Just Create

{ filed under Freelance, Make Stuff }

I lost my way. Not exactly sure when. But it has been a long time. I am 40 years old. I have been doing graphic design since 1994. Almost 20 years. But professionally? Maybe the last few years. Allow me a bit of your time to explain.

I used to draw all day, every day. Everywhere. Sides of my papers on schoolwork, paper grocery bag book covers, notebooks… if it was a blank surface it was my canvas. Cartoon characters, band logos, ninja weapons! I used to have this series of mini-ninjas with names and bios and different weapons and abilities. And they were awesome.

Why did I stop? What on earth made me stop doing what I loved so much? This release that made the days fly by.

1995-2010 (That’s a long fucking time…)
I can only point the finger at myself. I got lazy. I got complacent in life. As the years went on I lost my passion. Sure I was good at what I did but I didn’t put that passion into it like I did those mini-ninjas. My world started and stopped with the computer, free fonts and the path of least resistance.

Life moved forward while I moved backwards. I was in an unhappy marriage, I was burnt out and I worked because I had to. Not because I wanted to. I did as little as possible to get the job done. Sorry clients of old. I was in a bad place and felt lost. My confidence level was at rock bottom. I couldn’t even make my own logo! I hired someone else to create my logo. What. the. hell?! Keep in mind I hired someone great (Von Glitcshka) and never claimed to have created that brand (I’ll be swinging back around to this), but it wasn’t mine. It wasn’t me. And how could it be? I had no idea who me was.

2010. The year of hitting rock bottom…
Life fell out from under me. My marriage was ending and even though it was bad it was all I knew. I had been in this relationship and marriage for almost 16 years. Since I was 21! I didn’t know any better or different. Could I take care of myself? Would I ever see my daughter, who is my life, my everything? How would I support myself and her? See, I was a stay-at-home dad to a wonderful little girl who unfortunately was born paralyzed. I (and my then wife) put everything into her and forgot to put some of that into us. I was a mess mentally and didn’t know what to do. I floundered and wasted over 15 years.

…but it wasn’t mine. It wasn’t me. And how could it be? I had no idea who “me” was.

So what happened?
Life happened. I got separated and moved out on my own. It was liberating. I had the fight back. Because I had to. Nothing like learning to swim by being in shoved in the deep end. My soon-to-be-ex and I had a smooth and friendly parting. No fights, no screaming. No lawyers. We wanted the best for our daughter, period. I was back out there and I had to do it for myself. I had to put myself first.

I met someone. Someone wonderful. She saw things in me that I never (and sometimes still don’t) see. She didn’t see me as someone who was broken or needed to be fixed but as someone who was hiding and just needed to be found. In her eyes I am the best at whatever I do (far from it…) and never hesitates to let me know that she feels that way. It pushed me to start making myself feel that I was worthy of that praise.

Every journey starts with a first step. Or in my case, a drive to Columbus, Georgia
Creative South 13. My first ever design conference. To be with people who were in my eyes vastly more talented than I could ever be (Dammit where is that confidence?). I was so excited to be in the same room with some of my people. My brothers and sisters. Singing the songs of our people. As I talked to people I realized these were my peers. Not people to put on pedestals.They were just doing what I should have been doing when I was 25 or 30 (or 35) but I was just getting around to now at 40 years old.

They had the fire that I was trying to light within myself.

Sean McCabe. I handed him a card and he smiled and said “Nice, did you illustrate this?” I said no. And that is when it happened. The internal dam broke. I was never going to say that again to anyone. I had to overcome my lack of confidence and know that only I could create my own brand if I was to put myself out there in an honest fashion. Coupled with Sean’s talk on passion it made a huge impact on my life. Thank you Sean.

Ryan Hamrick. His talk on the Value of Custom. Giving the client or yourself something that cannot be replicated. Being able to make each project live and breathe on it’s own merits. Ryan is a great talent and a great guy. I am looking forward to seeing more of him and his work.

Mat Helme. I drew this funky little creature on the public drawing canvases. Didn’t think anything of it and almost wished I hadn’t. I went back to tweak it and Mat was there asking me about it. He dug it. I love his work and he is a great guy and it gave me some of the confidence I was seeking. I am so thankful to call Mat a friend after our adventures at WMC Fest as well.

Mike Jones. His personality. The love he puts into the conference and his genuine caring of everyone who is around him. It is infectious and after Creative South and then WMCFest I am proud to call him family now. And he is a BEAST of a letterer and illustrator.

So how did I get the fire back? Honestly I am still getting back. But really it can be summed up very easily.

Just Create

I am making changes. I let go all of the clients I didn’t feel fit with me and what I wanted to become. I freed myself. I am not using money as the sole arbiter of my future anymore. The past 5 months I have done nothing but draw, ink, letter, paint, I have started a screen-printing operation, I am learning to linocut and woodblock print, I am learning to sign-paint. I am getting out there and making friends. Not networking, making friends. I am creating art, I am creating relationships and I am creating a foundation that I can proudly build what I have always wanted myself to be on top of. I am not using life as an excuse to not live life anymore.

It took me a long time to get my head out of my ass and realize this, but the pencil or the pen or even the pen tool is truly mightier than the sword. Pick it up and draw. Just create. Make something. Put it out there. Repeat as needed.

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