Breakthroughs and Breakdowns

I've been wanting to get a bit more personal with my posts, and since I use this website as a professional portfolio as well, I decided to put posts like this behind a "members only" wall. I've also been wanting to post more of my art somewhere besides Instagram, where I am only concerned about the amount of likes and feedback it receives. I just want to have a place for this stuff where people who are interested in it might stumble upon it and maybe get something out of it.

This has been an emotional rollercoaster of a week, a ride that feels completely out of my control. I'm trying to figure out where all of it started- possibly with my interview for a full-time position at NASCAR, which would entail moving to Charlotte within the next month, which seems insane considering the worsening global pandemic. I'm still waiting to hear back, caught in limbo with no idea of the way forward.

So I dove headfirst into art this week to process everything that is going on. This quote by Haruki Murakami pretty much sums up what I've been feeling:

What I am doing is an exploration of myself— inside myself. If you close your eyes and dive into yourself you can see a different world. It's like exploring the cosmos, but inside yourself. You go to a different place, where it's very dangerous and scary, and it's important to know the way back.

After my interview I went on a trip through one of those dangerous and scary places. For some reason this trip was sparked by two wildly different influences: reading a biography of Andrew Wyeth and revisiting episodes of Nathan for You.

As I started reading the Andrew Wyeth book, I realized how little artistic instruction I’ve had in my life. I’ve always called myself a writer, but I have no real training in writing outside of screenwriting classes about 3 act structure that never really clicked for me. I’ve also never been trained in traditional art, having taught myself to draw over the course of many years, neglecting many of the basic approaches or figuring them out in my own roundabout way. I’ve only just begun to teach myself anatomy, basic 3D shapes, and watercolor techniques through a Skillshare subscription, which has been very helpful. Yet reading the Wyeth biography made me realize how many countless hours of training and studying helped reinforce his innate talent. It’s not enough just to be talented- you have to put in the work, to learn the right skills, on the way to finding your style or voice.

Which leads me to the breakdown part of this week. I stumbled upon Nathan for You on Hulu, a show I haven't watched in years. I love the show and the character, which isn't really a character but a slightly exaggerated version of comedian Nathan Fielder. There's something great about the flatness of his aspect, the aim for a social awkwardness that most people avoid. And then there's the mystery of whether this is all an act or if he is really like this. From what I've read, the character isn't that far off from the person. I was thinking about how brilliant this is and how this guy has really found his individual voice. Then of course I started thinking about my own my voice, my character, and struggled to pinpoint it. When I look at my art, what is consistent throughout it? Where do I see “me?” I even went through a very intense few hours of thinking that I needed to pursue a career as a comedian, to have my own television show. Later that night I reversed my stance and committed to a career as an animator, though I’ve never animated a thing in my life. Is all of this the result of social media conditioning, comparing my own progress to that of others and rushing to fulfill that ideal at all costs? I have no idea what is going on.

Sometimes I love an artist so much I just want to be them instead of myself. But what would I be leaving behind? What is my style, my voice? I try to remember what I like, what drives me to make art in the first place. When I see brilliance like that of Nathan or Andrew Wyeth (feels weird to put those two in the same sentence) I just get so overwhelmed that I want to become them immediately. I tried to remember the last time I felt something so deeply that I was driven to make art out of it, and realized it has been a long time, possibly not since college, when I was continually inspired by my circumstances to create something regularly. Having consistent class assignments helped, too.

And when I have the urge to create, what medium do I choose? A short story, comic, song, painting, poem, sketch, post-it note, dance move, charcoal drawing? Then what do I do with it once I have made it? I am overwhelmed by options. Maybe this is an experimental phase, where I try out a bunch of things and see what I like, what I want to pursue further. I keep thinking of starting a podcast or a webcomic, but I can’t seem to follow through with anything. I might try out Camp Nanowrimo this month to try and discipline myself into working on something daily instead of floundering around wondering how to channel all this creative energy.

I’ve also been reading a lot of Carl Jung lately, attempting to learn to interpret my own dreams, which is perhaps a subject for another post. But one of the most important things I read was how he instructed his patients to paint their dreams:

“I... now urge my patients at such times to actually paint what they have seen in dream or fantasy. As a rule, I am met with the objection: “I am not a painter.” To this I usually reply that neither are modern painters— for which very reason modern painting is absolutely free— and that it is anyhow not a question of the beautiful but merely of the trouble one takes with the picture… To paint what we see before us is a different matter from painting what we see within.”

I have started to think about separating what I want to make from what I want to show people. If I were to make something that no one would ever see, what would I want to make? This opens up a vast new range of possibilities, yet it is still a struggle to separate the urge to create from the urge to put my work out there and get approval or acclaim from it.

Ultimately, I’m not sure if I’ve made any real breakthroughs this week. I’m afraid of this cycle repeating itself over and over again as it has for years. But maybe I am making some sort of progress, but I just can’t see it yet.

Has all of this been a result of my job interview, of the worsening pandemic, of wearing a medical mask in my own house after my dad was potentially exposed? Probably.

Anyway, here’s what came out of this inner mental turmoil- some drawings made with an 8B Gekkoso pencil and a General's 2B charcoal pencil:

And here are some things that have been inspiring over this past week:

Jesse Moynihan’s blog (getting me back into personal blogs and away from social media)

Nathan Fielder’s Youtube channel (the Blow Out video definitely inspired these airplane drawings)

These industrial photographs by Trent Parke of Magnum (love smokestacks so much)