I apologize, another lengthy read. But for those that did on the last article, my hats go off to you. Thank you for the support and good words.
I pulled yet another quote from a social media giant, as once again, it’s something that hasn’t quite left my system yet.
I woke up the other day and read a status on a newsfeed from someone who had been following my work, and was also a fellow artist–who for now, out of respect, I will leave unnamed.
The post was announcing the death of the artist. After reading, I scrolled down and went back to that last post he had written, which (paraphrased) read:
I have just been told by the doctors that my medicine can no longer help fight my cancer. I was given about three months left to live. I don’t want to live those next three months in sadness, but rather looking back at what I’ve accomplished. I can’t sit here and feel bad for myself, but what I can do is try to admire what I’ve accomplished in my life.
Why is this guy such an inspiration?
Regardless of the pending death he was facing, he did not grieve, but instead took a moment to realize what he has achieved through life up to this date. After reading the message, I thought for an hour or so about something you should never think alone about: Death.
Death frightens me. It’s an incredibly daunting thought whenever you think too seriously about the topic. With a pending timeline, we all hope to live lavish and long lives, filled with memories of loved ones, moments and special occasions. As the thought grew stronger, no longer were my problems problems anymore. My anxiety that I usually had waking up (mostly minuscule things I had to get done that said day) seemed to have ebbed from my stomach and mind, and all All I could think about was the future, and how unpredictable it can be.
What struck me through his post was how he mentioned looking back at what he’s accomplished. Feeling satisfied with what he’s done as not only a person, but as an artist as well. It’s a lesson I try to remind myself every time I can, that I’m not here just to live my life out until I pass. I wish to leave behind something, whether it’s one project, or multiple. I want to be responsible for something large, I want to create something never been done before. These are goals I strive for, so when I do one day pass, I can hopefully inspire others like many artists have inspired me to this day.
Unfortunately, it’s all talk when you think about it. And if you’re reading this–you’re more than likely an artist–and as well know in this business: talk is cheap. You can talk for days, but actually following through with it is what builds character, drive, and most importantly, gut.
This is a topic I’ve currently been tackling with a project that I am developing right now with several others. We were struggling to find a theme for said project, and I suggested the idea of work hard/play hard. Inspired (not in the best of ways) by the younger generation, where self-entitlement comes with a desire for everything to be given to them, without the struggle or drive it requires to achieve it own.
I see that a lot now a days, most of the time, not even related to art, but just in every day life. I see artists asking if a brush will make them better at painting, or wondering how they get to a stage of a 20 year artist, without following through with more than a couple years of painting. Working hard and leaving a mark has unfortunately been overshadowed by quick-responses and fast reactions, mostly due to the internet and it’s almost immediate response.
If life is like that to you, then you’re missing the best part, what I like to call: The Struggle. People ask me all the time, how long does it take to make it. And I tell them this: “You gotta eat shit, before you eat lavishly.”
The Struggle is what defines you not only as a person, but as an artist or creator as well. Life throws hundreds of thousands of challenges your way, each one harder than the last. However, it’s up to you to decide whether you back down from said struggle, or you face it head on. And while I write this, this article is directed towards that of an artist, it can be applied generally to anyone, in any field.
The reason I wrote this article is to ask you, What Do You Bleed For? What is your end goal? Is it a successful life an as artist? Do you want to own your own company or studio one day? Perhaps make a book, video-game or toys? Do you want to work for 343, Pixar, Naughty Dog, Blizzard or do you wish to make your own Production/Development House? Do you want to be a writer? A director? A doctor? A lawyer? A chef? The list goes on and on…
If you’re reading this, you live in an era where anything is possible for those that desire it. Not everyone is gifted with a life of possibilities, but I’ve seen and read about many, who began with absolutely nothing, to one day carve histories and build empires.
Now a days, (most) people enjoy being comfortable. Feeling safe is a universal desire, but also a content one–and rightfully so, who wouldn’t want that, especially in today’s economy? Growing up as a child, my family was incredibly safe. My father was pulling in more than we knew what to do with it, and the idea of being unfortunate or poor was something that I had never experienced.
But then one day, it was all lost. I don’t need to get into how it was lost, but the matter of the fact was: playtime for our family was over. The words Stress, Fear, and Anxiety became a lot more definite. I saw my parents go through The Struggle, and watched how things crumbled and collapsed around them. But I also watched as they rose from that defeat and got back on their feet. I’m glad I got to witness this as a child. It humbled me and taught myself that life isn’t easy, and that the world doesn’t wait around for you to catch up.
So now I live my life under somewhat of a code, as hokey as that sounds. My father once told me:
Every day you’re not practicing your craft or working on it, someone that wants it much more is catching up with you.
You are given one chance at life, in a world of so many possibilities and opportunities for those willing to go the extra mile. I may be young, but I promise you, from the bottom of my (somewhat dark) heart, that when you find what you’re passionate for, and what you pine to work on, every day will feel better than the next.
Don’t settle, don’t relax, and don’t give in to the easy-life that can sometimes be incredibly attractive. Take every challenge and push yourself as hard as you can go, never get full, and always stay hungry.
And remember… What do you bleed for?
In the 4th before the last paragraph, I think you meant every day will feel better that the last? Either that or my brain is messed up right now.
Anyways, I love everything you post, it keeps me going 😀 Keep painting, writing, inspiring everyone, you are awesome 😉
Man you're speaking the truth about the struggle and that nothing comes easy. I'm at a point where I'm working on my craft for me mainly and trying to overcome some very tough hurdles. Even if nothing comes from my efforts professionally right now, I'll be content knowing I kept going during a point where I had nothing. At least I'm honing my self discipline. Thanks for a great and inspiring post, now I have some projects to work on.
This is wonderfully written, and timely. I just finished “A Fault in Our Stars” the other day, and it got me to thinking about this very topic. Well, as a cancer survivor myself, I always think about it, especially since my vocation is profoundly unsatisfying. The recurring theme in the book is the “fear of oblivion.” Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs was referenced, as well. The need for survival is many times not a compliment to what drives our passion. Sadly, this field is notarious for not satisfying the bottom part of that pyramid.
“What do you bleed for?” could be followed by, “How much are you willing to bleed for it?” I don't have an answer to that.
TFNN. It's an acronym for what I am working on. It's an end goal and my hope for a new beginning. So that's what gets me up at 5 every morning before my kids get up so I can work on drawing.
It's why I am drawing as much as I can or coming up with ideas in support of pushing that goal and writing them down. I know I have a good amount of “years” ahead of me and the work isn't easy. But if it was easy would it be as gratifying? So keep an eye out for TFNN a few years down the line 😉
Serious food for thought!
Oh and I can't wait for “Popped Culture” to come out! LMS is some awesome work, art is amazing!
I admire your strength, Dan. We all do what we can, and only what we can.
What you've said makes me a little tentative, though. There is a human narrative that seems to be told through all of us in society that we have to crawl and gnash our teeth to happiness, somewhere down the road- Alan Watts called it the great golden goodie, referencing the teachings of almost every religion throughout history, since we became the first animals to realize we would die.
The fact is, however, that not everyone will reach what they define as their own golden goodie. The thing they worked and slaved over so hard for. The one they spent years not enjoying life for the promise of finally enjoying it when all of their hard work paid off in the end. Most will never reach the golden goodie they've defined for themselves. What they would bleed for- most will bleed and not get it. Especially if the goal is major success in this industry. And maybe they didn't bleed hard enough- that sucks even more.
I'm happy for those who defined their golden goodie and had the resources and strength to get it, and now enjoy their lives every day (until they lose it, and they're back to living what think is a meaningless life). My ideal world would be one in which each person understands the beauty in every single day of their lives, instead of bleeding and suffering for a goal in the future at the cost of enjoying the life they are living right now. I hope you enjoy what you do, sincerely.
Good luck on all of your projects, and good luck in seeing the incredible nature of everyday life, which I think would ultimately bring you more peace than any project ever could, as well as helping you enjoy the (seemingly) mundane parts of the projects we do embark on. When you're really present and paying attention, it's amazing what's right in front of us.
And sick paintings as usual.
Pretty potent stuff. It's great that people can find this sort of drive.
Very interesting article to read. The story about the late artist in the beginning reminded me of another artist, a girl on DeviantArt, who also fought with cancer. But at the time she started having pains and was told her diagnosis, she was also told she couldn't be cured and she had no more than a few weeks to live, just out of the blue sky. She wrote journals on DA (http://whisperwings.deviantart.com/) and her blog about her condition. She wasn't depressed, but very positive, grateful for everything and generally awesome. Reading about what happened to her and how strong she was made me cry, though I didn't know her. She indeed passed several weeks after, but even if she was a stranger to me, I still think of her from time to time, feeling inspired and hoping to have half her strength in life. This might be something unrelated to this article, but her story is worth sharing.
And yes, I agree, we should all struggle and be happy about the tiniest achievements. We should make the way to our goal fun, too 🙂
This is something I think about a lot. There are days when I work really hard and forgo relaxation and socializing for working on my art. But there are also days when I don't – a good friend has a birthday party, family is in town, etc. You talked about death – I think it's still important to consider that we could die at any moment. Not consider this all the time, because then you'd become depressed and never do anything – but to remember that sometimes, it's more important to create a memory with loved ones than it is to spend 3 hours alone with a painting. And those memories can contribute a lot to your art as well.
As with everything in life, it's a balancing act – finding enough time to do the work, as well as maintain your health, your relationships and the non-art parts of your life that give your life meaning. I think it would be hard to make beautiful art if you didn't enjoy your life.
My respect to the artist you are speaking about and to you.
Thank you for this wonderful article. The last four paragraphs really resonated with me, today in particular. I now have something to recite every morning and when i'm feeling defeated.
Great words as always. Lets all accept The Struggle.