Posts filed under Letter

Art Advice from Joe Madureira

My friend Brett (of Dust Bunny Comic fame) reposted this, and I thought I would as well.

From Joe Madureira as originally posted at this link on Facebook. It's long, but well worth the read.

*Art Advice*

Joe M.

Joe M.

Do you really want to be an artist? Or a successful working professional?

Believe it or not there is a difference. I’m not usually a soapbox type guy, I don’t like instructing people, and I think I’m a terrible teacher. But hey, it’s Friday and I’m in a strange mood. So here goes:

I’ve noticed that a good number of my fans happen to be aspiring artists themselves. This is for all you guys. I get asked constantly: “Where should I go to school?” “What classes should I take?” “What should I study for anatomy?” “What pencils and paper do you use?” “Should I be working digitally now instead of traditionally?” “How do I fix my poses? Learn composition? Perspective?” “When am I going to develop my own style?” “Who were your influences?” “Teach me how to draw hands!” The list goes on…
Here’s the deal. All of that stuff *is* important, and it may nudge you in the right direction. A lot of it you will discover for yourself. What works best for one person doesn’t work for another. That’s the beauty of art. It’s personal. It’s discovery. DON’T WORRY ABOUT ALL THAT CRAP!

Instead I’m going to answer the questions that you *SHOULD* be asking, but aren’t. These are things that have only recently occurred to me, after doing this for 20+ years. These things seem so obvious, but apparently they elude a lot of people, because I am surprised at how many ridiculously talented artists are ‘failing’ professionally. Or just unhappy. The beauty of what I’m about to tell you is that it doesn’t matter what field you’re in or what your art style is.

In no particular order:

1) Do what you love. If you are passionate about what you’re doing, it shows. If you’re having fun, it shows. If you’re bored, IT SHOWS. Some guys are able to work on stuff they have zero interest in, and still pull off great work, but I find that when I do this my motivation takes a huge hit. And Motivation is key. Money is not a great motivator. It’s temporary like everything else. And honestly, I’ve gotten paid the most money for some of the shittiest work I have ever done. That may sound awesome, but it’s not. And here’s why…

2) You MUST stay Excited and Motivated. Have you noticed that there are days you can’t draw a god damned thing? And some days you feel like you can draw anything? It’s 4am but you don’t notice because you are in the ZONE. Your hand is racing ahead of your mind and you can do no wrong?! Maybe it’s some new paper you got. Or a new program you’ve been wanting to try out. Or you just found some amazing shit on DeviantArt, or watched some movie that just makes you want to run straight to your board. This relates to the above because while it is possible to involve yourself in projects you aren’t excited about—maybe you need the cash, or think it will look good on your resume, whatever it is—it’s not going to last. You need to stay fresh. Expose yourself to new things. New techniques. You should be getting tired of your own shit on a fairly regular basis. Otherwise other people will.

3) Check your Ego. If you think you’re the shit, you’re already doomed. You may be really, really good at what you do, but there’s someone better. Sorry. There’s always plenty to learn, even for us old dogs. So when I meet young upstarts who have this sense of entitlement, or a know-it-all attitude, I just have to laugh. Some of the biggest egos I’ve ever witnessed were from people who have accomplished the least. Meanwhile, most guys who are supremely talented AND successful, and have EARNED the RIGHT to have an ego and throw their weight around, don’t. Why is that? It’s because…

4) Relationships are important. This may be one of the biggest lessons I’ve had to learn. Early on, I didn’t value my relationships with people. Creatively or otherwise. I felt like I didn’t need anyone’s help and I could figure everything out on my own. Let’s face it, many of us become artists because we are reclusive, social misfits. We’d rather stay inside and draw shit than go outside and play. We like to live inside our own minds. Why not?! It’s awesome in there! And sometimes we don’t want to let other people in. But like I said—you can’t do it alone. I can honestly say that as much as I try to stay current, as much as I try to push my work and draw kick ass shit that will excite people, I would not be where I am today if it weren’t for all the other people I’ve met and learned from along the way. Guys who pulled strings for me. Took risks on me. Believed I was the right guy for the job. You need to manage your relationships. You need to network, and meet people. Drawing comics is still a pretty good place for reclusive types—but if you want to work in big studios—Making games, Films, animation, basically any other type of job on the planet, you’d better start making some connections. Be likeable. Be professional. That doesn’t mean be an opportunistic ladder climber. Fake people lose in the end. Be yourself, but be professional. It’s no secret that when people are hiring, our first instinct is to bring in people we know. It’s human nature. I don’t like unknowns, even if their portfolio is awesome. If we have a mutual connection, if they have great things to say about you, you’re in. If you have AMAZING artwork to show, and I call your last employer and they tell me what a pain in the ass you are to work with, you’re done. Talent and skill only get you so far. I am literally amazed at how often I meet guys that are total assholes and think they are going to get anywhere.

5) Here’s the BIG ONE. The greatest obstacle you will ever have to overcome IS YOURSELF. And the Fear that you are creating in your own head. Stay positive. Stop defeating yourself. There are artists I know that are so damn good they make me pee my pants. I look up to these mofos. I study their shit and I want to draw like them. And they are almost NEVER working on their DREAM project. And—big surprise, they aren’t happy in their job. “Why NOT?! WTF is WRONG WITH YOU?!” is usually my reaction. And the answer is almost always “The market isn’t great right now” “Other stories/games/comics like mine don’t do very well” “The shit that’s hot right now is nothing like mine, It’s just going to fail.” “I’m not sure I’m good enough.” “I need the money.” “Too Risky.” “I tried it before and failed. ” It doesn’t matter what words they use, they are afraid for one reason or another. I know. I’ve been there.
But here’s the deal. YOU NEED TO TAKE RISKS. Guess what? YOU ARE MOST LIKELY GOING TO FAIL. If you want it—REALLY want it, that won’t stop you. You will learn A LOT. My good friend Tim constantly jokes about how I jump out of planes without a parachute and worry about the landing on the way down. You may think that I’m lucky, that it’s easy for me to say because I’m already successful, that I’m in a different situation than you all are. But it’s not true. Risk is risk, no matter what level you’re at. If you’re already successful, you just take even bigger risks. But they never go away. Everything in life is Risk vs. Reward. Not just in your career. LIFE. You’d better get used to it.

I didn’t know what the hell I was doing when I got into comics. I left the #1 selling book at the time ( Uncanny X-men ) to work on Battle Chasers during a time when ‘Conan’ was about the only fantasy comic people knew. And no one was buying it. I wanted to work in games, so I started a game company. I had NO IDEA WTF I was doing. I just wanted it, really bad. We tanked. It failed. No big surprise. But the people I worked with got hired elsewhere and rehired me. I started ANOTHER game Company. We had 4 people and a dream, and some publishers wouldn’t even meet with us, because their ‘next gen console’ teams had 90+ people on them. I literally got hung up on. “Stick to handheld games, it’s smaller, maybe you can handle that…” one MAJOR publisher told us. I don’t blame them. But we didn’t let it stop us. Thank god we didn’t listen to them. Vigil was born. Darksiders happened, AND we got to make a sequel. It stands shoulder to shoulder with the best games in the industry, and the most elite and experienced game dev studios in the world. How is that possible?!!! Hardly any of us had even worked on a console game before. I’ll be honest, I was thinking we would fail the whole time. I just didn’t care. If I had to play the odds on this one, I’d bet against us.

Why am I telling you all this shit? This is not me patting myself on the back. It’s just stuff that has somehow only dawned on me recently when it’s been staring me in the face for so long. I feel like I need to wake you guys up!!! I’ve been limiting myself. I’ve gotten afraid. I’ve taken less risks. I saw my career going places I didn’t want to go. I wasn’t happy and I wasn’t excited. And I’ve realized, that all that stuff I just talked about is the reason I am where I am today. Not because I have a manga style, or I draw cool hands, or there’s energy in my drawings, or all the other things people rattle off to me. There are other guys that do all that same shit, and do it better. And amazingly, those same guys constantly tell me “Man, I wish I could do what you are doing.” “SO DO IT!!!!!” PLEASE listen to me—because I want you guys to make it. I want to look to one of you people for inspiration some day when it’s 2am and I need to keep drawing. Stop worrying about all the other stuff—the pencils, the paper, the anatomy, all that shit. It will only get you so far. You’ve already got most of what you need. I hope this helps some people. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for all the support over the years. You are all one of the greatest motivating forces in my life and my career. Sappy but true. Ok, let’s go draw some shit!!!

Posted on April 28, 2013 and filed under Letter, Creativity, Literature, Moments.

Damaged goods...

For some reason I decided to watch the documentary Marwencol (1) last night. 

I was ready to turn it off once it got bad, but it has this element about it that you just have to keep watching, as bizarre as it appears at first, you just keep watching.

The documentary is about Mark Hogancamp and his particular method of rehabilitation after being nearly beat to death outside of a bar one night. He was in a coma for nine days and lost the ability to pretty much do anything along with all his memories of who he used to be.

The big oddity, of course, being that he creates a fantasy world of dolls set in WWII Belgium, and he uses all of it to create and document stories that in turn help him process his life.

But as I'm watching I just get more entangled in this fascination in his struggle - maybe it's because the metaphor is different than I'm used, but he has the universal struggle of Everyman - brokenness and wanting to find the cure, if such a thing exists, and in some part, accepting that brokenness as part of one's own uniqueness.

I couldn't help but think more about my own brokenness; more about why it is that some people's presence makes me feel utterly exposed and why I even care about being exposed. I kept thinking about this line I heard concerning a movie or book; some story: "We accept the love we think we deserve." (2)

We accept the love we think we deserve

I think we're all like this Mark Hogancamp guy; once we've gotten to the still and quiet, in the great darkness of an extant existence, of being separate from each, really separate.

My verse writing professor once said in class:

If you're walking and holding hands with someone and you think - Hey, maybe he, or she, isn't thinking what I'm thinking - then maybe you might be ready for a relationship...

And so here we are, weird, like this Mark guy, broken, like this Mark guy, and hoping, just like this Mark guy, that maybe, maybe we can find our place in this universe that doesn't make a whole lot of sense and where more often than not, we aren't the dashing and valiant princes or the beautiful princesses worthy of rescue and love.

There's probably some theistic ponderings I could make here; but I think the Beauty of God is that you have moments, and one shouldn't rush to find the explanation. There's time for that. And even if there isn't, that's okay, too. Take your moment, while you can... 

The saddest part of a moment is your awareness of if, because that's the beginning of the end of it...

My old verse writing professor again...

Wherever it is that you are, I hope you can make it one more day to see the sunrise.

I hope I can make it, too.

Now I'm going to go and listen to Christmas music. Ben Rector's Auld Lang Syne is about to be on repeat.

  1. Information on these websites: http://www.marwencol.com/ and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marwencol
  2. I looked it up, it's from "The Perks of Being a Wallflower", a novel by Stephen Chomsky, the quote is from page 27, as annotated here: http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/The_Perks_of_Being_a_Wallflower

Posted on November 27, 2012 and filed under Moments, Letter.

Thinking of what's next

I went to lunch today, was going to meet with a pastor friend, and when I get to the restaurant table he says, "What's up, bitch?"

It totally made me laugh.

That's how I know I'm meeting with the right person. We talked about Star Wars being purchased by Disney, his church, the election, Tim Keller, and a little bit about what it means to be an "atypical" Church-goer or Christian.

The most poignant dialogue was:

He's just trying to figure out how Christianity plays out in his life.
Aren't we all just trying to figure out how Christianity plays out in our lives? In how God has uniquely made each of us?
R6L new 1012_Nov-102.jpg

Now if you don't know me, then by "God" and "Christianity" I'm referring to a mode of providing language to what I perceive. We all have a worldview, both influenced and structured by external and internal forces. Everyone has a belief system, even if it's atheism, Buddhism, agnosticism, or don't-care-ism. And, to a degree, there is absolutely choice in that. But I repeat the above dialogue to mean, simply, that aren't we all trying to work out what it means to exist? To live? To love? To dream?

You know, I tried to be a typical Church-goer, it just didn't work out for me. There were lovely people at my last Church, but the people politics of being correct, in the end, drove a wedge where I don't think I could go back and be a good, docile pew-sitter. Granted, it was, and never is, a one-sided affair; I could have spoken up more, I could have tried a different approach, I could have done a million things. But like many relationships, the season changes and the wind blows you elsewhere. Does that mean there is no reconciliation? Because people shouldn't necessarily be treated analogous to culinary preference as at a local diner. It's not the same as having roast beef for lunch every day for years and then deciding you've had enough. People relationships aren't like that. Marriages and divorces and emotional relationships, they aren't like that.

The politics of the building with the name I no longer sought to war with, is all.

I just want to be with people who are fucking real. I don't care if you're gay, left wing, right wing, lonely, fulfilled, skinny, fat, black, white, hispanic, martian, from the future, whether you do cosplay, or listen to emo music --- whatever. Just be the most honest version of you, and when you aren't, fess up. But just because we're honest with each other doesn't mean we're going to be best friends or never have any conflict. AND THAT'S OKAY. Let's be free of trying to people-please as if trying to earn acceptance.

I guess that's what I'm getting at when I talk about being atypical. I'm old (relatively speaking). I'm tired of fluff. I don't want the platitudes, or formalities, I just want to tell the truth and be told the truth. Not in a way that we wield the truth like it's our weapon of manipulation; I've seen people hide behind "the truth" and stab away at each other all the while claiming, "I'm just being honest." 

In every instance it was always a case of insecurities trying to be covered by lashing out at another. Instead of hiding behind someone else's truth, just tell the truth about yourself.

Here, I'll go first: I'm needy, socially awkward, broken, sad sometimes, sometimes desperate for intimacy, funny, serious, not serious, wise, foolish, a total douche-nozzle, surprisingly likeable, persistent, well-intentioned, surprisingly polite, callous, hard-hearted, insensitive, puerile, immature, clingy, uncaring, distant... I guess I could keep going on, but I imagine you get the gist of it. 

I pretty much suck at life - but I'm beginning to be okay with that. And moving on. I mean, that's my playground, and you're welcome to play there, but that's the kind of playground it is.

But with all that, I guess I'm just thinking about what comes next. Maybe nothing. Maybe something. Maybe everything. Trying to figure out how my belief and world view - how it all works out with how I am - well, how I am just me - and how dreams, love, and life play out in it all...

Posted on November 13, 2012 and filed under Religion, Moments, Letter.

Looking out the window

Transient

Sometimes it's like these moments come at you like rain drops in a storm. And no matter how hard to you try to focus and stay on one drop, a thousand more fill your vision and the moment has begun to pass.

And so I get that - I get that all this - all this that is - just keeps going; like you're on a train that never stops. Sometimes you can stare at the countryside as if it's so still, and sometimes when the trees are so close they touch the train, they just move by too fast to consider.

I thought about calling you. But then I know you are good, and the more I think about you, the more I wonder if you're real, if you ever were to begin with.

I sat and ate lunch at a deli near the house. I just stared out the window. One of the workers tried to make small talk. I just smiled and nodded, then would turn to look back and out the window again. I just stared; out beyond the nameless whatever in front of me. I don't know if I was looking into the future, into myself, or trying to see what could possibly exist beyond the horizon; I just looked out. I don't remember if I saw anything.

You won't ever read this, or know about this, but you were, and sometimes are, a faint fragrance of a better moment. When the wind blows that aroma near and I taste it, just for that second, it's like looking across a grand canyon and seeing home and having a rush of familial memories... And just as it occurred so it happens I am jolted back into my current circumstances by some item, some receipt in my hand, some click of a shoe heel on tiled floor, and just like that you vanish like a campfire ghost. And there I am, again, in the deli, looking out into the somethingness of the nothingness.

I am just - absolutely - just sitting,
in that deli,
near my house,
staring out.
Posted on September 13, 2012 and filed under Moments, Letter.