I guess it’s been a couple years since I’ve answered a question like this so in as cliff-notey of a way as I can make it:
Love and naivety.
Didn’t have much interest or experience with art, but my girlfriend at the time got in so I took an incredibly boneheaded romantic leap, applied there and nowhere else, never visited, miraculously got into the art school, got out of the relationship, was stuck there, ended up liking drawing quite a bit, and the rest is history. It was a terrible decision made for terrible reasons that just happened to work out extremely well despite a million reasons why it shouldn’t have. SCAD is a perfectly fine university, has its issues like any art school, but better resources than just about any other — none of that was remotely a factor into going there though.
Moral of the story: make wildly impulsive and short-sighted decisions and everything will work out perfectly every time, always, forever — nothing can go wrong making major life choices based on teenage romance. It worked for me, so it’ll work for you.
Art can actually be a beautiful way to pay tribute to death, there’s no wrong way to grieve, and there’s validity in being sad over people you’ve never even met.
But to any artists out there, I encourage you to simply ask yourself honestly if within hours of discovering someone dying, and you’re already putting pen/brush to paper/canvas — why you are, and if you should. Are you doing that because you profoundly want to honor this person you have never commemorated before, or are you capitalizing on someone’s death for self-promotion? If the answer is the former, then a “window of relevance” won’t matter — put weight behind that decision, take care, take your time, and truly make it great.
Hi, hey, hello. Tiny PSA — generally speaking, all of you are really great, the messages in my inbox are super nice and I’m Wayne’s World levels of unworthy. But for whatever reason, there’s been a recent uptick in people saying nice things to me (sweet) but do so by also tearing apart other artists specifically by name or even entire genres of art (not sweet). Like instead of people saying “Yo, Sam, I really like your new calculator watch” they’re saying “Yo, Sam, I really like your new calculator watch, unlike Stacey Applebaum whose watch does NOT have any mathematical functionality. What a fuckhead.”
In an attempt to do something nice, you’ve done something pretty bullshitty. If that rare magical feeling that causes you to celebrate someone — may it be for their genetics, their art, their music, their body, their words, their mind, their actions, or any other thing that was enough for you to put that small shred of goodness out into the air — please don’t sully it by shaming others in the process. And that’s really like the bare minimum, ideally you can find something to celebrate about Stacey to tell her too. Thanks, that’s all.
How do you feel about experimentation vs staying true to your voice as an artist?
I mean, people evolve. Our personalities, our tastes, and our interests shift constantly as we’re introduced to new ideas, experiences, and perspectives. I don’t see why our art — whatever that may be — shouldn’t do the same with us.
"Staying true to your voice as an artist" just sounds like stagnation under the guise of tradition — it’s the artsy equivalent of those curmudgeon-y, old, racist, guys who bullshitedly romanticize the 1950s and yell at youths for their internet telephones, hippity-hop, black presidents, and clothing which doesn’t cover knees. If you get too comfortable with the way things have always been done — with you or your art — you’ll miss (what in my opinion is) one of the absolute best parts of being human: growth.
Now, that may seem like heavy talk, but I’m not sure that we can detach those big human concepts from art — they’ve always kinda gone together. It’s not like art history is just a chronological series of totally arbitrary fashion trends and stylistic fads — art has, and likely always will, change in tandem with, and in reaction to, the way people view the world.
Hey Sam, I'm trying to find my style in illustration. How did you find yours?
Today I was waiting to cross the street at a corner in Brooklyn. Now, in New York, animals are pretty cozy being near humans and you really need to aggressively invade their space for them to flee in the same way a non-city-dwelling self-preserving animal would. So when I was standing at this street corner and this tiny bird was unflinching, walking near my feet, and then started awkwardly hopping directly in front of a car making a turn, I panicked and jolted after it to herd it away from being crushed. While this definitely angered the driver, I did succeed in getting the little thing onto the sidewalk — however, I quickly noticed that its wing had clearly been extremely banged up.
I don’t particularly like animals, I’ve never owned a pet, and am not a terribly compassionate person, but I do have the bare-minimum feeling of “I don’t like seeing things die” so for the next 10 minutes I chased and scooped this little fucking bird around trying to keep it on the sidewalk because it kept hobbling back into the middle of the street. At one point my scoop-throw resulted in it getting solid hang time and seemingly soaring off, only for it to quickly arc back towards me in a boomerang fashion and hop back into traffic. I looked like an absolute idiot, I’m sure that I got all kinds of weird bird diseases in the process, but I was so frustrated by this bird’s poor decision making that for those 10 minutes, I kept with it. It hopped to its near death, I scurried after it and scooped it back onto the sidewalk. Hopped again, scurried, scooped, saved, then back again. It was like helping every friend anyone has ever had who makes terrible choices and then continues to make them. Eventually though, my patience wore thin and I wasn’t about to take it home, nurse it back to health with a tiny yet adorable wing bandage, and become emotionally invested in its well-being only for it to one day fly away. So I walked away. Most people did just that from the get go, others stood and watched, some would make awkward little half-steps to try to help too, and after I left, maybe someone far better took on the potential heartbreak and made a micro-wing-splint out of toothpicks and tissue paper, then lovingly named it Pidgeotto … but I was presented with a situation and I handled it in the way that felt natural to me. It was exactly what I would do. There were a million other things to do instead that could’ve been more helpful, more interesting, more evil, more apathetic, and everything in between — but this particular set of actions was mine — the most natural thing I could do.
I tell you this dumb little story as a response to your very explicitly artsy question, because a) deal with it and 2) style just isn’t formed through a plan. It’s not a set of rules and guidelines that you follow and check off as you create a painting. If I need to lay down a brushstroke, I’m not thinking how I should do that, the length, the pressure, the speed, the color, the variation, the texture — I’m just laying a line down in the way that feels most natural to me in that moment. I can gather a thousand images that other people have made and say “I like these colors or this lighting or this line work or this composition or this whatever” and I do, but at the end of the day, I can only like those styles passively because when pen meets paper (so to speak), my personality and affinity for doing things in my own way will always beat out what’s right, wrong, better, worse, trendier, sexier, uglier, or different. We CAN follow guidelines to make our work look like other work or to do what seems like the most obvious choice when confronted with an injured bird with very poor self-preservation skills, but I found my style through dumb little situations like these where I wasn’t following a bible of moral or artistic codes, just by doing exactly what I would do. Not my fantasy version of myself who can paint exactly like Caravaggio and heroically slow-motion dived to save an innocent bird from an Escalade driven by Hitler while Natalie Dormer watched, but the one who paints like I do and bumbles around swearing at a bird to not get itself killed for 10 minutes and then giving up because there was a clear language barrier between us and I wasn’t prepared for a long-term commitment with pidgeotto.
I started college this year and in this second semestre i got really interesting classes and the professores are awesome! and i noticed that something always happens, is that I want to impress them like i always deliver papers on time and since it's film school, i make films for myself but at the same time i hope to impress and do you think this is bad?
Obviously, it’s probably healthiest to feel fulfilled as a self-sufficient solar-powered island of a human being who doesn’t need anyone, but come on — I don’t know how to do that. At various points in my life I’ve worked hard to impress parents, professors, girlfriends, friends, coworkers, and even you, the grey-faced Internet, and while it’s never been the sole fuel for me, the validation felt from those things — whether it’s flawed, unhealthy, or any other form of psychobabble — has helped me and motivated me to work harder.
Considering the endless list of reasons we can and do come up with to remain stagnant, lazy, and NOT work — if a literal or figurative gold star sticker, red pen smiley face, or digital heart click helps, I say take it.
Is digital illustration taking over the traditional art making world?
All of your pencils and paints are obsolete. Now go throw them out and buy a good quality computer, photoshop, a wacom tablet, and Digital Artist A, B, or C’s “complete ultra super megaevolution photoshop brush pack - complete with over 80 real media brushes that simulate the actual real life IRL drawing painting things.”
Traditional art will always have a place in the world. I love to encourage people to explore digital because it’s amazing — but it’s not the be-all end-all solution that will phase out the physical presence and texture of an oil-painting or the simplicity of a pencil and piece of paper. It’s a hugely powerful and revisionary medium that has become standard among the more commercial areas of art where time, efficiency, and rapidly correcting client feedback on the fly are integral. However, even as the technology rapidly improves — traditional art will remain relevant (and in certain areas, dominant) because it has a weight, a smell, a history, and a tangible quality to it that even the most awesomely placed pixels won’t be able to have (until we have 3D smell-o-vision time machine printers — then you can be worried).