Tutorial / 12 January 2021

I never thought I'D be the one to say that there is still hope.

Well, 2020 was something wasn't it? I know the roots of my 2020 were set back in 2019, and further. 

In 2019, I felt that I was stagnating at a professional crossroads. I had to admit some hard truths. The one on the forefront of my mind was that too much of my time had been taken away from what I love, managing so many other concerns, and teaching. No I also love teaching too, but it was also something I was maybe spending too much time doing. As I said, this was tough to admit because I had to take a long-hard look at myself and admit that although I had learned and taught many new skills over the last decade, that the overall quality of my artwork was slipping and I could tell by looking at it myself that it had degraded over time. 

It's not that I didn't love art anymore, it was that I had really fallen in love with writing and developed and strengthened my skills in that arena, while also falling in love with teaching and enjoying that, and publishing and mentoring and social media presence and so-on. I was hiring other artists to create art for projects that I had created and written, because I was no longer confident in the quality of my art. Although I knew all of the ways in which a person could create and publish a comic, video game and more and taught them, I lost confidence in my art skills, which with everything else in life, just fell by the wayside. Stress and life and bills always seemed to push art out of my life. 

Too be fair, at times I feel like I have a special brew of circumstances that makes letting those skills slip almost acceptable, and at first, I told myself the comfortable lie ; that was the case. A comforting excuse, but still an excuse.

Not to belabor or bemoan my own problems, but the mix of severe head injury from an accident in my teens, lifelong issues with anxiety, alcoholism through most of my late teens, 20s and early thirties, lifelong weight yo-yoing, work injuries to hands and arms and a plethora of other things that I've experienced in life, I should technically have enough nerve damage to barely hold a pencil. So it really shouldn't shock me that the quality of my work was slipping, right? Wrong. Everyone has those stories. Sure, their stories might be different, the details may vary, but everyone in the world has just as many tragic stories, and excuses, not to try. Of course I am not exceptional, just lucky, someone else in the same boat may try and fail. What's important is that they tried. 

Thankfully I realized fairly quickly that I wasn't pushing myself as hard as I could. I was letting the acceptance of those things in my past be an excuse not to push harder. It can be very easy and equally dangerous to let your past be your excuse not to try, and a lot of people do it every day. 

The difference was that I knew that if I continued to let things slip, if I let this slide, it would be that much easier to let the next thing slide. One of the things I teach new comic artists is digital illustration and production. The skills for the software alone change every 6-12 months. I simply couldn't let my skills continue to slide and I needed to focus on at least getting my art skills back up to acceptable standards. If I couldn't do that I wouldn't be much use to my students, and I would likely lose my job or, even worse, force them to endure a hopelessly out of date and out of touch class. I respect myself and fellow artists too much to do that. 

So, I wound down my teaching duties and stepped away from several teaching positions. I planned ahead. By the end of 2019 I had wound down my teaching work and was looking ahead to 2020 being the year I spent focusing on my own skills and self-improvement. To learn new skills and techniques and get to the point where I enjoyed looking at my art again.

And coincidentally another very lucrative offer came up...in teaching. It was a new school and new class I hadn't taught before with more hours and more money. It was just good enough at the right time, that I was planning for the future, and it was local, minutes from my home, which was a BIG factor. 

Though a little apprehensive, it turned out to be an enjoyable experience. The students appreciated the work I did in class and extra work I did for the course. I found ways to adapt my learning and working on art skills both outside and inside class. At many times I introduced new concepts and software that had the students and I learning together, which was really cool.

Even after the VID shut down the school we continued online, up until July when I was laid off due to online classes being merged with another instructor. I can't blame anyone for that situation it was business, no worries. I had EI and I could also look at the positive side, I'd get more time to devote to learning and improving my skills and getting my art back to a place where I felt confident in it's quality again. 

6+ months later I can say that I've accomplished my goals. My art isn't perfect mind you. No one's is. There will always be new and old techniques I'm tweaking and practicing. Every artist should be making progress in their art throughout their life. 

Along the way my 2020 has been tumultuous, just like everyone else's. I extended that journey of improvement into facing and admitting more of my own faults, flaws and issues, and beginning to blog publicly about my struggles with anxiety. I had to ask a publisher to back out of my creator owned mini-series half-way in, because the craziness of the real world suddenly conflicted and went far beyond what I had intended to do with that comic and the concept of the story kind of got blown apart by real-life events. 

There's been plenty of time for me to delve into personal things that I had been ignoring and let fester for a long time, and face the personal demons that were holding me back and led to the point where I had to admit that I needed time away from all of it to renew my skills and passions. 

Anxiety is a very funny thing, as it can convince you that you are protecting yourself or playing it safe, when you are really selling yourself short. I think that's been my biggest lesson of 2020. 

In a few weeks I'll be back to teaching and also producing fun new content with the skills I have practiced in the last year. 

I'm looking forward to it. And so should you. 

It sucks that we're all essentially locked in for the second time, but I do believe that we can, must and will find new ways of doing things that will be better that what we did before. I truly believe that if enough people look at the world and accept the reality of what it is, not what they want it to be, that people will propel the movement to improve the way we live and work for everyone. 

It's my sincere hope that we as a society can move beyond money being the central focus of life, and I am doing my best to lead by example. Being the change I want to see. Exploring all of my crazy ideas with new content and media and sharing these with people on a non-profit basis. 

I think it's apparent that there were holes in the system we didn't see until a worldwide emergency happened. I also think it's fairly plain for most people to see that corruption isn't something that exists in a country half-a-world away, corruption is right here and it is in every country. The main proof of this corruption is that whoever has the most money gets to be leader, regardless of whether they have any vision, leadership skills or redeeming qualities. And I'm not just talking about you-know-who. It's evident of many other world leaders as well. When money determines the outcome, regardless of competency, that is corruption. When everyone is swayed by dollars and can make deals and compromises for cash, our system falls apart due to ineptitude.

It can be really hard not to get stuck in a very negative outlook on life when you start to see these things. My blog is proof. I admit, at times I get stuck in a generally very negative outlook on humanity. I do. I have very little faith, if any, in most institutions, businesses and people. 

And somehow yet, I have hope and optimism. Hope that people of all ages, races, lifestyles and religions will see through all of the ridiculous agendas that have been pushed to profit from the division they create. If we stop buying into the bullshit artists with the most money, I sincerely hope and believe that we can and will move forward. 

We've seen what the alternative is, right? Did anyone like that? Is anyone enjoying it? So why go back to that?

I know that we can move forward and embrace a future where we help and respect each other, instead of nitpicking each other or fighting with strangers on Facebook over the minutiae of a recent film, when there are so many more worthy things to focus your attention and time on.

I hope and believe that when can get past the shit show of the last 12 months as well as the decades before it and build a new system and society that is based on helping each other. I hope my work helps further and inspire that, even if it is just the smallest tiniest way. Even if it only inspires one person. 

Is that person you? Can you inspire the next?

Thanks for reading,

Mike