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An Artist's Frustration

Journal Entry: Sun Dec 26, 2010, 7:53 PM
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Holidaying in Perth leaves me lots of time to think.  The crushingly hot weather means that not straying far from the air-conditioner is high on the list of priorities, and since the thought of the Boxing Day sales crowds sends me into a raging tizzy, that means the shopping centres are out.  Not that I'm really that much into shopping, especially considering work next year is not locked in and therefore neither is an income stream.  Yes, I may have to consider going back to teaching, if they'll have me.
Other than thinking how bloody hot it is, if I can go on a sweetie bender and not hate myself afterwards, and how embarassingly Australia are performing in the Ashes (not that I care too much since I support England, but I never like to see a trouncing, even if it is my side winning), I have been pondering on my art skills.  Depending on my mood, sometimes pondering on my LACK of them.  I'm fortunate to be surrounded (in a somewhat loose social and working circle) by a number of very talented people.  People who have their own distinctive style and are well-known for it, that have a broad range of abilities across a number of art discliplines, that seem to be prolific and regularly dedicated to perfecting their abilities, that have a plethora of artists they are knowledgeable of and are inspired by.  Outside of that circle is an ever-increasing sphere of influence: artists that work on animated feature films whose work in the Art Of books leaves me simultaneously ooh-ing and aah-ing, and wanting to snap my pencils in a envy-induced tantrum, artists whose blogs look so pretty and inspiring and are constantly updated, artists who are fifteen years younger than I, smashing me out of the water with their grasp on anatomy and colour and ideas and composition.  It reaches a point where such inspiration sends me into a tailspin of desperation, wondering what they hell I'm trying to do here.  I feel I've come late to so many things, and to others, not at all.  I understand that there are some things in life that require constant attention and practice in order to get close to mastering them, but at times the gulf between where I am now and where I feel I should be is so very vast.  It makes me angry (well, angrier than normal), torn between wondering if I should continue doing what I'm doing (which is of course nothing but petulance and something I can overcome) and wanting to throw myself headlong into an isolation from everything and everyone around me while I fight to improve on what I can do.  That this tailspin chooses to hit me now while I'm away from my hideyhole and drawing tablet and pencils adds even more frustration to the mix, but perhaps it just a pause, nothing more.  When I see an artwork or even just a simple sketch that fills me with both admiration and envy I want to throw everything else aside in order to kick myself forward.  If I am unable to do that immediately, it is a double slap in the face and something I can barely tolerate.
By it's very nature, animation is a time-consuming discipline and one that I still love.  But in order to be a good animator, one must be a good artist.  I struggle to find a balance between the two, but I believe that concentrating on being a better artist first and foremost will improve my animation.  The ability to represent three dimensions with two convincingly is a peculiar and flighty thing.  As AD rightly points out, even 3D computer animation is reduced to two dimnesions on the big screen, though that will inevitably change with 3D projection.  One must not only deal with realism.  Believability must trump it every time.  It's become a tiresome old saw that I bust out whenever I'm on my high horse about animation - it must be so fucking irritating to whomever I'm bleating it at.
I'm tired of being metaphorically socked in the teeth by clients who don't know their arse from their elbow, let alone what they actually WANT.  I'm sick of seeing great artworks that make me angry and bitter because I've forgotten that there is a better way to deal with envy.  I'm drained by the stupid demands of ego that bites at me to stand out from the masses until I feel I am little more than chewed meat spat out and ill-fit for consumption.
Perhaps many of us here noticed one day that we'd crested over some kind of peak.  We blinked and realised that the people around us, the people who served us in stores, who took part in the Olympics, that read the news, that are the next big thing on the screen, are younger than us, sometimes significantly so.  It's an ugly, harsh wake-up call.  To be terribly dorky and bust out a Star Trek quote, one thing that Picard said seems rather appropriate: "Recently I've become very much aware that there are fewer days ahead than there are behind." This is what it feels like: the sense that every moment I am not spending further my art skills is a hammer blow to the nail set to the coffin lid.  It is drowning and burning and bile and resentment and terror at the struggle that has snuck up on me.
It is increasingly apparent to me that I must become a better technician: to understand composition, colour, design, anatomy, and the play of light as well as its absence.  I'm uncertain how to achieve this when I am frequently loaded up with activities that have become a part of my life and that either are pushing themselves forward and demanding more of my time in service to others, or that I wish to spend more time in comtemplation, practice and execution of.  Where in god's name do I begin?
The frustration has to be tempered into determination and dedication, otherwise it'll become nothing but an internal destruction and paralysis.  There has to be a way to do it, but fucking hell, I need to start this now or quite possibly I shall tear everything down around me and throw it out the door and set fire to it.  I currently have little outlet and no place to retreat to in order to sort my shit out.  For now I am stuck.  I feel strangled.  And angry.  So angry.

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NauticalAcronym Featured By Owner Dec 30, 2010
I know some of the frustration that you mention and, to be honest, I don't have any kind of real answer for you or any sort of advice. I'm in a similar boat every once in a while and it's hard to regain the confidence you need to strive forward.
I just hope that when you get home you hit that drawing pad and tablet hard. You'll feel a little better afterwards- I know that for a fact.
I always find that I produce my best stuff after I've gone through a stage of total doubt.
I hope you can find some reprieve from the heat too!
All the best to you!
xisney Featured By Owner Dec 26, 2010
When I'm really pissed off, I generally hate it when people say "I know what you mean" (unless I'm looking for affirmation), so I'm very sorry I'm going to say this, but a small part of me hopes you'll find some sort of comfort.

To help me get through those sorts of moods, I try to remind myself that there will always be people better than me, either because of pure talent or because of experience. Sometimes it's better to focus on yourself, even if it's just reminding yourself of achievements and compliments you've received.

Generally in this sort of line of work, you've got to have a thick skin and the drive to continue to press forward. You'll never be at the point where you're completely satisfied with where you are, art requires a lifetime of improvement, you never reach perfection. I guess it's about being comfortable in your own shoes, with what you're capable of. I'm not saying you shouldn't try to improve, you should always try that, it's about knowing you always have that room for improvement so you can be somewhat contented with your work compared to others.

And I feel late to the party constantly, though in my own form. It's a horrible feeling.

That said, I always think it's better to be angry than sad, even if you're so angry you want to vomit, anger inspires and passes, and sometimes when it clears it brings about great moments of focus. And I hope that's what your anger brings you, if that's what you want.

Seriously, I just hope it cools down for you. That kind of heat doesn't help anything.
Fayzbub Featured By Owner Dec 26, 2010
Oh, have a big Virtual hug from me! It sounds like you're having a rough holiday.

The odd thing is, when I was reading this it made me think of friends of mine (and indeed, my daughter as well) who are excellent artists, WAY above the average, and they all seem to doubt themselves to this extent. In fact it seems that the better the artist is, the more they think their work sucks!

Whereas writers, like myself, are the ultimate bitchy divas, and think that we are the Universe and nobobdy even comes close in our writing aspirations! This seems to hold true whether the writer in question is a multi-published award winner (me, hee hee!) or has once had a two line poem printed in their local amateur poetry and doggeral-fancier's club Christmas newsletter.

Please take it from me, as a totally unbiased fan of your art, that your work is terrific! It is full of life, colour, and movement, and as for your Snape comix, I have never yet failed to get a major guffaw out of each and every one of them!

As for the age thing, hey, to me you're a spring chicken! I'm 50 next birthday, and just gone through menopause with all its attendant yuckiness. And yet, in February I'll be attending university for the first time ever to study one of the hardest languages in the world, just because I've always wanted to. Getting older is very freeing, I find, I'd never want to be under 40 ever again (except for my knees which are about to give up from the strain of years, plus my face has also gotten to the uber-wrinkly stage where small children cower away...)

Joie de vivre, girl, and if I've spelt that wrong, I hope at least you get my meaning!

Oh, and btw, what the hell are you doing in Perth if it's so damn HOT? You should come visit here in Canberra, we've currently got 23 max, it's nice, not too hot, not too cold.

I hope you enjoy the rest of your holiday and STOP STRESSING! Honestly, you've got some of the best art I've ever seen, and I'm honoured that you let us all see it! I've currently got the Severus you sent me sitting above my computer desk, making my husband jealous!

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