Artistic Development

I am a lazy asshole. I am also very hard on myself, think a lot, and dream a lot. Then, when it comes time to do the deed, I apply what appears to be very small amounts of work that may or may not be valuable.

There’s a certain kind of tension I feel when I share with people. For many people, it is the moment (and the assumptions that hold it together) that matters. The assumption that allows one to believe that what they’re doing is the right thing. For me, I fear that I am doing something wrong all the time, and I shortcut this by indulging in food, entertainment, art, and my current day job. But actually creating stuff and showing it? That is always rough for me. I can blame the cynical culture I live in (and sometimes perpetuate), or I can blame myself and engage in a lot of what the author of the All Japanese All The Time website calls, “Binging and Purging”.

I find it hard to relax when I have a project, with recordings by people who trusted me, that I have been working on for a while now. I also find it hard to relax because I find it just as easy for me to visualize the finished product as I do the criticism and hatred that may greet my work before it’s even finished. Hence why I am very nervous about showing any development. I take criticism personally. I don’t just want to mold my actions, I also want to mold myself, because it feels as though when I show any of my work, even just these typed ramblings, I am giving a part of my soul away. I give my soul away with what I do, and as a result, mistakes feel more like marks on my being.

Now, I can try to solve the mystery of why I give my soul away when I love someone, when I write an essay, when I draw a picture and show it to someone or when I dare to show a teaser trailer for my movie. But that doesn’t change the critique, and why should it? After all, if people can’t be honest with me when I bare my heart in the form of the weird things I make, how can I trust them down the road with more mundane things? Being an artist (or, at least, trying to be) is about facing the possibility that you are not good enough day by day. If I try to ask for pity before showing my work, that cuts things down, right? Pollutes the waters of honesty? Collusion in games journalism artistic…integrity?

There’s a funny thing about that: right now I have a very, very small audience. One Twitter account that has been mostly abandoned, another that is alive and kicking but has been seeing less activity from me due to a mix of guilt and apprehension about the wider social sphere. I don’t even know if the friends I had months or years ago are friends now, and I don’t know what they really think of me (or if I want to). The actors I have worked with have not been spoken to by me in ages, also out of guilt of what I’ve been trying to do (though I at least send them e-mails with project updates). I just feel very down, very frustrated, both at not being the definition of what an artist is supposed to be, and also at the fact that it has taken so long for me to get this done. I have backgrounds, voices, storyboards…now what? And none of it is impressive, at least not my definition of impressive…a definition that could be someone else’s.

I saw two movies this weekend, “The Martian” and, “Sicario”. Both are very good movies with otherwise conventional structures, established cast/crew and a lot of buzz. Both are movies that one should definitely check out, but as for me? They give me a sense of dread…I’ll explain why. See, there is an idea that animation and live-action are different. Different in how they are made, how they are conceived, even how they are budgeted. Except there are moments where live action and animation intersect, especially in today’s media landscape, and there is some pushback against that, because there is an idea that animation is an escape, not an imitation of life. John K in particular is a very big proponent of animation distinguishing itself from live action, to the point where he has an entire blog post where he states, “When I design characters for myself, I think less about design than I do about personality. In fact, I rarely think at all about it. I feel it instead.” This kind of runs counter to, well, how the “Nine Old Men” did it back at Disney. So here I am with a copy of, “Artisitc Anatomy” by Dr. Paul Richer, with a few memories of having read Richard William’s, “The Animator’s Survival Kit” over and over. I visualize detailed stuff in vein of, “Akira”, and yet…I realize that it’s just not for me.

Just me drawing the heads, versus...
Just me drawing the heads as a stylistic reference for, “Alpha City”, versus…
...an earlier attempt at reference that disgusts me.
…an earlier attempt at stylistic reference that disgusts me.

It’s not that artistic anatomy is not important, or that one should not care how their animation, well, moves on screen. It’s just that I have to fight often with it. As in, how much do I need to know? Would I ever master this (a question that can be asked of all art)? Furthermore, would anyone take what I try to portray seriously? Why do I want to be taken seriously? Can’t drama be done with a few lines and an understanding of space, time etc.? Or do I have to imitate Michaelangello to make my drama believable? Did Herge sell his emotion and drama short when drawing Tin Tin the way he did, or is there something else that makes it work…you know, stuff like content and story? Like having wild adventures that are thrilling up until you notice the strong smell of colonialism?

Easier to say, “Just relax and do your best!” when you are free from the knowledge that no matter how laid out the niches/audiences are in today’s media landscape, people still have a lot of strong opinions. But that’s second compared to the biggest fear I have: the fear of disappointing myself, the fear of having my brain scream at me at high decibels for a very long time after I decide to ship my finished product. The idea of disappointing the people that even I, my cynical anti-hero worship self, look up to. The idea that some talented old soul will look at my work, then back at me, and then say, “You know, kid, you’re just not meant to do this. If you’re not a genius, don’t bother.

I mean, just imagine. Spending years, studying, looking things up, drawing and living by your day job. Going through different artistic phases: first looking up to Furries and Anime, then shunning them (or at least not being so open about being inspried by such, because holy fuck are the people in those fandoms an embarassment), then embracing those things again but with a critical eye thanks to Bill Plympton, Tom Sito, Terrance Walker, and John K.. Trying to make oneself well-rounded while also branching out to things other than animation: philosophy, social justice, music, food, history, politics, sex (or lack thereof). Trying to make yourself something of a Renaissance Figure, so when the time comes you at least have something to say…only to be told, “Nope, sorry, you don’t cut it, and you never will. Go back to being a desk jockey until your company lays you off despite all of the loyalty you’ve shown for it.”

There is the center of my angst, because in this day and age of niches, The Long Tail, and passionate subcultures, the person who says that I don’t cut it, more than anyone else…could very well be me, thus cutting myself away from the chance of me actually cutting it. And then, well, there’s also the fact that all of my worrying could very well be pointless.

There’s an old expression that goes, “There’s no accounting for taste”. For better and for worse, it means exactly what it says. I mean, shit, James Nguyen has a fanbase. Tommy Wiseau has a fanbase. People think Iggy Azalea knows how to rap. There are even edgelords (or genuine, disgusting people, I can’t tell which) who say that, “Where The Dead Go To Die” (Very NSFW) is a good movie and that everyone who dislikes it is just a whiny, over-sensitive person. Hatred still exists, sure, but the world is now too small and too wide for anyone to be completely left out (at least, as long as the internet and civilization as we know it doesn’t go kaput). In a world where every imaginable demographic is considered a potential license to print money (or get a following), it’s only going to be a matter of time before someone, somewhere, finds me. Hey, maybe I can be the next Vaporwave, i.e: something that dies the moment it’s noticed, while getting some passion when it’s not.

I just hope that I can get some compensation by the time that happens. Or inspire a revolution. Fuck, I don’t know.


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