The following is a review of the big themes and takeaways of the last year. To catch up what’s already happened in 2023, I’d refer you to this post.
A key goal of mine at the moment is to get really familiar with the ins and outs of Photoshop and to not have to pause my workflow to figure out how to do basic things. So I’m working through the Essentials courses on the CtrlPaint website- this isn’t an advanced illustration program but rather a good way to ease into various aspects of digital painting (linework, sketching, blocking, rendering, color) while learning one professional artist’s day-to-day Photoshop workflow. I’ve completed about 50% of the courses and expect to finish the rest in a few more months. I wanted to have Photoshop feel like it’s second nature to me and the good news is I think I’m there. Digital painting feels fairly natural to me and it’s easy to get into a flow state. I’ve focused so much on PS at the exclusion of traditional media that drawing in a sketchbook feels strangely foreign and difficult at the moment. I’ll get back into it at some point.
Personal Knowledge Management
I’ve been journaling/note taking for years now. I’ve used writing primarily as a thinking tool- if I have a lot going on, I spit it out on the page and I feel better and have a clearer head. Since 2017, my system has basically involved writing my notes in massive markdown docs (one for each year), synced on Dropbox. This setup is great for dumping ideas out of your brain but terrible for revisiting them.
I’m at that point now though where I have so many projects and active experiments that to not have them pinned down somewhere outside of my head would give me major anxiety. So I overhauled my basic markdown + GDrive setup this year in favor of a Personal Knowledge Management system in Obsidian. It’s free, cross platform, syncs via Google Drive (to keep this free, the syncing is rather limited and clunky. And it doesn’t work well on my iOS devices) and works using markdown so I was able to port over my old notes fairly easily. I also liked that I’d own all my docs instead of relying on the benevolence of an Evernote or Notion.
For tech workers, you could think of PKMs as a Confluence or wiki for your life, but one that’s better managed and more frequently updated than the one you have at work.
I’ll write another post outlining how I organize my notes, it might be useful for other artists/freelancers who’ve never used structured tools for managing projects and ideas.
In parallel with learning digital painting, I’ve been trying to get into algorithmic trading as potential passive income play. I have a lay of the land of the major asset classes, relevant trading rules/boundaries in the Indian market, an understanding of basic algorithmic trading strategies as well as the requirements of backtesting and trade execution engine. This year I want to trade some simple algorithms live with real stakes to see if it justifies further work.
To be honest, it’s been hard to balance trading with learning digital painting. Additionally, getting my hands on free data for all asset classes in India, as well as basic information such as futures expiry calendars, data cleaning procedures specific to the Indian markets has proven to be challenging. The silver lining might be that the number of players in India as well as the available resources for the space that I’m in (retail algorithmic trading) is far fewer than it is in more developed markets like the US creating an edge for motivated and sufficiently skilled individuals
I’ve been practicing guitar most days of the week for about a year. This is the most consistent I’ve been with practicing guitar and I’ve seen slow but steady progress.
A surprise habit for 2023 – I’ve gotten into MMA! The entirety of my physical training the last few years has been strength training. I felt that while there’s plenty of room to grow there, I also have a decent strength base that I now want to put to use for something. I wake up at 5am(!) now and try to make it to class 5 days week. I’ve also gotten into running (gasp) and am training to get to a 25min 5k. I look forward to seeing where I’m at a year from now!
The newness of self-employment/self-learning has worn off and reality has sunk in. And it is…hard. A big part of 2023 was spent working through limbo, getting comfortable with discomfort, and start work on replacing the machine with another one, one of my choosing.
A major challenge I’ve faced this year is the lack of feedback. I don’t yet have external deadlines, coworkers and limited to no social media presence. Our perceptions of ourselves are in part shaped by our reflections in other people. And without that it’s been hard to gauge how well I’m doing, measure improvements, and judge whether I’m working too hard or not enough. It’s easier to push when there’s something to resist against. Which brings me to my next point.
An intentional life allows me the flexibility to choose constraints and rules that work uniquely well for me. But with that extreme flexibility comes the feeling of being unmoored, and on shaky ground. Sooner or later, one has to pick a game and stick with it. It’s just takes less mental energy to operate that way, questioning the how instead of the what.
Also, the machine hasn’t been set up yet- in the form of deliverables, deadlines, client meetings and demands outside of myself. When there are setbacks in projects, ebbs in output or energy levels, it takes motivation to get back into it as opposed to having the machine drag you along. And motivation is a finite resource. I find myself having longer periods where I’m unproductive compared to when I was working corporate jobs.
It’s so easy to get lost in the minutiae of the day-to-day and week-to-week because those are the timescales we tend to operate on. “Oh I’ve had such a great week; Damn I didn’t get as much done as I’d have liked to today; Ugh I was sick the last couple days and now I’m behind.” I get the feeling though that the only thing that matters, is staying in the game in the long run. If the week to week leaves you burnt out enough that you end up quitting entirely for a couple months, that’s a net worse than just keeping your energy levels and productivity steady throughout. Outlast your competition.
So happy new year for this 2024! Stay strong, and stay in the game!