Somethings She Taught Me

Holidays

(I wrote this a year ago, and edited it this year for this event. I still think it holds up somewhat.)

I was surprised to hear a couple people referring to me as an entrepreneur. Or having entrepreneur skills, or entrepreneur spirit, or just something. I was pretty-dumbfounded by hearing it, because honestly, I never saw myself as one. I always thought I just had my head in the clouds and no real tactics to survive in the real world. I’ve always been a dreamer, and realizing that certain small day to day tasks need to be accomplished, so that I can reach those dreams, has never been my forte.

But after some thought I realized why they saw this in me.

Whatever amount of entrepreneurism I have is not coming from my own self. I believe though, that it came from my mom. And I don’t mean it came in the genetic sense, because genetically, or by nature, I feel I have none of it. But I mean came as in she taught me that.

I clearly remember, ok maybe not so clearly, but I remember this.

I was drawing on the dining room table, or maybe I was reading, or doing whatever dumb stuff I did on my computer back then. The light was warm flooding in from the open windows of our house. And it felt like my house. Whenever I think of my house, it’s that time of day that I think of it.

Now that I think of it, I was probably looking at some incredible artist’s video on YouTube. And what happened pretty often is that I either felt really great about becoming an artist, or I felt miserable. Like suddenly seeing how capable they were, and how incapable I was, revealed to me how impossible it would be the road ahead. How much I lacked in talent, and skill and knowledge. How I had no idea how to get a job or make money off of this. How probably I WOULD be sleeping under the bridge after I graduated. And that’s what was all going through my mind at the time. And my mom passed by, and somewhat jokingly I must’ve asked her how was I ever going to do it. I’m pretty sure it was a semi-joke, because I somehow also still thought I could be the one to brave the dark water of creative artistry. I mean part of my whole narrative behind choosing art is just the sense of glory, adventure and unknown that it carries with it. But anyways, after I joked, she sat down, right next to me, pen and paper in hand.

“Ok, Andrew. What do you want in life?”

“To be an artist, question mark?”

“See. That’s already the wrong mindset. You can’t relay yourself to just a ‘stand-in’ name. When you choose a career you’re not choosing an identity. You’re choosing a path to travel. One from which you can always move out, and jump on the other one. What you have to understand is what you want to do. Now here, you have a variety of talents. What other careers have you considered?”

“I’ve thought of writer, artist, psychologist, pastor and missionary.”

“Now what you have to understand with all of those is that their not essential. They all vary in the way they happen. There are a thousand ways of being a write, or an artist, a psychologist, pastor or missionary. And in the end of the day it doesn’t matter which one you choose, at the end of the day with all of these what do you want to do? What’s your goal?”

“I don’t know, moooom,” inset teenager eyeroll here “Why are you complicating this so much? I just want to know what to do with my life.”

“But, Andrew, what do you want to do? Because if you think about it, writing and being an artist, even a pastor is all about communication. Transmitting ideas, thoughts, feelings.”

I acted unsurprised. But when I think back to this point, I was very blown-up. I believe I did the common teenager move of kind of completely disregarding what she was saying, but not actually. It stayed with me. No matter what I did, that was indeed what I wanted: to communicate, to bring together, images, words, ideas, feelings, and people. To show things under a new light. And up until here everything was pretty unpractical advice she was giving. My mom tends to do that. She likes to go deeper, and dig for a root causes, root problems. I had never up until that point realized how fluid a career can be, and how one isn’t necessarily relegated to one position, one name or career choice. Giving me that, was giving me freedom, one that I felt I never received at school. And it was necessary then, to close in on the specifics if I did want to go towards the path of a visual communicator.

“I do. That’s I want. I want to be a visual communicator of sorts, open to different paths.”

Once I admitted that, she felt safe then to nail down a plan.

“OK. Now is then when we can go ahead and think of how to get you there. So, who are the people that you follow? Who exemplifies what you want to do?”

I listed them off.

“Okay. How do you get there?”

I recounted several ways that all left it up to chance and luck to get there.

“No, no, no. You’re thinking of the impossible. That’s too far. What are small steps you can do to get there? What are things they would be doing at your age to be getting there?”

I told her of all the artists’ I saw that did commissions, an did events, and created ways to make money.

“So what do you need to get there?”

And we talked about all this. It was all about breaking down my BIG dream, into manageable parts. Small things I could. It was about revealing that the dream wasn’t that big after all, it was just something that had to be built up to.

But I think what was left with me from that conversation, besides all the practical stuff I needed to get on to and learn, and start the journey on, was one remark she said. Or maybe she didn’t say, but it became prominent in my heart. One of the biggest problems I have to work on.

Because, I’m still here. I’m still trying to hone my craft. I’m still trying to figure out ways to grow my audience, and how I can reach them. I’m trying to figure out how to make money and survive once I graduate. But what has shown to be one of the biggest struggles is just trying to figure out what I have to say. What I, a regular human person, have to share with the world that matters?

And as much as I can become a great art-business person, and find the necessary means to make a living from art. Does it really matter if what I’m creating isn’t adding something meaningful to the world? We see so much these days through all our different social media channels. There’s already so much creative work being done in the world. What can I make, that’ll be good and meaningful?

A visual communicator, without a message, isn’t a communicator at all.

Our Skin is Our Freedom

Illustration

dealing with procrastinationThe shower tells me to slow down. It’s the end of the night. It’s time to calm my soul, dress it for sleeping. But I can feel my body still longs in desire for anything that tells me, “you’ve done enough today.” Earlier today I didn’t finish editing that image. The animation is still in the same state it was last week, as are those two emails that are sitting in the drafts folder. I didn’t start on any of the three illustrations I have due soon. I took a nap midday, before I even had lunch. And forgot about half the other things that are on my list of to-dos and to-dreams.

anxiety and self-care
My hands are scratching at the walls that contain me, my skin. It’s so limited to its own time and space. Joined with the warm droplets that are supposed to soothe, but only excite irritation.

My hands don’t stop. I circle in the shower, feeling everything, everything tearing apart, doom imminent, knocking at the door.

skinfreedom2

My eyes dart around thinking about everything that I didn’t do that day. In every corner of the stall, associating with each crevice my eyes can find, a different disappointment for the day. All the dreams I wanted to start on, the assignments, tasks, and small self-imposed habits that today were proven that they are indeed not anywhere close to habits.

My hands don’t stop, my eyes don’t stop and my breathing joins in. Anxious, it is breathinbreathingbreathing. Beating to the rhythm of hopes, dreams, pressures, expectations, and fears. Shame and guilt arise in a chest that already feels like it’s drowning. And drowning is not where you wanna be at right before sleeping. And you want to sleep because tomorrow will be an early start. And you can’t stop it. Stop your hands, your eyes, your breathing.

skinfreedom3

You stop. For a second your breath stops, holding itself saying: “I’m done. I’m exhausted, tired, done.” And then it lets the breath seep out, with it your whole body slips into that air. You leave with exasperation in the flow of air through your lips, and you come back in with relief.

skinfreedom4

You didn’t accomplish everything you wanted today. But you breathed, and you walked and lived. It’s all in that breath, that gives up, it lets go, and everything opens up.

skinfreedom5

Your eyes relax, and the eyebrows that were before lifted, finally rest on the knowledge of safety. Your hands stops scratching and decides instead to lay by the side of your thighs. Your breathing is breath, and it is stroke, and it is freedom, and acceptance.

your skin is your freedom - mindfulness
It is there. You’re there. Your skin is your freedom, and your body your temple.

I wanted to do them all

Sketchbook, Uncategorized
image of a cage
It’s hard to be realistic on our goals. I mean. At least for people like me? People that dream, and see so much opportunity everywhere, so much that can be. Everything is another road, another path that could be traveled. Trying to be realistic is like asking us to cage the bird, to kill the fire, to drain the energy, imprison the free spirit.
So why do you ask me that? Why do you ask me to be realistic?

Orange Unicorn – Remember This 12

Orange Unicorn

Orange Unicorn - Webcomic - Waiting

Just a reminder that waiting is normal, sometimes we’re not where we want to be yet, and we have to wait.


 

Previous episode – Next episode

Your support means a lot to me: it helps me keep going. So if you’d like to stay updated with the webcomic make sure to follow the blog – button is off to the side!

You can also follow my Facebook Art page, Instagram (@jandrewgilbert), and Twitter (@jandrewgil), for updates.

I Think I Lost The Focus of It: Trying

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It’s Sunday night. After Thanksgiving break. Tomorrow, it’s back to class and work again. J Andrew Gilbert, is trying to figure out what are the best ways to pretend he doesn’t have class tomorrow. The semester is ending after all.

He started thinking about a blog post. This post.

In this post, he’ll explain how he feels that in some way he doesn’t know what he is doing anymore with this blog. I mean what is its purpose? What is he trying to talk about?

When he began on his journey, he knew it was going to be hard. To keep it up and to just write. To just make a post. But even if you know things, doesn’t mean you’re prepared for it.

So far, he has written several posts related to things he likes – book reviews, mostly. He has also done self-motivational writing. Mostly meant for himself, but that he hopes someone else finds encouraging – especially other creatives like him. He has also started a web comic, that has been faulty in it’s submissions timeline.

Even within the comic itself he kind of lost himself too. What started as a play-off of his friendship with Zach, has become into a “Remember This” series. He quite enjoys the “Remember This” series as he feels it gives him more room to play with the images and “poetry” (many quote marks around poetry, please).

But, even though he doesn’t know what he is doing, and even though he doesn’t know what exactly he wants to accomplish. And that he has no real “brand.” Or no masterful plan to how he’s going to take over the internet world with his awesome writing and image-making. He does know that he enjoys doing it.

He enjoys the hardship if putting himself out there. He enjoys the pain and friction of trying to put into words thoughts, feelings. He enjoys to put give breath, a body. He enjoys writing. He enjoys drawing. And he enjoys sharing it with you.

He hopes that in something of this you find yourself a little bit encouraged. Or that you feel understood in some level, because you feel yourself represented. In an image, or a phrase. Or maybe just a line.

He isn’t no great writer, nor a great artist. But at least he’s trying. And this blog, so often, has been just about that: trying.


 

This month of November I had a lot of views on two blog posts that I’m really proud of, for different reasons and they have very different writing styles. If you missed them here’s a friendly link to each one:

So. This is Unedited.

Arabian Nights – Poster Design

Be sure to check Orange Unicorn’s last update.

Your support means a lot to me: it helps me keep trying. If you’d like to stay updated make sure to follow the blog – there’s a button off to the side!

You can also follow my Facebook Art page, Instagram (@jandrewgilbert), and Twitter (@jandrewgil), for updates.

So. This is unedited.

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Some days I just want to write down thoughts, and hope that the world cares. So, here we go. Unedited thoughts of a wanna be artist on a Tuesday morning to keep you entertained.

Because who hasn’t tried? Who hasn’t put their foot forward and tried? To relax, to chill, under the window sill, looking out into the fields of grey air and yellow sky.

So I walked, out into the fields of knowledge and emptiness. Listening to the Taylor Swift that was bashed by many, just because she did something? She did something that I can’t quite know what it is, because no one quite explains it, because no one quite understands it themselves do they?

It’s like the formless grey air in the morning. Sure, scientists can probably tell you it’s a combination of humidity and temperature levels creating this air we call fog. But really, that explains it? Is it not for the clouded of mind that fog happens? So that environment reflects soul? Is fog not for the soothing effects on the soul? For the beauty of breath? And is it not beautiful? Can you please tell me why it is so? I’d like to know, so I can recreate it in a painting, in a poem or in a phrase. Grey air made by an artist.

I also wanted to tell you this:

Give yourself some love. Call yourself sexy and then do a chicken dance. The fog will hide you away in its embrace.

Arabian Nights – Poster Design

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The Arabian Nights production, by the Calvin Theatre Company, had it opening night this past weekend! You can get tickets here.

Since it’s opening week I decided to write a blog post explaining a bit of my design process for the poster. Keep reading if you want some tips, and ideas for when you’re working on your own projects! O

So the design always starts with ideas and concepts. When I talked with the director for the play, Debra Freeberg, she emphasized the idea of lights in the night and this rich colored fabric. I really liked these visuals, and combining it with the night, went for a desert night scene to tie it in with a place.

Since the story is about stories I considered including letters from the Arabic alphabet in the sky. The idea was that these would represent stars as well as the stories told. I liked this concept because it had letters as lights – just how Sherazade’s stories, her words, bring light into the Sultan’s life. Sadly, I lost the image I did for this.

In later renditions, however, I changed this element, because the sky became too heavy and complicated. It wasn’t working as symbols for stars. Instead I embraced circles, a simpler and clearer shape, to represent the stars. Here though, the idea is still that each story is a star in the sky. I also started to play with the idea of the desert and fabrics. I had two main different versions for the fabrics, and one variation of the sky.

 

 

I preferred the one with bigger fabric over the title page, but my clients preferred the one with three stripes at the bottom. So I went with what they wanted – I still liked them both a lot.

The font choices were semi-dictated by Calvin’s brand – I incorporated their font “Gotham” into the informational text. The title was made with the same font I used for the audition poster. This one:

AuditionPosterSwingWEB

 

I reused these same fonts in all the different posters to keep consistent visual identity for the Season of Love and Forgiveness.  Eventually, there were some problems with this font choice as it didn’t work as well for the last poster, but we kept it for visual consistency – and since the posters were already printed and finalized.

Once the one with three ribbons was chosen, it was all about just finessing details, making sure the fabrics were colorful and vibrant. Adding textures to the desert, putting the stars in their place to create the right degree of randomness and pattern. I played with the colors and sizes a little bit to have some depth and interest in the sky.

Here are two different versions I played with.

 

 

From here we decided to take out the lines at the top – they weren’t necessary anymore because there were already lines at the bottom. They wanted to go with the one on the right – only orange and yellow. I decided to push a little bit here and see if I could still have some small stars be blue. I argued that it helped add interest and depth to the sky.

After that there were just small details to finish. Below you can see the low-resolution image for the result! (It’s kinda pixelated, but it shows the main points of this article.)

Arabian-Nights1WEB

It was a lot of fun, but also a lot of work. This project, has helped me to understand how important communication between me and my clients is. If you’re ever providing a service to someone, work really hard on your communication. Make sure you’re understanding each other, if possible, do meet with them. Through conversation you’re better able to grasp what the client is thinking and feeling about your piece.

Sometimes I felt like they really weren’t liking the design, because they’d provide feedback through emails. But once I would talk with them in person than I could see how much they liked it!

I hope that if for nothing else, you were able to enjoy the process behind the poster!


 

I write blog posts every now and then, but am constantly working on my webcomic “Orange Unicorn.” Be sure to check Orange Unicorn’s last update.

Your support means a lot to me: it helps me keep going. If you’d like to stay updated make sure to follow the blog – there’s a button off to the side!

You can also follow my Facebook Art page, Instagram (@jandrewgilbert), and Twitter (@jandrewgil), for updates.

 

Pineapples! They're the key!

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“This pineapple is ripe. I should eat it.”

Pineapple

You know. You can find inspiration for art and for growing in your art anywhere. Even in a pineapple. But you may be asking why. Why is he choosing a pineapple? Well because there’s one in front of me right now. And because that’s what I want to do. My desires are frequently unreasonable.

But so how can a pineapple inspire you, and help you grow in your art? Well here’s a list of how.

 

Blog_Numbers1You can sketch it, draw it, paint it. Represent it in some way. Just by doing this, at least once you’ll be better than you were before. At least that’s what they say: “Practice makes perfect.”

 

 

Blog_Numbers2Eat it. Savor it. Enjoy it full-heartedly. Maybe even find a cool recipe through our friend Google. – Enjoying life is just essential for art. While there are great artists that I’m sure didn’t quite enjoy life, that doesn’t mean that you can’t! And after you’ve enjoyed the pineapple you can go back to your sullen self if you so desire. It’s up to you.

 

Blog_Numbers3Make a pineapple character! Or a pineapple world! Or a pineapple house! (uuuh.. Sponge Bob?) Come up with anything new that you can from a pineapple. Maybe a dress, or a blouse that has it stamped on it. Or maybe fuse it with a different fruit, to come up with a Pen-Pineapple-Apple-Pen? Oops. It feels like my ideas have already been used everywhere! Oh wells. Maybe choose a different fruit, or just think of something even newer. If you can.

 

Blog_Numbers4Write on, and about, the pineapple. I mean seriously. You’re an artist. You’re in the business of creativity. Anything new, anything imaginative is good. Even if you don’t see yourself as a writer, this can be great to break your shell! Get creative. Go crazy. With a pineapple. (In case you didn’t notice… that’s what I’m doing right now!)

 

Blog_Numbers5Slam it against a wall, floor or sidewalk. Draw that! Paint that! Seriously. I mean. Aren’t you curious to see what a smashed pineapple looks? And how will you draw that? You could even make a whole comic telling the whole story of how you read this awesome blog post and decided to smash a pineapple, that you ended up drawing, that made you super-crazy internet famous.

 

Blog_Numbers6Balance it on your head. Count how many seconds. Keep a track of your record. You don’t know why you should do this? Well. If you can’t figure it out on your own, I’m not sure we can be friends.

 

 

Wait…You’re still reading this? What are you waiting for? Go make some art with pineapples!

P.S.: The pineapple was eaten, leaving no space for me to try out all my tips. But I did get myself pumped up enough to come up with this dorky pineapple-inspired character.

Pineapple Character

If you’d like to get updates when blog posts come out, you can follow my Facebook page, or sign up for the mailing list that WordPress has setup — it’s on the bar to the side I believe!

Hope to see you soon! Or next week more precisely, at 10AM!

 

 

Do Something New Every Day

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Do Something New - Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone

Ok. I exaggerate, it doesn’t have to be something new every day. It can just be every week. Or maybe every month? I don’t know. Just try and do something new, is all I’m saying.

Today (as in 2 weeks ago, when I wrote this) I went to Dinderbeck Studios, here in Grand Rapids (GR), and took a 4 hour long workshop on screenprinting. Before the workshop, I had never heard of screenprinting, or any other forms of printing besides digital, to be honest. And it was so much fun learning something new.

Screenprinting is a fairly simple process. You just make the image, transfer it to the screen, then apply paint and transfer it to your paper, canvas or cloth of choice. Some people do t-shirts through this process.

It’s great for making hand-made prints. It offers you the chance to make several copies of that one print, but each print somewhat unique – or you can make it be. It will always have, at least when I’m doing it, mistakes or small flaws.

I think that’s part of the beauty of it. It’s not perfect, it’s not the same, each one is unique. Hand-crafted. It allows for the artist to be a part of the reproduction process – Marx would appreciate the ability it gives the artist to be closer in touch with the “means of reproduction.” Bye bye alienation.

The workshop was also just great to get to know some people from GR. There were 5 of us. We each worked on our own prints, but at the end we exchanged ours with each other! So I ended up getting some free art for my room.

Below you can check out the prints I worked on. They allowed us to come for another week after, during their open hours, for free.

But the reason I’m sharing this: it’s because it’s one of those “new experiences” that has helped me get pumped up for art again. New experiences change the pacing that you make art and your thought process opens up to new pathways. However, it doesn’t have to be a new art form that does this – although new art forms can be great – but really just about anything new does it. Open up your brain pores to creativity.

You can explore a part of your city you’ve never dared to go to. Or it could be going to a new city or country. It can be going to a new café, or starting a new type of project – like a blog! It can be to go to a new event. Or even to try and recreate one of your old pieces, under a new light. It can be to go be a reading mentor at middle school. Or to help at a homeless shelter.

Anything that gets you thinking in new ways. Step out of your comfort zone. I know. It’s cozy there. But just do it. It’s fun. Sometimes.

If you’d like to get updates when blog posts come out, you can follow my Facebook page, or sign up for the mailing list that WordPress has setup — it’s on the bar to the side I believe!

Hope to see you soon! Or next week more precisely, at 10AM every Tuesdays and Thursdays.

How To Avoid Interruptions

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I was in Brazil for a week this summer. Much of our extended family had gathered in one house down there for my sister’s Brazilian equivalent of a quinceñera. But I still needed to make art. And, while I think artists need to be able to show their art to others, solitude is a necessary ingredient for the creative process. With all the family back together I just needed to find the right time to get the least amount of interruptions.

That’s where the Night comes in, and by Night, I mean whenever everyone in your house is already asleep. The Night is very special because it offers you time to work on your art piece without any interruptions. This has become crucial to my creative process. And that’s because during the day interruptions seem to lurk around every corner.

Interruptions can be anything. People asking about your day, what you’re working on; or the need to pick up your little sister from downtown, or getting groceries. And one of the easiest ways I’ve found to avoid these is to either: find a place where you can’t be interrupted, i.e. a studio, or do it at Night in your house office, kitchen table, or basement.

But why even bother? At least for me, I’ve found that interruptions really hinder my speed. They don’t allow me to get in Flow, to reference ideas exposed in Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s book. And Flow makes for good art.

The creation and development of art takes a lot of focus. The more focused you are, the more space you have in your brain to come up with ideas. Art takes a lot of thought and ingenuity – the free association of ideas – to be well made.

Flow, the Creative Process, and Interruptions

Also without interruptions you can better focus on each individual tiny leaf, each one of the eyelashes, the variations of shadow and color. Once you’re done you’ll realize how much time has passed. How much better the piece has turned out. Fewer interruptions equals better art.

So, I found out that doing art at Night worked for me because there was no one to stop me. No one to interrupt or distract. It has worked for me most of the time – like when I don’t need to get up the next day at 6AM for an extra work shift (these are joy-killers let me tell you).

But what works for you? How do you avoid interruptions?