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.

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