The Social Mirror

The older I get the more people seek my advice about Art, Story, Career, Finances (gasp), Marriage/ Relationships and even Spirituality.

This practice prospers by my insatiable appetite for the wisdom of those who have gone before me and those who are going after me.

More friendships, mentoring (both incoming AND outgoing), collaborations and conversations are just as important as the fundamentals of art and story.

We desperately need others to reflect the healthiest, most attractive parts of us as well as the pale, flabby areas that we want to ignore.

Do you have clear social mirrors in your life?

Is there anything distorting the whole truth about yourself?

Receiving the whole truth about ourselves will not only help us draw a more accurate map to our artistic and social goals but it will inspire and equip others to do the same.

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Jose Gonzalez

Of course, you made me go into that maze I call my mind, checking all doors, and ports, and windows. (sorry, I’m a bit technical in my analogy).
Yes, one can always find something not reflecting properly. In my case, my enthusiasm for too many things may show folks what I want to be (if interpreted properly), but it may lack focus. Its working for me at this time. I think I’m showing confidence in some areas, and trepidation in others, which is what I sometimes see in others as well. I hope my social mirror works both ways in the journey.
I hope my experience helps others to better theirs, the same as I do from everyone’s experience that I can follow. (Now, how many sentences did I hit? :)
Summing up. I hope I help as much, or more, than I’ve taken help from everyone.
Thanks for the little mind quake, Chris!
As always, inspiring.


Zach Bosteel

Amazing post, Chris. Really speakin’ to me where I’m at right now. This is why art buddies, or just buddies, are good.

Every now and then I catch a glimpse out of the corner of my inward eye of some pattern of behavior I have or idea I’m facing down, and I wonder if it’s holding me back or helping me. I doubt myself.

The cure generally seems to be confronting the doubt, moving through it. But that often involves a little painful honesty, examining ares of my life that make me go, “Man, I suck.”

And family and loved ones can see you cringe and that it causes you pain, and so, with the best of intentions, they try to help you avoid the doubt by basically pretending that it’s not there, that they don’t see it. Which is really helpful sometimes. But, also, sometimes, you need to be able to talk to somebody and trust them to tell you when you suck, what you’re sucking at, and how they think you might avoid future suckage. It’s like a mini life critique. To be taken with a grain of salt, like many critiques.

In the mirror, I look myself in the eyes, because my eyes don’t reallly seem to change with the years. I don’t’ see the rest of me. I just kinda fill in the way I think I should look in my head and believe it to be true.

In life, sometimes I catch myself believing I’m already what I want to be, and that leads to feelings of frustration that I’m not doing what I want to do. It’s just as false a picture as the one I make up in a mirror, and I can’t always see that. Sometimes I need to borrow a friend’s eyes.



It sounds like you fellas have really nailed it.

Which is more fulfilling: 1.) The frustration of being caught between a distorted picture of ourselves and a truer, clearer reflection or 2.) Demonstrable progress toward an ideal?

To me, the latter has a lot more positive potential where the former sounds like creative purgatory.

Zach, I LOVE your line: “Sometimes I need to borrow a friend’s eyes.”


Scott Wiser

I totally pick #2.) Demonstrable progress toward an ideal.

And I totally agree that things can get distorted quickly. My “distorted truth” as of late comes from discouragement – from several opportunities that have recently seemed like they might work out and haven’t. And I know I shouldn’t get discouraged because I have great “social mirrors” like Sam Kirkman, my Father-In-Law, Chris Oatley, Rudy (from the movie of the same name), pioneers from the 1800’s, my wife, etc (In no specific order) that prove to me that persistence pays.

Fortunately, something keeps me creating with my pedal to the metal. And while social mirrors aren’t my biggest source of inspiration, I’ve just realized how HUGE they are. Thanks for this post – I’ll be thinking a bunch about it.


Scott Wiser

Okay, so I hopped in the shower after writing my whiny reply above and realized I should have posted these thoughts instead:

As the water poured over my brain, I couldn’t think of a single person I’ve met who isn’t a “social mirror” of sort. People who do something I can’t stand until I realize I do the same thing. People who inspire me. Someone at random who I have an And some of the greatest social mirrors are people I’ve served in some way.

Perhaps the distorted view of ourselves comes when we forget focus on the amazing mirrors around us – and focus too much thought (positive or negative) on ourselves. Lightbulb!


Scott Wiser

Oops, sorry – I have an unfinished sentence and grammatical errors to fix:
“Someone at random [with whom] I have [an invigorating chat].”
“we forget [to] focus on the amazing mirrors around us.”


Chris Oatley

You are a wise man, Scott WISEr.


sam Kirkman

Jose you do indeed! I greatly enjoy following you on Twitter and hopping blogs and following links with you. Your enthusiasm is always contagious and what ever you decide to do with what interests you cultivate, I am certain you will find fulfillment.

Zach buddy, you just turned my monitor into a mirror. I swear I thought I was listening to my own thoughts ring in my head. You know though, the trick to avoiding frustration is the realization that trip to where you want to be will never be over. The place we think we want to be or think we should be just doesn’t exist. As soon as we pull into the station we see another goal further on down the line and realize we gotta get back on that train!

Chris you inspired a blog post out of me. Hope you don’t mind the link, but it was just to much to put down here. Look forward to the future! We’ll talk to you soon.


Scott Wiser

You so totally rock, Sam. Mentioned you above and it will be fun to meet you in person one day. Keep it up. I loved your “you just turned my monitor into a mirror” comment! I really think that’s a reason we love great stories, characters, and real live inspire-rs alike – they’re mirrors.


Chris Oatley

Sam, I leave links open here in the comments BECAUSE of people like you who take responsibility for not only your own artistic growth but the growth of others. Thank you for blogging and linking.

I rarely have a problem with people doing drive-by link dumps.

You’re one of my favorite people on the whole internet.


Petra van Berkum

I’d say that if you catch yourself in a bit of a distorted images, that is a positive thing. Not that it is distorted, but that you see it at that moment, as painful is it might be. Because ‘seeing’ is the first step of realizing and changing the pattern or behaviour.

The things said before are recognizable. I’m just a starter and I often ask myself what I want or what I wanted to be and if it’s the same as what I am (doing) now. And sometimes I just don’t know. Maybe I have goals, like becoming a fulltime freelancer, get some great illustration/art jobs of which I (I, not others) can say: WOW, did I make this? (in a good way 😉 ) And actually, I’m working towards that right now, so that’s progress, that’s succes, right?! I don’t have to be perfect and already there at this moment.
And then I have this ‘soft’ goal, which is ‘being happy’ and ‘doing what I want’ and I cound myself lucky, even when I have a side job, that I can do what I want, that I’m living the life. And sometimes it feels so weird, but often I feel happy about that. I realize these things because I talk with others, too.

I don’t have much ‘good’ friends, but I have many acquaintances and people I talk with from time to time and it’s good to actually speak out about your work and life. Often…it’s just what you need to hear to get that spark and flow again!



Awesome refection on this article.

I guess it’s just about keeping genuine friends around you though. Or if you think they might be too nice, ask them for their opinion again… However, I’ve found that tricky on a one-to-one conversation, because my questions might cloud their own instincts…

Asking a bunch of honest and culturally/personality/artistically divided friends at once might be the best social mirror!



Excellent post, Chris. Lately, I’ve realized that I’ve been an introverted person for many years and have very few friends. The only ones I talk to daily are two people, one from Portland ( west coast ) and the other in Vermont who’s deaf whom I text time to time. Both are not artists in the professional sense of the word but they’re familiar with the comics/gaming industry.

However, since I’m deaf and living in a small town, it gets to be very challenging to get a fresh perspective from someone and talk to daily. I won’t get into details why I’m living in this town due to circumstances out of my control several years back and a long story to explain. And being an illustrator, I’ve had to focus on what was important to me and take up fencing classes, just to get out of my apartment without going crazy and also to branch out into something I’ve wanted to learn besides karate years ago.

But your post does raise relevant points about having a ‘social mirror’ which is extremely important or else, we would all be lost like rudderless ships, or spacecraft without the warp engines.

I think your post reflects on the need to socialize with the right people and VT recently had its first comic con this past weekend. Unfortunately, I couldn’t afford to go and didn’t know anyone well enough to go with, and despite the fact the convention asked me to buy an artist booth. I was excited but had to decline for professional/personal reasons since I have’nt been to cons in almost ten years.

I used to have a gaming group but that died out and the kind of people living in this sleepy town are. . .academic and family oriented types. But, however, I am fortunate that I have another friend who’s a graphic designer living in DC who was my former comics editor in the Indie press ten years ago. I do borrow his eyes once in a while.

The other friend I talk to in VT is deaf so I don’t confer with him on my projects since he’s not in the field and teaches sign language in college. The deaf community itself is too small and fragmented, and frankly, I don’t use sign language, relying on reading lips because I was raised and taught in an audist environment.

I think the challenge is in having the right network to get support and good feedback, and I try to drive up north to the bigger city which is an hour away and has a larger arts scene whenever they have an event in galleries ( which is usually once a month ). And it’s weird that when I lived in Cleveland where I’m from originally, it was not much of an issue since I know my hometown well enough to get around. I know we all have complicated lives but it’s not an easy fix and a matter of adjusting.


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