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Dirty Unwrap
January 22, 2016

Don’t worry…

tompaul_keeptrying

Don’t worry, you’ll get there and when you do, you’ll want to keep going.

This might just be another story about a creative type who has failed heaps and is still failing, but who knows? Maybe there’s a little more to be found in it; maybe you’ll find something to help you get there too.

For a long time, I was held back by my ability to produce and express all of the ideas I had in a visually pleasing way. See, I had all of these ideas that I wanted to produce but my skill level just wasn’t up to scratch. Ultimately, this was a huge battle for me and lead to me wanting to quit so many times (I even considered a career in accounting – how dreadful!).

Let’s go back a bit though: from a young age, I had one career goal in mind and did everything I could to reach it – I wanted to become a tattoo artist! Every day, I drew really shitty drawings of bears and skulls (sometimes with snakes coming out their eye sockets – you know the one) and painted as much I could. When I was 17, I was offered an apprenticeship by, in my opinion, one of the best artists I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting.

At my interview, this artist asked if I could do an art test. Now, it wasn’t a particularly complicated art test; I was only required to do 3 pieces in any style I chose, showing whatever knowledge of the fundamentals I had -“just do something cheesy like a heart”. After some of the most anxious 45 minutes I had ever experienced up until that point in my life, I showed what I had produced to my possible employer. He immediately started laughing. I was terrified! Here I was in front of someone I desperately wanted to impress and they were just laughing at my work right in front of me.
Eventually the laughter stopped and after some deliberation, he said that he would give me the job. Apparently I had shown an understanding of the fundamentals but, more importantly, the content in which I had produced was funny. So, what got me the job? Not something you’d see on the cover of a tattoo magazine, that’s for sure, but rather a really poorly drawn and, admittedly, shitty visual pun – I had drawn a heart made of cheese.

So, I began. Every day, I cleaned the shop and all the tools, operated the sterilizer and made bookings; I practiced tattooing as much as I could on both friends and oranges; I drew as much as possible. But there was still one problem. I really sucked at tattooing. I sucked so much that I fell out of love with it. I had started with so much excitement but over time, it got crushed as I failed to progress. The anxiety I felt rose every time a tattoo was coming up before it became overwhelming. It only caused me to perform even poorer. I fell flat on my ass. Eventually, defeated, I left the shop but on my last day my boss at the time said something I’ve always been grateful for: “you’ve got good ideas, keep focusing on your digital stuff.”

Fast forward a little bit and there I was, sitting in a hobby shop reading through an art book. I thought to myself – “bro, man, dude… (Yeah, I know, I was 18…what did you expect?) how do I make this stuff? I want to make my own universe – my own game!” So, being the stupid 18 year old I was, I thought “if I learn Zbrush, I can make cool stuff.” In my head, at that time, learning to digital sculpt equated to making an entire game. So I set out to learn Zbrush and failed. At least seventy times. But the whole time, in the back of my head, were the lessons I had learned from being a tattoo apprentice: just give it time. Don’t give up.

Here I am now, just months from completing a design degree and despite all the support and mentorship I’ve received, I still feel like I need to get better. I’ve still got heaps of ideas I want to explore and see come to fruition. Sure, I’m giving it all my effort but more importantly, I’m giving these ideas all the time they really need. I won’t let myself give up just because I don’t think I’m progressing fast enough – this isn’t a race, and sometimes, progress can be slower than we’d hope. Every seed sowed takes time to grow, so why is our creativity and skill any different?

My ideas weren’t very good when I was 17, but they are better now, and I can’t wait to see what they’ll be like in another 5 years.

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