It is a weird feeling when you work a job and have little to show for it. I worked at Sony Pictures Animation several summers as an intern and just under two years as a visual development artist; however, only two movies I ever worked on as an artist (not intern) were released. Out of those two, I only got a credit on one of them. So while I did tecnically work on Smurfs: The Lost Village, the only credit I have is for Surfs Up 2 and this is because I worked on Smurfs something like… 4 weeks? It was quick. What wasn’t quick was how long I worked on Medusa. This movie was shelved while I was on it and the whole team either let go, or put onto Surfs Up 2. For a brief shining moment, I was a sometimes-character-but-mostly-costume-designer on Medusa. And man… the sheer files of work I won’t be able to show anyone until the movie maybe comes out is extensive.
During my time as an intern turned artist at Sony, I worked on a lot of what they call “blue sky” projects. These are projects where they put somewhere between one to a handful of creators on the project to get pitch images ready before its greenlit. This also means that often the projects never get made because you are there in the risk taking gamble phase of creation. I didn’t have a choice to be on those projects – you do as you’re told when you’re on contract with a studio. However, I love blue sky phase projects because truly… the sky is the limit! Exploring concepts and ideas is one of my favorite times to be brought on any project as a creative and because of this, I have worked on a lot that never were made – not just for Sony.
Why can’t I just show my art? I signed an Non Disclosure Agreement for my art and therefore it cannot be shown until the project is out… or something like that. I’m not a lawyer, but I always err on the side of caution with these things.
However, when an artist can’t show their art, it can feel rather demoralizing… like you have worked and put in the time and only get a blip on your resume without the ability to show your talents. At least this is how it feels for me. This thought feels like a record on repeat just reminding me of my imposter syndrome and how I’m surely not enough (right?). Sometimes that record feels way too loud and it gets the better of me. That’s what my Art Rewind post is about this month! Imposter syndrome got the better of me and in response, I took all my old character design work off my website for a period of time.
ART REWIND: IS A NEW BLOG SERIES WHERE I POST A DEEP DIVE INTO MY ART OF YORE, REFLECTING ON WHY I MADE IT AND HOW I FEEL ABOUT IT BEING SHARED WITH THE WORLD NOW.
I have been open about the fact that I left LA under duress, shrouded in circumstances I was unable to be fully honest about to my coworkers and peers. That theme was the theme of my first Art Rewind blog post. But also… that’s just my life and my story, not a theme. Art is a part of who we are and what we create cannot help but be impacted by the events in our life at the time of conception. Whatever a person is going through, their life will influence their art. The influences may be nonexistant to a person who isn’t the artist, but sometimes they can feel overwhelming for the creator. For me, I always look at my art and know how I was feeling and what version of past me was creating that art.
When I look at my old character design work, I can’t help but cringe at a lot of it. In fact, all that old work I did at Sony I looked at maybe a grand total of 5 times immediately after leaving my job… then never again until recently. Recently I looked at all my old production art and was surprised. I liked it. More than that, I looked through my old personal character design work done before and after leaving Sony… and I didn’t hate it as much as I thought I would. That’s the thing about working on these early development projects with NDAs – you have to make a lot of your own portfolio work on your own time because you ultimately cannot show the work you did for years to come, if ever. I have made a lot of my own portfolio work over the years. As a creator I’m constantly striving to improve and break new creative grounds, therefore its easy for work of only a few years past to look old and outdated.
My old personal character design work had several projects to it, inspired by things I found interesting at the time. In 2016 I worked on a project around To Kill A Mockingbird because I had always, like many tomboys, identified with Scout as a kid. She was a natural starting place to develop visuals for a spunky kid growing up and confronting the realities of the world – something I felt was necessary in my portfolio. This type of kid is one I often write and illustrate. Scout was an early influence on me along with so many other strong and weird young fictional girls like Anne of Green Gables and Harriet the Spy. I added Scout, and some other past pieces back to my website this fall because I realized I actually liked them. It was a carefully curated combination of imposter syndrome, past-me-cringe, and concerns for the valid critiques of glorifying To Kill A Mockingbird that combined forces to make me feel like my art was stupid, so it shouldn’t be seen. Like anything, just because I make art about something doesn’t mean I endorse it whole heartedly without my own critiques on the subject (I say this as a former JK Rowling fan who has made much fanart for her books). With this project and the others I deleted, I do look at them and see who I was when I made them and I see the ways I’ve since grown. I cannot redo every project in my portfolio or I wouldn’t have time for the actual paying jobs I need to do… so for now, I look at this art of Scout and I see where I could do better how the few more years of experiece and knowledge I’ve gained would improve the art. But I also see art that is no less worthy of being shared just because it’s imperfect and “old”.
I don’t remember how long exactly, but all that frusteration with my career, upset at myself and my personal journey, and displeasure at the concept of not being able to show my best character and costume design work caused me to delete my personal character design portfolio off my website. The cringing while looking at old art while knowing other good art is hidden felt too overwhelming. Clearly, I am exposing that I am one of those artists that hates looking at my old art… which just exposes the fact that I find older me incredibly cringy. And you know what? Thank God I do. I am so glad that as I grow up I look back and can cringe a little because it shows my ability to grow and find comfort with who I am now. I like myself a lot more now as a person and artist than I ever have and I hope to continue liking myself more and more in the future. It’s almost garaunteed I will find this very post cringe in a year or two.
A portfolio often shows growth over time and you will always have some art in it that feels weaker than other pieces… but acknowledging flaws while continuing to work forward to be better is so much of what life is about. Art is so intrinsict to life that it makes sense my portfolio would feel vulnerable and like it’s showing these concepts on display.
You can see my full personal character and costume design portfolio here.
Thank you for listening,
Art Rewind: will have more posts coming soon. If there’s a piece you want me to talk about more in detail, drop me a comment below.