Saturday, 31 May 2014

Brick by Brick

a Comic Essay by Stephen McCranie.

Back in November I was scrolling through tumblr and i saw some excepts from a comic.
It was about an artists journey of being an artist and all the different shit artists face and put themselves through.
under it was a link to the kickstarter page.

So for 20 dollars (plus another 20 for shipping cause outside of US ) I could buy a physical copy of this book, support the artist and see another perspective on what it's like to be an artist.

Money well spent. (even though my book got dinged up a little in the mail... which kind sucks but in the end i got the book and was able to read it so thats all that matters)

So first i want to talk about my personal journey as an artist and then i'll talk about the book... but if you don't care then i just suggest going to

You can read the essay there, buy the pdf for 5 dollars and possibly buy the book eventually. (right now he's just dealing with the kickstarter orders... the other orders will probably open after that)

So I have always been an artistic kid, i enjoyed things like Drama, public speaking and music but it wasn't till much later i discovered my love of art.
In fact for most of my childhood I hated art class.
Being told what to do or more specifically how to be creative was the quickest way for me to dig my heels in and despise something.
But then two things happened... one i assume happened around the time i was seven but that time of my life is fuzzy so it may have happened as early as 5 or 6... anyways i was just scribbing on a page and when i stopped and looked back from it it looked like a bird... i was perplexed because how could random lines on a page too like something... tiny me couldn't grasp how that was physically possible... but i was intrigued.
The other thing that happened was in Elementary school (so anywhere between K-7 cause thats how my school rolled, i want to say is happened in grade 4 but again... can't remember) We had a substitute teacher who was also an artist.... so when she taught our art class that day she handed us a ton of pencil crayons and asked us how to draw grass...
most kids said "just grab a green pencil crayon and make it look jagged"
while that wasn't wrong she showed us how layering colours like yellow, brown, green, blue and even red still made the picture look green and more importantly it looks like a grassy field even though it was just a bunch of scribbles on a page.
Mind blown.

These two things, without me knowing at the time, helped shape who i am today.... even if it took over a decade to really come back to me.

See while i was showing an interest in art i was pretty terrible at it... my parents figured this would just be a pointless venture and tried to push me into things i showed more promise in... i tried Dance, I tried Drama which turned into taking Improv lessons at second city for a few years.... i auditioned to get into a school which had a main focus on Drama. I even auditioned and got the lead role in a school play that just so happened to be a musical.
And it was all fun and i learned lots but i knew it wasn't what i wanted to keep doing... in moments between rehearsal i would always gravitate to my sketchbook and draw my crappy little doodles... any free time i had would be spent drawing or looking at art i liked.

It never occurred to me that i could do my own art as a career.  I just figured i wasn't talented enough so why even bother trying? However my boyfriend at the time was suggesting i try going to college... where i live it's just assumed you go to some kind of post secondary... but asking an 18 year old to decide their entire future is kind of intimidating so i figured it would be there if i figured out something i wanted to take... but i wasn't going to spent thousands of dollars just to get a fancy paper saying i'm smart. Still he got the idea in my head and i figured fine... i'll try to get into a program at a very good art school and if i get in... cool... if not i can use the money i save to travel.

I got in and was kinda bummed that the travel plans got put on hold but it all worked out in the end... it was an art program... there was no longer someone telling me i shouldn't do something cause i'm not showing a skill for it. i was going to do this, get the piece of paper and get everyone off my back. School was never really my thing... they tell you what to do and as i mentioned before i'm stubborn.
College wasn't like that... well it was but it also wasn't.

I've told this story before so i'll shorten it.
In my first year i put aside everything i tended to do art wise... i was there to learn something new... not draw the same old anime inspired crap i had been doing to that point.
This worked well and i learned a ton.
Second year i tried to do that again but i hit a wall, i wasn't enjoying art anymore, i was debating quitting.... the way my college works is that you know what weight on percentage each project will have at the start o the year... so you can tell the exact moment you are about 50% and therefor can no longer fail... i always hit that mark just after halfway through the semester... so i had just gotten to the poitn where i couldn't fail but i was miserable... my grades were good but i hated every piece i made...
So i said Screw it.... i will make what i want to make and if they don't like it they can fail me.
so i did that...
and my grades all drastically went up.

It all became so clear... my entire life i was told that my crappy anime inspired art was not art... it was shitty and lazy and just terrible.... years and years of hearing "that isn't art" and i almost believed them.
And to be fair i do still get the "that isn't art" spiel from close minded morons... but thats just it... they have such a narrow view of what is and isn't art that it's really not worth your time trying to explain why they are being so incredibly stupid. you are free to not like art... but just cause you don't like it... doesn't mean it isn't art.

anwyas getting off track... when i started to take what i learned and combined it with what i know i grew both as an artist and as a person.

My final year of school was just spent tryign to absorb as much info as i could so i could apply it to my own crap, i got bolder with colour i got more comfortable in drawing a more stylized approach. I got more confident in what my art meant (or at least bullshitting the teacher so they though i had meaning in a certain action... guess those improv lessons came in really handy after all).

But then it ended and it was like... okay back to the real world now.

i looked back on how far i had come.... i looked at the piece i made on my first day of classes and the one i did on my firs tday out of them... i felt happy and free.
but that much freedom can be overwhelming.

i didn't want to fall in a rut of not being able to do anything so i just told myself "at least one finished piece a week... just try to get at least that much done."

That worked great..... until i started working... the job i worked was contract and had 12 hour days....... 7 days a week.
Still even though i was tired i made it work as much as i could... always aiming for that one finished piece a week and i managed to finish 36 pieces.
Even if ti was just small steps at least i was getting something done.
I would continue to try and learn from the enviroment i was in... and then when i was feleing kinda down one of the painters fro mthe shop floor came into the office and saw the painting i had hung up... it was the first piece i finished out of school.
"wow, this is realyl nice, there is so much layered colour" he said and stared at it really close.
I had never had anyone older then me who wasn't a teacher compliment my art, especially when they didn't know it was mine at all. 
It made me so happy i could have almost cried.

Even if not everyone liked my stuff... even if just one person liked it... or hell even if i'm the only one who likes it... as long as there is that it is worth making.
At least in my opinion.

So about the book.

This book is great and even though it focuses on someone who prominently makes Comics it really applies to every type of art. It gives this one persons journey as well as tips on how not to fall into certain pitfalls... even if it's just "don't set yourself impossible goals that are too far in the future, set small ones that can be easily accomplished" or "never stop learning"
it's stuff we know (or should know) but we often forget.

One of my teachers laughed at some of the themes artist tended to pick... "how can art have meaning if it's about Flowers or Colours, Art has to have meaning, it has to say something to the public, it should be used to bring a message"
seeing that Flowers and colours tend to be my fav things to focus on i internally took some offense to this... but while he wasn't right he also wasn't wrong.
Art needs to mean something... that much is true... but it doesn't have to be a grandeous political statement if thats not what your comfortable or interested in making. it just has to mean something to the artist itself.
This is something we should just know... but because we are told what to expect we forget simple things.

This book really does a great job in highlighting the things that seem unrelated but are integral to helping you become a better artists.
It gives you some great tips on how to keep motivated (my personal fav has always been gamification but there are a lot of different things to try)
But most importantly it reminds you that everyone starts somewhere... and it's usually from a place of being absolutely terrible... but as long as you continue to learn and grow you will continue to improve.

So yeah go read it...
i know i'm really glad i have a copy of the book even if it's a really quick read.

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