SPREY Log #20 – The Void

A lot of things are in movement right now. Recently, the server for our game “Your Land” moved. I had no idea what extra work such a server move entails, but we’re doing good I think.

My courses are going well, although I’m permanently tired since a migraine last week. My best guess is that I didn’t have time to fully recover yet. The deadlines from the courses and freelance work won’t stop, you know. But I’m taking away from this that I have to plan better in the future, that I do have the time for my health. And also, that despite my will to crunch, I can’t crunch right now, otherwise I’ll be even more exhausted the next day. The smart move is to cap the daily workload so that things get done, but the energy level doesn’t fall even lower.

Also related to all of this, I have a fantastic teaching advice for you that you can use both as a student and as a teacher. You cannot tear down without building up. What do I mean? Imagine the typical situation where your teacher has to inform you that you are doing something wrong. They must not only show you how your way is wrong, they MUST absolutely show you how to do it instead in a way that you understand it and that you can practically apply it in the future – and that it is actually useful to you. It is irresponsible to just ‘destroy’ a student. Whatever inefficient or insufficient thing you did until now, it at least brought you here. If someone just takes it away from you, destroys your confidence in this specific part of your process and doesn’t give you something else at hand, something that YOU can actually use, your whole current process could implode from that faulty bit. Then your destroyed confidence compounds, as suddenly nothing is working anymore. And then you are left with nothing. And that is not a good place to be in psychologically. Luckily I’m resilient, so I was out of the void again after about three days. But no teacher will ever pull this on me again. And I will not be that teacher either. It is especially frustrating when you know your teacher is right, but you just can’t follow them over to the place they’re at and they can’t explain it in a way that you can go there either. You are free to ignore for now and move on, it will click later with more mileage, practical experience and research. That’s what I’m doing at least. Having a faulty way of creating for now is better than having none at all anymore.

There seems to be another level of difficulty to the whole problem that has nothing to do with an individual mentorship, it is rather a broader, conceptual problem. By now I know there is a group of artists of unknown size all over the world that is like me. I would call them visual storytellers for a lack of a better word. An artist, that cannot help but look into fictional universes and come back with long form stories or whole worlds. A writer, that is in the body of a visual artist and that has grown up on movies, tv and music videos, knows and loves their aesthetic and wants to create something that feels equally…grandiose. We do not ask for this, it comes to us. But returning to this world we are told, we cannot do this. People have the nerve to tell us both that you should start small and that you should forget it, as you need a whole team to get anything of significance off the ground. Also, there seems to be this shared sense that you have to “earn” pursuing your own stories after waiting in line for many years, drawing some rocks or otherwise support other people’s visions, jumping through all the hoops all other people had to jump through, too, and then end up with a compromised version of something you would have liked to do as the pinnacle of your corporate career. But at least you had a team working on it and the approval of a corporation. And you did everything right and according to the rulebook.

Life is too short for that. You need time to get good at storytelling. My short dip into the void showed me again that I have no time to spend on getting anyone’s approval. I need to create what I was born to create and I need not be distracted with a flurry of other things anymore. The world is pretty good at distractions by the way. You must be better.

See you next blogpost!

100 Days of SPREY – 08, 09

Whops! My week was so demanding that I unfortunately couldn‘t keep up with the blog like I would have liked to. Most importantly: all the comic work got done, the rest of the time was eaten up by commissions, a lot of reading and learning and on Wednesday my very first appearance as a guest on an art podcast! It was the Turaco Art Cast with comic artists Frank Salazar and Anna Raub. That was a pretty exciting and unique experience!

Unfortunately I paid for all the important work that got done with being quite exhausted in the second half of the week.

It is indeed a fine line between „Don‘t destroy yourself with crunch“ and „You do not need to feel good and comfortable all the time, otherwise you will never tackle any challenge outside of your personal comfort zone“…which you happen to need for growth.

I read „A short history of myth“ by Karen Armstrong this week and after a long break continued reading Robert Henri‘s „The Art Spirit“. Especially the latter one baffles me. How could I have spent my whole life drawing while apparently not knowing anything about art? Henri is like the well-meaning experienced art grandpa mentor I never had. He puts the reader aside and tells them what it‘s really all about without preaching. If you are inclined to do so, check out his book for yourself! At least for me it helped me to enjoy art in itself, whether by me or others, more again.

The books also made me attempt an experimental mindset shift. The myth book was a refreshing breeze that showed me how differently other cultures interpret and depict the human condition and our basic and most important struggles. The unfair and struggling nature of life comes to mind and how to deal with death and mortality for example. And after that book made my brain softer and more open to new ways, there came The Art Spirit. We artists really are in a great and ungrateful position at the same time. We get to experience and play with human emotion all the time, stories, uncovering secrets in the human psyche and in one way or the other influencing the people around us and helping to solve problems in a creative way. While many instructors seem to agree that the best art, writing and any other creative endeavor is done best in a state of selflessness, the artist has no chance to get there without meticulously exploring themselves and their own life and tastes first. That almost seems like a contradiction. Won‘t looking at and into yourself all the time make you an egoist on the canvas? Wouldn‘t you be tempted to paint self-indulgent pieces nobody else would even attempt to connect to? I‘d argue knowing yourself very very well gives you the freedom to reach out in the first place and maybe even forget yourself for a moment. Meeting other people who disagree with you or do the very same thing you do, but better, or people who just don‘t care about your work at all, won‘t shatter you anymore. You will even be readier to accept that they have an inner life as vivid as yours and that your art does not have to be part of that if they just don‘t connect with it.

There is another exciting thing that I found in the book and need to tell you about immediately. Henri argues that it would be an ideal state for an artist, if they created what is genuine and authentic to themselves and what they are here to create all the time and without compromises. That would be their way to live their life to it‘s fullest. And playfully engaging with that creation every day would be the thing that creates any form of success as byproduct. So…the success is not the goal, it happens on the side. Bold thesis, don‘t you think? But it might as well happen that the success never happens or at least not in the lifetime of the artist. If that is so, how should you know whether you are doing it right or not? Apparently outside validation is unreliable to see whether something is good or not. Almost in all times people have rejected new things only to turn around and claim them as new proven standard later, how things should always have been. But then worrying about money is just a reality of life, worrying about being connected to people and not ostracized. I guess we artists should not ignore that, as that would be ignoring reality, but we must be ready to sacrifice our comfort or tendency to seek it in order to rise above.

See you in the next blog entry!