Thursday, May 16, 2013

A rant about my personal obstacles

(This is very long-winded and self-indulgent - sorry!)

The PPP deadline isn't too far away, and I'm very aware that I probably haven't been doing as much as I should in this module - investigating ways to engage with the industries I'd like to work in, gaining experience, taking part in competitions, networking and developing skills. I feel like it'd probably be best to just be honest and up-front about this, as it might be easier to face my worries if I express them publicly on this blog so I can work things out and develop from there.

As an aspiring artist I find the internet pretty scary - the vast number of extremely experienced and talented writers, designers, game developers, illustrators etc. can all be great sources of knowledge and inspiration, but they can also seem to be at a level of skill and talent that seems way beyond my capabilities. I often feel like a very small fish in a giant ocean of thousands of other artists, and I feel like most of them seem to simply be better -not necessarily in a skill sense as I know that comes from practice and learning techniques, but in the sense that they seem to have more interesting things to say, or are more skilled at finding opportunities and using their time productively and wisely.

Whilst some budding artists find this motivating and strive continually to improve, I seem to go the opposite route, and retreat further inwards - I share less and less of my art and judge it even more harshly, and I grow increasingly frustrated at myself for being unable to reach the standards I've set for myself and for where I want to be. This causes me to feel disheartened and apathetic, even depressed - it's like an ongoing cycle.

At this rate I'm lucky to update my art blog once every few months, and even then I feel like it absolutely doesn't reflect the sort of artist and person I want to be seen as. Even my close friends and relatives hardly ever see my work, and many of my acquaintances on the likes of Facebook probably don't even know I like to draw. These self-confidence issues, I feel, are the biggest obstacles I need to overcome over the next year or so, as I know that working in the industry or as a freelancer requires you to be strong, motivated, focussed and able to take criticism.

We have been asked repeatedly over this module to think of our specialism, or ways of branding ourselves through creating business cards and portfolios, but I know I've been putting off all of these as I feel like my work should be at a higher standard - and that I should even have some to show - before I really start putting myself out there as a working practitioner. When creating portfolios you're supposed to think of your best work, but I feel all of my digital art is unfinished, rushed and poorly considered.

But I know that to get better, I need to stop idly brooding over my work and generally being very negative, and actually put more time each day into practising and growing as an artist.

We are given lots of advice on how to develop our skills, many of them I've already written about, such as engaging in forums, sending out emails etc. For many of these, my next weakness becomes painfully obvious - I'm very introverted. In fact in one lecture we were shown a presentation called "The Shy Connector - Networking for Introverts", which pinpointed many of the issues I feel with things such as networking and showcasing my work: I'm generally very uncomfortable with making small talk, and about talking about myself (even if I can ramble on forever on here), let alone about my ideas and art work and to people I don't know. The idea of attending a networking event, surrounded by strangers and being expected to talk at length, is fairly terrifying.

I also experienced this in the game project I worked on last year with the students from America - I felt out of my depth and way too nervous when it came to exchanging emails with them, and struggled with receiving negative criticism (even though they were tactful and very helpful). I sometimes even delayed in doing the work and sending it to them as I was quite anxious. Obviously I can't afford to do this in future projects as it can be detrimental to the overall workflow. This causes me to also avoid posting on blogs and forums and sharing online, as I experience similar feelings.

The presentation suggests, in terms of networking, changing your focus and to taking it away from yourself ("I need to showcase my work so that I can be recognised and popular") and towards others ("What do other people have to say, how can I help / show interest / share knowledge?"). It said to spend time blogging about your interests to attract likeminded people, and developing good general knowledge and a database of useful books/sites to share with others - this will help build relationships as you are able to understand what people need, and able to help and advise. You are not selling yourself, but helping people and learning along the way. The presentation was reassuring as I know that there are many others who experience similar issues to me, which is partially why I chose to write all this out as I feel people tend to bottle up these sorts of problems.

Starting a blog is something I have thought about, but I'm not sure on what route it would take - very informal and casual about a range of topics, or more structured and only about my progress and findings as an artist? I will probably think about this as I know I need to be more open about my art (and in general), even if I think it's rubbish, or that nobody is interested, as it's probably the best way to establish contacts and share advice, techniques and knowledge.

We're nearly onto the final year now, and although I can look back and see how much I've changed for the better over the course of this degree, I want to be able to put my best self forward when it comes to actually trying to find work so that I can avoid the anxiety I've experienced in these situations so far; I think it'd be more beneficial for me to slow down and think less about establishing myself already as a specialist practitioner, and more about just building my art skills, so that I can be relatively comfortable in my own skin by the end of this course.

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