-By Dan Luvisi

Got your attention? That’s a new painting I just finished for my book Popped Culture. See more at my BLOG.

Now, let’s talk.

I want to talk about a touchy subject: Egos and Insecurities.

Before I begin, this doesn’t apply to everyone, so please, don’t feel as if I’m calling you all out. What I’m writing about  a situation I once went through, and how I managed to control it before it took me down the dark path.

Before I go any further, I’m going to be as honest as possible, and try to use candor to my benefit. It’s something I tend to hold back on, in fear of insulting or hurting someone, but I feel things are required to be said for me to get my point across. I, in no way, am insulting or trying to hurt anyone, but just needed to place that forewarning.

I try to be as confident as I can, but hell, I’m an artist–let’s be real: I have my shelves of insecurities. One of them, is being self-conscious about what others think of my work. I was raised by a very stubborn father, who was too once an artist, and in doing so–was my harshest critic. Time after time I would try to impress him, hoping to make each piece better than the last.

When LMS: Killbook of a Bounty Hunter was announced as a book and film, finally, my dad gave me that warm congratulations I had been dying for. But then, I got the same judgement by others. I began hearing some nasty things talked behind my back how I got to where I am. Not in particular about the project (sure, some don’t like it, and rightfully so!), but saying I didn’t have to go through any struggle to receive it.

I was twenty-three when the book publication and film deal went through. Something I never, ever, expected to happen. But it did, and for that, I was rewarded. Friends began claiming behind my back that I didn’t deserve it. I never understood where it came from, and began questioning if it wasn’t the book that sold it, or just luck.

Then I began to hear it being talked about by artists I truly looked up to. Some that I had been fans of for years, and honestly, it kinda crushed me. I didn’t create a project so I could be high and mighty, I created one because I was inspired by hundreds of artists throughout the years that were doing something I could only dream of. The George Lucas’, Todd McFarlane’s, and the Mike Mignolia’s of the world.

I would vent to some friends about how it bothered me, and one day approached my now current girlfriend about said topic, asking if I was over-thinking it. She explained, in the most sincere and honest of forms, that:

“People know you for the success of LMS, but not the journey you had to go through to get there. No one ever will, but yourself. All you can do is continue to create, and build from where you started.”

That’s when it began to click. No one would be able to witness it, par a few friends who were by my side during those days. But when I heard that, it made a lot more sense.

Let’s jump back to when I was a young sprout. I had just discovered ConceptArt.Org, and I fell in love with an artist’s work. His name was Marko Djurdjevic, and I’m sure you’ve all heard of him.

He had such a dynamic and fluid style that caught my attention. I wanted to be at that level and work on the projects he was on–but truth be told, I wasn’t ready. So I bought his DVD tutorial, and tried to take it all in—but again, it just wasn’t clicking.

I grew jealous. How is he at that level? Why do so many people enjoy his work? Why can’t I be like that? 

Marko, if you’re out there, man I wanted to be you. To this day, you’re an inspiration to me, but at the same time, I had to fight back the insecure-venom inside from taking over and ruining your image.

Soon I found myself not enjoying his work anymore. I wouldn’t publicly trash-talk, but in my head I found myself disliking his work more and more. (Before we go any further, there was nothing even wrong with his work. Hell, he was getting even better with each progressive new piece!)

But that was it: I was jealous of his evolving talent, something I couldn’t get a grasp on. So eventually I moved aside from it, allowing it to be what it was. I took some time to myself, and then one day, met yet another german, who was named Stephan. Stephan, would one day not only become my business partner to this day, but also my mentor.

Even though he never said it through these words, he taught me not to be jealous of others, but to use it as inspiration. I began to appreciate Marko’s work again, re-falling in love with everything he had done. Studying his forms and shapes. That’s where I discovered how to separate myself from being jealous, and instead allowed myself to absorb.

I had come to realize that Ego now meant competing with myself. I would no longer look at any other artist as competition, but inspiration. I would gather what I could from them, learning from each and every one of these creators. I would read books from people that inspired me, and then read books from people that inspired them.

Now I look at success for others as a blessing. Even if I barely know the person, and I see they achieved something of success in their career, I have to commend them. The journey to success is hard and challenging, and not many will be there to hold your hand on it.

Thank you Marko for teaching me without even knowing me, and I hope all of you new comers don’t go down the path that I see far too many artist going down. This business is so tiny, and we should be helping and looking out for each other as artists, to allow new artists a way to grow.