I am dealing with a lot of overactive thoughts about creativity so I’m going to unburden myself in this blog and apologise up-front if it is hugely self-indulgent. I realised yesterday that I have been making and posting things online for 10 years now, which seems insane to me. I looked a while ago at the progression of my animated shorts and sitting watching them back to back was quite gratifying – the improvement over 10 years was stark! I’ve developed 5 projects I think, K9-Lives was about 100ish comic strips and 3 short films. Bloodwhat was 130ish comic strips. The Von Spleen Experiment was 75 pages of a comic book (never posted online and never will be!) Picayune/BandOfOne Comic 350ish Comic strips (on hiatus and probably will return) and Jack Astro, 3 Short Films and now working on a 130 page comic book.
So that is my history of being a creator of things. I wanted to make stuff and tell stories from a young age but I never felt I was good enough or really had anything to say. I enjoyed drawing but it was very frustrating and I would give up because I couldn’t draw as well as other people so I figured I wasn’t cut out to be an artist. I did carry on drawing off and on but I took up guitar and followed that passion for a long while. I missed out on GCSE Graphic Design when choosing options and when I went to A-Level with my cartoon/comics portfolio in hand I was told that they don’t consider that kind of art and I probably wasn’t cut out for it anyway. That kind of thing coming from people in a position of power/authority always made me furious and it drove me to prove that teacher wrong. Incidentally I was told when buying my first guitar that my hands were too small and I’d never be any good! I can’t imagine ever being the sort of person that doesn’t want to encourage creativity in children – the mindset of saying YOU CAN’T DO THIS is baffling. I genuinely think those comments spurred me on to prove those people wrong so I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt (that they were actually being psychological ninjas) but I’m not sure I would employ that tactic to encourage future generations of artists.
Anyway where was I? I took Art GCSE at A level so they’d let me take graphic design as an AS in the second year. All the while being taught by this teacher who eventually decided I was a star pupil and had great potential (but still disliked cartoons.)
I re-discovered animation in my college art foundation year and pursued that relentlessly for several years learning 3D animation as I still felt I couldn’t draw. Working in 3D actually helped me to think about drawing volume and taught me to THINK in 3 Dimensions which actually started to improve my drawing. When I think back I was drawing a lot at most points in my life.
At university I started to think in terms of projects. We had to make a film for each year of the course and I LOVED doing that. I even made a cartoon short in my summer holidays after the first year (no idea where that is now.) After I finished Uni I was in get a job mode and my “project” was to make an animation show-reel. I worked for 6 months animating to clips of film dialogue with free 3D Character Rigs and eventually landed a job on an indie animated feature film in Scotland (I will skip over details but it would be fun to write an in-depth account of my time there!)
Somewhere during/just after this job I realised that while working for a company is a good living – actually I was an intern on about £9,000 a year to start with so it wasn’t great – it wasn’t entirely creatively satisfying (this varies job to job!) and I needed to start making “projects” again.
Basically that has been my life ever since! Whatever I’m doing, wherever I’m working – I have something creative that is entirely my own thing. I am still plagued by doubt and feelings that I’m not good enough, and I noticed that after I finished each project I would go into a bit of a depression because I wasn’t happy with it. So early on the gap between projects would be LONG and I’d go off and make music for a bit (until I felt like I was rubbish at that.)
I’ve got to a point now where I have future projects lined up and ready to develop. There is no down time really because I am in love with the process. I think that is possibly where you can start to describe yourself as an artist – if you are always creating and channeling your life and energy into artistic endeavours it starts to define you as a person. But I guess I want to tell people who are young and struggling that this is hard. The people you look up to who make it LOOK easy have probably been through so much shit to get where they are! That little bump in the road that just made you quit would make them laugh, so if you want to do something creative don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it (especially yourself).
I heard a quote recently (that I can’t attribute so I’ll paraphrase) saying, if a person can be dissuaded from becoming an artist then they should be.
You have to be a little bull-headed/foolish/arrogant/insane to do this. There will be plenty of opportunities to quit. And I don’t think that ever stops. You have to find something in your work that nourishes you and pulls you through those dark times and won’t let you quit. And if you can’t find that then you are doomed.
But hey – who would want to be an artist anyway? It sounds horrible right? I don’t know why I do it (oh dear now it all comes crumbling down.)
If you don’t make art then go out there and find art, enjoy it, love it. And tell the artist. Trust me they need to hear it!
But I’ll bet most of you who love art (in whatever form) have a desire somewhere (probably it’s been crushed at some point) to make something yourself. And if you love art then you will agree that we could do with more of it in this world.
And just to finish on a down note – if any of you go look at my work and say “he’s not an artist, he’s just drawing cartoons” then can I say a big F*CK YOU from my 16 year old self 🙂