December 30, 2008


It usually occurs between a year and two years after a student graduates. I often get a phone call or an email from a student who is searching for a life- line. Someone to be a sounding board. It's hard to get these calls. I can tell that the student on the other end of the line is in a struggle, trying to figure out exactly where they belong in the world- if art is indeed in their future. Young artists begin searching for things that are close to what they want to do, but not exactly. I've been on the other end of those phone calls- in the early stages of my career. I remember questioning if I was good enough, what I was doing wrong, if the thing that had identified me as exceptional (my artistic abilities) my entire life was my calling, or if I was wasting my time. All of the time, I was getting positive reinforcement from shows, competitions, accolades, etc. Still, I wasn't making it, and I knew it. I fell back on my instructors from the Illustration Academy- John English, Gary Kelley, Brent Watkinson, and my mentor Robert Meganck from VCU. It takes a village to raise a child, so it is said.

Recently, I've been contacted more frequently. Considering the economic climate, it is no surprise. It is a strange feeling being on the other end of the telephone. To be the one giving advice instead of seeking it.

I often question why I teach illustration, art and image making, especially in these times.

When I get the question "Do you think I have what it takes to be an artist?", or similar, I often respond "If there is anything that I could say in this moment that would dissuade you from pursuing art as a career, then you should find something else to do with your life."

The truth is that I justify educating artists by attempting to give full disclosure, with the hopes of preparing individuals who MUST make art. I feel that I can arm them as well as anyone with current, pertinent information.

The world of the professional artist is grueling, anemic, and it will test you every moment of every day. You don't get to stop being an artist because you have chosen a different path, or a different course was set for you. I was an artist long before I was paid to make art. It isn't something that I was taught in school (although I was taught many very important lessons in school). Being an artist is in the way that you see things differently than everyone else. It is being sensitive to the nuances in life, the things that fall between the lines, and turning those things that you see, feel, hear, know, learn, into something tangible that helps other humans feel more human.

I have always looked for the mistakes that artists make. This makes me feel more human. The things that great artists have seen as beautiful errors that others would never have noticed. Recognizing beauty is easy. Appreciating flaws is hard.

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