Tomorrow marks my 3rd year as a full-time artist. It has not been easy, and despite all of my intentions I am now on a completely different path than the one I started on. This yearly check-in with the world is mostly for myself so that I can process where I’ve been, and imagine where I am going. However, if you’ve stumbled upon this blog and are thinking of pursuing a career in the Arts I hope there is something here to help you on your journey.
To see my previous Blogs on this subject click the links below:
I Quit My Job to Follow My Dreams – Part 12 (Final Post)
My Second Year As a Full-Time Artist
How did 2017 go?
Well…I’m exhausted but now starting to find a workflow that is efficient, learning to trust my gut instincts with creative decisions, and finally charging what I’m worth (most of the time). These were all issues that slowed me down or caused unneeded stress in my first year (Yay for learning things!). It seems more often than not that I have too much going on at once, usually with two long-term projects, a personal project, and many smaller ones in the mix, but on days when I feel overwhelmed I remember how far I’ve come, take a breath, and just keep going.
So where did I go wrong this year?
I’m still struggling to find a balance between my home life and work life. Working from home can be troublesome even if you have a dedicated space or studio. The working part isn’t my problem and social media or TV doesn't generally distract me. I keep my lunches to a minimum of 30 minutes and usually eat while standing up because I’m sitting so much throughout the day. My main issue is taking care of the daily things like keeping the house in order, bringing the car in for repairs, and dealing with the unexpected parts of life that like to cause trouble when I’m on a creative roll. When I’m working, I feel guilty for not spending enough time with my family. When I’m with my family, I feel the stress of the work that is waiting for me. I hope in the coming year, I can become better at enjoying the moment, shutting down my brain from time to time, and…doing the laundry before I run out of clothes.
Where did I go right?
Last year I decided to say yes to opportunities more often…even if they scared me, got in the way of a deadline, or didn’t directly benefit me. That strategy has actually been extremely helpful. If I’m asked to give a talk to a school I say yes. If there is a cool opportunity to collaborate with another artist I say yes. If someone wants to know how I created something I say yes. I try to find time for anyone doing something positive with their lives or the lives of others. By doing so, I’ve met so many great people in this country and my community, helped a few of them connect with each other, and hopefully inspired someone to go make their thing. It would take too long to go into the specifics but each time I say yes to helping others, it seems to lead to unexpectedly great places.
Here are some of the projects I was fortunate enough to work on this year:
I was asked to submit a short film for the Shared Visions Exhibition at the Chico Art Center. The idea of the exhibition was to encourage creative activities for children by having artists collaborate with their own children. With only 10 days to make this short film with my 2 year old son, I had no time to second guess my decisions. I filmed him playing with the old, broken toys from my childhood. The decisions he made determined what I would animate. After the month long exhibition at Chico Art Center, it also screened at New York Film Screenings (New York,NY), the Symi International Film Festival (Symi, Greece), Woodengate International Film Festival (Maramures, Romania), and even took home the Award of Merit: Film Short at The Accolade Global Film Competition.
You can read about the process here and watch the film here.
After finishing a personal project last year with my good friend Dana Hocking called Monsters Project we reached out to our local radio station KZFR about giving away some books during their fund drive. We really hit it off with the General Manager and he asked us to create a few animated commercials for the station. After the commercials we pitched him an idea for a video game for iOS and Android that he loved. The concept of the game is that you get to fight Zombies who have taken over the town of Chico, CA and only good radio (KZFR) can save everyone. I illustrated the backgrounds of my hometown including downtown Chico, 1-mile, and the KZFR building, and Dana created the animations and coded the game. Watch the game trailer now.
Graphic Design is something I don’t advertise but I still have my steady clients who approach me from time to time. Over the year I created many flyers for the University of Alabama, events around town, and smaller design jobs that popped up. These kinds of projects are always welcome as a quick break between my long-term work and give me a chance to keep up to date on new design trends.
Beatles Tribute Concert Animations
I made a 2-minute animation for the Beatles song Sun King as well as 7 background motion graphic animations themed to songs from Abbey Road. They were projected onto the screen and backdrops at Laxson Auditorium for two sold out nights as musicians and dancers performed the songs live. It was fun collaborating on a project like this where I could sit in the audience and experience the show without the stress of having to perform each night.
Recently I wrote an article for Videomaker Magazine about how to plan for stop-motion effects in your film. I also supplied them with a lot of behind the scenes photos from various projects. Keep a look out for the issue… the last I heard it might come out in December.
Mystery TV project
I was hired to create a sculpture for a TV show pilot. They asked if I knew how to do something very specific (which I’d never done) and I figured it out (Luckily). I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to talk about this in length but the show is so unique and is going to be amazing when it finally airs!
Involvement in the Community
Over the past year I participated in the Chico High Digital Arts Pathway; a program designed to help students prepare to work in the arts right out of High School or be a step ahead going into College. I also mentored a High School student as she created her first animation for her senior project, participated in the Chico Unified School District Advisory Board, and Co-Directed the International Animation Festival Animation Chico.
The third annual Animation Chico Festival will be held December 9th at Chico Theater Company. Read more about the event here.
Scissors Gonna Cut Ya
I collaborated with the band Severance Package to create a fun, retro feeling music video made from paper cut outs of the band performing along with backup dancers and menacing black-gloved hands. The video won The Award of Merit Special Mention: Music Video at the Accolade Global Film Competition and screened at the local music video night at the Pageant Theatre. Watch it now!
I am so close to finishing this film! (Can you sense my frustration?) To be honest it’s kind of killing me but every time I finish a shot I am more energized to keep going. I set out to make a short film that pushed my abilities and gave me a chance to try important things I had never attempted as a Director. Because of various commission work and opportunities throughout the year this film has been delayed but now I am in the final stretch. My last short film, The Spaceman only had two puppets, this film has around 15. My goal is to submit it to festivals and competitions, hold a premiere, and hopefully meet some other great filmmakers and artists during my time traveling to these events. Watch the trailer here!
I was asked to fill in for one of my former Professors at California State University Chico while she traveled internationally. At the time I had no experience teaching but thinking of my new rule (Say yes to opporunities…even if they scare you) I did my best and figured it out along the way. I ended up teaching an Introduction to Digital Media Course, and a Stop-Motion Animation course. Both were extremely fun and challenging. Figuring out what the students’ goals were, how to motivate them individually, and customizing the lessons to their interests whenever possible were my favorite parts. By the end of the semester, I was hooked. I even held a mini film festival for the Stop-Motion animation final and we invited their family and friends. During the screening we displayed their puppets, students answered questions from the audience, and everyone seemed to have a great time. By the end of it I recognized that teaching forced me to be a better artist and kept me up to date with programs I seldom use in my professional work. This experience definitely influenced my art in a positive way.
Where am I going next?
Oh boy… well, after reevaluating my goals I have decided to simultaneously work on two paths that compliment one another. The first is to continue my work as a filmmaker and eventually direct my first feature film that will mix live-action with stop-motion. Once I wrap up 3 Keys, I will begin writing this screenplay, looking for producers and investors.
My new and surprising second path is to teach at a University. I enjoyed teaching so much that over the summer I researched Grad Schools to pursue my M.F.A. After talking with former alumni, directors, and advisors, my top choice was a Low-Residency program in Cambridge, Massachusetts at Lesley University College of Art and Design. This program will allow me to continue working as a freelancer from home while traveling to the Boston area twice a year. On top of that I get to work with Artist Mentors in the Bay Area. I’m pleased to announce that last month I was notified of my acceptance in the program and will travel to Cambridge in early January. These are exciting times and I look forward to every moment.
If you’ve made it this far into the blog congratulations! I would digitally high-five you if that was a thing…(is that a thing?)
Until next year….
Have questions? Leave them in the comments below.