Monday, June 18, 2012

Five Places and ICON7

I just got back home from the ICON7 conference.

It was an amazing time- I left feeling humbled, inspired, and reinvigorated about art in general. 

It's easy as an artist and a professional to forget why we're doing this in the first place- to get lost in the woods. Being at ICON helped me realize a lot of what I'd been neglecting or forgetting. Working as a professional artist on a big project can be fun and can be immensely satisfying- it's wonderful to solve visual problems and collaborate with other talented colleagues- but it can also be draining.
The one thing that matters, to me, the most about making art is the one thing that is least valued at a large studio- personal meaning.
Why make art if it's not meaningful? Human? Honest? True?
Somehow it's easy to lose sight of that very important thing- "make art that means something to you".

There were so many highlights- Lynda Barry (a singularly amazing lady) talked about how making art and taking it in is as much a need as any other human urge. That we work out our own lives by watching other people work theirs out through art. "Don't be too cool, you're all gonna die".
Starlee Kine talked about breakups and Phil Collins, and how important it is to tell the story you're living. John Cuneo, Marcellus Hall, and Jillian Tamaki walked through their sketchbooks and talked about sketching to make mistakes and find release (I haven't stopped sketching since!), and Esther Pearl Watson talked about her grandfather and living in the in-between.

I kept hearing this piece of advice from other artists at the conference that I've even given out myself-

"Make the art you want to make. Make the art you NEED to make. Fill your portfolio with up with it. Then you'll find that people will pay you to do what you love."

And other iterations- "Loosen up, stop pressuring yourself trying to guess what it is that people want to see. Make the art you love to make"

It takes a leap of faith, doing that. Trying that. And leaps of faith are the scariest, and they'd never be worth it except for the "joy set before [us]". If this all sounds a little like I'm rehashing a sermon as much as portfolio advice, then maybe something is going terrifically right.

I made some new friends and saw some amazing art. I feel like I'm still spinning with all of it. Thank you, ICON.


All in all, this has been a truly bittersweet time.
Sometimes you can't wait to get up and start drawing- sometimes it's difficult to even get out of bed and face the day.
I just got back from Michigan last weekend, visiting with my family after the passing of my grandpa. I really have yet to process fully through all that it means. That (among other things) has been chasing me around my own heart and I think it's time I let it catch up. Drawing helps.
He was the artist two generations before me, who kept on painting despite his disability. I think he would want me to do the same- keep working, despite the what life throws your way. Make good art.
Starlee Kine spoke about that- telling the stories that are in your heart to tell, however painful. Especially when they're painful. I hope you'll all bear with me. There's lots to tell.

To that end. Neil Gaiman had some really encouraging words to say at the end of this

 Despite it all- loss of job, love, and family- the big questions and the looming doubts, insecurities, longings and sundry- summer is here.
And there's something about that feeling- something in the sun and the wind and the speed and the freedom of it all that can't be suppressed. We are still blessed- richly and lovingly. Hallelujah anyways.




Anonymous said...

No comments on this? Hu?
So one from me, though not very deepthoughted:
Thanks for sharing!

Michelle Barnett said...

Well if Neil Gaiman thinks so then it's probably true :)

Sorry about your Grandpa. I've been there once before, - heart attack, very sudden. I couldn't really draw for two weeks (which was unfortunate since I mid-semester of an illustration degree at the time!) and then one day I picked up a fat black marker and let rip. Everything was better after that.

Stephanie said...

Thank you for passing on the words of wisdom. The whole bit about doing what you love and not what you think other people will love was something that I needed to hear.

I've been working on a commissioned piece that I do NOT love, and it's really hard to keep going because the inspiration is not there. Meanwhile, I've been thinking about what I could do that would sell. (Hard not to think that way when you're broke!) It's always good to get a reminder from someone who's in a similar situation.

You don't post as often as many of the blogs I follow, but yours is one that I'm always excited to see an update from. Thanks for sharing, always.

Bonnie Branson said...

Great recap! I'm still trying to capture with words all the things I learned from the conference!

baby sister said...

We're all numb, Nick. But he's in many more places than the five depicted in your doodle...He lives in my heart and mind and many others as well.

It is hard to process and it will take some time, especially for those that he influenced so greatly.

It was good you came and it's always good to see you.

<3 you :)

John Hendrix said...

Love it- great round up. I'm so glad you came away ready to make stuff you've always wanted to. Till ICON8! -jh

Natalya said...

What a terrific recap of an experience I can relate to on so many levels - I just returned from ICON7 as well, COMPLETELY inspired and radiating with love for what I do, and how I can share it with the world. I also desperately needed such an inspiring reminder, because my last few years have been... challenging. Thank you for adding your voice to the many who keep ME rising every morning with enthusiasm and creative purpose...

Jennifer Steffey said...

Hi Nicholas, Thanks for putting down a lot of mixed emotions I had at ICON as well. I didn't realize how low I had been until ICON and now I am recharged about my art as well. Sorry I didn't get to meet you, and keep up your amazing work! best, ~Jenn