Chris: Yeah, at dinner last night my wife and I were talking about what is the…because you know, that term hipster can have kind of a fashionable tone to it and it can also have a very negative tone to it. And we were talking about that, and we were talking about how in many ways we make very hipster choices and the fact we’re vegetarians and we try to not have plastic in our house and that kind of thing. But I guess that’s more of going into the hippy realm, but this was part of our discussion. The point being, we were talking about exclusion right, and how there’s this strange idea and so much of this being different in like a reactive way, that it’s excluding anything in your example Brian, it’s Hollywood happy endings. You’re reacting to something and then going like, well I’m not going to do that, but it’s sort of this artificial external shallow distinction. And oftentimes in avoidance of like you were all saying, disclosing the truth of who you are, and why you are here on this planet, and what you have to share with the world, and the story that you know needs to be told. And so anyway, our point being, we were talking about that, about how the most successful…and I’m not talking about finances here, I’m talking about the work…the most successful visual storytellers whether you’re an artist, or a writer, or a filmmaker, or an animator, comics creator, storybook artist, it doesn’t matter. It’s true across the board, the people who have the most success in their work are the ones who look at their work as being a thing to include the audience, connect them with each other, and help them understand themselves. It’s like…here we have another opportunity here to quote Brian in the sense the art exists to show people who they are, not to show them who you are. But really it’s to show them who we are as human beings, and so that posture of just exclusion or this posture of kind of reactive like…well I just don’t want to do that, I just want to be a rule breaker and being different in the same way, it’s just not rooted in honesty. It’s not rooted in connection, it’s rooted in disconnection.
Jenn: Yeah, any kind of major response like, I cannot enjoy this because mainstream enjoys this, or I only enjoy this – I think that’s another example of the fear we were talking about because I think it’s a lot harder to figure out what your voice is and what you like and what you don’t like and own that thing.
Chris: Yeah, it’s easier to react and it’s easier to react to the surface of things rather than try to connect on a deep level.
Jenn: Well, and to feel like when you put that opinion out there, when you follow that instinct that there’s going to be an acceptance, right?
Chris: Meaning that it’s hard to believe that?
Jenn: Uh, meaning that it’s easier to follow that formula knowing that there’s going to be a percentage of success with it and you’re going to be able to slip into a grouping of people. Because at the end of the day, like I think we all want to fit in and feel seen and feel valuable. And I think when you categorize yourself that way, you can kind of fall into a type and find your community and all that, but I think it’s much harder to do the work of like what are the contrasts in me, what are the strange little things that I love and my guilty pleasures as well as the things that I really hold on a pedestal that are things of value that everybody recognizes. There’s a huge gamut I think in all of us to things that we can appreciate but it’s really hard to hear that voice when you’re just kind of like jumping through hoops to get snausages or whatever, you know? That sounds so bleak but maybe you don’t even realize you’re doing it sometimes. Like I’ve caught myself before, somebody’s asking a question and then you’ve nodded yes before you’ve actually figured out the answer to the question is, and you have to go back and say, “I’m sorry! I just nodded yes to you, I have no idea why. This is what I actually think about that…sorry.” Just a frame lapse.
Chris: Right, yeah. Again, living in the risk, the perpetual risk, that’s intense. Big ideas, big ideas here. No surprise. I spoke with Justin Rodriguez, my good friend, brilliant character designer on the Artcast a while ago now. And we talked about the Rapunzel moment where in the moment, she finally gets out of the tower and there’s this brilliant sequence where she’s cheering, “This is the best day ever!” And then it cuts to a shot of her like face down on the ground going, “I’m a horrible person!”
Brian: That was really great, I really love that. It’s so complex. I love it.
Chris: It’s incredible and kind of an honest depiction of the creative life right and what the reality of art making can be. My question to you is, for the people who are listening to this and they’re on the floor face down, they’re kind of in that dark moment where it’s not even that they can necessarily pinpoint what the struggle is that’s overwhelming them, what the true source is kind of a fog of overwhelm. And they just kind of feel generally defeated in the kind of the creative life. What’s your advice to them?
Jenn: I think any action is going to be hard when you’re feeling that defeated of course. I think you’ve got to take care of yourself, take a walk, get some exercise, do things that make you feel good, that make you feel confident, and that’s just outside of the art sphere. But take a minute to make something for yourself, decide that you’re going to make something not for your portfolio or anything else, but just like getting back to why you like to do this in the first place before there was so much pressure on it. I think when you enjoy what you’re doing when you can relax, that’s when you make the most work and I know it sounds counter-intuitive to be able to try to relax because that is a contrast, but if you can find that you can try to really just tune out those other things and just make something for fun, I think that can really help, and it can also be a big confidence boost.
Chris: And on that note actually, this is about you good people, but I thought I’d interject something here and just say that, this is really present for me right now. And it hasn’t been so much that I’m worried about what people think or anything like that, that’s not really my reality right now. I’m not fortunately kind of not dealing with that, but what I am kind of dealing with is sort of managing my stress level…and the other day I was out painting out in plain air and someone walked by and said, “Oh, that just looks so relaxing!” And I’m like, “You have no idea how difficult this is! I’m going to get the bush in the right place! It’s not the right color of green!” It’s just like….the oils are all over the place! And yet at the same time, as difficult and as tense as I might feel when I’m plain air painting or doing charcoal outdoors, there is something healing about it, and something regenerative that isn’t the same…I don’t really have a negative relationship with creating lessons or podcasts or that kind of thing…I think sometimes I get a little stressed out because of a deadline or something, but not the work. The work doesn’t stress me out. But here it’s interesting because this work, even though it’s really tense and difficult, it is just like you’re saying Jenn, it’s not for anyone except me. I just love painting. That’s it. It’s that simple, and there’s something about that wonderful simplicity, that despite the fact that it’s incredibly difficult, it just sucks all of the stress away. It becomes just this kind of black hole of stress and anxiety and I really do leave every single…and I made some bad paintings lately…really bad.
Jenn: Put them out in the snow and hope that an act of God happens?
Chris: Yeah, half the painting session has just been kind of rushing and just getting out of the mode of hurrying up on things and just kind of trying to deal with all the stuff at once and getting out of the mode that I’m trying to get rid of…so it’s serving its purpose, this isn’t very good. But regardless, I think I’ve come away from every single painting session with a holistic sense of healing. I mean it’s been really remarkable and I’ve been doing this for a year and a half really steadily. I used to do it a lot and then I was just all digital all the time for a very long time. And I think that was a mistake quite honestly, and so to get out with real charcoal and real paint and everything and to be outside and just not have to worry about commentary, not have to worry about opinion or anything. It’s just I’m just trying to get it right, I’m just trying to get the bush in the right place, you know? It’s like, I’m just trying to do that and it’s a simple challenge, it’s just been tremendous. I think this is a deep well that I can always return to I think.
Jenn: In some ways I think about it like returning to the gym when you haven’t gone in a long time. It can be daunting because you’re associating all these like problematic things with it. But if you stick with it and you kind of give yourself up to the process of it, it will heal you.
Chris: Yeah, and a lot of it comes with a similarity though Jenn, with what you were saying which is, there’s just no performance with this.
Chris: There’s no other reason than to make a painting, and that’s it.
Brian: Well there’s also the other thing, which is to not do the work right away. Like for me, I find that I have to…it’s like having a good diet, right? I had a friend and she was a filmmaker and she watched a lot of B movies, that was her thing. But because she watched a lot of B movies, when she made movies, she couldn’t do anything else, she had a hard time. And I think you can put out what you take in, so it’s like a diet. It’s garbage in and garbage out…so what happens is, sometimes I’m like you know what, I don’t like the movies you’re making right now, I need to watch something really great. I need to watch a few things really great so I can see what’s possible and it inspires me in a way to sit down and do the work and find some satisfaction in the work. I guess find those things that inspire you, because then you don’t have to wrestle the same way. Like okay, you really should sit down and do this thing. You can make it so that you are chomping at the bit to do it, like I have to do this. I’m around a lot of illustrators all the time and I don’t draw myself. People think I do, but I don’t. But I have tons of animator friends and illustrator friends and always have, and it’s funny they’ll see something or they’ll read some comic or whatever, and all of them go, “Oh I really want to draw right now! I really want to paint right now!” And I’ve heard it so much, and they can’t wait to get to it. And I think most artists have that thing or those things that will inspire them to do that. I know I do with certain movies if I again, if I watch a Billy Wilder thing, I’m in awe. It’s a high place to aim for, but it gives me something to aim for and I can find the joy in it again that sometimes gets taken away by the realities of the business or whatever.