Hello everyone! I have some exciting news. For the past four months, I’ve been in art school. It’s been an exciting journey so far, and I hope that you think so too. Let me tell you about it
(Above: Me with my classmates and one of our professors. I'm in the hoodie at the far right)
I’m sure that most of you know I was the subject of some significant criticism from the fandom at the beginning of last year. This made me think long and hard about what I should do. I knew that I needed to make big changes in my life. How could I move forward? How could I grow - as a person, and as an artist?
After several weeks of thorough contemplation, I hit upon the idea of going back to school. I’d been completely self-taught in art up to that point, and so I decided to find the best place that I could learn more about anatomy, gesture drawing, figure construction, and digital painting. After a great deal of research, I settled on a small art conservatory in Los Angeles, California, which offers a 3 year course.
Completing the program would require me to move all the way across the USA. I’d be thousands of miles away from my friends and family. “Is this the right step?” I wondered anxiously, even as I prepared my application. “Will I be good enough? Will I be able to keep up with the other students? Can I make a fresh start?
I took the plunge, submitting a portfolio of 10 sketches and drawings to the school. I fully expected my application to be rejected - after all, I’ve always been a cartoonist, not an Artist with a capital “A.” Imagine my surprise when, a few weeks later, I found out that I was in! Months of preparation followed, but soon enough, I was on a plane to Los Angeles. My fears grew even stronger. This was crazy - moving to a new city, starting a new life. I felt like I was stepping out of the dark into the complete unknown.
I soon settled in with my new roommate and met the members of my incoming class - to my relief, I loved them all. Every one of them surpassed me in artistic ability, but I was determined to do my best and work hard to improve. I soon found just how difficult that would be - Staying up until 4 am to finish homework was an all-too-frequent occurrence. I drew more than I had ever drawn before. As an example, in life drawing class we drew over 500 charcoal sketches from a live model. I also learned a great deal about shading in “light and form” class, where we drew a dozen or so highly rendered graphite drawings. We also spent the whole quarter making an anatomy reference sculpture in another class. And those are only 3 of the 6 classes I took!
At every step, my mind was challenged as far as it would go. Fortunately, my wonderful classmates and incredibly gifted teachers were always there to help me when I had difficulty. It’s only thanks to them that I made it through the first quarter of this training.
I completed the quarter with a last, valiant effort, not without difficulty. “Is this even worth it,” my mind kept telling me. “You’ll never improve your drawing ability.” I’m sure many of you have experienced these discouraging thoughts. It takes a lot of effort to overcome your fear and move forward anyway.
It was actually not until the winter break that I was able to see the fruits of my labor, because at the advice of one of my teachers, I refrained from creating fan art for the first quarter of school (for those of you who commented asking why I wasn’t posting last fall, this is why). I set myself a goal of creating 5 new MLP designs, and to my astonishment, I was able to create 7 in just two weeks. Coming back to drawing ponies was incredibly surreal - it felt like I was drawing and inking in slow motion. For example, this Fluttershy design only took me about 7 hours from start to finish (blindingly fast in comparison to my previous 20 or so hours per piece of finished artwork). It’s also instructive to compare this piece to earlier drawings I had made - the handling of shading, composition, color, etc. is vastly improved.
As I mentioned, I had so many fears and so much negative thinking before starting this art school journey. Finding out just how much my skills had grown in just three months was a huge confidence boost, as was making so many friends at the school. In addition, one of the biggest changes was a simple commitment to mental discipline. I’ve taken up daily meditation - it’s incredible how much difference just a few minutes of quiet contemplation can make. Meditating helped me see the fears for what they are - my own mind trying to sabotage my artistic journey. I am good enough. I can keep up with the other students. I can make a fresh start.
For those of you who struggle with the same mental resistance that I do (and if you’re an artist, you know EXACTLY what I’m talking about), let me recommend you a few good books that can help.
The War of Art: Winning the Inner Creative Battle
Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Art Making
And for those of you interested in trying meditation, let me recommend the following resources:
The Honest Guys Youtube Channel
Wherever You Go, There You Are (Book)
As most of my recent artistic efforts have been put toward my assignments, you’ll see me post a number of non-pony pieces in the near future - I can’t wait to show you the exciting artwork I’ve produced!
It’s been a challenging journey so far, and I know that it won’t get easier - my classes and assignments are only going to get more demanding from here. But this, I feel, is exactly where I need to be right now. I’m growing as both an artist, and as a person. I still have a long way to go, but at least I’ve made a start.