Friday, March 15, 2013

One Year of Art

Before you read: This is a very long, personal post... I wrote it because I've been concentrating on art and drawing for about a year now, and I'd like to have a record where I am at this place in my life. Feel free to skip it if you're just here for the art and links to other things.

I can't pinpoint an exact date that I started on what I will just be totally cheesy and call "my artistic journey." But I know that it started around this time last year, in mid-March.

Of course, I could also say that it started when I was born. When I was little, I drew all the time, during school, after school, on every piece of paper I could find. I could entertain myself for a good few hours if someone set me up with crayons and paper. For career day in third grade where we had to dress up as our role models, I went as Marie Curie. [HUGE EDIT: Wow, don't know how I did that... I meant to say MARY CASSATT. Wow. Anyway.] There was no doubt in my mind that I was going to be an artist when I grew up.

It's a little hard to say exactly what happened. I started writing and illustrating my own "books" in third or fourth grade, and I discovered I really loved writing stories. In late middle school and high school I was still drawing, but I started to focus more on writing. I also started reading a lot of graphic novels at this time - I particularly remember Blankets, Bone, Maus and Persepolis. I started to see how words and images could really work together to tell a story.

In tenth grade, within a few months of each other, I saw the films Garden State and Lost In Translation. Those movies opened my eyes to the kinds of stories you could tell with a film. I began to see movies as the ultimate medium. They can combine every single form of artistic expression - images, words, music, and the fourth dimension of time - pacing - to tell a story. I decided that year to go to school to study screenwriting.

I attended Emerson College in Boston, and in one of my very first classes there, I had to produce a short video. I don't even remember what it was about - but I remember going to the computer lab to edit it on whatever version of Final Cut Pro was around in 2006. And I remember looking at the time on the computer screen and being shocked to realize that 6 hours had passed. On that day, I discovered I loved to edit. I loved determining the particular sequence of images and the pacing of the story. I changed my major to post-production in sophomore year and never looked back. I stopped focusing on writing. I also pretty much stopped drawing altogether.

I worked really hard in college. I wasn't a partier. I did lots of internships and extracurriculars on top of my classes, basically living and breathing editing, and loving it. But after I graduated in 2010, I got a job, I found an apartment, and I sort of... started to coast, a bit. I was enjoying my newfound free time on evenings and weekends, spending my (also newfound) spare money. I remember thinking that I had worked really hard and now it had paid off, and I deserved to just enjoy this time, going shopping, hanging out with friends, playing videogames, watching TV. I was relaxed and happy. But of course, after a couple of years, I started to get restless. I wasn't sure what was wrong with me. I thought, I have it so great! Why am I so unhappy? I realized that there was no longer anything driving me. While I was in school, I always had a goal I was working towards - good grades, getting into college, choosing a major, finding a job. Then, suddenly, I found myself with a job, an apartment, a great boyfriend... I had it all. I had everything I'd been striving for my whole life. Almost like Inigo Montoya at the end of The Princess Bride, I was at a point of... what now?

I tried a lot of things to fill the gap. I started running. I watched Youtube videos about how to do your hair in certain ways (and almost always failed at accomplishing them). I basically replaced my entire wardrobe. I even dabbled with drawing here and there, but always hated what I drew (without, of course, having the rational thought that maybe I needed to LEARN first before I got better). In early 2012, I was at my lowest point. I was feeling extremely unfulfilled by work. I remember a few weeks where I spent the majority of my free time just trying to find the best free phone games to entertain myself with during downtime.

But then one day, in March of 2012, I was on Reddit (as per usual) and came across a link to this post on someone's blog. I still don't know who Josh Beswick is, and I still don't know what it even was about that particular post, but when I read it, it was like a switch flipped in my brain - I immediately knew: I need to learn how to do this. I need to have the ability to make images like that.

I went a little bit overboard at first. I started buying more art books than I would ever have the time to read. I started reading more art blogs than anyone has any business reading. (I read the entire, fairly extensive, backlogs of Gurney Journey, Deja View, and the Character Design Blog.) And I started researching off-hours art classes, more than I could ever afford to take. I started drawing more, and still hated what I was drawing, and lamented it all the time. I'm pretty sure Dave thought I had gone slightly insane.

After six frustrating months of trying to learn on my own, I started taking VisComm 1 at the Concept Design Academy in October 2012. And the rest is pretty much history - I've been keeping the blog since then.

It's been a bit of a whirlwind year. I'm happy to say that I think I've improved at least a little. More importantly, I've learned that improvement takes a lot of time and conscious effort, so I don't get as fed up with failure anymore - I try to learn from it and move on. And I'm pleased to say that I no longer feel bored or restless. Ever. There's too much to learn and not enough time in the world to learn it in. But lately I've been struggling with an entirely new big question - now that I have this passion and drive again, what am I going to do with it?

I still love editing. I'm still very passionate about the act of storytelling, which is what editing IS (especially in reality TV, where the story is usually created in post!!). However - almost no one who takes classes at Concept Design Academy or 3kicks is taking them just for fun. They're taking them because they want to be concept artists and character designers. Many of them already are working in the entertainment design industry but are just trying to improve their skills. And so people in my classes will ask me what my goal is, and I will say... I'm not sure. I always give sort of a waffle-y answer about how I enjoy art but I also enjoy my current job. And the general response is usually surprise. They'll look at me strangely and say something like "you seem more serious than that."

And it's true. I am more serious than that. In January I took the time to listen to Bobby Chiu's "The Perfect Bait," and the free portion of Noah Bradley's "The Art of Freelancing." And both of those things, coupled with the amount of time I've now spent doing this, made me realize - I want to do this. I want to make my living as an artist. And I need to say that I want it. I never want to say it aloud because I am so fucking terrified of failure. But I need to start saying it. I think storyboarding or concept designing would be a great career path. And more importantly, I think I'd be good at it, if I got my artistic skills up to snuff.

There's a lot of stuff I'm scared of. Mainly I'm scared of being too old, and everything that comes with that. But despite that... I know what I want to do. And I have to start being honest with myself about what I want, because otherwise I'll never get it. I want to work as an artist in the entertainment industry. And I'm going to try my hardest to do it.


  1. Great post, Gina! Thank you for sharing your story and your thoughts.

  2. Gina, thanks for this awesome post. That's a fascinating story. Wish you all the best!