wait to see what you guys come up with. Big thanks to all of the faculty at CCA. Without any of you, this wouldn’t have been such a fantastic couple of years.


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