Be who you want to be, and ignore everyone else. Most of the time, people just won’t get it. But don’t give up.
In college, I doodled a lot. Like, A LOT a lot. So much so that I had enough of them to start a blog – Doodles & Things.
I listened better in class when I was doodling. That’s just how my brain functions. I started the blog to watch my doodles grow and improve over time, and over time I branched out to digital painting and illustration. Eventually, I moved from doodling to pay attention in class to really drawing for the sake of getting better. I had no real reason to want to improve my skill other than to be good at it. I guess that was just the artist in me trying to do its thing.
Growing up, I was brainwashed by my loving and concerned parents to believe that being an artist was a terrible choice to make. “Given all the opportunities you have, why would you choose to be an artist?” By “opportunities”, they meant money-making opportunities. Both of my parents grew up in poverty.
On May 5, 2010, I posted this doodle on my then blog:
Their ideas about artists weren’t far from the truth – artists can literally work their entire lives and never get paid, but that’s only a concern if money is the reason for making art. There are ways around that if you’re serious about the money, but since I just was just in love with the art, I thought that I would be poor if I became an artist. I was scared because I adopted my parents’ fears.
I was too scared to not go through with school (I studied Biochemistry with the intent of going to medical school), but I kept making art because I needed it to stay sane. I was fake-being an artist and just doodling whatever. But by posting them online, I created a dialogue with the rest of the world. Eventually, a woman who had been following my blog commissioned me for artwork. And still at that point, I hadn’t fully accepted myself as an artist.
The commissions and opportunities to gain wider audience kept coming, but still I was determined to become a doctor. Some people tried to be helpful by saying, “Why don’t you just do art? Why don’t you just be an artist?” I thought that by being an artist, I would have to give up school. I wanted to be a doctor for a number of compelling reasons, and giving that up would be a waste of opportunity and all the time that I had already put into that path. But still I kept making art, just to practice. I honestly thought that I would become a doctor before I would become an artist.
When I think of Picasso or Andy Warhol, I realize I took for granted the fact that their names are so well known. I deceived myself into thinking that in order to be an artist, I’d have to “make it” like they did. But I realize “making it” just means making it to the next step. Picasso and Warhol used to be where I was and where I am now!
As an artist, I’ve made it over and over again for the past three years. When you start a blog, your first reader comment is “making it”. When you draw a few comic strips and are able to tell people to check out your comics because they can expect more, that’s “making it”. When you have followers who tell you that you’ve inspired them, that’s “making it”. And when you make enough artwork to have something to show at an exhibit, that is definitely “making it”.
Whee! (In preparation for next month’s Comic Art Exhibit at the Baldwin Park Arts & Recreation Center in San Gabriel Valley, CA.)
Oh, the irony. I am an artist, but not yet a doctor. (Although, I will be in three more years. A doctor of smiles!) Looking back, I realize I didn’t have to stress out so much about choosing one over the other. I was already doing the work I needed to be both; I just couldn’t see where I was being led. Now I’m doing both! Just not in the order I imagined. When I expressed my concerns about not being clear, people took it upon themselves to try to fix my life for me.
But I didn’t need it to be fixed. I just needed to be me and believe in myself.