Without having a major project looming over my head like the sword of Damocles, Google it people, I’m still very much on my own as far as motivation goes. Which I’ve been complaining about for a while and has therefore lost all meaning and or impact.
So to Hell with that kind of thinking. It gets me nowhere. However, there is Bruce (aka. Little Peep Peep), who I think will get me somewhere, since his development is full of interesting nonsense. It’s like watching neural networking being created before my very eyes. Which is hella instructional for a guy who is in need of some behavioral modification. And by that I don’t mean the yellow detention forms they gave us in 6th grade, ‘cause that was a total waste of time. I learned nothing in detention. I think I got Behavioral Modification detention for whipping acorns at kids who were whipping acorns at me on my walk home from Hoover Elementary. Total bullshit. And compared to the silliness kids get up to these days, it seems like the stuff Tom Sawyer would have pulled in Mayberry or wherever he lived. (Tom Sawyer is fictional and lives in St. Petersburg, Missouri… which is also fictional).
But the point is, not unlike a crazy kitten, I too am commanded, commandeered?, coerced?, by the ritualized habits I’ve acquired on this idiotic journey as an artist. Honestly, most of my habits are either useless or counterproductive. Hence me watching Bruce and thinking about getting back to basics.
Bruce is working rather hard, every day, to be a cat. He’s not there yet, perhaps he will attain his full cat-ness though I’m fairly sure he thinks he’s people, but as the weeks pass, he gets a little better at being a cat and leaves his old, kitten behaviors behind him. It’s a shame, he was adorable when he could fit in the palm of my hand and would get so freaked out about the world that he’d find a corner and pee… I’m fine with ditching that last little behavior. But as he becomes a sleek, juvenile cat, he’s kind of cool. And I’m pretty sure that is the goal of every honest artist: to be cool. Any other goal is selfish and retarded.
Back to Bruce. So, behavior is formed through trial and error and the reinforcement that comes with said trial and error. Occasionally, bad behaviors become the norm. Though not with Bruce, he’s a bit of a feline genius. Most of the time, his cat-itude leads him down the correct path of cat behavior and he ends up doing all the things one would expect a healthy cat to do: he purrs, he kills vermin in the house (Bruce: 2, Jersey City cockroaches: 0), he stalks, he naps, he uses his litter box, he knows when to play and when to chill. And of course, he’s not consciously aware of any of this… because he’s a cat. He’s just doing his thing. Like right now, he’s climbing on me as I type, ‘cause that’s what he does.
Somewhere along the way, I forgot how to be a cat. Or rather, the artist I dreamt of and trained to be. And it all comes down to habit, self-discipline (which is just managing habits) and, I hate to say it, the negation of rather useless habits… like looking online for guitars I will never buy.
And this is all the more apparent when looking at the work of my friends who trained to be illustrators. I’m not saying one thing is better than another, in the great artist v. illustrator debate… that’s for the Supreme Court to decide. I’m just saying when you go to school and study fine art, you get one kind of instruction. When you go to school to learn illustration, you get another.
Let me give you an example. Way back in my sophomore year of college, my roommate was an illustration major. I’d just become a fine art major (so long art education degree). On the average day, I would spend hours drawing naked people and studying art history. My roommate would drive himself insane knocking out page after page of thumbnail sketches or preliminary drawings or several finished pieces all of which had to be different so as to appeal to different “clients”. He ran himself into the ground, filling zip disc after zip disc with stuff. And I would sit at my desk, drink tea, listen to REM obsessively and never once do a second’s worth of work when he was in the room because I could tell it drove him nuts to know I was producing pretty good drawings for my classes with seemingly no effort. I was just as driven as my roommate, but our professor were so different, it always seemed like I was slacking and he was burning out.
When I got into book making, I met a lot more illustrators. And they are as driven as my old roommate. And they are very good at knocking out a lot of stuff, very quickly. Which led to think there is a sprinter’s mentality to illustration. You have an idea or the chance to get a job, you knock out a lot of work in a hurry to land the job, then you work like the Dickens to complete the job because the goal is to do enough work to get you to the next job. All the good illustrators I know do this without thinking about it. It is their creative behavior. They’ve spent decades running on the same behavior and it has served them well.
And that’s so not how I do things. My decades of creativity involve months spent looking for something inspiring, hopefully finding it, then attempting to distill it via some medium I have a modicum of control over and produce something that impresses me, which I must say rarely happens. It’s no wonder the publishing world and I have never seen eye to eye.
I’m not saying either system is better, they do very different things. Some illustrators are fantastic artists while some artists are gifted illustrators… the rest of the artists and illustrators are just terrible hacks.
But for me, it seems like it’s time to go back to my artist roots. And I mean go all the way back to the turning point that got me moving in the first place, that moment when I stopped being a kid who dreamed of a nebulous arty existence and became the young man ready to hone his skilz. I stumbled onto Andrew Wyeth’s Helga Series and fell in love with pencil drawing. And so, I’m going back to pencil on white paper and see what happens. Maybe something. Maybe nothing. But it beats trying every new thing, as if I had an art supply addiction or was a clueless bastard wandering in the Art wilderness looking for a sign from God as to what to do next. Nothing good ever comes from being so silly and passive.
My goal, simple as it sounds, is a one new, hopefully beautiful, pencil drawing per day…