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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
  • Watching: UFC
  • Eating: selectively
  • Drinking: see above
Add a Comment:
 
:iconwrongitdoo:
wrongitdoo Featured By Owner Jul 25, 2013
Applause and applesauce Dan! I've been on the downslope of artistic motivation and after reading your art-felt confessional about the trials and tribulations concerning personal growth, my worrisome brows have eased up. :) Thank you for sharing a personal experience that has shaped us all. 
Reply
:iconurban-barbarian:
urban-barbarian Featured By Owner Jul 31, 2013
I'm always up for applesauce!  Thanks man!
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:iconbiotron:
biotron Featured By Owner Jul 16, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
Wow, Dan. Very inspiring read my friend.
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:iconjbraddox:
jbraddox Featured By Owner Jul 12, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
I just made a resolution about life and art and how I was going to make myself better through practice today, then your artwork led me to this journal. I needed to read something like this. Thanks for taking the time to put it on paper and may we all throw better free throws.
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:iconanmph:
Anmph Featured By Owner Jun 12, 2013  Professional Traditional Artist
I loved every bit of this! Who was your mentor?
Reply
:iconurban-barbarian:
urban-barbarian Featured By Owner Jul 10, 2013
Just a guy I used to work with.  I'd rather not say.
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:iconanmph:
Anmph Featured By Owner Jul 11, 2013  Professional Traditional Artist
I respect that. Thank you for taking time to respond.
Keep up the great work. I've become quite a fan of your work and am eager to see you achieve greater and greater success.
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:iconwlfmn68:
wlfmn68 Featured By Owner Apr 25, 2013
Thanks I needed to read this....the timing was perfect.
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:iconlawsdraws:
lawsdraws Featured By Owner Apr 16, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
cheers for that Dan, a great inspirational read.
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:iconurban-barbarian:
urban-barbarian Featured By Owner Apr 19, 2013
;) I'm glad you enjoyed it!
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:iconlawsdraws:
lawsdraws Featured By Owner Apr 24, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
:D
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:iconrichardpace:
RichardPace Featured By Owner Apr 15, 2013  Professional General Artist
Just realised I never commented on this.

Great journal Dan. I really get where you're coming from.

~R
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:iconurban-barbarian:
urban-barbarian Featured By Owner Apr 19, 2013
Thanks Richard!
Reply
:iconmarr-pheos:
MARR-PHEOS Featured By Owner Apr 14, 2013
thanks for sharing this journal dan, i really enjoyed the stories about your old man. i'm still bummed out i didn't get a chance to say what's up at emerald city.
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:iconurban-barbarian:
urban-barbarian Featured By Owner Apr 19, 2013
Next time!
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:iconshoedogpoo:
ShoeDogPoo Featured By Owner Apr 5, 2013
That was a great article. You got a great story. Could be a movie, your old man being a boxer and all. Love your work, I just get over your inking its really great. Makes me jealous, so maybe that could be my inspiration. Not for nothing I just love your style. Thanks for the inspiration.
Reply
:iconpachycrocuta:
Pachycrocuta Featured By Owner Apr 2, 2013
Thanks! It's useful to hear stuff like this - it's just so easy to look at really good people who seem to have been doing this for only a few years, and here I've been doing this for what, 15-18 years now? And I'm still not all that great. So it means a lot to hear someone actually really freaking good say hey, it took years to get here.
Reply
:iconsmbhax:
smbhax Featured By Owner Mar 25, 2013  Professional General Artist
That artist/illustrator distinction is interesting. I guess I'm trying to go from artist to illustrator, kinda. Turns out there are a lot of technical details! ; )
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:iconurban-barbarian:
urban-barbarian Featured By Owner Mar 26, 2013
It's a tricky distinction. From my POV, it's not about being technically proficient but rather a determination of what is art? One can create "art" in the very technical program Adobe Illustrator, IMO. It's a matter of message, emotion and aesthetics for me. Let's take the visuals that you see in airplane safety pamphlets. I consider that illustration. An artist that is working on a TV show or at, say a toy or merchandise company is mostly "illustrating" work based on the "art" of someone else. It's not their vision. They're being asked to replicate a character that was previously designed and asked to illustrate it precisely the way model sheet suggests. That is illustration. The Powder Puff original designs are art. The visual you see on a poster or lunch box are done by an illustrator. In my career I dance between both depending on what capacity I'm being hired to perform.

That said, it's a very sticky line. And it's very open to personal interpretation.
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:iconsmbhax:
smbhax Featured By Owner Mar 27, 2013  Professional General Artist
Ah! I like that way of making the distinction. Makes good sense. I guess working on my own comic I get to blur the line because I don't force myself to stick to a model very closely, so that's fun. : D
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:iconstucklessportfolio:
stucklessportfolio Featured By Owner Mar 23, 2013  Professional General Artist
"Dragon Magazine" whoa, talk about a trip back through time. I probably saw that ad. Great Journal, thanks for sharing.
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:iconurban-barbarian:
urban-barbarian Featured By Owner Mar 26, 2013
Your welcome!
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:iconstucklessportfolio:
stucklessportfolio Featured By Owner Mar 26, 2013  Professional General Artist
Cheers man.
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:iconjohnchalos:
johnchalos Featured By Owner Mar 23, 2013  Professional General Artist
Awesome. Thanks.
Reply
:iconkh27s:
kh27s Featured By Owner Mar 23, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
Inspiring words. Unfortunately for me, I did become a doctor. Your mentor was wrong by the way.
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:iconurban-barbarian:
urban-barbarian Featured By Owner Mar 26, 2013
Thanks! And I don't think there's anything unfortunate about being a doctor! Quite the contrary! ;)
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:iconrl2vas:
RL2VAS Featured By Owner Mar 23, 2013  Professional General Artist
My respect. Much respect. ;-D
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:iconurban-barbarian:
urban-barbarian Featured By Owner Mar 26, 2013
Thanks man!
Reply
:iconrl2vas:
RL2VAS Featured By Owner Mar 26, 2013  Professional General Artist
No problem. I'm old school too. Self taught and bloody knuckled to get this far. What is the next con you are going to? Also I'm working on doing some coloring samples over selected artists. Do you have a piece you'd like to see colored by me. I'll be happy to. let me know.
;-D
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:iconurban-barbarian:
urban-barbarian Featured By Owner Mar 30, 2013
Man, any of those b/w panel mashes might be cool..! The con I'll be at is Heroes and then NYCC!
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:iconrl2vas:
RL2VAS Featured By Owner Apr 1, 2013  Professional General Artist
Tiffany it is. ;-D thanks
Reply
:iconcabinetminister:
CabinetMinister Featured By Owner Mar 23, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
Well said, sir.
I couldn't agree more with this kind of motivational flavour = "What drives me now is the result of my pursuit to learn and grow artistically."

Shared a link to this on my blog too, hombre.
Reply
:iconurban-barbarian:
urban-barbarian Featured By Owner Mar 26, 2013
Cool! Thanks!
Reply
:iconkreepingspawn:
KreepingSpawn Featured By Owner Mar 22, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
:salute:
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:iconkylemcloren:
KyleMcLoren Featured By Owner Mar 22, 2013
Sorry for the double post. One was through my smartphone and I did not see it come through...
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:iconrobpaolucci:
RobPaolucci Featured By Owner Mar 22, 2013
Really nice, positive journal entry, cheers for this
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:iconkylemcloren:
KyleMcLoren Featured By Owner Mar 22, 2013
Thank you for this motivational and inspiring read. It reminds me of some of the obstacles I have had through the years and to always remember to never give up and keep striving to achieving my goals.
Reply
:iconurban-barbarian:
urban-barbarian Featured By Owner Mar 26, 2013
Awesome!
Reply
:iconaugustustodopoderoso:
augustustodopoderoso Featured By Owner Mar 22, 2013  Professional Traditional Artist
Next time I see you, Dan; IŽll give you a manly man hug and buy you beer :)
Thanks for sharing this.
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:iconurban-barbarian:
urban-barbarian Featured By Owner Mar 26, 2013
LOL! Thanks man!
Reply
:iconkylemcloren:
KyleMcLoren Featured By Owner Mar 22, 2013
Thank you for the motivational and inspiring read. It reminded me of some of my own battles throughout the years. Keep rockin'!
Reply
:iconireneroga:
IreneRoga Featured By Owner Mar 22, 2013
Thank you for sharing your experience :)
Reply
:iconurban-barbarian:
urban-barbarian Featured By Owner Mar 26, 2013
You're welcome Irene!
Reply
:iconandrewcjohnson:
AndrewCJohnson Featured By Owner Mar 22, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
Great read! I find I do enjoy painting. But I do feel my passion has diminished somewhat due to rejection and failure. I think it would be harder to create a business as simple as drawing characters for others these days. I am striving to improve. My main hindrance is having to work full-time in a non-fulfilling field to earn an income and then to paint for only short periods in the week.

I am happy to see your post. My mother is my main drive. She has always been behind me with my creativity. She has never tried to push me in any other field, only to improve on my art. She even offered to let me stay there for the whole 5 years of education while at university without having to pay bills. My dad is a different matter, he has never really followed my art. He was proud when I gained a degree, but that was it. If it was not for my mother I would have gave up by now, as the art industries are very hard to break through.

PS. I would be thrilled for you to mentor me as an artist.

Ciao
Reply
:iconurban-barbarian:
urban-barbarian Featured By Owner Mar 26, 2013
LOL! Thank you so much! I hope some of that passion finds a way to return to you! Cheers!!!!
Reply
:iconnickmockoviak:
NickMockoviak Featured By Owner Mar 22, 2013  Professional Traditional Artist
Dan, you are the fucking MAN.
Reply
:iconurban-barbarian:
urban-barbarian Featured By Owner Mar 26, 2013
LOL!
Reply
:icontessfowler:
TessFowler Featured By Owner Mar 21, 2013
Just shared this. Thank you so much for putting this one out there!
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:iconurban-barbarian:
urban-barbarian Featured By Owner Mar 26, 2013
Thanks for reading it Tess!
Reply
:icondave-wilkins:
Dave-Wilkins Featured By Owner Mar 21, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
Righteous man WOW!
Reply
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