Thursday, June 6, 2013

Just Do You!

I remember a time when I was attending the Art Institute of Atlanta where a drawing teacher discouraged all of his students from manga-style art. His words didn’t bother me so much because I like art in general, particularly cartooning.  I chose this style of drawing after my childhood exposure to animes such as Project A-Ko and Sailor Moon.  However, what did nudge at me about this teacher's discouraging words was whether or not what I loved would ever even matter to another. Then I realized that it does. It matters to me.  And that became the most important reason to keep doing what I love to eventually connect with others.  You, the individual, are your own best friend.  Ultimately, all we have is ourselves to guide us.  So why should we not be honest and truthful with ourselves to the utmost degree of awareness of our bliss? Especially if it creates an inner happiness within us while doing no harm to others. After all, the more people are happy with themselves on the planet, the better for us all. So if someone likes to decorate his/her room with azalea flowers, why should someone tell him/her that it is “meaningless” or “purposeless” when those azalea flowers are the one thing that calls to that individual’s spirit (interchange this word as needed)? The same can be asked concerning what a person chooses to draw and illustrate, especially when you consider what stories art tells others about the individuals who produce it. So why question someone else’s reasons instead of questioning why we do what we do ourselves? I say this to be less than psychological, as I try to keep my writing and ideas simple. Still, it is always something to think about on a surface level.  Because how else are some of us going to tell or relate our stories to others without some kind of connection or conduit? So I added a couple of new drawings to my pseudo “pre-web store” as a part of my growing dream for connectivity. Here in my blog I included my words on what inspired me to draw them as I share pieces of my personal story.  My purpose for doing this is to remind people to JUST DO YOU no matter what people say.  If you can find the strength to stand on what you believe about yourself and your abilities, then that is enough.  The rest will most certainly follow and fall in place.


My time working for my high school newspaper was fun. Of course I joined just to draw comics, but I wrote articles too.  I was pretty damn brave for putting myself out there, considering I was somewhat of a shy student. Only a select few of people really knew the extent of my outgoing personality. I learned through middle school and the early years of high school that not everyone is going to appreciate the parts that make you. So I shut that part of me down. Still, my senior year was approaching, and filled with dreams (drawing, singing, acting, writing) I decided I needed to do something memorable.  After much contemplation, what finally encouraged my decision to do comics was reading an article in an old Smile magazine by Tokyo Pop. The article was about a group of high school students who did something similiar, eventually starting their own run of comics. To me that was amazing, as I’ve always had hopes of being discovered in some part of the world. So I did the comics and became somewhat popular toward my last year of high school. People (including teachers) would pass the word on who was doing the artwork and suddenly folks would ask me about it in the hallways and classrooms.  These two examples were my first attempt at applying screenings to my work. They weren’t official screens (I laugh at the process I used), but I liked the results.  Eventually I moved on from drawing manga panels. Something about my need for color and my love of Naoko Takeuchi's dramatic character portraits. Nonetheless, I did the best I could with what I had on hand. Nothing fancy. Just the ambition for greatness and the will to be taught. My newspaper gave me themes to work with.  The two here are about the prohibition period teachers were facing back then, as well as one on high school graduation. I wonder if I can do manga panels now? I must say that what I realized about myself back then was that I was super, super hungry for an opportunity. I was willing to work my ass off just for a chance, especially growing up in a household that didn’t encourage anything out of me.  Putting myself out there was an attempt to find someone who could help me be the person I dreamt of being. That was all I truly wanted.


While I volunteered at our public library, as well as worked for Habitat for Humanity, my first paying job was doing fast food. Should I mention where? Of course. KFC. Five days after my high school graduation I was stuffing fried chicken pieces into boxes. It was an eye-opening experience when I think back on it.  One that I do treasure proudly. However, the reason I think it was so eye-opening was because that’s where reality began to set in. All those dreams I had in high school were being pushed somewhere. It didn’t mean it was a time to give up on them. Not at all when you consider I kept drawing, making singing demos, and going to model scoutings in the hopes for that breakthrough. But at the same time that fire and passion being stifled in my work environment began to lead me down some very, and I mean very, dark roads. Perhaps that is a bit dramatic. I wasn’t on drugs or anything, it was more like battles with depression and an anxious fever for my start. I did start college at my local community college, though.  While I absolutely enjoyed the experience, despite my ill-readiness for it, I never understood exactly what I was in college for.  I didn’t have a mentor or any guidance. I just had mostly myself. My parents didn’t give two shakes about anything but me getting a job--which I did.  I think it’s funny that I mention this now when just this past weekend my mother and I went out to eat and began talking about school and my ten year struggle to earn a degree. The conversation turned toward my current progress, which is actually pretty dire, I must admit. Nevertheless, that stale look she gave her plate was something I will never forget. I think then she got that I needed lots of support in the past. This is part of the reason why I want to own my own business.  From there I can create programs that support kids’ dreams and educational pursuits with encouraging couselers and leaders.
These drawings were inspired by Christina Aguilera during her “Dirrty” phase. I was twenty when I drew them, and much like Christina, I was anxious to explore what all life had available for me. But stuck at a job I didn’t want to be at was hurting me, and helping me in many ways. Still, it was here that I continued to draw, channeling my confusion into colorful drawings


These next drawings are what I did while at work and outside. I finally jumped out of fast food and moved into working inside a call center (there‘s a story about that). This eventually brought about a slew of further dark days, thankfully ensconced by reconnecting with my childhood friends and starting to share our adult lives together. While this call center job paid me well, the price was anxiety and depression. Here I was, locked to a chair for eight hours taking back-to-back phone calls from angry individuals who were enraged because their satellite cable equipment wasn’t working properly. Great. I was so enthused to help them. This job persisted, so I began to bring my bliss to work with me. I tugged my book bag along every morning and throughout my shift I would lay all of my notebooks and tools out and draw. Colored pencils, pens, markers, I didn’t care who saw me. I would take those goddamn phone calls and draw!  One of my team leaders gave me an evaluation, stating that everything looked good on my scores but she thought I was distracted while sitting at my desk writing "poetry." I ignored that.  Lots of ideas and characters came out of this place/period, but by the summer of 2005 I was seeking therapeutic help (and a psychic I might add). By winter, I took the opportunity to move to another city. So driven to do the “right thing” and be responsible, I walked away from another job.  Many didn’t see this move coming.


So I moved. My cousin was staying in the state of Georgia with a roommate who was a friend of hers from high school. They both moved to Georgia with the intentions of going to school for fashion design, while I just wanted a change and a way out.  What I didn't fully grasp was that this change included a package of: my cousin's friend's then pregnancy, two others kids by her, and her current boyfriend.  So essentially my cousin was alone, and since we were close, I was the perfect fit. Nevertheless, I did not know what I was getting myself in to. All I knew was that I had to make a change. I had to feel life. So when they were in preparations to move closer to Atlanta, I asked could I come aboard. Putting my half of the money down, I made it happen. What a journey, all requiring a separate blog post I must say.
By January of 2006 I had finally nailed a job working in a bookstore [Borders]. Great experience, despite days where my bloodsugar was so low my head went swimming.  I even met a few celebrities during my period there.  However, the best part was being surrounded by thousands upon thousands of books. I used to think I was a great reader before, but wow did that experience really open my eyes and mind. I learned a lot in my two years working and living in Georgia. I truly could write a blog straight from my journals about my experience. Nevertheless, in focusing on the picture underneath the heading, this photo was inspired by a photograph of a swimmer preparing to dive while in the nude. I loved the use of shadows in the original photograph so I wanted to make it strong and heavy in my translation. I wanted to give the face a clear, almost emotionless glare. It was sort of my attempt to let the drawing interpret itself.  I also love skin-tone colors and did some extra blending to create his.  Because I had to start over making friends and getting out to do things, I sought comfort in drawing, as usual. This is one example of those days I spent alone with my dreams and thoughts, building on the hopes that this new city would open up the opportunities I left my hometown to seek.  I remember listening to a lot of Marcos Hernandez during this time. (^_^)  Though that information is irrelevant.


At the tail end of 2007 I decided, after much debate because of discouraging circumstances, to move back home.  It all sort of happened right when I was getting the hang of living in Georgia. My cousin and I promptly separated ourselves from our previous roommates, as they became the roommates from hell, and got a place of our own. The details of that ordeal are intriguing, should I get the urge to rehash them. Nonetheless, that separation was such a relief that I began to truly open up to the relocation experience, instead of living with one foot ready to haul back home. After much frustration and tears, I started school for Illustrations and Designs.  This expanded the ideas of my drawings where I started to experiment a lot more with the backdrops of my drawings.  I also learned to accept my particular style of drawing, as it was better that I stick with traditional coloring instead of computer based.  I love my pastel chalks and water colors.  How could I trade those in for computer coloring taught at my new school?  But I digress.
I also made friends, spending many weekends at Six Flags and driving out and about the city of Atlanta. I even took to several dates.  I still spent time alone, too. I remember going to the bookstore in Midtown and reading Harry Potter for hours just to feel apart of my new city. Slowly I began to get comfortable there. In retrospect, “comfortable” might be an understatement. Except for some of the pigheaded managers at my bookstore job, things were truly looking up. Without getting into the details as to what caused me to move back home, I had finally had enough of one single situation that effected my home. As I don’t allow people to take advantage of me should I feel such, it is even harder for me to watch someone I love be clearly taken advantage of. It was so sudden and frustrating that either I could fight my way out of another living situation from hell, or just let it all go. 
I decided to let it go, and without regrets.  I've always made it a point to try not to have regrets because the truth is that we never have all the information in the moments that we need to make sudden decisions.  Or an emotional based decision.  I believe the hardest part was letting go of the friends I’d made. I found it amazing that the friends I made in Georgia were far more interested and interesting than the ones I made back home (outside of my childhood friends). It really is a curious feeling. I was immediately accepted there, with all of my quirky ways. One particular friend that I miss dearly was named Jamier. Toward the end of my experience there her and I became close. I remember when I was super broke, sitting at a restaurant with an appetizer before me. We were in a party of four, and to save me from embarrassment, she paid my way. She hung around my apartment a lot during that time. It was as if we were both seeking an honest friendship and found that in each other. The night before I left, her and another close friend of mine went out to eat, laughing before I said goodbye. Jamier spent more time than any friend of mine looking through my drawings and commenting on them. Her favorite was one that I had drew shown here in yellow and plaid. Two years ago I found out Jamier had died. I have no idea what happened to her, only the roaming speculation that it was a brain aneurysm. All I can remember is her calling and texting me even after I’d moved. Always wanting to know how I was doing while we were apart.
After two years I was back home.  Far more advanced emotionally and spiritually.  I felt like I had on a fresh pair of glasses, seeing my life situation differently.  After spending those years working around books, I decided I wanted to change my major to English Literature.  I've always loved writing and drawing pictures based on my characters.  Even as a child I wanted to write stories and illustrate the covers.  Since my hometown isn't exactly art-based, English Literature was the perfect alternative.
At least at this point I had a direction.  That was good enough for me.  I proved that I could do much more than I thought I was capable of and grew to be stronger as a result.


It took waiting out a semester and summer before I started at my new--and tough as hell--school. I remember during that wait I was working for a temp agency doing assembly work.  As we were working down the line, one of my co-workers told me about all the degrees she had and how she retired from teaching. I told her my story and the singuliar thing she had to say in return was to “just do it.” She told me not to worry about anything else but my future. When jobs go, they go.  But following and believing in your passion is something you should fight to keep running.  She inspired me, and as usual, I took leaps and prayed for the best. This picture is one of the characters in that story I wrote during my time in Georgia.  I consider it a "power shot."  I love experimenting with beads and jewels so I used those to sort of accentuate the drawing. Unfortunately, this was also the period where my drawings began to slow down in favor for my love of writing. Besides the new school kicking my ass, I began to divulge myself in writing another story. I put my best efforts into studying the craft of writing then. Reading even more reference books. It was here that I also tried to focus more on my main writing interest, which was mystery writing. Because this was a transitional period where I was a lot stronger in my thinking and emotions, I began to learn to let things that weren’t good for me go. I think I started to become a little more selfish in my desire to make a positive change for myself. I hurt some people unintentionally in the process, but I was back home with a new attitude and new direction--an actual direction. Soon school took over much of my life, and I stopped drawing more.  There came a day where I was looking over my profilio of drawings from over the years and saw that I had nothing I could do with them.  So I stopped, feeling as if I hit a brick wall as I had already changed directions.  However, because my personal stories are journalized, I did have the idea of using my drawings to start my own line of journals.  That idea stuck with me. Putting all of my eggs into finishing school and thinking my life was going to get better with a degree was actually faulty thinking.  I remember reading a horoscope that told me not to do this exact thing, even encourging me not to go to school anymore because it'll only "slow" me down.  I didn't invest in the horoscope, but now I see its truth as my direction is branching once more.  While I did enjoy school, I do sometimes feel that it was a crutch of some sort.  But life is life.  
So do you. No matter your circumstances, believe in something and keep pushing toward it. Whether you run across roadblocks, shut doors, lies, and half-truths, keeping being honest with yourself and others as you move forward. That honesty will reflect in the Universe, allowing things to happen.  Something even as subtle as taking an inspired thought will create a world of difference in your future. People will not always get why you do what you do, and they will not always understand your perspectives and philosophies, as they are too involved with their own. Nevertheless, the important thing is that you grow to understand what really works for you. What is going to make you comfortable enough to face life’s circumstances that you can still give faith into working toward the things you desire? What is going to make you comfortable enough to move out of your own way, enough so that when things began to blossom, you’ll be too excited to be uncomfortable, allowing you to take a leap into your opportunities. And most of all, be brave where it counts, but remember stillness is also a state of allowing things to manifest. Lastly, remember that it is okay to not know what you are doing... so long as you do something.  

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