Apparently, it’s what I wanted.
To be stricken with the spell. To deal with the daily duel of fencing with my lesser instincts.
I always wanted to be the sort of artist that had a direct line to that otherworldly woo-woo, but I know now I wasn’t prepared for its insidious monkey’s paw nature when it comes to the unseen prices you have to pony up.
I was never an amazing artist.
Decent, but not particularly noteworthy. The potential was there, but so too was a vacant maw where my self-esteem should have been. A personality pothole so wide and deep I wouldn’t have been surprised to find out that it was a distant cousin of the void I was growing so adept at screaming into.
Although my skills were apparently enough to earn me a seat in my school’s Advanced Placement Art program, I still never felt I actually belonged there. Plus, a few of us had the sneaking suspicion that the only reason we were accepted was because our senior class as a whole wasn’t necessarily chock full of artistic talent. So, sure, why not, let’s let save a seat for Scribbles. His shaky hands will come around.
I always envied the kind of minds that took residence within the skulls of talented artists. But I had always believed, especially at that time as a young kid, that those types of people were simply born that way. That there was nothing I could do to earn a seat at the table of talent for the sheer fact that I believed those traits were innate and imprinted at birth, not something to be forged through dedication and persistence, through trial and error. So, instead of scraping together whatever crumbs of confidence I could find within myself and making an honest effort to become a better artist, I sat myself on the outside of that inner circle as if I had no choice in the matter. As if artists were mutants, and I simply wasn’t born with a superpower.
A few years and a couple sketchbooks worth of shitty shading later, I stopped deluding myself into thinking I actually had any real desire to further develop a relationship with my art supplies.
It’s also around that time that I started writing more. With writing, I felt as if I was connecting to that same electric vein I had seen so many artists and musicians inject themselves into so easily. I felt I finally understood what it meant to be connected to your work in a way that transcended the formality of school projects or creatively flexing for the sake of showing off. I saw a way into that inner circle full of interesting people with interesting ideas and interesting aesthetics without having to fake my way into feeling unique. With this sort of mentality about the arts, I should have known my pursuits were doomed from the start.
The fact that I even considered the idea of creative talent being simply a ticket into the world of likeminded validation instead of a divine pursuit should have a huge red flag. A sign saying:
Approval-Seekers Take Heed
Authentic Artistry Only
Sheep in Wolves Clothing Turn Back Now
Perhaps then I would have taken a moment to really consider the implications of following the path of the dragon chaser; the ties to mental normalcy you’re required to cut, the psychological tranquility you can barely tickle with the aching stretch of your fingertips.
Maybe then I could have realized early on that it was never the art I was after, just the approval. And with that realization a true tilling process could have begun, and a genuine desire for creative expression could have been sowed into a healthier and richer cerebral soil instead of trying to sneak onto that dead dirt just to plant plastic vegetables and call myself a farmer.
Now, I continue to sit on the sidelines, yet still claim the curse. I scratched and clawed at the dirt and dug deeper into myself and my motives more than I ever have in my life in pursuit of something real, and while I may have found something resembling truth, I’m afraid of what it’s cost me along the way. How many hours wasted, seconds burned, trying to become a crusader of the subconscious, only to return with a vaguely better understanding of what it means to truly create and the same apprehensive and judgmental voice that’s been there since high school.
It started with my intentions being little more than aesthetic, but now, it seems I understand the plight of struggling artists more than I ever cared to. I’ve been infected with the fractal of creative infinity and now am completely unable to simply walk away.
At first, the appeal was the zeal, the colors and the creativity, the intoxication of organized chaos and the allure of manifest reality. It all seemed like a sort of old magic reserved for the select few capable of wielding that acrylic mysticism, and I wanted that power.
Now, I understand the cost of handling such a volatile force. I feel the burnt palms from continually hurling lightning, the worn tread on the wheels of my spirit, the mental strain of practicing literary telepathy. The bag under my mind’s eye looks like an overstuffed grocery sack, stretched to the point of snapping. But then again, maybe some third eye revelry is actually what I need. A little Ayahuasca atom bomb. A little brush fire in the synaptic forest to burn away the spiritual refuse to make room for more benevolent subconscious caretakers. We’re still in a pandemic, right? I’m sure there are guardian angels out of a job, and I’d consider dealing with the groundskeeping of an overgrown emotional landscape to be essential work.
Through the time spent learning the letters and practicing the incantations to reveal secrets of the soul through the written word, I’ve damned myself to the same mental derangement that curses so many others stricken with the compulsion to sacrifice their own wellbeing for the sake of their creations. These alphabet spells have started to spoil. The fumes are making me lightheaded and I need to sit down, or get some fresh air, or burn the laboratory to the ground. Start over, start fresh. I need dirt in my fingernails and pollen in my lungs. I need to water something besides my ceaselessly thirsty ego. I need a new reason, a new nightmare to wake up from, a new arrow of time to knock and fire diagonal at this cracked crossroads.
The two-way split starts getting predictable. It’s always just this way or that, and I want a new map.
Although I suppose if I had spent a little more time practicing my line work in those early days, perhaps I wouldn’t have such a hard time drawing one myself.