Hey all. I've found, through the years, that I have a part of me that likes to teach. A big part of that desire is because I have been taught by some great artists. Glen Keane, Mark Henn, Tony Bancroft (my brother), Rob Corley (my buisness partner/buddy), and so many more have guided me or given me input that has shaped me as an artist. They gave to me, and continue to give to me as do many other artist friends directly or indirectly do every day! I "fed" part of that teaching desire by producing the "how to" book I wrote on character design, "Creating Characters with Personality". It was my answer to becoming a teacher and teaching a class. Well, the other thing I've found I like to do is "preach". I'm not saying preach about my religious faith (this isn't the forum for that anyway) but about life as an artist. The psycholgical side of why we do what we do, not HOW we do it. So, this journal is gonna be a bit "preachy". And from time to time, I may do it again. I have opinions about our artisitic pursuits and the adventure of getting where we want to go as artists.
Every new year I get nostalgic. I think of where I've been and where I'm going in the next year. It's because I'm a goal maker. Not in all parts of my life, but specifically in one area: my career. It started ever since I started drawing. I was in elementary school and drew a drawing of a squirrel. The kids around me went nuts, saying how much it looked like the picture I was looking at. And some of them were cute girls. That was it, I was gonna be an artist from that point on! Then I turned and saw my twin brother's drawing: and it was good. Other's thought it was good too. And from that day forward we were in compitition! My relationship with my brother Tony made me not only competitive with him but ALL artists for many years. It started out as a "positive" competition, meaning that we both 'grew' from the experience. We would look at each others work and give suggestions on how they could be better, that was positive, artisitcally at least. But it soon became a "negative" competition because we stopped pointing out the things we liked about the drawing. Only the bad parts. Part of it was because we were brothers. We had a "shorthand" between each other that siblings have. You don't NEED to say nice things, it's just understood that most of the drawing works. It soon became (by the end of high school and into the beginning of college) that the greatest compliment we would give to each other's work was no comment at all. That meant it was good. This came to a head when we were at CalArts together. We finally talked about it and worked it out. We also decided to be a bit more "individual" with our art and not work together any more. (We used to do comic strips for the high school paper, and he'd pencil and I'd ink or visa versa.) Seperating actually became a positive but the compitiion didn't go away right away. We were very competitive for the first few years at Disney too. Going different directions helped that. Even if it was in small ways. On LION KING, Tony animated Pumbaa and I animated Young Simba. It helped that we weren't doing the same character. (The picture before that, Aladdin, we both animated Iago, which made us very competitive!) That was at least a little less competititve. We even got the opportunity to work "apart but together" when we did the sequence where Pumbaa and Timon first meet Young Simba in the desert. Remember, they wake him up by splashing water on him and try to cheer him up, then go into "Hakuna Matata"? That was me and Tony doing our characters seperately, but interacting with each other. A positive experience.
I got off on a tangent there, but the point was this competitiveness became a part of my career. It evolved into me becoming a goal maker- setting goals for myself (or dealines) of what I wanted to accomplish that year/day/month. Some of that is good. Artists need deadlines to get anything done. I found I had to overcommit myself (I'd pay for the table at a comic con 6 months ahead so I knew I had to have that comic done by then!) to create a "drive" in me to get something done. I even got to the point that if I had too comfortable of a deadline, I'd waste time because I needed that "crunch" to really "feel creative". With maturity and experience, I've gotten better at balancing deadlines, pressure, and the addiction of stress. But, I still need a deadline to get anything done.
One positive thing I started doing a couple years ago is I make a "career timecapsule". Every year, just after New Years, when I'm taking down the Christmas decorations, I put a note in the box with the decorations. The note has all the work projects and things that I'm working on right then or look like might happen within the next little while. This is my little "time capsule" for my career. Then, next year, when it comes time to take out that box and decorate for Christmas , I discover that little note and read it. Funny thing? Most of the time, nothing I thought was going to happen- no matter how sure fire it looked at the time- actuall happens! My past year usual included/became all about things I never even thought of before that year. People or clients I hadn't even met. Opportunities that just popped up. Usually, I didn't miss much on what I thought was going to happen and the things that did happen ended up being just as good or better opportunities!
So, what's the point? From my "career time capsules" I've learned that all my drive and goalmaking doesn't always amount to what I think it will. Things happen. (I'm a Christian, so I have my own faith worldview of WHY things happen, but I'll leave it at that.) We can plan where we want to be by the end of 2010, but anything may happen- and probably will. I guess the point is: roll with it. Sometimes, not working on the comic book tonight (when I have it scheduled because it's due in a week) and just being with my wife to watch a cheezy chic flick, is the best thing to do. Sometimes, not watching that stupid movie for the fifth time and telling your friends you want to draw tonight, is good. (That's for the people that aren't drawing enough!) I may not be explaining this well (and way too long) but we all need to find that near impossible "line" that we walk on with our artistic drive and our real lives. That's the point. Make goals, make deadlines, work hard, but don't make it everything. Friends, loves, and family are more important than any drawing/painting/etc.
(I have anohter story about how I learned the importance of family vs. art too, but that's another long story).
I hope this helps. God bless, Tom
Listening to: Back to 80s and Pandara
Watching: "You've got mail" with the kids
Playing: on the computer
Eating: Leftovers (love you babe)
Drinking: Hot tea and coffee