I hope everyone's 2013 is off to an excellent start. Thus far, mine has involved a whole lot of sketching, which is to say, it's been swell.
big work moments and life moments. And it was chockfull of hoping, working, and trying.
2013 arrived in the arms of good friends and good fun, but January felt like a precipice, as it often does. January is the edge of the unknown, blank days and months sprawled out before you. It's incredibly exciting—think about it! Think about it!! All of that time for creating and making things!—but it's also just a wee bit terrifying. Ahead lies another year with all of that hoping, working, and trying; of pushing forward; and of painting and drawing through the doubts.
And as I sat down in the studio with my stack of blank paper, just beginning to feel that January doubt prickling, I came across this letter by Steven Anderson at Disney—I've pasted the body of the letter below—and I immediately felt better.
I don't usually make resolutions. I've found that they often come from the perspective that Anderson talks about - a comparative place, where you're surreptitiously eying the person next to you and hoping to have what she has, do what he does, look more like him, or be more like her. No way. This is where I am, who I am, and what I have. It's mine, I've built it, and at the moment, it's good just as it is.
But, Anderson's point is absolutely resolution worthy. This is something I can buy into - to compete only with myself; to make the best things I possibly can; to pour my heart and dreams (and not the doubts and worry) into the words on the page and the paintings on my drawing table.
So, dear blog readers, I wish you all the best this year. May 2013 be the year just for you doing your best.
WALT DISNEY ANIMATION STUDIOS
Artists are emotional creatures. We feel things deeply. We see the world around us, react to it and base our work off of those reactions. Our work represents ourselves. It’s us. Not just what our bodies can produce but what our minds and hearts have to say.
We want people to like what we do. If we didn’t, we’d just draw, paint, sculpt, dance, act and write in our own living room with no documentation or recording of it. But we don’t do that because we want our work to be seen. We want to express ourselves to people and, in turn, produce a reaction in them. Our emotions create the art and our art creates emotions.
But there are days when our emotions get the best of us. They let us down. They didn’t give us the strength and motivation that we need when we’re discouraged or struggling. They convince us that we are “no good”. That we have no talent. Or that the talent we do have us not as much as, or as good as, the talent of another person.
Ultimately, the struggles that we have- the creative blocks we all face- come from comparing ourselves to others. I’m not as good as that person. I’m not as successful as that person. That person is at the level I want to be at and I don’t have it in me to get there. I do this constantly. But I realized a few years ago that what I SHOULD be doing is comparing myself to myself. I find that when I step back and evaluate where I’ve come from, and where I am in relation to that. I feel much healthier. Block out all those other people and focus on YOUR work. Are you better today than you were yesterday? Were you better yesterday than you were the day before? Better than you were six months ago? A year ago? Twenty years ago? If the answer is “yes”, then you’re on the right path. If the answer is “no” you’ve got work to do. But the only person you have to be better than is yourself. That constant growth, improvement and evolution is the mark of a healthy artist. Instead of looking around the room to see what everyone else is doing, keep your eyes on your own paper. YOU have to be the best artist you can be and the only person that can drive that evolution is YOU!