Oh Schmendrick. I hope most of you have seen (or even read!) The Last Unicorn, and know who this wonderful guy is - Schmendrick the Magician, Last of the Red Hot Swamis. When I think about my artistic growth, I often feel a lot like him.
Schmendrick has a path all set out for himself - he's going to be a great wizard...and yet, when we meet him, he's working as a stage magician in a cheap carnival. Why? Because the magic doesn't do what he wants. When he tries to control it, things go horribly, horribly wrong.
Here's the thing though - He does have REAL POWER. He's no fake, but his path is not his for the choosing. It's only when he tells the magic to do what it will that he does something incredibly unexpected, but completely necessary. He doesn't understand where he's going, but when he accepts that, he truly becomes a great wizard.
When was getting ready to graduate art school, I was *SURE* I wanted to work as a visdev artist for a major studio. No doubt in my mind. I practiced every day, tried following the footsteps of my heroes, knew all the theory, took classes online, the works. Here's the thing though - The magic didn't want to go that way. I fought it for years, and it was only when I let go and started doing what felt right instead of what I wanted that I started getting somewhere. For the last 2 years, my art has gotten increasingly appropriate for AAA games and live action film, as well as fantastic realism illustration.
Right now, that's where the magic wants to go. I don't really understand why that "sticks" for me better than more graphic and abstract cartoon shapes, but there you go. Not saying I can't work in cartoons, I spent a year doing backgrounds for a kids' show, and it went fine...but there wasn't any magic. Particularly with more realistic shows, there's definitely an overlap, but the more I work, the less and less interested in doing visdev I become. Maybe the tighter, later stage design for 3D Disney shows would be up my alley, but the blue sky, almost childlike stuff? It just doesn't seem to be me right now.
I think it's great to have a dream, and a plan to get there....but you have to listen to the magic. I think it is quite rare when those two things match up 100%, and I've seen a lot of people get very upset that they aren't making progress towards their dreams at the speed they want...and usually, it's because their magic isn't going that direction. It might sound weird coming from me, but you have to listen to your heart. What you want to do in your head is often very different from what your heart wants...and we have all gotten very, very good at squishing down that annoying heart when it says something we don't want to hear. You can fight the magic your whole life, but, like Schmendrick, until you listen to it, you aren't going to achieve greatness.
The world has millions, maybe billions of people who work in cheap carnivals, working at the limits of what they can do when their hearts and minds are divided. None of them are going to help the last unicorn defeat the Red Bull and re-release magic into the world. Schmendrick never ended up a great wizard, but he did find love, and he did something worthwhile, and magical.
Thanks for reading :)