Mike Winkelmann aka Beeple is a director and motion designer from Neenah, Wisconsin USA. Beeple is probably most renowned for his creations of everyday’s which have been going for nearly 9 years now – without missing a single day…
He has also created a number of widely acknowledged animated short films, concert visuals for Eminem, deadmau5 and Katy Perry to mention a few, as well as doing Creative Commons VJ clips and sharing the project files for people to dissect and learn from. Beeple’s dedication, art and contribution to the motion industry is a gift and he is a great source of inspiration. Therefore I am very excited to have him share some insights with all of us, and get a little peek into the humble and hardworking person behind the Beeple nick.
Note: Do yourself a favor and check out the video of Beeple’s everyday-talk at FITC from last year in the bottom of the feature. Be sure to keep your coffee at a safe distance to your computer.
So withour further ado; Beeple.
Daniel: How did you discover your passion for design and animation? Was there any particular moment that stands out to you where all the planets aligned and your vision got crystal clear?
Beeple: Mmmm, I’ve always been into design I guess. I used to make short films in college with my friends and then realized it was a lot more fun just doing stuff on the computer where I had total control.
Daniel: Your everydays has been going for more than 3200 consecutive days now which means that next time it will take you past the 9 year mark… For a mere mortal like me this is simply mind boggling to comprehend.
Where does this drive and desire to create something every single day come from, and how does it affect your daily work and life in general?
Beeple: It’s just a commitment I’ve made. The momentum of the project keeps me going. Everydays for me will take up just about as much time as I have for them. If I have four hours to devote, then I can spend four hours experimenting and screwing around. But if I only have one hour, then it’ll get done in an hour. So usually I will work on my bigger projects first and leave my everyday to the end of the day so I can get other stuff done too. I’ve never missed a day so I guess I can say that it really has fit into my life.
If you look at it like just another thing you have to do each day like taking a dump it becomes a lot less “sacred”…
Daniel: What was your initial idea and reason for starting out with your everydays? Did you in your wildest dreams see yourself doing this 9 years down the line and making such an impact as an artist?
Beeple: I started the everydays because I wanted to get better at drawing. When I look back, I can see how some of the pictures were definitely crap. But along the way I tried more shit and just realized that day after day, I did improve.
Daniel: How has making everydays impacted your career, and life as a person and an artist?
Beeple: I think it has obviously helped me a ton in being able to make the jump to freelance. I’ve learned an insane amount so I don’t think that would have been possible without doing everydays. As a person I think it’s helped me learn a small amount of discipline and maybe the tiniest shred of patience (a trait I have very little of). As an artist it has helped me demystify art a lot. If you look at it like just another thing you have to do each day like taking a dump it becomes a lot less “sacred”…
Daniel: On your website it states that your work “kind of blows ass” – even the url has crap in it. Your FITC talk and podcasts with Ash Thorp also suggests, that you don’t rate your work that highly, and you seem very humble about it.
Is it difficult for you to look at your own work and enjoy it, or is it a mechanism and a way for you to distance yourself from your work to keep pushing yourself every day to create something better?
Beeple: Yeah, it’s never really where I want them to be. That’s why I need to keep working. If I had the time, I could keep tweaking and trying different shit….so much so that it would never be finished. That’s the idea. You do it. You learn. You move on. You do it every day. And every day you have a fresh start to create something new.
Daniel: Do you have any rituals or certain things that you like to do, to help set yourself up for work and get into your creative flow? Once there, how do you stay in “the zone” and minimize distractions around you?
Beeple: I really like listening to music that has a lot of energy. I’m not great at minimizing distractions but try to close out email and put my phone out of reach. I’ll put on headphones, too. My family is also amazingly supportive!!
Daniel: In between your everydays you also create a lot of VJ visuals – but you have also created a couple of monster personal projects in the shape of Transparent Machines and ZERO-DAY.
How important are these personal projects for you, and how long did it take you to create these? Both of the films have an underlying political tone and question the security of our privacy – is there any underlying message you are trying to highlight through these, or is it purely fictional to drive the story?
Beeple: My films generally take a year at least. I try to work a bit on it every day but sometimes I will be super busy and won’t get to it for a few days or even a week. The story is something I believe in but it’s also a bit dramatized.
Daniel: You are also creating a lot of VJ clips and sharing your project files under Creative Commons for people to pull apart and enjoy learning from. What is your reason for sharing your work and how is this important to you?
Beeple: I love making visuals but I’m not a VJ myself so I thought that maybe other people would like to use them. It’s really great seeing all the awesome music people pair with them and I’m always honored to be a tiny part of people’s projects.
Daniel: How do you tend to get inspired creatively? Are there any particular sources or methods you use to seek inspiration from – e.g. music, traveling, books, podcasts, comics, art, sports, movies,.. 80s arcade machines?
Beeple: I would say that I’m mainly inspired by other people’s work online a lot. And music. I mostly listen to a mix but more recently have been into rap. I guess sometimes when I’m out, I will see something that looks super cool and that spurs something. Like I was at my father’s business and there were all of these machines and metal everywhere. Even the lights and things hanging looked artistic. I brought my camera and took a shit ton of pictures. Sometimes weird stuff inspires me. I’ll notice how light hits something…
Daniel: Do you have any other passions or hobbies that you like to spend your time on?
Beeple: Mmmm, I’m really into the news I guess. Right now I’m pretty jacked up on the current election, so that keeps me entertained. I also like running and I’m into stocks and investing.
I guess I really spend most of my spare time with my family. I have a 2 year old daughter and we just had another baby in January so I’m tired as fuck. I have literally picked up shit with my bare hands on two occasions in the last week so I guess that’s my hobby right now. Picking up fucking shit. #neverhavekids
Daniel: What is motion design to you? How do you tend to describe what you do for others to better understand what you do?
Beeple: Hmmm, honestly I don’t even know so I usually just avoid it. I tell people I’m a graphic designer so they don’t ask any more questions.
Daniel: Do you have any preferred tools or online platforms you go to for inspiration and managing your ideas?
Beeple: For the most part I use Behance, tumblr and Pintrest.
… to grow you always have to be open to change.
Daniel: What would your dream project look like if you could tailor it yourself?
Beeple: Mmmm, I think a dream project would just be one where I could jam out ideas without being hindered by the technical side of things. That would be cool.
Daniel: Where do you see yourself in 5 years time? Do you see yourself doing something completely different? – any other challenges and dreams that you would like to pursue and have a go at?
Beeple: I hope I am just doing the same thing now, but am MUCH better at it. Actually, I guess I would be open to new ideas… to grow you always have to be open to change.
Daniel: What can we expect to see from you in 2016? Anything exciting lined up that you are able to reveal?
Beeple: I’ll be doing more VJ clips, of course more everydays – you can look for those every day! I’m doing some concert visuals and I will hopefully finish a short film this year too. A big thing I hope to accomplish is having my 2 year old potty-trained and baby sleeping through the night!
Daniel: What does “Beeple” mean, and how did that come up?
Beeple: A Beeple is a stuffed animal from the 80s that lights up. If you cover its eyes, it lights up and sort of giggles. It’s a mix of light and sound. You can buy them on eBay; they aren’t rare or anything. I started with the name in 2003… the Beeple has an interplay between light and sound and a lot of the first stuff I did was instrumental video stuff back then. I have quite a collection of the stuffed animals – thanks to my bro Scott.
Daniel: Last but not least, as I am very curious about how you manage to do it.
Could you give any advice from your own experience on how others can get into the routine of doing everydays, and show up and create something every day? I guess you have to say no to a lot of things – both in work and life – because of this commitment, but is there something you have learned in your own process and development that you could possibly share?
Beeple: It would be saying no to things is the biggest thing. If you think about it, you’re already saying “no” and not doing a lot of things. You need to just switch it around to say “yes” to this. If it’s an art project, maybe just plan to spend 10 minutes a day on it. I suggest doing it at the end of the day and, for me, I have a deadline of midnight. Before you know it, it will become second nature and an automatic thing. You won’t dread it. You will just do it…kinda like brushing your teeth.
And accomplishing an everyday – for years – will hopefully be impactful on your life!!!1
So that’s the story so far from Beeple. I’d like to take the opportunity to thank him for taking the time out to answer a few questions and sharing some of his insights for all of us to enjoy and get inspired from. Make sure to follow Beeple’s work (everyday!!) and see what he’s up to. See links below: