If I Were to Do It All Over Again: Wisdom and Reflections from a Veteran of CA
I used to post on this forum under my pseudo-namesake Jacob Kobryn. Now that I see that ConceptArt.org has begun anew, I wanted to lend my wisdom and reflections on how I spent my time on CA.org and how I would do it again if given the chance.
To give a bit of an introduction for those that donít know me, I stopped posting on CA about a year ago, simply because my interests diverged too heavily from the content of the forum. Since then my art career has greatly taken off. I left my day job, now with the ability to support myself on my artwork alone, selling giclee reproductions, original artwork, and doing freelance work in the areas of album covers, logo designs, etc. My work has been shown at gatherings, festivals, galleries, and other exhibitions all over the world and has been featured in books and magazines. I have taught workshops and given lectures about art and consciousness, and I have built a strong and inspiring network of artists that hail from every corner of the globe, mostly in the areas of visionary art, fantastic realism, psychedelia, and surrealism.
And I owe a hell of a lot of that to ConceptArt.org.
I first joined CA.org when I was 12 years old. I remember seeing the video for the 2002 ConceptArt workshop with fire spitters and Mr. Jones doing his thing. It took me years to figure out that that really had nothing to do with CA at all and had more to do with the psychedelic underground, but at the very least I thought it was the coolest thing I had ever seen and it was enough to get me hooked into this community. I leaped into the forum at a very awkward stage in my life, and gained a lot of enemies with a lot death-metal fueled anger towards the community here. I was 12, give me a break. I continued to post heavily on the forum until the age of about 17, using ConceptArt somewhat as a blog to rant about my melodramatic teenage conflicts, that although were invasively personal and overly dramatic, were actually quite real in the world of young Jacob Kobryn. This was a natural process of maturation and the forum helped me process things that I needed to process, and didnít have an audience for otherwise. Some people gave me flack for it, but others gave me a lot of support and I thank them for it. I actually stopped playing video games around the same age that I joined CA, and never had that much aspiration to go into the field of visual development/concept art but for some reason I really cherished this forum and invested a lot of time on it over those several years.
Iím writing this post because I know somewhere there is another young kid like myself that will be joining this forum and going through his own difficult development, and I hope that may reach him and assist him on his journey as an artist. Itís a beautiful journey, that comes with as many joys as it does frustration and grief. It can also open you up to meeting some of the most wonderful and interesting people of your life if you allow it to.
I went to art school (AAU) for two years, and I truly and completely believed that I learned much more through the CA forums than I ever did there. All that art school did was allow me a space to practice, and forced me to practice. Noah Bradley wrote an excellent article about why you should avoid art school, and I highly recommend reading it. My early days on CA were pivotal to my artistic development and I will always be indebted to the forum and community as a result. Itís through the forum that I learned the fundamentals of good visual design, as well as the all important aspect of discipline - that seems to be the true determining factor in who becomes a good artist and who doesnít. It all comes down to practice.
But there have also been some aspects of this community, and things that I used to follow as well, that I think are not that beneficial to the life of an artist.
The first is make art because you love to make art, not because you want a job. Seriously. There are a lot of professional artists that get into this field because they think it would make an interesting career, and not because itís something they actually like doing. If you are one of those people, you may find that you really dislike having a career as an artist and I would instead suggest taking some time to figure out what is you really love to do - and then to do that instead.
Another is the attitude that your art takes precedence over everything else in your life. What are you doing even THINKING about calling your friend! Put that phone down and get back to your Bridgeman studies! This not true! I ascribe to the practice of artist as lifestyle, and try to make everything relate to what I create in someway, but that doesnít mean that I neglect other important aspects of my life such as emotional, social, and spiritual nourishment. I party hard when the opportunity is given to me. I have fun. I have great friendships. These are all so important to my life and as such my artwork.
The great Canadian poet and songwriter Leonard Cohen said, ďPoetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash.Ē The same is remarkably true of visual art. Good art isnít just about making cool looking shit. Donít be a slave to technique. Good art expresses something universal about the human condition through the unique lense of the artist. Take time to do some soul searching and figure out what youíre really about as a person. Find out what interests you, what drives you, what you have to say. And then express this through your artwork. I know that a lot of people stumble into this community through video games, but there is a lot more to the world we live in than robots and orcs, especially in this crazy time that we live in with world revolutions going on, our government quickly gaining control over all of our (now limited) rights, extreme environmental devastation, genocide, and a general malaise over the majority of the people. There is some POTENT stuff going on in the world right now, and our art allows an opportunity to spread awareness of that. The ability to make art is a super power. Use it for good!
Donít limit your artistic perspectives to this community alone. This community afforded me access to some great artists that have stuck with me, but there is a vast art world out there and this is such a small piece of that gigantic puzzle. Learn about and experience as much art as humanly possible. Go to every museum. Learn about 15th century art, learn about contemporary art, donít shun modernism just because itís weird - itís worth learning about for your evolution as an artist. Take as many art history classes as possible. Go to gallery openings. Hone your individual taste as an artist and then apply that to the art you make.
Explore the unknown. There is so much to life than meets the eye and there are so many more interesting things going than what is sold to you at WalMart. There is no way to tell you how to find the underground - maybe it finds you - but my access to the underground was initially through the world of the black metal subculture and then later through Burning Man. What you will find is a lot of amazing people living their lives they want to live them, devoid of fear of culture restrictions. But by all means taste everything life has to offer. Travel in every country, dance a lot, try drugs, learn about world cultures and wisdom traditions, read philosophy, etc. Dress in unusual and creative ways - itís fun. Be your own person and donít give a fuck about what anyone else does or thinks. All of these things will enhance your art - and your life - to a remarkably high degree.
Make art a communal experience! I have made a lot of great friends, and have had a really great time, by making art with other people. I go over to a lot of friends studios, and paint along side them. Itís awesome! Meet musicians - offer to paint their album covers. I also do live painting at festivals, parties, and events and sometimes I just renegade it and set up in the park, etc. Itís a great way to make new friends and connections, get your work out into the world, and I usually sell a lot of prints. Collaborative painting is also awesome! Iíve done collaborative painting with up to ten people on one painting, and itís a cool and fun way to push your artistic boundaries and build community. Also, the surrealists had a communal art game called an ďExquisite CorpseĒ where they would draw a part of a drawing and then cover it up except for about an inch showing. The next person would then connect the dots and make their own drawing not knowing what the other person drew. Itís a cool exercise. At the least get a group of artists together and go to the park or a coffee shop and draw together. If you live in the middle of nowhere, write to other artists via facebook or email and ship your work to them to collaborate.
Try to limit the amount of time you spend playing video games, and watching TV. Try to instead substitute these activities for more participatory real life things, or at least reading or making art. One thing is true, however, which is that discipline is key to becoming a good artist. Iím not saying that you stop making art all together, but at least find a way to make art while still living your life and connecting with the world, and not just being a hermit whose sole access to the outside world is through internet forums (that was me.)
And now, completely at risk of sounding cheesy, try to foster as much love as possible in your life. Do volunteer work, do something spontaneously nice for someone like offer to drive someone to the airport or kick it on your couch for a few days, give money to homeless people, etc. The more you give the better you feel, and the universe reciprocates. ďIn the end the love you take is equal to the love you make.Ē Remember that! Take a moment each day to feel grateful for what you have. The fact that you have a computer and easy access to the internet means that you are so much more wealthy than the vast majority of the world. Depression and emotional pain is very real, but something to augment it is to give yourself a better perspective of the privileges that you you have. Traveling helps this. Also remember that when youíre interacting over the internet (and this is easy to forget) that youíre interacting with a real live person, itís just over a digital interface. Be kind and mindful. Donít say anything mean that could hurt their feelings. I had my feelings hurt a lot not only on this community but on the internet in general by people that were not kind or mindful of their posting. And it hurt. Be nice, guys.
Ok, thatís my rant. I hope that it is a benefit to anyone that reads it.
"Complacency is the womb of mediocrity. " -- Jason Manley
"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." -- Bruce Lee
Oh, cool. I just found this post. I follow you on facebook didn't know you had been on here that long or any of what you wrote about that.
I love that you wrote this, and completely agree with all of it. Especially about living life, discovering bits of the vast unknown, and spreading love. I would go into more detail but I would just be repeating the same essence of what you already worded so well. Namaste, and keep it up. And here's to each of our journeys unfolding (everyone, I mean)
"[...]as we gain facility of hand and travel further afield, we discover that we have a key to unlock the wonders of art and nature, a method of conjuring up forms at will: a sensitive language capable of recording and revealing impressions and beauties of form and structure hidden from the careless eye[...]"
-Walter Crane, 'Line & Form'
I agree. If you want to draw people. Meet people, smart people, stupid people, honest people, shady people. If you want to draw places go places. Beautiful places, ugly places, near the water, in the desert or in the snow.
Too many artists here are inspired by other artists. Their voice lives in the shadow of somebody else (cough android cough). It stagnates the creative ecosystem. Diversity is the most important element to evolution. Otherwise it becomes inbred and defects become what defines any diversity. This happens with all art forms.
Please stick around. Your not done growing. We could all use the advice from your successes. The path you've chosen is pretty difficult. I'd really like to hear you've managed to pull it off.
Thank you for writing this long and awesome post! It's so well written and contains a lot of wisdom and insights from someone who have gained a lot of life XP. It's hard to believe you are "only" something like 20 (I just turned 25 myself). All this seems so honest and truthful. I'm grateful and happy you chose to share all this and return to post it.
I agree with you on many of the points. I myself have been drawing my whole life cuz I found it fun. Then at 19 I started studying video game design at Uni in Sweden. I met a lot of cool artists there who are today working in the industry, and I myself have been employed at two companies, creating awesome games, but not in the art department. So 10 months ago I decided I wanted to "get better" at art. I set up my own space, studies all the Loomis, Bridgeman and watched all tutorials at CTRL Paint. However, this summer I find myself in a small creative crises. I somehow forgot the "fun". I was creating because I wanted to "get good at it". Because I was inspired by other artists. In the end this mean I created for someone else, not for myself. And now for the first time in 10 months I only feel anxiety when I put my pencil on the Moleskine paper.
I totally agree with you. One should not put aside all the other important things in life like love, friendship or traveling. It's not worth pushing yourself every single night, getting bad sight (I got glasses now) and feel like a "bad" person when you are not studying in some way. I even brought my Loomis book with me to the beach, to Egypt last December. To be able to study in between my swimming and camel riding...
Sure, I have become a lot better in these 10 months. But for the first time in my life I dislike drawing, and makes it deeply unhappy. I'm sure I will get out of this somehow, and maybe it's just a new boss I need to trick or beat to level up to some new level in my life.
Just don't push yourself to hard guys, give yourself some slack. You need the real world to get inspired, to be able to draw real feels into what you create.
Thanks for sharing Jake. You made my day. I'll probably link to you from my blog www.saracasen.com later.
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