For the better part of the past year, I have not been living. I spent hours drawing and painting, working on creating a better future myself without any consideration to my present. And when I finally landed a job, in order to escape the emotional toll of breaking up, I committed myself ten fold to my career, without realizing that the aching was unavoidable all along.
As it is now, my life is so different than anything I’ve become accustomed to, that I feel estranged in my own body. Where did my optimism, my confidence, and my day-to-day experiential ownership go? What did I rot into without my network of close friends and sense of contributing to society? For so long, I’ve felt hallowed out and filled with confusion, stumbling, infantile, lacking in presence. And I realize that because I ignored these lurking emotions, I never bothered to ask for help. I never truly admitted to the profound depression that I’ve been harboring. I never spoke much of my fear and loneliness. In the past few years I’ve cried exactly four times. The first was when I felt like I had truly failed a student, the second was when I discovered that my friend had died of cancer, the third was when someone I loved betrayed me, and the fourth with my grandmother, at my grandfather’s funeral. These spikes of emotions should not take more precedence than the common and frequent sadness in-between. I understand now that things must change.
I’ve been reading Sum by Dave Eagleman, a collection of 40 interpretations of the afterlife. Upon nearly completing the book, I know that it’s not so much that I don’t believe in an afterlife, it’s that I don’t care at all about it. I’ll deal with it when I get there. This is my life and my goal is to live it, to cherish and appreciate it, and to be better at living everyday.
The act of living isn’t something that we automatically learn and for me, it comes at a point of recognition that I have to continuously commit myself to remembering. I have to remind myself to live: to set goals and appreciate the working towards them, to make events if I feel like there are none, to understand that work cannot be my only love, to create my own positivity through constructive action when I feel as if I’m growing bitter, and to embrace everything which could be called new. This is not my plan. This is my action.
It's been a while since I've looked at your blog all at once instead of just in my dashboard and woah I'm so fucking impressed and jealous! The "djinn of fate" and "forest passage" style that you've been working on is totally next level, I'm in love with it. Are those solely photoshop? Looks like the sabbatical is paying off.
Hey Austin! Good to hear from you. I’ve been following your work as well and it’s great to see it evolve with each piece.
A little over a month ago, I took a break from drawing and stumbled upon these tutorials. http://fengzhudesign.com/tutorials.htm. The guy was a concept artist for a bunch of Star Wars stuff and other huge titles. He has his own school in Singapore, but he puts these tuts up. They’re the most useful thing I’ve ever watched (I spent two weeks and plowed through half of them). After that, my work tremendously improved! I’m also learning shit more quickly and freely than I ever did in college, though I’m building upon the foundations I learned previously (gained from college).
The paintings are all photoshop. I plan to learn 3D programs like zbrush, maya and 3ds Max in the near future, but I’m trying to get really badass at one thing for now!
Maybe it hasn’t been all that long, or maybe my mind just processes time more slowly now. When I felt myself plateauing, I knew that there needed to be a change of action. I’ve spent the last two weeks going through thirty hours of youtube tutorials and illustration DVDs to substitute a real life professor, or workshop. Self-teaching is an incredibly difficult task.
I have the discipline, but when I decided to develop myself in this way, I didn’t take into account the mental fatigue and lack of professional support network. Those who know me understand that I am not an introvert by nature. In fact, I deeply love being around others. Being in school allows one to learn and practice skills in the company of peers, but I don’t have that option. I am in my room, working on bettering myself 6-12 hours a day. Sometimes I won’t leave my house for three or four days in a row. The isolation hurts me the most, but I know I can’t stop, not until I am good enough.
My body is tired. My mind is tired. I’m struggling to develop my skills as quickly as possible, in the direction that I THINK my strengths lie. For example, environments and compositionally strong scenes utilize my background as a traditional painter; however, comic style/pseudo-realistic character drawing was something that I never focused on. Even simplified cartooning does not come naturally to me, because, well, UCI shit on illustration the way the Westboro Baptist Church shits on human dignity. And although I can dismiss past opinions, I have a lot of catching up to do in terms of illustrative skill building and conceptual thinking for games.
My friend told me that when I’m ready for interviews, I won’t know if a company is looking for someone with more experience or not. I won’t know what type of artist they’re looking to hire, since they may want to begin going a new direction, in a new genre. That information, compounded with my growing anxieties about job searching, has led me to not sleep easily these past two weeks, even with the aid of medicine.
It is a subtle worry, a creeping feeling of incompetence tucked under my skin. Wherever I go, there are a thousand things on my mind, and the struggle to be present is consuming me. The stress isn’t as bad as Teach For America or working at Uniqlo, but I don’t want to compare the life that I lived in the past to what I am striving to wake up to. I am fighting for happiness. I am battling for fulfillment, and nothing less.
Two nights ago I fell asleep. I cried. I cried because I love art, and I realized that I’ve loved art consistently my entire life, more than anything else in this world. This is the thing that I want to be great at. I want to struggle with it. I want to command my spirit. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. And everyday, when I get to work, I am yelling, “No more fucking around.”