Thursday, October 3, 2013

Shooting from the Hip and the Nature of Risk

I'm finally back after working my ass off on a presentation for The Mandate on Kickstarter (still much more to do). It just went live yesterday and while it's not quite funded yet, I thought it would be a good time to talk about my philosophy on risk and how it has applied to my career as an artist.

Usually, I prepare quite a bit before writing each post, but in the spirit of the context I will be doing this one straight from the hip. So here goes...

The Danger of Safety

There was a time in my life where I didn't even consider how risky things were. I leaned toward safety and this got me in to more trouble than I thought.

I always assumed I would be doing something in art, or at least that's what everyone was telling me. So my naive course of action was to just let it happen. Low and behold things did not work out that way. I ended up in a career that was backbreaking, tedious, soul crushing, and harder than I expected.

The hours and a workload I would have never dreamed of subjecting to someone else, for such a small paycheck and no appreciation. My artistic skills started to wither away as I lost all inspiration. I did this for years before I broke down, overworked and overstressed.

"Why would I chose this for myself" I would ask the walls of the bathroom I was hiding in (no one bothers you in there). Then it came to me so clearly. I did not chose this. It just sort'a happened. Taking the safe path was not a choice for me, it was a default.

How Risk Saved me from Myself

This may seem mundane for most of you, but the idea that things don't happen for me unless I worked to make them happen was profound. I reorderd the way I thought about money, personal life, happiness, and what a job should realistically expect of me... and then I quit.

This was the biggest risk of my life. No money, and no plan I jumped into my new life and hoped something would catch me. Risk can be challenging and scary. But deep down I knew I had something to offer that I failed to give credit to before.

Attitude is a Skill

Generally the fear of taking risk comes from the fear of coming out worse off than you started. This is true, you can fail you will fail. But did you really lose? Failure is good for you. It makes you stronger and wiser. You need it to improve and you need to be comfortable with it before you reach the next level.

I adapted the concept that if If I wasn't doing something that could help me because I was scared, then that was a red flag, now I have to do it. If your fears come true, at least you have a story to tell. I'm making life happen over here, people, not letting it happen.

Shooting from the Hip

This leads me to my final point. This whole story (coming to terms with life) is a parallel to how I approach the canvass. We all know there are certainly a lot of rules put out by art education and popular media that tell you "This is the way to do it." And you can find yourself listening to that because its safe, or easy to shift blame for you failures.

But sometimes, as an artist, it's good to say "no... I have a vision, a belief that something is beautiful to me... I'm going to go with my gut on this, and if I fail... then I'll try again."

It's OK to fail, people. It's not OK to give up. Because the more you try, the more you win.

Bring it on life.

-Garret AJ

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