March 06, 2011

Dancing hamsters are important...

Back when the internet was just getting off the ground, Deidre LaCarte created a page that contained a screen full of animated hamsters that danced to a really annoying song when the page was opened. The dancing would continue endlessly until you either left the page, or in a moment of insanity, threw your computer out of a window.

While dancing hamsters seem trivial, dated, and of little value, creating dancing hamsters is extremely important for any artist. In order to become great at anything, you have to be willing to create stuff that is sometimes trivial and fun for the sake of learning.

Creating all of those animated gifs was something relatively cutting edge at the time. Figuring out how to loop something endlessly probably required some learning too. Registering domain names, playing a song on a browser, dealing with server load due to unexpected growth; All of these things were lessons that had to be learned, but could only be learned in creating something, even if it was just a bunch of hamsters on a single web page.

Sculptors grab huge handfuls of clay and form beautiful works of art, but I am sure at some point they just created something that seemed silly in order to learn. Programmers write "Hello World" programs when learning a new language and create goofy little applications that may seem trivial, but actually teach a great deal about the technology that they are using. Each of these lessons that are learned are seeds to greatness.

If you are going to be an artist, you have to understand the tools, and the feel of the materials in your hands. You have to be willing to create stuff that others may looks at as being trivial. You become okay by reading and working through small controlled examples, but you become great by building stuff and playing.

That being said, learn to play, play to learn, and make some hamsters dance!

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