My God it’s been awhile! 6 months? Holy Moly! I wonder if anyone still checks this thing. But I’ve ignored this blog for good reason! I’ve been very busy on what I intend to be my most significant work yet.
For the past couple years, I feel like I have been in the developmental stage of my intellectual properties. I’ve posted lots of comics of my characters just interacting and exploring these worlds that I made up. These stories eventually burned out because I had no idea what was happening next, but it helped me learn ALOT about design, speed, constancy, dialogue, composition and technique. But at a certain point my art reached a kind of platue. I knew what I wanted to draw and why; I knew what my characters looked like and who they were. But how were these things going to come together and create a story? What is a story? I didn’t even know.
I spent quite a long time trying to figure it out, reading, watching and researching. I started becoming aware of how universal human themes were embedded in the scenes of movies and animations that went previously undiscovered by me. There were a lot of resources and brilliant individuals that helped me learn the craft of storytelling.
Helping Writers Become Authors- K.M Weiland gives excellent, easy to understand advice about the writing craft. She conveniently records her articles as podcasts so I was able to listen and draw. Her info on story structure is quite explicit and I found it very useful for setting up the bones of my story.
Oatley Academy- Chris Oatley is an ex-Disney visual developer who quit his job to create his own Online School, the Oatley Academy, which I am a student of. I followed his podcasts for years, which not only motivated me to keep drawing but taught me some important lessons on adding appeal to stories and character designs. The class I attend, Films on Paper, emphasizes the creation of empathy in your stories and facilitating it with your art. It’s all very high concept stuff such as theme, cinematography, style, ext. but it totally brought my understanding of storytelling to a whole other level. And I am still in the class and still learning with the awesome community.
Books like The Golden Theme and Invisible Ink by Brian McDonald, Save the Cat by Blake Snyder, The Hero with a thousand faces by Joseph Campbell and all of Scott McClouds books and lectures helped me immensely. I suggest to just read in general. Stephen King, Dennis Johnson, Clive Barker, anything.
But the knowledge of something only goes so far. You may understand what makes a good story, but still be unable to touch pencil to paper. It’s a monumental task, creating any work of narrative art. For me the only thing that could spur me into motion was a feeling so extreme it made me reevaluate what my entire life was about. Let me start from the beginning.
I grew up in Savage, Maryland; a suburban neighborhood just a bike ride away from the Bollman Bridge National Park. It was there where I spent most of my days, in the fostering embrace of the forest (lol). It was my interest in nature that fueled a lot of my early artwork. I spent my formative years in the field, drawing the plants and insects I found or in the classroom, ignoring the teachers and conjuring fantastic animals from my imagination. I didn’t even draw my first “human” until I was in high school. Years later, I would move to the cities of Paris, France and New York in order to pursue a career in the arts.
I will just say right now NYC is an amazing place; a busting, empire of metal, stone and light with such energy that it’s citizens are whisked around like so many zooplankton in it’s eclectic cultural current. For the last year and a half I have had my mind forcefully turned inside out and shoved up my ass as I learned what it really means to be human here in the world’s capital. I have neither the finances or the interest to study at a university anymore (which is also what I came to New York to do) but I can say that the city has played a major part in my (self) “education”. It has made me realize who I am.
The city is a lot. A lot of convenience, a lot of complex entertainment, a lot of consumerism, a lot of culture, interactions, personality and disparity. Ideas bound and collide in the metropolitan mindscape and splatter themselves upon the walls in bright colors and gaudy packaging. What’s more is the growing pressure of assumptions, predictions, judgements and other social baggage that begins to form when you live on an island with 10 million other people.It’s strange, but the sheer amount of human interactions begins to create a layer of mental grime; it’s as if ashes are falling from the sky, accumulating on your soul. I love the city because of this: It made me discontent in a way I had never been before and as such, it allowed me to define what happiness was. What I want is much more simple…
I went on a trip to New Hampshire to see my best friend after six months of not leaving the city due to a terrible winter. When I arrived at his homestead, I was taken aback by the immense amount of natural beauty there. This feeling of awe culminated at the top of a mountain we had hiked up. As we frolicked in the icy river that cascaded down the hillside, I realized that I was feeling an unprecedented amount of revelation and joy. A happiness I had not felt in the Big Apple or Paris. And it wasn’t just because I was drunk! (Okay maybe a little…) It was the kind of primal energy that the human animal feels when they are free. It was then that I realized the effect of being sequestered in the city, away from nature. You don’t notice it at first, but eventually you become domesticated and feel captive, as if there are giant walls closing in around you. The inner child, sobbing quietly in a forgotten corner, yearned for the environment it was raised in.
When I returned to the city and my bar tending job, I started to research the topics that interested me in my youth before the dream of becoming an independent artist emerged: Ecology, Agriculture, Biology, Animal Husbandry and so on. This eventually led down the rabbit hole of ecological enlightenment, which is darker than the deepest trenches of the abyssal plane. For the environmentally literate, the world becomes a swirling torrent of misguided ideals, human, natural and animal exploitation and injustice caused by political and individual incompetence and selfishness. It also becomes a world of appreciation for the mysteries and wonders that do exist and a yearning to preserve it.
And hence, a “theme” was born. I had realized what I wanted my story to be about: The yearning for the forest, the farm, the mountain peak, the idea that true, REAL happiness comes from where we came from: the immaterial womb of nature. Not money, not notoriety and not even artistic accomplishment.
I am not here to go on a rant about resource depletion, government corruption, environmental destruction or the social ignorance and unacceptability of it all. John Michael Greer, Naom Chomsky and George Carlin do this much more eloquently than I (seriously, look these guys up if you are interested in any of this.). No what I am here to do is what I can. And what I can do is FUCKING DRAW!
This Story that I am working on is called GREEN SHIFT. It is about a modern city surrounded by a giant wall. Nobody leaves and nothing enters from the Outside. My characters are foolishly motivated by dreams of freedom, independence and whimsy to knock down the wall and escape their humdrum, oppressed lives. It will be a critique on western culture as well as a thorough investigation of the effects the urban and natural environments have on the human soul. I have the skeleton of the story planned out, several chapters written, a few pages drafted and some finished art. You can see my progression chapter one below. Keep in mind that this is not the final art nor the final dialogue. In fact, most of the pages have empty speech bubbles as place holders. But I just want to show that, since 2015 came around, I have been working like a madman.
Why am I telling you, internet reading audience (you’re awesome btw), all of these things? Because I want to stress to my other creator peers that being an artist is not enough. That cannot be your only paradigm. Just like with every good novel, comic, movie, screenplay or whatever; an artist’s life must have a theme. Something that needs to be said by uniquely you. That is what will make you special and everything you create significant. It is what will set you apart from those who create for money or creation’s sake.
In addition to this art thing and my full time job I have tried to slowly integrate my “theme” into my life. I have turned vegetarian, support local businesses and farms, find creative ways to reuse household waste, planted a garden and succeeded in driving my roommates insane by unplugging all the appliances when I leave my apartment. My efforts have but a MINISCULE effect on the global problem but it’s how I want to exist. My core values will help me navigate through life, prepare and progress into an uncertain future and infuse my art and writing with visceral values.
So, before you begin to write that grand tale or draw that sprawling epic, filled with a whole cast of diverse and interesting characters ask yourself something: Who are you? What is the theme of your life. What is your motivation? What is your plot line? Before you write about people in a galaxy far far away, perhaps you should learn a little more about yourself.
CHAPTER ONE: BEHIND WALLS (Progress so far)
As you can see, I’m having a lot of fun with this. I wish I had more time to devote to this project but staying afloat in NYC ain’t easy. If you’d like to help the cause there is a donate link on the front page. Every dollar helps! Or better yet, give me encouraging words in the comment section below.
Love ya guys,