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The Art of Practice with Christoph Niemann

Lesson 75 from: The Chase Jarvis LIVE Show

Chase Jarvis

The Art of Practice with Christoph Niemann

Lesson 75 from: The Chase Jarvis LIVE Show

Chase Jarvis

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75. The Art of Practice with Christoph Niemann


Class Trailer

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The Art of Practice with Christoph Niemann


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Lesson Info

The Art of Practice with Christoph Niemann

Hello, everyone. And welcome to another episode of the Chase Drivers live show here on Creativelive. Very excited to have you joining us today. And you are in for a treat. Um, well, where you here for the guests and not for me. So Ah, little bit of housekeeping, and then we'll get right to it. Um, I will be your host and guide for the next 60 minutes or so, and right now we're streaming live to creativelive dot com slash tv Facebook instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter. I don't know it very well. Anywhere else you can stream to, we're streaming all over the place. And if you are watching at any one of those platforms, I see your comments. However, if you want me to see your comments first, I see those that creativelive dot com slash tv You could just go click, join, chat up there. Um, just based on, that's our proprietary technology, and I could see those little faster. So I'm looking forward to forwarding on your sentiments and questions if you have them for our guest today, Um, maybe start o...

ut by telling me where you're tuning in from. I do see those comments in real time, So let me know where you're coming in from across the planet, and I will make sure to share that with our guests. And speaking of our guest, get right to it. Christoph Niemann is an artist author, and an animator's work appears regularly on the cover of The New Yorker, National Geographic, The New York Times Magazine. His heart has also been subject to numerous museum rest respective XYZ. He's drawn live from the Venice Art Biennale, the Olympic Games in London, and has even sketched the New York City Marathon Marathon while running it. I think there's a story there will need to unpack. Um, he's created the New Yorkers first augmented reality cover as well as having hand drawn the 360 degree VR animation for the magazine Usopen issue. His clients on the commercial side include armies, Google Museum of Modern Art, etcetera, and he's a member of the audience Graphic International. In 2010, he was inducted into the Art Directors Hall of Fame. You're starting to seven. I could just continue to read the the accolades of this particular creative hero, but rather than doing that, maybe we just welcome into the show. And Christoph Niemann, Welcome to the show. I'm excited to be here. Thank you for having me. Oh, man. When I shared with this with you before we went live that, uh you've been on our list of people that we wanted to have on the show for some time. And, um, your drawings and illustrations have inspired me along with so many in the creative live audience for a long time. And I am fascinated by your process on that is where I want to spend some of our time to start off our conversation this morning. Um, before we get too deep there, though, give us just a little bit of background. Um, where you're from, How you were initially interested in art and creativity. And then we'll talk about all of the work that you have put out in the world. But first, take us back to the start. Well, the start is that probably most of us. I can't remember the time where I was essentially not doing what I'm doing today. You like drawing thinking of images, looking at mag magazine like any serious artists. And this is how you spent your childhood aan den. You always wanted to do something like that, and it wasn't necessarily illustration. It was just like That's more wary, ended up with, um And then I studied graphic design not because I want to study graphic design, but because in Germany it was actually not able. It wasn't possible to study illustration, so I had to do the larger thing. And I'm so happy that happened because that meant I had thio study, photography, studied typography, film making. All these things were part of this caution. I wasn't necessarily that interested in that when I was studying. But in retrospect, this really informs what I'm doing today because it has gone beyond drawing. Nonetheless, when I was like in my like 4th, 5th semester, I realize I was studying, stood guard where it comes from Southwestern Germany, Fantastic school. But even though I felt that all the important work happens at the desk, I realized at some point there's something about the world out there that you have to expose yourself to. And, uh, I wanted to an internship, and I went, I have to go to New York. I looked through my yearbooks and I felt all the pieces that interested me. They were like from the time from The New Yorker from the ad agencies in Medicine Avenue on DSO applied for internships, first with Paul Davis, Fantastic illustrator designer, also part of the push being group. And then in the year after that with Paula. Share a pentagram. It's where I can I get my first taste of New York. I started doing some editorial illustration, and then I moved there after graduation, basically, the week after I moved to New York spent 10 days, 10 years doing almost exclusively editorial work, which I absolutely loved and still love. But it was really that was my life. But aan den In 2000 and eight, I moved to Berlin, still working for New York a lot, but just changing things up on day. Since then, I've been doing much more self generated works or doing essays, uh, stories. Siri is still a lot for editorial, but it's not so much. The assignment is not so much to written article. It's more of my own impulse. Um, doing about Prince Museum shows different things, and I felt I'm trying to change with the Times because I think that's probably one of the biggest thing I learned is that even though I in my head, I have an idea of what I want to do, this is a communication profession. It's about what happens between the audience and me, and we all change to them. The way we communicate has to change as well. Um, and this is like, this is what drives me into the studio every day. Oh, man. Well, what I heard was so much variety in both your background the, uh, work that you have endeavored to put out. Um, And speaking of variety, um, people all over the world thanking you for spending your time with us today, we've got New York, New Jersey, California, Kansas, Mumbai, India, North Hampton, UK Uh, mawr, Southern California, Another New York. Oh, we that the South Africa contingent just showed up. So to say that you have inspired you've inspired people from all of the world is not an understatement. Um, I found it interesting that you mentioned studying graphic design not because you wanted to, but because it was all that was available was that limitation of the school system was that a limitation or were you always just interested in illustration and design was the closest thing to it Or how did you make? Were you aware that you were an illustrator and graphic design was just a way to get close to what you really wanted? Well, I have to be really precise. I didn't want to become an illustrator. I want to become a black and white illustrator because I, like my youth, was growing up with felt depends. And I hated them because you could never really do proper, like flat color and black and white. When you work with ink on paper, that's the only way you could do perfectly sexy black white shapes that looks like it was printed. So I was like, I was really on a warpath with with color because, like this whole messing watercolor thing markers, these magic markers where everything looks cloudy, I hated that. If it was, it would have been for me. I would have wanted to study ink black and white illustrations. So everything else was a compromised. Um, no. But the study system in Germany, you study when you're a little later. I was I think 21 or so I had to do with social services before, um, and then it's really to a four semesters off, basically basic education, a lot of drawing and then all the other things I mentioned and then in your basic automatically do a Masters on that. That master was an illustration, but the whole system was built on the idea that you have to do illustration on the foundation. Off graphic design. You get a graphic design degree, but this is something I wholeheartedly agree with that when you work in as an illustrator, especially today, you need to have a view from the entire context. I couldn't think of like doing illustration today without moving images. This is by now. I think there's, I guess when you're like in the middle of your career, you might get away with. But if you're young illustrator and you don't have some moving in imaging qualities in your portfolio, I think you're you're you're in trouble thinking in the context of typography off. Graphic design is so vital you don't have to do it professionally all the time, but I think you have to get have extremely firm sense off that So, in retrospect, I think there was the only way to study illustration with that padding from all these different sides. Well, you have named so many of the folks that are just absolutely icons in graphic design. Also, folks who are on creativelive you mentioned the folks of Pentagram. Michael Beirut. Paula share. Both taught here creative live. And if you're a designer, um, I would steer you toward some of those classes. Did that did that? Was that an early childhood dream? To put yourself in the context, if you will. The folks who were leading the charge and at what point? Um, did you move to the US? You mentioned that the stuff that you liked was coming out of the New Yorker? The editorials and a lot of the advertising of Madison Avenue, where folks like make Michael Beirut and Polish air. Where were leaders? At what point in your career did you see that? And come to the U. S. And was that an important move in your development to put yourself amongst the, you know, the thriving, uh, global. I guess that may be the centerpiece of the work that you wanted to dio how important was that? It was hugely important, and I don't consider myself like an extremely adventurous person who got on. And I was going to go to different countries where I don't really speak the language. Don't really have to collect the cultural background. And it was really it was first. It was the internship. And so I do this internship. I find myself in New York on Paula's team, and then they always had lunch pentagram in the room and also you sit across from Michael Freaking Beruit, like for lunch in here. I'm talking. He's I mean, he's one of the wittiest, smartest thing. He's incredible designer. He's also an incredible writer on top off of it, which is kind of unfair on. But it was like, this is really because I didn't assume I would go there and have these interactions. It was Mawr. I go to New York, but that you actually end up having contact was just was mind boggling. Um, there was this moment at the end of my studies where everybody in Stuttgart, it was kind of you go to Berlin or Hamburg. That's where the big advertising agencies were, or Frankfurt Berlin had the media. It was kind of like what you would do. And I felt that, you know things. Point was 26 on day. There's this amazing thing. When you're 26 they kind of know what you're doing. You studied so you can like you have the basic craft, but your your pain threshold. It's so incredibly high, like it's just not when you're 40 or even 35. And I sense that. And this is something I'm kind of proud off that I sense at the time that this is a unique chance where you could do something as insane is moving to New York, where, of course, the whole apartment thing was a nightmare. Them work permit all these things. If I had to go through that stuff again today, I would just wouldn't wouldn't make it. And this is something I've been telling students all over, just like just this kind of insane mix off chops and talent and craft and navy tape. This is a magic mix. You probably have. You have a time window five years in your life where it doesn't matter how long you sleep. You can have all this input, you can have the output. It doesn't matter. What happens around you can still function. And I think this is the one thing I'm really proud and happy with it. With that, I took advantage off this window because I know with 35 I couldn't have done that. And it's even like it was expensive, of course to that. But it's not even a question of money. It's really it's a mindset that everybody has, I think a short window with. And I'm so happy that I took that advantage to just go out there, then spend you know, like the years, two years struggling, kind of getting getting my my getting my assignments, but most importantly, really just dealing with life in New York, which is, you know, it is absolutely insane, Um, and then kind slowly getting my footing After that. Uh, when Sunday sketching came out, which is one of your several books you've got, like, four or five and a couple of Children's books with If if you are a parent and you are watching this, it would be really I have to advise checking out petting zoo and chomp a couple of kids APS that you created with John Wang. Uh, just the breath of your work and the you talked about the energy that you have as a you know, in your mid twenties. And yet here you are, continuing to crank out work. And I'm wondering, is that a product of Is that still this mindset piece that you talked about or is that a product of just doing what you love and have you found your spot in the world? And if so, what would you tell other people who haven't yet found that? Um, I'm I feel as far as that goes, it's pretty consistent. This is what I love doing. And I It's not even that I get bored with one thing and I have to do another one is truly interested in all these different things, and technology has enabled me to do things. Now you're doing something like this app or doing video. Now that I can put together in a day would have taken like a team of 20 people and like $100,000 for only 10 years ago, just like the camera in my IPhone is just is an incredible piece of technology is now. All of a sudden I can I can do all of these things and I have to do them. I think the biggest difference from today, too, maybe 10, 15 years ago is that I've worked a lot on on a system where I can actually spend more time working and dealing less with other stuff. And this is a constant battle to kind of free up time kind of run the studio in a way that I can really like, as I have as much creative time at my desk as possible. And there was a time, maybe roughly, like 89 years ago, where I kind of always refused to have an assistant, because I feel I have to explain. Everything is impossible. I can't do this. What happened is like I was basically doing admin from work for two hours from 9 to 11, then do admin until five or 5 30. And then, like the real creative work started after that, which was a nightmare. Booking flights and doing taxes and writing invoices and just this whole system was untenable. And what I figured out now is to really get much more creative time out of it. And I think if you get five hours every day off time where you sit at the desk drawing thinking, not producing finished artwork but five hours of just time with pencil in your hand, you can do the most incredible amount of work, and you can have the most insane output. But it's actually a huge. I find a huge challenge. It takes a lot of help. It takes a lot off, probably also a lot of privilege to get five hours. This is it. Sounds little, but it's it's It's really a lot. But once you have that and you do this whatever, like 300 something days a year, that you can get some stuff done. Yeah. Wow. Well, I think five hours is it does sound luxurious, but I know so many people watching and listening. Um, we've got Laurie and Jenelle and Mark and Manny and John, Um, Abhishek Patricia, for just to name a foe, a few that, um, the concept of being able to do the work that you love to do it at the level that you do it. It requires commitment and clearly, five hours and someone who is as advanced as you are in your career. It is. It's a huge amount of time. And yet I think it's fascinating that that's where you you attribute. It seemed to me you attributed a lot of the credit to your process. Now, before we go super deep into process, talk to me a little bit. You said you have a system for not being not not getting trapped in admin, so I want to hear what that system is. And then I want to go to your product, your your process and in doing so reference about a bunch of things that you said in Sunday sketching. So what is this magic? A system that you've got for not getting sucked into the admin? Is it just hiring people to do jobs that you don't like to do or what? What's your solution? Well, a lot of it really had to do with getting to work with other people, and there was something I refused to. In retrospect, that was like the one thing where I really felt I didn't think this through properly or probably my angle was too limited. I was so many, so many of us are one team, one person teams and we do everything. And then you almost feel like you built this perfect machine where every finger is like on five levers. If you all got, if somebody else has to kind of come in and and I have to explain them how all this stuff worked, the whole thing will just explode. And what I didn't think this was this was really in retrospect, could so clearly see what what that thing was I didn't think of, like what if I had somebody who would help me that would allow me to do stuff and I would be so crazy is like my favorite example when I was in New York, I'm working like with other people in the studio, but I'm working all by myself. At some point, I realized I have to. I cannot go to the post office when ever a job required going to the post office, I will turn it down if somebody wanted, like my portfolio mail. It said, Can't do it, because everything that makes me where I have to leave my desk, it's absolutely impossible. And so I'm like, just learn to live without sending stuff. Anything that wasn't digital didn't work any original. Somebody says, Oh, I love the drawing Cannot buy like no, because then I have to pack it. And just like it's not happening and also had people working with me, and I really like Oh, the post stuff is an option again. I can start doing silk screens. I can community. I can send all the cards to people and all of a sudden you have new possibilities arose on dso that it really has a lot to do with people and having systems. You know, it's XYZ really boring stuff, Having your tech in order drop it and I don't wanna advertise any. I'm sure there's other services. Drop has saved me, probably now three hours a day. I remember just your the studio. You're working on something, You're going home? Oh, I forgot the file. You go back to the studio, email the file, and then at some point, you just like email All the files all the time. You get lost and it was like two hours just every day trying to find the right file. Um, so I think having a super tight system for having your stuff online organized, Um, having your taxes. You know, accounting. It's just it's the driest thing. Positive, uh, imaginable. But if there's one mistake in there and you get an audit or there's something wrong, three days go by to clean that mess up three days where you cannot work. So doing the ITT's unsexy were artists. We don't like to do that. I don't really love to do it, but I just know it allows me to better to do better artists if I don't have to deal with this stuff constantly. If it's not constantly nagging in the back of my head and they, Oh God, like you didn't be saved enough for taxes and oh, God, can I afford the next computer? It is a privilege, but I think if you can afford to have a good system in place for all the boring stuff, it will allow your mind to the focus on the stuff that we care about, which is, you know, the piece of paper in front of us. This is this is all that matters and all the all the other stuff is a distraction. The only way you can get the ways to have it organized. I love your you talk about. It is a bit of a luxury, but this is a really consistent theme. You're very clear and how you are articulating at other guests. The Brandon Stanton who created created the Humans of New York, which you may be familiar with. You know, he's so protective of his time and this idea that if you as an artist are able to through financial means through collaboration or through other means, um, maximized the amount of time that you can spend doing your craft or if you can keep that time free in order. Thio, explore. And as you talked about putting, you know, pen to paper that that is the way to the most happiness and to the best work. So you've been a no open advocate on process, which is sort of the tip of the spear we've just been talking about. And in Sunday sketching, Um, there's a a pull quote that says relying on craft and routine is a lot less sexy than being an artistic genius, but it is an excellent strategy for not going insane. It's true. I mean, I m. I think like my one way I try to approach everything is really try to compartmentalize. And also you try to compare compartmentalized what I do every day. And when your professional designer photographer do emotion, graphics, everything there is your day job and your day job is to kind of create decent stuff that solve other people's problems. And the bar is doing what I like to call un embarrassing work. Somebody needs something. It needs to type, you know, if you do, a movie needs to not stop. It needs to have a beginning, and it needs to that they have full color. Um, if I do an editorial illustration, I need to do something where they don't get bombarded with letters to the editor and say this is the most embarrassing thing ever. Whether that thing makes it into an annual or even into my portfolio has nothing to do with my assignment. This is not what people want from me. So I think the first thing I have to do is learn to reach that level off un embarrassing. No matter what. No matter how tired I am, no matter what day it is, no matter what the assignment is not. No matter how the client behavior misbehaves, this is something you have to have down cold. And this is something I fortunately did I think we can learn. This is just like whether your photographer, I'm sure I can send you out. Now if you can rip off your head phones run out and do a decent photo, something you can print in the magazine and a poster. And this is not because your genius, which you are also, but because you've done it for years and years, just like half the craft. Little too dark. I'm gonna do this. And this is the thing that lets you sleep at night and then on top off that we can say, Okay, maybe this is a question of luck. You know, maybe one day you walk out of this magic thing happens, this bird flies by right at the right moment, lines up with the lamppost, and this is the stuff that ends up in your portfolio and everybody goes, Oh, he's a genius, you know, It was there was luck. But the luck was only possible on this on this claim on this foundation off doing it over and over and over again, and and the beautiful thing off that it relieves us off this pressure to have a magic moment. I think, um because this is too much like if you sit there and you feel I have to come up with something that will end up being the cover off my retrospective. This is something that I find absolutely suffocating. But I think this is kind of our often hourly was for me for a long time. There was my default position is like, Oh my God, people expect, like me to live up to my lucky moments and this is terrible. It just invisible, make it absolutely impossible to actually create something magic. I think, Yeah, I'm going to keep reading a couple of pull quotes from the book because it's just it epitomizes what you're sharing right now. And there's some graphs here some charts about, you know, getting good work out there in the world. And it says, even in the absence of talent and inspiration, you can, through sheer practice, become so good at art that you can reliably deliver quote very good work now, great work. That's something else entirely for great work. You also need a lot of skill and craft, but you need something else that you can't control. The next graph has a picture of the bar chart of craft with a cherry on top. And it says once you've accepted this, your life actually becomes a lot easier. And if you're a client, remember, all you can ask from an artist is very good work. Great work is not actually plan Dubel. Do you stand by that? No, I stand by it. And this is I find this very challenging. Um, also because I changed my work, You know, some off the work that I do now often on Instagram They're really spontaneous sketches and they're fun. And I know they work on this whole, like social media is fear. But actually, for professional designer these things, they're stupid because people come and say, Oh, I like that thing. Can I have three more off that? And usually that's the deal. When look at your portfolio and you show me a certain quality of whatever lighting. And I said, can I hire you for for a campaign? And you're like, Oh, no, sorry. that was just a lucky shot. There's no way I cannot recreate this. You cannot. This is not a professional. Um, there's not a professional attitude. Of course, it's flattering when people like it, but I think a portfolio technique. It's a promise. And I think, especially when you're starting out, you have to be extremely careful about what you put in your portfolio, because people will ask you to do something like that. And this is a difference for me that the difference between art and illustration is not so much a quality thing. It's more with the question of how much you can promise it. I can. If I have a lucky moment, I can put it on the wall. I can sell a print of it and say like this. I did this. I'm proud of it. If you like it, it's great. But I can't recreate it. And you know, we often have anywhere art school likenesses. You draw a perfect likeness of somebody. Just catch the spirit off of whatever Tom Cruise and just like it's awesome. I'm gonna put this in my portfolio. It's a perfect drawing. People will come to you and say like, Oh, now do similar sex. Yeah. The one thing is what you promised your client, whether you promise, like a lucky moment, but even more, I think dangerous thing is, if you expect it from yourself. If you look at yourself, the stuff that you do and feel like Oh, God, It was like I look back at what, Like the five great things that happened maybe a year ago, five years ago. And you're judging the thing that you're creating right now and you feel it doesn't live up to that because again, this is put so much weight, it eats up all the oxygen. It's so necessary, I think, to create work. Yeah, the concept of process is something that is so unsexy, and it flies in the faith face of the the the myth of the genius. And yet over and over on this show, you know, probably hundreds of conversations. The answer the antidote to frustration and feeling blocked is a really chris process where you just sit down and you go toe work. And I wanted to ask you to balance this concept of practice and process with us because you've also said I remember not quite sure which book it was. But the concept of Onley focusing on your craft can also get you on trouble, because what if you spend all of your time focused on the wrong thing? You said something about that. I'll find it here in my notes. But this idea, I think it was like a a chef spending too much time working on a hamburger. When everyone's going vegetarian or something like that. Help, help it. No, it's How do you both focus on craft and process but also, you know, not get lot, not get passed by with the zeitgeist on what's happening in the world. How do you How do you balance those two things? Well, I think it's important when you're like early, Release it to the end. The craft is a foundation, but it's only the foundation. It's not the house and you, maybe you feel like, Oh, this feels great. And let's say you draw and you have a certain certain shapes that work. Certain ways to do figures may be sitting in a certain way, ways to make jokes, to tell stories, and there are people come for them like they like them and then you do it again. They come again. Nobody will ever tell you it's enough. They stopped calling. But nobody ever says that. Keep go into a different direction. This is on ourselves. We have todo I think that's the only way way have to come up with this inspiration to kind of leave. What, what's working. And this is difficult because you know what's difficult is easy and what's what's familiar is easy. Um, so I think that's the whole thing with with like when you rely too much on craft is you can get lost in this thing And what I said earlier we are. It's a communication business that we're in, and if we lose the other side, you know they're not in there. They're listening to us to listen to us. They want to hear about themselves. We wanna like e want to create art that gives people a way to start a thinking process. So ultimately, without the audience, the artist nothing. There's nothing more boring for me than artists who kind of do art to show the world how smart day I want to feel smart, and I want to feel inspired is a the the audience. When I look at something, this is this is what matters. What happens between the piece of paper and the eyes and brain off the audience. This is where all the magic happens, what I do. But what happens between me and the piece of paper? This is just this happening at my desk. But it doesn't matter. Um, but also, and for me, that was it was a very long way to that realization. I think that the misconception that we have about creative work or a lot of people have is that we look, we read a book and fireworks go off. We feel cry or we laugh or something amazing happens. And we feel this is writing because this is how we experience writing as this surprising emotional makes us cry, laugh or whatever you feel. Okay, I'm full of emotion as a read things. So I probably have to be full of emotion is I write things because this is my experience with the book. And so I started writing and I goto I'm just like in love where my heart is broken. I started writing. I'm gonna produce a huge pile of crap, I think, because did reaction. We get readers and what we have to put into cost that we actually are different things. I think if I want to make somebody cry the words I have two very deliberately move the words back and forth. I have to set up the emotional tension, and then I have to do a twist. And I have to go down the path 50 times and say, Okay, I have to hold back the information. I have to wait two phrases longer. I I moved that one adjective in and out. It's all about ranging the breadcrumbs that for the reader that firework goes off. And I think there's no better illustration than the ah ha moment that you have when you look at an idea the ah ha moment you wanna have as a reader, but to create an aha moment for me, at least. Never. There's never an ah ha moment when I draw the ah ha moment is like lighting the fuse kind, like arranging the path. It's a very like small, unspectacular set off decisions that leads to that, Um to then for the reader, have the other thing. And I think if you is an artist or is a designer to sit there and try to have an ah ha moment in front of the piece of paper, that's when you have the writer's block. That's when you have to fear of the white page. I think there's no way to overcome that with waiting for all waiting for Ah ha, That's the next name the name of the next book. Oh, no, you're saying the same thing And I guess we had on not too long ago. Roxanne Gray, who's an S. A s for the New York Times, said, You know, I'm a professional at making you feel that way. That's where my profession is in these small moves of words and the distance between the emotional response that you are having when you read it and the the response of the creator who's creating it might be 1000 miles, right that the work that you're doing toe lay the foundation. That is the training that is, you know, 25 years doing your craft where you know what word order to put them in, and that that does, I think, take a little bit of pressure off. Um, but I want to shift to a different kind of pressure and you've been very clear as a mechanism for, you know, not getting blocked to just sit down and do work, you know, compartmentalized as much as you can have some processes. And yet we are in an industry at a time, and I'll say, industry by a creative industry. So that's photography, filmmaking, building businesses, all of these things where things are accelerating right the size of the teams in at magazines, uh, that many of the magazines that you work out are the ones that are the most revered in our culture. Um, you know, they used to have huge staffs, and now it's just a couple of folks and a handful of freelancers and the speed of which business is sort of getting turned under and having to be reinvented. That's that's Onley accelerating. And this is so stressful for so many of the creators that are listening and watching. And speaking of, I've got to give a shout out thio, um, Jenelle asking us for more of this great advice We got L. A. In the house. We got people all over want to know, like our industry is continuing to change. And how, as creators do we manage this this ever seemingly ever accelerating treadmill of work? It's a It's a difficult one because I feel I am right now it seems to work. But I wouldn't be surprised if tomorrow it stops working, it would be. And if I'm totally surprised and I have absolutely no solution on how to solve it, So you know, it's always a hypothetical. I wouldn't like if you tell me about five years from now, it's gonna be over for me. For you, for everybody say yes. Good. Good chance of that happening. Um, there there's a couple of small things again. I think you cannot ignore technology. This is something that no matter what, we have to be on top of that. It can enable us to be more versatile. Reach writer audiences. Um, there is, um I feel I mean, I love to compare what we do to sports, and there's something I think we're only at the beginning off this again. Question off privilege. Where 20 years ago, draw a couple funny pictures once you kind of in the system of editorial work. You can find your like in the in crowd. The art directors. No, you You get work. Um, now, this is so much. The turnover is faster. You have to constantly, as you say, worry about this stuff. So you have to craft in terms off what I'm putting on the page. But I think like sports people, we have to start thinking about our mental health. How can we can have toe just deal with this uncertainty? Andi just still do work. And I think you know what I loved when I came to New York, where just like you have deadlines and you meet the deadlines and then for night, you go out with your friends for beers and like for the other designers and the new kind of talk about this stuff, And it kind of had this kind of, uh, fantastic kind of hardcore, like, Oh, we're in there and it's it's tough, but we love it, and it's also slightly abusive, but it's also kind of fun, and I think maybe it's also growing older, but I think it's very important in this time that you find something in you as a found is an emotional foundation to deal with all these things and whether it's a hobby, whether it's family, I think friends absolutely crucial to have, um, to kind of soften the blow off these things is this is not a luxury. This is not all. I'm too soft work 14, 16 hours a day. I think this is an absolutely essential part of it. Another thing, which again, for the 1st 5 years in my my professional life, I didn't even think about it. I was reading the paper because I was doing political stories. I would go see the movies, but I never thought about input because it was, You know, I have input. I don't have time for research. I'm just like doing work. And I think with everything changing, reading up on art, like reading books, like having a sense off language having a sense off, what's happening in the visual world around us is absolutely crucial and also for me crucial not to do it with like, Oh, I have to get the latest color combinations for my next piece, but just, like, be kind, emotionally prepared for changing for how things are changing. That's also what I'm in earlier with, Like when you rely on craft, when I'm just in my little bubble off my work and I'm the feedback loop is just between my drawing and myself. The world can. I wanders off and doesn't touch me. This takes time, and it takes commitment to go into a gallery to read a book. And it's not my first instinct to do that because I'm so excited to work. I would love to work 14 hours a day, not look at anything else, sometimes have to force myself like Okay, clean that brain can get, get new images in their get away from that stuff. And I think that used to be a luxury. And now I would say it's a necessity. It's something that when your professional designer, you have to set time aside for that because otherwise it will come come back to haunt you. Uh, I'm enjoying just feeding you your own quotes after you said something, if you don't mind, I'm gonna keep as an amazing quote right here. It says Right now I'm blissfully busy, but I'm aware of the party can and very quickly the only thing I could do to make sure my work is in demand is actually focused on doing good work. This is difficult in the best of circumstances, and it gets downright impossible when you have to simultaneously worry about money. So this is a little bit it seems like you're you're referencing this idea of you. You have to find this balance between commitment to the work and sitting down in front of the paper and not being caught up in trying toe create something of genius, but rather just creating and also not living in a vacuum like that is a, um, a privileged environment that very few people get to operate in. And yet we've got this toxic image that that's where that's the world. We're all artists operate. I just don't know very many. Most of the ones that I know are paranoid about running out of money they're worried about maybe not their next paycheck. But they're next feature film or their next you know something. So again, what? How do we keep from you know, what's the balance here? How do you How do you find the balance between giving yourself room to create and not living in a bubble. Is it just Is that the tension that is this the new, um, Is this the new struggle for artists, or has this always been the case? Well, I think two degree. It's always been the case. I think we're much more aware of it now. Um, and a some point. Also, it's about personality. I know some people who can operate with, like the most insane stuff going on in the background. I know I have to have be in emotionally an absolutely blissful place. Otherwise, I can't work. If I have something, fight with somebody. If somebody is angry at me, it shuts down on my work. I'm incapable of focusing on the page if there's some kind of nasty stuff. So the moment I smell trouble, I back off. And but this is my personal. Other people can't work like that. That's probably couldn't be in like the film business, where you're like a certain amount of coming back and forth, and Lola hard nosed discussion is an essential part of the job. I'm just not built for that, but I think what e. Think it's important to be aware off where your limitations are and with the financial thing is always difficult. And so there's kind of two ends. The one is people are so independently rich and successful that they don't have to think about it. Then, yeah, then you find go create murals in some cave and and be happy. Um, then there's the other part. Which, of course, encapsulates a lot of us is who just really have to worry. Paycheck to paycheck. That's the case. You can't move things around. You just have to pay for school and what I find really freaky, like the whole medical. The health insurance thing in the States is something that I find unfathomable, especially for free dancers. This is this is true tragedy, that this is something that constantly looms over all the freelancers. I mean, this, I think, would make life so much better if that threat was just not there. Um, it's the number one cause for bankruptcy in the United States. Yes. Yeah, and vice versa is like the moment you're bankrupt. Also, you lose your health insurance and e think it's really it's so, so terrible. But so I think the only thing we can really talk about is the middle thing that say you somehow make enough money that you can. You have a little room to breathe. What I think it's so important is to see money as in able to buy a new computer to maybe even hire somebody, but also to give you breathing room. And for me, the greatest disasters that I heard from friends and colleagues were the careers ended. It was usually not the great, you know, like like a terrible disease or some other tragedy. It was usually overhead. People went ahead and started hiring, started to starting to move in a huge office space and say that I'm gonna do it big and some people have done it extremely successfully. But these are the only times where I heard that great careers have nosedived was when people over extended them on monthly expenses. And you know, if I have to take a loan of $5000 to get a new camera or computer, I might be able to deal with that. But if I have $ a month after month after month, after half a year, this is a whole that's impossible to climb out off. And so I'm extremely wary off that stuff, and I try to kind of as much as possible and again is very personal, but have something that just says this doom stay. Moment is always three months away, so I feel for the next five hours I can focus on my joy. And once a week or once a month, I'll have to check and really see like is just Am I really in in in a good spot or not? But I think keeping that that kind of that scary moment a few months out, this will allow you to every day. Can I go into a place off uninterrupted creative work where just hold the financial? Lori doesn't doesn't see being. I think if you could do that, this is This is the most essential luxury, like better than the fastest computer integrated cameras. If you can afford this, this level off mental freedom that just like three months of expenses in the bank can give you this. This is the best. The best equipment you should shoot for, I think is a free dancer. Yeah, there's nothing quite as valuable as peace of mind Yeah, and that the space to create, um I want to shift our attention to you've spoken about technology quite a bit here in our conversation about how you should organize it, make useful to you things like Dropbox and a little little bit tactical. But I want to go to the concept of technology on that is the ability you shared. You know, if you're just now tuning in, um well, I'm sad that you've missed our discussion, but I'm here with Christoph Niemann and you know, the amazing illustrator behind so many things from The New Yorker, National Geographic, New York Times magazine. Um, And for those who who do pay attention to you on social media, it looks like you do a lot of what you said earlier just a moment ago about sketches and just lightweight sort of tests that you continue to put out in the world. And so it seems like you simultaneously use this as a vehicle for testing. And you're very active there. And yet, you know, I've heard you speak before in other places that you can't actually judge the merits of work based on the number of likes, because these algorithms. They do such a fantastic job of messing with our own brain as a function of, you know, that is by design. So, you know, as so many other things, this is a little bit paradoxical. And I'm wondering if you can help us understand, because you clearly are a master at this. You use it in the ways that you can get information. Um, you know, market, you know, evaluating the efficacy of an idea, and yet you don't get attached to the outcome. So for for again, folks watching from all over the world now help us understand how you nailed this balance because it's a zone. Other professional artist watching you, I can see you testing and playing. And then you see, if you're really familiar with your work, you see it pop up again later. Something you tested, you know, six months ago. So help us understand your relationship with social media. Well, I think there's really two separate things we have to discuss the one in social media, and I think that let's talk about the bad stuff of social media. First the best. The most terrible thing really is. I think that we have a new algorithm. First of all, we have to design aspect. Instagram is beautiful, but Instagram is tiny and instagram also I throw through my feet, so I probably have like 1/10 of a second to stop. Oh, there's something happening here. Why do I stop? It's because it's very, very intriguing for one way or because it's very familiar December in a celebrity face something that I've seen before that I love. So if I do something that's not attention stopping in this like 0.3 seconds, the chances for the algorithm to pick it up is dramatically going down. So the moment I tried to go against that, it's really the chances off that stuff. Living is not, is not really great, and this is something you have to be aware off also, even if today I figured it out, all my art fits the bill perfectly. I get, like so many likes. Everything is great. Tomorrow they might change the algorithm for some reason, they say only images with green on the bottom and animal on the upper left and lighthouse on the upper right is the only thing that works. Is it just a Where are my fans were all my legs were gone and it can drive you absolutely insane. If you try to think, Why did this thing work or doesn't? And I haven't really have done it for a while. I have absolutely no idea what works and what doesn't work it. I Maybe there's something with the time off the day or with the technique. It makes no sense, no sense, uh, to me the fantastic thing about social media. And I think that's also the reason why we have to do it doesn't matter whether you have 100 followers or 100,000. Uh, for the first time, it has given us as creators the chance to talk to the audience directly. We were absolutely dependent until 10 years ago for, uh, middle men and the middle men I love, you know, like the newspapers, the magazines, the museums, publishers, they took care of that. They went to the audience. We had to give our stuff to them. They would carry it on to the audience. All we have to do is like sit there handed to the art director and not think about it anymore. Now we have the chance to actually go directly to the audience. And there was always the frustration and I'm sure, you know, they give them five options, they go for number four, you know, number one, that's the good one. Why don't you get it? Now we can take number one and say, here, audience, decide for yourself and this I love this part off. Talking directly to the audience is is absolutely amazing. The audiences so much smarter than most editors would give them credit for, especially when it comes to visuals. I mean, this is this has been for me. This single, single, single biggest revelation off social media is that people get stuff on such a subtle level. Um, but ultimately, and this is something where I think it changes all the time, and it's, uh, ultimately for our work. It doesn't matter that much because we're in the same boat as everybody who does music or sell the product. You have to spend some time with it. I think there's no no science for that. The more interesting question for me is technology at large. So the technology of creating stuff and just really is the question I turned on my computer. Why, you know, why don't I take a brush and a jar of ink like what happens at the computer and for me, the simplest way to say, Like, when do I try to use the computers that when I when it solves the problem I had before I turned on the computer And so as an example, like a zit mentioned earlier as a kid, you draw house, you want the roof to be read, you try all the felt tip markers of water colors always like uneven. And I remember the first time taking Photoshop. I draw the roof Phil, and it's like 100 magenta 100 yellow, perfect, like one flat the color and this is just was like the answer to my prayers off like H 4 to 18. It was just magical. And so I'm always looking for these things. You know, when you when I make movies, when I make animations, I have something that I want to do, and the computer allows me to do this much more efficient, much faster, nicer, higher quality than I could with other means. And there's other than in the computer or technology and technology companies. They want you to use the product they need to innovate to keep things interesting. So they come up with new stuff. And often you're gonna go. This this this is fun. But why? And my maybe I pissed off a few Web designers here. My favorite example is Parallax scrolling. This is the thing. It was like super hot. Five years ago, everything was parallax scrolling. Why I have absolutely no desire to have image and text flowed by each other is a beautiful gimmick. It was interesting for a month and a half, but E didn't do anything in terms of communication. And I think when you look through your applications, whether it's, you know, illustrator or Photoshop or after effects, it's 90% stuff that doesn't sell them service, storytelling purpose. And this is what I try to stay away from because I feel I just get lost in it and just create technology for technology's sake. Things is especially true when it comes to V. R. A. R, which I've play with a lot, but a lot of it is always like, you know, do I do this because it's possible because I find it stimulating creatively, or is there actually benefit for the reader out there? Is somebody saying like Oh, I can turn around and see what's above me and below me Things make my experience better. And as much as I love we are, I have to admit, I was never sitting in a James Bond movie, and G. I wish I could turn around and see what's happening on the top of the building there. I don't care. I want to see what's happening right in front of my eyes. I want the director to pull me right to the things I think we are. A are fantastic. They're fantastic opportunities. But I think for the for this kind of generation, surprise based storytelling, they're not great tools, and I think we're drawn to them because they're new and they're sexy. But I think it's very important for us to be very critical of all the shiny new things in front of us now that applies to so many things. Thio cameras to cinema like the size of the production does not equal the quality of the work. The expense, you know of your tools is not a correlation to what you can produce. But I Okay, sorry. I have Thio interrupt you with cameras with cameras. It's a totally different animal because cameras are so sexy. And I just wish four to just buy new cameras all the time, just, like, get like one of these new chunky things in different lenses. I don't care what they produce. I prayed like my images look the same with all of them. I think the only difference is the resolution. But I just love it so much better than getting the application for for the computer. But I'm sure you have to experience Oh, yes. So many times you start getting the new cameras just because of the new cameras and not necessarily the features. Like all the new. You know, pro Nikon just came out. I've got to get that one and you don't even know why you just as a professional. That's I guess, one of the things that you're fantastic. Excuse e think that one of the few great benefits of being an artist like art supply stores just like getting all those brushes and the all the stuff that I never use, but it's just I just loved it so much as very little artistic benefit. But all God, it's so sexy. I love it. Um well, this is gonna be a short leap. But speaking of sexy, I was so moved by your, um feature segment in Siris, abstract on Netflix and one of our mutual friends. The producer of that, Scott dated who's also been on the show. If you're, um, just tuning in, you can go back and find a previous episode with Google, my name and Scott's name. But he produced Amazing Siri's co produced on Netflix called Abstract the Art design, in which you were one of the featured creators along with ah, handful of other people who are also amongst the best in the world at their craft. So two questions A What was that? Like being first selected amongst, you know, piers of the very, very top and, um, in every field top architects, designers, interior folks, and second, the process of making ah, 30 uh, 30 minutes or 60 minutes I'm missing. Forgot something. Yeah, about having you know, a film crew following around and making a 45 minute documentary that now clearly millions and millions of people have seen it. If you haven't seen this, folks go check it on your Netflix abstract theater design, especially the 2017 season, which is where, UM, where Christoph was featured. So what was that, like a being selected and then be what was the process of? Of making that film like, well, being selected was kind of like a little whatever, because I've done some television stuff. Scott called me up at some point or email, and he's a friend. I worked with him for a long time. He's fantastic. He said, Oh, I have this idea for for television thing for Netflix. Um, and I would like you to kind of have one of the episodes. I thought, Oh, that sounds really great. And if you want me to do it, of course I'm gonna do it. I don't know if I have time for it. There's so much work. And so, but if you ask me that, I just know. No question. But I thought it's just like it's a thing. It's a you know, like they come the film. They kind of together. I had absolutely no idea what that would actually mean. in terms off How many people would see it? And And I'm very glad I didn't. For me, it was more Scott asked. Of course I say yes. I'm sure it's gonna be. I'm sure it's gonna be super professional and great attack because he knows what he's doing. Um, And then when the whole production things started, I realized that, Okay, this is not like the other stuff I had been doing in the past, which is usually like a camera team comes in there, some somebody standing with microphone to lights and then you fill in for an hour and then you get, like, two minutes out. It was like, First of all, there was the director of Morgan Nadal, whose he and Scott they were like, for me, the main go to people. And so Morgan started with being on the phone with me for probably 10 hours. We had, like, five sessions at the two hours where we just talked, like the two of us just talking about the process. And this informed the whole story that we would then later do. And it is something I never experienced. Usually people come in, they have a question. I say my things and this whole like if you've seen the the Siri's, it's a little bit about the conflict between what he wants me to do and what I don't feel comfortable doing, because I think it has nothing to do with the art. You know, it's about the artist or the art. What does the viewer want to see? So this kind of conflict becomes a little bit off the threat that goes through the thing. So that part was really interesting to see it, like that level of storytelling from Scott and Morgan side that I just hadn't anticipated. And then the second thing was just a production value, which was something again I've never seen. They came to the studio built gigantic daylight, just the state light screen. It's bigger than my studio beaming in from the outside, creating daylight from six in the morning to attend at night thing. There's this one shot in the Siri's where it was in February was crazy cold, and they want to have to shut where sitting at my desk. And then there's a hard cut and I sit outside in the park drawing and then e think it's called the ball house shot right where the camera moves around the standing target. So they had built. He's kind of camera train tracks a circle off, predict 30 ft in a park a mile from here. I think they spent a day just building that set. Set up my desk with pencils, phone drawing pads, everything. First shot that's in the in the serious break. 10 seconds, seconds. It looks absolutely gorgeous, But just seeing that amount off love to detail to storytelling, um, in the production was just absolutely while. And when I saw it was like, Wow, that actually looks really cool. And like the cameras they used, the D. P. Was was fantastic. And the whole filmmaking crew this was something we're just say. Of course you are. Your your heart is a great just jumps when you see that this level of professionalism, this level off craft and technique was just wild, but then goes through the entire sees when you look at all the the different ones there, sometimes different directors. Just this level off technical brilliance is something that I think is alone worth watching. Uh huh, yes, uh, separate but related question came in from Instagram. Live from Gains Sham 7415 How do you construct Ah portfolio outside of college if you wanna get good work? What? You know what? Clearly you you have a life of creative work that allowed Scott to say, I want to feature you Christoph in my film. But for someone like this particular person who's writing in, how do you know the status of your work? If you want to get somewhere, What is the process of constructing your portfolio? I think there there's, of course, no kind of no one way. There's one thing that I think works as a like advice. You can follow our in the abstract or in the concrete and just let's say you wanna be doing editorial illustration illustration. In general, if you can. I go around the stuff. You see online magazines, newspapers and you cut out 20 things. 20 pieces of work where you think this is fantastic. I would have loved to be on the cover off time. Do a spread in New Yorker, uh, do this ad for Coca Cola. Just like collect these things and say like I would have loved to do these 22 things and then you go through your best work. Lucky short or not, And see which of my pieces could live up to that. If I was an art director, it doesn't have to be the same. It doesn't have to be stylistically the same. But if I saw my drawing instead off that drawing when I go like Oh, yeah, of course it's a cover for the New Yorker, just like that's the same quality and just And I think there's probably no way that immediately you will have this quality, but then say that, Okay, After you, I'm gonna produce work and see if I can fill 10 or 12 or off these spots with my own year with my own work. And, ideally, wanna have 25 pieces really like, Look, if they would have come to me, I would have given them this and it would have been great. And for this one, I would have given them that and with all of these pieces, and I think that's in the night next level. This is stuff that was not lucky. This is stuff that I have the solid craft to reproduce under pressure. And this is the threshold. This is the stuff that you go out with. And, you know, it's not about, you know, say, Oh, I love Myer a common it needs to look like her. It's more like my work would have to be in the same place. And I would feel like I would be proud if that was their. Instead, off my heroes work, I would say, like call my grandma and say, Look, I think this and feel I wasn't lucky that they gave me this. I just think quality off the work justified this. And I think this is like, this way, if you can. I have 20 pieces like that. Then you have a portfolio. Amazing, amazing last question. And this is around the saying that I've got which is it's impossible to stand out and fit in at the same time, and we like to fit in to be accepted. We're social animals. And yet for our work to make its way in the world to to catch that I, when you're scrolling or to get the heart or mind of an art director captured, it has to stand out. And so how do we reconcile this? This, um, this dichotomy again? How do we both, uh, stay with the times, but also again, again referencing, um, Sunday sketches. You talk a lot about, um, not being intimidated by trends and just pursuing your vision relentlessly with what you call unfazed determinism. To me, this is a huge piece for people because we again we want to fit in, and we want to stand out at the same time. How do you think about that? And how do you, um, manage your time between, um, sticking to your guns and on abiding by your inner true vision and also not not being completely irrelevant? Well, I think there's a very simple solution. You have to do both. You have to spend your entire day doing crazy artistic work, and then you somehow someone have to magically go back to seven o'clock that morning and do the entirely again and do very focused craft based work. E. I think the only solution is just doing ah, lot off work. And I think that's the Maybe that's the one talent that you need to have is to have this exuberance to do stuff like not counting the hours. Keep on working like when the day is over, Because I think that there is no there is no shortcut for that. And maybe some people are lucky and they just like to have the perfect radar go in the right direction. Just don't care what people say. I don't have that. I don't know, actually, anybody who has that everybody just like it does a lot of stuff and you do 10. And you hope that one maybe sticks. Um, and I think that this work ethic also will create work relations. Which career is not made by outlier? I could make one drawing, and it goes on Instagram and gets like a zillion likes and maybe gets me a million followers tomorrow does changes nothing. Yes. Yeah. The next one, I will always get, like, a certain if the work I do after that is boring, like my career is over. So I think the consistency is really what makes the, uh what creates your career. And yes, that means every once in a while, something needs to be a little a little bit more exciting than something you need these magic moments. But I think the consistency is this is the stuff you you should worry about. I think being able to deliver, being able to having the rhythm that allows you to put in these or find these five hours, then the rest. Actually, it sorts itself out quite surprisingly, once you once you have that and then well, then create work relations. People will start trusting you when they call you. Not because of your instagram post from last night, but because they know they worked with you before. They know you can deliver. You can make their life easier. And this is I think, 90% of what we do is way have the like what? What gets me. And you The next job is people can sleep at night because they call us. This is this is the one thing on your part If they just like me and people associate your name with If I call them Aiken, calm down a little bit, then you're safe. And then I think that your career is very in an extremely fantastic position. Well spoken right there. You heard it. Uh, From the one and only Christoph Niemann. And if you've just tuned in unlucky for you were signing off. But this will be continually replayed and a drop again on audio here on the chase. Jarvis live Show the creativelive. Um, Christoph, thank you so much for spending an hour with us today. Your work is, um, at the top of the illustrator pinnacle around the planet. So inspiring. Uh, and I just want to thank you for taking your time to inspire all of us. We've got again people tuning in, uh, New Zealand, South Africa, Uh, just saw Florida in the mix. Thank you so much for being here today. And if you needed to direct people or if I asked you rather to direct people thio your coordinates on the Internet where some places where we would go to find more about you or more your work. In addition to what I've mentioned, uh, you know the Siri's abstract on Netflix? Where else would you steer, folks? Well, my website is christoph Niemann dot com. Easy enough, and then I'm like, the handle is abstract Sunday on instagram and Twitter and Facebook. So these air the These are the easiest places to find me and thank you so much. I mean, there was a lot of fun, and I'm I'm flattered by, like, the amount of, like, preparation you must have done to find all these quotes. And so this is this is a fantastic complement. And yes, I just want to encourage, you know, like when you when you say these names of like, the cities, of course, like in this day and age, like not being able to travel, is it's really breaking my heart. But just like you shout out to all the designers around the world and for me, one of the greatest things I learned when I travel is you go to different countries, you can barely communicate, find a similar language, but the relief off finding that no matter where you go, we all struggled with the same thing. But we all get excited for the same thing. Like we all drawn to what we do. Because there's this excitement, visuals. And so let's hope that all the insanity out there cannot break that. And yeah, thank you for putting on that show. Go to keep that excitement going. Alright, Well, Jones and Company Lauren Redon, a Daniel. Guillermo, Chris! Laura! Stephen Um new. So many folks from around the world. They're they're not just countries, they're humans. And they're inspired by your work. And thank you so much for being inspiring human in addition to the work that you put out there in the world and we'll make sure to follow up and we'll get you the audio. All that we're gonna make so many good little excerpts from this you've dropped So, Maney Nuggets. So we'll share those with you in the not too distant future. And again, everyone in the world Thank you so much for tuning in. And please do yourself a favor and follow Christoph everywhere you can because it's pure gold. Christoph, Thank you so much. Signing off hope you have a fantastic thank you. Thank you. Thank you so much for having me and thank you all for listening. Bye. Okay,

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Dream Focus Studio

By far the best classes on Creative Live!! Thanks Chase Jarvis for bringing so much greatness to the table for discussion! Just LOVE it!

René Vidal

@ChaseJarvis - love chat with Gabby about hope and the "relentless optimism" you share at the end of Creative Calling. Many thanks. -- René Vidal McKendree Tennis


Excellent interview with thoughtful questions. Thanks!!

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