Monday, November 6, 2017

Long post in a world of short attention—It’s Illustration Week in NYC this week.

You gotta have a guiding star. I meet people all the time who tell me they don’t know what they want to do. I can’t imagine this thinking, but I do understand it. Not knowing what you want is a signal that your intent has not been manifest or considered. And what’s the point of a life unconsidered? 

I’ve always believed there is an inherent value in revealing images that spark a thoughtful reflection. If within that reflection, and engagement with aesthetics, one considers the better nature of ourselves then the works have really done their job. A thoughtful reflection is an act of kindness, and the world can always use more of this. The job of the artist is to remind us of what is worth considering. 

It’s been curious to see how my original intent has opened doors outside of Illustration into the realms of Public Art and Fine Art (all very different worlds and practices) as the program I attended encouraged us to push boundaries and blur lines with an eye toward social relevance. At this stage of my practice I have several large scale public artworks that may be on the planet in the public realm longer than I’ll be alive. Humbling to think about. This only deepens the responsibility of my original and ever evolving intent. 

Illustrators are a quirky and strong-headed group, it’s what I love about them. Their quirks are their assets that inform their intent and deepen their practice as creative entrepreneurs. But the reason there are such low success rates is that most folks won’t want to rise to the responsibility of what it takes to do it entirely yourself when you realize what you actually have to do. Drawing out the intent of my students has been the focus of the elective I’ve taught for many years but I’ve had former students who’ve remarked when their careers have taken off “We had no idea of the intense scope of what it takes to do this and had no idea of what our teachers were up against as professionals while also teaching us”. 

Pre-recession I would tell everyone who was serious about this path that when your practice takes off you always have to have 20k somewhere (either billed out or in-house) due to taxes, and operating costs and you’ll need to constantly shuffle this 20k around to get through the expected and unexpected. This sounds entirely daunting to most who have only ever known a job with a paycheck every 2 weeks. Post-recession those numbers have changed and so many pros I’ve know have either left the field or felt pushed out. Others have found ways to navigate forward with a deeper regard for a reconsidered intent. 

As Chris Rock says about having a career “There’s not enough time in the day to do everything you need to do”. True, and you have to deal with all manner of issues, inducing assholes, peer schadenfreude, nepotism, sexism, racism, shady back-room dealings with peers actively suppressing and attempting to sabotage your path, traditional industries supporting your practice upended or decimated by new technologies, shifting currents of trends, and decreased pay rates but at the end of the day you make the decision to solve problems and keep a fixed eye on your intent regardless. Your intent is all that matters. It’s a guiding star that steers you right. Artists solve problems and one of the problems is you’ll find yourself working for weeks on end with no break, no weekends, and high pressure deadlines. You’ll work harder than you ever would if you had a job with set hours. A significant advantage though is that you can take time off and no one can say no. That’s a real upside.

Surfing is heavy-handed #metaphor for everything. Most folks think it’s a sport but if you really watch it and practice it it’s a dance. Intuition and knowledge get you in the best position to experience the most pleasurable and longest ride possible, in challenging and ever changing conditions. 

Finally got in the water after 2 1/2 weeks of no break, intense deadlines and rigorous work travel. Was out all alone, with some perfect sets coming in, just sublime. Happy Illustration Week and great respect and appreciation for all those who practice, have practiced, or ever tried.