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Do we matter? 


I'm specifically talking about "us" as designers, artists, or creative people.  Do artists matter? 


I have two personal stories that have helped me gauge and answer that question for myself.  I hope they help you too.


(SIDE NOTE:  I believe in a God and I believe that God loves me and leads my path but that I have free will and can turn from his leading and do my "own thing".  Both of these stories have a TON of "God flavoring" that would make them much longer, so know that they are there if you want to read between the lines and find them.  In short, both stories are answers to prayer.)


After 9/11 I felt worthless. Making cartoons just wasn't important in the new post 9/11 world.   Firemen, policemen, construction workers, teachers, healthcare workers, architects- really, anyone that contributes to rebuilding our world and its infrastructure, those people had important jobs to do. We needed them and we would continue to need them as we moved forward as a nation.  But cartoonists, animators, designers, filmmakers, illustrators, and entertainers?  Not really.  I realized how frivolous my job was. I contribute to shows/ books/ movies that keep kids (primarily) entertained.  Even Saturday Night Live shut down for a while.


As time passed, our nation learned to laugh again.  Saturday Night Live came back on and officially gave us permission to laugh again.  And I worked my way through where I fit in the big world I live in.   Art/telling stories were all I could do and my first priority was to use that ability to feed and clothe my family.  I got back to work doing that and soon realized that in a less direct way I was still contributing to society by taking care of my family.  Ultimately, it's the most important thing we do as citizens in our community.


But I learned one thing from that experience that I have never forgotten. That the jobs out society deems as glamorous and important, are not. The ones that really matter are the jobs that will help you survive in a world turned upside down. I remember 9/11 for many reasons but one is to make sure I never get too big of a head in where I am in my career and how important I am because of it.    I hope I never forget that.


My SECOND STORY happened recently.  Just last week I was at a high school football game (watching my daughter cheerlead more than watching the actual game), sitting next to another dad who is an architect and we started talking about art and becoming an artist.  Though we come from radically different worlds of art, we had very similar passions and complaints about clients and newer up-and-coming students of art.  We also mutually complained that art schools were broken.  They are too expensive and are not teaching students real-world knowledge and abilities that will get them jobs.  We talked about what we would say to them if we had the chance to speak at an art school.   My friend said something I had never fully considered, and mostly because I live in the world of creating characters and animation.  He comes from the world of creating THINGS.  Buildings and structures.  He sees the big picture of the world, I guess you could say.  He said, "I would tell the art students to look around the room they were sitting in.  Look at their chairs.  They're iPhones.  Even a football field.  (Which we were looking at in that moment): EVERYTHING YOU SEE WAS ORIGINALLY CREATED BY AN ARTIST.   Wow.  I took that in for the first time and really considered it.  Everything is designed in some way.  Well done or weak and rushed, it's still designed.  What a blessing that was to my life.  Was my life's work important?  Was his life's work important?  You bet.  We were part of a greater whole of artists that were defining THE PLANET!  I know that sounds corny or far-reaching but there is truth in it.    Though this happened recently, his words have been rolling around in my head ever since.  Enough so that I needed to write this down and share it with other artists.  


And, more importantly, I feel like my Maker wants me to consider both stories together.  One story shows me not to consider my art (and life) TOO important and the other shows me not to belittle that ability and take it for granted.    Artists have a place in this world and it is an important one.  We may not get the recognition we deserve all the time, but I can look around any room, house, building, any book, any THING and realize that there is a reward to it that is beyond financial. 


Lastly, I believe that we are "called" to be artists.  Artists, even the ones that do it as a hobby (creating art is not how they earn their living), have a passion in them that can't be put out even though choosing this path will lead to hard work, hard times and hardships.  Art chose us; we did not choose art.  Who would?  It's a life pursuit that is NOT celebrated financially and (usually) taken for granted.  Only other artists love your art as much as you loved creating it.  The rest of the world either scratches their heads or in a best-case scenario, say, "That's cool."  


Accept your life and your place in the world.  Celebrate the people around you that support and love you.  Be content in the frustration and passion of creating your artwork.   In my opinion, knowing that you matter is the key to happiness.    

Favorite this story if you like it and others will see it.  Thanks, Tom B.

Add a Comment:
oogie101 Featured By Owner Jun 15, 2016
Even though I'm just reading this now, this is so important to me. Thank you.
gmland Featured By Owner Sep 16, 2013  Professional Artist
Wonderfully written, Tom. As that friend that was sitting in the stands with you that day, I am honored that my thoughts moved you to write such a compelling story of faith and motivation. It is truly an honor to call you a friend and I can't thank you enough for the kind words. As a kindred spirit in the world of art and creativity, I too share the belief that our work is done of an inner desire to share that which our creator gifted us with and make the world a better place every day with those gifts. 

To all of you struggling to find your path, don't ever despair; Your path finds you. Be true to yourself and your art. The one thing I have always told kids asking me how to get into architecture is, you cannot teach someone to be creative. Creativity is in you. Harness that gift and make it uniquely yours in whatever career you choose, whether its writing books, accounting, making clothes or designing cars. When I hire someone, I don't look at their college resume, I look at their body of work. I want to see a person so driven with their craft that they INSIST I hire them. I want to see that fire in their eye of a desire to make their work be a difference in the world. A creative person always runs the meeting. The group always looks to the most creative in the room because they are the one with the ideas. Be a leader. 

If you wind up doing what you love for a living you'll never work a day in your life! Tom and I share that blessing and I hope that each one of you will some day as well.
tombancroft Featured By Owner Sep 16, 2013  Professional Filmographer
Thanks for adding these thoughts Guy.  Really inspirational.  You're my hero too!  
ElTheKing Featured By Owner Sep 15, 2013  Student Digital Artist
This is unbelievably true, and recently I have been questioning why I even do art when society looks down on people like us- creative spirits. Even my BTC teacher disapproved when I said I wanted to be an artist, according to our school art careers are useless and unnecessary when we could be engineers or academics. My parents always back me up and support me and that's truly a blessing, but everyone else scoffs and says, "An artist? What kind of farfetched useless career is that? You have more potential than that."
But this genuinely made me smile. Even though I am merely a hobbyist, I know now how much art means to me- how much I want to go down that road.
Art is something that makes us us, and I think the world without the arts is like a book with no punctuation- no pauses, no rests, no time to stop and think. 
And if anyone has read this far, thanks for hearing me out. ^-^
Rilguia Featured By Owner Sep 15, 2013  Student General Artist
Thank you so much for writing this!
 My brother always laughs at me for studying arts and wanting to work on the animator industry, he does it so much and so often, that sometimes it makes me feel so bad that I 
rethink about my life and my dream. And it's not only him, but people around me. Whenever my uncles, cousins... asks me "So, what do you want to study? what are your plans for your future?" , I always start beating about the blush.
But then I go to school and look at my notebook and I see more drawings than notes, I watch a lot of movies and I enjoy animation movies, who cares if they're for children? heck, I even get all excited when I buy a new block of blank papers!

So, I think, If we have one life, and one life only, to live as we want, why should I spend it on whatever people expects me to do? We don't have to.
 And I don't want to.

And by the way, hell yeah artists matter! how can you laugh at me (my brother) about wanting to study animation, when you watch everyday The Simpsons?

Thank you for writing this and sharing this with us. =) It really made me smile.
Nextgenify Featured By Owner Sep 13, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
This is so true, not to mention how non-artists shrug at other people's work and walk away like nothing ever happened. Not a whole lot of people realize the work artists put into everything.
Blaue-Rose Featured By Owner Sep 13, 2013  Student Digital Artist
Great story. I totally agree and love this :love:
Thanks for sharing~!!! :meow:
RaeSM Featured By Owner Sep 13, 2013
This was beautiful. o~o Thank you
Yami-noTenshi Featured By Owner Sep 13, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
I agree. In the end, even if artists aren't, like you said, 'TOO important', I couldn't imagine life without art. From music, to literature, design, anime, everything else, they are what help people go on even when things get hard. They help us laugh and smile , and in the end, are what makes life worth living.
In my case, I went through a lot of bullying for years through grade school, and what helped me most during those years, the reason why I didn't lose it, was art. Music, anime, books- the characters some people created, the world that I found outside of ours, that was what pretty much kept me going and smiling every day. Now, my life's story isn't what I wanted to gt across here, but just what importance art really had in my life.
Once again I say, I couldn't imagine a world without art.
neowkitty Featured By Owner Sep 13, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
;3; just yesterday i was pondering almost the same question... except i was thinking about earth as a whole. why do we have to survive anyway? its a very questionable thing to me but i came to a conclusion. that most probably since god made us, and our brains and how we think. could it be that we are all just characters in a bigger story? the fan-fiction that god has made to entertain himself? since he does know the future the past and every thing doesn't that make life boring? not knowing what happens next is what makes life so entertaining. so i say enjoy that chu don't know what happens next. since we have been blessed with the one thing god dosent have, ignorance.
Wakamash Featured By Owner Sep 13, 2013   General Artist
I needed this.
Thanks a lot, man. c:
Aeskhari Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
 Well written and insightful.
ForgottenAmnesty Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2013  Student Digital Artist
Thank you for sharing these stories and thoughts! I often wonder what my place is in the world, as an artist, if I am doing anything that's actually productive. Art isn't just a hobby for me, it's my life. If I'm not drawing something, I'm wanting to draw something, or drawing ideas are running around in my head. I don't think my art actually adds anything to the world though, unless I have somehow made someone happy by some drawing. My art doesn't build things and I guess I mostly draw for myself and to get what is in my head out on paper or screen. 
Wakagi-chan Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2013  Student Writer
Thank you so much for sharing your experience. As a current college student, I constantly doubt myself and what I am doing. I am constantly being bombarded by these messages that say that artists (as in the whole entire community of people in the creative sphere) are useless. And I must admit that sometimes it's hard to swallow it. But you are very right: art chose us, not the other way around. I guess I am still trying to "accept my place" it's just that sometimes I tend to forget where my place is because I do tend to force myself to do things that are more "useful". I took courses that I hated just because they were "useful"; and where did that being me? I guess nowhere; and yet I am always on the verge of making the same mistake again and again and again...

I am sure I will return to this journal in the future, for often I do need a reminder about the fact that it's OK to be myself and not anyone else. 
Rebertha Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2013

The quality of life is what matters. Our inner experience defines our universe even more than the world around us. Art is a key to enhancing our experience of self and the world, which is why we are all natural artists --- and why arts education is considered so important while at the same time horribly belittled in American culture.

 What I really want to say is --- that everyone, no matter what their profession - should inquire into the art of living and make the life itself a beautiful semi-improvised example of applying high aesthetic standards to all the different sorts of doing.

GypsyTrail Featured By Owner Sep 11, 2013  Hobbyist
Art is entirely as useful as someone practicing it chooses to make it. It can be selfish and giving, lifeless and a blessing. If you want it to be useful and to be an inspiration, work goes into it to make it better. Lazy efforts are not respected, even if they preach a message that's well received. Art is subjective yes, but if it's all about how important it is for others to receive it then you have to make it for everyone to receive it, otherwise do it for yourself and decide on if it's good enough for a specific fanbase or not and if it is, sell or give it out. If it's not good, practice and it will be good. If you can't practice or refuse to, take a break or quit. No one will regret a potential fine artsman from quiting, it just makes for less room at a well earned mountain top. Also, there's totally nothing wrong with showing off in progress pieces or some of your work that you think isn't great because chances are there are kind artist out there and even some eyeful fans who can give you advice on how to better yourself. Art's just weird like that.
DLTrevino Featured By Owner Sep 10, 2013
Awesome story, Tom!  Just before 9/11, when I was choosing between art and the Navy.   I was wondering the same thing a long time ago.  At the time and still today, I'm humbled day after day at how much I don't know.  My curiosity has taken me to places many may ever or may never go.  The Jimi Hendrixed coined experience, life.  As artists [for the lack of a better term] spend our time trying to share our experiences with everyone for whatever motivation there is for the artist.  Self expression, macro/micro improvement of ones environment [present or future], or just plain self discovery.  What is time for, except to be wasted?  It's a deep philosophical discussion that you can waste your entire life on explaining.  Words seem to be too linear to explain it.

I was wowed not too long ago when someone mentioned how all the greatest technologies and discoveries already exist in something called information space, we just have to create bridges to this place in our minds.  Take Star trek for instance.  I wasn't born yet to watched the original series in the 60's, but they had these wireless handheld communicators they used to communicate to the mother ship, in space, and to each other.  When people saw that, I bet it was one of the most under appreciated electrifying moments in man's history of communication.  An artist on a wacky sci-fi TV show, created the cell phone and inspired generations of up and coming artists.

You Sir, do matter.  Even as an animator, you are inspiring people directly [your family and friends] or indirectly [audience], to take what has been placed before you, by God or whatever you believe in, to the next level.
Darkgirlwithpassion Featured By Owner Sep 10, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
very inspiring words, thank you for sharing ur stories :)
LightstaronToontown Featured By Owner Sep 10, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
I guess you could say I'm and artist as well, but I focus in literature. Writing fanfiction and real stories for entertainment. But sometimes I ponder if authors are that important, because there are more concrete jobs - teachers, architects like you said - but most of the time I remember that all of us, all of our jobs are important. :) Thank you for writing this, I'll remember this and look back at this when I'm doubting my profession. 
JKRiki Featured By Owner Sep 10, 2013
Good stuff. It's true, if you're actively pursuing whatever you called to do, nothing you do will be "unimportant" because it is part of something much, much bigger. (The trick them becomes separating what we're called to and what we just really like to and want to be doing, ha ha.)
frederickofolympus Featured By Owner Sep 9, 2013  Professional Traditional Artist
You're not into ART or being an ARTIST because of the fame or financial stability and profitability. You're an ARTIST because that's WHO YOU ARE. Whether you do it as a hobby or actively pursuing a professional career, the fact is that no one can take it from you and it's what makes your day. It's what gets your blood flowing, your juices, everything. If extreme adventurers and outdoor people need to go skydiving, wakeboarding, climbing mountains just to get that thrill or that rush, we get that by looking at the greatest masterpiece that was created by the supreme artist. The very world that we live in, the smell of the flowers, the chirping of the birds, the gentle breeze, the morning sun energizing you and giving us all a fresh start to our day. Even us a human beings, we are a wonder in itself. How neurons, nerve endings, atoms, molecules, oxygen and all that stuff makes us function and do various tasks and we all take that for granted, simply because we need to survive, to get by. We don't need to climb mountains or go to the deepest depths of the sea to get that thrill or appreciate the beauty of nature. We are ARTISTS because we can and we fully appreciate beauty and artistry that we are able to take it and interpret it and make it into any shape or form. WE have IMAGINATION and CREATIVITY and some or most aren't blessed with these gifts.

So to end this, yes being an ARTIST can be a fruitless and egocentric quest to some but never let them demean who you are. Because what you do MATTERS, just as any other profession. You bring life and soul to a society and balance. Without art, it's all cold, bland logic. No expression, creativity and spontaneity. NEVER EVER FORGET THAT.
GlowingRadiance Featured By Owner Sep 9, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
I... Cried. Thanks for the beautiful thoughts. It's very motivational to someone like me who is still starting to become an artist. Striving hard for the best :D
painted-flamingo Featured By Owner Sep 9, 2013
This was a really great post. Coming from someone who is going into the medical field, but loves art as a hobby, I appreciate both sides of the coin. I love that through my medical career I'll get a chance to heal people, help them achieve wellness, and make a difference. Not all healing is done in a hospital bed though. We as artists may not be mending broken bones but I think art can be a powerful tool to healing. Both as an individual, say drawing to release frustration or anxiety, or as a member of a wider community creating art that in turn affects others in a positive way. Artists create movies, even animated movies, that convey messages that can promote change and bring hope and happiness to many who could use some uplifting. 
AgentSonic Featured By Owner Sep 9, 2013  Hobbyist Photographer
Amen to this! Thank you so much for sharing this! I've been thinking about what sort of job career I should pursue, and just recently I thought about taking the art path since I'm already so involved in it. This journal just makes me want to do art even more for a living. 
faeorain Featured By Owner Sep 9, 2013  Student Traditional Artist
Yes. By even questioning it, it's almost like asking do our lives matter at all, being that some us just happen to be artists. I feel it is born into us, something we can't shake no matter how hard we try. It's part of our DNA. I'd hate to think we don't matter because we are born the way that we are. Comparing people who help in emergencies to being an artist, or to any other non-life saving job seems like a futile exercise in self deprecation and I think it's completely unproductive and unhealthy, and may be a sign of some self esteem issues. They are all important and valuable career paths to take, each in their own way. I know I've never considered myself to be more important than others...heck, I deal with self esteem issues myself now and again, but I know I'm not worth any less because I'm not a fireman, EMT, doctor, nurse, etc.
greasystreet Featured By Owner Sep 9, 2013  Professional General Artist
After coloring Marvel's comics for 8 years I've been displaced this week and I had to do some reflection of my own.  I think it's necessary to reflect and do a course correct because sooner or later we all need it.
tombancroft Featured By Owner Sep 10, 2013  Professional Filmographer
Sorry to hear that.  I agree completly.  Why is it we have to be "forced" to look inward?  We should do it in the good times also.  I hope and pray you find the next job that will last the next 8 (x5) years!  
greasystreet Featured By Owner Sep 11, 2013  Professional General Artist
Thank you, Tom.
m00nthe3evee Featured By Owner Sep 9, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
So inspiring! Thanks! :D
turkiisandwich Featured By Owner Sep 9, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Those are two beautiful stories. I really admire how, throughout them, it shows so clearly that you consider art an integral part of your identity. It's not just what you do... it's who you are.

There was one part near the end that especially hit me and made me read it again:

"Artists, even the ones that do it as a hobby... have a passion in them that can't be put out."

"Only other artists love your art as much as you loved creating it."

These two sentences say so much. On Tumblr, there's a group called Artist Confessions, where people can vent about their problems as artists. A lot of them say things like, "I spend hours on my drawings, but never get comments/faves/followers. Why doesn't my art get the attention it deserves?"

But those two sentences answer that question. Having a lot of fans isn't what makes you an artist.

An artist is someone who steps back and is overwhelmed by the wonderful design of a leaf, or a chair... or a football field.
tombancroft Featured By Owner Sep 10, 2013  Professional Filmographer
Really good comments and you got me thinking.  Thank you.  We do live an a society where "likes" are way too important.  The work should mean something to you first.  
JessiRenee Featured By Owner Sep 9, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
This is the most beautiful thing I've read all day. Thank you. :happycry:
Miss-Melis Featured By Owner Sep 9, 2013   General Artist
thanks for sharing Tom! You always know just what to say to lift all of our artistic spirits sky high. I truly look up to you not only as an artist, but as a wonderful human being. I hope someday I get to meet you in person and shake your hand! I will certainly be passing on your inspiring enlightenment! 
Jadekyy Featured By Owner Sep 9, 2013
Interesting read. Thanks for sharing!
CosmicWave18 Featured By Owner Sep 9, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
I think 'we' are important because we help to shape the world with creative ideas.
ElysiumWriter Featured By Owner Sep 9, 2013
This is mind numbing. I'm studying art and I battle this every day. Asking the same questions and coming to the same conclusions. Thank you for putting down what I'm sure every artist or creative person must feel at one point in their life or another. Beautifully said. Clap 
Valerie-V Featured By Owner Sep 9, 2013  Student General Artist
Yeah, I know that great moment when you realize artists designed almost everything here. Thank you for sharing these!
Sky-Streak Featured By Owner Sep 9, 2013
My simple take on it is this: our society and culture are affected more by works of art than anything else.
happydoodle Featured By Owner Sep 9, 2013  Professional Filmographer
Thank you so much for sharing this! It's really important to know that you matter~
Nisakine Featured By Owner Sep 9, 2013
Wow. Amazing. I'd like to admit that I am an artist but only for a hobby. Still, I look around for things to inspire what I can write (I'd also like to think myself a writer ^.^) songs, paintings, drawings, occurances and for the natural beauty that is already provided to us by God. But as I look around, I notice not near enough people notice the same and it saddens me. But when I meet another whose eyes are open, another "aritistic soul" it's the best part of the week :) I'm glad I got to read your stories, thanks for sharing!
Bananatect Featured By Owner Sep 9, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Amazing. These stories opened my eyes and made me think, especially the statement that artists create everything- that's true!
My motivation behind becoming a graphic novelist/cartoonist/manga-ka/drawer of pictures in boxes that tell a story is to make people happy with that story, to inspire them.
Do you think that's a worthy goal?
McRae Featured By Owner Sep 8, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
This was interesting to read. Thank you! :) I do think though, that generally, people do appreciate art/design and there is a lot personal satisfaction as an artist/designer (maybe not great financial gain) but society love their cars and TV shows, cloths and movies largely because of their design; no body watches Transformers (robots in disguise) for the riveting narrative. Very few of us work on large scale and high funded projects I a guess but on a smaller scale we can take gratification when we use our art/design to make our customers/clients smile with glee.

I'm not even sure I have added anything, or whether I have just repeated your points, but I was interested and wanted to add my 10 cents/pence (I'm British)
tombancroft Featured By Owner Sep 9, 2013  Professional Filmographer
Thank you for your pence/ thoughts!
WaterWizz Featured By Owner Sep 8, 2013  Student Filmographer
You make some of THE best Journals I've ever seen on dA. I've read a few of them but now seeing as how they keep getting better and better every time I read another one, I think I'll go and read every single one of your Journals now. Everything you said was true, it opened my eyes a bit. I really took everything you said to heart, thanks so much. 
WaterWizz Featured By Owner Sep 8, 2013  Student Filmographer least ones like this :P
WargusEstor Featured By Owner Sep 8, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Very thought-provoking and inspiring
D-idara Featured By Owner Sep 8, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
The ability to give life color and creativity and make people happy...we ARE important :)
AnAwkwardBlue Featured By Owner Sep 8, 2013
I like how you balanced humility with pride.  It makes me feel like I'm seeing the whole picture, not just the half someone wants me to see. Thank you.
SapphireGamgee Featured By Owner Sep 8, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
Also for the inspiration!
SapphireGamgee Featured By Owner Sep 8, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
Thank you for the information!
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September 8, 2013


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