Wednesday, August 19, 2009

What I Have Learned (so far...)

I'll be the first to admit that it ain't much. I am mainly self taught in this, with a few rare exceptions. But the things I have picked up along the way guide not just my art but my life as well.

1) Be honest - Always.
This is especially true for the artist. The viewer will always know when you are faking it. Your comfort level increases when you feel what you are doing to be right. Forcing the issue, either throgh a gimmick or trick may mask your shortcomings, but you will know the difference and it will show. It is a badge of honor that a person once described me to someone else as "A man with no secrets." The way I see it, I am my own canvas, and I will only draw on myself what I know to be right.

2) Never stop learning.
This cannot be stressed enough, ever. The second you think you know it all is the second you die inside. I strive to learn something new every day, whether it's a new author, a new artist, a piece of history I haven't read yet or even a newspaper article about fondue. (I hate fondue, btw) My mind is a sponge. Sublime sang "The day that I die will be the day that I shut my mouth and put down my guitar." With me, the day that I die will be the day that I don't care anymore and drop my pencil.

3) Give everyone a second chance at least once.
You are your own best judge and jury when it comes to friends and people you meet, but you really rob yourself when you adopt a 1 strike policy. Granted the wise men say that to allow a man to fool you twice makes YOU the fool, but to rip a chapter from your book that isn't completed will leave you always asking yourself "How will this end?" Better to find out than live with the question unanswered. I'm not a happy-positive person, but I know this to be true from a lifetime of doing it.

4) Practice every day the task you want to do.
This is for all those people out there who say that they need a day off. Screw you and the horse you rode in on. Seriously. You are faced with this choice daily. Be the best there is or just be. There is nothing wrong with the people who just want to be. The world NEEDS them. But to elevate yourself into the upper layer requires a lot more than hoping an wishing. You have to do it. Daily. Be you a doctor, a lawyer, an artist, writer or handyman, the moment you put down your tool is a moment you lose when your life comes to an end. How many of you have been in love? How many of you have said "Why couldn't I have met you a year ago, a month ago, yesterday?" It's the same with your chosen profession. I carry in me the image of myself on my death bed. I have no regrets and I have lived a full life. I have achieved all I wanted to achieve and can die happy. This image is a lie. It is a struggle to become the best, and if you aren't prepared to fight for it evey day of your life, you aren't worthy of seeking greatness. In my heart of hearts, I know that the day I die I will be angry because I still had so far left to go.

5) Eliminate the things in your life that are negative.
WHile this sounds like common sense, how man of us have a daily scab that we pick? How many of us stub our toe on the same piece of furniture at the same time and in the same manner? I learned while I was younger that we all have crap in our lives. This will never change. What we can do is eliminate the unnecessary crap. This opens us up to having to deal with the Necessary crap. It's a daily choice you make.
"I am fat." (I want to eat the cake) [Don't eat the cake] You are not fat anymore.
"My heart hurts." (He/She doesn't treat me right) [Find someone who will] Your heart doesn't hurt anymore.
It's not easy, but nothing in life worth doing IS. You have to fight, sometimes with your own self, to make you happy. The ones who are happy with misery are the ones I haven't the time for.

6) Nothing worth having in life comes easily.
Everything has a price, even a man's soul. The trick I learned here is that you pay the pice regardless of reciept of the goods. If you want to be slim, you have to work out and eat right. If you want to draw like Neal Adams, you better get a sharp pencil and start practicing right now. The fact that we feel joy when we get something that we had to struggle for should be enough to convince everyone that the struggle is necesary, but all too ofen we come across what I call the Jabbas. These are the folk that sit on the couch and expect the world to come to them. We all know one. A lot of people Homer Simpson their way through the world make it with a minimal effort, but these people are rare. And No. Hard work and dedication will not always be rewarded. But the odds tilt dramatically in your favor if you put in the sweat equity. More Olympians fail than they succeed. But they are always Olympians...even the guys that come in last.

There are a lot more.

The one good art teacher I had watched me draw for a full week without saying a word to me, then one day he said "Do you have to outline everything?" It was a simple question but it hit me like a sock full of bolts.
The trick is to be receptive. Keep an open mind. The saying "You never know..." is as old as the spoken language itself. Early man got it, and after 37 years I think I am on my way to getting it too.

Breaking the Ice

Being that this is my first 'official' blog you would think I have loads to say. Not the case, actually. I should introduce myself, explain my agenda and try to convince you that the world needs changing in many aspects but essentially it's ok, just the way it is. I know that sounds dichotomic, but it should, as I am a man of dualities. I like finely rendered drawings, chock full of detail but I am at heart a lazy man and lose interest almost half-way through creating such renderings. I have more unfinished works in my trophy case than completed ones.

That said, I am making it a mission to change that.

As far as my drawing style is concerned, I am currently exploring the chiaroscuro look in my art. While I like what it is capable of, am finding holes in it as my preferred choice. I don't think I will ever settle on one art style. To me, at any rate, settling for one style was akin to giving up the learning process. I know that even with that lovely style, the artist has innumerable ways to modify it to fit his self expression, I just hate ruts.

I am the kind of artist that walks just a little ahead of the group, (or maybe behind it would be better described) looking at the stuff that others glanced over and discarded.

The hardest thing I have come across so far in my journey as an artist is that I think it faster than I can draw it. I have tons of junk in my head, but the output is limited by the funnel of my drawing hand and how fast it can move. That has been the bane of my existance at times.

As of this bog, my published works total 2. Both of them art for another writer (Erik Hendrix) and published in anthologies for free. Not a glowing resume, but I have said it before and will say it again, "For an artist, the resume is worthless. Show the portfolio if you want to tell people who you are." So I stick to the gun that it's not where you are printed, rather than WHAT you have printed.

I have ideas in my head now of grand tales, full of epic characters and earth shaking struggles. I also have the mundane image of an old couple sharing a cup of coffee as they venture outside their house for the first time in years. It's funny that both should find firm fertile soil in my mind, but to me it actually seems normal.

I really pity those who don't see the world through an artist's eyes at times. I suppose they must feel the world is a cold empty place. You would think that would place an incredible burden on my shoulders. The responsibility of creating a work that opens a doorway into my world for them to look into feels oppressive at times. When it is juxtaposed with the look I see in someone who gets it though, that makes all the trial and tribulation worthwhile.