Exactly one year ago I was furiously prepping an artist talk — aptly titled “What Am I Doing” — for the design students at IPFW in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Other than being a great exercise in holding the attention of 75+ undergrads for 3 hours it also provided a great space for me to find connecting threads in my personal work and think about what I had been doing over previous years. Now, a short year later, I find myself asking the same question with about a million more added to the mix. What am I doing? What inspires me? What matters to me? What is my goal? What do I want to do?
What inspires me?
Anything. Nothing. Everything. It would be a lie to say there is always one thing that inspires me. I’m the kind of person who tends to hop from project to project so depending on the environment, project and even time of day, nearly anything can provide inspiration. From a piece of trash on the ground to experiencing something ordinary from a child’s perspective, I find it amazing the things that trigger the brain.
What matters to me?
1. Doing good work. Growing up, I watched my parents do things they didn’t necessarily want or enjoy but followed through because it was something they had committed to. And it wasn’t any sort of crappy work either; if they said they were going to do something, they did it, and they did it well. That made an impact on me and is something I’ve carried on.
2. Surrounding myself with good people, personally and professionally. As the saying goes, “You are the company you keep.” I always try to friends with and be in the presence of the people I want to be like. At a young age, I learned that people are people no matter who they are or what they’re known for. Fairly often I reach out to people I admire, even when they seem out of my social-sphere.
3. Being happy. At the end of the day, no matter I’m doing, I want to be proud of what I’m doing, and doing what I enjoy. That is a big part of what drives me.
What is my goal?
Continuously create. Taking a look at my personal work, I see a multiple unrefined and disconnected alphabet series, wacky Alice in Wonderland-esque creature drawings, and bits and pieces of work that I start but never finish. One thing that stands out when looking over my short career is the willingness to try new things. Rarely — if ever — have an end goal in mind other than to keep creating; keep doing things. It’s an overwhelming desire I can’t control when it comes and leaves me feeling empty and frustrated when it’s not there.
What am I doing?
Trying to figure it out. I like to think that I shoot too high, take too many chances and veer a bit too far off the well-paved road in favor of some shiny object in the bushes. But the truth is, my path is pretty ordinary; throw me in a room with a bunch of other MFA candidates and what I’m doing looks pretty normal. My initial reaction to that realization is dismay. I want to be special and different. What does that mean? I haven’t figured it out yet but I have a desire to do something big. Something people notice. Something that makes a difference.
What do I want to do?
Think differently and always be a little uncomfortable. I have absolutely no idea. At the highest level, I want it to do something that makes people think about things a little differently, something that makes me happy, and something that makes me uncomfortable enough to keep exploring.