Watch Zach Lieberman’s Pep Talk on creative coding

Our latest Pep Talk featured artist Zach Lieberman, who answered all of your questions on creative coding, making artwork and finding a professional balance. Hosted by Steph Fung, Zach discussed NFTs, finding his footing in the dot-com boom and his personal approach to receiving feedback. Plus: we share a range of resources that Zach recommends for anyone looking to get started in the world of creative coding.

The big talking points:

  • The importance of having a sense of time (4:38)
  • How learning Flash kickstarted Zach’s interest in code (08:05)
  • Why having a community makes coding more pleasant (11:30)
  • Zach’s tips for overcoming creative blocks (13:40)
  • Finding equal balance, both in-house and as a freelancer (16:02)
  • Zach’s approach to criticism and feedback (20:09)
  • Why it’s worth learning computational work in general (24:10)
  • The resources Zach recommends for beginners (26:55)
  • Zach’s introduction to the world of NFTs (28:18)
  • Advice on social media and self-promotion (31:22)
  • Zach’s criteria for accepting commercial commissions (37:08)
  • Advice on applying for creative opportunities (38:55)
  • What Zach would do if he wasn’t a creative coder (42:28)

What did I miss?
After an introduction from our host Steph Fung, Zach shared his own mini-pep talk with us: “Everything operates at a time scale you don’t know – you are a farmer.” Inspired by an advice article for students which Zach wrote back in 2015, Zach explained how it can sometimes be hard to imagine how your current work might connect to your future work: “A project you start one year will come back years later, or an idea you have can only be realised at some later point in your life.” Likening this to being a farmer and treating soil, for Zach, it's useful to remain observant of the patterns which develop later down the line.

Zach then went on to share his journey to working in creative coding. Remembering how he joined a design studio at the height of the early 00s dot-com boom, it was there where Zach learnt tools and programs such as Photoshop, Illustrator and Flash – the latter of which sparked an interest in coding for animation.

When it came to talking about finding balance in his practice, Zach spoke about the benefits of dividing his focus and attention into thirds: artwork, commercial work and teaching – noting how each endeavour can inspire and support the other. “Money’s important – we all need to eat and pay bills – but it’s also about finding a healthy balance and being paid well for the work that you do.”

“Everything operates at a time scale you don’t know – you are a farmer.”

The conversation also touched on self-promotion and social media, with Zach discussing how posting daily on Instagram has helped him not only to showcase but progress his work: “The more you publish, the less you will worry about it, because there’s always a chance you will do something better the next day.”

Zach also spoke about his criteria for accepting client commissions, shared his top tips on approaching galleries and curators and filled us in on why his approach to receiving feedback is like “being a DJ who doesn't take requests”.

Plus! For emerging creatives looking to get into creative coding, Zach emphasised that while not everyone needs to learn it, coding can be a powerful tool to have in your arsenal. If you are looking to get started, below is a handful of resources that Zach recommends, including an educational YouTube channel and experimental tools to try.

Resources recommended by Zach for anyone looking to get into creative coding

  • Processing, a flexible software sketchbook and a language for learning how to code
  • p5.js, a free, open-source JavaScript library for creative coding, with a focus on making coding accessible and inclusive for artists, designers, educators and beginners
  • openFrameworks, an open-source C++ toolkit designed with a simple framework for experimentation
  • The Coding Train, a YouTube channel with creative coding video tutorials on subjects ranging from JavaScript to algorithmic art, generative poetry, and more.

About Zach Lieberman
Based in New York, Zach Lieberman is an artist, researcher and educator. Known for his experimental drawing and animation tools, Zach uses code in a myriad of creative ways; from making artwork and interactive environments to writing poetry.

A fine art graduate, Zach stumbled upon the world of creative coding shortly after graduating – a discovery that would see him go on to land commercial work for the likes of Nike, Google and Facebook. His projects have garnered him many prizes, and in 2010, he was even listed as one of the “100 Most Creative People in Business” by Fast Company, who labelled him “part R&D [research and development] geek, part performance artist, and part hacker.

See more from Zach on his website, Instagram and Twitter.

What is Pep Talk?
Pep Talk is our monthly Instagram Live event to share relatable, easy-to-process tips in conversation with inspiring creatives.

Each session begins with a ‘pep talk’, where a chosen creative gets to share their ultimate advice for anyone who might be feeling a bit stuck, before answering questions submitted by you, our readers.

Mention Zach Lieberman
Written by Creative Lives in Progress