Four years on.

Alexis André
5 min readDec 31, 2020

With today’s daily I reach four years of daily animations. It’s been a wild ride to say the least, with some learnings along the way. I somehow started this as a twitter thread, lost the draft (twice), then it ended up being over 45 tweets long, so here are my thought on the process.

People often ask “how do you keep being creative” but this is not the right question. You can draw everyday by taking the time to take a piece of paper, a pencil and by drawing a circle, you accomplish the task. Sometimes it’ll be a crappy circle, sometimes it will be a pretty good one. What is important is that you are getting into the habit of doing this everyday. You get the piece of paper, and you draw. You “create” something everyday, yet this might not be “creative”, as it is just a circle.

The point is that you are getting used to the process, you are learning. You get into this state where when inspiration comes, you are ready to get the idea down. You meet the muse midway: you’ve been exploring the field a lot already and you started to see the things that lay beyond the mere circle you started with. That’s where you are “creative”.

Doing dailies is really a question of learning your tools well so that you are not fighting them when time is short. Doing dailies is a wonderful way to learn new tools, because the pressure is only yours to apply. You can always do better tomorrow, what is crap today can be forgotten. The tools will also decide a lot of what you can do within the scope of a day. You can’t do over-night renders. Some tools will be better at doing complex 3D, some will make it easier to work with simple 2D geometry. Learn which tool to use is of course as important.

Any experienced graphics programmer can of course re-invent the wheel and implement whatever feature needed in any framework, but that is a strange point of doing dailies. You can’t really spend time on “week problems” or “month problems”. At best, you can work on “day problems”. During this year I think I was able to work in parallel on two or three “week problems” and integrate them in my daily codebase. The visual changes were I think obvious (shaders, 3D stuff, shadows, ray tracer). It’s very hard to do more. But that’s why it is interesting.

Daily deadline

Dailies are taxing. You can’t escape the deadline, but since it’s a daily one, it might be easier somehow (there is no “I still have a couple days left, I’ll do this tomorrow”). These days I tend to do the daily in the morning to get my brain running, and use all the breaks of the regular day to think about new things to try. Juggling kids and other hobbies makes it pretty challenging, but as rewarding as you can imagine. I chose to use Rust and #nannou two years ago (after two years of scala/processing) and the journey through Rust was a reward by itself.

The fact that I got invited to talk about Rust and nannou at GitHub Universe was also a highlight of the year. I’m still a beginner in Rust, but I know the framework well and I can work my way with the toolchain good enough. I hope to be able to help others in their journeys with that.

Dailies are a wonderful way to quickly build up a portfolio. I can say “give me one week and I’ll be back with seven ideas”, with my feed as proof. Most of those ideas might be crap but at least I have something to work from, to iterate, refine and polish. It might even end up good. That’s how I ended up doing the visuals for Jean-Michel Jarre’s generative app “EōN”, featured on the app store, topping the charts in a few countries along the way. A wonderful experience that started by being there at the right time, with my feed as a showcase of what I can do.

You can always do better tomorrow

You’ll never know what happens when people see what you do. People want to see results, not consider what you could do “if”. Dailies are good for this because you decide if it’s good enough for today, and you can always do better tomorrow. Think of this as your mental health care assurance.

You can always do better tomorrow, but at least you did something today. It might be crap, it might be bad, but at least you tried, and you learned. Honing your skills requires failures. I hate cooking recipes when they tell you to do something without telling you why. If you don’t fail or explain why this fails, you are not learning, you are merely lucky. Dailies allow you to fail for cheap. And I fail every other day. You can always do better tomorrow.

My attempt at #cryptoart did not go very well, but that’s fine. It is not a reflection of me. Thanks @coldie for taking the time to say this to me. This is a reflection of the market to my art, but it does not mean anything other than that. Reception for dailies is also a very strange matter. To give you some numbers, I have a very strong ~10% ratio of likes/views. The deviation appears to be very small, so the only difference is the number of retweets that happen in the beginning (and the number of followers of those that retweet). So dailies that I think are ace might not have a lot of internet points, while others that I dislike do better.

So why doing this? Well, why do we do anything? For me it’s to experience the feeling of grasping some kind of magic, where the code generates something definitely unique that other methods are not really able to even get close to. That’s why colors are numbers, and shapes are just collections of vectors. Time is just another dimension, trigonometry is the Swiss army knife that gets used every other line. Doing dailies is hard, it’s taking a toll on a lot of things, but it’s also very rewarding and challenging. “Those who do” versus “those who don’t” kind of vibe.

I have a few people that I really look up to when it comes to what I do, and getting a nod of acknowledgment sometimes is all that matters. Seeing others being inspired to take a similar road is also extremely rewarding.

So what happens tomorrow? I’m pretty sure I’ll keep doing this. I also want to do more music, so maybe I’ll try to combine the two. In the mean time, thanks to all of you for the support, the exchanges, and hopefully, 2021 will be a better year for all.

(special thanks to @beeple and @zachlieberman for inspiring me to start four years ago, to #nannou team @themindtree, @Joshua_Batty and Tom G. for the continuous help and for answering my requests for features, @coldie for the kind words and @starpause for the opportunity).

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