Buckle up, good folks… This will get personal…
The other day, I attended TerrifiCon. This annual event occurs at the Mohegan Sun Casino, a small but ultimately flavorful convention that often gets big names. This year, Kevin Smith himself showed up, alongside a host of other faces. I actually get to meet a few of them, people involved in things I love: Bob Camp of Ren & Stimpy fame was one of them. Rene Auberjonois, the voice of the eccentric and temperamental chef Louis in The Little Mermaid, was another. Then there was Sean Gunn, brother of Guardians of the Galaxy writer/director James Gunn, who also played a ravager in the film.
This is the second ever con I’ve been to, the first of which was another local con. I had a blast at that one, and I very much enjoyed my time at this one. It was sort of a reawakening for me, as someone who has been dealing with a lot of anxiety issues this year, issues that seem to be escalating from last year’s worries and troubles. I am way behind on many iconic works of modern pop culture (mostly TV shows, and quite a few movies too), and am doing catch-up and redeeming several cinema sins. While I was familiar with probably 95% of the material at the con, I thought to myself… I need to be up to speed!
Over 10 years ago, I consumed a lot around me. Maybe not everything, but I’d watch TV shows frequently, I’d even read comic books and comic strips, and I’d re-watch my movies over and over, analyzing them and watching their bonus features. I had various films in rotation at that age. I had various CDs in rotation from time to time, phases per se. In late 2004, I’d say my diet was Disney, Pixar, Cartoon Network, all my Xbox games, and oddly enough… The Beach Boys. (All roads lead to The Beach Boys on this site!) Other obsessions were things like Bionicle and retro arcade games and several other things.
I don’t think I quite have that anymore. I’ll obsess over some things and pick them/dissect them to death, but not many things. My scope isn’t so… Wide. I’d like to do that again, consume everything around me. So what’s different nowadays? What has changed my life up so much?
While middle school was a battlefield for me, I still kept my confidence and my cool. Maybe because 12 to 13-year-old me still had a spirit left. Growing up with Asperger’s syndrome was always interesting and challenging, and I feel that I didn’t see the world the way many of my peers did. I matured differently, they all went down one path through the woods while I took a longer, alternate route. I’d argue that 12-year-old me had the mentality of an 8-year-old. I was still playing with toys at that time, would act up in certain ways, my temper was a problem, I ticked differently, and my ongoing social ineptness was particularly bad back then.
High school on the other hand… Freshmen year was a constant stay-above-the-water battle, some days I was jokey and optimistic and generally okay. Other days I was miserable, slipping into self-hatred, and having an unhealthy fetish for darkness. That morphed into actual depression when sophomore year began, I was without a direction and made some terrible decisions at the time. I had sacrificed drawing, and for an incredibly stupid reason.
In freshman year, one of my classmates in a class devoted to animation out of the blue wanted to make sure I knew… That I didn’t draw very good back then, and that she couldn’t tell what she was looking at on the sketchbook paper. I took this to heart, along with other things that were seriously bothering me at the time. As a result of slipping into depression in late 2007, I set aside drawing, thinking I would not be ever good at it. I wouldn’t be able to make things look professional and artistic, something 7th graders were doing well. I continued to write, and when I drew, it was mostly scribble and things I wasn’t satisfied with.
When I had snapped out of that depression in August 2008, I was drawing again, even if it looked like crap. I didn’t care, but there was no drive to be better at what I was doing. Not for a long, long, long while. Instead I focused all my efforts on writing, and doing “comics” of scenes in my notebooks when class wasn’t in session. I embraced more media, expanded previous obsessions, and carried on. After high school ended, college began and fall/winter 2010 were great times. Anxiety couldn’t drag me down, nor could the occasional incident that normally sets me off these days… But I still wasn’t developing my skills.
In 2013, I decided to finally get my act together. After 2 1/2 years of doing core classes and taking up general studies, I decided that I was finally going to go after an art degree. The start was rough, though I made it out of that first drawing class in one piece. Everybody else in that class, I was wondering they were even in it, their stuff looked like Matisse compared to the scribble I was making. I was finally grasping techniques I never really used before. My “Drawing II” class in fall 2014 was a real turning point, I finally saw my potential, which continued with “Drawing III” in spring 2015, a figure drawing class. I think my own personal work has gotten much better as a result, but it still – I think – has a long way to go.
It makes me wish that I didn’t put it off, it makes me wish I had the full confidence to take up art classes in high school after my depression had ended. Recently, I’ve been striving to draw more, even if it comes out looking like shovelware. I sketch more, I try to fill my sketchbooks with whatever idea I have on the mind that I want to put on paper, like I had done a decade ago. My intention is to keep doing this, and to keep up.
Going back a bit, I also want to consume more media and put off my anxiety, just tell it “No, I’m going to watch a movie… And then feel good after the movie ends!” Last year, I made an effort to watch more movies, and I caught up on various classics and redeemed many a cinema sin… But this year I barely did that. 2016 has been wringing me out, from world events to day-to-day responsibilities to my own irrational worries. I spend too much time web surfing than actually doing something, using it as a temporary distraction, and scoffing at watching piles of movies and TV shows, thinking it to be “too much catch-up work” that will just keeping going and going, and that I won’t fulfill everything. In my heart I know that’s not true, but this also stems from my worries about being too late in the world of art.
People my age or younger are incredible, I feel my work is subpar and I barely share it anyways. They were probably where I am now back in high school, or middle school even. I just so regret putting that drawing and passion away, taking one person’s remarks into consideration, trading passion for cynicism and opting for just getting by. I’m always self-conscious about the work I don’t share, and I think it’s affecting my work in many ways… I’m trying my hardest to just stop thinking these things, and just draw, and just keep practicing and practicing, hoping I’ll hit a level of quality that I’m wholly satisfied with.
This has never been a problem with my writing, but I want my artistic side to match the writing side, I want to master both simultaneously and show I can indeed art. Going to TerrifiCon and my recent stress-induced burnouts from the worries (coupled with the season allergies) has been something of a hit-the-wall and re-evaluate life moment. The “why do we fall?” kind of moment. I am striving to stop worrying, I’m also trying my best to just stay calm, more so than ever. To not worry about what goes on at work, or the chaos that sometimes comes in and out of my house, to not worry about the next semester, to not worry and perseverate about past mistakes, to not worry. Period. I also want to gain back the confidence I used to have when drawing around my family and others, no matter how out-there my ideas are/were.
What my stuff was in 2006 is totally not what it is now, but yet I still harbor the shame, but also other fears. The other day, at work, I drew one of my characters right next to my co-worker, who is well aware of my plans. There was a little embarrassment at first, but I ultimately finished the little doodle on a scrap piece of paper, she seemed to like it. A little thing like that means a lot to me. I intend to carry a little sketchbook around (just like I used to in middle school and even into high school, despite what happened during that time in my life), everywhere I go, and just sketch, doodle, whatever… Anything that comes to mind, be it a sequence from a story I’m working on or just a concept piece. Practice makes perfect, they say, right? That’s a fall goal. Just keep doing it, even if it looks like crapola.
This year, I’ve made several improvements to many of my in-development projects. On my first post for this place, I detailed what I had cut out of one of my main stories. There was all this sludge that accumulated from various versions of the story, poor justifications for having it all in there, and an immature bend towards excessive darkness. I look back on it and I can’t understand how I could’ve felt all of that would work together, so I cut that stuff, kept the best of the various treatments, and injected fresh new ideas as well as revamping lots of things that make the story more energetic, lively, and fun whilst keeping the bite, the occasional darkness bits and heartbreak, and some of the dramatic weight. Viewings of the Disney animated classics, Star Wars, and other media helped me out a great deal.
Now I hope I do just that with my own artwork. Just keep doing it, evaluate and re-evaluate… And maybe not say “that looks terrible”, but rather “how do I better this?” At the same time, I need to take in more forms of media. To get a really good diet going…