“It doesn’t matter if you’re a model maker, a potter, a dancer, a programmer, a writer, a political activist, a teacher, a musician, a milliner, whatever. It’s all the same. Making is making, and none of it is failure.”
Adam Savage, Every Tool's A Hammer: Life Is What You Make It
I don't know the exact cause or the specific thing that made these changes a priority.
It is likely a culmination of things. A bunch of small pieces, perhaps insignificant on their own, that started the avalanche of creativity. Because that's what changed: the desire to create with the strength to finally do it. The want and need has always been there, lurking, but the catalyst was missing.
And I know why it was missing. But I couldn't fix it. I didn't know how.
Changes & Health Stuff
There were times when I thought I had recovered, but the act of trying to make brought forth little else than more frustration. I thought "Isn't art supposed to be fun?" and "Isn't design supposed to make me happy?"
It brought me neither of these things. I no longer enjoyed it. Even photography, though easier for me to get motivated to do, still seemed like a chore.
But then, September arrived and... something was different. I had been reading more often, working on designing the company website, and following honest and inspiring people like The Bloggess and Wil Wheaton. Those two individuals are so open and honest with the mental health struggles they face and it makes me feel like I, too, can be brave enough to share my own story. Strong enough to not just pay attention to my own health and be aware when there's a day when I have had "too much", but to say so and not feel so guilty when I need to do it.
And it turns out... that helps. I don't have to give 100% Every. Single. Day.
It's unhealthy. Unsustainable.
Giving more than was safe for me to give was what got me into this mess, this Epic Burnout, in the first place. I took from myself what I needed to survive and I burned it to ash.
Years ago, I was at the point where I was so stressed that I would cry in the bathroom before starting the day's work. I would break down in panic attacks at the idea of the weekend ending, because there was so much pressure on me and me alone. And a lot of that I know I put there myself. And I let others add even more. I allowed this to happen because... I had something to prove? To say I was mentally exhausted, that I needed room to breathe, that I needed a break, would be seen as a failure?
Honestly? I don't know.
I'm more aware now of where the threshold of "too much" is, and try to be cognizant of the state of my mental space. Ideally, in order to spot depression before it hits. (The depression itself being a discussion for another time.) I don't always catch it, and even if I do, it doesn't mean it won't create havoc wherever it lands. But aiming for increased awareness is certainly a start.
And then, with all that circulating, I started writing. Drawing. Creating. Little by little, here and there. And it was fun. It was actually, honestly, fun. I wanted to keep doing it! I didn't absolutely hate everything I was creating anymore. My outlook had changed.
I was still doing what feels like "posting in the void" and getting little-to-no response when sharing my work. And while that sucked, and it's discouraging, it wasn't going to stop me from creating. I was (am!) actually enjoying the creating part of the process again. And that's huge. It has been years since I felt this.
I don't even know when the last time was.
And I am not going to lose it again.
Drawing & Everything
Obviously, Jey had no idea of my plans: I'm not normally on their radar, after all. This was perfect because I had an out. If I didn't get the drawing done in time, no one (but me) would be disappointed in me.
After finishing the quick sketch in my sketchbook, I decided to go a bit further. Drawing in pen is simple enough, but maybe I could use my Samsung Galaxy Tab 3, and ArtFlow, to fix the sketch up a little before sending the image to Jey.
"Fixing up" the sketch, as you can see below, got a bit out of hand. I was having fun learning how to draw with the tablet and becoming more familiar with the app. So much so, that I wasn't ready to stop doing it when I finished the line art. I had to colour it, too.
Then came the time for colour and layers of both shading and highlights. Step by step the drawing was becoming more and more complex and detailed. I didn't want to stop before it felt like something more complete. I wanted a final product that I could be proud of. I was wary of putting too much pressure on myself, but I also wanted to go beyond the comfort zone and do more than I have with previous digital art.
Maybe I'm not an impostor after all. (Can one really be an artist impostor?)
And then I stopped working on it for nearly a month.
The next step was colouring/shading the skin, and that is intimidating. I didn't want to mess it up, so I froze. And it wasn't until a couple days ago that I could work on it again. I spent the time between working on this to watch and read tutorials on painting skin colour. And most of these tutorials covered painting non-white skin, specifically.
This was part of the reason I didn't want to attempt shading the drawing of JP. I knew this was an area that I have little experience in, and when I shaded in characters with dark skin tones before I was careless and made them ashen. I didn't want to repeat that.
I'm going to learn, damnit!
As Adam Savage said in his latest book, "Making is making, and none of it is failure.” I made it. I finished it. It's imperfect, sure, but I didn't fail. It's a thing that exists now that did not before.
I can definitely do better, of course.
And I will.
I started with a teal-blue pencil on its own layer and a rough sketch of some sort of diplomat. (These aren't characters from anywhere, I just made them up as I went along.) The next layer is black to cleanup the drawing and fix some anatomical disasters. (You can't see the hand to the right, but believe me that's it was terrifying.)