Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Balancing Act

“Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted.” - Martin Luther King Jr.

One “meta-lesson” I picked up on while earning a BFA was gained from observing the art teachers who I respected the most. I wondered how on earth they managed to teach a full load of classes, deal with herds of students every day, every week, each with a seemingly inexhaustible laundry-list of issues, serve on various committees with the unceasing flood of paperwork associated with any bureaucratic administration – and THEN somehow maintain a status-quo existence as contributing members of society and the demands of family. But wait – then there’s also that part about being an artist.
*As a side-note here, this haggard juggling pales in comparison to whom I view as many of the hardest working people in the trenches around here; grade-school art teachers. Whenever I visit local high-schools I’m always constantly in awe of the sheer logistical task set before these artists – herding creative cats amidst that particular environment and again, all the while maintaining their own respective bodies of work is intimidating to say the least. And in this district we truly have some of the most talented teachers and artists I’ve ever seen.
Meanwhile, back to my college years; I started learning from my own teachers by example; seeing them lead “normal”, healthy & balanced lives: running households, maybe being married, raising kids, paying bills, making meetings, working side-jobs, and somehow still managing to crank out prodigious amounts of amazing high-quality art on top of it all. While I didn’t necessarily aspire be them, as in live their lives or do their art, it called into question some long-held assumptions about what it meant to be an artist. The stereotype of an angst-ridden, antisocial and irresponsible doesn’t really do artist any favors, even if it might serve to excuse away some of the more colorful and traditional excesses of the lifestyle. There might be some gross characterizations of creative qualities, from immaturity, disorders ranging from emotional instability to outright insanity, but along with obsessive self-centeredness, these all pretty much describe a fair share of the average driver I see on the road into town each day.
Personality traits of the most successful in my circle of acquaintances tend to be maturity and discipline, along with a sense of curiosity and maybe a touch of irreverence or at the least, open-mindedness (some notable exceptions aside). As far as the psychotherapy goes, being prone to depression might have equal origins in nature; seasonal affective disorder in a tiny little cabin, and nurture; growing up an artist. I’ve spent much time mulling over the merits of art either instigating or inhibiting such tendencies, and will probably return to this thread at a later point, as it can be quite the can of worms to play with.

So a good portion of my income is derived from miscellaneous freelance gigs, and I’ve mentioned how having one foot in the fine art world and the other in commercial art (take a guess what’s happening to the cartoons) gives me an interesting take - speaking of perspective - in the classroom.
Thus, when I happen to show up in the morning unshaven, stinky & baggy-eyed from staying up way too late working on deadlined projects, I damn sure don’t have much tolerance for any lame excuses about why homework isn’t ready for review. So much for the refreshing, no-bullshit real-world experience, or, as I tell students, I’ll personify the subtle distinction between “sympathy” vs. “empathy” for someone else in such a situation. It’s almost required to teach time-management skills in the classroom, and is what’s behind the intermediary thumbnailing stages & compositional roughs before each piece. Setting aside the time to devote to your work has to be one of the key lessons, even conceptualizing takes time (at least that’s what I tell my girlfriend when she finds me on the couch). If there’s one thing that I parcel out for advice these days when asked about how to be an artists, it’s simply getting up early. Gone are the days of pulling all-nighters for this dude.
This dovetails with another phrase I’ve adopted over the years; “clock in and be creative” which reflects my time spent as a graphic artist. Some artists react to such a mantra as a sort of anathema to the muse, but I’ve come to rely on that mindset as a primary motivation to producing work. Sitting down at the drawing table regardless of my mood and learning to work past, over or through personal situations can be as much of an asset as finding creative solutions to problems either on the paper and/or in your head. One could argue it serves as a bulwark against the many stresses and distractions you’d otherwise get caught up in, some sort of a respite or shelter from the storm, or maybe it’s just a form of denial?
Case in point being right before this class started I got several new gigs in quick succession: two tshirt/poster logos for events happening in the summer and a wedding invitation. Add those to the backlog of editorial panels, weekly cartoons and some private projects, the weekend just got scratched off my schedule. So what am I doing blogging? It’s a welcome diversion - now over to my Facebook page.
(… one hour later …)
Seriously though, I’ll settle into pacing my posting on alternate days from here on out, shorter blurbs too. May have noticed Ink & Snow is revamped with pix now along with some selected samples of student work in sync with the current topic of attention. Huh, art on an art blog, what a concept.

“Why do people think artists are special? It's just another job.” - Andy Warhol


  1. I have read some of your posts. I liked the same and would like to revisit your website.

    If you like short stories and paintings, then a visit to my blogs would be an interesting one for you.

    Naval Langa

    Another Interesting Blog

  2. It takes a lot less time to do your own work than you think it will, if you hit the mix of activities right. Your "other" activities will generate energy instead of sapping it. You may spend less time on ideas of less merit -- creativity triage, if you will. Less overall output, more quality.

    I have seldom achieved this balance, but I have observed others in it.