Ten years ago on May 1, 2007 visual artist Mike Winkelmann, who is better known as Beeple, started spending one or two hours a day creating some kind of picture from scratch. He called the projects Everydays, and the idea was—and still is—to keep learning. New software, photography, drawing, it doesn’t really matter what skill he experiments with. By pushing himself to be creative, especially using tools he has far from mastered, Winkelmann has managed to mostly overcome both the fear of facing a blank page, as well as the compulsion to overwork a project.

In honor of this 10-year anniversary of Everydays, I asked him to talk about some of the various types of projects he’s experimented with over the years, including work using Cinema 4D, After Effects, ZBrush, Octane and V-Ray.
 
For his first Everyday on May 1, 2007, Mike Winkelmann did a drawing of his uncle Jim.

In 2008, he created the first Everyday made using Cinema 4D. “Looking at these, you can see how everybody starts at square one. There’s no getting around that,” Winkelmann says.

Winkelmann, who is know for his films, including Zero Daya series of Instrumental Videos, and for freely sharing his work with VJs and others on his Vimeo channel, also answered a few questions about creativity, the value of doing something from scratch every day and what he’s learned from this self-imposed endeavor. Here is what he told me.

How do you feel about this Everydays anniversary? Are you doing anything special?

Winkelmman: I’ve thought a lot about what I want to do that day. On the one hand it’s like, well, it’s just another day. But then it’s like, well, I’ve been doing this for 10 years so it isn’t really like any other day. The entire point of the project is that each specific day doesn’t matter that much. It’s the culmination of a lot of days that’s important because you didn’t try to kill yourself doing a bunch of things in one day and get burned out.

In 2012, Winkelmann was experimenting with Illustrator, trying to learn about how line weights change the look and “attempting to emulate a very clean style,” he recalls.

“Branching out to use different toolsets adjacent to normal workflow, like Illustrator, helped push me in different directions,” he says.

Is this the end, or will you keep doing Everydays?

Winkelmann: I am going to continue. It’s hard to imagine not doing it because of all of the positives in terms of learning and getting ideas out there. I’ve never strongly considered stopping, but one thing that I might do is incorporate more assets into each one. Up until now, I haven’t used a ton of other people’s models or stuff like that. I’ve mostly used stuff that I built that day. Now I am trying to work on more narrative and composition, so I’m not as interested in whether I can model scaffolding, or a machine, or truck or whatever. Now I just want a truck or car so I can think about what kind of story or picture I can make with them. Those are the kinds of things that I’m going to change going forward.

In 2015, Everydays became more sci-fi themed as Winkelmann tried working with abstract geometric shapes and semi-realistic environments. “That was very different,” he says, “because before that everything had been pretty abstract.”

It’s seems like more and more artists are trying your Everydays approach. What do you think of that?

In 2016, Winkelmann began working more with human models while exploring different forms and ideas around people.

Winkelmann: It’s true that it’s become kind of a trendy thing in the last couple of years. Greyscalegorilla had a podcast the other day where they were discussing the pros and cons of doing Everydays. The angle was that it wasn’t good to do it just to chase likes on Instagram rather than trying to get better or whatever. I think it’s interesting to see the evolution of the whole scene, and I can see both sides of the debate. I wouldn’t discourage people from jumping on the bandwagon.

He continued to explore the sci-fi aesthetic in 2016, focusing on compositions and environments using Cinema 4D, Octane, World Machine and 3D-Coat.   

Winkelmann often comes up with new workflows to speed up production so he can create as much complexity as possible in a short time.

Technology has allowed people’s work to be more visible, so we can see when we’re going through phases or emulating each other’s styles, trying to find our voice. I’ve gone through that, everyone has, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it. It’s not necessarily bad to try to gain a following. Doing the Everydays has definitely helped me in terms of visibility and a following. But it’s not good to just be chasing likes because it won’t be enough: It won’t be fulfilling.

Do clients ask for things they see in your Everydays?

Winkelmann: Yes, I do have clients who look at certain things and say they want something like it. I also have clients who will use Everydays as mood boards, sort of a jumping off point.

In July of 2016, he started using Daz3D, a free program that allowed him to easily export models of people, bring them into C4D and pose them. “It’s free, but clothes for them cost money. I’ve probably spent more money for my character’s clothes than my own,” he says, laughing.

How would you say doing Everydays has helped you creatively?

Winkelmann: The momentum of Everydays has been super helpful because that’s what helps carry those projects forward. With other things, I stills struggle with thinking, ‘You suck, and everything you do is terrible.’ Even after all this time, that has definitely not gone away, and that self-resistance stops me sometimes from putting out more VJ clips or short films. Doing the Everydays helps fight against those forces.

Shortly after Donald Trump’s inauguration, Winkelmann used Octane’s scatter tool to create ominous crowds. “I looked at some pictures of Nazis and they were in color, which made things look so much more real than black and white. You’re able to put yourself there.”

One thing I will say is that people spend too much time thinking about how to come up with ideas. If you just sit down, something creative will probably just come to you. You’d probably be surprised by how many ideas you have if you force yourself to sit down and do something. People make creativity this sort of magical thing, but there is also some luck to it. The more you sit down, the more you increase your chances of getting lucky.

Recently, Winkelmann has been playing with Octane to create things like fog. “It takes a long time to render fog, but I like the mix of fog and blur that you get.” The otherworldly environment was made with X-Particles.

Is your harsh internal critic helpful to you?

Winkelmann: Sometimes I wish I could not be so negative, really. That I could be more like, ‘Oh, that’s not bad.’ I have some degree of that, if I’m in a better mood. But it’s good to set high standards for yourself, and to look at the work of the people who are the best in the area that you’re trying to focus on. Don’t just sit around thinking, ‘Oh, this is good enough.’ The whole point of Everydays is to get up and do it again because you are not yet where you want to be. If you’re not painting the frickin’ Sistine Chapel, you’re not where you want to be, as far as I’m concerned.

Meleah Maynard is a freelance writer and editor in Minneapolis, Minnesota.