Sunday, January 6, 2013

It was the best of times and the worst of times...

This post is my attempt at trying to deal with the 3 month palaeo-art apathy/depression I've been suffering from. I'm inspired (as usual) by Glendon Mellow's recent post on overcoming his own artistic depression. I'm hoping by articulating the situation I might better attack this current mental state. For any of my "fans" out there (which I don't currently feel like I have many of) take this as your call for a minor moral intervention.

Monstrous Butchery by myself (Craig Dylke)
My piece of the Goronyosaur tearing a Globidens pup to shreds accurately represents my drive and attitude towards my palaeo-art at moment. I'm the pup, and the Goronyosaur is a combination of apathy and doubt about my work.

The really weird thing is 2012 up until October was my most productive and positive year out of my "career"...
Utah Dinosaurs by myself (Craig Dylke)
I completed some 24 portfolio-able pieces (at the time I felt 10 were pushing my abilities to new levels). I modelled and textured over 16 new models. 

Even bigger than that I finally got my work into two museums!
True Marine Dinosaur by myself (Craig Dylke)
With all this why could I possibly be down on myself and my palaeo-art?

Seriously this is a legitimate question. I don't know why exactly. If you have any experience with this sort of thing and have an insight please do share it.

There are a few possible contributing factors. The thing is when I think about them they don't bother me on a conscious level. I've never typically been the sort to have subconscious emotions as it were. I can always trace my state of happiness or lack thereof to clear cut cause and effects. Yet with my palaeo-art I'm completely in the toilet emotionally.

One of the big things to change in latter 2012 has been work. My second year at my school has been a lot more difficult. My new classes' parents are very difficult, my co-partner situation is an absolute nightmare (she doesn't speak English, yet we're supposed to be a functional communicating team...).

Despite this I've managed art. I've dived into making stuff for my board game addiction, and I've been just as productive there. 

Feathered Ornithomimus By Julius Csotonyi. 
The only thing I can think of that did me in specifically, was the latest negative interactions with palaeontologists I had in this fall. Which is sad. Overall all the palaeontologists I've met and dealt with are brilliant people... Until it comes to my art.

The biggest misadventure was the feathered Ornithomimus from Alberta. In early 2010 I was pseudo approached by a member of that research team about my art. Not specifically the Ornithomimid granted, but just my art in general. In talking about it they were very interested, and I suggested I could help out with the Ornithomimus. At that time they were somewhat interested, as they hadn't looked into a reconstruction yet. However as time went on (the publication of this animal was some 2-3 years later than I think the team would have liked) communications from this scientists dwindled and dwindled. My last official word on the topic was in 2011 just before I left for HK, and it was they were thinking of engaging Julius Csotonyi to do the reconstruction.

This wasn't actually a problem. I understood the instant they brought this choice it was the only logical move on their part. For a specimen of this importance (although the extra time it took them seems to have taken the impact off the first feathered Dino from North America, in face of all the other feathered stuff that came to light in those extra two years) they'd want a super star palaeo-artist. It was more the fact I NEVER heard back from them after this point. I simply wanted an official confirmation I wasn't needed anymore. 

Honestly I'd accepted I wasn't going to get that gig back 2011. However finding out they had definitely gone with Csotonyi from news releases and blog posts, rather than the person I'd gone to the effort of volunteering many hours of my time to, kind of hurt. All I wanted was confirmation I wasn't going to get to do it.

I also had another two researchers outright reject offers for free art for their press releases, and they instead opted for nothing. Which has left me with a lingering feeling my stuff is shit...

The logic in me says that the museum gigs (one instigated by an active palaeontologist) should make this a zero sum situation. 

So on the one hand I'm left vaguely with a confusion as to whether my stuff is crap or not... Some people want it in their museum, but others don't want it (for free) with their press release.

A Blooper by myself (Craig Dylke)
The sad part is with the release of All Yesterdays, there is a new palaeo-art movement I was already trying to get into, before it was out there and "cool". This Stegosaur, while an amusing mistake, was the direction I was going in as of September.

However given I didn't finish this guy before the book's release, it now feels like I'm riding the book's coat tails. Which while vain of me, I'd liked to have gotten out there and said I thought of this on my own. Now it'll just look like I'm doing this just to be in on the book's new "trend".

I'd really like to get back to palaeo-art. I just can't get over my creative funk.

Anyone know the feeling. More important if you know it, do you know how to kill it?


Yul said...

I don't think I'm able to give you advice because I've never been in that kind of situation.
But you should be optimistic. Geting your work into a museum is a big achivement and I'm sure you can do even better if you keep pushing.

There will allways be people that will reject/criticize your art, no matter how good you are. But you can't let them put you off.

If you keep practicing in a few years people will fight for a piece of your art.

Sorry about my spelling.

Steven said...

I've been in that state of mind before about the little bit of art I've done, but I realized that art wasn't what I was into when it comes to paleo. Or I could have been just lazy too. Maybe you need to rethink what you want to do and what direction to take? Re-inspire yourself?

Glendon Mellow said...

If I may offer, I think part of your malaise has been exacerbated by lack of feedback. And knowing you're not a fan of my solution, I'm going to barrel ahead and offer it again anyway. :-)

ART Evolved was at the forefront of community-blogging about paleo art. It quickly became a place for many of us to hang our art, and stand around the bloggy watercolour in the comments discussing the posts above.

Not just here, but in my experience with my own blog and on Symbiartic at the Scientific American network, the conversation is livelier than ever, but it has changed venues.

Typically when I post on whichever blog, after I post I do 3 things.
1. I announce the post with a link and sometimes an image on Twitter.
2. I announce the post with a link + image on my Facebook Fan Page
3. I announce the post with a link + image on Google+.

Occasionally I'll also do the same on LinkedIn, Pinterest, Deviantart, Tumblr or any other social media I think is likely to be worthwhile.

And you know, a funny thing has happened the last 2 or 3 years. Readers aren't commenting on the blogs with regularity. I put up some posts with hundreds of pageviews in 24 hours, and there's nary a comment.

Because the comments are all happening where the people saw the link. Twitter. Facebook. Google+.

For example, the post you mention about my Creative Depression. It received 9 comments on my blog (not incl. my own responses.)
On Twitter I received over 60 retweets, favorites and comments over the next few days.
Facebook and G+ had about a dozen comments, Likes and +1 each.

In my experience, something that keeps me coming back to blogging as an artist is the feedback. I make my art to elicit a response. And I love when the response is in the science or art communities. I receive far more positivity from peers and fans through social media than through the professional contracts themselves.

People love to read blogs, look at art, learn some science. But they now love to comment on other forms of social media.

I recommend jumpstarting your enthusiasm by mingling in the social world of Twitter. Otherwise artwork is howling in the wind instead of howling with a pack.

Glendon Mellow said...

I realize that was a long comment, and I have one more bit to add.

The reason, I think people comment more in other forms of social media, is smartphones and tablets.

If I see a link on Twitter on my phone, I can open the post within my phone. I hit the back button and reply to the tweet about the phone. Done.

To make comments here (or on my own blogs) I have to log in, and take other additional security measures, like typing in Captchas multiple times because apparently I'm part-robot. It's faster just to comment at the link.

You're a social-artist Craig: you've built a strong, fun community with ART Evolved. So I hope you'll think about what I'm noting here.

P.S. Those images show how rockin' your art looks in a museum. Way to go, dude!

David Tana said...

I have to agree with the previous comments. You shouldn't be down on yourself. The museum pieces are a testament to your ability and quality of work.

And I have to say, as much as I might not like the trend either, I think Glendon makes some really good points. Granted I've been fairly inactive on all fronts for quite some time now, but things are always still happening on these social media sites. That's where the interaction is. I've found I have to become increasingly involved in them in order to stay motivated. I don't like being glued to a screen, but in addition to reading the blog posts, commenting on them and sharing them through Twitter, Facebook, Google+, etc., is equally important.

You were there at the beginning of Art Evolved, and you've seen the community grow over the last several years to what it is today. And it's brilliant! That community is still here, and has expanded "out there". But even in the last few days, I've found new energy in the "pack". For me, remembering that this community is here has always helped get me through the occasional "down times". And I hope it helps you too!

comandantedavid said...

As for "riding the coattails" of All Yesterdays, that's just balderdash.

As the authors of that excellent work make clear, they are not the first pioneers into this territory. I was reading Love in the Time of Chasmosaurs earlier today, and I was struck by how much Henderson's pieces (specifically the ceratosaurs plodding by an unmolested sauropod carcass) would fit right into that book. Revisiting classic Stout gave me the same impression. Such work has always been around. You produce some of it. All Yesterdays is just trying to nudge the whole paleoart conversation further in that direction.

Craig Dylke said...

Thank you all for the kind words. Sorry about my delay in replying. It was exam week at school, so I've been marking up a storm.

Craig Dylke said...

Yul- No worries on the spelling. I'm not perfect myself ;p

I agree there will always be. Working on the soldiering on part.

Craig Dylke said...

Steven- Yeah the re-inspiration seems to be the key.

I find I'm leaving my learning stage of my art development, and while I'm no where near perfect, I'm at a point where I can be seen as a somewhat okay artist compared to where I started 6 years ago.

So the problem is what does a Butterfly do with its self, when all its known is being a caterpillar ;)

Craig Dylke said...

Glendon- Thank you for the response as always. You will always be my art hero :)

I will try on all the extra stuff.

I think my main reason for resisting all this stuff is time.

Sadly time is just not something I have in abundance like I used to, which might be another factor affecting the art. I can't immerse the way I used to in Uni and when I was a sub.

We'll have to schedule a G+ time and you can sell it to me in "person" :P

Craig Dylke said...

David- Yeah AE does rock... Though for the last few months it feels like a lot of people have kind of left it behind.

I mean this honestly, but getting your Stegosaur submission this week brought a smile to my face. It felt like some of the old gang were coming back to the club house again.

I hear you on the lack of free time. Got to love growing up and hitting real life eh :(

Craig Dylke said...

comandantedavid- You are absolutely right, and I know I'm being silly.

I find that is all depression is though. Warping reality so it is all about screwing with you... Where in reality it doesn't care.

I'm over that particular issue. I had a fantastic chat with David Maas about All Yesterdays, and I will probably share my thoughts on the book shortly.

David Tana said...


I've had creative spurts over the last year, but I've been pretty much been out of it because of other life happenings. Finding motivation has been hard. And I feel bad that I've fallen out of so much because of it. But submitting brought a smile to my face too, so hopefully you'll be seeing me in the clubhouse a lot more now.

David Orr said...

Another way you might be able to feed your inspiration is through things that contribute to paleoart that aren't *doing* paleoart. For instance, you are uniquely positioned to give us an eye into the Chinese scene, which is sadly invisible to many of us outside the borders. I know you've hinted at doing just this, but I figured it couldn't hurt to encourage you there. Also: free, unstructured sketching. Try something in a vastly different medium. Sit in a museum and do a continuous line contour drawing of a mount. Do things that you don't worry about sharing publicly.

I'm not sure how much of that you may work into your process, but as someone who has run into many of these ruts you've been dealing with, I think that turning off the internal censor and committing yourself to the purely physical act of creating can be a way through it. You'll be fine!

Craig Dylke said...

David Orr- I certainly do need to get my butt into gear about the Chinese palaeo-artist I "discovered" while touring China this summer (though in many ways it'll be my wife's post, as I need her to translate the purely Chinese books I picked up).

Sadly Hong Kong is not much of a gateway into the Chinese palaeo scene, which might be another contributing factor to the funk.

HK was the heart of a vast desert during the part of the Mesozoic it has rocks from.

The only Dinosaurs on display locally are a cast of Black Beauty the T-Rex's skull (which having worked at the place where the original was on actual display, doesn't do a thing for me), and a cast of a Chinese prosauropod (which while nice, isn't my dino cup of tea).

Also adding to this problem is the HK policy/philosophy of having NO seats what's so ever in public places (malls, museums, parks, etc). If I were to go sketch these I'd have to stand the whole time.

I'm slowly getting out of my funk. David Krentz recent Utah No-Dino Dino has struck a cord with me. For while I like 75% of the All Yesterdays movement there is a 25% section I think is really stupid, and going to lead to some incredibly misleading art about prehistoric life. Krentz's piece captures that 25% perfectly...