We all have our own path to follow, but the rate at which we reach various checkpoints in our lives is influenced by our determination, perseverance, and sometimes events we cannot control. I’ll be honest. I’m not where I’d like to be in my life. I try my best not to dwell on that, instead I focus on pushing forward. But here are the facts:
Cancer at 17 (and the fallout after) was out of my control. The health issues that followed after were and are out of my control. They set me back. When I was a senior in high school I didn’t have time to focus on applying to colleges. I was fighting for my life. With or without those obstacles, there are some pieces of advice I wish I could have told my younger self.
1. Don’t let one bad experience stop you from learning and growing.
I had an awful teacher for art in middle school. This woman should not have been teaching, let alone spreading her ugliness to impressionable minds. The experience soured me to art classes. I loved art, but stayed away from classes till my senior year high school, when I needed an easy class I could take while on chemotherapy. When I graduated, that teacher lectured me on not taking art all 4 years–not what I needed either. But it was my choice to let those experiences stop me from growing as an artist. I did eventually get over that chip on my shoulder.
2. Don’t avoid drawing the things that scare you, tackle them head first.
When I was a kid I loved drawing horses and after that any and all animals. I avoided drawing people like it was the plague. I recall thinking, I’ll never be able to drawing a human face. Never. So I avoided doing it and then I took drawing in college and was faced with a self-portrait a week (on top of our regular assignments). I did it and realized it wasn’t the nightmare I thought it would be. I could have saved myself a lot of stress and anxiety if I’d just given it a try earlier.
3. Don’t paint from just the surface of yourself, but from your entire soul.
I’ve always had a passion for nature, fantasy and horror. I grew up on Star Wars, Labyrinth, The Last Unicorn, The Hobbit (animated) as well as, Alien, Terminator and old Vampire films. I spent a lot of time riding horses and wandering the woods in our neighborhood. I kept snakes, salamanders and toads for a day in my aquarium. I loved all these things but for many years my art rarely touched anything fantastic. I’m still not quite sure why fantasy was not part of the equation, but once it was, I felt complete and my art began to be something more. Don’t limit yourself!
4. Don’t listen to people that know nothing about art.
We’ve all come across the person on Facebook who feels they have to inject their unqualified opinion into a conversation. Those people exist offline too. Always be careful who you let sway your path. Are they giving you a valid critique or are they toxic? Good advice from a professional is invaluable, but bad advice you didn’t even ask for can set you back.
5. Don’t ever think it’s too late and don’t make the mistake the comparing yourself to other artists.
Everyone seems to be in a race these days. I’m 39 and there are times when I feel anxious that I’m not farther along. But I know a few artists in their 20’s that feel this way too. We spend too much time comparing our art and our careers to our peers. Don’t fall into this trap. It’s never to late to make art your career. Keep pushing ahead. Keep growing. Keep creating.