Amateur to Expert

 Posted by at 11:50 pm  Add comments
Dec 152014

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!

  8 Responses to “Amateur to Expert”

Comments (8)
  1. Lovely honest post. Your multitude of work makes me feel so lazy in comparison. You deserve everything you have and you don’t need me to tell you that 🙂

  2. Aah…. I was just now looking at a wallpaper that I had downloaded from your site years ago (of the young child bitey) and I thought.. hey, he hasn’t posted anything in a while, and I came here to get your email id to message you (to ask about any upcoming projects, of course 😀 ).. and saw this nice post.

    Feels good to read each new post.. I’m an animation final year student now.. and I’ve been following your work since around 2005 (woah.. a decade now). your animation tips and tricks have always been helpful. thank you for that.
    Eagerly waiting to see more of your works.

  3. Hey!

    Stumbled upon you over wikipedia.

    I found it interesting that you made a language.

    If you’re interested in some conversation, send me an e-mail.

    Wishing you all the best,

  4. My problem is that since I started treating animation like work, all my passion for it has died out.
    And when I do make something and show it off to my friends they turn their noses up at it because I’ve done much better works in the past.
    It’s like all I ever do these days is waste away spending 40 hours a week scrubbing dishes.
    These things have made me go from a luscious grape to withered raisin and I don’t know how to get my love for animating back.

    I don’t know if I’m just in a rut or if I really have lost my passion for animating.
    I don’t even remember what the joy of animating something feels like anymore.

    And after all of this I’m still desperate to get back on track, but I’m so lost I don’t know what to think or do anymore.
    Any advice you can give me?

    • RawGreen, If you are doing it for the love of it, what your friends (or anyone else) think or say about it should not matter. If you are doing it for anyone but yourself you will always have to “measure up” AND as the say…you can’t please everyone so you have to please yourself.

  5. I have a similar problem to RawGreen’s; nobody hired me in at Disney, or Marvel Studios, or Tor Publishing, and by the price of art school I had to choose to work retail and manual labor instead, and it visibly affects the quality of my work. There is an exhaustion that comes with modern labor that I’m glad you, before the age of 22 could somehow manage past; but between long commutes and extra shifts eating up time, bills and groceries eating up all the money that could otherwise be spent on tools of the trade (and/or classes to improve / keep skill steady). I have made grocery money on commission and still find time to write and draw, but at the demands of holding down two middling wage jobs just to be able to feed and house myself??

    I work from eleven p.m. to 7 a.m., then work again until noon, then run errands or clean house or cook food or write until two or four pm, then sleep until ten to do it all over, with my weekends devoted to following this passion but at actual visible noticeable detriment to the skill. exhaustion. it’s just a terrible, bone-deep, awful cap on that passion, which might still burn, but now blisters and peels for all that we are robbed of our chance to vent it.

    so possibly this article could say “hard work and opportunity meet at an apex and we call this luck. opportunity is not garunteed, nor is your hard work in any creative field meant to satisfy anyone but yourself”. see also: ” you can’t eat a rose; nor can a rose keep you warm”. see also: “well the term isn’t ‘well-fed artist’, now is it?”

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