Once upon a time, my conflictual relationship with art
I never knew what I wanted to do in my life. Perhaps because I lacked inspiration or because I lacked self-confidence. I always was a dreamy kid, retracting in my own personal imaginary bubble whenever I had the chance. I knew the real world outside wouldn't be as kind, easy and nice as the one I built on my own.
To me, drawing was something quite natural as a way of expression. I didn't talk, I was very shy and introverted and whenever I wrote something down it felt like I didn't know what I was doing, what I was writing about and that only grown ups had the right to write real things. Drawing however was allowed, encouraged, and the best of all was that it would be received differently depending on who would see it. The impatient would see a child's scribble, the proud would see the seed of a future talent, the very attentive could have a small peek into my personal world. Whoever would see it, I could -when creating the initial drawing- give it my all while being assured that some sort of privacy would be preserved by interpretation.
As I grew up, I didn't really draw that much. It was time consuming, I had to focus on school and there were so many people who were way better at it than me. "It's not like I would be able to make something good out of it anyway", I told myself... I became shy, even in my drawings, shy of my weak skills, of people being better, smarter at it, more "talented". Drawing was a way of expressing myself but I didn't feel like expressing myself anymore or sharing. I felt like no one would care anyway.
I felt this way throughout my adolescence. It was more a consequence of my insecure and depressed mindset that my relationship with drawing became one of doubt, worry, false hope and deception. I always liked drawing but whenever I did, I'd be disappointed at how bad it would look, or that people wouldn't understand what I tried to convey or on the contrary, would read too much into my drawing and therefore into my insecure self.
I will always remember one afternoon in highschool, I was drawing with a friend some kind of challenge with 100 themes. I don't remember the theme but I drew a little boy holding his mommy's hand but the rest of the mom's body and face was out of frame and there was drops of blood appearing to fall from here eyes. I was aiming at something a bit spooky but when she looked at it she said : "It's funny I always feel like there's a lot of loneliness coming out of your drawings".
Eyes are windows to the soul and for very long I didn't like to look at people in the eyes, drawings were -apparently- another window into my soul I should be careful about. From that day, I felt more weary about was would show through my silly drawings. I drew as much as I talked, which was almost never.
I still ended up in an artistic formation after "le BAC" (which is some kind of graduation certificate you get after high school) but it wasn't much out of passion as, once again, because of a lack of confidence. My parents are both engineers, so are most of my family friends and my older brother would have been following their steps when it was time for me to choose my own path. Engineering schools are really hard to get into and in order to get in, you would have to study real hard during two years of Prepa and then pass a whole bunch of competitive exams. My brother has a strong character and I could see it was hard even for him so I knew I would never be able to survive that kind of pressure. I was well aware of my own mental health issues that I viewed as a weakness I had to overcome by myself rather than an illness that needed to be treated by competent people. Knowing I had been suicidal for a few years already, I tried to find an easier path for myself even if it meant being "less accomplished". It was still better than "probably ending up killing myself".
Formal artistic education didn't really help me reconcile with art, at least not in the way one would think. From the moment I chose "art" as a career choice, I had to view drawing, creation and so as a tool, a skill, a competence I had to improve if I ever wanted to have a job and not end up sleeping under a bridge.
It was hard as, unlike in math and science, there is no real rules or formulas to follow, no real unique good answer. I knew I had to get good, better, I gave it my all but I had no clear direction to follow so I mostly ran, wandered and panicked like a headless chicken not understanding why this work got a good grade and this other got ridiculed. I knew I wanted to tell stories, make comics or whatnot, illustrations, images that anyone could understand. It was hard not to follow the crowd trying to make something extra "fancy" with abstract splashes of paint and glued-on squares. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure it was genius, but I just don't relate to that kind of art.
Under the pressure of bad grades, criticism, feeling out of place, under qualified and completely lost, I was more and more convinced I wasn't made for it and yet, I "knew" anywhere else would be even worse.
Thankfully, I quickly discovered that studying art didn't necessarily mean becoming an "artist". I could go on to become and illustrator, fashion designer, graphic designer, automobile designer, industrial designer, interior decorator and so on... Focusing on possible job opportunities helped me remind myself that I didn't choose this path in order to "make pretty drawing" or be popular, I just wanted a job and I still hoped that if I wasn't too stupid and worked hard enough, I would eventually end up somewhere where I'd earn a salary.
By thing point drawing really became a just a tool for me not to express, but to produce work. It was as smothering as it was reassuring. That way I could put distance between me as a person and my work. I learned not to take criticism personally, I learned not to make what I liked, but what I was asked to do. I learned to work with guidelines, rules and deadlines. It might sound horrible to an aspiring artist wanting to express himself through art but I think it's a really important thing to learn, especially if you want to become a professional.
My first plan was to go into industrial design. I wasn’t much into designing cool toothbrushes, but I think the idea of becoming somewhat of a engineer like my parents and brother but only on the design side of things rather than scientific was kind of comforting. It my mind it would clearly be a job, nothing much about telling stories or expressing my inner artist. And as long as people would need toothbrushes, there would be jobs for industrial designers. It was the safest route.
Somehow I ended up throwing myself into something much more in my alley, much more interesting to me and much less safe : 3D Animation. I think at this point in my life, where I contemplated death quite regularly, it seemed quite silly to play it safe and draw out my life of dullness and despair with nothing to look forward to in the future. Since I was already studying art instead of becoming an actual engineer or a doctor, I had already strayed from the “good safe path” so it felt like I might as well go all in. I remember thinking to myself “Either way, if it ends up being too hard, you’ll just kill yourself so…” it was very sad and grim, but in the end, I feel like I was looking for a life worth living and I’m kinda glad it set me on another path.
I still stayed smart with my choice. Had I truly followed my heart, I think I would’ve tried to become an illustrator or a comic artist but I knew there weren’t much jobs in that field and that competition was tough. I had no confidence in what I could create at this point so it seemed like a dead end. 3D animation however seemed somewhat more “serious”. People who worked in this field would mostly be employed in a big company and earn a salary rather than be an auto entrepreneur or freelance, fending for himself and always looking for the next payout. Working in 3D animation also meant having to learn all the skills required to work on 3D softwares on computers. What could feel like a drag for many felt reassuring to me. Even if I ended up being the worst artist of all times, I would still be tech savvy and have other tangible competences on my CV other than “I draw good I good imagination” to offer to future employers. And this is how I ended up at Isart Digital and then on to work in the biggest 3D Animation companies in Paris.
I started writing this post with a positive outcome in mind which is how Roleplay made me want to draw for myself again and never stop but I got so much into writing my story that I realized it was getting a bit long so I'm keeping the Roleplay part for another post coming soon! It got a bit grim talking about being depressed and suicidal but I wanted to keep it honest not motivational or gloating. Just know that it’s just a part of my story and that I have professional help for that today. Life is a long work in progress but I like where I’m at today so I can’t wait to write the next part and end on a more positive note.
I have made a post presenting my student shortfilm I did with my classmates at Isart Digital and you can watch it > HERE <
And I also wrote about my professional experience in the 3D movie industry so far > HERE <
Thank you for reading this bit and please leave a comment saying hi! I’d be so glad to connect a bit more with people here !
All pictures used in this post are mine :
- A picture of my little tiny hand when I was small and my hand today. I really liked the imagery for a story post
- A small painting I made when I was in kindergarden that my parents had framed and kept. I have no idea what it’s supposed to represent. A ship maybe ? What to you think it is ?
- A page from a old school journal where I would write about my life on one page and illustrate it on the other. It was a school assignment but it’s funny to see how I pictured different things. And yes that’s Harry Potter.
- The first drawing I posted on DeviantArt. It’s dated May 10,2009 but I’m not sure if that’s also when I drew it. It looks old.
- I couldn’t find the drawing I write about (with the kid and the mommy) but this was one of the drawing I did for the 100 themes challenge : Under the rain (Posted on DeviantArt March 9, 2009 but it looks to be dated 2008)
- Another one of the 100 themes challenge : 67% . I used to daw on already used paper that’s why you can see printed stuff at the back. (Posted on DeviantArt March 9, 2009 but it looks to be dated 2008)
- Oooo shadows and facial features... (Dated 19/01/2010)
- I was clearly very depressed but always played it down as being “a teenager thing”. Now I know it’s not and I’m seeing a psychiatrist so that’s good ! (Posted on DeviantArt May 27,2011)
- Assignments from my first year of art school. ( 2010)
- Assignment on Adobe Illustrator from my first year at Isart Digital (Posted on DeviantArt October 14, 2011)
- Assignment on Maya (3D software) from my first year at Isart Digital (probably 2013)
- Visual Development for my student shortfilm NEILA (2014)