I recently received an email from a young fella who said he was feeling out of sorts for a direction in life and he asked me about how I got to where I am today. In fact over the years in emails, conversations and interviews, I’ve answered this many times in different ways so I thought I’d write something here.
The road to where I am now spans a few decades but the common element throughout my life is a passion for what I love to do – drawing and storytelling.
How do you define success? Is it financial independence? Social acceptance? Material wealth? Or is it simply being allowed to spend your life doing what you love? For me, having started my working life labouring in hot kitchens, dangerous factories and dusty farms, starting a career with Disney at the age of 22 was THE happy ending; I couldn’t have asked for anything better. And yet now, working from home is the NEW happy ending. I don’t feel like I could ask for any more than this.
Many successful people will tell you that they love what they’re doing and to them it never feels like work. When you’re doing something that doesn’t feel like work, you want to do it non-stop and, as a natural consequence, provided you have good instruction, you get better and better at it. In fact, your own development can be a feedback loop of motivation, leading to faster improvement. A great sports person, a teacher, a musician, a secret agent.. the same applies to them all. Success can come not necessarily by what we classify as hard work, but by a passion and devotion to doing what we love.
In my early working life, whether I was driving tractors on a farm, flipping burgers or loading steel into a welding machine, I was always thinking about drawing. Arriving home each day I’d sit at my drawing table working on my own comic book ideas and stories well into the night. Still, even as an animator at Disney where I was drawing all day long, I would get home and immediately start work on my own art, animation and stories. After all, that’s where Brackenwood and this website came from. Fast forward to 2015. To anyone who knows me, it appears I’ve worked very hard to get where I am. I work 7 days a week from home, usually anywhere between 8-18 hours a day, I haven’t been on a holiday since 2000, but the fact is that I’ve never seen art, animation or creative writing as work. It’s my passion and I’ll do it until I can’t.
So if you’re feeling a bit aimless in life, pick something that you love to do. Cooking? Programming? Knife tricks? Maybe you’re already good at it and you’re often told you have a talent for it. I say this to almost everyone who asks for tips on being an artist: Experience is what separates amateur from expert.
One final word of advice is to choose your teachers wisely. Sure YouTube is vast, free and instant but there are swarms of teachers with bad technique and advice flying around out there.
I wish you the best of luck with your passion, whatever it may be!