Motivation to achieve your goals in life comes in many forms. I decided to take a look at some of mine throughout my life. Keep reading if you care to learn my deep dark secrets [ ultimately you can use them against me later in life when I'm weak and defenseless. ]
When I was a kid I wanted to be just like my father. He passed away when I was 28 but man he left a mark! By the time I was a teenager I was a lot to handle - so we hardly ever saw eye to eye. He was a tough and talented man. To me he was like a super hero. He had a very black and white philosophy about life. He defined right and wrong very distinctly - there was no grey in his world. As a kid, a philosophy like that makes complete sense even if it isn't very realistic. He was a former pro boxer turned commercial artist. Eventually he ran his own ad agency. He could play guitar and piano by ear and played baseball as often as he could. He also loved comic books. Ideally, he would tell me, he would have loved to have been a comic book artist.
So you can imagine the sort of impression that made on me. When I turned 14 I decided I wanted to be a comic book artist. I had already lost some favor with my father prior to that decision. At age 12 I lost a school yard fight and he wouldn't speak to me for a month. It was a tough little stretch. I decided that I would throw myself into boxing and martial arts so that would never happen again [ sadly, I've won some and lost some since then - but at least I toughened up a bit! ]. At 14, he took me to see the movie Conan the Barbarian. My father had put me on a steady diet of Clint Eastwood, Charles Bronson and Sylvester Stallone [ he gave me the middle name: Duke, after John Wayne... ] - so Conan fit right in. Suffice to say, the film really resonated with me. I picked up an issue of Savage Sword of Conan [ my father loved the work of John Buscema, Neal Adams and Walt Simonson ] and my course was set! I would be a comic book artist!
Unfortunately, my father wasn't very keen on my artistic or professional fighting pursuits. He felt that the life of an artist was a difficult one - and it is at times! Boxing was too dangerous and would leave me brain damaged - I should be a doctor or a lawyer. I figured he didn't think I had the stomach for an art career. Maybe I wasn't tough enough to deal with the criticism and long hours, etc.
I was, however, motivated to prove to him that I could do it and earn his respect.
A few months later I submitted my work to Marvel Comics and received a very favorable response from their Submissions Editor. He said if I stuck with it I could be hired by Marvel and sent me a lot of paperwork that explained what an average artist could expect to earn, including all the medical benefits, etc. I couldn't believe it. And neither could my father! After that, he changed his tune regarding my art career. He had only given me one art lesson as a kid: How to use a stick figure and apply box like shapes to it in order create a human body that loosely resembled a robot. After that I was on my own. That letter changed my life in many ways. My study books were filled with drawings. So were my notebooks. And my bedroom. I started a business drawing custom RPG [ role play games - like Dungeons and Dragons ] characters for enthusiasts. I ran an ad in Dragon Magazine with money I made from mowing lawns around my neighborhood. Before I had my Driver's License I had already bought a car with what I had earned. It also kept me practicing. Every day I would come home from school and draw someone's character. It taught me discipline and how to run a business.
When I moved to NYC during my early Marvel, DC and Valiant career I had somewhat of a mentor. I also considered him a good friend at one point in my life. He was older than me and opened my eyes to the art and comic book world in ways I hadn't explored or even fathomed. I'm eternally grateful for the experience and the friendship. He was leaps and bounds ahead of me and I listened to every word he said. Like all of us, my mentor wasn't without his flaws. Sadly, one thing he was keen on doing was telling me that I would never be as good as he was. And also, that I was, at best, an illustrator and not an artist. He made a distinction. To be fair, there is a difference. That really stuck with me. From that point on I was motivated to prove him wrong. I'm not sure that I have but it's certainly something that compelled me forward in my artistic pursuit.
I'll use a sports analogy [ I seem to be fond of them ]: It's rare that an athlete is born and not created. In the sense that most athletes mature into the players they are by virtue of practicing and testing their skills on and off the court or in the ring. The only way you can improve your Free Throw in basketball is to throw Free Throws. Lots of them. It's almost impossible, even without coaching, to not get better at throwing Free Throws if you continually practice. The same is true for artists. Learning all you can, varying your study and asking questions are all paramount to improving your artistic skills. More importantly though, is applying the knowledge you're picking up. Literally practicing what, inside your head, you know. Understanding the mechanics of solid drawing is one thing, applying those mechanics is another.
So, I did everything in my power to improve my art game and prove my mentor pal wrong. It's a never ending struggle/quest and it's one that I never tire of. Practice can't make perfect. That's a myth. There is no perfect drawing. Ask your favorite artist what they would change about one your favorite pieces of art drawn by him/her and they'll tell you exactly what's wrong with it and what they would do to improve it. But practice does make progress. I'm very happy with the progress I've made since my first issue of Prophet over 20 years ago but I'm hardly satisfied with where I'm at artistically. That's a good thing. There's still room for growth and because I'm still learning - I will continue to hone my craft.
So early on in my art career I was motivated by my love of comic books and my father's admiration. Later I was motivated by revenge in a strange sense. What drives me now is the result of my pursuit to learn and grow artistically. Today my motivation is a healthy passion and it has changed the way I look at everything around me. When you're motivated for pure reasons there's a certain amount of joy you experience that's unlike any other kind. If you're following an artistic path, motivation can come from many areas in your life - but when you do it for yourself the journey is the most fulfilling. I guess that just makes sense, doesn't it? Funny how it took me so many years to figure that out... For good or ill, all my trials and errors will most likely be presented on Deviant Art for all the world to see! Gulp! Scary stuff!
Motivation and desire for change will create improvements. Your passion for what you do, whether it's art, photography, writing, music or sports will take you places you never dreamed possible. Your passion, if properly explored and respected, can change your life.
Listening to: sirens and honking
Reading: and often weeping
Drinking: see above