SPREY Log #06 – You Vs You

I had a blast last week, this week is more of a pain. What’s the difference? I took an extended weekend off and therefore lost all momentum. Now I’m fighting strong resistance to spend another lazy day every morning. It happens to all of us. Sometimes that voice is louder, sometimes you’re faster at your desk working before the thing even had it’s morning coffee and could try to dissuade you from starting. That is a great place to be in, a great amount of momentum. Obviously I can’t get back to me from last week but I can get my momentum back through doing the work. Also nobody is above breaks, we need them to process things or take care of matters that do not revolve around the craft.

The War of Art

I’m rereading Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art right now and probably heavily influenced by it right now. Just by quantity it must be my favorite book. I’m reading it the third or fourth time now and I’m amazed how I still find new things that are relevant to me right now and weren’t before or how I could forget so many important points since the last reading. It teaches you the mindset how you actually get to write the book of your dreams, paint what you know you should have been painting years ago and so on. It can’t do the work for you though, that’s on you. What The War of Art can do really well is remind you that you are your worst enemy if you let your inner resistance get the better of you. Resistance almost becomes a mystical villain entity in the description of it’s nature and it’s ways, but maybe that is exactly the playful approach needed to cope with it. After all, if you are a creative, how do you like the prospect of lifelong anxiety and struggling and knowing it’s you that does that to yourself? And it will never go away. With discipline and experience you’ll just get better at distinguishing actual fatigue, actual important tasks that can’t wait from anything that broadly falls under comfortseeking and procrastination. Give The War of Art a chance, if you are interested in this cluster of topics. Steven Pressfield even gives a part of The War of Art away for free as a series of videos you receive when you subscribe to his newsletter.

Approval

And now I’m expanding on a nugget of wisdom from The War of Art that moves me a lot at the moment. Do not hope for things to become a success. Do not seek support or followers for support’s or followers’ sake. It is true that no one is waiting for your unproven creations with open arms, but you also do not need any approval by anyone to start making them. Seeking support and followers are open invitations for yourself to distract yourself instead of doing the work. This rings so true to me as it resonates with the experiences I’ve made over the years. I had my share of ambitiously trying to build a following on social media. To be fair, back then I had no clue what I was doing in general and how to get anywhere, so I’m excused. But other than that I never had success with anything of that sort. First I thought that was bad and that I maybe wasn’t born to be a successful independent artist if no one would ever validate me and no audience would ever show up. My opinion on this has been changing over the years though. I do have an audience. It is just not the stadium filling audience of a rock star. And it’s not in your hand whether someone likes your work, they do or they don’t. You can make everything right to please the highest amount of people in theory…and they might still be indifferent. Of course you can put effort into how you present your works and how you interact with other people, but you are not entitled to anything. Pressfield reminded me that the first task of the artist is not to garner a following or support before they even start creating, the task is to create the art. Not any art, but the art that the artist knows they truly want and should be creating if they are honest to themselves. While to some people this sounds obvious, it is usually the thing the artist is afraid of the most and has the strongest fears of getting hurt when it flops.

I have been also very confused in the past as I couldn’t give a simple statement about what type I am and how I would fit in into the art world. Trying to fit in probably is a waste of time, too, but you do want to have a direction you can work with. Therefore I was also confused what I am supposed to make. But as I like to say, mileage is the remedy. This time around good old mileage, the state and process of having drawn hundreds of pieces, hundreds of pages of it, is slowly giving me the answers I was craving.

I’m scared of concept art, therefore I should keep doing it

I was scrambling to become anything and of all things I became a concept artist. Funny enough, I’m apparently repeatedly telling my friends that I don’t think I have what it takes to be one, but I keep getting paid work in that field. I think what irks me about concept art is that it takes the design of things as one of the natural phases of creating art and declares that a finished thing. Other people give you briefs, tell you what you should do, and again, a group of other people, actually interpret your ideas and make the actual “assets” out of them and someone else got the last word of what makes it into the final product. I know a group of people can create bigger and more complex things than a solo creator, just because there are more man hours and more experts of various fields at work at the same time. But still, it feels unnatural to me to just generate ideas and not actually create, at least from the place of limited experience that I have right now. Maybe I will understand more after I have shipped a couple of games myself and worked on more projects. Also don’t get me wrong, concept design is an amazing and incredibly helpful field. My comic profits anytime I learn how to design things better. I guess my concept artist would take the work off my shoulders to have to design the costumes for the scenes, how the locations look like and what has to be there for it to look believable, what fixed light and color schemes I have for the scene, shot thumbnails and so on… but then I would draw the comic and people would just see that. Maybe I am making the same mistake, with a remnant of looking at things through the eyes of the audience, in awe about the vision that looks so consistent, focussing on the story told, not the nuts and bolts of what makes it work and how it does that.

Thinking about it, what if my past and current approach to SPREY is too complicated as it tries to follow the rules of a “professional” process usually undertaken by a team? Not trying to rationalize anything, just a thought. Maybe it is just a natural, flowing development. As I learn more about design, art fundamentals or anything, I’m eager to apply it to my work. Then things first blow out of proportion, take too long, frustrate me a lot, but once I’m used to it, I relax and things deflate again, now richer for a trick or two that I don’t have to look up every time when I want to use them and that keep influencing future work.

Back to defining myself though, I crave to release new zines. The Manul one and the Lickbook 2 one for example. It would feel so satisfying to have those finished and out. Not making the mistake to “hope” for a big breakthrough, it is for real about creating them, just as with SPREY. I’m happy if people enjoy them, but they don’t owe me.

New arc for this blog

This is a special blog entry.
When you see bigger bumps or gaps on my blog, that can mean one of two things. Either I’m in a creative crisis and barely functional (this is absolutely normal for creatives, it’s a natural ebb and flood cycle), or working on something so big and captivating that it absolutely derailed me from writing. Sometimes both overlap.

I’m doing well lately. I’m keeping my head down and focussing on getting my day to day work done, almost unaffected by whatever else happens. I had an insight or two while drawing and in the breaks between, so today I will touch on the very foundations of this blog again.

I started this blog to document my art journey towards “making it”, leaving records behind of how exactly I did it, what worked, what didn’t work, and what pitfalls to avoid to save yourselves some time.
I have changed since starting the blog. I think when I started I was convinced most pros had some or the same secret they weren’t telling us, even when they were pretending to tell us their full success story of how they “made it”. There was always this very real gap between them, their ranks, and me and my fellow aspiring artist colleagues who still hadn’t yet joined those ranks. We could do whatever we wanted, follow all the steps, at the end of the day we wouldn’t get in. Now with more experience under my belt I’m seeing things differently.

“Making it” turns out to be a surprisingly personal thing. I set my goals, I decide what I’m doing to get there and – of course – I have to actually do these things. And whatever I share with you here on this blog is not and never was universal advice that would work for anyone for every “making it” goal. There is no universal “making it” advice, unless it is so vague that is loses it’s substance again. So the pros did not have one secret. It is more likely that most couldn’t tell you what “their” secret actually was if not a combination of hard work, luck and connections. And the ratio of these things is different for everyone again as are their personal unique circumstances.

So if I want to do you the best service I can I must focus on the personal in my personal journey for the future instead of looking out for the universal. Although I will confidently state I’m a painfully average person anytime, I recognize that the circumstances of my journey are unique – as are yours. We are all beautiful unique remixes of the spark that gives humanity art if this makes sense.

What follows is really hard to write for me, but it is necessary. You must know who is writing this blog, you must know how this person is looking at the world and what the “making it” goals are, so that you can assess how to interpret what I say and what you can use. I am an unworldly dreamer that seeks comfort. That is not a criticism, that is a type. But what keeps me going is that at the same time I’m a hard worker that doesn’t accept giving up or whatever else is identified as defeat. It actually makes perfect sense. That’s two worlds colliding in the same person all the time, creating a lot of creative energy from that friction. Whatever I am, I am not bored, I am always on the lookout to do things to make the pain stop. This can either be a powerful feedback spiral to relentlessly following the dream and working hard to make it come true – or it can lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms such as eating for short-term comfort, literally to feel better. And just to reiterate, I am not the only person who is like this, this is a type, although from what I understand one that is rarer in the spotlight or expressing themselves as this.

Dreamers have to be careful with their goals. If it’s too unworldly, it might never come true, because it can’t be done. But what if you can still get it done? Then we end up with innovation which pushes what people thought was possible and is good for everyone.

I might have mentioned it before, but my dream is to tell a couple of stories. I have a list with exact names and summaries. And guess what, SPREY is one of them. I must realize them either as comics or as videogames(most likely RPG-ish) to keep things in a scope a single creator can manage. This dream never changed at it’s core. I love the craft(s) more than anything, so with some things I literally can’t be motivated with money. That is the dreamer’s curse and privilege. But I still must exist in this world, so money is still a thing. I have humbly and without much fanfare started to learn how to code. Whatever my creative ambitions are, I must live with certain realities. I embrace art commissions and freelance work though, of course, but I try to be as responsible as possible just in case there is another long drought that can happen at the beginning of any career. There’s zero drama in this, no bitterness. Others have done this before me.

Rereading this I can’t even tell you what is so special about my stories. I have never asked myself this question. It just is. I came into the world with it. Let’s uncover the qualities of my works together on the journey as I’m learning more about myself and my creations. I realized that I have to change. It is my nature to seek comfort, but I have to be an inverse version of myself if I want to succeed. Everyone struggles with something after all. And I will admit, I’m already curious how I will do it.

See you next blogpost!