Ask An Artist-Blog series- Burn Out..’nuff Said

Todays Question comes from Danielle in California

Do you ever get burned out doing artwork? What keeps you inspired and motivated to keep going?

BURN OUT is VERY common with all artists. For me, it happens from time to time, but usually from just working myself to exhaustion.  I will often have projects that have short deadlines, or I wait till the last minute to finish (bad habit, I know). When it’s crunch time, and I have no other way than to bare down and get it done I’ll often work till I can barely keep my eyes open. That will usually burn me out both physically and mentally. After completing a project when I get burned out, I have learned that I NEED to take at least one day to do ANYTHING other than art. It’s like rebooting your computer. While it sounds like a day off, it really isn’t. Turning my brain off and NOT doing art is really difficult, but it’s necessary. Sometimes I have another project waiting for me as soon as I finish another one, and then I can’t take that day to reboot. I find my motivation in my reserve tank, which is usually made up of my responsibilities like bills and/or things I’d like to buy. That is usually enough to get me through.

But, burn out from exhaustion is not the only kind of burn out. I’ve also been the victim of burn out from nothing more than the business getting me down. Working with difficult people, dealing with rude customers, and rejection is enough to get an artists confidence and motivation down, especially when it all in one day or a week. When I graduated from Collage in 1998, I had a head full of steam and confidence coming out of my ears. I thought every magazine and newspaper would want to have me make art for them. So I sent out over $200 worth of mailers with my art on it to every art director to every publication I could find. I was so excited, but my confidence was taking a kick to the gut with every week that passed when I did not get a response from any one. FInally, about 2 months later I received a letter from PLAYBOY Magazine. I was so excited, I couldn’t open the letter fast enough! It read “Dear Randy, Thank you for submitting samples of your work to Playboy Magazine. At this time we have no need for your services.”. How devastated do you think I was? What I believed to be my saving grace turned out to be my final straw that broke my back. I fell into a very bad funk of depression and became very bitter. So bad that my girlfriend left me for a couple days, which turned out to be my real saving grace because it made me see that I had let disappointment drive me to self pity and I lost focus of what and who was important in my life. After 2 very intense days of soul searching, I realized the changes I needed to make. I recalled back to my limited study of Buddhism in art history, and pondered the meaning of “life is suffering“. I’m no buddhist expert but what I took from that “truth” is that if you can accept and understand that life IS suffering, then it’s easier to understand that bad things that happen in your life are just part of it all. The set backs and discouragement is just as important to life as the success and triumphs. The Yin with the Yang. It’s basically accepting that “Shit Happens”. Bad experience is not an isolated stroke of bad luck or some secret conspiracy against you. Shit happens, and it ALWAYS happens. But at the same time, life is also filled with an abundance of positives and good experiences. As much as Bad things seem to be around, Great things are always around too. So if we can accept that life is a constant series of events, equal parts negative and positive, then it means we all have a choice as to which events to focus on and to celebrate.

In hind sight I can honestly say the darkest times in my life, where I felt discouraged, a lack of confidence, and not motived, came when I allowed myself to focus on the negative events that were going on in my

English: Yin yang picture Español: Yin yang

English: Yin yang picture Español: Yin yang (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

life. In contrast, the best times in my life where I feel confident, motivated, and encouraged, came when I had learned to focus on the positives in life. Even in the face of  some pretty heavy negative events. It’s not about denying the negatives. You definitely have to acknowledge the negatives, or you can never learn from them. But when you FOCUS on the negatives, and negatives start to define who you are you have very little chance of ever seeing anything positive. As a result you become discouraged, depressed, and develop an “I can’t” attitude.

I’m not saying it’s easy. But when I started to realize the things I was losing, and the people I was pushing away by being negative, you found quick motivation to learn how to focus on the positives.
One last thing about your energy focus. While the choice to focus on the positive or the negative is ultimately yours, you can improve your chances of being positive by surrounding yourself with like minded people.  If you want to be positive, hang with positive people. If you hang with negative people their influence is usually too strong and you’ll have a hard time ever being positive. It’s one of those hard choices in life, but sometimes we have to remove ourselves from friends and even family members who are nothing but negativity. But, again…it comes down to choice. Do you keep negative people in your life, or do you search out positive people instead?

In case your wondering… once I realized I was focusing on the negative and began appreciating the positives, my attitude made a 180. My girlfriend came back, I felt happy, and confident. Enough confidence to buy two tickets to Star Wars Celebration I in 1999 where I made my connection with Lucasfilm, which lead to my first gig making official Star Wars art.

With all that said, I will admit that it has been a life long journey (for me) to learning  how to stay positive. It’s not easy and I have failed at this task at times. I’ve been lucky to have positive influences in my life like Denise Vasquez, my Mom, sister and Bro. in-law (who have been supportive and patient with me), but I have always found my way back to the positive light when I slow down and understand it ALL comes down to what I choose to do.

So to FINALLY answer your question, I find my inspiration and motivation from life. When I feel I’m getting discouraged, I stop and meditate and focus on all the great things life brings and the opportunities I have everyday to use the tools I’ve been given to create something wonderful. I’ll take a walk and listen to the birds and the wind blowing through the trees. It centers me and reminds me that I make the choice to be positive or negative.

We ALL have a choice.