I got back from IlluXcon a few days ago. The event gets more impactful, for me, every year. Whether you are there for the main show, the Showcase, Jam night, getting your portfolio reviewed, all the panels and workshops, or, like me, there for the ability to make new friends and visit with the familiar faces, I think you’ll find that the show is an amazing space of inspiration and energy.
As usual, the main show was filled with some of the greatest names in the traditional side of the fantasy and sci-fi illustration field. And while I love to see them, the truth is, I’m often there to see the folks that aren’t part of that elite list. As much as I love talking to the folks that are the stalwart force in our industry. It is those artists that are less well known, that “sneak” in the show, pay their dues in the Showcase or run around the entire show gleaning information and getting input to improve their skills. It is often in those spaces where I see some exciting new stuff – where the energy and the innovation are occurring. It is behind those tables and portfolios where the future of our industry lies.
…and if that is the case, things are in good hands.
Saturday, Christopher Burdett and myself did a panel on “Getting Serious”. It was a fun panel that touched on a variety of subjects, but the main push was on the idea of going from wanting to be an artist to being an artist. Chris spent some time talking about the transformative space in his life when he decided to get into action in his career. The changes in thinking, the ways he approached his career, and the lessons learned about himself along the way. There were lots of little nuggets sprinkled throughout the panel. I really enjoyed being asked to participate with the panel and I hope that some of the experiences I shared were valuable. As is often the case, I wandered away from the panel gaining a lot of insight and inspiration myself. And one of the things that I really got the presence of, was what it really takes to be a success in this industry.
…and that often has less to do with hand skills and more to do with the person that we are.
I’d like to take a moment to shine a spot light on a couple of guys that, due to a cancellation due to the storms on the east coast, “snuck” their way into the big show. It didn’t matter that they were tucked away in a dark corner in the back of the room – they took on the opportunity and ended up taking over the event in a lot of ways. The enthusiasm and joyous fervor that they talked about their love of art, the laughs that constantly echoed from their corner, the “welcome from Croatia” line used when jumping up and taking on a spot in the jam session Saturday night – these two gentleman gave me such an amazing infusion of energy, and an absolute love for life and our craft.
…and that had nothing to do with their art. That was just who they were being!
The standouts for me were two guys that came all the way from Croatia – Milivoj Ceran and Filip Burburan. I was so impressed with these guys! Full Disclosure: I met Filip and Milovoj here on ArtOrder. They have participated in ArtOrder Challenges, and taken part in the community. So if you want to accuse me of favoritism, go for it. You’d be wrong though. 5 minutes in their presence would have given you a whole new way to look at the world. Thanks guys!!
So where am I going with this?
I spent a lot of time talking to students, aspiring artists, professional artists, and art directors – the whole time I kept wondering, “What is in the way of getting serious?” I came to an understanding that each of us needs to get serious about some aspect of our life or our career. There is some place where each of us puts up roadblocks to achieving our desired outcome. Italked to many folks that used some of these very familiar reasons for not getting serious:
• Not enough time
• Not enough money
• Not enough education
• Not enough ________
Nearly every time I asked someone what was their roadblock to getting serious and getting into action on some aspect of their life or career, they replay with some variation of the “not enough…” statement. Now, I’m not going to diminish the fact that there are challenges in life. In fact, I would like to point out, that life is made up of nothing but challenges. From the day we are born, we are overcoming challenges – learning to move from one space to another, learning to communicate, learning to survive, etc. The truth of the matter is simple, there are some roadblocks that we really balk at taking out of the way – whether it is because of a belief that we can’t, a belief that it is too hard, a belief that we have to give up something, a belief that we need help, etc.
Now hang with me for a moment. Think about your roadblock. Now think about the “reason” that you can’t remove that roadblock. Now take a moment a look at your life, do you see any other places in your life where you have roadblocks and the same reason it can’t be removed comes into play? You see, we are creatures of habit. Our lives tend to be full of patterns, and some of the most common patterns are those patterns that keep us from accomplishing something. I’ve got those annoying little patterns as well. This past year, I’ve been spending a lot of time looking for them, be aware of them, and realizing the destructive nature they have in my life. I’ve been realizing how often in life my patterns of behavior show up and keep me from accomplishing whatever I want to do – whether it is something simple like goofing around with my kid (fear of looking stupid), doing a big presentation with the executive team (fear of looking stupid/failing), sitting down and writing my books (fear of looking stupid/failure), and so on.
The goofy thing is this – that fear doesn’t do what it is supposed to do. You see, fear is a natural thing. It is hardcoded into us to help keep us safe. We have a fear of fire, cause it can burn/kill us. We have a fear of snakes because they can kill us. We have a fear of heights because they can kill us. Seeing a pattern here? Fear is there to protect us. But fear can get out of hand. I heard an interesting statement they other day…fear of fire is the #2 fear. Can you guess the #1 fear? Fear of public speaking! To you see the ridiculous nature of fear in this regard? Folks would rather be burned to death than talk in public. Okay, maybe that is stretching the facts a bit, but you get the idea right? We let fear of something that can’t kill us get in the way of life. What is really the worst thing that can happen when we are fearing something that can’t kill us. We can look stupid, we can look bad, we can look….. It all comes down to how we look to others. I don’t know about you, but that seems like a silly reason to give away your dreams and aspirations.
So, what are those roadblocks that are in your way of getting serious? What are the reasons that you can’t have what you want? What other ways is that showing up in your life?
If you get aware of that, and start to watch it in your life, chances are, you’ll start to see a pattern. The great thing about patterns…they can be broken once you find them.
Now I’m going to bring this around full circle. Filip and Milivoj…they impressed the hell out of me. Again, not for their art (which I enjoyed as well), but for who they showed up as. It took a lot to cross the ocean and take a chance on their dreams like they did. It took a lot to show up in such a way that they really took part in the experience of IlluXcon. It took a lot to leave behind “looking good/bad” and jump up on stage and jam. It took a lot to let go of “looking stupid” and put themselves into spaces where they “didn’t know” and say as much. It took a lot to allow themselves to be vulnerable. Yes, it took a lot, but as anyone that spent some time with them will tell you – they gave a lot to the experience, and helped make this years IlluXcon one to remember.
So, I’ll ask the question – “what do you have to do to get serious?” How are you going to show up in your life in such a way as to “make it one to remember”?